ARE WORKS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION?

    This is a question that has been misunderstood by many for several centuries. It is also one that has been debated numerous times and commented on by countless theologians. Thousands of articles and books are dedicated to the subject and it has been preached from countless pulpits. Why is it so controversial and so difficult to understand? Can we truly know the answer to the question? Let’s see if we can simplify it.
The quick, simple answer to the question is “Yes, and No.” Perhaps, now you’re thinking, “I thought you said you were going to ‘simplify’ it, preacher?” Well, that is actually the simple answer and also the reason why it is so confusing to many. It is because the answer depends on a few factors. You see, understanding the truth comes down to three things: (1) accepting what the Bible actually says, as opposed to some man-made doctrine; (2) how one defines the Biblical terms being used; and (3) the hermeneutic method being used.
    What does the Bible say? “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast,” (Eph 2:8-9). Seems clear doesn’t it? One theologian, Jonathan Edwards, is famous for having stated, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” However, that’s not completely true when we consider the principle of Psalm 119:160, that we should consider ALL that the Bible has to say about a subject, not just one verse. The Bible also says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” (James 2:24). In the context, James makes an undeniable case for “works” being part of one’s faith. The Hebrews writer adds, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him …,” (Heb 11:6). We should also include Peter’s explanation, “… Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls,” (1 Pet 1:8,9). Do you see the connection? One must have works, in order to be saved, but something about those works, or a certain type of work, is not sufficient.
    This illustrates why defining the terms being used is so important. Let’s start with “salvation.” In Ephesians, Paul is referring to one’s conversion to Christianity, while James and Peter are referring to one’s actions during the lifetime of a faithful disciple. So then, one becomes saved when they obey the Gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4; 1 Thess 1:3-8), but the salvation of one’s soul isn’t culminated until death – after having lived in continual, faithful service (Revelation 2:10). The term can be used in two, different ways. We can further define words by using a sound, objective hermeneutic method (as opposed to a subjective, situational interpretation). For example, within the context of Ephesians 2, the definition of “works” has to do with attempting to be justified by the old Law of Moses (v11-22), in comparison to the freedom granted with Christianity. Hebrews 10:4 is a perfect commentary for this passage, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” So, works in that sense is referring to animal sacrifices and other activities required under the old law. In James, on the other hand, “works” is used to describe the obedience of a faithful Christian (1:22). These are the good deeds required of all disciples (Matt. 25:37-40; James 1:27; Gal 6:10).
    Therefore, the long answer is, “Yes” because Paul writes “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phil 2:12) and also, “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …,” (1 Thess 1:3). This simply means we do “works” to demonstrate our faithfulness and love toward God, not for any personal gain. Don’t forget, we will be, “judged, each one according to his works,” (Rev 20:13). The answer is also “No” because there are no amount of works that one can perform in order to put God into their debt and “earn” their way into heaven. That debt is too great and only Jesus could pay that price (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 6:20).


WILL THERE BE ONE OR TWO RESURRECTIONS OF THE DEAD?

    This question came to us through the “Have a Bible Question” program in which I participate on Tuesday evenings. It is a rather intriguing question because of verses like Revelation 20:5-6, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years,” [emphasis added]. Do these verses imply that there will be more than one resurrection? The quick answer is, there are two: one at conversion and one at judgment.
    Unfortunately, many have misunderstood and misapplied these verses, which has led to several false doctrines. Worse, the result of such error has been the loss of countless souls who have gone to their graves believing such sophistry. My heart grieves at such loss, especially since it was unnecessary, considering that it is not that difficult to discern the truth.
    Look first at what Jesus said in John 5, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. … the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation,” (John 5:25-29). This verse certainly presents two resurrections, but they both occur at the same time – the Day of Judgment. The difference has more to do with the destination of the resurrected, than the timing of it. Paul echoes this same concept in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and also in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10. It means that there will be one, singular resurrection on the Day of Judgment for both the saved and the lost, but they will be divided into their final destinations.
    Taking all that into consideration, and returning to Revelation 20:5-6, more clarification is found in the words, “but the rest of the dead did not live again until …” The “rest of the dead” are all those who continued living in sin, but did not obey the Gospel. Paul elaborates on this in his letter to the Ephesians, “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” (2:5). This also harmonizes with Jesus stating that He had come so that we “may have life, and … have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). From these words and verses, we can now deduce that “living” and being “dead,” while still being alive must be figurative speech, it is not literal. These are references to what happens to us spiritually when we obey the Gospel, “we have passed from death to life,” (1 John 3:14). Those who do not obey the Gospel do not inherit eternal life, thus the do not live “again.” Those of us who have obeyed experience being resurrected into newness of life at our conversion (Romans 6:4).
    So, according to the Bible, there will be two resurrections for the Christian. The first one takes place at the point of being saved, at obeying the Gospel call, when one rises up out of the watery grave of baptism. The second one will take place at the end of time, on the final Day of Judgment, when both saint and sinner will be raised at the same time to be ushered into their final destination of heaven and hell, respectively.


SPIRITUAL VS CARNAL?

    It is no real wonder, or surprise that our world is in great turmoil these days. So many are hurting and crying out. Others are responding in anger and confrontation, while still more are confused and lost. We see people here and around the world being oppressed, persecuted, and afflicted. We observe abuses of power, arrogance, and a complete imbalance of responsibilities. The list goes on and on. The fact is, the world has always been in turmoil – at least it has been since man was expelled from Eden (Genesis 3). When mankind was separated from his Creator, he became more “carnally” minded. While in the Garden, man walked with God, who provided anything and all that could be needed. There was no reason to be concerned about worldly things. Yet, once expelled, he was condemned “to till the ground from which he was taken,” (Genesis 3:23) forcing him to deal with his own, worldly flesh.
    The ancient Hebrew word for “ground” (adamah), is a word derived from the same word as “man,” (adam). Both have to do with moving liquid, or blood. Both have to do with the flesh; the ground is a thin layer covering the earth, while skin is a thin layer covering the human body. When man had to start providing for himself for his own survival, it meant his focus turned toward the more physical, animalistic, or carnal aspects of his nature. He had to till the ground in order to provide for the flesh. Perhaps, Paul had this imagery in mind when he addressed the troubled Christians of Corinth, “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, …” (1 Cor. 3:1).
    The ancient Greek word for “carnal” (sarkikos) means “pertaining to the flesh (as earthly and perishable material).” It is a derivative from a word (sarks) that is defined by Thayer’s Dictionary as, “flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts; denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” That certainly carries with it the idea of what happened in Genesis 3! Essentially, Paul is explaining that a mind set on the flesh is one that rejects the Word of God and His love. In contrast, the spiritually minded are those who, after conversion, have continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. Paul uses the term carnal here to describe those Christians who continue to live like the unconverted – being full of envy, jealousy and strife – mostly concerned about worldly affairs. It is someone who could live differently, but chooses to not do so.
    I find it rather striking that even today, in our own society, our schools and knowledge outlets are teaching people that they are nothing more than a descendant of a primate. In doing so, we shouldn’t be surprised when they begin to behave like wild animals. It is the result of having no real basis, or foundation for one’s moral compass when one is led to believe they’re simply a cog in the giant, vicious cycle of a carnal ecosystem. They are behaving as one who is carnally minded.On the other hand, when human beings are shown that they are a purposely created being, made in the image of their maker, and that their Creator has prescribed certain expectations He desires from them, then an entirely different behavioral pattern is manifested. One’s moral compass gains cardinal points and specific bearings are developed to guide them through the complexities of life. This only happens when one is spiritually minded.
    The one who is spiritually minded is the one who knows the things of God and does them – which is what Jesus did, as our example (John 13:15). The one who is carnally minded is the one who knows the things of God, yet is still characterized by and mostly preoccupied with all the concerns of this world – which is what Adam did (Rom. 5:12). We choose which one we will be. Which one are you?


WHEN WAS JESUS BORN?

    We mark the dates from our calendars with the familiar suffix, “A.D.” Today, for example, is July 19, 2020 A.D. Those letters represent a dating device we have been using for approximately 1500 years. They are an abbreviation of the words Anno Domini, which is a Medieval Latin phrase meaning “in the year of the Lord,” and a shorter version of the full original phrase “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi,” which translates to “in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The letters have come to represent the past two thousand years as the “Christian Age,” and are based off of the year that Jesus Christ was born. The letters “B.C.” were also adopted to mean “before Christ.” All dates assigned to events occuring before Jesus receive the “B.C.” designation and the events since His birth are designated as “A.D.”
   So, does this mean that Jesus was born 2020 years ago? That is certainly what the designated letters would imply, however, they are wrong! It has been calculated that Jesus was actually born some 2025 years ago! Instead of Jesus’ birth year being marked as A.D.1, it is more likely He was born in 5 B.C.! How could this be? Well, it is a rather intersting story, that begins with a monk by the name of Dionysius Exiguus. He had become agitated that all the calendars used during his time had been implemented by Roman Emperor Diocletian. To complicate matters, there had been many and various calendar formats implemented by other emperors in the previous centuries. Roman calendars began counting years from events such as: the founding of Rome, the reign of a certain emperor, or from a particular conquest. What we now know as 532 A.D., the year when Dionysius proposed a change, was known to him as the year 284 in the Diocletian calendar, or the year 1286 in the AUC calendar (ab urbe condita, meaning “since the founding of Rome”). If this sounds confusing, it is, and it had been for many centuries before Dionysius’ time.
    Since the Roman Empire had disintegtrated and Diocletian had been known as a fierce persecutor of Christianity, Dionysius reasoned that a pagan emperor should not be be glorified over our Lord and Savior. So, he proposed that all calendars should be dated from the birth of Jesus, instead. However, since the actual date of Jesus’ birth is not registered in any particular historical document, we are not exactly sure just how Dionysius calculated his dates and arrived at 754 AUC as the year Jesus was born. At any rate, he fixed this date as A.D.1 and the system was soon adopted by the authorities of the time. This is the calendar we have today and the one that has been in use around the world ever since. It wasn’t until many years later that an error in Dionysius’ calculations was revealed.
  The Bible gives us two, very specific events that can be used to more accurately deduce the year of Jesus’ birth. The first verse is in Luke, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria,”(Luke 2:1-2). Roman historians recorded this event as taking place around 749 AUC (5 B.C.). The second passage is found in Matthew 2:1 which says, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,” and verse 19 says, “Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph …” According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, the year that Herod the Great died was 750 AUC, which correlates to 4 B.C. With these two events and their corresponding historical resources, we can reason that Jesus must have been born around 749 years after the founding of Rome, which is also known as 5 B.C. by our modern calendars. This means that our current calendars are not actually correct in asserting that they are dated from the birth of Christ! It would also mean that if we were to make some adjustments to reflect the date more accurately, then this year is not 2020, but 2025 instead! How interesting!


PETER THE APOSTLE

    Let’s get to know some of the people of the Bible! Look up the verses listed below and learn more the remarkable people whose names are registered in God’s Holy Word. You will find it to be a very beneficial study!
 
    NAME: The Apostle Peter is known by four different names. Peter is one; Symeon is another, (found in Acts 15:14 of the ASV); Simon is the Greek equivalent of Symeon; and Cephas is the Aramaic form of his name (John 1:42). The name, Peter, comes from the Greek word Petros, which is a direct translation of the Aramaic (Cephas). According to Matthew, Jesus was the one who dubbed him Petros (Matt. 16:17). Peter was also known as the “son of Jonah” (bar-Jonah). The first mention of Peter is found in Matthew 4:18, with the final mention in 2 Peter 1:1. Peter is referred to some 183 times in nine books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter). Peter’s name is always listed first on any list.
    BACKGROUND: Peter had a brother, Andrew, who was also one of Jesus’ disciples and is teh one who introduced Peter to Jesus. Both Peter and Andrew were fishermen, working on the Sea of Galilee. Peter had a home in Capernaum (Mar 8:14). He was married, though nothing is known about his wife. We do know that Jesus healed his mother-in-law early in his ministry (Luke 4:38-39). Peter apparently had an accent that identified him as a Galilean (Matthew 26:73).
    PERSONALITY: We often call Peter, the “Impetuous One,” because he always seemed to act out of impulse and emotion. For example: he wanted to walk on water with Jesus (Matt 14:28); he wanted to build a tabernacle for Jesus when he saw Him transfigured (Matt 17:4); instead of just the feet, he asked to be “completely” washed (John 13:9); he cut off Malchus ear when they came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10); he jumped in and swam to Jesus (John 21:7-8). There are many other instances in the New Testament where Peter showed his more impulsive side. In any case, Peter quickly became a spokesperson for the group of disciples and he, along with James and John, are depicted as being Jesus’ innermost circle.
    STRENGTHS: Peter was a dedicated follower (John 6:68). He was confident, brave and willing to die (Matt. 26:51-52; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11; Acts 4:13). Perhaps, one of the most significant aspects of Peter’s character and his tendency to act on impulse, was the day he stood up and delivered the very first Gospel sermon (Acts 2:14-41). From that day forward, empowered with the Holy Spirit, Peter became a prominent figure among the apostles in establishing the church of Christ. He was also the one who witnessed Christianity opened up to the Gentiles (Acts 10). After Jesus rose from the grave, He addressed Peter personally as the discredited leader of the Twelve in John 21 which provided him an opportunity for repentance and restoration to leadership.
    WEAKNESSES: Although Peter attempted many acts of faith, he often failed. For one, he had tendencies toward Jewish legalism, such as: not eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-21) and adhering to Jewish food laws (Acts 10:9-16). Along with the other Apostles, Peter did not fully understand Jesus’ new teachings or their implications (Acts 1:6; Mark 9:5-6; 18:10-11; John 12:16). In fact, he was personally and severely chastised by Jesus (Mark 8:33; Matt. 16:23). He was found sleeping instead of praying in Jesus’ great hour of need in Gethsemane (Mark. 14:32-42; Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 22:40-60) and, of course, his worst offense was repeatedly denied knowing Jesus (Mark 14:66-72; Matt. 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:16-18,25-27).
    We can certainly learn a lot from Peter! One, it’s okay to be emotionally driven, just make sure it’s guided by God’s will; two, Peter failed often, but he always got back up, was willing to learn, and he remained faithful to Jesus.


BACK TO BASICS

    Hebrews 5:12 is a verse that has always had a great impact on my spirituality. The words have always resonated with me because I can clearly picture faces of embarrassment upon those first century Christians who must have received and read this letter for the first time. At least, that’s how I would have felt. I can also feel their heartache as one of God’s inspired writers has just exposed to the world their failure of personal responsibility to grow and mature in the Christian faith. I certainly would not want that kind of attention directed toward me! Oh, how each word must have cut them deeply! Listen closely: “… you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” That is a direct reprimand aimed squarely at some members of the Lord’s church.
    That is why this verse has always compelled me to read the Scriptures more, to study more, to explore and investigate the many facets and aspects of God’s Word more profoundly so that I may never be accused of falling short of what God expects of me. Now, I realize it is a process and that every individual grows at a different pace, but these brethren seem to have become rather complacent and unproductive in their spiritual growth. Thus, the writer felt warranted in reprimanding them. We should all take note, because even Jesus had similar words to the churches in Asia, “You have left your first love … repent and do the first works,” (Rev. 2:4-5). “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot,” (Rev. 3:15). We are expected to always be learning and growing in our spirituality. It is part of “remaining faithful until death” (Rev. 2:10)
    Hebrews 5:12 was not written only for those Christians of the first century. Through God’s wisdom, there is a direct correlation to Christians today and many applications that we can draw from this passage. Take the current state of affairs, for example. People are feeling anxiety, uncertainty and turmoil with all that’s happening in this country. The upcoming election, racial tensions, pandemic fears, and government overreach are all weighing on people’s minds, causing heated discussions and tempers to flare. Currently, many people are not as occupied with their jobs and normal routines, so there’s an abundance of idleness. The Bible warns that being idle can lead to all kinds of problems (Proverbs 14:23, 19:15; Matthew 12:36; 1 Timothy 1:6, 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:16). So, what is the solution for a Christian living in such times? Go back to basics! Yes, basics. Even the most experienced teacher sometimes needs to return to the fundamentals of the faith, especially in times like these.
     The “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) does not come to us overnight. It must be developed and nurtured through the study of Scripture. When turmoil, strife, and tribulations arise, a Christian just needs to go back to the basics, to the “milk of the word.” If you are a new Christian, it will give you armor needed to withstand the attacks of Satan (Ephesians 6:10-20). If you have been a Christian a long time, it will strengthen the armor you already have. In any case, it will build your resilience! I think that’s the point of James chapter one when he says we should “count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” because it’s a time for spiritual growth. If we lean on God and trust in Him, He will provide and we will certainly be stronger when we come out of whatever we are experiencing.
     So, the lesson is simply this, let’s not allow worldly things to distract us from our spiritual growth. Let’s not allow ourselves to wind up in a position of needing to be reprimanded for having neglected the first principles of the oracles of God. Let us instead, have our “senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” (Hebrews 5:14).


THE “LOST” BOOKS OF THE BIBLE

    One of the most ironic titles, from among the many books in my library, is one that reads, “The Lost Books of the Bible.” I find that most humorous because if they are lost, then how is it that we have them here in a book form? While my juvenile humor may be lost on some, it still highlights an important point – titles such as that one relate man’s tendency toward sensationalism and a fascination with mysticism. Movies like the The DaVinci Code (2006) is yet another example of this compulsion toward a notion that the general public has been duped into believing the Bible is true. In such provocative theories, these “Lost” books, or some newly discovered, secret document that had been previously withheld from the public, will suddenly enlighten the entire world about how Christianity has been nothing more than some imaginary charade foisted upon naive, unsuspecting, gullible simpletons. How sad.
    So, are there other books, or documents that should be included in the Bible that aren’t there? Are there writings that are considered sacred, which contradict what we have in Scripture? Has someone deprived us of pertinent information regarding the truth of the Bible? The short answer is, “No.” God has given us all that we need (2 Timothy 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:3). There is nothing missing. To answer the question with more detail, it is necessary to divide the many ancient, Biblical and unbiblical writings into a few categories. Here is a list and what they entail:
    Canonical. These include all the books we have in the Bible. Each is regarded as authoritative and authentic because they meet a specific standard of requirements, such as: claiming inspiration, being revelatory in nature, being universally recognized by the early church, and bearing the marks of an inspired writer. History reveals that within just a short period after the church began, congregations all around the Roman Empire had collections of copies of all the books and epistles that we have in our Bibles today.
    Church Fathers. These are writings by early Christian leaders who wrote letters, commentaries, and other documents long after the New Testament had been established and its inspired writers had died. They include people such as Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias of Hierapolis, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. These are all valuable and useful as historical works, but they are not considered sacred or canonical.
    The Apocrypha are works, usually written, of unknown authorship, or of doubtful origin. They also do not meet the standard of requirements to be considered Scripture. A very important point is they were never included in the Hebrew Bible. These include books like: Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, Baruch, Wisdom of Solomon, and others.
    The Pseudepigrapha is the largest group, comprised of many spurious, pseudonymous writings, which are typically, falsely ascribed to various biblical characters, yet were composed many years after the establishment of the church. This is the category that includes many of the so called, “lost books,” such as the: Didache, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Barnabas, Goepl of Mary, Lost Gospel of Peter, Book of Enoch, Testament of Solomon, Apocalypse of Daniel, and many others. These books have some historical value, are interesting, but they absolutely are not Scripture.
    Even the Apostle Paul had to deal with false writings like these in his time. In 2 Thessalonians 2:2, he appears concerned about a “letter seeming to be from us.” In other places, he would clearly specify, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17; also 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; and Colossians 4:18). This was to ensure the readers of its authenticity and would eventually become one of the identifying marks of canonicity. That’s important! At the end of the day, we need not doubt the Scriptures. God has provided all that we need. So, let’s focus more on that and doing His will.


DO WE REALLY UNDERSTAND?

    Please read the following quote, posted below in bold letters, very carefully. Take your time and pay very close attention to what Paul, an inspired apostle, is trying to communicate. Read it for yourself word for word and then ask yourself, “How does this apply to ME?” Ready? Here it is ….
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
 
    Now, I promise I am not trying to be condescending, nor am I patronizing you, or trying to belittle you in any way, form, or fashion. I am simply trying another approach to get your attention. I am sincerely asking you to read that verse with the utmost concentration and comprehension. Just like Paul, I truly want you to see and understand what is being said, for your own best interest. Then, I pray that you will ask yourself if you really understand it. Ask yourself if you are truly observing this Scripture to its fullest, or not. Be bluntly honest with yourself.
    I am positive that every baptized disciple in the Lord’s church fully believes this verse and even practices it … most of the time. What I am not so sure about is if we all really understand what it means. I know I have struggled with it. While I try myself and have also seen this passage practiced within the lives of several faithful Christians, it still seems we easily forget, or misunderstand it from time to time.
    Perhaps, the greatest magnifyer for proof of our understanding is by observing our own actions on social media. While there is much good that can come from engaging others on the many digital platforms out there, there is also just as much harm that can come from it. For example, since there are no real filters or special permissions required among those mediums for expressing our thoughts, opinions, or frustrations on a world-wide stage, then the responsibilty for excercising self-control is solely ours, that’s a fundamental, godly attribute of a Christian (Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:5-7). Sadly, many forget this and blatantly post whatever they want without considering that offenses may occur, mental harm could be done, and even that it could be placing one’s soul in danger. Maybe you just never thought about it before. If so, then here’s an easy test to see how you are doing in that area: pretend, for a moment, that you are a complete stranger to your own page, or profile – would someone who doesn’t know you be able to see Jesus in your posts, your pictures, and comments? If your answer is either “No,” or “I don’t really know,” then maybe you need to make some adjustments in your life, or consider getting your heart right with God.
    Listen, we all have our lives, responsibilities, and personal wants and desires. That’s perfectly okay! That is what is implied within the first part of the verse. So, take care of those things that pertain to you because you have a right to do so. But, the second part of the verse is reminding you to just recognize that you are not the only person in this world. The lives, responsibilities, and personal wants and desires of others are just as important as your own. Don’t forget the “Golden Rule” of Matthew 7:12. In a world where there is already entirely too much emphasis on self-centeredness, we need more of this kind of teaching. We need to focus more on others and not just ourselves. We need to consider how our own actions might affect others.


WORN OUT DELETE BUTTONS

   The delete button on my keyboard is just about worn out. It is not because I am bad at typing. It’s not because I make a lot of mistakes when I am writing and need to back up. No, that’s not why. It’s almost worn out because I use it a lot, a whole lot. It’s not only the button on my desktop computer that is worn out … so is the one on my phone. I think the one on my iPad is about worn out, too. They are all about worn out, but it is not because I am some highly prolific writer that is constantly pecking on the keys to the point that these tools eventually wear out on me. In my profession, I actually write a lot and almost everyday. Here’s the reason why the delete buttons on my devices are almost worn out, it is because I wind up deleting almost everything I write to post on social media.
   Allow me to paint the scenario: I have many brethren, friends, family and acquaintances on many different social media platforms. A lot of them are very opinionated and write all kinds of things about all kinds of subjects. Still, others may not write much, but they share and post memes, articles, photos and other things that are rather controversial. Some of these may seem benign at first, but often, they turn into dissension. In addition, there are a few of my friends who just love to argue and be contentious on any subject that’s posted. This is simply the freedom of expression that comes with the internet and social media. There are really no filters, gateways, or stop-gaps between the “post” button on the sender’s device and the millions upon millions of screens on devices all across the globe. While this can be an absolutely wonderful platform for expressing one’s ideas and creativity, as you can imagine (and have probably experienced yourself) it can also create real problems and produce serious consequences.
   So, here’s what happens next. I certainly have my own opinions, thoughts and “soap-boxes,” and often, the posts I see provoke me to respond because I may either know something more about the subject, or I want to contribute in some way. I always strive to write in a loving, kind, and respectful tone no matter what the subject may be. But, after I have written what I think is the perfect counter-argument, the absolute-end-all response, or the greatest mic-drop come back ever, … I stop and re-read what I just wrote. Then, I start thinking about people I know and love, who might read what I have written . Questions and scenarios develop in my mind like, “Mary might not understand what I am saying and misread this. Will this upset Roger? John may get it, but then he might take it further than I intended. Is this really necessary to say? Will it really matter in a few moments? A day? In a month from now, or more?” The words of Jesus (Matthew 5:9; 7:12; 22:39), the apostle Paul (Philippians 2:4), and James (James 3:1-18) all come to mind. There are many other things I think about … until my index finger, almost by reflex, begins slowly moving up to the delete button and erases everything I just wrote. That is why my delete buttons are almost worn out. I have had a lot to say in response. But as a preacher, a friend, and a brother, I feel that peace, love and harmony with my brethren, my friends, and family was far more important than my lowly opinion.
    Now, I am certainly not saying that we should never express our opinions on social media. If that were the case, I should have never have written this article! Exchanging ideas, thoughts, and even opinions can be healthy and promote intellectual growth. I simply wish and pray that people, especially those who call themselves Christians, would locate and use the delete button more often. I hope I can encourage you to think about others and consider what you are saying before you click that “post” button! Wouldn’t the world be a better place with more worn out delete buttons?
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24).


KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS!

    When Tesla first introduced the autopilot feature in its electric cars, it created quite a sensation in the automobile world. Shortly afterward, it created more commotion throughout the media when people started crashing their cars while using the new feature. As it turned out, drivers were putting entirely too much confidence in the autopilot and doing other things like taking naps and reading books instead of keeping their eyes on the road! Accordingly, Tesla responded by stating, “Autopilot is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times,” and that “you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using it. In other words, the feature was never intended to replace the driver, it was simply implemented for assisting the driver during his trip.
    There is a spiritual lesson here we could certainly apply to Christianity. It is seen in what the apostle John wrote, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). That word “if” is the key! It implies that we can drift off the path, or that we can wander off course. It also implies that we are capable of getting back on track, or that we can correct our trajectory when we stray by returning to walking in the light. Just as Tesla’s autopilot still requires the driver to be vigilant and make corrections whenever necessary, so likewise does the Christian need to do during their spiritual walk.
    Just because we have been saved and are cleansed by the blood of Christ, does not mean we should take our eyes off of Him! Think about how a sailor navigates a harbor, or a farmer plows a field, by pinpointing a landmark in the distance to mark and maintain a straight line in his course. This is what Paul is referring to by writing, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth,” (Colossians 3:2). It is truly the key to a successful spiritual walk and reaching spiritual maturity! Christians must maintain their spiritual compass so that it tracks straight and true.
    The Bible is full of this principle. Throughout the Old Testament, God uses the phrases “If you obey” (Deut 11:27); “if you do this” (Ex 18:23); “if you walk” (1 Kings 6:12); “if you heed, or if you keep my commandments” (2 Chron 7:17) to remind His people to stay on track and not drift off course. In the New Testament, Jesus also teaches us that we cannot serve two masters, so we should “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” (Matt 6:24,33). For a Christian, all of this has to do with keeping our eyes on Jesus. It is the only way we will make it to heaven. The way we keep our focus solely on Him is by learning God’s will through the Scriptures and then remaining obedient to His commands (1 John 5:1-3). This harmonizes perfectly with Revelation 2:10, “Remain faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” That certainly implies a true and straight trajectory, maintained through vigilance.
    So, just as Tesla stated that a driver “needs to maintain control and responsibility for their vehicle,” a Christian also needs to maintain self-control and responsibility for their spirituality. A Tesla driver must keep their eyes on the road and a Christian must always keep his/her eyes on Jesus. You can keep your eyes Jesus by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Heb. 12:2). He left an example for us to follow (John 13:15).