Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006

I don't think I have ever celebrated a Christmas quite like this one. Tara went off to work. Dewayne and Christa are at home. John and Laura are in Luray or in Alabama--not sure which. Josh and Chara are with his folks in Colorado. Jackie and I are playing Christmas music and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. We each opened one gift, along with Tara. Our big day will be Saturday.

Having grown up in large families (six kids on each side) and having had no small household ourselves (4 children--add the in-laws and Haydn and we have ten. If we include the one in the oven--John and Laura's, that makes eleven), we felt strange to be alone for Christmas. After while, Tara will come back from work; and Dewayne and Christa will be over for the evening. Tara and I talked about going bowling. At noon, Jackie and I are volunteering to help serve at NHC, where Tara works. They are short one server for the noon meal. It will be fun.

Jackie made up a plate for Mr. Egolf, and I'll take it by later today. Mrs. Egolf died last spring. He is such a good friend to us; we miss her.

For many years we have traveled to Oklahoma for the holidays. We had some talk of it again this year, but things have changed for us this year. Home is now in Franklin, Tennessee, though there are pieces of our hearts forever given to our families back home.

I was really happy the Sooners won the Big-12 Championship this year and are playing in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale. It's not the national championship but we are playing an undefeated team in Boise State. BTW, if you want to know how great the Sooners really are, go to and check out the Quick Facts. OU holds eight #1 in the nation records, including the most points scored by any college football team ever. For those of you who don't know, my mother lives 1/2 mile from the OU campus in Norman. (I'm wearing my Sooners sweatshirt as I write this.)

What I wish for Christmas? I wish people would take a very long look at Jesus and care. I wish they would care morally, spiritually, and practically. I wish America could return to its gospel roots. I wish people would listen closely enough to God (instead of culture) that they would begin to worship Him rather than make themselves the focus. I wish people could make a distinction between worship and entertainment. I wish older people were more respected and less forgotten. I wish the ugly side of the internet would vanish. I wish the programming on television and at the movies were cleaned up morally. I wish everyone were truly Christian and truly set apart Christ as Lord in their hearts. I wish a nation that has told God to hush would open the ears and hearts to Him once again.

They are saying "Merry Christmas" at Wal-Mart again. For most of my life, we were people who didn't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but as a family one. The cultural battle to deject Christ from the American scene meant many stores were "Happy holidaying" rather than "Merry Christmasing." (You're not supposed to make verbs out of nouns, but I did.) I, for one, want to continue to help people understand that Christmas is a human tradition; but I also want people to think of Christ--at least for these few days. I want the Lord to be first in the hearts of everyone. Christianity is the best means for peace on earth. He is still the prince of peace. Through Him we have peace with God, with others, and with ourselves. There is no greater peace.

Well, these are my thoughts on a rainy morning in Franklin,

With love,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Greatest Need of our Nation

While doing some research for my next article in Think magazine, I ran across some material that I wish I could get into the hands of every responsible person in America. Patrick Fagan, a research fellow for the Heritage Foundation wrote a brilliant paper on the value of religion to America's well-being. He concludes:

A steady growing body of evidence from the social sciences demonstrates that regular religious practice benefits individuals, families, and communities, and thus the nation as a whole. The practice of religion improves health, academic achievement, and economic well-being and fosters self-control, self-esteem, empathy, and compassion.

Religious belief and practice can address many of the nation's most pressing social problems, some of which have reached serious levels (e.g., out-of-wedlock births and family dissolution). Research has linked the practice of religion to reductions in the incidence of divorce, crime, delinquency, drug and alcohol addiction, out-of-wedlock births [now at 4 of every ten, PDS], health problems, anxiety, and prejudice. Faith-based outreach has been uniquely effective in drug addiction rehabilitation and societal re-entry programs for prisoners. Furthermore, the effects of religious belief and practice are intergenerational and cumulative. In a sense, they compound the interest of our social capital.

The greatest need in our nation is simply a return to God and his Word. We must quit making it politically and socially correct to tell God to shut up and leave us alone. The answer to America's self-destruction is and has always been God. If I could get to the highest hill and could shout to America, I would tell them to come home to God. I would point them to the church! I would urge them to repent! I would tell them that God's Word and ways has the answer to their heart-aches. Jesus still gives rest to the soul...

I would urge every reader to take the time to read Fagan's paper. You can find it at:

Forgive the shameless plug, but I also hope you'll go to and subscribe to this remarkable magazine. Some of the dearest people I know work there, and they are trying to make a difference in our world. The magazine is celebrating its first anniversary in January and has already shown itself to be a success.

May God bless America again, and He will if America will allow Him into their lives.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When the answer is not an answer

A friend of mine in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is reporting the rest of the news about what is happening at North Richland Hills:

For those who are not in the D/FW metropolis and want to know what’s happening with congregations after the announcement in last week’s Christian Chronicle…

The North Richland Hills congregation is losing membership very quickly. There is another rather large congregation in the area that has nearly doubled in size since the announcement – this would account for several hundred members alone. Several other congregations also report that they are receiving members who are “finally fed up” with the direction of their former congregation. Not sure where the final numbers will work out, but the effect is sure to be felt. I’m not sure that this significant piece of news will make it into the Christian Chronicle or not.
There appear to be far fewer proponents of the instrument than some would lead us to believe.

People think that compromise and union with error will make our churches larger. Not always. What happens is that people who see the truth finally tire and leave. The progressives have pushed and pushed their postmodern agenda until they have driven off members who will no longer put up with their watered-down convictions.

Of course, some are reasoning that they had to get rid of the objectors in order to advance the cause of union with the Christian church. My, how disposable are their souls? Their love for the instrumentalists and "unity" seems to be greater than their respect for their own people who have convictions!

Loose religion attracts people who want a non-threatening faith, but it is difficult to get progressives to take a firm stand except against "traditionalists."

We have seen changes in Nashville as well. One group wanted change and shrunk from 3700 down to half that size. Another group with a progressive leader has shrunk from 2300 to 1400. This is the other side of this movement, often not noticed by those with the agenda for change.

Truth does matter; and before there can be real "unity," there must be a sanctification in the truth. The unity of John 17 was both relational and doctrinal. Can anyone seriously entertain the idea that Jesus in being one with His Father agreed to disagree but get along? Jesus said otherwise: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (John 7:16-17). I seriously doubt if those who have been prooftexting John 17 have taken enough time to look closely at it. The suggestion that we suspend doctrine and judgment in order to be unified is simply error.

Unity includes all of us agreeing with God doctrinally and relationally. You just cannot separate doctrine from relation (John 8:31-32). True disciples don't.

May the Lord help our broken and bleeding body to heal with truth and love.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Like Water on a Duck's Back

"When the wish is father to the thought correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back." (J. W. McGarvey, Short Essays on Biblical Criticism, p. 116).

I am dumbfounded at the lengths to which some will go in order to find permission to do what they desire to do. I recall a number of years ago a brother suggesting to me that polygamy is permissible today. Now, one cannot find a specific prohibitive of polygamy in the New Testament. Even the qualifications for the eldership seems to suggest that some men in those days had more than one wife (at the same time).

Most folks today who oppose polygamy do so from the positive statements of Scripture. Each man should have his own wife; each woman should have her own husband (1 Cor. 7:2). Husband and wife are in the singular. Remarriage after divorce is regarded as adulterous to the first spouse. This notion is built on the idea from the beginning of one-man-one-woman for a lifetime.

I am further amused today at the extent to which some go to defend sex with children, same-sex marriages, and polyamory (marriages of three or more--all married to the others). The cultural argument says that what the Bible condemned in the first century was for that culture but does not apply to us today. Whether it is the principle of silence or simply the authority of the Word itself, people will listen to culture and dismiss God when they want to follow their own impulses.

"When the wish becomes the father to the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back."

How did anybody ever get convinced of purgatory? Purgatory had some roots in the Apocrypha, but did not find a champion in Christianity for a few centuries. The doctrine suggests the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient to purge Christians sufficiently of their sins, so they had to go to a temporary hell-like purging till they were cleansed enough to enter heaven. This doctrine insults the blood of Christ, which is more powerful than our sins. Yet some hang on to purgatory. We can't find a specific prohibitive against belief in purgatory; what we do find is the positive teaching on the sufficiency of the sacrifice and on heaven and hell. We further learn about hades and paradise. The silence of the Scripture, in the light of a complete revelation, suggests that purgatory arose in the imaginations of men (cf. Jer. 23:16-40). We must use silence in some measure to argue against purgatory.

The Bible teaches about the sacrifice of Jesus, hades, Paradise, heaven and hell.
The Bible is the complete revelation of God's will for men.
The Bible does not contain any teaching on purgatory.
Therefore the teaching of purgatory must find its source in something other than the complete revelation of God's will for men.
Purgatory is a humanly devised notion.
To teach purgatory is presumptuous innovation and divisive. It is not of the truth and leads men into error.

If this is the case, why would people believe in purgatory? Because they heard someone they trusted and like teach on it. They did not bother to study it out for themselves. Once it became established, it was easier to accept than to question.

Sprinkling, infant baptism, instrumental music in worship, open membership, and so many other doctrines capture the minds of a crowd, and people think it strange to object to these innovations.

"When the wish becomes the father to the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back." McGarvey surely did know what he was talkin' about!


Monday, December 18, 2006

Mack Lyon and "In Search of the Lord's Way"

"In Search of the Lord's Way" with Mack Lyon remains one of the top three television ministries in the United States. Each week, Mack reaches out to 25-50 million people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not know of any other brother among who has such a national presence and who speaks so clearly and strongly as does Mack. Some twenty-six years ago, he began a work that touched every corner of this country and has gone into several nations.

His gentle nature, his refusal to ask for money, his fatherly wisdom, and his passion for morality and righteousness has endeared him to many within the Lord's church and without. Numerous people have left religious error to come to the truth, some have abandoned denominationalism, others have given up the instrument in worship, and everyone who hears has been blessed by his continued preaching of the truth in love. We thank God for him. Mack is in his very best days, and we pray God's continued blessing for much yet to be accomplished! His recent tract on the church has reached into the hands of tens of thousands of people since the program aired.

After my own father, Harley Sanders, died in 1985, Mack filled a hole in my life, for which I will always be thankful. He also offered an obscure, young preacher an opportunity to help him with some research. I will never forget the day he said to me, "Do you have anything that would be good for outsiders?" He offered a book of mine on worry, my first effort at writing. Mack gave me the privilege of viewing a taping of the program and of traveling occasionally with him. I have learned so much from this man of God. Mack knew how to make a difference in people's lives personally and over the air.

The best religious programs are preaching programs--they get the best ratings and make the most impact. For everyone who aspires to be a better media evangelist, they will not likely find a better model than Mack Lyon. I hope you listen to him each Sunday morning.

with fond affection,

Friday, December 15, 2006

Instrumental music one more time

My understanding is that the Richland Hills congregation in the metroplex of Dallas has now openly advertised a Saturday night service with the Lord's Supper and instrumental music.

The Christian Chronicle tells the story, so I won't. They studied the scholars on the subject for three years. What scholars did they study? Did they study all sides or the side they wanted? McGarvey noted that when the wish becomes the father of the practice, exegesis rolls off like water on a duck's back.

The arguments I have heard over the last few decades usually sound good until it is asked why the early church didn't get that point. Why didn't they understand what some supposed scholars now know.

Why didn't they feel free to use the instrument since Jesus felt it was okay to drink four cups of wine at the passover (ha!)? Why didn't the early church use the instrument since it was used in the temple? Why didn't the early church use it, since Psalm 87 speaks of it in prophecy? Why didn't the early church use it, since it is supposedly in heaven? How is it that the early church could have missed the long-touted psallo and psalmos arguments?

All these imaginative arguments fall flat. They are the dreams of people today who want the instrument, not the understanding of the early church that opposed the instruments.

If these scholars are so smart about the early church, why then didn't those common Christians of the first century (and succeeding centuries) not understand and apply the same?

If you would like to read a lengthy article on Music in NT worship, go to and follow the prompts to the bottom of the transcript page.

Just because some "big" and "popular" preachers and churches choose to do something foolish doesn't mean the rest of us should.


Friday, December 08, 2006

What Is the Truth about Islam?

I would point you to two books, which I think will be helpful in understanding where Islam is today and where they came from.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades
The Truth about Muhammad

Both of these books are by Robert Spencer and may be acquired at or at a local bookstore.

The Islamic faith is made up of many fanatics and extremists who wish to convert or enslave all infidels (people who do not believe Muhammad is a prophet or worship Allah). The Allah of Islam is not the Jehovah of the Bible. Muslims worship one God with one person, whereas Christians worship the one and only God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

While Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet, they deny that he is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, and that he arose from the dead. They believe the Bible is corrupt. They do not believe the gospel (Mk. 16:15-16).

Their desire is to establish a Caliphate over the whole world. Those who do not convert will be enslaved in dhimmitude or killed. They want the pot of gold, which is America.

This is their desire.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The threat of Islam

I hope and pray that each one reading this blog from time to time will note the extreme threat that the Islamic religion is posing not only to Israel and Europe but also to the American way of life.

Let me recommend two sites that will educate you and somewhat frighten you:

The Islamic community is telling us day after day they plan to wipe us off the face of the earth. They are raising their children today to hate Israelis and Americans. Christians are infidels, dogs, animals, pigs, urine, and many other despicable things in their eyes. They are committed forever to our destruction. We must not be foolish so as to think they will go away. We must not be Neville Chamberlains and follow the path of appeasement. They will never be appeased; their goal is total world domination for Sharia law.

I hope you will take some time to find the truth.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Status of Churches of Christ

Bobby Ross of the Christian Chronicle recently asked me to speak about the status of Churches of Christ today. Here is my opinion.

Churches of Christ today are a mixed bag, and I frequently hear stories of people who travel wanting to know what kind of congregation they will find at their destination. We should not be surprised that churches today differ, since they differed greatly even among the seven in Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3.

Some churches are growing well, and others are declining. Some have strong leaderships, and others are weak. Some are set in their ways, and others try every new thing that arises. Several people like to lump all churches of Christ in the same group and stereotype them; this is both dishonest and unfair. Some years ago I heard several make outlandish charges against the church. I realized there was probably a congregation somewhere like that; but you could drive down the road and find a congregation that wasn’t like that at all. Jesus did not lump the seven churches of Asia; He spoke to them individually. Some were good with open doors, some were lukewarm, and some were downright displeasing.

There are some predominant mindsets creating a wedge within churches of Christ, and fellowship is already limited if not completely disrupted. The postmodern, “progressive inclusivists” seem to me more interested in placating the public than pleasing the Lord. Far more than the instrument is involved; these churches are embracing a gospel without doctrine and a grace with no need for repentance. They are angry at and embarrassed with traditional churches of Christ. In their disdain, they highlight the abuses of traditionalists to justify their progressive agenda. They deny there are any rigid patterns in Scripture and so feel free to design their own Christianity, usually copied after the denominational groups around them. While a few of these churches seem to succeed, many of them have badly fallen in attendance.

There are others, over-scrupulous in their zeal, which thrive on the controversy that condemns others. They tend to bite and devour, sometimes each other. They have a tendency to make traditions into laws and judge others for not keeping their traditions. The harsh attitude within these churches often keep them small.

These two extremes among us love beating up on the mainstream, that group which is neither progressive nor over-scrupulous. The churches in the mainstream that love the truth, love people, and work hard are almost without exception growing. One church like this in Meridian, Idaho, has tripled in recent years. Churches like this in Dickson, Mount Juliet, and Woodbury, Tennessee, have been building larger auditoriums to hold everyone. I am not convinced that these brethren, who believe in the Restoration principle and teach with love, are going to vanish away in coming years. Many of them are filled with young people who know and love the truth. Many of them are quite involved in training preachers and in spiritually training their children. They believe the Word of God will produce what it has always produced—Christians. Many of these congregations are more interested in doing the Lord’s work than in the compromises of others. They are committed to New Testament Christianity. While no church is perfect, they still strive for it.

These are the churches that gave more than $30 million to Disaster Relief in Nashville, that train with Fishers of Men, and send their children to Bible Bowls. These are the churches that receive and answer calls from the mission fields and from the poor. These are the churches that haven’t thrown away their Bibles to listen to fluffy sermons; they do not have itching ears. They realized the Lord expects them to produce, and they are producing. May their number increase.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dealing with a Brother

I am happy to say that the newspaper article I read depicting a theologian willingness to compromise was not the case at all. Apparently the author of the article has misrepresented the brother. I feel confident from his own statements that he would agree with what I have written in my last post.

I wrote an email to him and received a kind response, for which I am grateful. In the case of the newspaper or my brother, I believe my brother. If the only evidence we have is the newspaper article, it is not enough. Apparently, the author of the article took a sincere question as rhetorical, when it was not, and misunderstood the lecture.

I am glad I asked the brother some questions. In time past, I have been written up by slanderous men, who did not bother to ask questions. Below is an article I wrote on the occasion of a good man being "written up" by a zealot.

Dealing with a Brother
By Phil Sanders
Gospel Advocate 2002

It happened again. Some zealots have decided to label a brother a “false teacher.” The evidence was slimly built upon ignorance, assumptions and misinformation. The accusers did little to substantiate the facts but relied upon rumors and hearsay. Nor did the accusers feel any need to contact the brother to find out the whole truth. Lately it has been open season upon many a faithful brother in the Lord. I am reminded of Solomon’s proverbs,

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword” (Prov. 12:18).

“The first to plead his case seems just,
Until another comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17)

“Do not go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, Lest he who hears it reproach you, And the evil report about you not pass away” (Prov. 25:8-10).

The assumption is that since the offense was not personal, and since the brother spoke publicly, he is fair game for public accusation and perhaps slander. Such men who speak out thus feel protected by the fact that a brother cannot sue them. They feel free to bite and devour others on the narrowest of pretext. They do not seem to ask whether the charge is either true or kind.

The justification for such speaking out normally falls upon the need to protect the flock. Certainly faithful gospel preachers will speak out against evil. I wonder, however, if the protectors ever thought about the souls of the people they ridicule and condemn. Even a brother who is deceived has a soul.

Let every one know that false teachers should be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17,18), that factious people should be rejected after a first and second admonition (Tit. 3:10-11), and that those who go beyond the teaching of Christ do not have God and must not be supported (2 John 9-11). But we should also realize that not every accused person is guilty.

I fear some of our brothers have been driven away from the Lord and the church by careless and hateful speaking. How tragic when hateful and crude speech drives away a brother who could be saved. A hateful representative of the truth has more than once driven a young man into the hands of a false but benevolent teacher. No one sleeps with a dog that bites.

To be sure, ravenous wolves must not fill any pulpit, classroom, or editor’s desk (Matt. 7:15-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). Yet there are some that are misunderstood or misquoted. There are others still who although good in heart are simply misinformed. Like Apollos they need an Aquila and Priscilla to take them aside and shown them the way of the Lord more perfectly (Acts 18:24-28). It never seems to occur to some brethren that a private discussion could help a brother. They have decided that “writing up” a brother is the best means of dealing with him.

The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23). Those who practice writing up a brother upon rumor and faulty evidence fail to show these characteristics toward their brother. Where is love? Where is peace? Where is patience? Where is kindness? Where is gentleness? Being “sound” in doctrine does not ensure being healthy in heart or practice.

The golden rule should apply between brethren. “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). I have often wondered how some sound brethren might feel if indeed a brother unjustly and publicly accused them of sin. I wonder how they might feel if they had been slandered in ignorance and judged without mercy.

Some have argued that there is no need to discuss a matter privately with a false teacher before “writing him up” publicly for all the church to know. I wonder how many “sound” brethren would like being treated that way. The Lord teaches us to treat others the way we wish to be treated. Writing up a brother before one clarifies an issue and before trying to make amends violates this principle. Paul commands, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning” (Tit. 3:10). In some cases, the “written-up” brother finds out about his admonition through a third party weeks later. Such behavior shows that the writer cares little about the soul of the one he has spoken against. Apparently the accusing writer feels exempt from the golden rule, since he has found an opportunity to accuse. Do we not owe it to our brother to talk to him before we talk about him?

The Pharisees sought to find fault and accuse Jesus with lies and half-truths. They likely felt victory in condemning righteous Jesus to a cross for blaspheming. They had no love for Jesus, though Jesus loved them. This, by the way, is one of the reasons the common people wanted to hear Jesus but cared nothing for the Pharisees (Luke 15:1,2; 18:9ff.). One unjust accuser who has labeled many brethren recently lamented that he had no friends. People don’t like to sleep with dogs that bite.

The Pharisees once accused Jesus of leading the people astray, but Nicodemus defended Him. The words of Nicodemus ought to sting the hearts of those who practice unfair accusation. “Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” (John 7:51). Every brother, because he is a brother, ought to have the right to be heard before he is labeled and condemned. Would a sound brother faced with a false accusation not wish to be heard before sentence is passed? Why then should we not offer this right to any brother? Unwillingness to hear a brother often drives a wedge deeper than the initial offense.

James reminds us, “So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12,13).

There can be no doubt that there is a time to judge, but let our judgments be according to the teaching of Jesus. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Find out the facts, let every word be established, and check with your brother to see if you have understood him correctly. You might be surprised that what you heard or assumed may not be completely right. A fact may be true but not the whole truth.

I fear that some have fallen into the trap of judging mercilessly on the basis of tradition rather than truth. Jesus taught against such. “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). One is not a Calvinist for simply quoting from the New International Version.

What do we owe our brothers with whom we differ? We owe them love (Rom. 13:8). We owe them a hearing (John 7:51). We owe them concern for their souls (2 Thess. 3:15). We owe them the fairness and respect we desire when we are accused (Matt. 7:12).

Let us talk to each other with patience before we talk about each other.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Jesus Is LORD!

Jesus is Lord, the Christ, the Son of God. That is the basic confession of all Christians (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 2:5-11). One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.

Not only is Jesus Lord, He is the Lord of lords, and the King of kings (Rev. 17:14). There is no other Lord; He is the one and only Lord (Eph. 4:4-6). Further there is no way one can go to heaven apart from Jesus (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12). Only His blood can free us from sin.

Jesus Himself gave us the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), wherein these truths are very clear:
1. He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18). There is no authority elsewhere apart from Him.
2. To disbelieve His gospel brings everlasting condemnation (Mk 16:16).
3. Disciples are to take the gospel to every creature.

Paul wished that everyone were a Christian (Acts 26:28-29), even King Agrippa who was a Jew.

What I have said is not suggesting that love does not play a part in our preaching and teaching (Eph. 4:15). Loving others does not mean selling out the cross, but with love preaching the cross of Christ. Preaching the cross is preaching love.

When I have read a theologian among us say that we should not try to bring all men into the kingdom of Christ, I cringe. I would that all men were in the kingdom of Christ. Indeed, if men are not in that kingdom, they are still in the domain of darkness (Acts 26:18-19; Col. 1:13-14).

Love warns the lost; it does not weakly pacify them. Love speaks the truth; it does not leave men believing a lie. Love for God means loyalty to him, not concession to the world. Let us be transformed from the world not conformed to it (Rom. 12:1-2).

Let us shine our light on the world and salt the earth with truth and love, not compromise and concession. Buy the truth, and do not sell it (Prov. 23:23); we aren't saved by jettisoning the gospel to pacify unbelievers.

my two cents,

Monday, November 27, 2006


What would make anybody get up at 4:15 and be at an overloaded parking lot by 5 AM? Jackie and I do it every year. Is it the bargains? Yes. Is it our loved ones? Yes. Is it the madness and the people? Yes.

Black Friday is probably the only day out of the year that I go shopping with Jackie for several hours. We accomplished filling much of our list in the six stores we visited. We slept late the next morning.

With a three-year-old grand-daughter, Christmas (yes, I said the word) will be much brighter this year.

We are at an odd time of life. We don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but as a family holiday. While we try to teach folks better about the pagan compromise and what the Bible actually says about the birth of Christ, we are not ready to give up saying "Merry Christmas" when we go into the stores. I weary of "happy holidays."

By the way, the transcript to the television program airing just before Christmas is about the Biblical importance of the birth of Christ. Go to to download the transcript to program 636. We have taped well into 2007.

On the night after Thanksgiving, we kept our tradition at the Sanders house of making home-made pizzas. MMMMmmmm, they were delicious. We forgot, however, the Christmas cheer (a non-alcoholic beverage from the Welch's company).

Thanks for all your kind wishes and expressions of love toward Jackie. She is at work today. Therapy is helping a lot, but her arm won't be full strength for some time.

If you haven't subscribed to Think Magazine from Focus Press, I hope you will do so. I'm working on the January article, "What Does the Future Hold?" I think you will find the article informative and challenging.

Nashville School of Preaching begins January 8. I will teach on Tueday evenings. My two courses for the spring semester include: Bible Geography and 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. Tuition is free, hope you will join us if you live in the Nashville area. For more information, go to:

Regions University is also gearing up for its spring semester. You can learn more about this leader in distance education by going to Look closely for the many courses in their catalog.

Keep me in your prayers, I need them.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Be thankful

The last several days have been quite eventful. Jackie, my lovely wife of 32 years, had successful surgery last week and is recovering nicely. She is a great blessing in my life. The Lord was so good to give her to me.

Monday, after warning Jackie not to go down the deck stairs behind the house, I went down the stairs and slipped. I have bruises on hip and leg, wrist and arm. I am blessed I didn't break my neck, end up in the hospital, or kill myself. How foolish! I knew there was ice on the deck and steps. I am still really sore from the bruising.

Last night, all ten of our family was home. First time in months we have all been together. Laura is expecting a baby in May. Haydn was so delightful. My three sons in law are such fine men. We are blessed to have them in the family. After four daughters and one grand-daughter, a female dog, and a female cat, it is nice to have a little masculine company.

My four lovely daughters are such a blessing and comfort. They were discussing how Jackie and I should get long-term health care and buy cemetery plots. You'd think we had a foot in the grave! They do care about our future. Tara was telling us how many people are struggling at this time due to the high cost of health care after retirement. The doctors told Jackie that 80 percent of health care costs come in the last year of life.

Life, over all, is much brighter than ever. Concord Rd. is growing weekly; Nashville School of Preaching is expanding; Regions University is a blessing; and the television program had its best month on record in October ( We tape two new programs Sunday evening. Think magazine and Spiritual Sword still ask me to write, and I have an article appearing in Gospel Advocate in coming days. (I also have an exciting bit of news to share when all things are confirmed.)

I am thankful for everything. Life is so full and rich. My family loves me. Jackie is more beautiful than ever. The Lord forgives me. The brethren still want me. I am so blessed. I am still healthy in body and mind.

I give God thanks. He is soooo good to me. I pray He is always blessing you.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Widening MIndsets

It should not surprise the sincere Christian who is more interested in serving the Lord than in enjoying the world that the world is, well..., worldly.

Paul's admonition in Romans 12:2 is perhaps needed more now than ever:

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Many in American society simply do not know God. The God they think they know is often not the God of the Bible; it is the God they prefer not the God that is. Warped views of grace, unrealistic and hypothetical theology, and imagined doctrines abound. I am reminded of the Paul's words to Colossae (that little town on the road to somewhere else):

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col. 2:6-8).

The world loves to tell Christians all their faults and to suggest they have something better to offer. If we let the world re-invent our churches, we are sold out to the world. We cease being servants of Christ. If we determine that worldliness attracts more souls than righteousness, we will be a mirror of the world not of the Word.

Some think if we offer forgiveness without expectations of change (better known as repentance), that we can be a hospital for the hurting saints. It doesn't work. You can attract people but you can't change lives that way.

Imagine with me a man in a car accident with a very broken leg. The man is hurting and desires relief from his pain. Can you imagine telling the doctor to just give him some strong pain medication to relieve the pain but not worry about setting the leg? Let's kill the pain for now! But you know what's next. Pain medication wears off. Unless the bone is set back into place, there will be no relief.

Even more ridiculous is the approach some take to broken souls. Telling people of God's forgiveness might kill the guilt, yes. But if the soul doesn't repent of its sin, the brokenness will remain. Being free from guilt (from a human perspective) is not the same as forgiveness (from God's perspective). Many a person who thinks he/she is free from guilt is nevertheless still bound in sin. The unconditional grace some are preaching today is a fantasy, not a fix.

Because several have beat this drum loudly (grace without repentance), many have bought into it. Having itching ears, they have sold out of a myth. They believe their pain can be taken away without the needed changes.

The mindset of "anything will do" is far from the mindset of a loving and obedient servant. To speak of loving obedience today will lead to accusations of "legalist" and "Pharisee" from the religionist open to the world. Amazingly, he is willing to sanctify everyone but the one who is committed to serve God with obedient love.

One who says baptism is only the immersion of a person old enough to believe and repent (the Biblical view) is considered bound up in a "human tradition," while the "open" person who allows infant sprinkling (a concept never found in Scripture) is somehow untouched by human "tradition."

One who only sings in worship (because that is all the Bible teaches) is considered bound up by human "tradition," while those "open" to the modern practice of using instruments in Christian worship (a practice never approved by the New Testament or by the early church) are somehow untouched by human "tradition."

One wonders how people can add unscriptural practices and yet claim to be more Scriptural in such matters than those who reamin with the Scriptural practices. Being "open" to the innovations demanded by culture is not more Biblical than listening to the instructions of the New Testament--whether in baptism or in worship.

Those on the broad road likely made fun of those who took the narrow road. They likely deceived themselves into thinking they were smarter (because most everyone joined them) than those unfortunate people who took the strait and narrow path. Every day each walks down their roads, the distance between them gets further.

Some are splitting the church in order not to be "open" and "non-judgmental." They are so fearful of setting the bone and correcting the break, they would rather fellowship the world than correct the error.

Jeremiah understood the pain of preaching to people who did not want to listen. I fear those who preach the truth today may face the same pain of watching the world take away the people of God.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Sand Theology

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27

24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

This pivotal passage at the end of the sermon on the mount demonstrates how Jesus spoke with authority. Jesus always highly prized his words. Note these passagses:
  • John 8:31 "abide in my words" truly disciples of mine ( love is not the only thing that determines one to be a disciple)
  • John 12:48 "rejects me and receives not my words" has a judge, the word I have spoken
  • Luke 9:26 whoever is "ashamed of Me and of My words," I will be ashamed
  • Matt. 24:35 my "words" will not pass away
  • John 6:63 the "words" I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
  • John 8:47 “He who is of God hears the words of God"
  • John 10:24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words"
  • John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

Jesus made a distinction between a wise man who heard his words and acted upon them and the foolish man who heard his words and did not act upon them. I used to think that the difference was between action and inaction, but both the wise and the foolish did something--they both built houses.

If we were to look at those houses, they would appear similar in many respects. Both were likely comfortable. The one on sand wouldn't last, no matter how lovely or comfortable. It may have hand several conveniences, but it did not please God.

People often fool themselves into thinking that what pleases them also pleases God. Unless one builds on rock, however, by listening to and heeding the words of Jesus, one is destined for a "great fall."

When I have taught a person the gospel of Jesus, that one is to believe, repent, confess Christ, and obey the Lord in baptism, I have taught what Jesus taught. Jesus said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16)

Faith + repentance + confession of Christ + baptism (Immersion in water) --> salvation

Some are taught

repentance + faith alone --> salvation and baptism comes later

Others are taught

sprinkled as infant --> salvation and faith and repentance later

Most of the time people see the difference between the first circumstance and the latter two. They realize that the first is built on rock, and the others are not.

The same might be said for the teaching about music in worship.

I can read in Scripture about the need to sing, about congregations singing from the hearts, giving praise and adoration to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15).

I cannot read anywhere in the New Testament where churches used instruments of music to praise God.

Now if the infant sprinkling and faith only doctrines are sand because they are not in the words of Jesus, why isn't adding the instrument also not sand?



Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hypothetical Theology

The Lord speaks with clarity in his commandments and instructions. Paul said that he wrote in such a way that when the Ephesians read, they could understand his insight (Eph. 3:4).

But men have the tendency to ask questions where there is no knowledge. “Did Adam have a belly button?” “How many rooms were on the ark?” “What does ‘baptism for the dead’ mean?” Questions are good when they lead us to grow and to test ourselves.

There are, however, questions some use to press the issue of “situational truth.” Situational truth is somewhat like situational ethics. It is truth tied to a situation. While situationists freely admit that the general truth is settled, they use the “situational” question in order to find a theological loophole. In a religiously pluralistic society, situational questions open the door to approve contradictory and unauthorized beliefs and practices.

One asks, “If a tree falls on a man who is on his way to the baptistery, will he still be saved?”

Asking such a hypothetical, situational question is usually designed to take away the force of such passages as Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; and Acts 22:16. The question is inherently divisive, for the question divides men in heart. Some, speaking from the heart, will say the man is saved. Others will recall the words of Jesus in John 3:5 that require baptism for entrance into the kingdom. The love of God is pitted against his righteousness. The heart often creates its own myopia.

The more serious problem arises when people take their preferred answer a step further. Their myopia turns into general truth that conflicts with the clear teaching of Scripture. They reason that if the man upon whom the tree falls is saved, then anyone can be saved apart from baptism. Now it is no longer "situational." The situational, hypothetical, answer becomes the new rule for all.

I am reminded of the conversation Jesus had with Peter on the shores of Galilee after his resurrection. He predicted Peter’s death. In John 21:21-22 So Peter seeing him (the apostle John) said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

Sometimes questions about others get in the way of our own obedience. The question for each of us is not so much what Jesus will do with others but whether we ourselves have become obedient to God’s will. Whether a person upon whom a tree falls is saved or lost will not make a difference in whether or not God requires baptism of me. I must answer the requirement for myself.

Now if I put off my own obedience to the gospel, appealing to a “tree falling” situation will hardly excuse me on the last day. If I teach that one is saved at the point of faith prior to baptism, appealing to the “tree falling” situation will not excuse the error of my false teaching. Why? Because rather than listening to what God has instructed, I am appealing to an assumed answer to a “situational” question to justify my behavior. Such a theological approach is suspect. It is sand theology, based on emotional judgments rather than the clear teaching of God. Testing of God’s grace is risky, far removed from “making our calling and election sure.”

The devil knew how to make a situation work for him. He used situational thinking to tempt Jesus.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt. 4:5-7)

If you can compose the situation, you can often manipulate the outcome you desire rather than accept the one God desires. You may think God (and others) don't notice, but this is mistaken. Jesus saw through the strategy of the devil, and so can we.

"Do you really think a godly person will be lost if he uses the instrument?"

David meant well when he sent the ox-cart for the ark of the covenant, but meaning well doesn't change error into obedience.
Nadab and Abihu meant well when they sought to offer incense, but meaning well doesn't change strange fire into authorized fire.
The Pharisees meant well when they scrupulously washed their hands according to the ritual, but meaning well doesn't turn a human tradition into a godly instruction.

Jesus did not argue against his Father with situational truth; nor did the Holy Spirit; and neither should we.

Hypothetical Theology is loophole religion, sand theology, designed to excuse rebellion and human religion.

Let's stay away from it.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nadab and Abihu

Before you read any further, I would like to suggest that you stop now, friend, and read Leviticus chapters 8 and 9--yes both chapters.

Okay, now that you have read these chapters. I want you to key in on the phrase:
"just as the LORD had commanded Moses." In various forms, you'll find the phrase found ten times in the two chapters, wherein God was dedicating the tabernacle.

Doing things right mattered. After offering sacrifices and preparing the tabernacle, Lev. 9:23-24 says:

Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This is the setting for Nadab and Abihu, who had worn the linen and offered the sacrifices "just as the Lord had commanded" for several days.

Their offering of "strange" fire (unauthorized fire in ESV and NIV), was something the Lord had not commanded. They thought that one up on their own and acted on their own initiative.

God's response was to consume them with fire--fire that came from the presence of the Lord.

The Lord said through Moses, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified (treated as holy, NASB), and before all the people I will be glorified.’

God took personal offense at the unauthorized offering. Offering something strange was treating Him as common, not holy. Their acting on of their own initative did not glorify God. They may have had good intentions; but God was not glorified by their doing their own thing.

Some folks who think telling this story amounts to legalism and who have made grace appear to allow presumption (which David calls great transgression in Psalm 19) point to Eleazar and Ithamar, who had lost their brothers.

In their grief, they did not eat the sin offering that day. Should they have? Yes. Did they? No, it burned uneaten. The blood was not brought into the holy place.

When Aaron explained, "When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?” Aaron realized that his heavy heart would not allow him to eat this offering with a proper heart. He felt it better not to eat than to render to God an inappropriate heart in his eating. This explanation seemed good in Moses' sight. No more was said about it.

God is certainly a God of compassion, mercy and grace; Moses aceepted the explanation. To find God's understanding in a time of great loss is understandable. To knowingly, willfully act without authority is quite another.

Does one example of grace open the door for presumption and disregard? Some make the mistake here of thinking that it is easier to get forgiveness than it is to obey; but such a view may be presumptuous. It is one thing to explain under some extreme circumstances why one cannot fulfill his duty; it is another to presume upon the grace of God.

Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Saul, Ahaz, and Uzziah all learned that one has no right to act without authorization.

Jeremiah spoke of some prophets who in their hearts were sure they were speaking for the Lord. "Thus saith the Lord..." was part of their prophecies. The only problem is that the Lord did not say those things. It never entered into God's mind to say those things. They dreamed them up--spoke from their own imagination. "They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD." “I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied." “Then as for the prophet or the priest or the people who say, ‘The oracle of the LORD,’ I will bring punishment upon that man and his household." (see Jer. 23:16-40) Acting without authority is dishonoring to God and exceedingly sinful.

Paul noted how some ate the Lord Supper unworthily (1 Cor. 11:23-32), not discerning the Lord's body and thus incurring judgment. Their hearts and minds did not focus on the Lord but on the fusses brewing over the behavior of their brothers. Some were weak and sick, many were spiritually asleep. God wanted right hearts with right action. I would think that it would be better not to partake at all than to partake unworthily--not honoring God and treating Christ as holy. This is more parallel to Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar than Nadab and Abihu. While Moses accepted Aaron's explanation, neither Moses nor Aaron expected this to be the case the next time they had a sin offering to sacrifice. It is one thing to forgive a diversion over extreme circumstances; it is another to act like God didn't care whether he was obeyed or not. The counsel of presuming on the grace of God couldn't be more destestable.

This is a different thing than presumptuously acting on one's own initiative. The difference is that in Nadab and Abihu's case, they acted without authority and innovated their own offering. They acted without a command at all. In the second situation, the brothers acted out of soorow, respecting the commandment so much that they would not eat with an improper heart.

Loophole religion, presuming we can continue to act where we have no authority, is sand theology. Those who counsel sand theology will see their house stand for a time; but the wind will blow and the rain will come. Their counsel will be so regretted. Sand theology is thinking I can do whatever I please and face no consequences. Sad, sad.

Grace ought to lead us to listen and build on a rock, to love enough to heed. Grace builds faith and careful desire to please--not presumptuous innovation. We must not presume upon grace and try the Lord.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Jesus and the Father

In discussing Jesus and the silence of the Scriptures, one must have not only an understanding of what the Law itself asks of those who are under the Law, but also how Jesus has treated that Law.

The Scriptures assert without exception the sinlessness of Jesus (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:21-24). Had Jesus sinned, He could not have been the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

As one studies through the Law of Moses, especially as Moses reviews in the book of Deuteronomy, one is easily and often struck with the conscientiousness demanded of those who are in the covenant God made at Sinai. Jesus was a Jew and lived his entire earthly life under that covenant. The concept of keeping the law carefully is found some 27 times (NASB; 31 times in the NIV) in the book of Deuteronomy alone. That concept can also be seen in Joshua and frequently in the assessment of the Jewish kings in Kings and Chronicles. Careful obedience to the Law was extremely important. If your God told you something that many times, you would conclude that He meant it.

The object of the stipulations in the covenant was the maintenance of a true and living relationship with the Lord of the covenant. “To break the commandments was to disrupt the relationship of love; when there was no love there could be no covenant.”[i] One kept the commandments carefully as a means of showing loving commitment and pure devotion to Yahweh. Walter C. Kaiser noted that the “ancient mind fastened on the outward acts revealing the inward state, while the modern mind goes directly to the internal condition.”[ii] Modern man tends to focus on merely the feelings of devotion and ignore the form; yet the Scriptures do not adopt such a position. Whether one follows the form reveals whether one has the appropriate internal condition.
[i]Craigie, pp. 42,43.

[ii]Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Academie Books, 1978), p. 112, quoting G. A. Cooke, "The Book of Ezekiel," in International Critical
Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1967), p. 199.

In Deuteronomy, careful obedience and loving obedience are closely linked with fearing God, a major theme. Carefulness showed love and reverence. There was none of this notion that reverent obedience was loveless or that loving obedience could be careless or presumptuous. These concepts are often blended in the same commandments and exhortations.

Gunther Warnke further describes the use of the term yare’ in Deuteronomy in his study of phobeo in the LXX:[1]
In Deuteronomic and Deuteronomic lit., esp. Dt. itself, “to fear God” occurs in a series of formulae which demand piety orientated to the Deuteronomic Law. Fearing God can be a result of hearing and learning God’s Word, Dt. 4:10, or keeping the commandments of Yahweh, 8:6, but it can also be equated with the demand to hear Yahweh’s voice, 13:5, or to serve Yahweh, 6:13; 10:12,20; 13:5; or to tread His way, 8:6, etc., so that this fear is not just demanded but can also be learned as a statute or commandment, Dt. 14:22f.; 17:19. The combining of two other words with “fear,” namely “to love” and “to cling to,” Dt. 10:12,20; 13:5, makes possible a broader understanding of the content of fearing God, esp. since what is said about yare’ applies to “loving” and “clinging,” and the terms are more or less interchangeable. Since, however, the norms of the conduct to God and man described by these words can be expressed in the Law, fearing God along with loving God is not just a basic attitude but amounts to the observance of moral and cultic demands.
[1]Gunther Warnke, "phobeo," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffry Bromiley, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), IX:201.

The concept of carefulness is derived from the Hebrew verb, shamar, which is found 44 times in Deuteronomy. John E. Hartley in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes the term:
The basic idea of the root is “to exercise great care over.” This meaning can be seen to underlie the various semantic modifications seen in the verb: In combination with other verbs the meaning is “do carefully or diligently.” Deut. 11:32, “Be careful (i.e., perform carefully) all the statutes and ordinances,” and in Num. 23:12, “speak carefully and faithfully.”
Secondly it expresses the careful attention to be paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws, statutes, etc.[i]
[i]John E. Hartley, "shamar," TWOT II:939.

The careful, conscientious, observance of the laws was an attitude Israel was to manifest in the actual doing of the commandments, statutes and ordinances. It was not considered legalism but loving to be zealous in keeping the laws. The words of the law were to be pressed upon their hearts.[i] Careful obedience in the context of loving God is emphasized in 6:3-5; 11:22; 30:15,16. One should be careful not to confuse the conscientious observance of the Law with the over-scrupulous abuses of the hypocrites of the New Testament.[ii] “Carefulness” is not a license for self-made religion or innovative legislation. Carefulness does all that an ordinance requires and does not assume that it can add new requirements.
[i]Taking the commandments to "heart" is commanded four times in Deuteronomy: 4:39,40; 6:5-9; 11:18; 32:46. The word "heart" is found 46 times in Deuteronomy. The phrase "with all your heart" occurs nine times: 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2,6,10.

[ii]Notice Jesus’ opposition to the hypocrisy of the Jews, who manipulated Scripture and whose hearts were far from God (Matt. 15:1-14).

Two other concepts come out of Deuteronomy: first, there is a need to keep all the commandments (32 times emphasized in the book).

Second, there is the concept Moses emphasizes remarkably well--the need for accuracy in one's obedience to God. The vocabulary of Deuteronomy also shows that God expected His people to act just “as the Lord commanded.” The Pentateuch uses the phrase 69 times, 12 of which are in commandments. The remaining 57 uses are confirmations that the people of God did as they were instructed.[1] Moses instructs the people seven times in Deuteronomy to do “just as the Lord commanded.”[2] This persistent emphasis on precision can be seen in Deut. 24:8:
In cases of a skin affection be most careful to do exactly as the levitical priests instruct you. Take care to do as I have commanded them.
The English Standard Version here says, “As I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do.” The emphasis on keeping the specific details carefully and exactly must not be overlooked when one considers the kind of response God desires from His people. Moses had already instructed the priests how to respond to leprosy in Leviticus 13-14. His later instruction in Deuteronomy was to exhort the people to “diligently observe” the legislation already in existence.[3] Once given, the consistent teaching of Scripture is to fulfill faithfully and accurately what has already been taught. It is significant that Jesus in cleansing the leper counseled them to show themselves to the priest and to make an offering as a testimony to them, “just as Moses commanded.”[4]
Another significant phrase arises in acting “according to” the instruction, commandment, ordinance, statute or word of the Lord. This phrase is found 43 times in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.[5] Deut. 17:9-11 demonstrates the covenantal precision God desires from Israel:
When they have announced to you the verdict in the case, you shall carry out the verdict that is announced to you from that place that the Lord chose, observing scrupulously all their instructions to you. You shall act in accordance with the instructions given you and the ruling handed down to you; you must not deviate from the verdict that they announce to you either to the right or to the left.
Carefulness and accuracy in keeping the verdict of the priests was crucially important. Disregarding that instruction demonstrated a presumption that carried the death penalty (17:12,13). If the presumptuous disregard for human verdicts carried a death penalty, how much greater offense in God’s eyes was the presumptuous disregard for His own statutes and laws.
The phrase describing going “to the right or to the left” is found five times in Deuteronomy and is built upon the example of Israel’s promise to King Sihon of Heshbon to “keep strictly to the highway, turning off neither to the right or to the left.”[6] Four times Moses exhorts the people to stay within the revealed commandment in order to avoid entanglement with idolatry.[7] The people could not survive on the land should they forsake God by deviation:
Be careful, then, to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. Do not turn aside to the right or to the left: follow only the path that the Lord your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you, and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess. (5:29,30 JPS or Tanakh)
God has never permitted deviation from His revealed will.[viii] He expects those who follow Him to conscientiously follow the strait and narrow way (Matt. 7:13-14). Other phrases that attest this same concept include “walk in His ways,”[ix] “turn from the way,”[x] and “turn aside from the commandment.”[xi]
[1]Ex. 7:6,10,20; 12:28,50; 16:34; 34:4; 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31,43; 40:19,21,23,25,27,29,32; Lev. 8:4,5,9,13,17,21,29,31; 9:7,10,21; 16:34; 24:23; Num. 1:19; 2:33; 3:16,42,51; 36:10; Deut. 1:19; 6:25; 10:5; 34:9. In addition to the phrase "just as the Lord commanded," are the confirming statements "so they did": Ex 7:10; 12:28; 16:34; 39:43; Lev. 16:34; Num. 1:19; 8:20,22; 9:5; 17:11; 20:9; and "thus they did": Ex. 7:6; 29:35; Lev. 8:36; 24:23; Num. 1:54; 2:34; 17:11. See also Lev. 8:36; 9:16; 10:7.

[2]Deut. 4:5; 5:12,16,32; 12:21; 20:17; 24:8. Other Penteteuchal passages include Ex. 29:35; 34:18; Lev. 10:15,18; Num. 26:4.

[3]Craigie, Deuteronomy, p. 308.

[4]Luke 5:14. Cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:44.

[5]Ex. 17:1; 29:35; 31:11; 36:1; 38:21; 39:32,42; 40:16; Lev. 5:10; 9:16; 10:7; Num. 1:54; 2:34; 3:16; 4:37,41,45,49; 8:20; 9:3,5,12,14,20,23; 10:13; 15:24; 29:18,21,24,27,30,33,37,40; 36:5; Deut. 1:3; 17:11; 24:8; 26:13,14; 30:2; 31:5. See also Josh. 1:7,8.

[6]Deut. 2:27; 5:32; 17:11,20; 28:14. See also Josh. 1:7; 23:6,7; 2 Sam. 14:19; 2 Kings 22:2; Prov. 4:26,27; Isa. 30:18-22; 2 Pet. 2:15; Matt. 7:13,14; Luke 13:23,24. Cf. Wilhelm Michaelis, "hodos," TDNT V:42-114, esp. 51,52.

[7]Craigie, p. 338.

[viii]Some think they have found an exception to this principle in Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Chron. 30:18-19, "May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary (NASB)." While the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people, one should not presume that the people of Israel could continue with their disobedience. Because Hezekiah prayed, God pardoned. “Pardon” implies the presence of sin. Continued presuming upon the grace of God to cover acting outside the rules leads to the loss of any blessing. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27 NASB).

[ix]Deut. 5:33 (NIV); 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 13:5; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.

[x]Deut. 9:12,16; 11:28; 31:29 (in association with idolatry).

[xi]Deut. 17:20

To suggest that Jesus lived under the covenant in any other way than lovingly, reverently, carefully, completely, and accurately is to accuse Him of sin. I dare not.

Where does Jesus fit in all this:

Jesus said something that was very important on the night of the Passover. Hear thes words from John 14:31: "but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here." (NASB, cf. ESV, GWT and NIV) A closer examination of these words in Greek, show their close ties to Deuteronomic phrases found in the LXX: "just as the Father commands, even so I do."

Jesus showed this same scrupulousness in John 12:48-50, and I am thankful that he did. Had Jesus not carefully, accurately, lovingly, and completely revealed the truth of God's will and teaching for our lives, we might well live in confusion.

Jesus never acted outside the will of His Father. Jesus never acted on his own authority or initiative. Jesus always did that which was pleasing to the Father (John 8:28-29).

To suggest then, that Jesus set aside all of this and followed Rabbinic traditions that nullified the word of God is to assume, no to presume, too much.

The weakness of the wine argument is that one must take extra-Biblical understandings from suspect Rabbinic writings (even Edersheim admits that it is difficult to know how much of the tradition was practiced in the days of Jesus). This understanding also assumes that all the "people of the land" worshiped like the most scrupulous Pharisees. It further ignores the strong stance the Lord himself took against humanly-devised traditions (the traidition of the elders in Matthew 15:1-14).

One can be very logical if one is able to set the terms leading to the conclusion. The problem is that one must read the Rabbinic writings into the premises to come out with the conclusion that Jesus drank four cups of wine. Such eisegesis, reading into the text what is not there, will always lead to whatever the author wants to be the conclusion. The problem, however, is that the conclusion may not be true, because the premises are not true. The premises are altered with assumptions. If the premises are not true, the conclusion will be false and the argument invalid. Such is the case here.

If anyone would like a copy of my paper "Reponse Hermeneutics," dealing with obedience in Deuteronomy, please send me an email:

I will also send this to so that it can be posted.

I hope this little study is helpful to you.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Postmodern Mindset

When the postmodernist, who is so involved with openness and new mindsets, is called into question, he often responds with condemnation. He can be angrey and cruel. He believes that anyone who calls his unwillingness to judge into question has himself broken the great taboo of our time: judgmentalism. It is interesting that the postmodernist feels quite self-assured that his condemnation of those who speak out against sin is fully justified. It never occurs to the postmodernist that he assumes the right to do the very thing he is so against.

Nor does the postmodernist realize that by dismissing firm convictions, he is himself severing the body. It is truth in the gospel that holds us together. When that truth is treated as if it were optional and an accommodation to the times rushes in with disrespect to God's holy instructions, then he has created the wedge that splits the log. Faithful Christians who love God and his word grieve at the humanly devised forms of worship now seemingly thrust upon us. We are told tht we shall lose out, that we cannot grow if indeed we do not rid ourselves of CENI. We are told that if we object to the progressives, we are crude and dull-witted. We should not call people back to restore New Testament Christianity, we ought to open up to all the new forms of Christianity without question.

For our part, we shall remain with the teaching of Jesus, which also identifies us as disciples and gives us true freedom (John 8:31-32).

Jesus was killed for speaking out against the abuses of the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees.

A close study of the epistles Paul wrote to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Corinthians shows his heartache at the false apostles and the Judaizers who perverted the gospel of Christ in order to bind their human traditions on the Gentile Christians. They said all kinds of unkind things in opposition to Paul.

If we alienate for speaking the truth, then we are not alone (John 6:60-66; Gal. 4:16).

for the cause of truth and righteousness,

Spineless Urijah

Ahaz was a wicked king of Judah. He offered his son in the fire. "And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree" (2 Kings 16:1-4). Rezin and Pekah challenged him in war, besieging Jerusalem. Rather than call on God, as Isaiah encouraged him, he summoned help from to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria. Ahaz gave temple treasures to Tiglath and promised servitude. Tiglath came to the rescue, and God was forgotten.

Ahaz went up to Damascus to see Tiglath. While he was there Ahaz saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded. (2 Kings 16:10-16 ESV. Note that the NASB uses Urijah, while ESV uses Uriah.) Here is an addition, plain and simple, unauthorized, presumptuous, and exceedingly sinful.

Ahaz was wicked; Urijah knew his wickedness. When the king ordered a new altar and set aside God's bronze altar, spineless priest Urijah went right along with him. The king was wicked, but the priest should have known better and should have maintained the integrity of the temple. He could have said no the Ahaz; he never even lifted his voice in protest to the shameless altar of Ahaz.

There is another priest, whom we can respect and should imitate his faith.

When Uzziah became strong and his heart proud, he acted corruptly and was unfaithful to the Lord his God, " for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.” But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense. Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him. King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD" (2 Chron. 26:16-21).

Azariah was God's man and a faithful priest; Urijah the priest cowardly gave in Ahaz's self-made religion. He was perhaps more unfaithful to God than Ahaz, because he never lifted his voice against the sin. Whether you sacrifice on your own initiative or you add your own altar or add an instrument, you become unfaithful. When you are unwilling to speak against sin and presumption, you become just as guilty. Are you an Azariah or a Urijah?

Oh, by the way, Hezekiah cleansed the temple of Ahaz's unclean things (2 Chron. 29:5-13) and restored the utensils that Ahaz threw out. I wonder if indeed there are some things today that ought to be thrown out of God's holy place. Hezekiah and Azariah showed faithfulness by saying no to self-made religion.

for more see:



Friday, October 13, 2006

More on Roast Lamb

Wolves work in packs. Since my response to my critic, he has sent all kinds of people out of the woodwork to trouble me. First, he called me a legalist. (is that an ad hominem argument?) When I responded that he wanted to introduce the instrument, he explained, "Indeed, my own personal preference, and I have asserted this repeatedly over the years, is for a cappella expressions of praise and devotion. I have no desire whatsoever to introduce instrumental accompaniment into the church; nor do I have any desire whatsoever to condemn those who choose to use it."

Here is an example of postmodern thinking: "I prefer my way but won't condemn those who prefer otherwise." Ted Kennedy says he opposes abortion but won't condemn a woman who chooses to abort. Hmmm?

Myself, I don't think the subject is up for preferences. Jesus is King and Lord; only He has the right to "prefer." The church is not a democracy. You and I don't have a vote. The unanimous evidence of Jesus, the church, and the Scriptures supports only a cappella singing. There is no evidence for instruments of music in our worship of God.

There is as much Scriptural support for instrumental music in worship as there is using roast lamb in the Lord's Supper. One might argue like some, "Now roast lamb was present when the LS was instituted. Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Wouldn't eating roast lamb touch our hearts and remind us of what Jesus did for us? I like roast lamb. I could draw closer to God eating roast lamb in addition to the bread and cup."

All the above arguments don't matter. Jesus did not command us to eat roast lamb in the Lord's Supper, and we have no example of the church using lamb in the Supper. Further, there is no implication in Scripture that they used lamb to remember the body and blood of the Lord.

If we granted the four cups of wine argument, we could also allow in roast lamb. We could allow in purgatory, polygamy, gambling, a clerical priesthood, a pope, and many other things on the same grounds. We could open the door to self-made religion completely, because silence doesn't prohibit anything--according to some.

Saul felt free to offer a sacrifice at Gilgal. He also felt free to offer up sacrifices instead of utterly destroying the Amalakites animals. Self-made religion.

Ahaz felt free to build an altar and move God's altar to the side. Urijah the priest apparently didn't condemn it, because he built it for Ahaz. Hezekiah tore it down and removed all the unclean things Ahaz brought into the temple.

Jesus opposed self-made religion and the traditions of men. He knew that humanly-devised worship practices would be uprooted (Matt. 15:1-14). As far as his own life, Jesus never acted on his own authority but always did the will of the Father (John 5:17, 30; 8:28-32; 12:48-50; 14:31). To suggest that Jesus used wine to fulfill the instructions of the Passover is to deny what Jesus said he would not do.

Quoting Rabbinc literature is not helpful here, since Jesus did not live his life according to Rabbinic teaching. He taught that obeying the teachings of men rendered worship vain.

Jesus used the fruit of the vine in his instituting the Lord's Supper. That is why it was there! That is where the fruit of the vine takes on religious significance. It reminds us of his blood shed for our sins. Jesus used this cup in fulfillment of His Father's instructions for the new covenant and the new kingdom, not as a means of fulfilling the Passover.

The presence of the wine is incidental, since Jews had wine at their formal meals. They also had plates and bowls, tables and cushions. None of this has anything to do with Exodus 12; it has everything to do with eating a meal.

Now, where is the specific evidence that Jesus himself states he is using the cup to observe the Passover? Don't quote Rabbinic tradition. Jesus didn't live by that.

Having wine at the feast is no different than my having a glass of water at the pulpit. Now who would suggest that the glass of water is a means to worship God? No one. What is the water for? To keep my throat from drying out. Just because they had fruit of the wine present doesn't mean they considered it as a means of fulfilling the passover meal. Most people can see the difference between an incidental and an addition. Apparently, others don't or won't.

Using instruments of music in the worship of the church is an unwarranted, unauthorized, humanly devised act. It is presumptuous and goes beyond the teaching of Scripture. To suggest that Jesus practiced anything humanly-devised, when the Scriptures condemn such presumption is to suggest that Jesus did not obey the Father's will. I would hate to be guilty of saying such a thing about my Lord.

The hermeneutic of staying with the word and not going beyond is clear in Scripture. Jesus practiced this hermeneutic. So should we.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Roast Lamb and Four Cups of Wine

Apparently my article in the October 2006 issue of the Spiritual Sword struck a nerve with some who are sold on getting the instrument into the church and who oppose the idea of prohibitive silence. One brother has challenged me personally to answer his hobby argument.

For some time he has talked loud and long about the four cups of wine that were compulsory for Jews to drink at the Passover feast. That Jesus drank fruit of the vine at the Feast is undeniable (Matt. 26:28-29). Jesus used this cup to commemorate his blood, which was shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Whether it was COMPULSORY for Jesus to drink FOUR cups of wine at the Passover feast is, however, an assumption. Hastings Dictionary, Edershem and ISBE can tell you what they discovered in the Rabbinic tradition. They can tell you how the Jews in Jesus day observed the Passover, but Jesus was not a Pharisee. We have no reason to believe that Jesus bound himself in the traditions of the Rabbis.

Matthew 15:1-14 makes it very clear that Jesus did not bind himself with the self-made religion of the Pharisees in the hand-washing ritual. Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath did not give in to their human, legalistic laws related the Sabbath. Jesus was hated by the Pharisees because he refused to play their legalistic games. Interestingly, our critic in order to promote his views of silence makes Jesus subject to their legalism. There is no evidence that Jesus lived by the oral torah or Jewish Rabbinic tradition. All evidence points to his opposition to their presumptuous practices. He condemned their kind of judging.

The critic of the recent Spiritual Sword issue has called its authors "legalistic patternists." While I readily agree that the Lord has given us patterns for the church in our worship, I do not regard listening to and obeying the Lord (without adding to or taking away from his instructions) as legalism. Obedience is not legalism; legalism is making one's own laws and binding them on others as the Pharissees did.

The Pharisees were involved in going beyond the instructions to make their own laws and rituals. Like the critic of the Spiritual Sword issue, they felt free to press everyone into their own mold of self-made religion and attack others who do not agree with them.

Why was wine present at the Passover? Was it to fulfill the traditions? Was it compulsory for Jesus to drink Four Cups of Wine? Perhaps it is helpful to see a completely different side of things that is far more realistic.

The Jews who made drinking wine compulsory to observe the Passover were wrong to do so. They were binding their practices. Jesus knew what the command of Exodus 12 was.

But having a beverage to drink at a formal meal, a beverage that did not have a religious significance is no different than having lights or having cushions. Jews had wine at every formal meal, just like they had plates and bowls.

As far as the situation with Jesus and the disciples observing this Passover, Jesus is the one who gives religious significance to the wine. There is no evidence that he is drinking it in order to fulfill Rabbinic tradition. There is no evidence that Jesus gave any religious significance to the Passover wine. What he spoke about was related to his death--not the Passover.

By the way, Jews normally reclined at every formal meal. They ate in haste in Exodus with the idea of leaving the next morning. The disciples at the Passover weren't leaving on a journey.

When this critic can show that Jesus was caught up in Rabbinic tradition, he may have something to say. As it is, all he can do is talk about the way Jews engaged in man-made traditions. Jesus in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 understood Isaiah:

And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

Jesus separated traditions of men from the word of God. He did not confuse them.

for the truth,


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

God's Answers to Life's Questions

"God's Answers" is the television program offered by Concord Rd. and airing in the Nashville, Tennessee market. The program has a potential audience of 2.5 million and shows throughout middle-Tennessee on cable television. It also shows to many of my friends in south-central Kentucky.

Can you help? We have an opportunity to enlarge our broadcast to the Knoxville market. It will cost us about $12,000 to do so. We need to raise the funds in order to do this. Concord Rd. is paying for the production costs and airing in Nashville by itself. We need your help to expand. If we raise an additional $12,000 we can expand also into the Louisville, KY, market. We need your help to get the gospel out. This money will allow us to air the program weekly for a year!

Will you help us sow the seed of the Kingdom?

If you have seen the program and would like to view it, you can see it or download transcripts at this web address:

As you think of budgets and gifts and opportunities, don't overlook this marvelous opportunity to get the gospel out to millions.

If you would like more information about this, please email me at

Thanks and God bless,

The Book Seeking True Unity is Ready!

If you would like to have a copy of this book, you can order one at:

You might also see some of my articles there. I hope you will order the book and read it thoroughly. It has five lessons and is designed for use in a class.

I am so honored to be linked with my brethren on this project:

Dale Jenkins, Jeff A. Jenkins, Steve Higginbotham, Mike Green and Mike Baker

I also thank the elders of the Horse Cave Church of Christ in Horse Cave, KY, for their generous support of this project!

May God bless these brothers who love the truth and love the Lord Jesus Christ and the real unity for which He prayed.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Unity for Which Christ Prayed

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

The Lord Jesus prayed for unity among His people. The kind of unity Jesus desires for us is the kind of unity that He had with His Father. Such unity is necessary to persuade a lost and dying world that Jesus is sent from the Father.
When Christians divide over doctrine, they reveal to the world they are not one with the Father and Son. It is difficult to appeal to the world, when brethren cannot agree with each other. When the world outside of Christ sees 600 major denominations and thousands of independent community churches, it must be a stumbling block to their faith. They don’t know what to believe.
Jesus, however, did not pray for unity in spite of a diversity of doctrine, because of two things. First, before Jesus prayed for unity, he prayed that his disciples would be “sanctified in the truth” (John 17:17). Being set apart in the truth is what unites us; it is essential. The Lord Jesus has always wanted His people to agree, to be of the same mind and the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10-13). When people began departing from the truth, they were to be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17-18) so they would not cause further division.
Second, the unity which Jesus desires for us is the same unity which He had with the Father. Jesus remained unified with the will of the Father throughout his ministry, even to the point of death on a cross. He sought always to do the will of the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 8:28-32; 14:31). We too must yield our souls to the Father and say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). To suggest that Jesus believed in a diverse doctrine from the Father is to distort the truth. Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:49-50).
When people today pray for unity with others who hold doctrines that are “outside the truth,” they are actually praying something very different from Jesus’ prayer. Jesus would never pray for unity without truth, because Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37) and identifies Himself as the truth (14:6). To unite the truth with a lie is to deceive not harmonize. May God help us to find unity within the truth, not in spite of it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Some style themselves as "progressive." I must ask,
"When you get to where you're going to,
just where then will you be?"

There are some among us who style themselves as progressive. They believe they have something better to offer than the "traditional" churches of Christ they criticize. They have often suggested that traditional churches cannot grow and are "graveyard" churches. They have used the old you-will-die-if-you-don't-change argument to justify doing whatever it is they want to see happen.

Adolph Hitler said, "If you tell a lie long enough, loud enough, and often enough, the people will believe it. The secret to get someone to believe a lie is constant repetition. Just tell it over, and over, and over again."

In the nineteenth century, in the midst of the industrial revolution, some self-styled progressives thought that that since progress was being made in education, in science, in daily life, then the church is going to have to keep up or perish. They believed we were going to have to keep up with the times in our musical worship or we'll lose all our young people. More than eighty percent of our churches bought into that notion, but some didn't.

More recently we heard that if we don't give our young ladies a more vital role in the church, we will lose them to churches that will. Yes, we will and have lost some. Bored with the system as it is, they believe that the traditional churches somehow shortchanged us by not letting us use instruments, by not letting our women lead us in worship, and by not preaching enough grace.

Some didn't change with the times; and, interestingly, their churches didn't die. In fact, those who stuck by their convictions grew much faster and multiplied much more than those who "progressively" practiced accommodation to the times. The conviction of those who held fast led them to work hard for the Lord, and the Lord gave the increase. Those who accommodated sought for religious acceptability. When they finally found it, they looked so much like everyone else that they found little reason for existence. The very thing they feared (dying) they brought upon themselves by weakening with accommodation rather than by strengthening with conviction.

In more recent days we have seen some progressives who were so convinced that the traditional churches of Christ were so narrow they couldn't grow keep moving past the progressive congregations to the community churches. If the truth be known, many of our most "progressive" preachers have now poisoned their own children to the truth and led them to leave churches of Christ altogether for a denominational or community church home. Such men did not bring about the change in churches of Christ they sought. What they did was shipwreck the faith of those whom they taugtht.

When I think of the agenda of many progressives today, I wonder what is really new about what they are offering.

Instrumental music? No, it has been around for centuries (and some who have it found it wasn't all that great and are longing for a simpler, more reverent, way to express their hearts).

Choirs? Those started more than a thousand years ago. Many churches who have them have people in the pews who don't sing much, and the people up in the choir constantly seem to compete to be noticed. Choirs have caused a lot of friction. When churches have choirs, folks get far more concerned with the quality of the music than the quality of the worship. The focus settles more on how good "we" sound than how great God is.

Grace? Many progressives flirt with an ill-defined grace that has little need for repentance or for obedience to the will of God. What they offer is little different than the hard-core Calvinist that removes any responsibility for righteousness from men and puts it all upon God. God will save you in your ignorance, so there is no need to listen and obey. And if you made a mistake, just pray up; God will excuse your disobedience. This too is not a new notion. It is as old as time and just as foolish as it ever was. Progressive grace is grace without repentance--it is an old lie that we can presume upon the grace of God.

When progressives get to where they are going to, where will they be? They will have created a bad imitation of a tired denomination.

The restoration leaders sought to lead us out of the digression of man-made religion. There is no real progress in returning to the very things our fathers left. It is delusional to repaint old error with new names and think we have somehow "progressed."

One last note: people can progress too much. They can progress to the point that they lose their identity and the blessing of God. The gnostic anti-christs of old did just that; and people who want to remake Christianity in their own image today can make the same mistake.

John said, "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). The word "goes on ahead" is "proagon," and is much akin to our word 'progress.' While the specific reference in 2 John is to a first century heresy, we must realize that the principle of going beyond the will of God holds little hope in any area of doctrine or practice.

Let us hold fast and not be moved from the truth of God's word.