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By Al Diestelkamp
me begin by saying that what I’m about to write is motivated by a
sermon I heard from my good brother, John Nicholson. Unfortunately, I
didn’t have a pencil with me, so I can’t duplicate all his
applications, or will I necessarily use the same scriptures, but I was
able to remember his main points for use in this article. Perhaps it
ought to be pointed out that John began his sermon by acknowledging
that he got the idea for his sermon from an old sermon outline his
father-in-law, the late Bill Allen, had passed on to him—an outline
that brother Allen had received from the widow of an even older
preacher, Olan Hogue. Who knows, maybe brother Hogue developed his
thoughts as a result of someone else’s sermon.
This illustrates the value of preachers listening to other preachers
instead of always being the one in the pulpit. It also indicts the
notion that every sermon (or article) has to be original material. I
suspect that those who boast about never using other people’s sermons
or outlines as a springboard to their own are fooling themselves. But I
Brother Hogue’s sermon was a five-point lesson about “Reasons People
Reject The Gospel of Christ.” Brother Nicholson’s sermon acknowledged
that what brother Hogue said so many years ago still is true today, and
then used the same points to point out “Reasons Fallen-Away Christians
Don’t Return To The Lord.” Despite the so-called excuses offered by
those who have left the Lord, the real reasons are the same as why the
lost refuse to obey the gospel:
Love of the approval of men. The pressures to conform are great. Jesus
calls us to be different, while the world wants us to line up with
them. Hence the apostolic warning to “not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed” (Rom. 12:2). Failure to be transformed makes
conformity to the world a sure thing. Christians who have become
“weary” of “doing good” (Gal. 6:9) are susceptible to false doctrine as
well as unrighteous living. To some in the first century who had turned
away from the Lord the warning is “if I still pleased men, I would not
be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
Love of sin.
The fact that sin is usually packaged as something attractive and
enjoyable has long been a strong temptation in Satan’s arsenal (i.e.,
Gen. 3:6). The fact that the gospel requires repentance is one of the
main reasons people reject the gospel, and it is also why many
Christians who have yielded to the lusts of the flesh fall away and
will not come back. The Bible describes the condition of those who
“have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” but are “again entangled in them” as
worse than before becoming Christians, and as disgusting as a dog
eating his own vomit, or a just washed pig returning to the mud puddle
(2 Pet. 3:20-22). Until one recognizes the true ugliness of sin, he
will maintain a love of sin and not seek forgiveness.
Love of family.
While this is a good thing, God’s word makes it clear that such love
must not exceed our love for Him. Jesus made it clear that in some
cases one’s “foes will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36).
Hosts of people have been confronted with the gospel only to reject it
because of misdirected love of family members. Likewise, some who have
obeyed the gospel eventually leave the Lord in order to please their
unbelieving family members. Little do they realize that the most loving
thing they can do for their loved ones is to be a faithful Christian.
Love of ease.
The way of truth is not the path of least resistance, and for that
reason the gospel message is spurned by the spiritually lazy. “I just
don’t think I can live the life of a Christian” is a response we
sometimes hear from people who have heard the gospel but have spurned
the invitation. Those who fall away sometimes take a page from that
playbook, claiming that they’ve tried, but have found it too difficult
to be a Christian. Instead of seeking the help of the Lord who has
promised to “never leave” or “forsake” them (Heb. 13:5), or even accept
help from fellow-Christians who are ready and willing to warn, comfort
and uphold them (1 Thess. 5:14), they take the easy way out. They
haven’t yet learned the hard lesson that “the way of the unfaithful is
hard” (Prov. 13:15).
Love of lies.
A perverted gospel message is often more appealing than the truth.
Perhaps that is the reason for the apostle Paul’s rather emphatic
warning to consider “accursed” any who preach any other gospel than
what was delivered (Gal. 1:6-9). The popular doctrines of “faith only”
and “once-saved, always saved,” are two prime examples of “pleasing
doctrines” that men love to believe despite the plain teaching of the
apostles of Christ. When a child of God falls away it is not unusual to
hear them talk of receiving “new light” on the scriptures. In other
words, they love the lies. They need to be reminded of how God’s
prophet foretold shame on unfaithful Israel “Because you have forgotten
Me and trusted in falsehood” (Jer. 13:25-25). Like the psalmist we
wonder, “How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?”
I remember how, as brother Nicholson revealed each reason, I was able
to put a name with each one—sometimes more than one name. How tragic it
is to realize that men and women with whom we once shared close
fellowship in the Lord have allowed their love for anything or anyone
to “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open
shame” (Heb. 6:6).
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By Leslie Diestelkamp - 1911-1995
trying to show those who had surrendered to John’s teaching that John’s
purpose was really to prepare them for the One who would come after him
(Lk. 7:24-30). To stress this lesson, Jesus asked them some very
1. Did you go out to see a reed shaken in the wind? That is, did you
expect John to be a mealy-mouthed, milch-toast whom you could push
around, and who would tickle your ears?
2. Or did you expect John to be a sophisticated socialite who would
appeal to your own vanity, and who would conform to your own worldly
3. Or perhaps you expected John to be simply a prophet who would reveal future events, or perform some great feat before you?
Of course we know that, regardless of what they went out to see in
John, the multitudes were convinced of their sins and brought to
submissive repentance (Matt. 3:1-6). John surely did not beckon with a
wavering hand or speak with a quivering lip. He did not reason with
them about past events or future prospects on earth. He did not make
his appeal as a “man of the cloth,” as a dignified representative of
some sect, but his appeal was to their conscience and their will.
There may be similarity in this and attitudes we see today. The people
may think of a preacher as an ambassador of good will, a rather simple
man who should try to please everybody, or a dignified, scholarly
gentleman who, in deep, resonant tones speaks great swelling words of
But, like John, the preacher today must come to the people with
determination to bring them to Christ. He must go everywhere with “the
sword of the Spirit,” bringing sincere people to total submission to
the gospel of Christ which was anticipated in the kingdom message John
preached long ago. It would be well, also today, if preachers could
imitate the character of John by demonstration of condescension coupled
with courage and dedication that did not waver in the face of death.
This article first appeared in THINK,
Vol. 6, No.3, dated March-April, 1975
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By Rick Liggin
If you really want to grow up
in Christ, then you’re going have to learn to think for yourself!
You’re going to have to come to understand the word of God…for yourself
and develop your own faith, a faith that will motivate you to use the
word of God to make the kinds of choices that you must make to please
Preachers and elders have to
understand that if they really want to help people grow, they have to
help people…and let people…think for themselves. Too often, elders and
preachers are tempted to simply “indoctrinate” church members, rather
than helping them to learn and think for themselves. To indoctrinate
someone is to teach him “to accept a set of beliefs uncritically”
(Oxford, p. 681); it is to get him to blindly and unquestioningly
accept a certain set doctrines! When a person is simply indoctrinated,
he does not think for himself, nor does he develop a faith of his own.
Worse yet, when we as teachers indoctrinate, rather than teach folks to
think for themselves, we “lord it over” their faith…something we must
not do. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he would not “lord
it over” their faith, and then added: “for in your faith you are
standing firm” (2 Corinthians 1:24). People will only stand firm when
they stand in a faith that is their own…a faith based on their own
understanding of God’s word.
Indoctrinating people is
certainly easier, but it doesn’t really help them. Oh, they may say all
the right things…the things the teacher wants to hear; but they are not
speaking from their own faith. They are simply “parroting” the faith of
their teacher, and that’s not good!
At times, preachers fall prey
to this temptation when people want answers to their Bible questions.
The temptation is to just give the person the “bottom line” answer,
rather than pointing him to the word and helping him think through the
answer for himself. After all, if the preacher takes the time to help
him think through the question for himself using the Bible, he may not
reach the right answer quickly. In fact, he may even at first reach the
wrong answer…and then more study and work will be required. In such
cases, it’s so easy to just give the “bottom line;” to answer the
question for the guy and send him on his merry way. But such
indoctrination will not really help the person. It only makes him
dependent upon his teacher…and it won’t affect any real or lasting
change in his behavior. Real and lasting change in people’s conduct
only comes when they are individually and personally convicted that the
change is necessary. Indoctrination with the “bottom line” does not
produce that kind of conviction.
Elders also, sometimes, fall
prey to this temptation as they try to keep unity in a local church.
Independent thinking in Bible study, at times, can produce a temporary
diversity of views in a local church. Why? Because not every member is
equally capable of accurate, solid study, nor of careful, clear
thinking. And so, when a variety of differing views begins to emerge
within a congregation, elders are often tempted to resort to
“indoctrination.” They begin to discourage independent study and
independent thinking, and they even squash any effort to openly study
controversial issues. What they don’t realize is that when they do
this, they step over the line; they begin to “lord it over” the faith
of others…something even the apostle Paul said he would not do (2
Indoctrination does not help
people grow up. It only cripples them. Independent thinking and Bible
study, on the other hand, will not hurt a person…if his heart is right!
If a person’s heart is right, he will, in the end, find the Truth
(Matthew 7:7). But if his heart is not right, he will not be acceptable
to God, even if we “lord it over” his faith by indoctrinating him in
the Truth. If we really want to stimulate growth, then we must teach
people to learn and think for themselves!
315 E. Almond Drive, Washington, Illinois 61571
email: firstname.lastname@example.orgBack to top
By Andy DiestelkampMany
churches, including those that still wear the name of Christ, give
emphasis to the wrong things. In some cases these include things that
are wrong (without scriptural authority), but in others they are things
that are external—physical things wrongly emphasized (given too much
Paul was concerned about the negative impression that a local
congregation might leave on unbelievers or otherwise uninformed
visitors. Regarding the carnal and chaotic assemblies of the
dysfunctional Corinthian church, Paul rebuked, “will they not say that
you are out of your mind?” (1 Cor. 14:23). This apostolic admonition
clearly warns churches that carnal behavior will be an occasion for
stumbling or blaspheming.
However, we must not draw the erroneous conclusion from this comment
that Paul wanted churches to be primarily concerned about what
outsiders think or say about them. This is not a valid proof-text to
support the latest project proposed to make the church more attractive.
Indeed, Paul knew that what the earliest disciples confessed about
Jesus Christ and Him crucified would be a stumbling block to many and
foolishness to others (1 Cor. 1:23). Yet, many modern churches, not
wanting to be thought “out of their minds,” have rejected the bodily
resurrection of Jesus (cf. Ac. 26:23,24). And many such things they do,
“making the word of God of no effect” (Mk. 7:13).
The Scriptures teach that to reject the resurrection is to render faith
in Christ vain (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Yet, our culture has widely renounced
Scripture as a relevant authority, and, so have many churches. To
suggest that today’s churches should pattern their teaching and
behavior after the New Testament record of the earliest churches is
thought to be very archaic. Unsurprisingly, many churches not wanting
to be thought irrelevant, “out of their minds,” or out of step with
cultural evolution have exchanged faithfulness to the Word for popular
ideas that are imagined to be more relevant. Thus, churches find
themselves caving to the ignorant ideas and carnal values of the
unregenerate in the hopes of winning them to the Lord whose word they
have already declared irrelevant.
Most churches are concerned about numerical growth, but that is not the
concern of churches of Christ. Good churches understand that, while
some plant and others water, it is God who gives the increase (1 Cor.
3:6,7). Many churches imagine that their future growth and expanding
ministries are critical to the health of the kingdom of God. They are
not. There is not one local church from the first century that remains,
but the kingdom of heaven remains. It shall stand! The churches that
belong to Jesus understand that their treasure is not here on earth
(Matt. 6:20), that all of this is going to be burned up (2 Pet.
3:10,11), and that the only church with an enduring future is “the
church of the firstborn [ones] registered in heaven” (Heb. 12:23).
The churches that belong to Christ want people to come, not to their
churches but to Jesus Christ, because salvation is only in Him. When
churches of Jesus Christ get concerned about people going to “other”
churches, it is not because one can only be saved if he/she attends
their churches, but because one can only be saved if one is faithful to
The fact that most churches are not preaching the faith that was once
for all delivered through the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ
(Jude 3) is what concerns the churches of Christ. That many have
actually exchanged the truth of God for lies (Rom. 1:25) concerned the
first Christians (cf. Gal. 1:6-10; Rev. 2:2), and it remains the
concern of all the churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing
more relevant to men of faith than truth. If we want to be truly
relevant to a lost and dying world, then we must know and love the
truth. Anything else is a scam. Therefore, woe to those who call that
which is irrelevant relevant, and that which is relevant irrelevant
(cf. Isa. 5:20).
323 E. Indiana Avenue, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
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By Doug Cyrus
If a person’s fingerprints are found on an object you
know the person has touched that object, you have detected their
presence. It is interesting how God reveals His presence in the Bible
by hiding information that obviously has His fingerprints all over it.
Proverbs 25:2 says: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the
honor of kings is to search out a matter.” Who would have thought that
the creator of the universe would like to play hide and seek?
Isaiah 40:22 says: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth,
and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers…” Isaiah was written
about 700 BC or 2,192 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in
1492, proving the world was round. How did Isaiah know the world was
round? He probably didn’t, he was just speaking for God as a prophet
does. But, he did leave a fingerprint of God for us to find with the
help of Christopher Columbus. Thus we see a fingerprint of God in the
Old Testament, evidence of God’s presence.
What about the New Testament? Hebrews 11:3 says: “Through faith we
understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that
things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” You
will notice that this verse does not say that the things we see were
made from nothing, but that the material things in this universe were
made from things that cannot be seen with the physical eye.
Einstein expounded the theory that E=MC2 where E is energy, M is mass,
and C is the speed of light in a vacuum, which is 299,792,458 meters
per second. What Einstein theorized was that material things are made
from energy. A.O. Schnabel in his book God Has Spoken comments on
Hebrews 11:3 saying, “Scientists now understand that all matter is
composed of small unseen particles, thus described as things that are
not apparent. In fact, the further science probes into matter, the more
it is revealed that matter can be considered in terms of energy. For
example, the actual matter in the human body would be smaller than the
head of a pin.” Brother Schnabel has a degree in aeronautical
engineering and works at Boeing Aircraft Company.
The earth gets its energy from the sun and yet, before the energy
strikes the earth where it can be reflected, it cannot be seen. Space
is a very dark place, although, a tremendous amount of energy passes
How did the writer of the Hebrew letter know that the things he could
see were made from energy that he cannot see? He probably didn’t, he
was just speaking as a prophet for God. But, he did leave a fingerprint
of God for us to find with the help of some men of science like
When people ask, “Do you really think God wrote the Bible? Just reply, “He must have...His fingerprints are all over it.”
2647 E. 200 North Road, Pana, Illinois 62557
By Steve Fontenot
And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens
to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you,
take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three
witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to
them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the
church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer” (Matt.
18:17) [emp. mine, srf].
Observe: (1) One Christian is not a hurch, and when one Christian does
something we cannot conclude it is the “church” doing it (“listens to
you”...versus...“listens even to the church”). (2) Even a plurality of
Christians does not necessarily comprise a “church,” and we cannot
conclude that when Christians do something the “church” has done it
(“listen to them”—these Christians together confirmed this man’s guilt
and reproved him; “listen even to the church”—a later and separate
reproof by the “church”).
“Church” is a collective noun, like “army” or “herd.” An “army”
collects soldiers, a “herd” collects cows, and a “church of Christ”
collects Christians. You cannot have a herd of cattle without a cow,
but for the same reason one cow does not make a herd, one Christian
does not make a church. You can’t have an army without soldiers, but
just as three soldiers eating together (e.g., one Russian, one Iranian,
one American) do not constitute an army eating lunch, so a number of
Christians doing something together does not necessarily mean a
“church” has done something.
So what? To find scriptures that state what Christians did or were
authorized to do does not prove churches did those things or that
churches of Christ were authorized to do those things. To say that the
church is composed of Christians and therefore, “What I do the church
does,” or, “What I am authorized to do the church is authorized to do,”
is not so. The people who comprise the church have individual
responsibilities as family members, citizens, and neighbors that do not
fall into the realm of work God assigned the church “of Christ.”
Individuals can form, coach, and support baseball teams for their
children—but there is no authority for “church of Christ baseball
teams.” Individuals can work for a business to support themselves or
establish a hospital to provide services for their neighbors—but these
are not the work of a “church of Christ.”
Individuals can campaign for political office and organize political
organizations for the furtherance of civic goals—but the Lord’s church
has no business in politics. When you kiss your wife, the church has
not kissed your wife! When Christians have a picnic at the park, it
does not justify calling it or making it a “church picnic”—organized
and supported by the church. While some duties (as “reproving” the
offender) may be performed individually (as “you” and “them”) or as
“the church,” even then when the individuals act it does not follow the
church has acted—the Lord’s language demands a difference.
We must, brethren, learn and maintain the difference in individuals
viewed and acting individually or in individuals acting collectively in
secular pursuits, and in individuals viewed and acting together as a
“church of Christ.” Failure to do so will insure confusion and pave the
road for apostasy in the work of the Lord’s church.
18542 Crestline Rd., Humble, Texas 77396
'Tis the Season
By Al Diestelkamp
beginning of God’s message through the prophet Isaiah reveals His
contempt with Judah and Jerusalem. He declared them “a sinful nation”
He goes on to tell them He’s “had enough” of their burnt offerings
(1:11), and His soul hated their various forms of worship (1:13-15). As
a nation they had refused to put away their evil ways, and so their
attempts at worship was an abomination to God.
I can’t help but think, given our own nation’s rejection of God, the
recent seasonal focus on the birth of Jesus does not impress Him one
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