Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           April 27, 2008                           NO. 14

What To Give The Spiritually Hungry

    Charles Spurgeon used to tell the story that, during the reign of Nero, there was a great shortage of food in Rome. There was plenty of food in Alexandria, and ships laden with grain often came from that city. But Nero had ordered the ships to bring back only sand to be used in the arena. When hungry people gathered at the dock to await the shipment, they were miserably disappointed. People needed wheat, not sand. Then one of the merchants spoke to the shipmaster and said, "Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but wheat; and whereas aforetime thou brought in the vessel a measure or two of sand, bring thou not so much as would lie upon a penny this time. Bring thou nothing else, I say, but wheat, for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food to them."

    In the religious world of today, sand is being shipped by the boatload to the spiritually hungry. The sand comes in many forms. Churches offer such things as recreation programs, fellowship meals, entertainment events, political forums, day care centers and organized observances of man-made holidays. Apparently the feeling is that people who are lost and dying in sin can somehow be saved by softball and soccer, pot roast and potato salad, Christmas candy and Easter eggs. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

    Nowadays, most people think it odd when they hear of a church that doesn't offer sand. "Faith-based initiatives" have gained a lot of acceptance and praise in recent years; but the truth is that the phrase "faith-based initiative" is nothing more than political code for churches offering the world every kind of aid except the one thing that could truly make an eternal difference in people's lives - God's word.

    Churches, politicians and the nation at large have failed to understand both the mission of the church and the needs of the lost. In the New Testament, the church at Thessalonica understood both, and they were commended for it. "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place" (1 Thessalonians 1:8)

    We need to make sure that the church is dedicated to no business other than carrying the only food that starving people need -- the bread of life, the gospel of Jesus Christ. No sand!

    At this point, some of us might be feeling smugly self-righteous. We might be tempted to boast that the church that we are a part of would never offer sand to the spiritually hungry. "We have no recreation programs or carnal community outreaches!" Sadly, some who would make such a boast have no spiritual community outreach either! While they are not giving the hungry what they do not need, they are also failing to give them what they do need. There is little or no attempt being made to take the bread of life to the starving.

    Our mission is not merely to prevent sand from being taken to the hungry, it is to take bread. Let us load the ships and set sail! Ask a neighbor to study the Bible with you. Invite friends to our gospel meetings. Be on the lookout for opportunities to share God's word day by day.

---Steve Klein

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The Power Of Encouragement

    I can't think of anyone who can get through life without needing someone along the way to give a "boost." There are some who stupidly say, "I don't need anyone's help." They eventually learn that, as the old saying goes, "No man is an island." God made us creatures of dependence, mostly dependent upon Him. But this also includes depending on others. It is our nature to migrate towards others in times of need.

    No one understands this more than the Christian. The disciple of Christ has come out of Satan's domain and into the kingdom (Col. 1:13). The saint of God knows that Satan will not just let the past alone, but will try again to ensnare and trap him back into sin. To avoid these schemes, the Christian needs help, even help from fellow followers of the Lord. With aid from those who have also put their trust in God, sin can be defeated more easily than by facing it all alone.

    This is precisely the point made in Heb. 3:12-13. Israel's not-so glorious past has just cataloged, especially how they "hardened their hearts" in rebellion to God and His servant Moses (vv. 7-11). On the heels of this review, the writer exhorts his readers to take care, "lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God" (v. 12). One way to ward off the danger of apostasy is mutual encouragement (v. 13). Sin is so deceitful that before we realize it, we can be miles away from God. Having brethren close by to encourage us helps us stay faithful.

    Later, in Heb. 10:24-25, the writer stresses the importance of gathering with the church when it assembles. Attendance is important, for we "stir up" others to love and good works. We also "exhort one another" while the Day approaches. However, we will not just find such encouragement when the church assembles for worship. The New Testament also teaches that we can so encourage other believers in smaller groups. In Acts 20:20, Paul said he taught "publicly and from house to house." No doubt in these smaller groups, some were encouraged. In Acts 2:46, the first Christians were together "in the temple" (the assembly) but also "from house to house" in social associations. Strong ties were built to help each other in fighting sin. Brethren, that's encouraging!!

---Jeff Smith

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