Spiritual Surgery

Church of Christ Scripture Readins, Bible Lessons and SermonsMatt 5:27-30 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery’. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for the whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for the whole body to go into hell.”

Jesus sets a new standard for His followers. The other rabbis urged their disciples not to participate in sinful acts, but Jesus tells His not to even think about them. Jesus is teaching that a defiled heart is one that looks at ordinary things and uses them as an occasion to stimulate sinful desires. What ‘cure’ does He suggest?

Spiritual surgery – anything that is a cause of, or a seduction to sin, must be cut out of life. The type of thing Jesus is speaking of is described by the Greek word “skandalizo” and refers to a baited trap or snare. Anything that is a temptation to us, or incites us to sin is to be ruthlessly rooted out of our lives. Any habit, association, or pleasure that leads us astray must be removed. But how can a person shut those things out of their mind? It cannot be done by simply saying ‘I won’t think about such and such.’ The more we try to not think about them, the more we do. How can we defeat the forbidden thought?

1) Fill you mind and heart with good thoughts – be so busy with the good that there is no time for evil thoughts. (Phil 4:8, 2Cor 10:4-5)

2) Fill your life with activities that glorify God and promote Him. Much of Jesus’ life was spent simply going around doing good. (Acts 10:38) Just thinking about God’s word is not enough – we must put it into constant practice. (James 1:22, 1Cor 15:58) Keeping busy leaves no time for these problems. (2Thess 3:10-13) it comes down to a decision for spiritual surgery. Will you work to remove those things from your life that tempt you and draw you away from God? Those are the things that make you a slave to Satan. Rom 6:16 “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Do you need the spiritual surgery of a “heart transplant” or a renewed mind ? Jesus can give you the power to live as he commands when you are willing to yield your will to His. He is the great physician and has the cure for all our problems if we simply follow His instructions and stay under His care.

http://www.arlingtoncoc.com

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Are There Limits on Satan

Arlington church of Christ, Cincinnati, OhioSomeone asked the question: Why does God allow Satan to still attack us, while 2Pet 2:4 tells us that angels that sinned were put into dungeons to be held until judgment? Why doesn’t God lock Satan away too?

The bible scriptures tell us in 1Pet 5:8 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Satan is still roaming the earth, unlike the sinning angels. Peter warns us to be on guard against him. But just because he is roaming around doesn’t mean that God has no control over him. Remember what God told Satan in the book of Job – twice, God allowed Satan to do certain things to Job as tests, but God always set limits on Satan. Job 1:12 “The Lord said to Satan,’Very well then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’” And again in Job 2:6 “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’” While Satan was given leeway to do certain things, he did not have the power to go beyond the limits set by God.

Even now, God has put limits on the temptations that Satan can afflict us with. 1Cor 10:13 tells us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Satan is allowed to tempt us, and some of the temptations may be very hard to overcome, but God has put His limits in place so that we will be able to resist the temptation if we look for the way out that God provides. James 4:7 “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” So Satan too is limited, although currently not in the same way those sinning angels are.

So why is Satan still allowed to tempt us at all? For the same reason that he was allowed to tempt Eve in the garden – God always allows us to choose our course of action. We were created with free will, the ability to choose what we will do. If we choose to follow God, then He is honored and receives glory. If we choose to disobey and sin, then God is offended and separated from us by our sin. Isa 59:1-2 We are part of a great battle between the forces of God and those who have rejected God’s authority and chosen to follow Satan. Those on each side are watching the conflict and observing how we respond to the challenges laid before us.

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Soul and Spirit

Arlington Church of Christ in Cincinnati, OHIn Hebrews 4:12, the writer says: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The distinction between the soul and spirit is very difficult, yet we are told that the word of God is powerful enough to do it. Most seem to think that the two are the same thing, yet this verse indicates that while they are similar that there is a difference.

According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary – “Soul” has two meanings in scripture: 1) That which makes the body alive (life in the physical body) and example is found in Gen 35:18 …”As her soul was departing – she named her son Ben-oni.” 2) The inner life of a person, the personality. An example of this use is Gen 2:7 “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” The word ‘soul’ can refer to either physical life or the spiritual life depending on the context. In the verse – Matt 16:25-26 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” The same Greek word translated ‘life’ in verse 25, is translated ‘soul’ in verse 26. In verse 25, it is referring to the physical life, and in verse 26, to the spiritual life.

“Spirit” comes from the Greek pneuma which means breath or wind. It refers to the vital principle given by God, the ‘spirit’. It is the part of man that is made in the image of God. It is used in verses like Gen 2:7 “ the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life, and the man became a living soul.” Also see Heb 12:23
The scripture says in James 2:26 “the body without the spirit is dead..” which indicates that although the body may die, the spirit lives on. The spirit is the part of man that is made in God’s image and lives eternally. See Ecc 12:7 So the ‘spirit’ is the part of man that lives on, while the ‘soul’ (physical life) can die. See Josh 10:28, Josh 11:11 KJV

These two words are so closely associated though that distinguishing between the two is very difficult. In some passages, the word ‘soul’ is used to mean the spiritual life that continues on after death, and not just the physical life. So it may be said that the ‘spirit’ is the eternal part of man, made in the image of God, that will live forever in either heaven or hell. The ‘soul’ is the resulting life in the body, and may refer to either the physical life or the spiritual life in the new spiritual body (depending on the context). The body is made ‘alive’ by the combination of the soul and spirit. 1Thess 5:23 “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body, be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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A Name or a Number

Bible Scripture TruthThe story is told about a census taker who was making his rounds when he came upon a woman hanging clothes on an outside clothesline. ‘Madam’, he said, ‘I am taking the census and I need to know how many people live here.’ She replied, “Well, my name is Mary, and then there is Marcia, Patrick, Duggie, Amy, and …” The worker broke in – ‘Just give me a number, I don’t want the names’. To which the woman replied, ‘I’ll have you know, Sir, that we ain’t into numbering yet, we still haven’t run out of names.’

Our world is filled with so many people that we can easily feel insignificant. No one wants to know our name. They just want our number – social security, Medicare, I.D., or another string of numbers. It is a very impersonal world and we are just one of the masses. We end up feeling very lonely even when we are surrounded by large crowds. We can be tempted to listen to Satan’s whisper that we really don’t matter to God – that He is too busy taking care of the ‘world’ to deal with one person and their problems.

But in the eyes of our God, each of us is known personally, even before we were born – Psalm 139:13 “ For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” And in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

We are also told that even our lifespan is known by the Lord – Psalm 139:16 “ Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” And not only does our Lord know each of us individually, but He is concerned about the daily needs of our life – Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” And we are told that the Lord knows even the smallest details of our lives – Matthew 10:30 “ And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” And Hebrews 4:13 – “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.

But perhaps the greatest blessing from our God is that of His concern and care for our eternal souls. He knew us, He loved us, and supplied the way of forgiveness while we were still rejecting Him – Romans 5:6-8. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Won’t you recognize that love and respond to it today – God loves you, Christ died for you to show that love, and He knows what is happening in your life minute by minute. He cares for you, individually!

http://www.arlingtioncoc.com

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Sowing and Reaping

Arlington church of Christ, Cincinnati, OhioOne of the unchanging laws of God is that we will reap what we sow
Gal 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Our own sowing actions will determine the harvest that we reap. If our minds are on material things and fleshly desires, then we have determined the harvest ourselves and we can blame no one else. Those who choose to ignore God and live according to their own dictates can anticipate a harvest of eternal separation from the God they chose to ignore. The Lord said in Prov 1:24-31 “But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I will in turn laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when disaster and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.”

Those today who live lives following the immoral practices of the day will be the disappointed and disillusioned men and women of tomorrow. Many expect young people to ‘sow their wild oats’, and those same people expect to somehow avoid the consequences of those actions. But no one can sow wild oats and expect to harvest salvation. Unless a person turns to God in repentance and change their behavior, we will have to reap the harvest of every sin that we commit. God will not be mocked – 2Cor 5:10 We cannot expect to live in sin and somehow hide it from God – Num 32:23.

If we want the spiritual fruit of peace, happiness, security, and salvation, then we must sow good spiritual seed. Many waste years when they should have been sowing God’s seed, and then act surprised when they do not receive the desired rewards at harvest time. The prophet Hosea said in Hosea 8:7 “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” This is what many will find at judgment day- we will reap at the harvest what we sow now. Paul told those in Thessalonica – 2Thess 1:7-9 .. “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”

What seed are you sowing? Will you get the harvest that you desire?
http://www.arlingtoncoc.com/churches-of-christ/a-call-for-new-testament-christianity/ located in Cincinnati, OH

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Make the Effort

Make an Effort
Make an Effort
Of all the people that you have met, who would you consider to be the most important? While those we contact in this life may have a special place in our lives, the ultimate privilege that we have as Christians is to know the all-powerful creator of the universe. He alone can give us the security and peace of an eternal life. Paul recognized the greatness of this relationship when he wrote in:

Phil 3:8-11 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I might gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

More than anything, Paul wanted to know all he could about Christ. Yet many today live as unbelievers, missing the blessings of being in Christ and destined for an eternity in hell. Some never know God because they have never heard the gospel, while others have heard but are simply not interested. Still others try to ‘discover’ God in nature or art or other physical pursuits, but no one can know God without knowing his Son Jesus. (John 14:7-10)

But knowing God involves a price, and many are not willing to pay the cost. Some are baptized, but then drift back into the world because they are not willing to devote the time, prayer, and study that it takes to really know God. The scripture says they are worse off in this state than they were at the beginning. (2Peter 2:20-21) The disciples spent almost every minute with Jesus for three years and yet they didn’t fully understand all he was teaching them. Why should we think that spending a few minutes once a week will allow us to know God? It takes time to communicate, and it takes effort to learn all we can about the Lord.

Heb 10:23-25 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Will you make the effort to know Christ? Will you spur someone else to learn more about Christ?

Arlington church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio

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Judging Fairly Matthew Chapter 7 1-5

Judging Fairly
Judging Fairly
Matt 7:1-5 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you too will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye. How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ ,when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye
.”
Jesus is appealing to the highest ideals of the rabbis. The Jewish rabbis taught that there were six great ‘works’ in this life: studying the scriptures, visiting the sick, showing hospitality, prayer, educating children in the law, and thinking the best of others. Think of how often you have misjudged others or been misjudged by them. Our judgment of others is faulty because we do not know all the situations, background, and especially their motives -1Cor 2:11. We know what they did, but not WHY they did it. We may not know the facts they faced, or the strength of a particular temptation.

It is impossible for us to be completely impartial in our judgments. We are swayed by attraction or repulsion by certain people. The Greeks would sometimes hold difficult trials in total darkness, so the defendant could not be seen or recognized, and only the facts considered. Only one who is totally impartial has the right to judge, and since none but God is impartial, only He can make right judgments.

Jesus is teaching that no one has the right to judge or criticize another unless he is prepared to do better in the same situation. Please note that Jesus is not condemning all evaluations of whether an action is right or wrong. What He is condemning is the hypocritical evaluation of others. We are told to discipline the erring brother – 1Cor 5. That requires that an evaluation be made of actions, but it is not being made on the basis of our own thoughts, but on the comparison to God’s standard of conduct for us in His word. If we use His word, then He is judging – not us – and His judgment is just. We cannot condemn others, but we can condemn their actions when they violate the word of God. That is the duty of Christians – to apply the words of the Bible to the things we see happening around us and speak out in defense of God and His standards. We can ‘judge’ properly if we use His judgments, not our own or those of society. We are to try to help others live in harmony with God’s will by pointing out what He expects. But we must also apply those same principles and laws to our own lives. Let us examine our own lives first in the mirror of God’s word. James 1:23-25.

Gospel Lesson by the Arlington Church of Christ Located in Cincinnati, Ohio

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Good Days

Scriptures of the BibleThere are two days of the week about which one should never worry – two days that are kept free from fear and apprehension. One of the days is yesterday. Yesterday with all its cares and problems, aches and pains, all its faults, mistakes and blunders has passed forever. It cannot be recalled and relived. It was mine, it now belongs to God.

The other day that one can not worry about is tomorrow. Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, burdens, perils, its promise and successes, as well as possible failures is as far beyond our control as yesterday is. Tomorrow belongs to God; it will later be mine.

That leaves only one day for us – today. Anyone can only fight the battles of today, or resist the temptations of today. We can only carry the burdens of today successfully. If we try to add the burdens of those two eternities – yesterday and tomorrow – we will break down. Those are the burdens that only God can carry. It isn’t the experience of today that drives men mad. It is remorse for what happened yesterday and the fear of what tomorrow may bring. Those are God’s days – leave them to Him!!

How to listen to a sermon

1) Come to hear the sermons, not out of curiosity, but out of a sincere desire to know God’s word and do His will.

2) By prayer, prepare your heart before you hear, and then pay diligent attention to what is spoken from the word of God.

3) Do not hold any prejudice against the preacher, nor depend on him too much or think of him more highly than you ought to think.

4) Seek to apply what is heard to your own personal life and heart.

5) Before and after you hear God’s word, pray that God will give the preacher wisdom to understand, power to speak His word, and that He will give you the will and ability to put into practice what you have been shown from His word.

www.arlingtoncoc.com

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Fasting

Church of Christ DevotionalsMatt 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men that they are fasting. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it is not obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father , who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly.”

Fasting was an essential part of religious life in Eastern countries. For the Jew, there was only one compulsory fast – the Day of Atonement – Lev 16:31. But the religious Jews made great use of private fasting. It was the custom to fast from the death of a relative until the burial, or to show sorrow for sin, or as an appeal to God in times of physical or spiritual need. Occasionally a time of fasting would be declared for the whole nation as a sign of national repentance – Judges 20:26.

While fasting was supposed to represent devotion to God and repentance for sins, it had the potential to be done for improper motives. One might fast as a sign of ‘superior piety’ – Luke 8:11-12. One might fast to show others how ‘devoted’ he was in order to gain their praise and admiration. So Jesus warns His disciples about fasting for the wrong reasons.

While we as Christians are not commanded to fast, there are some practical reasons to do so:

• healthy eating habits – makes us think about what we eat
• self-discipline – we learn to deny ourselves and break habits
• it teaches us to distinguish between needs and wants
• it teaches us appreciation of what we have
• it makes us more sensitive to spiritual things by sharpening senses

Jesus condemned the wrong kind of fasting- when it was done for outward show. But nowhere does the Bible encourage Christians to avoid the practice of fasting. We would do well to consider our own situation, and if fasting would help us get our lives into the proper perspective. However, we must follow the instructions of Christ and do it privately, so that it will not be obvious to others. Fasting is to be between the individual and God. In fact, Jesus condemned any religious practice when it was done for show. If we do things to impress men, we will get no reward from our Father. (He knows our hearts and our motives) What would the Lord say about the way that you ‘practice’ your religion? Is your heart right with God?

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Baptized….Again?

Church of Christ ScriptureBaptized … Again ?

Is it right to accept as members, those from a denomination who want to place their membership with the church? This question comes up when a person who has been baptized in a denominational church. Then chooses to attend the Church of Christ and wants to ‘place membership’ or be identified as a member of the local congregation.

The scriptures are clear that one must be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven. ( Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1Pet 3:21, Mark 16:16) And it is also clear in the scriptures that it does not make a difference whom does the baptizing as long as it is done in the proper way (immersion) and for the proper reason (in order to have one’s sins forgiven). If a person was baptized in the right way for the right reason in a denomination, and sees the error of that denomination’s teachings and seeks fellowship with the Lord’s church, there is no reason not to accept them just as the Lord does – Acts 2:41, 47.

The real question is, did the denomination teach the truth about baptism – most of them do not. And if a person is taught incorrectly, can their baptism be right? For example, if the denomination teaches that a person is saved before they are baptized (by saying a ‘sinner’s prayer, or by simply accepting Jesus into their heart- both of which are never found as the way to ‘be saved’ in scripture) – and that baptism is optional or that it simply puts one into the church then can their baptism be valid?

If a person was baptized as a baby or as a young child, (they may not even remember their baptism) – the baptism is NOT valid because the scriptures teach that only one who can believe in Jesus and repent of their sins can be baptized per the scriptures.  A baby obviously cannot do that, and a young child is unlikely to be able to do those things that are necessary for themselves as the Bible points out in Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19, and many other examples throughout the book of Acts. If a person had water sprinkled or poured on them for baptism, their baptism is NOT valid since the Biblical method of baptism is immersion (burial) – Rom 6:3-5, Col 2:12, Acts 8:35-39. And if a person was baptized not knowing why they were baptized, that baptism is NOT valid for there can be not belief and repentance without understanding. (Acts 19:1-5)

But if a person was baptized by immersion understanding that is was done in order to have their sins forgiven, having believed in Jesus as God’s Son and repented of their sins – then they HAVE been properly baptized and are accepted by the Lord. No one except God can look into the heart of a person to know what understanding they had when they were baptized. But if a person comes from a background where the truth on baptism is not normally taught, they need to examine their own baptism in the light of the scriptures. If after doing this, the person insists that their baptism was proper, then we must accept their word for it – after all, they will answer to God for their decision, not to us. But if there is the slightest doubt, they should be baptized properly to gain the confidence that they have indeed obeyed the Lord’s command!

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