Is It Wrong to be Right?

Recently I had a few younger men who wanted to study about preaching and how to give better lessons at their local congregations. While in the course of our study, I asked a simple yet pointed question: “What is righteousness?” At first, no one wanted to answer for fear of misquoting a scripture. Then I restated the question this way: “What is the root word of righteousness?” Softly, someone said, “right.” To which I replied, “correct, righteousness is the state of being right.”

Now, I’ll ask you the same question I asked those young men, “Is it ever wrong to be right?”

Think about that for a little while.

In America today, living as a Christian is getting more and more unpopular, or so we are told. Most of the folks that we meet personally don’t seem to have a problem living along side of Christians without being Christians themselves. However, the news casters, celebrities, and the ever truthful politicians are communicating the message that being a Christian is evil.

Let me ask you another question. “Where do your convictions and sympathies lie?”

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20. Paul tells us that the world has a “spirit” and God has a Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:12-13. He also speaks of wisdom, both worldly and godly. Since Christians are sanctified from the world, we can reasonably deduce that Christians are to have God’s wisdom to know right from wrong.

Again I ask you, “Where do your convictions and sympathies lie?” “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” Romans 6:16. The spirit of the world leads to death! That spirit or way of thinking is constantly trying to persuade you to cross over to its side. Many times we may foolishly and ignorantly try to pair with the world’s way of thinking, all the while trying to cling to our commitment of sanctification. We CANNOT have it both ways!

Fellowshipping the works of darkness, or even the ideas and justifications of them, is not pleasing to God. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11.

I want to exhort and encourage you as a Christian to continue to be faithful in spite of the rhetoric that is being spewed from the liberal few. Be careful when you can see yourself justifying “the lesser of two evils.” We can NEVER choose evil and we should NEVER be ashamed to choose what is RIGHT. The ungodly are trying to engrave on your mind that being righteous is hurtful and therefore the “RIGHT thing to do” is hide your righteousness. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

It is NOT wrong to be right. “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9.

Keep the faith that was once delivered,
Sean S. McCallister

McGarvey on Fellowship

That J.W. McGarvey, the little giant of the Restoration Movement, was opposed to instrumental music in worship, is a fact too well known to be disputed. While in Lexington, KY some years ago, my wife and I visited the Broadway Christian Church, where McGarvey preached and held membership for many years. We were met by Marshall Leggett, who was then the personable minister of that church. He proudly pointed to a large picture of McGarvey hanging on the wall and remarked. “He left when they put in the instrument.” Leroy Garrett, writing in One Body, recently acknowledged that McGarvey “objected to the instrument as much as anyone in our history.” Garrett then quoted McGarvey as saying, “I have never proposed to withdraw fellowship from brethren simply because of their use of instrumental music in worship.”

However, I have read a quote several times in different papers which was attributed to McGarvey which indicates that he felt that he had made a mistake in his approach to fellowship and the use of the instrument in worship. The latest version appears in Firm Foundation, April 8, 1986. It is an account of an exchange between McGarvey and Jesse P. Sewell in which McGarvey reportedly said, “Brother Sewell, I want to say something to you, if you’ll accept it in the spirit in which I mean it.” Sewell told him he’d appreciate anything he had to say to him, and Sewell gave this account of his statement: “You are on the right road, and whatever you do, don’t let anybody persuade you that you can successfully combat error by fellowshipping it and going along with it. I have tried. I believed at the start that was the only way to do it. I’ve never held membership in a congregation that uses instrumental music. I have, however, accepted invitations to preach without distinction between churches that used it and churches that didn’t. I’ve gone along with their papers and magazines and things of that sort. During all these years I have taught the truth as the New Testament teaches it to every young preacher who has passed through the College of the Bible. Yet, I do not know of more than six of those men who are preaching the truth today. It won’t work.” This was about ten years before McGarvey’s death in 1912.

I would like to point out to my brethren that McGarvey was also opposed to individual communion cups. Can we learn a lesson from McGarvey as he viewed the scene at the twilight of his illustrious career? Does his statement tell us anything about the folly of lending influence and encouragement to something that is wrong? No doubt, McGarvey thought he was doing the right thing, but if this quote is accurate, he came to see the inconsistency of his course. McGarvey believed the instrument in worship and individual cups were fads that would pass away with the passing of the years, but perhaps he came to see that “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (Hos 4:19).

If I know my own heart, I can say that I have nothing but the kindliest feelings for brethren who have embraced Sunday School, individual cups in the communion, and instrumental music in worship. I am concerned about them and I pray that they may come to a knowledge of the truth. I sincerely and fervently hope that the day may come when we can lock arms and fight the evils of sin and division together, but I am convinced that I will never bring them to a knowledge of the truth by joining in with them in their error.

Some years ago a man said to me. “If I were to ever begin preaching, I would start in the beer joints and taverns.” At the time, I thought there might be some validity in his statement. But in the light of clearer thinking, I realize that many of those who are in those places are there by choice and may even be there because they know they are in a place which is void of anything resembling gospel preaching. What influence would I have if I walked in and made myself comfortable in their midst?

I say that McGarvey gave good advice. In the quest for that unity which the psalmist David declared to be both good and pleasant, (Psalm 133:1), let us never be tempted to stray into the paths of error. Remember, our light may be the only one those in error will ever see. – Johnny Elmore

Field Report – February 14, 2009

During the month of January I was privileged to travel with Brother Mike Criswell to Moscow and Penza , Russia . I am very appreciate of the opportunity and the confidence show in me by the church at 85th and Euclid in Kansas City , MO. In my estimation the trip was very fruitful. We spent two weeks in Penza (the church in Tula had unfortunately dissolved prior to our coming) and preached each night. The first night Mike began by preaching verse-by-verse through Ephesians 1 and I followed up with a theme sermon from some idea discussed the night before and we would have questions and answers after the service. We continued through Ephesians up until that Saturday, but the question revealed that those brethren are not as effected by Calvinism as we are here in the states, and we changed our direction the next week. Sunday Mike spoke on the “Seed of the Kingdom” and Monday I began a series on the History of the Russian Orthodox Church with mike following up by addressing specific doctrines (Priesthood, miracles, icons etc.) The crowds grew and the discussions were very productive. By the time we were ready to leave those brethren had become very dear to me and I was sad to go, but it is my prayer that more conservative preachers will make trips to that land to encourage those churches in their difficult struggle to stand for the Faith of Christ. Upon my return to America I was able to worship with the brethren here in Columbia before I left for a meeting in Turlock , California . The Meeting in Turlock went wonderfully with good attendance throughout the meeting including several preachers. It was an absolute joy to stay in the home of Brother and Sister Rodney Nelson and to get to visit with Richard and Glenda DeGough and the other brethren there. I know of few finer people in all the world. My next meeting is not until April, and so I look forward to spend time working here at home with these brethren. I solicit your prayers for the work. – CED

Barker’s Blunders

Yesterday evening Kyle Butt, evangelist of the Church of Christ, met Dan Barker, the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation to discuss the existence of the God of the Bible. Mr. Butt made some unfortunate errors in his speech that were quite disappointing to me, but overall, as in all cases, the truth was clear and evident. A man who sets out to speak against the Bible and the God it reveals is setting out on a hard road, in fact an impossible one! David long ago said, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalms 53:1) And this being the case, anyone who tries to affirm such a thing is going to set himself up to look like a fool! I would like to examine some of Mr. Barker’s arguments against the existence of the God of the Bible and I believe that Barker’s Blunders will be clearly manifest.

Denominationalism

Mr. Barker is an intelligent and well studied man, and like the great “Goliath of Infidelity” Robert Owen who met Alexander Campbell many years ago, he has seen the ungodly nature of religious sectarianism. He brought up the fact that Bible believers cannot agree on the nature of God and how the Bible should be understood as is evident by the hundreds of “denominations of Christianity.” But this in no indictment against the Bible or God, but rather it is an indictment against human creeds and worldly wisdom! Every time that human traditions and creeds have been abandoned and men have resolved to “speak were the Bible speaks, and be silent were the Bible is silent” true Christian unity is the result! On top of the fact that Mr. Barker was never a New Testament Christian, but rather a member of a religious sect of human origin, the particular group that he was a part of is one that has had an infamous history of haoxery and scam and is highly emotional, however, the Bible make no mention of that religious sect and it developed hundreds of years after the death of Christ and the establishment of the Church! Let this be a lesson two great evils in this world. First, to the Atheists, establishing that religion has been perverted and changed does not in any way defame the beauty and the perfection of primitive Christianity, which can be accessed through adherence to the scriptures alone, and second to the advocates of denominationalism, do you not see that your defense of division in the body of Christ heaps shame and reproach on Christ himself! Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

No Evidence for God

Mr. Barker’s next claim against the existence of the God of the Bible was founded in the old claim of Atheists that “there is not evidence the God exists.” It seems that they think if they say it enough times it will be true, but still there are arguments that have never been answered that be cry the essential existence of God, and not just any God but the God of the Bible! Only the Bible offers an adequate explanation for the origin of the Universe. (Genesis 1) Only the Bible offers an explanation for the moral sensibilities that exist in men. (Romans 2:12-16) Only the Bible offers an explanation for the first cause! (Genesis 1:1) Only the Bible has remained unchanged and un-met in its explanation of things, while the greatest minds in the scientific community have been proven wrong time and time again! The more I study human science, the more I find that human science is so incredibly undependable and subject to change as new theories are accepted that I would not be able to sleep easy at night if I were to put my confidence in science alone! The world is flat. Matter is eternal. Lead can be turned into gold. Matter spontaneously generates. The universe is geocentric. These and scores of other embarrassing myths were once held to be scientific fact by the great Barker’s and Dawkins’ and Darwin’s of ages past and now they are regarded as foolish legends! How long will it be until Darwin’s theory of evolution joins these ranks? Already many reputable scientists are expressing strong reasons to doubt the theory. (Many of them reasons that have been raised by Bible-believers since Darwinism began) Certainly there is evidence for God and not mentioning it is not the same as answering it!

Bible Discrepancy

Mr. Barker “quoted” 14 alleged discrepancies in the Bible and gave Mr. Butt 10 minutes for his answer. In this Barker used a brilliant, and age old debating ploy of heaping far too many arguments on his opponent for him to possibly answer in the time he had to rebuttal. However, Mr. Butt gave a good response, that being that none of these alleged discrepancies were “new discoveries.” Every one of them have been addressed and answered more than adequately thousands of times in books that are readily available. The contradictions that Mr. Barker claimed to find were the result of taking passages out of context, setting the Old Testament against the New (ignoring the New Testaments explanations of these differences) and failing to consider the full nature of God! In a future article we will give consideration to these and other such alleged discrepancies.
The problems that Mr. Barker has found with the Bible and the God of the Bible are his problems and the product of human error. I appreciate Mr. Butt for his stand for the truth and to Mr. Barker I say that for all of your zeal and dogmatic infidelity you made some fatal blunders when you attempted to use false science and men’s wisdom to wrestle with the word of God! – CED

Contentment

The subject of contentment is not a new one, but rather a very old concept that needs to be preached and demonstrated for our current generations. “A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.” (Psalm 37:16) Why is this important? Why is it better to have a little in righteousness?

Contentment is very important because it is a godly principle. It is also important because contentment can bring peace in times of crisis. America and the world are in the financial crisis of major recession. The actions of greed, selfishness, and moral decay have brought us to this point, therefore it is better for those who have not corrupted themselves with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, nor the pride of life because they can be at peace and free of guilt.

In Numbers 11:4-35 we can read of stubborn Israel who complained of no meat in their pots. When I read this I think of several reasons why God had not provided them with meat. One, he had miraculously fed them bread. Two, He was preparing them to enter the Promised Land which had plenty of everything. Three, they were not physically suffering without meat. The people argued with Moses to get them meat and God gave it to them until it “came out their nostrils.” They, like many today, wanted all their blessings immediately. There are even T.V. preachers that are toting the message of, “your best life now.” It didn’t work for Abraham and Sarah, Esau, Israelites and many others, and it won’t work for us. Greed and impatience are not born of contentment.

In Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 we read of how dis-contentment leads to more. When a person who lusts for more will do anything to get it, that person will enslave, mistreat and abuse others as well as himself. Lack of contentment puts one onto a vicious cycle of misery.

John preached “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The people knew that repentance called for an action and asked, “What shall we do then?” John told them to share, take no more than allotted, and be content with their wages. This sage advice would save our nation billions of dollars every year. There would be no need for welfare or bailout laws. How? Each one of us, including companies, would take responsibility for our own. This concept works for the church, it would work for any group who would put it to practice. Individually, we cannot save the world; we can however, save some. We can share, refrain from cheating, and not harbor greed. God never commanded us to open a food bank or start a coat drive, but he did teach us to share such as we have and others need.

Paul starts I Timothy 6:6-16 by stating, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” From the points he makes in this passage we can understand that contentment doesn’t just apply to finances. If we (society) would apply principles of contentment, the divorce rate would disappear, the diseases and unwanted pregnancies of fornication would disappear, the greed that becomes so demanding would fade, the stress and its physical and mental afflictions it causes would vanish, crime, wars and fighting among us would be non-existent.

I leave you with these words: Read Matthew 6:24-34.

Sean S.  McCallilster

The Unknown God Part 1

The city of Ephesus thoroughly imbibed the spirit of Paganism. They were obsessed with idols and superstitious omens. They had mingled immorality and sexual perversion with their worship. They had embraced spiritualism and occult practices such as speaking to the dead and reading signs in the heavens, and in all of this, they thought they were having a relationship with God! Isn’t that amazing? The very things they imagined were drawing them closer to God were driving a wedge between them and God and making them His enemies!

I think we can see very clearly manifested here what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh–who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands–that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:11-12) Jesus Christ came to reconcile the lost world of Adam’s race with their Heavenly Father God, and a great part of that was showing them who God was. In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul tells in awful detail how far separated mankind is from God without Jesus. He writes something that I think is very interesting in verses 22-25, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” The Apostle here tells us of the great evil and abomination that is idolatry.

When God spoke long ago the Ten Commandments to the Children of Israel from the shining slopes of Mount Sinai, the first two were in reference to this great sin of idolatry. In Exodus 20:1-6 the Bible says, “And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” The crime in creating other gods is in the fact that the one true God Jehovah is omnipotent and all-sufficient, no task is beyond his scope.

The idea of polytheism limits the power of God in that it imagines that many gods would be needed to oversee all of the tasks in operating the universe. The crime of idolatry, or of imagery, of statues and icons of holy and heavenly beings is that it attempts to capture the divine in a human or some other temporal form. God cannot be thought of in a mortal sense! He cannot be made finite and contained! There have been some truly beautiful paintings made by the great masters that would claim to be of Christ or of God, but all they do is profane His holy image. If we should go out and gaze upward into the vast expanse of space, and let our minds carry us beyond the atmosphere’s wreath to walk among the endless black where great orbs of gas and ice and fire soar in a never ending rotation, and as we look at all the wonders of this earth: its high mountains, its deep oceans, its great woodland areas and all of its many wonders, we are awed and enraptured by the overwhelming magnificence of it all! But greater than this beyond measure is the power and glory of God.

The prophet Isaiah said, “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist.” (Isaiah 66:1) But another great evil to idolatry is that it makes God like a man! When Elijah had the great prayer battle with the Prophets of Baal on the slopes of mount Carmel you remember that he mocked the Baals saying, “perhaps he is asleep or on vacation or busy” Of course, the God of heaven is never separated from the cries of His children, for, as he said through the Prophet long ago, “For I am God, and not man…” (Hosea 11:9) Many of the gods of paganism were petty, selfish and childish. This concept of God caused people to be unable to have the relationship with Him that he desired, but how were they to know Him?

Can We Know God Through Scientific Observation?

Science may be able to tell us something about the age of rocks but it can tell us little about the Rock of Ages. Now that is not to say that we learn nothing about God from the scientific or natural world. Paul says, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20) That is to say that creation teaches us some things about the nature and power of the Creator. David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
Many times the Bible speaks of the “Law written on the heart” or the “law of nature” I believe this refers to the fact that God has made His nature, and the moral code He would have mankind live by, visible in the natural world. But this only goes so far. In nature we can learn that God is, and that he is powerful, we can learn that he is orderly and that he is wise, but we cannot really know who He is. We cannot know His will, we cannot know how to speak to Him, or how to worship Him. Years of research in the most advanced labs could never find a cure for sin. The highest-powered telescope could never show the way to heaven. And in all his searching and study the scientist has never learned a thing about what happens after death. We need something else to understand these things.

Can We Know God Through Philosophy?

Many of the ancients believed that God might be known through philosophy and learning. The world of the New Testament was full of all kinds of schools and groups that followed the teachings of different philosophers in their perspectives on life and its meaning. Typically this led to the same kind of immoral behavior that paganism and idolatry resulted in.
In Acts 17 when the Apostle Paul was in Athens he encountered two prominent schools of philosophy: the Epicureans and the Stoics. The Epicureans were of the mind that true happiness and closeness to God could only be found in excess and frivolity. There idea was that if it made you happy you should do it and the only sin was in self-depravation. While the Stoics believed in fate, that God was everything and was not a personal God who loved man and cared for man. The Apostle Paul denied both of these ideas and others like them, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Can We Know God Through Spiritualism and the Occult?

Paul wrote against the mystery religions many times in the New Testament. Today there are many examples of this in the world around us. People try to find God through the occult in several ways today. The word occult means “secret” and it refers to mysterious and mystical practices such as communicating with the dead, reading horoscopes, trying to find spiritual purity through health and diet and things like that.  Well the truth is that many of those things are what the Bible calls sorcery or witchcraft and not only do they fail to lead someone to God, they will lead people away from God and ultimately to hell!

Jesus Christ: the Full Portrait of God

The pervasive theme of Ephesians, and in fact almost all of the Apostolic writings is “only in Christ.” Jesus Christ is supreme above all these things. In fact the Apostle Paul would tell us that Christ lived as a visible picture of the invisible God. Paul said in Colossians 1:15 and in chapter 2:9, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” We can open up the Bible and read the blessed accounts from the Gospels of who Jesus was and how He lived and in that we learn who God is! Jesus said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”  Now of course the Jews knew something of God, as He had revealed Himself in the Old Testament through the prophets, but until Christ came mankind did not have the great appreciation of who God is that we as Christians now have. Notice how Job spoke with God during their conversation. Many times he took God to task on his righteousness, and he got dangerously close to “foolishly accusing God” at times.

Next week we will take a look into what exactly Jesus taught us about the nature of God, but for now, consider these things. – CED

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