The Difficult Part
Many, before entering the Lord's service, no doubt feel that once they have been baptized, become accustomed to attending worship periods regularly, and overcome some of their old habits, they will pretty well 'have it made' in serving the Lord. Doing these outward services, however, is the easy side of obeying Christ. The difficult side involves that which is within; it involves keeping the heart right.
It is easy to attend the worship periods, but it is difficult to worship, to rid the mind completely of worldly things, and to concentrate fully on the Lord. It is easy to sing, but it is difficult to meditate on the words, making the sentiment of the song one's own sentiment. It is easy to bow the head, but it is difficult to pray. It is easy to eat bread and drink fruit of the vine, but it is difficult to concentrate fully as one should on the suffering of Christ. Sitting through a worship period is not in itself worship, for true worship must proceed from the heart (Eph. 5:19; Jn. 4:24).
In moral realms, the difficult thing to do is to keep the heart pure. It is relatively easy to refrain from killing, stealing, or committing adultery. After all, one is hindered in such matters by the laws of the land, social pressures, forbidding circumstances, fear of being caught, etc. It is difficult, however, to completely rid the mind of jealousy, selfishness, discontent, lust, hatred, bitterness, a spirit of revenge, etc. Anyone who has ever been jealous of another knows the difficulty involved in cleansing the heart of this terrible sin. So it is with all the sins of the heart.
It is easy to develop a friendly way and gracious manner with others, but it is difficult to develop genuine love and concern for others within the heart. It is easy to give something to some charity drive, but it is difficult to develop real compassion for the poor. It is easy to say, "Forgive me, Lord," but it is difficult to repent.
The wise man said, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). This is an essential part of serving the Lord...and the difficult part!
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions regarding the Bible is that it is a product of the church. Many reject the Bible as our sole source of religious authority and instruction and belittle us for believing in the "Bible alone theory". Thus, there is a great need to discuss the relationship between the Bible and the church. As always, we will appeal to the scripture as our only source of authority and not our own wisdom (1 Cor. 2:6-7).
For one to understand that the Bible is our only standard for all religious faith and practice, one must understand the church is the result of the Bible and depends on it for everything it preaches and practices. In other words, the Bible produces the church, not the other way around. We are told by some that since the "church is the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), the church itself establishes what truth is. On the contrary, truth emanates only from God (Psa. 86:11;Jn. 1:17;17:17) and the church is limited to preaching, practicing and upholding that truth (Matt. 28:20). Or as Paul put it in Ephesians 3:10, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." The church, just like individuals, must appeal to the Bible as the only source of authority for it alone contains the manifold wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2:9-13;Eph. 3:3-5). Just as Moses was admonished to "make all things according to the pattern" (Heb. 8:5); we must use the Bible alone to insure we are following God’s revealed pattern for His church. Thus, we must speak where the Bible speaks, remain silent where the Bible is silent, do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names (1 Pet. 4:11).
We read in Acts 16:5 that the "churches were established in the faith." We would like to emphasize very kindly, yet very firmly, that the one true church is established in the faith; it does not establish the faith. The faith which is spoken of in Acts 16:5 is simply the revealed truth of the gospel which was "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) by the end of the first century. As beings created with the rights of freedom and choice, why would anyone bind themselves to the decrees, councils and conventions of men? "God forbid: yea, let God be true and every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4).
Have you noticed how people want to accept the good things (the blessings) of the Bible but ignore or dismiss any sort of command in God's Word? "God wants me to be happy," "God wants to bless me," "God wants me to have (fill-in-the-blank)." With this thinking, some will justify any number of actions, regardless of whether it contradicts God's Word. Many give no thought that God calls upon us to follow after Jesus or that He wants us to conform to His Will. "You shall be Holy, for I am Holy" (1 Pet. 1:16); Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). You cannot accept the blessings of God and ignore His instructions!
Consider Abraham's response to a difficult situation. He had been promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed (Gen. 12:3; 15:5). What great joy this must have been for him! Yet, Abraham didn't understand or know how these things would be accomplished. Finally God provided a son to this this old couple. They could then better understand how God would accomplish this promise. However, some time later, God commanded that Abraham sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:2). How could God's promise and blessings be fulfilled if Abraham obeyed the command? In the patriarch's mind, he would have known this was in conflict with the promise but he had complete confidence in God. The writer of Hebrews fills us in a little more on the great faith of Abraham when he says, "He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead..." (Heb. 11:19).
If Abraham would have reacted like many people today, he would have told God to forget it. He would likely have said, "No, I won't do that, I'll just stick with what you said first!" Yet he didn't. He obeyed God's command, and he saw God provide a substitute sacrifice. Abraham obeyed God and the promise was kept.
We need to remember that OUR duty is to obey God's commands. It is in God's realm to keep His promises and bless us as He sees fit. Let us be content in the responsibility that is ours.