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The Solution to Mankind's Problem
By ANDY DIESTELKAMP
as surely as mankind’s problem of sin is identified from the beginning,
so is the hope of overcoming the problem. If life were without purpose
and hope, there would be no purpose in identifying sin as a problem.
Problems are identified and presented not so as to frustrate and cause
despair and hopelessness but in order to identify and present
solutions. Scripture is not needed to identify sin and its fate if
there is nothing to be done about it. Thus, by its very existence,
Scripture’s purpose is not only to identify sin and heap guilt and
shame upon mankind but also to reveal a solution to the problem.|
From the beginning, God has offered this hope despite our sin. While
the end result of sin is death, a solution to overcoming sin and death
is implied by the fact that we are made acutely aware of the problem by
both revelation and experience.
God is not the creator of problems; He is the creator of solutions to
problems. Having been created in His image, we, too, are capable of
solving problems of both the physical and the metaphysical. Indeed,
there is within human nature a capacity for contemplating nature and
that which is beyond the realm of the natural. While some might
attribute this to ignorance, it is more reasonable to suggest that such
attributes as faith, hope, and love are not illusions of the
over-active imaginations of ignorant, accidentally-evolved, higher
animals but spring from realities which transcend nature and which
mankind has been purposefully given the ability to comprehend to some
When Adam and Eve first sinned, they immediately became aware that
there was a problem and set about to solve the problem; “they were
naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves
|(Gen. 3:7). That the problem of nakedness and its shame was not
easily solved by some natural means is made evident by the fact that
Adam and Eve still sought to hide themselves from God (vs. 8). That
only God, by His grace, could solve the problem of Adam and Eve’s own
making is made evident when He clothed them with that which adequately
covered the shame of their nakedness. |
The problem of sin is evident. We see that evil is real even
though it is not subject to testing by the scientific method. We have a
problem that cannot be solved by natural means. Yet, even in the midst
of the curses that accompanied the first sin, we find the first promise
of the hope of overcoming. Life would go on, and, in time, the Seed of
woman would bruise the head of the serpent (vv. 14,15).
It is not by chance that Scripture virtually begins and ends by
addressing the problem of sin unto death while providing the solution
of salvation unto life. Like bookends in the library of Scripture,
compiled over 1500 years, are the announcements of the defeat of our
common enemy. These texts, and all in between them, provide the hope
needed to endure the trials of this life while seeking the salvation
solution that God graciously offers to the problem of sin. In Genesis
3:15, a glimmer of hope is dimly seen as “the serpent” is told that the
Seed of woman would eventually bruise his head. In the Revelation of
Jesus Christ, this promise is finally fulfilled as “that serpent of
old, called the Devil and Satan...who accused [brethren] before our God
day and night, has been cast down” (Rev. 12:9,10).
As the apostle Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of time had come, God
sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem
those who were under [the curse of]
|the law” (Gal. 4:4,5; cf. 3:13).
Quoting from Deuteronomy (27:26), Paul had reminded, “Cursed is
everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the
book of the law, to do them” (Gal. 3:10). This is equivalent to, “in
the day that you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
So, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). A virgin
woman conceived a Son by the Holy Spirit and He was named “Jesus, for
He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:18-23). “And being
found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to
the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). In so
doing, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become
a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a
tree’) (Gal. 3:13). He became accursed for us “that the blessing of
Abraham might come upon the Gentiles...that we might receive the
promise of the Spirit through faith” (vs. 14; cf. Gen. 12:3). This is
“the gospel which [Paul] preached…which also you received and in which
you stand, by which also you are saved...that Christ died for our
sins...was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to
the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
The end (result) of the problem of sin is death, but the end (demise)
of the problem of sin is found in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross
and His own subsequent conquest of death in His resurrection from the
dead. The beginning of the solution is found in God’s loving and
gracious promise. Jesus is the solution to the problem of sin. The end
(result) of the solution is the salvation of all who entrust and commit
their souls to their Creator through Jesus Christ.
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Who Is My Brother or Sister in Christ?
By AL DIESTELKAMP
|EDITOR’S NOTE: This
article is in answer to a request from a reader who wants to know what,
if any, relationship God’s people share with “denominational brethren”
as well as those who are “slightly or very digressive” (her terms).
Specifically, she wants to know what to call them (i.e., “erring
brethren.”), especially if they take the name of Christ.
The questions posed beg an answer to the
question, “who is my brother or sister in Christ?” The recent trend in
churches abandoning mainline denominational ties in favor of the
community church concept has fostered this question in the minds of
some. Many evangelical churches are changing their signs to remove or
obscure any denomination affiliation and may even claim to be
“non-denominational.” This may sound like progress to us who for years
have been pleading the case for non-denominational Christianity, but
these churches are actually “inter-denominational,” extending
fellowship to people from various denominations.
The words “brother” and “brethren” can have a variety of applications
depending on the context, but in all cases they denote some kind of
relationship. If referring to family relationship, calling one a
“brother” is usually a reference to a male sibling. The words
“brethren” and “brotherhood” are also used in a broader sense to refer
to people (male and female) who share a common bond (i.e., “brethren in
Sometimes the word “brother” is used to denote a common national, racial, or ethnic likeness
was in this sense that Ananias of Damascus addressed his fellow Jew as
“Brother Saul” (Ac. 22:13) even before he told him to “wash away his
sins” (22:16). There is even what is called the “brotherhood of man,”
recognizing that all humans have a common ancestry. Thus there is a
sense in which we are all brothers through the line of Adam and Eve. It
is in that sense that Jesus taught “whoever is angry with his brother
without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:22). |
When speaking of spiritual relations, my brother is one who, like me,
has been “born again…through the word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23)—one who
through faith has been “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27) and is part
of God’s family. For that reason, I don’t refer to or address my
sectarian friends as brothers. I call them my friends, but I don’t call
them my brethren. If they are part of a denomination one of two things
is true: 1) They are not brethren, or 2) They are in the wrong place by
being in a denomination. Either way, I can have no spiritual
relationship with them.
Our sister also asked about how we should address or refer to
those who are “slightly or very digressive.” If one among us is caught
up in sin, those who are spiritual are to “restore such a one in a
spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1). When one “wanders from the truth” he
needs to be turned back in order to “save a soul from death” (Jas.
5:19-20). If a brother “walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received” (2 Thess. 3:6) he is to be withdrawn from. Yet we are told to “not count
|him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (3:15).
When it comes to those we think of as “erring brethren,” we might want
to remember that we all fit into that category to one degree or
another. Restoring ourselves to the pattern of New Testament
Christianity is an ongoing process and, individually, it is a lifelong
process (cp. Phil. 4:12-14). We must not fool ourselves into thinking
we have arrived at perfection. Therefore, those who through faith and
obedience have accepted God’s grace are my brethren even though we have
doctrinal differences which prevent us from having an optimal working
This is not to minimize the importance of doctrinal purity or to ignore
what we believe is error in teaching or practice. We must strive to
remain true to God’s word even if many of our brethren do not. When
division exists among brethren, it ought to be something all parties
desire to remedy. This requires that we view each other as brethren and
maintain a willingness to communicate (including study) with each
Our “sincere love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22) should motivate us to
“be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers,
be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8).
260 N. Aspen Drive, Cortland, IL 60112
TO 'SEE GOD'
By STEVE FONTENOT
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are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8). All men,
whether pure in heart or not, will eventually “see” God: “For we must
all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be
recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done,
whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). Obviously, that is not what Jesus
meant in his sermon by “see God.”
This promise was made in the context of “proclaiming the gospel of the
kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). How “good” the “news” (“gospel”) is of a coming
“kingdom” depends on the King of that kingdom. This “kingdom” would be
the “kingdom of heaven” or the “kingdom of God” and He would enthrone
His own anointed King, the Messiah, to rule over it. With that in view,
no wonder one is “blessed” when “theirs is the [i.e., the blessings of,
metonymy] kingdom of heaven” (vv. 3,10)!
But, not everyone has the privilege to see a great King. Not just
anyone is allowed in His presence. The Jews, familiar with kingdoms in
| understood this. When Absalom was in
disfavor with King David, “the king said, ‘Let him turn to his own
house, and let him not see my face.’” (2 Sam. 14:24). Esther feared to
“go in to the king” for, “All the king’s servants and the people of the
king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king
to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be
put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so
that he may live” (Est. 4:11).
In contrast, the wise men who were “closest” (NKJV) to King Ahasuerus
and whom he consulted as trusted advisers were ones who “saw the king’s
face” (Est. 1:14).When David composed his song about finding refuge in
the LORD, he said, “the LORD’s throne [note the idea of “King”] is in
heaven...He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face”
(Psa. 11:1,4,7). The sons of Korah express their desire for God’s favor:
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and
behold the face of God?” (Psa. 42:2). Compare Rev. 22:4.
|To “see God,” then is to be “close” to Him, to enjoy His favor,
to be a “blessed” participant in the rule of the Messiah, the “kingdom
Now that’s “gospel”! If one is “pure in heart,” he can “see God”! You
do not have to be rich; you do not have to travel to Jerusalem; you do
not have to do “penance” such as starving yourself or cutting yourself
or in some other way severely treating the body; you do not have to
depend on the graces of the hierarchy of a church; you do not need to
consult a guru; you do not have to be powerful or be a noble; you do
not even have to know rich, powerful, or noble men. You simply must be
“pure in heart”!
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” How much do you want to “see God”?
18542 Crestline Road, Humble, TX 77396
Articles From the Days Gone By
Qualities of a Strong Church
By LESLIE DIESTELKAMP
Lord’s church was purchased at a very high price. ”He gave Himself for
it” (Eph. 5:25). The mission of this church is very great indeed. It is
the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Therefore, it is
important that all Christians be fully aware of their responsibility to
make the church just as strong as possible. We must not fail to realize
that the strength of the church depends upon us—not upon God. He did
His part and did it perfectly. Any weakness that may come upon the
church is strictly a human weakness.
There are two primary qualities that must always be possessed if a local church is to be strong. First there must be purity and peace
before other attributes may even be considered. Regardless of what
others may find to be important or even necessary, these two are
foundation qualities to be possessed before and above all others.
Brethren must be united—not simply in passive tranquility which allows
them to worship together peacefully but in aggressive activity that
binds them together in real service to God and to man. Yet, while fully united in action, we must engage in that which
is true and pure in God’s sight. James said, “…first pure, then
peaceable” (Jas. 3:17). If a church is truly possessed with unity and
purity, it is well on the road to success and strength; and then we
will also see some other qualities.
A strong church is
always filled with love within
It is said of the
Christians who lived in the first century that an observer remarked,
“See how they love one another.” Peter said, “see that ye love one
another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:23). This love will not
be manifested in mere lip service but in devoted affection, concern,
and care for one another.
A strong church will
demonstrate love for truth.
This will be more than
a negative approach. We will not simply avoid and oppose false
doctrine, but we will enthusiastically uphold and defend truth. In
other words, strength manifests itself not only in defense against evil
but also in positive, forward action. If people do much good but fail
to oppose error, the false doctrine and unscriptural activity will
inevitably come into their lives and religion. But if people oppose
error diligently and fail to fill their lives with good deeds, then
they will possess and empty religion quite worthless to God and man.
True love for truth will cause us to fight error and, at the same time,
uphold truth before the world.
A strong church will love
Without such love
enthusiastically manifested the church will be selfish, unconcerned,
ent to human needs both in the physical and spiritual
realms. Fervent love for all lost souls will motivate God’s people to
urgency in activity that will not be restrained by disappointments nor
diminished by difficulties. This kind of love will make each Christian
a real worker in Christ’s vineyard and will enable each congregation to
become an effective pillar for upholding and spreading the truth.
When Christians really learn to love all mankind we will cease to be
mere “reservists” and will become active “combatants” in God’s army,
fighting for the souls of men. When we are motivated more by love and
not simply by duty, when we learn to equate responsibility with
opportunity, and when we look upon service to God and to mankind as a
privilege and not just an obligation, then life will be much more
satisfactory for us and more fruitful before God.
Let us “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21), and “be not weary in
well doing” (2 Thess. 3:13). With God as our helper, and unity, purity,
and love characterized in our action, weakness will be overcome and
strength will manifest itself in victories.
This article first appeared in the
Aurora West Side Bulletin, May 27, 1965
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By DAVID DIESTELKAMP
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U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates that average cost of raising
a child born in 2013 up until age 18 for a middle-income family in the
U.S. is approximately $245,340. Although I’m sure there are thrifty
ways to reduce that number, I’m equally sure sticker shock causes many
to change the way they view and value children. A “gift of the Lord”?
(Psa. 127:3). Not a very welcome gift. A “quiver” full of them? (Psa.
127:5). I don’t think so.
Valuing things from a primarily financial bottom line perverts our
sense of worth. It is a temptation of capitalism and a failure of
materialism. The gift of modern suburban children is eroded by thoughts
of the standard of living and luxury we could have without them. The
worth of the wisdom of the elderly is degraded by the cost of their
care. Giving on the first day of the week to the Lord is a budget
drain. Preaching truth which brings shrinkage in attendance (and
therefore contribution) is spurned. And the poor are seen as a blight
on prosperity. Simply put, not everything can be measured monetarily.
We must look beyond whether something is a credit or
|debit to our bank accounts to see God given intrinsic value.
The world is not going to
value the things of God
“Do not love the world or the things in the world…For all that is in
the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of
life—is not of the Father but of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-16). Remember
this every time the TV commercial equates success with possessions or
accomplishment with retirement accounts. And don’t be surprised when
the world devalues what God values. Jesus is the prime example—rejected
by men, but precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 2:4-7). Don’t let the
world decide what is worthwhile in life.
lue—your only true
treasure (Matt. 6:19-21).
Find what God values and value that
Watch for it as you study God’s word: “An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels” (Prov. 31:10). The elderly are an
honorable asset (1 Pet. 5:5; Prov. 16:31). Elders are worthy of double
honor (1 Tim. 5:17).
| Children, including the unborn, are a gift formed
by God Himself (Psa. 139:13-16; 127:3; Prov. 17:6; Mk. 10:14). One lost
person is worth all the effort (Matt. 18:12-14). The pure word of God
is perfect and enlightening (Psa. 19:7-11). Those who spread the gospel
bring glad tidings (Rom. 10:15). The poor bless us with opportunities
to give and serve (Prov. 19:17; 1 Jn. 3:17-18; Eph. 4:28). Jesus is
precious (1 Pet. 2:4-7). Justice, mercy, patience, wisdom, truth…watch
for them. Scripture is filled with what God values so we will value it
1) Fill your mind with what God values (Phil. 4:8-9). 2) Remember
physical stuff is temporary (1 Jn. 2:17). 3) Change your mind and
actions to show value for what is “very precious in the sight of God”
(1 Pet. 3:4). 4) Make going to heaven what you value—your only true
treasure (Matt. 6:19-21).
940 N. Elmwood Drive, Aurora, Illinois 60506
By AL DIESTELKAMP
Some years ago when I was still occasionally
climbing ladders I fell off one, and in an attempt to break my fall I
sprained my left hand. Being right-handed I guess I had taken my left
hand for granted, but this educated me as to how much I use my left
hand. I found that my left hand does many things to make my right hand
more useful. Without the left hand even tying my show was a chore. I
even found that there are a few things my left hand was able to do
better than my right hand.
Some people are like my left hand. They may not be as dominant as
others, but they are still important. A man named Hur never gained
fame, nor did he have the abilities of Moses, but he did his part to
make Moses’ job possible (Ex. 17:12). Likewise, there are no
unimportant members in the body of Christ—nor in a local congregation.
Even little things add up to much. Sometimes just “being there” is of
value. You may think, “I won’t be missed.” Think again! Consider Job’s
friends who, though they had their faults, sat in silence with Job for
a whole week during his time of distress (Job 2:11-13).
The Bible is filled with examples of people who were unsung heroes. Did
you ever wonder why we don’t read of Lazarus as a bold apostle or
eloquent preacher? He served his purpose by being a friend—and Jesus
loved him for it (Jn. 11:35-36). Simon of Cyrene is known only for
quietly bearing the cross for Jesus (Matt. 27:32). Kind of like me and
my left hand, the apostle Paul did not fully appreciate John Mark until
he had to work without him (see Ac. 15:36-41; 2 Tim. 4:9-11).
Some people who played supporting roles used their experiences as
preparation for even greater service. Joseph started as a slave and
ended up as governor of Egypt allowing him to serve the brothers who
earlier considered him useless. David worked as a shepherd before he
defeated the giant, and faithfully served the king he would later
Anyone who “can see through a ladder” can see that it doesn’t take much
of a man or woman to please God, but it takes every bit of him or her.
Do what you can. If you do, you will be sure to please the Lord who
honored a woman who “did what she could” by anointing His head with oil
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