By Al Diestelkamp
forty years ago my father wrote a short article under this same title.
In it he pointed out the dilemma preachers face when Christians who
don’t share our dedication to scriptural authority move into our area
and seek to become part of our local fellowship.
in areas where the church is numerically challenged, the temptation may
be to merely preach the principles on Bible authority, but walk too
softly in making the needed application to current issues. My father’s
point was that if newcomers prove to be resistant to teaching against
church support of institutions, sponsoring church concepts and other
unscriptural practices, “we must learn to let them go.” To do otherwise
will eventually lead to division—or worse yet—digression.
we think that we have moved beyond that problem, we ought to “think
again.” With the accelerated pace of digression among many churches of
Christ, we are beginning to see a remnant who are unwilling to accept
the changes coming at the hands of the ultra-liberal among them. Some
may try to find refuge with those of us who are more conservative.
is good as long as they embrace a new dedication to the authority of
the scriptures. However, as we “contend for the faith” (Jude 3) we must
be prepared to preach the word “in season and out of season” (2 Tim.
4:2). If those who want to maintain “a little liberalism” won’t endure
sound teaching, “we must learn to let them go.”
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
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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
The Role of
Emotions in Worship
a zealous effort to counter misconceptions about worship, some
Christians are quick to declare that worship has nothing to do with how
we feel, that our adoration of our Creator strictly stems from our
knowledge of His word.
By Nathan Combs
live in a culture dominated by feelings. From the intellectual
university classrooms to the average kitchen table, the existence of
truth is increasingly called into question. Emotions and opinions have
become the standard by which many live their lives. Sadly, this
relativistic mindset has also gained a firm foothold in the minds of
many who are religious. Congregations of charismatics take part in
uncontrolled physical behavior because of an inward, emotional belief
that they are being controlled by the Holy Spirit (though ironically,
the only New Testament examples of frenetic behavior occur in
demon-possessed cases: Matt. 17:14-15, Mk. 5:2-5, etc.).
While it is certainly true that we use
scripture, not feelings, to determine how we should worship God (or how
we have a relationship with Him, for that matter), it would be a gross
overstatement to argue that our natural emotions have no place in godly
worship. But how is a balance to be struck between these two extremes?
As we will consider in this article, the way we address God in worship
is certainly based on our knowledge of Him and His revealed will, yet
the scriptures are also filled with indications that emotion plays an
important role in our worship. Let’s briefly examine prayer and
singing, two ways in which we directly address God, and see how our
emotions should connect to our worship.
book of Psalms includes some of the most passionate prayers recorded in
scripture. Many of them contain the outpourings of godly men embroiled
in difficult circumstances or overwhelmed by thankfulness. In
Psalm 3, for example, David prays to God out of great distress when he
fled from his son, Absalom. David begins by voicing deep concern about
his situation, then ends by affirming God’s ability to save him. It is
clear that these prayers were offered by an emotional man, yet his
emotion proceeded from a knowledgeable mind. David could not have
displayed such confidence in God if he hadn’t known what God was
capable of doing. David’s relationship with God certainly wasn’t
created by his emotions, but his personal knowledge of God gave him a
way to express his natural feelings and caused him to seek an even
deeper connection to Him through prayer.
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.
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
270 N. Tanzanite Trail, Apt. 2, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Back to top
Back to top
By Rick Liggin
records an occasion when Jesus was invited to eat a meal in the home of
a leading Pharisee (Lk. 14:1ff). While at this feast, Jesus noticed
that the invited guests were picking out the places of honor and
distinction at the table; they were concerned about getting a position
that would make them look good.
of what He saw, the Lord told this parable: “When you are invited by
someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone
more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who
invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this
man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But
when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when
the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up
higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the
table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he
who humbles himself will be exalted.” (17:8-11).
seems to me that this parable teaches us something about honorable men
and positions of honor. Because the place of honor is for an honorable
man, the man who seeks to sit in that place purely for the sake of
honor proves by his seeking that he is not an honorable man. This kind
of man ultimately will be brought low by the Lord. The point is: a
truly honorable man is never a position-seeker; he is never the kind of
man who looks for the place of honor purely for honor’s sake.
consider this application: the work of an elder is just that…work (1
Tim. 3:1). It is not a “position” or “office” that is held over members
of a local church, but rather it is a work of service that is to be
performed “among” the members (1 Thess. 5:12). Now it is true that the
work of elders is a “good work” and that only men of proven character
may be appointed to this work (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). And it is
likewise true that those who work hard in functioning as elders are
“worthy of double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). But these facts do not imply
that the function of a bishop is to be viewed by us simply as a
position of honor held by certain men. One who seeks the “position” of
an elder because it is a place of honor is attempting to exalt himself.
Such a person is setting himself up only to be humbled by the Lord.
a Christian and as a preacher of the gospel of Christ, I am vitally
concerned about helping men to develop themselves so that they can be
scripturally appointed as bishops or shepherds in the local church. The
church of the Lord is in desperate need of good leadership, and in my
judgment, one of the greatest challenges for the future is developing
men of quality character who can serve as elders. Local congregations
everywhere need to be looking to the future to see how they can meet
this challenge. Who will shepherd the local church that you are a part
of in the next generation?
for one certainly want to encourage men to develop the desire to serve
the church in this good work. But if your desire to be an elder is not
because you desire a good work, then maybe you need to quit thinking
about becoming an elder. The Lord’s church does not need elders who
only sit in a place of honor. It needs men who will work hard at
serving the local church by supplying the needs of the flock and
equipping saints for the work of service. If you have enough vision for
the future to work at developing yourself into that kind of a man, then
God will exalt you in due time.
315 Almond Drive, Washington, Illinois 61571
Peter Got It
was correct when he answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the
living God” (Matt. 16:16). The others, however sincere, misguided, or
deceived, were wrong. Saying, “My Jesus is…” or “The Jesus I accept
allows…” was the thinking of people who reached wrong conclusions about
Jesus. Peter’s understanding of the truth came from God, not from men
(Matt. 16:17). Our thinking must perceive what God means and then
conform to it.
Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt.
16:18), He illustrated that man’s religious conclusions and definitions
may not be the same as God’s. Some people thought things about Jesus
that simply weren’t true. Their belief, however sincere it may have
been, didn’t make Him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the
prophets (Matt. 16:13-14).
Peter was able to sort through the quagmire of
incorrect religious positions and controversy and find the truth.
Saying, “If the experts can’t agree…” or “Maybe we need to go with the
polls,” would have been disastrous. It is possible to confidently know
the truth, even in a confused religious world.
of truth gave the solution to division. The difference in what people
believed about Jesus was more of a problem because it differed with God
rather than with each other. Division over who Jesus was could only be
resolved by all accepting who He really was, not by everyone agreeing
to a palatable compromise (i.e, He was Elijah). Generally, unity will
naturally occur when all accept and apply the truth. Any other unity is
more adhesion than oneness and does not produce unity with God.
940 N. Elmwood Drive, Aurora, Illinois 60506
Back to top
Back to top
The Search For Solutions to Our Nation's Woes
live in a complicated world. Things are not always what they seem to
be. Solutions are not as easy as some would have us think they are.
Those in positions of power and influence want us to believe that they
have the answers.
We are in the midst of an economic crisis.
Have you really understood the explanations of the problems? Have you
understood the proposed solutions? If so, I welcome you to email me and
explain them to me in layman’s terms because everything I am hearing is
way above my pay grade.
For years we have been sending soldiers
to Iraq and Afghanistan allegedly as a part of a war on terrorism. It
is a war that has become extremely unpopular. Foreign policy is
complicated. Different cultures, different religions, different values,
and different goals result in issues that most ordinary folks do not
comprehend. Do you really understand what is going on? If so, please,
explain it to me.
In the last national election both
presidential candidates told us that they were candidates of change and
that they had plans for fixing what is wrong with our nation. The
implication was that they have a grasp on complicated issues such as
the economy and foreign policy and that we could trust them to lead
America into its finest years.
However, what is wrong with
America is what is wrong with humanity at large, and it will not be
fixed with men, money, or missiles. “Where do wars and fights come from
among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in
your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot
obtain...” (Jas. 4:1,2). Selfishness and greed are core problems that
can only be effectively addressed in a moral context which accepts that
there are fundamental and absolute standards of right and wrong. When
we reject these basic standards, we reject what makes us human beings
created in the image of God. When we reject that spiritual pedigree,
then we are left as animals to bite and devour one another as we seek
to be leaders of the pack.
It is the spiritual and moral
degradation of “we the people” that has harmed this nation more than
anything else. Nothing better illustrates this than the sanction and
practice of abortion. I am not saying that abortion is the only thing
that is wrong with this nation; neither am I saying that if we stopped
killing the unborn, all of our problems would be solved. I am saying
that the selfish attitudes which permit the virtually unrestricted
liberty of terminating unwanted human life is typical of what ails our
For all of our alleged progress and intelligence, we
certainly play dumb when it suits our purposes. We keep ourselves
ignorant so that we can pretend to protect ourselves from any
culpability, liability, or just plain ability to be of any help in
getting to the root of a problem. This intellectual filibustering
masquerades as humility when, in fact, it is self-serving.
1973, Justice Blackmun (writing for the majority in Roe v. Wade) said,
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When
those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy,
and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at
this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position
to speculate as to the answer.” The irony is that the court then acted
on its alleged ignorance and determined that the unborn are not human
lives worthy of protection under the law.
From a scientific and
biological perspective, there is absolutely no question about when
humans come into being; it is at conception. A two year old could look
at an embryo at seven-weeks gestation and know he was looking at a
fellow human being. Yet that unborn child has no legal protection under
the laws of our nation. Therefore, when any politician says that
answering the question of when life begins is beyond his ability, we
have to question his ability to handle more complicated issues (i.e.,
economy, foreign policy) and/or his honesty.
Salvation from our
national ills will not come from any man, woman, or political party.
Indeed, if there is to be any salvation it can only come from one
source, the grace of God. Do not build your house on the ever-shifting
sands of politics or economics but on the solid rock of the teaching of
Jesus (Matt. 7:24,25) and His apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Any
politician, economist, or scientist who does not build his house there
will inevitably propose policies and theories which have relatively
little value in solving the largest of human problems.
323 E. Indiana Avenue, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
About Think's Editor -
Copyright 2009 Think on
The content of this site is copyrighted but may be freely used as long
as you give credit to this website as your source.