WhateverHappenedYears ago there was an illustration making the rounds that still has a point to make today. A preacher was visiting a new family. In the course of the visit the subject of reading the Bible came up. The mother asked her eight-year old son to go into the living room and bring “the book” they were always reading. The boy returned with the Sears Catalog. We smile at this little illustration but sadly, it contains a major reality relative to the status of Bible reading today.

     In a recent article circulated by Christianity Today (6/5/2015) it was stated that in a United Kingdom survey it was revealed that one in three British children don’t know the Nativity story is part of the Bible. However, 27% think Superman is in the Bible. In this same article it was stated that 88% of American homes have a Bible, many have four Bibles. Less than 40% of Americans read the Bible regularly.

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As I travel around the brotherhood I am asked more and more frequently, “Whatever happened to leadership training?” This question is relevant in light of the decline of leadership in the church; especially the training and equipping of men to serve as elders and deacons. I recently came across these phrases by an unknown author:

“When the ship is sinking, it not the time to train the crew in abandon ship drills.”

“When the last inning is played, it’s not time to call for a pinch hitter.”

“When the sheep have been scattered, lost their way, or eaten by wolves, it is not time to ask for volunteers to be shepherds.”

The best time to take out fire insurance is before there is a fire. The best time to learn how to swim is before you are going down for the third or last time. The best time to train competent leaders is before there is a crisis. Most congregations are in their present state because it is where past leadership decisions and actions have brought them. Where the church will be tomorrow and years from now depends on leadership training, decisions and actions of today.

Why Aren’t We Training Leaders?

Back to the question: Whatever happened to leadership training? Here are some of my answers to this vital question:

1. Some congregations have never engaged in a regular, curriculum based, and advanced training for all levels of church leadership.

2. Some congregations have failed, for whatever reason, to see the need for the ongoing training of leaders. They seem to be blinded to this need.

3. Some have given up the training of leaders because it didn’t accomplish what they thought it should accomplish.

4. Some gave up training future leaders because they didn’t have an “expert” or competent person to do the training.

5. Some congregational leaders don’t want to admit that they have a need for additional training. Some don’t want their own weaknesses to be exposed.

6. Some haven’t had a leadership training program for years because they are not aware of the outstanding materials, workshops and lectureship being conducted in this field.

7. Some, sadly, have shifted from the biblical emphasis of church organization and leadership to a “majority” rule approach.

Congregational Leadership School

Training leaders in the local church is a needed work. Pursuing a leadership role in the church is also an honorable desire. It is not by accident that the first qualification of an elder is “desire” (1 Timothy 3:1). Desire is not limited to elders. All church leadership must stem from a desire to follow Christ. This attitude is one of humility (Philippians 2:4-9). It takes time to develop leaders. The Hebrews’ writer affirmed that “by reason of time one becomes a teacher” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

The local congregation should be an ongoing leadership training school. This school equips all members for ministry (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16). It trains members in how to be “workers with God” (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). This leadership school equips leaders to pursue the eternal mission given by God to the church (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Mark 16:15, 16). This school is committed to bringing glory to God through the church (Ephesians 3:21). This leadership school will commit the work of the church to faithful men who shall in turn pass it on to others (2 Timothy 2:1-3).

Basic Curriculum for Leadership School

Imagine the curriculum for a congregational leadership training school as a stool with three legs. Each leg represents a major subject that is essential to properly and biblically training leaders in the church. These three legs are: (1) knowledge, (2) character, and (3) skill. Let’s take a brief look at each subject:

KNOWLEDGE is essential in the leader’s preparation. He must first know God’s word. The Bible is his guide and safe manual for leading himself and others. Knowledge of basic people differences and needs will help a leader do his work more effectively. Successful leaders must know the times and challenges in which they are leading. This means that the congregational leadership school will have a curriculum that teaches the basic subjects leaders need to know.

CHARACTER is the heart and soul of a leader. A leader may have knowledge and many other things but without character he will not be effective as a leader. Sadly, some leaders are “characters” instead of having character. The Bible has numerous character traits that will equip the leaders in this needs area. The traits of love in 1 Corinthians 13; the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-26; the thinking agenda of Philippians 4:6-9; and of course the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-13). Character is displayed in behavior and is molded through behavior disciplines.

SKILL is needed for a leader to use his knowledge and character properly in leading God’s people. Many times a man is given a leadership role he does not posses the skill to perform. Some are assigned leadership roles, not because they have the skill, but because it will “help him be faithful.” This is putting the cart before the horse. Jesus spent approximately thee-and-a-half years in training his Apostles for the leadership roles they would later perform in the church. The Holy Spirit came and continued their training. We must not ask a leader to perform something he does not have the skill to do. The church is an equipping school.

Think of the three legged stool model. Imagine a stool with only one strong leg, say for example a leader has good knowledge but is weak in character and skills. Perhaps he is strong in character but lacks in knowledge and skills. Maybe he is the “Jack of all trades” skills wise but is lacking in knowledge and character. The challenge of the congregational leadership school is to equip each leader in all three areas. This takes planning, time and dedicated effort in an ongoing school of leadership.

Whatever happened to leadership training in your congregation?


Why did God give us, and preserve for us, a written document called the Holy Bible? Was it so we would buy it and He would get a royalty? Was it for coffee table decoration? Did He give us the Bible to confuse us? The answer to these three questions is NO.

Obviously God gave us the Bible to read, understand and apply to our lives. Since the German printer Johan Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type, and on which the Bible was the first book printed, the Bible has been a best seller. Millions of copies in numerous versions are sold each year. But are people reading these Bibles they are buying and receiving as gifts?

Reading in the USA has fallen off drastically in the last few years. Back in 2004 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) noted an alarming occurrence in the reduction of our consumption of books. Later in 2007 a study titled To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, the picture is even darker. From data gained in two dozen studies the NEA concluded that voluntary reading for fun (i.e. reading not required) was declining at an alarming rate.

As far as I am concerned since the Bible is not “required or forced reading” in our society, it falls into the category observed by the NEA. Not only is the decline in Bible reading occurring among Christians; it is becoming less visible in Bible classes and pulpits—it is not being read.

Several years ago in a New York Times article, Steve Job is quoted as having said this about reading: “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception in flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Someone may ask, “Well how about all those sales of Harry Potter books and books sold when endorsed by Oprah Winfrey’s recommendation? The truth is these are only isolated examples; the larger picture shows we are not a reading nation. For example a first-year college student will spend an hour or less in doing reading that is not required for a class; even that reading will be more of a scanning than a real reading.

Back to our question: Why aren’t Christians reading their Bibles for the mere joy of it, and not just to lift out words to fill in the blanks in study books? Last Sunday in a textual study of First John I asked about 100 persons, how many of you read First John last week? Less than half held up their hands. In fact, some had not even brought their Bible to the study.

15 Reasons for Reading the Bible

God gave us the Bible not just to check off a daily reading chart, which is great, but for numerous reasons:

  1. Reading the Bible will make you wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).
  2. Reading the Bible will help you know the truth (John 8:32).
  3. Reading the Bible will help you know if what is being taught is true (Acts 17:11).
  4. Reading the Bible will help you understand the will of God (Acts 8:30).
  5. Reading the Bible will equip you to teach and share God’s word (Matthew 28:18- 20)
  6. Reading the Bible will help you not to “live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  7. Reading the Bible will help you know what you will be judged by in the judgment (John 12:48).
  8. Reading the Bible will help you imitate Jesus (Luke 4:16, “Jesus stood up and read”).
  9. Reading the Bible will help us obey the command given to Timothy to give “attention to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13).
  10. Reading the Bible will help us answer Jesus’ question, “Have you not read” in a positive way, yes (Luke 6:3). 1
  11. Reading the Bible will help us receive a blessing from the Lord (Revelation 1:3).
  12. Reading the Bible will help us know it so we can be “doers of the word” (James 1:22-24).
  13. Reading the Bible will help us in our quest to know our heavenly Father better (John 17:3).
  14. Reading the Bible will help us add to our faith, knowledge and other virtues (2 Peter 1:5-11).

  15. Reading the Bible will give us a positive, God honoring, thinking agenda (Philippians 4:5-9).

If these 15 reasons for reading God’s word are not enough to motivate you to want to read the Bible, take a few minutes and go and read Psalm 119.

12 Reasons Why Some Aren’t Reading the Bible

We need to ask another question: Why aren’t we taking time to read the Bible? There are several answers:

  1. We are in a hurry and don’t “have time” to read God’s word.

  2. There is too much information coming at us every day, we don’t want more from Bible reading.

  3. We feel like since we have obeyed the basics for salvation we don’t need to read for additional information.

  4. The preacher and Bible class teacher will read to me in class or from the pulpit; that’s all I need.

  5. There is a perception that there will be no consequence for not reading; so why  read if there are no “tests” or consequences.

  6.  I have a Bible and can look up answers or passages if I need to.

  7. Some don’t read because they are poor readers or have never liked to read; the Bible is no exception.

  8. Think the Bible can’t be understood or it is too boring to spend time reading it.

  9. Reading the Bible is not seen as being very important in the scheme of their daily activities.

  10. They have not been challenged or encouraged to read the Bible; no emphasis in their congregation to read.

  11. They, especially men, are spending spare time, and even work time, playing electronic games on cell phones, lap tops, play stations, computers, iPods, etc. (Kids are starting at very young ages). Some are even so addicted that they play them during worship services or Bible classes.

  12. There is no emphasis in the family, past or present, on the importance of reading the Bible.

There are additional reasons why many Christians don’t read the Bible: these 12 are only a sampling.

12 Tips for Reading the Bible

Obviously reading the Bible is a choice; once you have made the decision to read your Bible here are a few practical tips:

    1. Designate a time for reading. You know your schedule and what will be the best time; be flexible.

    2. Start your schedule with 15-minutes of reading. This will be deliberate and meditative reading of a portion of Scripture. You may increase is as you develop the reading habit.

    3. Keep a reading log in which you record your reading and any questions drawn from your reading.

    4. If you are in a weekly Bible class try to read Scripture related to your class; do the same relative to the sermon.

    5. Do your reading in various translation of the Bible; this will help you understand certain portions better.

    6. Be attentive and alert during your reading; being too tired or lazy will hinder your comprehension.

    7. Don’t stop! Let Bible reading be a lifetime discipline; the more you do it the more you will enjoy and benefit

    8.  From your reading always ask yourself, what one intentional thing can I practice from these verses? This is the take away.

    9. There is also the challenge of sharing some of your reading with others; your excitement may encourage others to read the Bible.

    10. Consider making Bible reading a family practices; what better way for the family to bond.

    11. There are book clubs in some congregations where member get together and discuss book they have read, why not a Bible reading club? Reading—not study!

    12. Prayer for wisdom and a spirit of concentration relative to your Bible reading. The challenge is to decide to read the Bible and just do it.

Congruence (n) “1 the state or quality of being in agreement; correspondence; harmony.”

Concurrence (n) “1 A happening together in time or place

                             2 a combining to produce or bringing about something 3 Agreement; accord.”

     Do you know what these two words have to do with Christianity? [ ] Yes [ ] No. The title of this lesson may have tipped you off. It has to do with our walk of holiness before God and others. They refer to the consistency God demands relative to what is outside in our behavior, being in harmony with what is inside. There is a congruence—consistency. It is an affirmation that holiness is not being faked—it is real from the inside out.

     Here are some Scriptures that reveal God’s demand for holiness by His children:

  1. Hebrews 12:14: “Pursue peace with all people, and HOLINESS, without which no one will see the Lord.”
  2. 1 Thessalonians 3:13: “[S]o that he may establish your hearts blameless in HOLINESS before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”
  3. Romans 6:22: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves to God, you have your fruit of HOLINESS, and the end, eternal life.”
  4. 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting HOLINESS in the fear of God.”
  5. Hebrews 12:10: “For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His HOLINESS.”
  6. Ephesians 4:24: “[A]nd that you put on the new man which is created according to God, in true righteousness and HOLINESS.
  7. 1 Peter 1:15, 16: “[B]ut as He who called you is holy, you also be HOLY in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be HOLY, for I am holy.’”

     God has called us to be HOLY, which means He has called us “to be set apart” (Greek, hagios). He has set us apart to practice holiness in our lifestyles in every situation we are in.

     HOLINESS! Few words in and out of theological circles are as misunderstood, misused, and mocked as holiness. We hear such remarks in reference to holiness exercised by people as:

“Holy roller”

“Holier than thou”

“Do Gooder”

“Fake or hypocrite”

“Spiritual snobs.”

     As we noted in the previous Scriptures, HOLINESS is a commanded virtue. However, it also carries with it the challenges of being consistent—inside and out. Holiness is an attitude that drives a person’s character and lifestyle. Holiness is the external revelation, hopefully, of what is in the heart (cf. Jeremiah 6:19; Provers 23:7).

     A group of Christians went from Sunday morning services to a restaurant for lunch. During the meal one of the Christian men, a church leader, treated the waitress in a very rude and unChristian manner. Needless to say it was very embarrassing to the group; it cast a dark negative shadow over Christianity. People judge us by our behavior, which flows from the heart (Proverbs 23:7)

     Holiness is not just a practice at the church building or in some special religious service. It must be part of life 24-7-365. A person—especially a Christian—is known by his . . .

  • Creed—what he believes
  • Character—what he is
  • Conversations—what he says
  • Conduct—what he does
  • Contribution—what he gives
  • Conviction—what he stands for
  • Courage—what he defends

Hypocrisy: The Enemy of Holiness

Holiness is not just the correct externals by which people tend to judge us by; after all, only God knows what’s in our hearts (cf. Hebrews 4:12). The Bible has a very strong word to describe this inconsistent behavior: HYPOCRITE. A hypocrite was a “play actor”—someone assuming a part and playing it on stage. In ancient times it included wearing a mask to conceal one’s true identity, or to take the audience’s mind off the person playing the part. For example men played the role of women because females weren’t allowed to participate in theater.

     Jesus was very direct and explicit in his rebuke and condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees who were the masters of “playing a part.” In Matthew 23:13-29, Jesus pronounced eight “Woes” on the scribes and Pharisees. One example is in 23:15, in what we would call evangelistic efforts, we read: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

     Our daily walk is a continual revelation of our holiness. It reveals our external behavior but not a clear revelation of our inner state of mind. People can “Fake it until they make it.” The number one environment where we must practice true holiness—inside and out—is in the home. Each family member is judging the consistency of other members; even though it may not be brought up in conversations until an argument occurs. Eyes and ears are always open.

     Parents have an awesome responsibility to live a holy lifestyle in and out of the house. The 9-year-old boy who was stationed in the back window of his father’s car to let dad know if a police car was approaching, knew it was a major contradiction to what he had taught his father about honesty and obeying the law. Obviously this is an application of “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Attributes of Holiness

Holiness is not a pseudo behavior demonstrated only in words, dress, or body language. While these three expressions may exist; it will only be as a byproduct of commitment to Christ and following His word. Genuine holiness stems from “being an imitator of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). It flows from “being poor in spirit” and being willing “to mourn” as you extend mercy to others. It stems from “being pure in heart” (cf. Matthew 5:1-12). And all these attributes stem from the “imputed righteousness” of Christ (cf. Romans 4:13-25).

     Holiness is demonstrated by the “fruit of the Spirit” existing in our lives: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its pleasures and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).

     Others can see holiness in us, even though they don’t know what to call it, as we love the unlovable and one another: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). These is manifested when we “speak the truth is love” (Ephesians 4:15).

     Holiness is expressed in our daily worship and obedience to God: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, HOLY, acceptable to God, which is you reasonable service. And be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1, 2).

     We maintain our holiness by daily “walking in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). What are you intentionally doing to maintain your holiness—inside and out—before God?

 

 

Some of us remember these statements:

  1. “The family that prays together stays together.”
  2. “The family is the backbone of the nation.”
  3. “The community is a reflection of the families who live in them.”

When you hear the word FAMILY what comes to mind? Sadly, when some hear family in cause’s painful memories; others are filled with happy memories. From the first family—Adam and Eve—until the most recent family, families have faced challenges. Some families have grown stronger and closer together, while others have deteriorated.

     Whatever happened to family?

     “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families” (Margaret Thatcher). If society is composed of families, it follows that if there is something wrong with society there must be something wrong with families. What do you think?

     In recent years there has been a proliferation of TV reality shows depicting various constructs of families, from “Housewives” to the Duggars, Duck Dynasty, etc. All of these have had an effect on families. The bubble burst relative to the “perfect family” image of the Duggars when a son committed adultery.

     Whatever happened to family?

     Social science studies, as well as government surveys, and commonsense observations have clearly documented the breakdown of the 21st century family. Houses, instead of being homes, have become no more than motels where mom, dad and all the kids gather in their own mental space to spend time on their social media gadgets. I heard recently that the “Average family” in the USA shares one common meal a month around the dinner table. Houses are now being built without formal dining rooms. The rise of fast food locations is another evidence how families are being fed. Some wives and mothers brag about the fact that they no longer cook at home.

     It is obvious that the once traditional American family has been replaced by what social historians refer to as “the nuclear family.” Marriages once involved couples who grew up in the same community and knew each other; their marriages expressed the same values as the community they grew up in. Today, this is no longer true. Marriages are engaged in by couples who met online, in a bar, on vacation, at work, etc. The issues of ethnicity, culture, values, education, geography, and more have to be negotiated, in most cases with great effort by each partner in the marriage. Perhaps this challenge is one of the reasons the divorce rate is 50 percent in our nation. When the issue of same sex marriage becomes part of the mix, the challenges facing the traditional family and society explode.

     Whatever happened to family?

     The family structure that once was a haven of love, a training center, a safe place, a sanctuary of spiritual practices, and place dedicated to the welfare of each member, is dying a slow death. And in some homes it has died, as each family member is doing his or her own thing. Values that were once taught and practiced in the family and showed up in the work place, school, neighborhood, and in churches, have gone the way of the rotary telephone.

     Families in neighborhoods where they once knew each other and talked over the backyard fence, have been replaced by families locked behind walls with alarms, fences, guard dogs, and garages where cars speed in and out. Many neighborhood have become islands of isolated strangers. Neighbors peep through their windows to spy on their neighbors.

     Whatever happened to family?

     Think about this. The family is where we all start our journey in life. From the training and examples we have been exposed to, we were prepared to go out into the world with a negative or positive attitude. They formed our basic values, beliefs, fears, prejudices, and habits in life. Abraham Lincoln said, “I am what I am because of my mother dear.”

     Whatever happened to family?

10 FACTORS IMPACTING FAMILIES

In my personal opinion, based on research and 50-years of ministry, that there are 10 major factors, with numerous subsets, impacting today’s families:

  1. The changing roles due to economic forces that are requiring both husband and wife to enter the work force; for mothers and wives to compete with their husbands.
  2. The resentment of roles family members are being forced to accept: i.e., everyone having to work, responsibilities, etc. It’s the “It’s not my job” attitude.
  3. A loss of direction because of no clear agreed upon family values, rules, and ethics.
  4. The influence of the media and saturation of modernism.
  5. Deterioration of balanced education programs; ignorance of US Constitution, etc.
  6. Declining influences of churches as many are no more than marketing efforts to be the biggest gathering in a community. The Gospel is not preached.
  7. The worship of sports and other recreation and leisure activities.
  8. Drug and alcohol abuse.
  9. Increase of crime, violence, terrorism, gangs, corruption, etc.
  10. God is left out of plans and decisions.

     Whatever happened to family?

     It’s an irony that many churches that claim they are “a family” are composed of members who aren’t really practicing family in their physical homes. Which comes first? Does a family learn how to be “a family” at home and then take it to the congregation? Or does a family learn how to be a family in a congregational setting and then take it to the home? Which comes first?

     Whatever happened to family?

     Regardless of the answers we give to the question—whatever happened to family?—; there is no doubt there are many, however we always go back to the first family: Adam and Eve. The deterioration of their family unit, which later involved one son killing his brother, started with Eve obeying the voice of Satan, followed by Adam’s disobedience (Read Genesis 1-3). The word SIN, especially in the Greek language, means “To miss the mark, target, etc.” God has a “target” for the family. It is to glorify Him (Ephesians 3:21)

     Whatever happened to family?

     God gave Israel a commandment that required a set of behaviors in the home as well as in daily life. Notice Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today, shall be in your HEART. You shall TEACH them diligently to your children, and shall TALK of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall BIND them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall WRITE them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” From these core behaviors all values would emerge in the daily life of an Israelite and his worship of God. This serves as a biblical, positive and workable model for families today.

     Whatever happened to family?

     It is easy to cry wolf and talk about the symptoms of the declining family but the need is to offer some biblical, positive, and workable solutions. Here are a few:

  1. Families need fathers and heads of families to take a stand like Joshua did: “…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). You are not responsible for my family, and I am not responsible for your family. The government and church are not responsible for my family. Fathers take a stand!
  2. Families need mothers who love their husbands and children: “… the older women…admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:1-5).
  3. Families need children who will respect and obey their parents: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment of promise” (Ephesians 5:1-3).
  4. Families need fathers who will train and educate their children: “And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

     Whatever happened to family?

     How are things with your family? What is your intentional plan to make sure your family is being taught, led, and encouraged to be what God desires?

    

One of the first songs I learned after becoming a Christian was Trust and Obey:

When we walk with the Lord

In the light of His word

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will,

He abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey

                                                                                                           (J.H. Sammis & D.B.Towner).

The two words—trust and obey—aren’t very popular in our day; especially obey. Like so many other virtues in our society and churches, the word obey is consigned to the ancient attitude of “Nobody tells me what to do.” Disobedience is rampant in our classrooms, on our streets, in our churches, in our families, in business dealing, etc. We live in an age where promises are made to be broken.

     What is obedience? Yes, I know it is a dumb question to ask. Why? Because everyone knows the meaning of obedience. Do they? Webster defines obedience as: “Compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority; compliance.”

     Everyday life is filled with orders requiring obedience. The teacher enters the classroom and says, “Now everyone be quiet and write down what I am about to say.” We come to an intersection we normally drive straight through but a policeman directs us to take a detour. A father tells his son that he cannot go out and play until he completes his homework. The song leader says, “Let’s stand and sing number 702.” We realize that the first three examples—the teacher, policeman, and father—many times are argued with or rejected, creating conflict.

     Whatever happened to obedience?

Contributors to Obedience

The study of obedience is an interesting study. Obedience is a reflection of the socially acceptable norms in a society. In my studies and observations I have discovered there are several major contributors to a person being obedient:

  1. People are obedient out of respect for the source of the order or for respect for the person in authority giving the command.
  2. People are obedient because they are afraid of the consequences of disobeying. It may be tied to the belief there will be a takeover of one’s country if war is not engaged in.
  3. People are obedient because of the perceived or tangible benefits promised to them if they obey. It’s the “what’s in it for me?” attitude.
  4. People are obedient because the group they are members of advocate obedience to certain rules and directives. They don’t want to be viewed as odd or rebellious.
  5. People obey because of ignorance. They have accepted, without verifying, certain propositions or statements that aren’t true and many times turn out to be harmful.
  6. People are obedient because they understand the reasons, benefits, and sensibleness of obedience. It’s the right thing to do.
  7. People are obedient because they had rather not create controversy by asking questions or challenging certain orders or demands.

     Obedience usually occurs when you are told to do something by someone in authority; conformity usually happens as a result of social or peer pressure: everybody is doing it. Adolf Eichmann was executed in 1962 for his role in the Holocaust, in which six million Jewish people, as well as others were murdered by Nazi Germany. Eichmann was declared sane by six psychiatrists. How could a sane man do such terrible crimes?   Eichmann wrote in his jail diary why: “The orders were, for me, the highest thing in my life and I had to obey them without question” (Extract quoted in the Guardian, 12 August 1999, p. 13). In his mind he was only be obedient!

     Jesus warned about BLIND obedience to the Pharisees of His day: “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14). Religious and spiritual blindness has eternal consequences.

The Blessing of Obedience

Obedience is important for numerous reasons. The Hebrews’ writer takes us to what, in my opinion, is the number one reason for obedience: He wrote: “[T]hough He was a Son, yet He learned OBEDIENCE by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who OBEY Him” (Hebrews 5:8, 9). This is clear. Eternal salvation is based on obedience. Nothing is more important than this (cf. Mark 8:36-38).

     The motivation for obedience is not fear, coercion, or shame but LOVE. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), and “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). We respond to God’s love for us (cf. John 3:16).

The Action of Obedience

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (cf. Romans 1:14-16). What is the Gospel? Paul answers this question: “Moreover, brethren, I declared to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you FIRST of all that which I received: that Christ DIED for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was BURIED, and that He ROSE again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

     The death, burial and resurrection of Christ are physical and historical facts. The question now is, how do you obey facts? Paul gives us the answer. In Romans 6:1-16 the apostle reminds the Romans how they embraced the Gospel—death, burial and resurrection—which was duplicated by them in immersion (baptism). In 6:17 he wrote, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you OBEYED from the heart that FORM of doctrine to which you were delivered.”

The Greek word for FORM is tupos and means “type, impress.” A good way to understand tupos is relating it to what happens when a Notary Seal is applied to a document. The imprint on the metal seal, not the seal itself, is impressed on the paper. In obeying the Gospel a person doesn’t literally die, isn’t literally buried, and literally raised form the dead. In baptism a dead spiritual person dies to sin, is buried and raised to “walk in newness of life.”

Consequences of Disobedience

The consequences of disobedience could fill volumes. The major one being to miss heaven and eternal life. In Revelation 22:14 we read, “Blessed are those who DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”

     The Galatians were warned by Paul concerning the danger of drifting away from the Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). In Galatians 3:1 he wrote this: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified.” Since Adam and Eve, Satan has been trying to trick us into disobeying God.

     When the Christians were ordered to stop preaching the Gospel (Acts 5:27, 28), here is how the Apostles responded: “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to OBEY God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Regardless, we “seek the kingdom first” (Matthew 6:33).

Whatever happened to obedience?

    Dowload Study Guide

truth mediumWhen I was in the first grade, many, many years ago, I heard a story about our first President, George Washington. The story had a major impact on my life then and since. The story was about George Washington being given a hatchet when he was about six years old, which he took and used it to chop down everything in sight. One morning he even chopped down a cherry tree. When he was caught and confronted by his father, young George hesitated but told his father, “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” Rather than punishing George, his father praised him for tell the truth. Since the first grade unto now, I have believed in the value of telling the truth.

     The world since my first grade days has changed drastically in every field of endeavor; from science to entertainment, from politics and religion. Especially in the area of truth, its usage and value. Sir Winston Churchill hit the nail on the head relative to the power and influence of a lie: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

     A business that has emerged in the past few years, and is especially used during this political seasons, is fact checking. The statements by politician are checked relative to whether they are true or false. The most outrageous lie is given a Pinocchio award. This is a sad commentary on the state of our nation, the media, and the lack of value placed on truth.

     We live in a day when many people have no trouble with accepting a lie, as long as it fosters a cause they believe in. And interviewer on the street was asking questions about, “When is it okay to lie?” The answers were shocking and amazing. Most answers can be summarized by, “It is okay to lie as long as it doesn’t physical hurt anyone and it helps you succeed in life. The consensus was that everybody lies, so it is no big deal.

     Years ago I read a little piece of humor that has stayed with me as a preacher. A preacher and his family were driving home from a morning service, when the soft voice of his son asked from the backseat, “Dad, this morning up in the pulpit where you preaching or were you telling the truth?”

     Truth will always be truth, regardless of lacking understanding, enjoying a wrong, disbelief, or ignorance. Truth, from God’s perspective doesn’t change with the times, passage of new laws, acceptance by popularity, or because it is being championed by the masses. Jesus Christ, the truth incarnate, said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

A lie has never freed anyone. Oh, it may make you feel good, happy and accepted for a while, but sooner or later it will find you out and let you down (cf. Numbers 32:23).

     Speaking of truth, it is a biblical fact that God’s people have always had problems with the truth. Here is an example in the days of Isaiah. “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who said to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits’” (Isaiah 30:9, 10). Another classic case is the Jews stoning Stephen while he was preaching the truth (cf. Acts 7:54-60).

     It is easy to be duped by philosophy and traditions. Pilate bought into the popular epistemological quest of his day, promoted by Greek philosophers, when he asked, “What is truth?” (cf. John 18:38). Pilate was, knowingly or unknowingly, championing Marcus Aurelius who had said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

     The major enemy of the truth is Satan. This is obvious when we first meet him in the Garden of Eden, and he offered Eve the possibility of becoming a god herself (cf. Genesis 3:1-8). Jesus affirmed the status of Satan as a liar and cause of others to lie: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

     Whatever happened to the truth? From the Garden of Eden until today, Satan has influenced mankind to adjust, reject, and trivialize it. No one nor any discipline, saint or sinner, is exempt from his goal of tampering with the truth and destroying it completely. This is why we need to heed the words of Solomon: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).

     What is truth? The clarion voice of Christ answers: “Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one come to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6). In chapter one of John’s gospel he declares that Jesus is the incarnate Word, the living truth. Therefore, His words are true, “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

     To borrow a principle from the apostle Paul, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without significance” (1 Corinthians 14:10). As Christians, truth lovers and seekers, we must be careful as we listen to these voices. Are they speaking the truth? How do we know if they are or are not speaking the truth? Just because it is a spokesperson on a popular media outlet, politician with charisma, charming TV preacher, or a so-called documentary, we must “Buy the truth and sell it not.” We must with an open mind and heart seek to “know the truth.” The word of God, rightly divided, exegeted, and applied is the key to knowing and using the truth.

     Whatever happened to the truth? There are several Scriptural answers: First, Satan steals the word—truth—out of human hearts (Luke 8:12). Second, people fail to take the truth seriously; like King Agrippa (cf. Acts 26:24-32). Third, the study of the truth of God’s word is neglected by both Christians and non-believers (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). Fourth, there are those who do not love the truth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Fifth, there are those, for whatever reasons, who turn the truth into a lie (cf. Romans 1:25). Sixth, there are those who are afraid of making enemies or losing friend if they speak the truth (cf. Galatians 4:16). Seventh, the lust of the flesh and temptation to sin reduces the power of the truth in a person’s life (cf. James 1:11-17).

     Whatever happened to the truth? Regardless of the answers, those of us who love the truth must buy it with commitment, study, sharing it and living it in a lying and sinful world (cf. 1 John 5:19).

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