Our regular pulpit evangelist, Mike Walls, held a gospel meeting at our sister congregation in Burnet, TX, the Oaks-West church of Christ. Here are those lessons:
Nothing is more dangerous than the tongue. Nothing causes more grief, heartache, or loss. Nothing ruins relationships like the tongue. Nothing destroys the harmony of a church more than the tongue. Yet nothing seems less subject to control than the tongue. Just take a little time to read James chapter three. Notice some of the phrases he uses to describe the tongue: “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity”, “it defiles the whole body”, “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”, and “out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing”. Wow! And he is writing to CHRISTIANS!
In my reading today I ran across a few more scriptures that are related to this point. In Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, the Preacher there is discussing worship to God and taking vows. In this context he uses the words “mouth”, “utter”, “words”, and “voice” several times. He connects these words to the words “hasty”, “rash”, “many”, “fool” and “sin”. He wants us to consider the folly of making statements before God and then going back on our word. In a modern sense it would be much like someone who makes a vow of marriage then sometime later decides to break that vow. Most people do not consider this to be a big deal. But it is to God – as are any other things we say before him. The words that we pray or sing come to mind in this context. Do you truly mean those things as they cross your lips or are you just uttering so many words?
Another related passage that came up in the reading was from Matthew chapter fifteen. When questioned about handwashing (which was not a law) Jesus responded with this statement, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matt. 15:11) A few verses later he stated, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Verses 18-20). Earlier in the twelfth chapter Jesus had this to say: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Powerful stuff.
Now consider what that means: what you say MATTERS. That is what James was communicating in his letter, what Solomon was communicating in his writings, and what Jesus was communicating on several occasions. The word “say” really just means communicate, so, WHAT YOU COMMUNICATE MATTERS. What you speak matters, what you e-mail matters, what you text matters, what you message matters, what you Instagram matters, what you Facebook matters… Uh oh! Think about what you are putting out there, folks. However you are communicating, IT MATTERS.
As Christians we are at war with the devil. In war people die, especially when their team does not work together. That is true for the spiritual war we wage. Without unity there will be spiritual casualties and deaths. What is worse is that if those who fall into spiritual death do not come back, their death will be eternal. We understand these things right? Then why do we vehemently oppose one another on matters of opinion that do not concern the spiritual kingdom of God? Does this add to or detract from ones position with God? No, because the just live by faith, and Christ does not profit from these kinds of things. (Galatians 3:11; 6:2, 6) Being a matter of personal discretion, how do we come to a conclusion that promotes righteous unity among Christians?
First and foremost, remember not to judge another’s slave. (Romans 14:4) You are not in the position to ascertain whether the eating of meat or vegetables or esteeming one day over the other is wrong for Christians to do. Why? “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7, 8; Galatians 2:20). Let’s not ruin our righteousness by mistreating Christians, nor should we destroy the work of God in our conduct. (Romans 14:16, 17, 20) Are you going to let your liberty cause one to stumble? God’s word commands otherwise. (1 Cor. 8:9)
So, how do we unite? Remember our place as sinners before God. (Romans 3) To stay in unity we must be sensitive to our conscience, and that of our brothers and sisters. If it is a violation of conscience, it is sin. This will vary among us, so we must not violate one another’s conscience. Paul led by example by being all things to all men to save as many as possible. (1 Cor. 9:19, 22) If it causes your brother or sister to sin, do not do it! (Romans 14:21) This is a two edged sword. If we know something causes us offense, yet it does not bother others, we must not make an issue of it. We need to be humble in our opinions, and often keep them to ourselves. (Romans 12:16-18, 22)
Finally, remember that it is love that conquers all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) We must get to a point where it truly doesn’t matter if one eats vegetables over meat, or esteems one day over the other, has one opinion on vaccinations versus another, or even how we go about raising a child. We live by the spiritual law of liberty, but we must not use that liberty to hang our brothers and sisters. Romans 14:19, 20 advise, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.”
Truly, in all love,
With the condition of the world around, is there anything to be happy about? In your daily life you face evil at almost every turn. Yet, as Christians, there is no limit to the blessings we have received and we have so much to look forward to! (Phil. 3:20, 21; 4:4) What, you might ask? There are at least three things to remember; Jesus Christ our Lord is coming, you are not a part of the world’s mess, and you have brothers and sisters that face the same trials.
First of all, you must remember that at any moment Jesus will return! (1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Pet. 3:9, 10) It is easy to fall prey to complacency especially considering that it has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus ascended into heaven. Peter tells us, “… that with the Lord a day is a thousand years…” (2 Pet. 3:8). If you think that He’s not coming you make Jesus a liar. Peter tells us that He is not lazy in His promise of return. This being the case, do you really have time to be a part of the world? Absolutely not!
Moreover, knowing that Jesus will be here soon, remember whose side you are on. You are commanded to not be of the world, for this is not of your Father. (1 Thess. 5:5, 6; 1 John 2:15) We must resist evil that dwells in the world and not succumb to the lies being spewed. (Titus 2:11, 12) As a true disciple of Christ, remember that God did not select you to be destroyed like the world; rather He saved you through his son. (1 Thess. 5:9, 10) Now that is something to be excited about! If we walk with God in light we are free of the judgement to come. (1 John 1:7) This makes all the evil and worldly struggles worth it, because if we overcome them we will be blessed! (Jam. 1:12)
However, our responsibilities as Christians extend to more than just ourselves. We must not forget to encourage one another. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 we must, “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” These are simply different types of encouragement. We encourage the rebellious to submit to authority. We encourage those who are spiritually tired. We encourage those who are weak. Encouragement should never be limited based on the situation but practiced always.
As you consider how much encouragement you do, remember that at some point we have all been in a state of weakness, need, and sin. Romans chapter three, reminds us that we are all sinners. Therefore, we should always be willing to give help and recognize when we need it. Like any kind of team, if we desire to be a strong and effective group of Christians we must always encourage one another. Remember that just as Jesus is coming to relieve us, the devil is hunting us. (2 Peter 5:9) Never forget that you have brothers and sisters who face the same struggle and are willing to help and encourage you whenever needed. (2 Pet. 5:8)
Be always vigilant, your brother,
One thing that has always intrigued me is calf roping. Sometimes it is a single rider, sometimes a pair of them. I am intrigued because these men train hard, practice often, and wear out miles of rope to compete for maybe five or ten seconds in their event. What dedication! What enthusiasm! What frustration!
I have seen a few rodeos, and have noticed that many times, these riders fail. Sometimes their horse jumps out of the gate too early. Sometimes the calf stops as soon as it leaves the gate. Sometimes the rope doesn’t tighten around the calf’s head, but around its body, or it slips through altogether. One thing stands out though: if given the chance, they ALWAYS throw the rope.
It occurs to me that we Christians might learn something from these cowboys. We might apply it in many different ways, but consider the application to teaching the lost. Jesus made the Apostles “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17), here in Texas we can appropriately be called “lassoers of men”!
When trying to teach someone the Gospel, we may fail quite often, but we still need to keep “throwing the rope”. We need to throw the rope of God’s Word, because only it has the power to save (Romans 1:16-17). We need to throw the rope of a godly example because through it people will glorify God (Matthew 5:16). We need to throw the rope of truth because only the truth sets one free (John 8:32). We need to throw the rope of love because it is the greatest of commandments and without it there is no profit whatsoever (1 Corinthians 13).
Oh, we will completely miss from time to time. We will catch some of them the wrong way and we will jump too soon and lose others. Some will even balk at the first contact. But some will be caught! Remember, it is a narrow way, and difficult (Matthew 7:13-14), but still some will find it. It is our duty to help them.
The point is, like the cowboys, we need to train and practice. We need to throw the rope whenever we get the chance, even if we don’t necessarily think it is going to do any good. Don’t let fear of failure or even past failures stop you. Even Jesus didn’t convert everyone…but he tried.
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” – Luke 12:1-3
This should be a sobering thought, brethren. Jesus knows our every thought and every action. Unlike our friends and family, we cannot escape his watchful eye. Oh, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that no one knows, but it is just that, self-deception. We can fool the preacher or the other people at church, they may never know, but we cannot fool God.
God has to know what we are doing and thinking for several reasons. First, he is omnipotent and omniscient. That is, he is all-powerful and all-knowing. It is just the way he is by virtue of being God. Second, he needs to know because there will be a day of judgment in which we will be judged based upon our actions, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) That means ALL things done in the body, not just the good ones, or the ones at church or around other Christians. God is not just looking to punish us, he is looking to reward us – remember, he also sees all of the good things that we do, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:3-4) One other important reason that God needs to know what we are doing is for the purposes of repentance. Yes, repentance. Repentance is a prerequisite for salvation, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3) God wants to know when we have truly repented for it is only then that he will grant us forgiveness.
So, what are you doing and thinking in private? What kinds of things are you doing when you are away from other Christians? How is your speech when you are at work? Is it what God would want it to be? What do you do when you are with friends who are not Christians? What about with friends who are Christians? Is it what God would want it to be? Do you act differently with certain brethren than with others? Is it what God would want it to be? How do you act when you are on vacation? Is it what God would want it to be? What do you think about? What occupies your private thoughts? Is it what God would want it to be?
Are you who God wants you to be? Are you really trying to be? Think about it.