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Christians, 'Ask Not...'
By AL DIESTELKAMP
of the most memorable of presidential quotations came from John F.
Kennedy in his inaugural address when he issued the challenge, “Ask not
what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your
country.” Even though it has since been claimed that President Kennedy
“borrowed and adapted” this line from one of his former headmasters of
a prestigious school he attended, it must be admitted that it made a
powerful point. The statement was interpreted as a call for sacrifice
and service by Americans, for America.|
Please excuse me as I also “borrow and adapt” the famous couplet in
issuing a similar challenge to Christians: Ask not what your
congregation can do for you; ask what you can do for your congregation.
Most people, and especially Christians, would agree that selfishness is
a problem. Actually, it is more than just a problem; it is a sinful
“work of the flesh” (Gal. 5:20). Yet, too often important decisions are
based primarily on self-interest.
Much of the religious world appeal to self-interest when it uses a
market-driven approach in “church plantings.” Therefore, it’s no wonder
that such churches end up resembling businesses or social clubs more
than what Jesus built. After several decades of this approach, the
general population has come to expect all churches to “minister” to
their social and economic needs. They are pleased to respond to the
self-centered phrase, “Attend the church of your choice,” and ignore
the church of God’s choice.
We frequently have visitors who attend our worship assemblies or
inquire about the church as they look for a “church home.” With little
or no concern for doctrinal issues, they want to know what “programs”
we offer to babysit their children or entertain their teenagers. Our
willingness to offer Bible classes and scriptural worship just doesn’t
fulfill their perceived “needs.”
the ease of mobility offered to us in our modern world, Christians in
some areas have the ability to choose from among a number of faithful
congre- gations with which to worship and work. In many metropolitan
areas where job opportunities attract Christians to locate, it is not
unusual for them to be faced with a decision as to which congregation
with which they will identify themselves.
What should be the determining factor in making such a choice? Of
course, of first importance should be whether the congregation is
faithful to the word of God both in doctrine and practice. Assuming
there is more than one option within that criteria, a choice must still
be made. There have been a number of cases in which Christians have
asked for my advice when faced with that dilemma. In cases where I am
advising spiritually mature Christians my response has always been to
ask, “Where are you needed the most?”
However, I’ve noticed that most people don’t take that into
consideration. Too often, they look to see what the congregation can do
for them rather than what they can do to benefit another congregation.
Many will choose to pass by a nearby struggling congregation to
identify with a larger congregation for any number of self-satisfying
Too often, whether we like to admit it or not, the decision is based on
the socioeconomic, racial or ethnic makeup of congregations. The “birds
of a feather flock together” proverb is not biblical and has no
legitimate place in God’s kingdom (Jas. 2:1-7).
Some who have been used to worshiping in fine surroundings may
experience a bit of culture shock when attending a congregation that
meets in rented facilities or an outdated building, so they are willing
to go out of their way to identify with another congregation whose
meeting place is more to their liking.
which are lacking scripturally-qualified men to serve as
elders often find that this deters some from
identifying with them. That might appear to be a more legitimate reason
than some others, but that might be all the more reason they need
mature Christians to help them develop to the point where they can help
“set in order the things that are lacking” (Tit. 1:5).
Christians with children often avoid congregations lacking other
children, insuring perpetuation of the problem in the childless
congregation. Little do they realize that if they were to join such a
work, the next family to face that decision would not be able to use
that reason to go elsewhere.
Even before this article is printed, I can almost hear people say,
“I’ve got to do what is best for me and my family!” Let me challenge
your thinking about that. Admittedly, it is good for children to be
able to associate with other children of like faith, but there are
other ways to provide that association. Visiting other congregations’
special meetings and singings is a good way to satisfy this need, and
there’s nothing keeping families from hosting social gatherings
involving young people (and older people) from other area congregations.
If you are truly spiritually mature, your family can thrive even in
less-than-ideal surroundings and may actually be more useful to the
cause of Christ by working with a group that really needs you and your
family. The children in families that are fully engaged in a
congregation where they are needed will be more likely to become
committed Christians than those whose families seek a “featherbed”
Don’t even get me started on preachers who choose where to work based on self-interest!
260 N. Aspen Drive
Cortland, Illinois 60112
By ANDY DIESTELKAMP
Christians agree that being a disciple of Jesus is a good and positive
thing. Yet we often have a very negative association with the very
thing that is required of every faithful disciple: discipline.
Discipline is “training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental
faculties or moral character;” “instruction having for its aim to form
the pupil to proper conduct and action;” or “correction, chastisement,
punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.”
Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let
him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’” (Matt. 16:24).
Unfortunately, rather than hearing Jesus’ call for self-denial as a
gracious invitation full of hope, all too many of us perceive
self-denial as a negative thing.
Was Jesus’ self-denial in going to the cross a negative thing? While
having some negative associations and implications from an earthly
perspective, from the divine perspective Jesus’ crucifixion was
ultimately glorious in what it accomplished (Heb. 12:2). When we glory
in the cross of Jesus Christ, we find no pleasure in its cruelty and
brutality; we do find joy and hope in what it meant and what it
accomplished (Gal. 6:14).
This, then, is the nature of discipline. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful
for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the
peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”
(Heb. 12:11). We love and admire the fruit of good discipline. Every
parent envisions his/her child growing to maturity with strength and
success. Yet—if that vision is to become reality—it will require
discipline, for “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother”
Instead of practicing discipline, many people want their undisciplined
lives to be not only tolerated but affirmed and validated as
legitimate. They label any discipline in the form of correction as
being judgmental. Many people misapply Jesus’ condemnation of
unrighteous judgment (Matt. 7:1-5) as a means of deflecting any
application of the Word of God being made to their lifestyles. So—while
we affirm the practical importance, need, and long-term value of
discipline—we may still seek to avoid it for as long as possible.
We must keep the goal of discipline fixed in our minds. That picture of
the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” must be ever before us in order
to motivate us to exercise self-discipline. A church in fellowship
focused on the salvation and growth of “one another” will submit
to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and discipline one another through instruction and correction from the Word of God (1 Cor. 5:1-13;
|3:16-4:2; Heb. 10:24,25, etc.). Yet, of all the realms of
discipline, parental discipline is primary. The
failure of parents to instruct, train, correct, chastise, and punish
their children in the fear of the Lord is the primary cause of a lack
of self-discipline in the lives of individuals and our families,
communities, and churches. No nation, no school, no family, and no
church can be expected to instill in children the self-discipline which
parents fail to provide in the crucial formative years. People may
blame the media, the schools, the churches, the culture, their
children’s friends, etc.; but,—generally speaking—the failure of
parents to teach and exemplify self-discipline is the source of our
We need to change. We need to make a conscious decision not to react
negatively to the word, concept, or action of discipline. Discipline
must become a positive word in our minds and vocabulary so that we will
not flinch when we hear it. The potential fruit of good discipline
should motivate us to be eager and diligent in pushing past any
momentary unpleasantness. That’s what Jesus did for us. That’s what we
should do for ourselves, our children, and one another.
323 E. Indiana Avenue
Pontiac, Illinois 61764
|Articles from Days Gone By
By LESLIE DIESTELKAMP (1911-1995)
Some people think that true religion is
dependent only upon sincerity. Certainly sincerity is a vital part of
true religion. Without sincerity, all religion is a vain show—a useless
effort. Indeed, perhaps insincerity may be one of the greatest faults
among professing Christians.
However, sincerity alone is not sufficient to make any religion a true
one, pure before God. Truth is another factor. Without truth, sincerity
is likewise vain and useless. For example, who believes a doctor is
capable simply because he is sincere? Everyone recognizes, even without
an argument, that he must abide in principles of truth. Even a druggist
or a banker, a judge or a teacher, a farmer or an engineer, must
accompany sincerity with truth.
Our soul’s salvation is dependent on God’s abundant grace and our
sincere obedience to truth. Sincere obedience to false teaching will
never produce Christians. Sincere practice of false ways in work and
worship will never constitute acceptable service to God.
Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”
(Jn. 8:32). Truth that is unknown never did make any man free. Jesus
did not simply say that the truth would make us free, but that known
truth would do so.
Again Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
Paul emphasized the importance of truth when he wrote: “Study to show
thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
This article was first published in the West Side Aurora, Illinois Bulletin, November, 1964
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By RICK LIGGIN
use of metaphors in our speech is not only quite common, it is also
quite helpful. In fact, it is so common and helpful that even God uses
a healthy dose of metaphor in communicating His message to man. Jesus,
for example, used hyperbole (overstatement) when He said that we must
“hate” father and mother, sister and brother, and even our own lives if
we want to be His disciples (Lk. 14:26). When the prodigal son
confessed, “Father, I have sinned against heaven (i.e. God) and in your
sight” (Lk. 15:18), he used metonymy (where one thing is used, but
another is meant: he said “heaven,” but he meant “God”). So, please
understand: I am not opposed at all to the use of metaphors, but I must
tell you that I am becoming quite concerned about our frequent use of
one specific metaphor.
Synecdoche is a common figure of speech used in most languages. It is a
legitimate and useful metaphor wherein a part is used to represent (or
stand for) the whole. For example, when Luke recorded that the
disciples at Troas met on the first day of the week to “break bread”
(Ac. 20:7), he used synecdoche: a part of the Lord’s Supper (the bread)
was used to represent the whole of the Lord’s Supper. A similar example
is seen when we say, “Let’s stop and get a bite to eat.” In making this
statement, we use synecdoche: we do not literally mean that we only
want one “bite” of food; we are using “bite” to represent the whole
Now, it has become a common practice among some of us to use
this metaphor when speaking about the process involved in our response
to the gospel.
|The New Testament clearly teaches that when the gospel is
preached, it will produce faith in those with good and honest hearts
(Rom. 10:17). That faith then motivates the believer to repent of his
sins (Ac. 17:30-31), verbally confess his faith (Rom. 10:9-10), and
then express his faith in a willingness to be baptized into Christ for
the remission of his sins (Ac. 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27).
In my judgment, it is unfortunate that a useful “five step” teaching
tool (hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized) has become a
kind of rote (almost creedal) answer among us to the question, “What
must I do to be saved?” Sadly, many of us really do believe that there
are only “five steps” in the “plan of salvation.” But as disturbing at
that is to me, what concerns me more is the fact that “baptism” seems
to have become the “single step” in the “plan of salvation.”
I am afraid that what has happened is that we have used “baptism” as a
kind of synecdoche for the process of salvation: baptism has come to
stand for the whole of what our response must be if we want to be saved
by the gospel. Now, please understand, I do not oppose using “baptism”
as a kind of synecdoche in this way. The New Testament itself uses
synecdoche in this same way, though it more typically uses “faith” or
“belief” to stand for the whole process of conversion.
My concern is that we have used baptism to stand for this whole process
for so long and we use it so often without further discussion that many
among us seem to have come to believe that “getting baptized” is all
there is to becoming a Christian. Far
|too often people want to “get baptized” rather than convert to being a disciple rather than convert to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. And by the way some of us talk and act, you would think thatsome of us believe that we are saved simply because we “got
baptized.” It’s as if we have come to believe that (literally) the
“bite” is the whole meal.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I
firmly believe that baptism is essential to our salvation since it is
for the forgiveness of sin (Ac. 2:38; 22:16) and since it puts us into
Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-7). One is not saved until after he has
been baptized (1 Pet. 3:21). But salvation involves far more than just
“getting baptized.” It involves a genuine conversion to Christ and
being made one of His disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). Being baptized into
Christ is a part of that process, but any baptism that is not motivated
and driven by genuine faith in Christ and a determination to put away
sin from one’s life is completely ineffectual (Mk. 16:16; Ac. 8:36-37).
Just “getting baptized” does not make a saved disciple of Jesus any
more than eating just one “bite” makes a satisfying meal.
Could it be that our careless way of speaking has contributed to some
misunderstanding of the role of baptism in the process of conversion?
And could it be that our misunderstanding and careless speaking has
contributed to outsiders looking at us as if we have completely missed
the point of salvation by grace?
315 E. Almond Avenue
Washington, Illinois 61571
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By DAVID DIESTELKAMP
old pickup truck was white—sorta. It had been sprayed entirely with
cans of paint long ago. I couldn’t tell anymore if it was gloss paint
or not. But at least it ran—sorta. I was given a complicated starting
procedure and the sweet spot for depressing the clutch. Finding the
gear pattern was somewhat of a game of hide and seek, and there was no
third gear. I discovered for myself that the parking brake didn’t work
when it rolled into the street off of my driveway even though I left it
in gear. And the handling? I’ll just say it was like driving a sumo
wrestler and leave it at that. But I loved that truck! I borrowed it
occasionally for dirty jobs. It was a dirty-job truck. You couldn’t
hurt it. But I loved it even more for its service. It was in its worn
condition from use, not from abuse. It could have been in perfect
condition, but that would have required that it not be used, that it
not live for what it had been made. It would not have served the
purpose of its existence. I loved it because it could be used without
reluctance—as a truck.
Jesus said, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of
the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive
you into the eternal dwellings” (Lk. 16:9). I
understand this to mean that someday
|material things will all be
useless and gone; therefore, we are to use our physical “stuff” in life
in such a way that it will impact our eternal future.
What if we truly looked at everything we
have as something to be used in view of our eternal destination? This
means more than just not obtaining sinful things by sinful ways. It
means thinking of our cars as tools to help people, our houses as a
means to be hospitable, our video games as a way of getting good young
people connected, our food as a way of helping someone in need, our
phones as a way to encourage the discouraged, social media as a way to
spiritually connect and invite, our jobs as a means of connecting and
making money to serve others, etc.
What if you pick up something within arm’s reach of you now and say to
yourself, “God gave me this. How can I use it in service to Him and
others?” We have to start thinking differently about stuff.
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much
increase comes by the strength of an ox” (Prov. 14:4). The only way to
keep a completely clean barn is to keep the oxen out, but that defeats
the purpose of the barn, and
be no harvest without an ox. Serving means that our houses and cars
will show wear. Sometimes our clothing will get dirty, the screens on
our phones will get cracked, and our game controllers will get worn
out. Our budgets will be strained and our pantries will be a little
more empty because we are using them. Because that is why God gave them
to us—not to be saved and preserved in pristine condition, but to be
thoughtfully and prayerfully used and used up in view of eternity.
I fear that some of us will learn too late that trying to preserve what
we have been given makes us the one-talent man of Matthew 25:4 who
thought it was enough to return what he was entrusted with in good
condition. “You wicked and lazy servant,” was the master’s response.
Then Jesus warned, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he
will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has
will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer
darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:29-30).
I hope my truck looks like Jim’s truck someday—and for the same reason.
940 N. Elmwood Drive
Aurora, Illinois 60506
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By STEVE FONTENOT
|“Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord,
also his mother and mine” (Rom. 16:13). Paul is the author of this
letter. Is this Paul’s mother in the flesh, or in spirit (i.e., had
enjoyed maternal care from her in some way)?
know hardly anything of Paul’s family except that his father was a
Pharisee (Ac. 23:6). Paul was reared and learned in the Hebrew religion
(Ac. 22:3; Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5). Unless he was raised by other
relatives, this points to his parents (or one of them if the other had
passed away) being strong devotees to the strict Jewish religion
triumphed by Pharisees. The woman in this text was a Christian and
living in Rome.
this is Paul’s fleshly mother, this is the only mention of her in all
his epistles, and it is but an allusion. If this is his fleshly mother
and she was now a Christian, it seems all the more strange that he
would make but a passing reference to her and also mention her as the
mother of Rufus first.
seems more probable (and most, if not all, commentators take this view)
that he calls her his “mother” because of her motherly care expressed
in some way toward Paul (cp. Mk. 10:30; Judg. 5:7).
18542 Crestline Road, Humble, TX 77396
Men’s Overnight Bible Study
|The 11th Annual Men’s Overnight Bible Study will be held Friday
and Saturday, September 26-27 at Illinois District Camp in Wapella,
Illinois. The theme for this year’s study is Walking Worthy of Our Calling: Making Changes Daily, taken from Ephesians 4:1-3.
The idea behind the lessons is that Christians overcome sin with the
power of grace. The two Friday-night lessons will focus on our
salvation. Having a deep understanding and appreciation of this
provides the perspective and strength for the things that will be
discussed on Saturday
event is organized by individual Christians and is not the work of any
congregation. Our desire is to help men better understand and more
|successfully carry out their commission as fathers, husbands, brothers,
sons, teachers, preachers, elders and deacons within the environments
of home, church and the world, using the inspired Word of God as our
There is a modest per-person fee to defray the costs of the campsite
and meals. In addition to the spiritual feast, attendees will benefit
from social interaction with other men of like faith.
At presstime, the list of speakers was not complete, but below is a partial list of speakers and all the topics to be presented.
“Grace as the Foundation for Change”
“Grace as the Strength for Change”
“Using Sorrow to Overcome Sin”
“Using Accountability to Overcome Sin”
“Using Radical Measures to Overcome Sin”
“Using Confession to Overcome Sin”
“Using Humility to Overcome Sin”
“Using Gratitude to Overcome Sin”
“Using a Dynamic Relationship with Jesus to Overcome Sin”
“A Call to Holiness & Hope”
For more information and online registration, go to:
Registration will begin August 1.
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