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judgment scene depicted by Jesus has Him separating sheep from goats
and inviting the sheep into the eternal kingdom prepared for them from
the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:31-34). Then He explains why the
sheep in His flock were invited and the goats were not.|
From this we should not be surprised when there are those who portray
themselves as part of the flock of God while not fully submitting to
the Good Shepherd.
In exhorting elders, Peter described local churches as “the flock of
God which is among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). If there are “goats” among the
Chief Shepherd’s flock, there no doubt will be “goats” in local
I’m not an expert on farm animals, but some research has taught me that
while there are some similarities between sheep and goats there are
also some significant differences. To the casual observer, some goats
look like sheep and are often in the same pasture, but they behave
A shepherd will guide the sheep to “green pastures” and the goats will
tag along, but they are willing to eat just about any trash they find
along the way. Sheep have a reputation for being submissive and willing
to be led, while goats are more independent and sometimes have to be
driven. Goats tend to be more stubborn and occasionally combative. To
the casual observer, goats may even seem more playful, making the sheep
appear somewhat boring.
Of course, when it comes to “sheep” and “goats” in the church, the Lord
has no problem distinguishing between them; but the task is a bit more
difficult for shepherds in a local flock. Unlike the animal version,
the distinction cannot be determined by appearance.
|Jesus warns about other intruders whom he describes as “ravenous
wolves” dressed “in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15). (That’s another
animal!) It’s by their fruits we can identify them (v.16). It’s not that easy to identify the “goats” among us, especially if we see them doing many “works” (cp. Matt. 7:22).
The goat-like church member often has that independent attitude which
is resistant to correction or conformity. If things aren’t to his
liking, he is likely to find another local flock where his independence
is tolerated. Because of his independent nature, he is liable just to
slip away quietly and resist any effort to bring him back into the
fold. In some cases, he may even find a whole flock of goats who pride
themselves in their non-conformity, even to the point of extending
fellowship to some wolves.
The “goats” among the sheep will swallow the doctrines of “wolves” who
give lip-service to the authority of the scriptures but find ways of
interpreting them to fit their own views of “fairness.” They discount
an increasing number of scriptures as not being applicable today by
claiming that they were written based on the cultural norms of the
In case you think that I am just being paranoid, let me give you an
example of teaching that is being endorsed by some among us. There is a
movement among some of our brethren which is being promoted by popular
authors and internet bloggers. One such blogger who claims to be an
elder in a local church in Alabama has written a 205-page book
dedicated to refuting what he calls “legalism” which denies women the
right to serve as preachers and elders. Imagine that! A book of that
length attempting to explain away what the Holy Spirit clearly said is
“shameful” (1 Cor. 14:34-35) and one of the inspired qualifications of
an elder (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6).
|Of course, it doesn’t stop with a single issue. The so-called
“progressive movement” is anxious to open the floodgates to many more
digressions from God’s word. Hopefully “sheep” will not be moved by
such attempts, but I fear for “goats” who may be attracted to such
In the physical world, no matter how much it tries, a goat cannot be
transformed into a sheep; but in the spiritual realm, it is possible.
It requires being “transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2)
and being “clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5). For proud Americans
this does not come without effort, for we love our “rights”— almost to
a fault. The founding fathers of our nation issued a “Declaration of
Independence” that must not be applied to our spiritual lives. When it
comes to following the Good Shepherd, we need to issue a “Declaration
The Chief Shepherd sent the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth,
including how we ought to conduct ourselves in the church (1 Tim.
3:15). This includes obeying and submitting to those who lead us in our
local congregations (Heb. 13:17). To do this, we must act like
sheep—not like goats.
I have to wonder if one of the reasons more good men don’t “desire the
office of a bishop” (1 Tim. 3:1) is that they see the flock among them
acting more like goats than sheep and can’t imagine being able to
shepherd those who have not demonstrated a willingness to submit to
their leadership. However, even if my suspicion is correct, it’s not an
excuse for failing to “set in order the things that are lacking” (Tit.
Perhaps we would all do well to heed the message in the lyrics of a
children’s song: “I don’t want to be a goat…nope! ’Cause a goat ain’t
got no hope!”
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By ANDY DIESTELKAMP
two thousand years ago an event of such great importance occurred that
one is left with only awe and wonder when attempting to comprehend it.
For centuries before, the prophets of old had foretold the arrival of
One Who would come from the seed of Abraham; be greater than Moses,
David, or Solomon; through Whom all nations would be blessed; and by
whom Satan would be dealt a crushing blow.
That this Anointed One would be born to a woman only became amazing
when considering that the Child could legitimately be called “Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
The gospel of John was “written that you may believe that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His
name” (Jn. 20:31). That gospel account begins with these remarkable
words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). Just a few verses later we are simply
told, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (vs. 14).
The event of God becoming flesh should not be treated lightly,
carelessly, or untruthfully. Any consideration and recollection of the
incarnation of God is worthy of our utmost respect and honor. Yet, two
millennia of legend, pagan mythology, and religious human tradition
have been mixed with holy Scripture to create a holiday that has become
more important to its celebrants than is the truth about the One whose
name it wears.
The human tendency to worship God as we want rather than as God reveals
is nothing new. It is idolatry. The unholy alliance of pagan practices
and carnal cravings under the guise of holy terms is as ancient as the
golden calf worshiped by God’s chosen people after their gracious
release from slavery. “Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel,
that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ So, when Aaron saw it, he
built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said,
‘Tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah.’ Then they rose early on the next day,
offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people
sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to
|play” (Ex. 32:4-6). God is not mocked! He was not fooled by
their pretense then, and He is not fooled by ours now. An article of
this length can do little more than possibly arrest the attention of
the festive as Moses did by throwing down the tablets of stone.
The human tendency to worship God as we want rather than as God
reveals is nothing new. It is idolatry. The unholy alliance of pagan
practices and carnal cravings under the guise of holy terms is as
ancient as the golden calf worshiped by God’s chosen people after their
gracious release from slavery. “Then they said, ‘This is your god, O
Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ So, when Aaron saw
it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and
said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah.’ Then they rose early on the
next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the
people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Ex. 32:4-6).
God is not mocked! He was not fooled by their pretense then, and He is
not fooled by ours now. An article of this length can do little more
than possibly arrest the attention of the festive as Moses did by
throwing down the tablets of stone.
Yet, just as Paul used an altar “To the Unknown God” as an opportunity
to teach pagan philosophers about the true nature of God, so we may be
able to use our culture’s seasonal holiday as an opportunity to teach
the truth about the birth of Jesus Christ. Any sincere and honorable
remembrance of the Messiah’s birth should desire to separate the wheat
from the chaff (cf. Matt. 3:12). To do this, one must return to the
source (Scripture) rather than to the accumulated elaborations and
The gospels of Matthew (1:18-2:12) and Luke (1:26-2:40) provide the
factual details of Jesus’ conception, birth, and infancy. While there
are differences in their accounts, there is no difficulty in
ascertaining a reasonable harmony of the two. Read them and take notes.
It won’t take more than fifteen minutes of your time. What you read in
Scripture is worth knowing. Be awed by it. Everything else is chaff.
Luke wrote about what was believed among the earliest Christians
(Lk. 1:1-4). As a true historian, he even supplied references to
historical persons and events for the purpose of validating his account
to his first readers (cf. Lk. 1:5; 2:1,2; 3:1,2, etc.). Yet there is no
scriptural information about the day or month of Jesus’ birth. Indeed,
the details of Jesus’ birth are not the primary focus of Scripture.
Many people may assume that the earliest Christians celebrated the
birth of Jesus as a holy day, but there is no evidence at all for that
in Scripture. That should sober us into a reconsideration of what it is
that Jesus really wants from us.
Sometimes in our eagerness to honor Christ, we assume things that ought
not be assumed and behave like Peter did when he witnessed Jesus’
transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9). Peter was ready to build three
tabernacles right then and there to honor the event. However, he ended
up building none and was told to be quiet about it all until after the
resurrection. This was reminiscent of King David’s desire to build a
permanent temple to honor the Lord (2 Sam. 7:1-7). He also was told
“no.” No one questions David’s or Peter’s good intentions; but we do
not honor God by acting on our “good” ideas without God’s authority.
It is important that we remember that the message first announced by
shepherds was an incomplete gospel. We are not admonished to remember
and preach the image of a “holy infant so tender and mild.” Quite the
opposite, we preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 15:1-4). While
Jesus’ incarnation was certainly essential to making His sacrifice
possible (Heb. 2:9), the scriptural emphasis is clearly upon His death,
burial, and resurrection. It is Jesus’ death on the cross that He
specifically asked us to memorialize (Lk. 22:14-20), and it is His
death that we are to proclaim until He comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
Interestingly, there were likely more people recently celebrating
Christ’s birth according to the traditions of men than there will be
people remembering Christ’s death according to His word. Let us repent
and honor Christ by proclaiming Him in the way in which He asked to be
323 E. Indiana Ave., Pontiac, Illinois 61764
|Putting Up With It
By DAVID DIESTELKAMP
mourned the day they were told they had to return to wander in the
wilderness for forty years as the consequence of their sin (Num.
14:39). They stood on the border of a land “flowing with milk and
honey” (Num. 14:8) but were forced back into a desert that would
“consume” (Num. 14:33) and kill them (Num. 16:13). Whole families were
swallowed by the earth (Num. 16:31-33), fire consumed hundreds (Num.
16:35), and thousands died of plague (Num. 16:49). The wilderness was
an “evil place” where the thirsty found no water (Num. 20:5), the
hungry tired of manna (Num. 21:5), and serpents bit them (Num. 21:6).
They were tempted by prostitutes and idols. Other nations refused them
passage and attacked them. They eventually had to fight their way back
to the land “flowing with milk and honey.” And there was what seemed
like an ever-growing list of commandments to keep and judgments to
avoid. They had to put up with a lot out there in the wilderness, but
someone else put up with even more than they did.
Paul gives us God’s perspective on the desert wanderings: “Now for a
time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness”
(Ac. 13:18). Had you been an Israelite in the desert, I doubt you would
have thought God was the One putting up with things. After all, you
were the one in an “evil place” suffering from thirst, serpents,
enemies, and temptations! You were the one learning and keeping a
myriad of commandments while trying to avoid a capital offense. Yet
Paul affirms that it was actually God Who was the One being patient,
tolerant, and longsuffering.
We don’t truly think of God as being longsuffering. We don’t think of
God as suffering at all, let alone for a long time. Maybe this is
because we don’t like to be longsuffering and, if we were like God, we
wouldn’t be. After all, when you are God, you don’t have to do anything
you don’t want to do, right? Wrong!
|Jesus taught the concept of praying, “Your will be done on earth as it
is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10) because God’s will is not being done on
earth as it is in heaven. There have been times of ignorance when God
“overlooked” things (Ac. 17:30). God’s will from the beginning has not
always been honored, even by His own people (Matt. 19:8). We think that
enduring the consequences of sin is our burden. We think that the
purification process through chastening is all on us. But our struggles
with sin are painful to God and hard to endure for Him. We aren’t just
breaking random commandments. We have “…trampled the Son of God
underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified
a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). All are
painful to our loving God!
What is God doing? Why endure and be patient with us as we come to Him?
“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known,
endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for
destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on
the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory?”
(Rom. 9:22-23). God is patient with His wrath so we will be drawn to
His glory through His mercy and grace.
We need to stop thinking that we are the ones putting up with God, His
will, and what He allows to happen to us in this life. We are “vessels
of mercy”—incredibly, amazingly, undeservedly filled with God’s grace
so we could know the “riches of His glory.” God has put up with a lot
from others but from me, too. Time to stop complaining and start
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I Don't Want to Be a 'Church of Christ' Christian
By JEREMY DIESTELKAMP
|Which of the following statements are true about the congregation of which you are a part ?
a. We are a church of God
b. We are a church of Christ
c. We are a church of God in Christ
If you said that all three of these statements are true, then you’d be
correct. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren
and—when he did so—he addressed “the church of God” which was at
Corinth. Likewise, Paul closed the letter to the Roman Christians by
saying that other “churches of Christ,” saluted them (Rom. 16:16).
There were “churches of Christ,” implying that each individual
congregation could be called a “church of Christ.” Finally, in 1
Thessalonians 2:14, Paul observes that the brethren in Thessalonica
were “imitators of the churches of God…in Christ Jesus.” These are all
correct descriptions for churches of the New Testament.
In the same regard, which of the following statements are true?
a. I am church of Christ
b. Church of Christ doctrine teaches
a cappella singing
c. This is a church of Christ church
If you said that none of these statements is true, then you’d be
correct again. The reason for this is because the Bible never uses
“church of Christ” in these ways. A single person cannot be a church.
We are disciples (Ac. 9:10), saints (Eph. 1:1), and Christians (1 Pet.
4:16). The term “church of Christ” is not the name of an organization.
There is not a “church of Christ” church. Rather the phrase is a
description of the church itself and names the person to whom we belong
and—as such—there is no such thing as a “church of Christ” doctrine.
There is only Christ’s doctrine (Matt. 15:9, Heb. 6:1).
| Some might ask, “Why is it important that we talk about these
things?” It is important because from time to time we need to remind
ourselves of who we are and who we are not. Perhaps there are some new
Christians who have been converted from the world. How are they to know
the truth if we refuse to teach it? Perhaps there are some people we
would like to teach. How are we to know the verses to use if we refuse
to study them? And perhaps we are facing the temptation to be more
accepting of sin. How are we going to be able to thwart the devil’s
attempts if we refuse to remind ourselves about the truth of the gospel?
So what is the “church of Christ”? The word church is translated from
the Greek word ekklesia meaning a group of people called out for a
special purpose. The word is a collective noun, as are the words club,
herd and flock. In Acts 8:1, Luke states that the church was scattered
abroad. Who was scattered according to this verse? “They” were
scattered, meaning more than one person. When we add “of Christ” after
the word church, we modify the noun stating to whom the church belongs.
Not all churches which exist today belong to Christ. The Lutheran
church belongs to Luther, the Mormon church belongs to Joseph Smith,
and the church of England belongs to the country of England. By stating
that we are a “church of Christ” (as Paul stated in Romans 16:16), we
are saying that we are Christ’s church. However, the only way for this
to be true is if we are following the word of God completely (Matt.
What lessons can we learn from all this? First, since being a
Christian means belonging to Christ, one ought to be part of a local
group of people who belong to Christ—a “church of Christ.” Again, this
is not being a member of a sectarian religious organization but being a
member of a
|collection of Christians who belong to Christ (Ac. 9:26).
We need to be active members in a church, assembling regularly (Heb.
10:25), growing in our knowledge of the scriptures (Ac. 17:11), and
attempting to bring others to Christ (Heb. 5:12).
Second, we find that the descriptive phrase “church of Christ” is not
the official name of the Lord’s church (Eph. 1:22-23). We find many
descriptive phrases in scripture that could be used to identify a local
church. If as a local church we were to use any of those descriptions,
we would still be as much a “church of Christ” as if we had used the
term “church of Christ.” Many congregations claiming to be New
Testament churches identify themselves as “churches of Christ” to
distinguish themselves from denominations that have used these other
scriptural terms but which fail to follow the scriptures as revealed by
the Holy Spirit. Yet, we must be careful not to use the term “church of
Christ” in a sectarian way; for when we do, we violate Paul’s commands
that there be no divisions among us (1 Cor. 1:10).
Finally, we learn that we must use scriptural terminology. The churches
of Christ do not constitute a denomination. They are churches that
strive to serve Christ apart from denominationalism. When we use the
term “church of Christ” incorrectly, we become no better than the
denominations that we preach against. I don’t want to be a “church of
Christ” Christian, and neither should you. I want to be a Christian, a
follower of Christ, and part of the church He established (Matt.
16:18). For I know that if I am this, that I am promised a home in
glory when Christ comes again (2 Tim. 1:12).
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New Work to Begin In Springfield
By KEN McDANIEL
By KEN McDANIEL
the great commission, Jesus clearly indicated His desire for all people
everywhere to have an opportunity for salvation. This has inspired
Christians to travel the world preaching and teaching the gospel
message of forgiveness and reconciliation. As a result, churches of
Christ dot the globe—some in likely places, others in places
Sometimes there are places which we would expect to see a faithful
congregation of the Lord’s people; but, to our surprise, there is none.
One such place is Springfield, Illinois. For years there has been a
strong desire among the brethren to remedy this. We have discussed it
in our casual conversations. We have prayed about it and hoped that
someone would take on the challenge. Some of us have even gone as far
as researching and canvasing the area in search of Christians who might
be interested in helping start a new work. For years little to nothing
has shown up. This, however, has not quenched the desire to see a
faithful group of God’s people in the capital city.
After years of interest, visits, interaction in the community, and
prayer, my wife Penny and I
have committed to starting a work in
|Our plan is to begin sometime in March, 2015. Though we
have no commitments from anyone at the moment to move to the area and
help, we are hoping that our son Colton—along with his soon-to-be-wife
Keri Parker—will be able to raise the support to come in June and work
as a fellow evangelist.
Having made our plans known for the last several months, we have
received overwhelming support from brethren to come for short periods
of time to work in the community. This is a tremendous encouragement to
us as the focus of our efforts will be on converting the lost. Though
we hope that some Christians will transfer to town when the church is
established and that others will come to us from churches which have
veered from God’s pattern, we know that the bulk of our growth will
stem from conversions. With that in mind, the help of brethren will be
a blessing greatly appreciated.
However, our greatest dependence will be upon the Lord. “Unless the
Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it” (Psa. 127:1
NKJV). There is nothing more crucial to the success of our endeavor
than having His favor and blessing. We petition your earnest
prayers—that God will
|be with and among us in this work—that He will
give us wisdom and strength—that He will give us boldness tempered by
an attitude of love and gentleness—and that by His powerful word, He
will open the hearts of those who seek Him.
We do not know what lies ahead. The work may flourish, or it may
struggle. What we do know is that it is within the will of God for
someone to preach the gospel in Springfield. “Go into all the world and
preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized
will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk.
So if the opportunity arises for you to come to Springfield to help in
this work, we would love to hear from you. Or, if you know of
someoneyou would like for us to contact in order to set up a visit or
study, wewould appreciate the opportunity to follow it up. We will
transition to Springfield in March. Until then, we will be out of the
country doing evangelistic work. Therefore, the best way to reach us
with contacts, questions, or to schedule a time to help with our
initial efforts will be via email.
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IN MEMORY OF
Joseph T. Novak died Dec. 9, 2014, at the age of 74.
Joe helped to
start the church that now meets in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. After a
40-year career with IBM, Joe served for many years as preacher for this
suburban Chicago congregation.
Joe, who with joy and enthusiasm served God and others in many ways,
will be greatly missed by his good wife Monetta, his children,
grandchildren, and many brethren, especially in the greater Chicago
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