Friday, June 29, 2012

FREE Healthcare


The Supreme Court - the most supreme of all courts - has decided unanimously to provide free healthcare to any and all citizens of earth. The "individual mandate" portion of this legislation, too, has passed, which means that all citizens must obtain this healthcare or be penalized. Of course, there is no reason to reject this healthcare, for it is being freely given to all who are willing to receive it, but if someone chooses not to receive it, there will be a very severe penalty.

The need for such healthcare is abundantly clear, in light of a thorough analysis of the spiritual health of mankind. It has been discovered by the Most High Supreme Court that each and every person has a tumor - a malignant tumor that will result in spiritual death. This tumor, otherwise known as "the body of sin" (Rom. 6:6; Col. 2:11), MUST be removed so that spiritual death can be averted. Time is of the essence! 

The only remedy for such a malignant disease is immediate surgery! God, the Head of this Most High Supreme Court, is the only Surgeon capable of performing this surgery, but the price is steep! It is so steep that no amount of money can pay the cost. The only acceptable price was the blood of His own perfect Son, Jesus Christ.
"knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
The price has been paid! Jesus has shed His blood! And so, the offer for FREE healthcare has been issued by the Most High Supreme Court. The Master Surgeon is ready to operate. All men have this sin-tumor...and it will destroy your soul. So accept the healthcare and submit to the surgical operation before it's too late.

How do you receive this FREE healthcare? How do you submit to the surgery? 
"In Him also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:11-12).
You must, in fath, be immersed in water. In the water, God will remove this "body of sin" and you will rise up out of the water healed, having narrowly avoided spiritual death and eternal torment.

The Surgeon's hope is that you will take advantage of this unprecedented offer (2 Pet. 3:9). He does not want anyone perishing needlessly. But the Surgeon will not impose this operation on you if you refuse it; you must agree to the operation and "go under." Once healed, God demands that you submit to His prescribed "spiritual health" regimen that will keep this sin-tumor from returning (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Jn. 9). He also asks that, once healed, you will tell as many others as possible about this FREE operation.

Reporting live, having just consulted with the document (the Bible) detailing this unbelievable yet controversial ruling from the Most High Supreme Court and the Surgeon, God, this is Casey Head, a reporter who is, to be honest, quite shocked at the lack of response to such an offer...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Christian Ants

I've always been fond of this Proverb...
"Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer, or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest" (6:6-7).
Of course, Solomon is speaking of one's attitude towards physical labor. We should not be characterized by laziness and procrastination, but by diligence and a strong work-ethic. To illustrate the ant's strong disposition to work, the point is made that the ant will work just as diligently even though there is no one guiding it in its work. Again, the point is physical - we should have this same attitude when we work. We should work just as hard when the boss isn't around. We shouldn't have to be told what to do at every turn. These principles should guide our work-ethic.

However, as I read this passage this morning, it occurred to me that there is a spiritual application of this point. As Christians, we ought to strive to be like the ant on a spiritual level

It's true that God has designed the church to be a source of spiritual encouragement (Eph. 4:16; Heb. 10:24-25). There is great value in seeking the guidance of those who are more knowledgeable than us (2 Tim. 2:2; Jas. 3:1). There is even a sense in which ALL of us need to be taught (Rom. 10:14). Apart from our study of God's word, we all need help and counsel from time to time (Gal. 6:1-2).

However, like the ant of Proverbs 6:6-7, we should all, to a certain extent, be spiritually diligent without having to be constantly prodded by our brethren in Christ. At least, we should all get to this point. We should develop the discipline to study God's word because we have chosen to do so, to pray because we have chosen to pray, to overcome temptation because we have chosen to be strong in that moment, to go to church because it is the right thing to do...and not because someone is forcing us.

I understand that we all need the encouragement, and even the prodding, of our brethren from time to time. But there comes a point where we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), and where WE have to examine OURSELVES (2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Pet. 1:10). 

Be a Christian ant.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don't Just Fill a Role - Be a Role-Model

Christians are not just expected to go to church (Heb. 10:24-25), we are to be active "members" of the church, which is the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:13-27, we're told that each and every Christian, as a member of the body, has a specific role, and every role is important. In order for the church to be what it ought to be, the members of the body must all contribute to the body: "...from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:16).

These are common points of discussion. As a preacher, I know I've preached many sermons on this topic, and I've encouraged Christians time and again not to be "pew-warmers" but to be active in the church, to figure out what their role might be, and to fulfill it. What is your role in the church? What is mine? Are you using your talents, whatever they might be, to strengthen your brethren?

And certainly, these are very important points.

However, might I encourage you not only to "fill a role" but to be a "role-model?" In other words, excel in your role. Rather than expend minimal effort so that you can say, "I contributed to the church," go ALL OUT and thus STAND OUT as an OUTSTANDING Christian. 

Be like Joses, who so excelled at encouraging others that he was called "Barnabas by the apostles, which is translated Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36). Wow!

Or be like Dorcas, a woman who "was full of good works and charitable deeds" (Acts 9:36). When Dorcas died, she left such a legacy behind that her brethren praised her character and sought the help of the apostle Peter, who responded by raising her from the dead. What will be your legacy?

And then there is young Timothy, who "was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Derbe" (Acts 16:2). Later, Paul said of Timothy: "But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel" (Phil. 2:22).

Or Epaphroditus who "was sick almost unto death...because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me" (Phil. 2:25-30).

Regarding a man named Epaphras, Paul said: "...a bondservant of Christ...always laboring fervently for you in prayers..." (Col. 4:12). Are you known for having such zeal for prayer?

Many other wonderful Christians of the first century are similarly exalted in the New Testament, but I'm sure you get the point. Again, don't just be a pew-warmer; figure out your purpose in the church, and how you can contribute to the growth of the body...but don't just stop there; don't just fill a role...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Christians & Non-Violence

I. Clarifying the Issue
A. As with most hotly-debated issues, it is difficult to identify the issue because we are so easily distracted by emotional and or inconsequential arguments. Consequently, much is said (or written) but very little is accomplished. It is critical, then, that we identify the non-issues, remove them from the discussion, and focus our minds on the core area of dispute
B. The issue in this study is whether or not Christians may intentionally use violence or deadly force towards others. The position being defended in this article is that Christians are not authorized to harm or kill others. The principle of non-violence, when applied, will raise red flags in the following areas:
            1. Serving as a combat soldier in the military.
            2. Employment as a police-officer or security guard.
            3. Self-defense
C. In other words, if it is wrong to intentionally harm or kill another human being, then we must conclude that individuals in these three scenarios who have harmed or killed another human being have done wrong.
D. Having clarified the issue, the issue is NOT:
1. …whether or not we love our country. One can disagree with a Christian’s role as an active-duty soldier or police officer and still love America.
2. …whether or not the government has the right to “bear the sword.” The Bible is clear that the government has been appointed by God to bear the sword and punish evildoers (Rom. 13). One can take the position of non-violence while also recognizing the government’s right to mete out justice. (We’ll return to this point later in the study.)
3. …whether or not we appreciate the sacrifices of soldiers and cops. One can disagree with a Christian’s participation in either field but still:
            a. Treat cops and soldiers with kindness.
            b. Pray for their safety.
            c. Be thankful for the sacrifices of those who protect us.
4. …whether or not we may secure protection for ourselves and our families. As Paul called upon the protection of the Roman guards in Acts 23:16-22, so also may we call upon the protection of the police. We may also install security systems and use other non-violent means to protect ourselves and our families.
5. Finally, the issue is not what I would do in a particular situation. We have to lay aside the emotional scenarios – ALL scenarios, in fact – and focus on what is right.
E. What is right? How do we determine truth? As Christians seeking the approval of God, our means of determining truth is God’s word (John 12:48; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 John 9). So as we begin, our question is, “What does the Bible say about a Christian’s use of violence?”

II. Making the Case for Non-Violence
A. I do believe that the scriptures forbid Christians from using violence or lethal force. Consider the following scriptures with me. To save space, I will not write out these verses completely, but will only cite them, or at most, quote them in part.
            B. The first passage is Matthew 5:39-47.  
1. When someone strikes you, the command is NOT to strike back, but to “turn the other cheek” (vs. 39, that they might strike you again).
2. How must we treat our enemies? We’re told to respond to the abuses of our enemy by blessing them, praying for them, and doing good to them (vs. 44).
3. Some argue that Jesus is dealing ONLY with situations where you are lightly mistreated, bullied, or insulted, but there is no reason to limit Jesus’ words in this manner.
4. Some want to be selective in their application of the word “enemy,” *as if some enemies are exempt) but the word “enemy” is from the Greek word echthros and refers to anyone who is hostile towards you. Jesus makes this distinction in Matthew 5:44-47 when he contrasts “your enemies” with those who “love you” (vs. 46) and “greet you” (vs. 47). So then, anyone who is hostile towards you is your enemy, and yet how are you to treat them?
5. There is nothing in this passage that justifies the use of violence. On the contrary, we are commanded to have a non-violent approach to anyone who is hostile to us.
            C. Next, read Romans 12:17-21.
1. The principle of verse 17 is comparable to what we read in Matthew 5:39-47. The old “eye for an eye” paradigm is no more. Instead, we “repay no one evil for evil” (vs. 17) and actually strive to “overcome evil with good” (vs. 21). If someone seeks your physical harm, are they treating you in an evil manner? If so, according to this passage, how are you to respond to such treatment?
2. In verse 18, Paul writes, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The question is, what depends on us? We cannot control what others do, but we can control what we do. Regardless of how others may act, we can have a peaceable demeanor and can engage in peaceful actions.
3. Finally – and this is the crux of the passage – we are commanded to leave vengeance to God (vs. 19). We’re not to take matters into our own hands. When someone mistreats or abuses us, we do not “get even” or mete out justice on our own. We leave justice and vengeance to God, and we trust Him to carry it out in His own way, in His own time.
D. Other scriptures could be considered, but these two are very specific in addressing the manner in which we deal with our enemies, and with the wicked. Suffice it to say, the message is consistent: treat all people, even your worst enemies, with the same love and devotion that Christ showed His enemies; meanwhile, let God mete out justice and vengeance. In fact, we are specifically told NOT to reciprocate violence.
E. The question now is this: does God state anywhere in the New Testament that there are exceptions to these rules? I don’t believe so, but there are many who would say that yes, there are exceptions. So let’s turn our attention to the arguments used to justify the use of violence in certain situations.

III. Arguments Used to Justify the Use of Violence
            A. Love and violence are not inherently contradictory:
1. This is a true statement. After all, God is both loving and just (Ps. 89:14). We know that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) and yet He is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). God’s judgment is seen throughout the scriptures, and these acts of judgment are consistent with His love. Are we being called to a higher standard of love than God? Not at all!
2. My point is NOT that violence inherently contradicts love, but that we are not authorized to use violence against others. Romans 12:9 is clear that we leave all matters of physical judgment and vengeance to God!
3. Consider this illustration: parents do not want their children administering justice amongst themselves or seeking personal revenge. Parents generally insist on administering the punishment (justice). Are we calling our children to a higher standard of love with such an approach? No. It’s simply a matter of authority.
4. Likewise, as we noticed in Matthew 5:39-47 and Romans 12:17-21, God commands us to treat our enemies and abusers in a non-violent manner. He (God) tells us that we need to leave the justice and/or vengeance to Him.
5. Even though it is inappropriate for Christians to mete out justice/vengeance, it is appropriate for Christians to desire justice/vengeance (2 Tim. 4:14; Rev. 6:10).
            B. Romans 13 justifies a Christian’s use of violence on behalf of the government:
1. In Romans 13:1-4, we’re told that God has “appointed” the civil government to “bear the sword” and punish those who do evil. Many argue, based on this passage, that a Christian may harm or kill as an agent of the government (i.e. an active-duty soldier or police officer). After all, if it’s right for the government to administer justice, then the Christian who becomes an agent of the government may carry out that work.
                        2. The problem with this interpretation of Romans 13 is threefold:
a. In Romans 13:1-4, Paul is simply defining the ROLE of government and Christians are commanded to “be subject” (vs. 1) to the government.
I. This is the principle of role distinction; a common principle in the scriptures that we understand and accept in other places.
                        A. Husbands and wives have distinct roles (Eph. 5:22-25).
                        B. Men and women have distinct roles in the church (1 Cor. 14:34).
                        C. Elders and deacons have distinct roles (1 Tim. 3:1-13).
                        D. Children and parents have distinct roles (Eph. 6:1-4).
                        E. Slaves and masters have distinct roles (Eph. 6:5-9).
                        F. Jesus and the Father have distinct roles (1 Cor. 11:3).
II. Would it be right for a wife to assume the role of her husband, for a child to assume the role of his parent, or for a deacon to assume the role of the elder? A function may be RIGHT for one person, but wrong for someone else.
III. In Romans 13, the government’s role is being described. The function of bearing the sword is certainly right for the government, but that doesn’t make it right for Christians.
IV. Someone may object on the basis that I’m restricting the “sword-bearing” members of government to sinners. See Rom. 9:17-18.
b. The second problem with this interpretation of Romans 13:1-4 is that it is injurious to the context. In Romans 12:19, the Christians who were being mistreated and abused were told “do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” In Romans 13, Paul explains how the government is “God’s minister for you (for Christians) for good…for he (the government) is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (13:4).
I. It is incorrect to separate Romans 13:1-4 from Romans 12:17-21. It is a continuous message and we must interpret it in that light.
II. We are not to return evil for evil, but must leave vengeance to God. How does God administer justice/vengeance? The civil government has been appointed to fulfill that task!
c. The third problem with the common interpretation of Romans 13:1-4 is that it not only ignores the context, it ignores the setting.
I. The Roman epistle was not written to Christians who were citizens of a country like America – “one nation, under God.” The empire of that day was Rome, and Rome was a pagan nation that not only was immoral, but was actively engaged in the persecution of Christians.
II. If Paul is justifying a Christian’s participation in the government, he is justifying participation in any government, “good” or “evil.” Not many countries, after all, are as wicked as Rome was then.
III. In other words, we cannot apply this passage only to countries like America. We must apply it to ALL citizens in ALL countries. There are many obvious problems with such a view:
            A. It was right for Christians to serve as soldiers under Hitler.
B. It is right for Christians to serve as soldiers of the most wicked and vile nations of the modern world.
C. The result may be Christians shooting at each other. Such was the case during the American Civil War.
IV. While some argue that we can distinguish between good and bad governments, there is no way for us to make such a distinction:
A. Paul penned these words during the days of the Roman empire, a wicked and vile nation.
B. God used the wicked Assyrians to destroy His own people, the nation of Israel (Isaiah 10:5-12). Who would you have sided with?
C. The point is, appearances can be deceiving. While one nation may appear good and another bad, God may be using the “bad” to destroy the “good,” as in Isaiah 10.
3. When Paul penned Romans 13, the concept of Christians using that text to justify becoming agents of the government was the furthest thing from his mind. Again, the command to Christians was “be subject” to the government and that God would use the government to mete out vengeance and justice.
C. The Philippian Jailor and Cornelius (a Roman centurion) were both Christians whose occupations required the use of violence:
1. Cornelius was a Roman centurion, or soldier (Ac. 10:1). The Philippian jailor of Acts 16:27 was in a similar position. Both of these men became Christians. The assumption is that they resumed their soldiering after conversion, and therefore, Christians can kill for the government today.
2. This argument, however, is both inconclusive and presumptuous as it cannot be proven that they resumed their soldiering after they were converted. Even if they remained in their occupations, it cannot be proven that they ever harmed or killed anyone again. And even if they did harm or kill others in the future, it cannot be proven that their actions were sanctioned by God.
            D. John’s comments in Luke 3:14:
1. Many often point to Luke 3:14 as evidence that Christians may join the military and kill for the government. Here, soldiers asked John the Baptist, “And what shall we do?” So John replied, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” If it is wrong to be an active soldier, then why didn’t John tell these soldiers to stop being soldiers? This is the argument.
2. First of all, it’s not wrong in and of itself to be a soldier; it’s wrong to harm or kill another person.
3. Furthermore, the phrase “do not intimidate” is translated in the KJV as “do no violence.” Generally, commentators apply this to extortion, but I don’t see where the phrase is limited to extortion. Even if it was limited, does it make sense that a soldier could kill a person, as long as they weren’t intimidated? John was not saying, “Go ahead and kill anyone you want, but don’t lie about them or take their stuff, and make sure they aren’t intimidated.”
4. Finally, these words were spoken during the Old Testament dispensation and do not apply to Christians now. Jesus Himself issued many commands to individuals that expired at the cross (Mt. 8:4; 23:3)
            E. Jesus’ comments in Luke 22:36-37:
1. Jesus told the disciples in Luke 22:36-37, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” The disciples confessed to having two swords to which Jesus replied, “it is enough” (vs. 38).
2. It is argued that Jesus wanted the disciples to have swords for the purpose of self-defense; therefore, Christians may use lethal means to defend themselves also. But the reason that the disciples were to buy swords is stated in verse 37: it was to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus would be numbered with the transgressors.
3. Interestingly enough, when the mob came to arrest Jesus in the garden, Peter drew his sword and cut off Malchus’ ear. Jesus rebuked him by saying, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). The prophecy was fulfilled and Jesus had a wonderful opportunity to impart yet another spiritual lesson.
            F. I must protect my family:
1. I admit that this is the most difficult and emotional aspect of this debate. As a husband and father of five, it would be hard to restrain myself if my family were threatened. But that doesn’t make it right. Again, “what does the Bible teach?”
2. Some point to 1 Timothy 5:8 as evidence that it is actually a father’s duty to protect his family. The text says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
3.  However, the end doesn’t justify the means. If it is wrong to hurt or kill, then it is always wrong. To illustrate my point, let me present to you another scenario: if a family is strapped for cash, may the mother become a stripper, or the father a bartender? Does the command to “provide” for the family justify such actions? Of course not.
4. In the end, we may protect our family using appropriate means: home security systems, calling the police, prayer, self-sacrifice, etc. But let us not resort to situation ethics.

IV. Conclusion
A. The arguments that are often used to justify a Christian’s use of violence and lethal force (as a soldier, police-officer, security guard, or in matters of self-defense) all fall short. We are left, then, with passages such as Matthew 5:39-47 and Romans 12:17-21, both of which admonish us to react to our enemies and abusers in a non-violent manner.
B. The reason that this issue is so hotly debated in America is because we are easily swayed by patriotism and a love for our “Christian nation” (there is no such thing in the physical sense). It is true that we live in a blessed country, but let us not forget that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn. 5:19). That includes America!
C. I know that this is an emotionally-charged issue and that many Christians get quite upset when this issue is raised. However, this issue is worth our time and attention. If you disagree with this material, or if you need clarification on a point, please contact me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Before You Complain...

I'd like to direct your attention to two verses on this fine Friday morning...
"Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" (Lam. 3:39).
"And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this" (Ezra 9:13).
It's true that not all suffering in life is the result of sins we've committed. Time and chance happen to all of us (Eccl. 9:11) and God sends rain on the just and unjust (Mt. 5:45). Sometimes we endure suffering only because God is trying to impart some great spiritual lesson, or use us to impart spiritual lessons to others (John 9:1-3). At the same time, all of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23), and therefore we're all deserving not only of spiritual death (Rom. 6:23) but of any and all consequences that God deems necessary, or that naturally result from whatever sins we've committed.

The lesson?

Simply put, we have no right to complain to God, because the fact is, whether you realize it or not, you have sinned, you are deserving of God's wrath, and yet He has lovingly shown you mercy and kindness all too often. I look at my life, for example, and I see how blessed I am and I realize that I have no right to complain. I don't deserve any of these blessings that God has showered upon me! I think of my faults and shortcomings, of my sins, of my past, of all I've done against God (even when I knew better), and I think to myself: what I deserve is the gutter! 

May we never forget how blessed we are. May we never forget the source of our blessings. May we never forget the many times we have shamefully turned our backs on the Source of our blessings - God. May we never forget how God has "punished us less than our iniquities deserve." Rather than get angry at God, be in awe of His mercy and tender compassion. Wow!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Buyer's Remorse

Have you ever bought something on impulse only to wish afterwards that you hadn't? I know I've been guilty of "buyer's remorse" on a number of occasions because truth be told, I'm a recovering impulse-buyer. Thanks to my wife's looks of disapproval, I'm doing much, much better.

There's a great example of buyer's remorse in the scriptures.
"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, 'Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:5).
The nation of Israel had "suffered" through over four hundred years of disunity (the period of the Judges), and more recently, Samuel's sons, who were judges, had "perverted justice" in the land (vs. 3). At first glance, it appears as if they had a legitimate case; they simply longed for stability. Right?
"But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, 'Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day - with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods - so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them'" (vs. 6-9).
As you can see, their motives were not as pure as they wanted Samuel to believe. It wasn't an innocent longing for stability. By requesting a king, they were only wanting to be like the pagan nations around them, and in so doing, they were rejecting the reign and rule of God. But God permitted it. If they wanted a king, a king they would receive. But Samuel was to make it very clear to the people that there were many disadvantages to having a king, and he did so in great detail in verses 11-18. They were unaffected by Samuel's warnings, insisted on a king, and ultimately received a king - a man named Saul.

Not long after Saul was appointed king, Samuel addressed the people. His message was one of rebuke and disapproval. Perhaps his words pricked their hearts, or perhaps there was already some buyer's remorse setting in, for we see their response in 1 Samuel 12:19,
"And all the people said to Samuel, 'Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves."
Samuel really didn't say a whole lot in his message that he hadn't said before, but now that the deal had been finalized, they suddenly felt the need to repent.

Then, of course, over the years, there were many occasions of rebellion and dissatisfaction, but perhaps the greatest display of buyer's remorse is found in 1 Kings 12:4. Granted, this was four kings later (Saul, David, Solomon, and now Rehoboam), but it still illustrates the point. Following Solomon's death, as the people prepared to apoint Rehoboam king, they said to him,
"Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you."
Isn't this what Samuel warned the Israelite nation about 120 years earlier? Hadn't he told them that this would happen, that they would be afflicted and burdened by the king who ruled over them? Do you think that the Israelite nation was experiencing some buyer's remorse? I think so.

What's the point of this article? Am I warning against the remorse you may feel if you make an impulsive purchase? No, although we should all make good financial decisions. Am I addressing the buyer's remorse that many feel who voted for Obama for president in 2008? No, although many do feel that way (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

The lesson here is a spiritual one.

There are many people who make the decision to become followers of Christ only to wish afterwards that they hadn't done so. Maybe it is that they are pressured into being baptized by family members or folks at church. Perhaps they witness a friend's conversion and decide that they want to have the same experience. Or maybe they realize that they want to be saved from their sins, but they don't realize till after they are baptized that there is so much required of them (i.e. going to church, studying the Bible, abstaining from immorality, etc). Whatever the case may be, they have a great longing for salvation one minute, but then once they receive it (or soon thereafter), they begin to have buyer's remorse.
"But Jesus said to him, 'No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:62).
The question is: how do we keep this from happening? To put it simply, we need to do what Samuel did with the Israelites; we need to warn prospective converts of the changes they will have to make once they are born again. In other words, we need to help them "count the costs."
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish..." (Luke 14:26-30).
In other words, it's not just about being going through the motions and "getting saved." Baptism is the beginning of a new life, and while I'm not saying that prospective converts must understand ALL that will be required of them, they do need to understand that there will be expectations! This is what Peter was doing to the 3,000 Jews who expressed interest in being baptized in Acts 2:40 when "with many other words he testified and exhorted them..."

Whether it's you, someone you're studying with, or simply someone that has recently been converted (or is wanting to be converted), we need to do everything we can to prevent buyer's remorse. It would be better for someone to consider the costs, the sacrifices and the expectations and to decide against conversion than to "put their hands to the plow and look back."

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Online Bible Course

If you're interested in learning more about the Bible, click on the link below to access the "Online Bible Course" that I've been working on in recent weeks. It's structured like a series of college courses. There is a 100 series, a 200 series, and so on. There is still a LOT to fill in, but as of now, the 100 series is done and the 200 series is about 25% done.