WE MUST LEARN TO LET THEM GO - By Al Diestelkamp (from THINK page 1)

Even if we were to have no such newcomers among us, the need is still there to teach and emphasize the need for scriptural authority. I fear there are many congregations, long identified as “non-institutional,” filled with members who are unprepared to resist unscriptural innovation. Battles fought in past generations will not suffice in preventing digression among present and future generations.

Others We Can’t Hang On To
While we’re on the subject, there are others who will be offended by the truth of God’s word. In a postmodern cultural setting, what the Bible defines as immorality is considered normal. Sexual relations outside of marriage has been renamed “living together,” and we have been brainwashed into referring to homosexuals as “gays.” With the stigma gone, most people of the world don’t even try to hide their sexually immoral lifestyles. Our preaching and teaching on these subjects has become increasingly outside the mainstream.

I guess it was inevitable that we would begin to see so-called Christians, living in sin, trying to be accepted “as is”  by faithful brethren. This, despite the fact that about fornication, we are told, “let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Gal. 5:3). In my own recent experience, we have had several cases in which newcomers attending our assemblies, while claiming to be members of the Lord’s church, openly admitted to ongoing sexual immorality. There have been at least two cases wherein the couples have admitted that it was sinful, but were unwilling to repent, and really didn’t think it was necessary to do so. You would think they had been taught the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. We must try to “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), but if they will not heed God’s word, “we must learn to let them go.”

Still Others
One of the hardest things to do is to “let go” in cases where Christians “grow weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9), and thereby “wander from the truth” (Jas. 5:19). We are quite aware that “he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:20), and so we must remind each one who has “forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Pet. 1:9) of his need to make his “calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10). Having done that, what more can we do? Having been “once enlightened...and have tasted of the good word of God...” all we can do is remind them of what they already know (see Heb. 6:4-6). We can’t renew them to repentance—they must do it themselves applying the same word that saved them in the first place.

Sometimes we don’t know when to let go. With some, who have become perennial backsliders, we spend much time and energy pampering and cajoling them to come back again and again, sometimes to the detriment of the congregation. Many times those who chronically fall away have many other problems in their lives. Sometimes we go out of our way in providing economic assistance as an incentive to gain them back. I’m afraid that when we constantly remove the consequences of their actions, we become enablers in the very problems that take them away from the Lord. There comes a time when “we must learn to let them go.”

What Would Jesus Do?
I realize that the foregoing may sound foreign to many. Even I had to ask myself if this is what Jesus would do. When I look at the life and ministry of Christ, I see one who, like His Father, is “full of compassion” (Psa. 86:15). Many of His miracles were prompted by His compassion for those in dire circumstances. Yet, when people rejected His teaching, He did not continue to pursue them. Consider His encounter with a young man who came running to Jesus, wanting to know what to do in order to inherit eternal life (Mk. 10:17-22). We are told that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him,” but when Jesus told him what he needed to hear, the man went away and Jesus let him go. Even when many of His own disciples were offended at Him, and “walked with Him no more” (Jn. 6:66), we don’t see Jesus running after them.

When brothers or sisters wander from the truth, love demands that we try to bring them back, but if they reject such efforts, we must face the fact that they have left the Lord, and “we must learn to let them go.”
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112

e-mail: al@thinkonthesethings.com

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THE ROLE OF EMOTIONS IN WORSHIP - By Nathan Combs (from THINK page 1)

To use marriage as an example, the emotion that I show to my wife stems from my knowledge and deep appreciation of who she is. The more I find out about my wife, the more I desire to show her affection. But both emotion and knowledge must be present in our relationship in order to make it a good one. Our marriage would undeniably be in jeopardy if we showed little or no emotion to each other; conversely, if our connection to each other was primarily founded on our emotions, it would be a pretty flimsy relationship indeed!

Prayer in the New Testament is also recognized as an emotional, yet respectful experience based on knowledge. Peter admonished his recipients to “humble” themselves “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). A textual way to do that is by “casting all your anxieties on Him.” We see from this scripture that it is perfectly valid for prayer to be offered to God from an emotionally-burdened heart (indeed, God wants us to do that), but it is also equally valid to note that prayer is to be given with an attitude of humility, recognizing who God is and what He is capable of doing. Such knowledge then compels us to give him our troubles and concerns.

In James 5:17, the writer simply states that “if any man is cheerful, let him sing praise.” In context, James is describing several natural human conditions that should produce spiritual reactions. Suffering, and the emotions felt as a result of it, should produce prayer. Sickness should produce a desire to be healed with the help of brethren. Likewise, feelings of cheerfulness should cause us to praise God. James didn’t bother to explain the need for singing to be based upon a proper knowledge of God’s will, perhaps because he’s writing to a Christian    audience who would have already understood the principle that they needed to worship correctly. At least some degree of knowledge is implied in the text; if we’re supposed to praise God out of a cheerful heart, then that necessarily implies both the recognition of our situation and some understanding of the Being who has allowed us to prosper.

In Colossians 3:16-17 and its parallel passage in Ephesians 5:19-20, two things are apparent. First, thankfulness is an ingredient of musical worship. Thankfulness does not merely involve intellectual acknowl-edgement of blessings or circumstances; it is also the heartfelt emotion that springs from that understanding. Secondly, knowledge of God is mentioned in connection with our thankfulness. We are enabled to teach each other in song because the word of Christ dwells in us. Both scriptures mention that we’re to do this “in the name of Jesus,” or with His authority, which we cannot know except by His word. Therefore, singing is a combination of our knowledge and emotions working together to produce encouragement, admonishment, and edification.

I Close My Eyes, a hymn composed by Jay Conner, provides a concrete example for what we’re discussing. The song’s chorus says “I close my eyes; I see His majesty; I close my eyes, and feel His love for me.” This is obviously an emotional section. Is it wrong to sing about “feeling” God’s love for us? Carefully examine the rest of the song. The verses reveal that these emotions are described as a natural reaction of a fervent desire to seek God. “Teach me to do Thy will,” “Make me to know Thy way; wherein my path should be” are taken straight from Psalm 143. When examined as a whole, the song is an excellent example of how we feel emotionally drawn to God because of our scripturally-grounded relationship with Him. The person who sings this song, then, not only has a way to express sincere, heart-felt emotion, but to proclaim to all that their relationship to God is firmly anchored in their (ever-growing) knowledge of how to please Him.

So let us not divorce our worship from our natural emotional response in our desire to be doctrinally sound! Paying homage to our Lord was never intended to be practiced as a mechanical exercise, no more than it is to be an uncontrolled gushing session. Let’s take careful note of the ways that the Bible discusses worship and give Jehovah praise with our minds and our hearts. 
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e-mail: njcombo@gmail.com

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