Category Archives: Encouragement

Silence

silence

Silence. We fear silence. It’s to be avoided at all costs. We keep the television on at home and the radio playing in the car. If a newscaster is quiet for too long, he gets embarrassed. When the preacher pauses, we get nervous. When was the last time you and your spouse rode along in silence?

There’s actually a lot of sound, just not much worth hearing. Sometimes, silence is desired. It’s healing, even therapeutic. Leave the earbuds in the car and walk through nature. The sound of birds, crickets, and a chorus of basso profundo frogs is the perfect inoculation against the ruckus of the world.

People talking without speaking

People hear without listening

Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence (1964)

The folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel bemoaned the silence despite a chorus of noise all around. Nothing was said worth listening to. There was only The Sound of Silence.

They were correct 60 years ago, and they are still right today.

Silence. When Words Hurt

Sometimes, it’s better to be silent. When tragedy struck Job, his three friends came and sat in silence with him. They said nothing for a week (Job 2:11 – 13). There are times when words are ineffective and may bring more pain. In tragedy, there are no magical missives. A gentle hand on the shoulder may be best.

We may become too aggressive in our desire to show concern and offer aid. We don’t mean to cause harm, but sometimes, week intentioned words are misheard or misinterpreted. As students of human behavior, we can sense when we are getting too close or too personal. “I love you” may be the only words they need.

Silence. When Words Help

There are times when carefully directed discourse can bring encouragement and healing to the hurting soul.

Paul said it this way: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6). He seems to be talking about our interactions with unbelievers. But one key phrase is so useful for us today. He says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” Have you eaten food without enough salt? Unsalted speech is also tasteless.

The king questioned why Nehemiah was sad. Nehemiah explained that his home, Jerusalem, lay in ruins. The king asked what Nehemiah was asking for. Then, before saying another word, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of Heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4). The King gave Nehemiah all that he asked for and more. Prayers need not be elaborate or long. Pray before speaking.

Our parents and grandparents often advised us to count to 10 before answering or speaking. Words can help but only when well considered. Never respond in anger for you will surely regret it later.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” wrote James (James 1:19).

Slow down. Think. Make sure you say something worth hearing.

Gideon

Gideon: How’d He Do It?

Gideon

There are many spectacular events in the Bible. There were the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and later the Jordan. The Blind and deaf were healed and people were raised from  the dead. In a separate category, there was the Creation, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. But there is one miracle, actually a series of miracles, that has always fascinated me: Gideon’s victory over the Midianites in Judges 6 – 8.

Israel had returned to their wicked ways, and as punishment, God allowed Midian to enslave them. Gideon is an unremarkable man from an unremarkable family in an unremarkable tribe in an enslaved nation (6:15). Yet, he is told by an angel that he “shall strike the Midianites as one man” (6:16). After three different, convincing, miracles, Gideon attacks the army of Midian with 300 soldiers divided into three companies. The Midianite army numbered 135,000 swordsmen( 8:10)! That’s a ratio of 450:1! I don’t think the vaunted Navy Seal Team Six would take on such a battle. But one more thing: Gideon’s army carried no weapons (see 7:20 for their armaments). How could this unremarkable man command one of the greatest victories in Israelite history?

The answer is pretty straightforward: He didn’t.

The victory over Midian was God’s work. Gideon was just an obedient servant. He wasn’t a great tactician, and he was not a great warrior. He wasn’t much of a leader at all. He was just a servant.

But he and his countrymen were prone to taking undeserved credit. In Judges 7:2, the Lord said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” In verse 9, God tells Gideon, concerning the Midianite army, “I have given it into your hand.” This was no common victory; it was all the power of God.

While Gideon was not responsible for the victory, his faith and obedience were required. The three chapters in view record three moments when God helped build Gideon’s faith. In Judges 6:36 -40, Gideon asked for and received two miracles, which boosted his faith. He asked for a fleece to be laid on the ground and moistened with dew while the surrounding ground would be dry. The Lord’s angel caused that to happen. Next, Gideon reversed the request. This time, the ground would be wet and the fleece dry. Again, the miracle occurred, and Gideon was encouraged.

The third faith-builder came when Gideon and his servant were sent to infiltrate the Midianite camp. They overheard soldiers talking of a dream in which a cake of bread tumbled into their camp, struck the tent, and flipped it over. The soldier said, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (vs. 14).

With renewed faith, Gideon was prepared to obey God even in what seemed an odd battle strategy. The Israelite battalion was now a small company of soldiers. The 300 were further split into 100-man contingents. With no weapons in hand, Israel defeated the mighty Midianites.

The victory belonged to the Lord, but Gideon’s faith and obedience were necessary, too. Could God have won without Gideon? Of course. But he chose to use a mortal to accomplish his work.

You and I fight battles daily. Faith and obedience are required. It was hard for Gideon to see the outcome, especially given the odd tactics. But he believed and was obedient! Faith and obedience are simple tools for accomplishing great things for God. If we trust God’s lovingkindness and obey his simple commands, we will gain the greatest victory of all!

Refugees

by Linda Farris

This article is from a dear friend and fine Christian woman, Linda Farris. She, her husband Garland, and sweet son Jeff attend with us at the Eastern Shore church of Christ. She is a wonderful wife, mother of three, grandmother, and dear friend to all who know her. I am happy to present her article here.

 

 While preparing to go to worship this morning, I was mentally making a list of the things I have learned from the terrible pandemic caused by Covid-19. There really have been blessings, mixed in with the fears and the sorrows, brought on by this unexpected, unimagined plague.

  The thought of appreciating having God as our refuge came to my mind, then my challenge of staying focused kicked in. Remembering the time, while living in Kentucky, Jeff and I were stranded in our home by a terrible ice storm. We were without power, heat, hot food, lights, hot water, cell and phone service. We got through three days by staying in his room with a small transistor radio someone had given him. I had slipped out occasionally to walk our dog, try to get the one set of gas logs to burn, and check on the damage. (There was a lot!)  Not knowing the cell tower had fallen into the Cumberland River, most of my time was spent trying to contact my family, out of state, to let them know of our predicament. This was a situation where neighbors could not help neighbors and we had not seen or heard from anyone since the storm began.

  Finally, after hearing on the little radio the temperature was going to be 15 degrees that night, I knew I had to get us out of there to somewhere not covered with ice and snow. Climbing on our car to unlock the garage door, I managed to raise it manually. Then making sure Jeff’s stairlift was working I had to trust the battery to get him to the basement and into the car with our dog, Tex. When all that was done, while holding my breath and praying, we dodged trees and limbs in the driveway and down the steep hill.  Some men from the neighborhood were just beginning to clear the road with chain saws and muscle. The town was completely deserted, no gas, no Walmart, no restaurants, nothing happening, it was a ghost town. As we passed the veterinarian’s office his truck was parked outside, so I stopped to see if he had generators, and could keep our beloved pet. He was happy to assist us, and we were on our way.

 The trip to the Tennessee border was an adventure in itself but when we made it that far, the cell service was restored and our family was notified that we were on our way to our daughter’s house in Murfreesboro. Darkness had fallen when we finally arrived, exhausted and hungry, and so thankful to have made it. Once we were in the house our son-in-law’s greeting was, “Welcome, refugees.” Why did that offend me that night? Of course, he was trying to show understanding and compassion, however, I didn’t want to be looked at as a refugee “a person who flees for refuge or safety”.

  We are all refugees when we do not seek refuge in the love of God. Where else can we turn? He has offered “shelter in the time of storm” to all who believe and obey Him, accepting His gift of forgiveness. 

Yes, this is a difficult time but we are still blessed beyond measure by a loving God. He is our refuge now and always.

It’s So Hard

Nobody ever said righteousness was easy. No one ever claimed holiness was a breeze. The pursuit of godliness is probably the hardest thing you will ever attempt. What’s the old saying, “If it were easy, everyone would do it?”

Abraham struggled with honesty, as did his son, Isaac.

Noah got drunk.

David cheated with another man’s wife and then had him killed.

Peter was two-faced, and Paul was the foremost sinner.

It’s hard to do right. You may look at those guys and think, “Hey! I’m better than them!” Maybe. In some ways. But it’s not about us vs. them. It’s about Jesus and how well we mirror his image. That’s the idea, right? We are to be like him. Look at 1st Peter 1:15. Peter says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.‘”

Even preachers struggle. It’s nice to preach about love, hope, heaven, and glory, all sound biblical topics. It’s much harder to talk about sin, repentance, and hell, but those are biblical too and must be a part of any preacher’s repertoire. Why? Because that’s part of living godly. because it’s as much of God’s word as the easy stuff.

Have you ever repaired or installed drywall or sheetrock? Turn out the overhead light and shine a lamp at a sharp angle onto the wall. The slanted light will reveal every flaw in your work. That’s like the Bible. Scripture makes us uncomfortable because it reveals our failings and shortcomings. It is a bright light on our imperfect lives.

“Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

Luke 12:3

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life”

Proverbs 6:23

On the other hand, the world calls gently to us, demanding nothing now but taking souls in the life to come. As Jesus said, Satan “is a liar” (John 8:44). His promises are sweet and pleasing to our ears. He tenderly convinces us that we are free to do as we please. His bite comes at the end, and we lose our souls eternally.

Consider Eve. Satan lied to her in Genesis 3:4. Look what happened.

Don’t forget. We are not alone in our pursuit of righteousness and holiness. Jesus walks with us daily – if we let him – and strengthens us in our battles. His power works in us to purify, sanctify, and consecrate us to his service (Philippians 1:6, 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:21).

No warrior ever walks alone. He is strengthened by training of those before, the memories of those who have fallen, and the spirit of his comrades. You are not alone. Jesus trains you through his word, has been here before, and walks alongside you today.

My purpose is to tell you not to give up. Do not surrender to your sinful desires. Reject the whispers of failure and inadequacy. Let those times of greatest temptation become times of greatest prayer and humility. Life is so hard. Lean on Jesus!

4 Quarantine Lessons from Judah

Judah spent 70 years in enforced confinement. You are spending weeks in quarantine, which is like enforced confinement. It’s not as bad but still restrictive. Ancient Judah has four lessons for you.

Things Don’t Always Go Your Way

Judah, and Israel before them, thought the future was bountiful. They lived in relative peace and went about their daily tasks in a comfortable routine (Amos 6:1). Suddenly, their expectations and hopes crumbled. Their hopes for a quiet life changed drastically.

Today, things are not going the way you expected, either. Three months ago, we were thinking about spring break, the end of the school year, graduations, and summer vacations. Major surgery only requires 6 to 8 weeks of recovery, but this is still dragging on.

Trouble Comes When You Don’t Expect It

Judah should have seen trouble coming; they missed it. Their northern cousins went into captivity over a hundred years earlier. Enemies attacked, but God always prevented their capture. Not this time. Their faithlessness was overwhelming. Babylon rolled into Judah and began resettling the people.

We should have seen this pandemic coming. Experts have warned of such an event for generations. The world has suffered through many devasting, illnesses including the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) of the 14th century. Smallpox killed half a billion of us before we conquered it in 1977. We were surprised, even though we shouldn’t have been.

Don’t Take the Presence of the Lord for Granted.

Babylon took Judah into captivity; separating them from the Temple. Since the Temple’s construction by Solomon in about 1000 BC, the people had enjoyed a strong visual reminder of the presence of God. It was the place of God’s high and holy name (2 Chronicles 6:18). Moses had commanded three visits to the Temple annually (Deuteronomy 16:16). They would be reminded of the Lord’s presence each time.

It is different for Christians. Our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Christ lives in us (John 17:23; Galatians 2:20). We don’t have a Temple. The church building is just that, a building that meets the needs of the Christians. It is neither holy nor divine.

Still, the assembly together of saints is a vital part of our lives. We see the Lord living in the lives of one another in a way that is impossible with the disassembled assembly. Weekly worship assemblies become common. We may have been guilty of taking them for granted. I hope we will never do that again.

Reunion Will Be Sweet

Judah eventually left their restricted domicile. They returned to Jerusalem, rebuilt the destroyed Temple, and worshipped God according to his plan (Ezra 6:13–18). The Bible says they celebrated with “great Joy” (vs. 16).

When we assemble together physically, and we will, it will be a time of great joy and happiness. A day doesn’t pass that someone doesn’t mention how they miss the assembly of the church. Jesus wants his people to be together. In Acts 2, they were together and “from house to house.” That day is coming again.

We must remember these lessons and teach them to our children.

I’ve Got Good News…I’ve Got Bad News

bad news stormYou can’t have one without the other.

What is a beautiful day unless you have experienced a stormy day?

What’s sunshine without rain? What is good news without bad? It takes one to contrast and highlight the other.

I’ll start with the bad news. You are broken. You are sinful, and there is nothing you can do about it.  God, through Jeremiah, said, “Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying ‘I have not sinned’” (Jeremiah 2:35). Writing to Christians, John said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us “ (1 John 1:8). This may offend and even anger us because we usually think quite well of ourselves. We don’t claim perfection, but we do see ourselves as pretty good people. We don’t break laws, and we are nice to others. We help out when others need help. The idea that we are a rank sinner is hurtful!

I think we overlook what sin really is. Sin is not determined by comparing ourselves to the guy next door or the man down the street who kicks his dog and beats his wife. Sin is the contrast between God and me. Sin is the result of a comparison between God’s glory and my attempt at reflecting that glory to others. We have fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23).

There is no diagnosis worse than sin.

But the good news is that there is a cure! Sin need not be a permanent condition. There is good news!

This good news is called the gospel. The original word in the New Testament can be translated as “good news” (Acts 8:12, 35; Romans 10:15) or as “gospel” (Matthew 4:23; Luke 9:6; Acts 8:25). There is good news!

The good news comes from God. As far back as the Garden of Eden, God declared the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin while, at the same time, he proclaimed the good news of one who would destroy sin forever – the offspring of woman, Jesus (Genesis 3:1-15). It was Jesus who first began to spread the good news of the coming kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14).

Not only was Jesus a messenger of the good news, he was the good news! Jesus declared of himself “the son of man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). From the day of his birth, until the nails pierced his hands, Jesus was doing the will of God to save man from sin (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). As the life slipped from his torn and tortured body, he could say, “it is finished” (John 19:30). God had come into the world in the form of man (Philippians 2:5-8) and offered his perfect life as the ransom for my sins. As we sing, so says the Bible, he paid a debt he did not owe (Colossians 2:5; c.f. Hebrews 4:15)!

The good news has been preached. The gospel of the kingdom of Christ has been once for all delivered (Jude 3). You have been set free in Christ. Romans 8:2: “for the law of the spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Christ’s law is the absolute antidote for sin. It is Jesus who breaks the bonds of the imprisoned sinner and allows the inspired Paul to shout “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

Have you come to the great physician for your treatment? Have you come to the free fountain of life for healing?  Jesus awaits. Do not delay. By submitting to Christ in all areas of life, one may be saved from the eternal ravages of sin. There is good news for you in Christ!

 

Psalm One

The beloved book of Psalms begins with a brief description of two kinds of people: the wicked and the righteous. Standing at opposite poles of humanity the sweet psalmist, David explains the blessings and the curses that befall each.

He notes the blessings of the righteous man defined negatively. The righteous is not like the wicked. Indeed, the two are so far apart as to be impossible to confuse. For David, there is no middle ground with a little good and a little bad. He is either/or, but not both.

The righteous man rejects the guidance of the wicked and gives no heed to their proddings. He will not conduct himself as a sinner nor occupy a place among the evil. No one will associate this righteous man with the wicked nor will he allow himself to be so grouped. There is no confusion for the righteous is unlike the wicked in every way (Psalm 1:1).

Positively, what marks the righteous? What sets him apart from the evil? The righteous have an intense love for the word of God. Of Psalm 1:2 the Septuagint translation says of the righteous that “his will is focused on the law of the Lord.” Other translations say that he “meditates” on God’s law day and night. The psalmist echoes this idea in Psalm 112:1 when he observes that a man who “delights in his commandments is blessed.” John, writing centuries later, said the man who keeps his commandments “abides in God” (1 John 3:2-4).O, that we all would come to love the gentle words of the Lord!

David also sees the righteous man as ever stable against the storms of life. “He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). This moving illustration is of a great tree that is always green and ready to give forth abundant fruit in its time. Whether in season or out,  this man is always stable and sturdy. James rebukes the faithless man who doubts and is splashed about like the waves of the sea. Then he declares blessings on the steadfast man (James 1:5-12). Likewise, our goal is to be firm and unwavering like this mighty tree. This tree remains fruitful because it is always supplied by life-giving water. There is no fear of drought, only a certainty of constant sustenance from the streams of water. This water is the “living water” of which Jesus spoke in John 4:10 ff. Like the constant, ongoing meditation and focus on God’s word, this constant watering brings strength and stability to the righteous.

Yet, more than stability, the righteous man prospers in all his work (Psalm 1:3). He will not prosper in any wicked endeavor for he does not pursue evil. His prosperity comes from his station within the law of the Lord. Apart from that law, there is no good to be had.

See now that David turns it all back upon the wicked who are not like this blessed man (Psalm 1:4). They are unstable, blown about like leaves before a spring breeze and cannot stand stable before God in judgment. We recall the words of David’s son, Solomon who said, “the way of the transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15, KJV). We do not want to be like the wicked who will perish!

When life becomes so difficult that we are sure to fail, we should consider if we have fallen into transgressions.

Notice again how David turns the discussion back upon the wicked. In Psalm 1:1 he says the righteous will not be found among the wicked. Now in Psalm 1:5 he says the wicked will not be found “in the congregation of the righteous.” You see, the Lord knows his people (John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19) and does not confuse them. And, because he knows us, he knows our paths and always watches over us. I find this first chapter of Psalms to be both an encouragement and a challenge. Remember, these are the words of God given through David’s inspiration. Listen! Hear his voice!

 

Stop Reading Your Bible and Study It!

Daily Bible Reading and StudyIt is a new year, and optimism drives us to do better in the coming year than in the past. Christians often commit to reading the Bible through in the coming year. It’s a noble idea that will surely build your faith in Christ. But it is also a bigger challenge than we expect. As a result, our good intention shatters upon the rocks of reality. We get behind and soon just give up. A year later our faith and knowledge are little improved from 12 months before. Maybe these tips will help.

Stop Reading Your Bible,  Study the Bible,

Any time spent in God’s word is profitable and brings new understanding, needed reproof and exhortation (2 Timothy 3:16). Have you ever looked at your daily Bible reading plan, seen the required readings for the day, looked at the late hour on the clock, seen the soft, warm bed awaiting, and then rushed to do your readings so you could mark off a successful day? Sure you have, we all have been there! What did you get out of that quickie read? Not a thing!

God’s word is not a Big Mac® to be devoured but a fine, medium cooked, prime rib to be savored. Every word is from the mind of God and aimed squarely at your heart (1 Corinthians 2:1-13). Do not be concerned with checking off passages. Instead, strive to know those passages and mine the depths of God’s thoughts. To be sure, we ought to be reading the word every day, but do not be afraid to read and re-read passages to drink in their power

Stop Reading Your Bible, Live the Bible

Knowledge of God’s word means little if we do not live it in our everyday lives. It is through wisdom that God’s message finds its way into every nook of our lives.

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,

and the one who gets understanding,

For the gain from her is better than gain from silver

and her profit better than gold.

She is more precious than jewels,

and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 3:13-15)

 

No other life pursuit brings the value of Godly wisdom. This is not the same as human wisdom. It is taught not by men but by the Holy Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:13). The spiritual person, that is, the one possessing the wisdom that comes from the Spirit, grows and prospers in his faith because of Godly wisdom.

Stop Reading Your Bible and Apply These Tips

  • Begin with a plan. The basic plans move you through the entire Bible in a year. Other plans are more aggressive and take you through the Bible faster. A plan is a starting place only. It will launch your studies into specific areas.
  • Don’t ignore something that pique’s your interest. Stop, meditate, pray and research until your satisfaction is satiated. Do word studies, run cross-references and keep digging. You may get behind on your plan, but you are gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience in God’s word.
  • Improve the mechanics of your study. Have a set time and place for your work. Keep a special notebook only for your studies and a separate file folder for your notes. Over time you will develop a folder for every book of the Bible. You will also need a Bible (wide-margins are good) that you can mark in. The more notes you make in your Bible itself, the better!

The idea is that Bible study is more like a marathon than a sprint. You are in this for the long run, not the dash. Develop good habits now, and you will profit beyond your wildest dreams!

 

See How He Loved Him!

Lazarus was dead and in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus arrived. Friends told Jesus of Lazarus’ sickness but the Lord delayed coming to Bethany “for the glory of God” (John 11:4) and so that his disciples might learn to believe (John 11:15). Lazarus, his sisters Martha and Mary, were dear friends of Jesus. So, when Jesus finally arrived at their home he was met with some confusion.

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died”  quipped Martha. Mary would say the same thing (John 11:21, 32).

In response to their pain and the grieving of those assembled, Jesus was “deeply moved”  and “greatly troubled.” The inspired writer says, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). To this display of divine emotion, the Jews remarked, “See how he loved him” (John 11:36)!

I invite the reader to see how Jesus loves us too!

From his attendance in Creation, Jesus showed his love for man. Man was created as the pinnacle of all creation. He was placed into the beauty of a prepared garden, given a specially designed mate, and allowed unique access to God (Genesis 1:26-2:25). See how Jesus loves us!

Despite the rebellion (Genesis 3:6), he continued to love us. While punishing the serpent,  the man, and the woman, Jesus was promised as a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). This is all the more remarkable when we consider that Jesus, in his Redeemer role, would have to suffer and die. Imagine that! The Creator dies for the creation! But this came as no surprise to Jesus. His coming passion was known from before time (1 Peter 1:20; Matthew 13:35; Ephesians 1:4; Proverbs 8:23; Micah 5:2). So, before the world was created, Jesus knew that his creation would sin and that he, Jesus, alone, could save them from deserved punishment through his own suffering. He created us anyway! See how Jesus loves us!

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords left his glory to mix and mingle among the poor and downtrodden (1 Timothy 6:15; Philippians 2:7). He made lower than the angels so that he could suffer death (Hebrews 2:7, 9)! The immortal took on mortal frailty! See how he loves us!

Jesus described God’s love as that of a father. Matthew 7:7-11 is so revealing. God gives us all that we need just as a father gives his children all that they need! “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.” You surely love your children. How much more shall we know the loves of God toward us? Whatever our need, God always gives what is best! See how he loves us!

No parent wants to be separated from their children. Sometimes it is necessary but it is never desired. I suspect that most of us would love to have our children in the same town as which we live. We love them and we want them close. Jesus has promised to bring us all together into his home for eternity. “I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again…where I am, you may be also” (John 14:2, 3). Although apart from God briefly, we will be reunited with him soon (2 Corinthians 5:6-10).  It is Jesus who ensures that we can be reunited with him in heaven! See how he loves us!

The story of Jesus and his love for man in inexhaustible. Every page of Scripture abounds with evidence of his love for us. May we bask in the warmth of his love knowing that he has given all for us.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcomed.

The Last State of the Apostate

The most pitiful man in the world is one who, having known and obeyed the truth, turns from it and resumes a worldly life. Here is a man without excuse. He has placed himself away from God. Like the prodigal of Luke 15:11 ff, he has traveled into a far country where trouble and strife await. This lost soul has not been separated from God by others or even by Satan, but by his deliberate choice. How sad.

Consider four examples of those who have apostatized.

Apostate: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

This young man lived in comfort and plenty, yet he was unsatisfied. When he comes of age, he demands his share of the father’s estate. He sought freedom from his father not knowing that he would soon be bound to his own poverty and despair. Upon traveling to a far country, he finds himself befriended by unworthy scoundrels happy to spend his money. The money ran out, and so did the friends. Only then did the young man discover his own poor state.

It was at this moment he realized the error of his choices.

“How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger” (Luke 15:17)!

Despite his impoverished solitude, this young man enjoys the clarity of thought. He knew what he must do. He must go home! (Luke 15:18) He arose and found his father waiting for him. The father would not go with him into despair but waited for his return. When he returned, a joyous banquet awaited.

He chose to leave. It was up to him to choose to return.

Apostate: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)

A married couple entangled in the world. They saw the commendation of Barnabas when he sold land and gave the money to the church (Acts 4:36-37). Desiring the praise of men yet unwilling to part with worldly gain, they hatched a scheme to lie. Their story was simple: Sell a plot of land and give part of the money to the church. But they would lie by claiming they had given all the money from the sale. Now they could profit and receive praise.

Oh, the errors we make when we seek the praise of men and not Jesus! Oh, the errors we make when greed rules our lives! Pause and consider the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-10.

Both Ananias and Sapphira died immediately when confronted with their lies. These were among the first Christians. They saw the works of the apostles and may have even seen the risen Christ. Yet, they fell back and were lost because of their greed.

Apostate: The Once Enlightened (Hebrews 6:4-8)

The Hebrews writer envisions a Christian who falls. Notice the description in Hebrews 6:4, 5.

  • Enlightened
  • Tasted the Heavenly Gift
  • Shared in the Holy Spirit
  • Tasted the goodness of the word of God
  • Tasted the powers of the age to come.

Can anyone truly believe these were not Christians? They were! But more to our point, they fell away. They became crucifiers of Christ (Hebrews 6:6)!

What a contrast. From the light of His love to the darkness of sin. Truly, the one who knows the Lord and leaves him is pitiable.

Apostate: The Vomiting Dog (2 Peter 2:20-22)

Peter writes plainly in 2 Peter. In our present text, 2 Peter 2:20-22, he uses a grotesque illustration to make his point that a Christian who falls back into the world is a nauseating spectacle. We need not amplify his illustration of a sickened dog. We note that this describes the state of a person who once knew the truth and, later, rejected it.  If the illustration parallels man and dog, we would also see the parallel of sin and vomit. What a horrid though true thought.

Two additional phrases are worthy of our consider.

“the last state has become worse for them than the first” (vs. 21)

“it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness” (vs. 22)

How sad to think that there is a state worse than that of the alien sinner. There is a condition more damning than the ignorant heathen who has never known salvation. What can be worse than being lost? Being lost after you knew the truth. Being lost with the knowledge of what you turned your back on. We beg the weak and failing Christian to come home. Find strength for your travails in Christ and do not fall back into the world.

To the errant soul who has already left his Lord, we likewise plead. While there is breath left in your body, there is hope. Like the father of the prodigal son, Jesus stands looking for your return.


Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @J_Bryant_Evans.