Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                           May 1, 2011                           NO. 17

 Our Spiritual Exercises

     The scriptures refer us to a parallel of bodily exercises and spiritual exercises. One example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where Paul instructs us to “Run to win”. There is a parallel between our need for physical fitness and our need for spiritual fitness. We must note that Paul tells us our spiritual shape is more important (1 Timothy 4:8).
     There is also an interesting but sad parallel to note. Most people have good intentions but their exercise equipment is only touched when its being dusted. The same can be said about most people’s Bibles—too many are not using their spiritual equipment either.
     There are three stages in achieving physical fitness. The concept: the idea of being in shape and the benefits that are idealized. The process: actually getting off the couch and doing the exercise on a regular basis. The results: A healthy and fit body and perhaps a longer, more enjoyable physical life. The problem with this is that people admire the concept and truly desire the results but rarely desire the process. Let’s open our Bibles to see how this parallels spiritual fitness.
We like the Concept of Spiritual Fitness
     What is in a life of a Christian that should be admired? What benefits does a life in Christ hold that can be idealized by others? As Christians, we are to be walking advertisements for Christianity (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:12-16). Our life should shine like light in this dark world.
     There is much to be said about the characteristics of life in Christ. Consider the “honesty” and “integrity”. Christians honor their commitments to God (1 Peter 2:21-23 even as we follow the example of Christ); to our brethren (Romans 12:9-15; Hebrews 10:24-25); to our fellow man (Matthew 28:18-20). Also look at the presence of “peace” and “joy”. Christians are comforted by the knowledge of their relationship with God. We are His children (1 John 3:1) and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-18). Everyday that we live in faithful service we have this wonderful outlook called “hope”. Christians have a desire to live and a hope that will carry us beyond this life. We have the hope of God’s promises (Romans 5:1-11) and certainly the hope of Heaven, our place prepared (John 14:1-6).
     How many people desire a life of honesty and integrity that brings respect from God and man? How many people desire a life that is centered on peace and joy that increases focus and decreases the pitfalls of this temporal world? How many people desire a life that is filled with hope for today and the outlook of an everlasting tomorrow? The answer to each: Everyone.
We all want the Results of Spiritual Fitness
     Spiritual fitness means eternal life as opposed to eternal condemnation. The end results of our diligent spiritual exercise in doing the will of God is great reward (Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 Peter 1:6-9). Spiritual fitness is the avoidance of the punishment due our sins (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
     The result of spiritual fitness is all the beauty of God’s glory—in Heaven (Revelation 21:10-27 [22-27]). That passage describes Heaven as a place with no need of a temple to worship God from a distance because God will be with us (v. 22). The Father and the Son light the everlasting day with their glory (v. 23). The saved will walk in the light of its beauty (v. 24). The gates of the city never need to be shut; no harm can befall us there (v. 25). It is a perfect place—sin shall by no means enter (v. 27). How many people want Heaven? Everyone!
Very few desire the Process of Spiritual Fitness
     Even though the life of a Christian is admired and the goal of the Christian is desired…very few are willing to do what it takes to have them. Jesus said, “Few there are that find it [the way to life]” (Matthew 7:13-14). This means that few are willing to take the narrow way; few are willing to take the more difficult way; few will find what they have admired and desired.
     What is the difference between someone who owns a Bible and someone who exercises themselves in the Word? It is the same as one who owns a home gym and one who uses it regularly. One is in shape and one is not. We must get a Bible, but we also must do something with it. 1 Timothy 4:13, 15-16 instructs us to “read… meditate… give yourself entirely to it…” 2 Timothy 2:15 admonishes us to “be diligent to show yourself approved to God…” James 1:22-25 directs us to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only…” We must do something to get into shape spiritually. What are you doing?
     Everyone is seeking “peace” and “joy”. Everyone who has the ability of a rational mind desires everlasting life in Heaven. The great problem is few are willing to conform to the will of God resulting in the good life (Galatians 5:22-23). Few are willing to apply themselves to continuous obedience in order to have Heaven (Matthew 25:45-46)
     Where are you today? Do you see that life is better in Christ—it is! Do you want to make it to Heaven—you and I know you do! Are you willing to submit to God in order to get those things—because that is the process? Will you do what you need to do for spiritual fitness starting today?
---T. Sean Sullivan
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Beware The Extremist

     A very versatile word in the English language is “extremist. Much like “legalist,” “radical” and “hobbyist, it can be called into play whenever desired. It would seem that ANY MAN could be called an extremist – it just depends on who is doing the calling and where he stands at the time. A sure way to prejudice unthinking people against a certain viewpoint or matter of doctrine is to charge, “That is an EXTREME view!” An effective tool for poisoning people against a preacher is to claim, “You know, he is an EXTREMIST!” Immediately the dull-witted close their ears to what he says. They make no effort to investigate the Word of God to determine whether it is the truth. All of us need studious minds, desire for truth, willingness to study for ourselves, and fair-mindedness in considering any matter. Above all, we need respect for God’s Book!
Strange but often true
     Some very significant factors enter into this matter of irresponsible use of words, “He is just an extremist.”
1. Somehow, it is ALWAYS the other fellow who is extreme – NEVER the speaker..
2. Frequently it is used by very “pious” men as a weapon to destroy another – as a prejudicial epithet.
3. Often the speaker may not be overly concerned with the basic question of right and wrong. Yet it is better to be extremely right by following the truth than to be extremely wrong by rejecting it.
4. It may sometimes just be a self-protective device used by a person who is mortally afraid that HE may be identified with the extremists. Perish the thought! So in accusing the other brother of extremism he implies – for his own safety – “I certainly am not like that. I am no extremist.”
Not necessarily so
     No one doubts that a man CAN be an extremist, but there are definitely some things that are NOT to be considered as marks of an extremist. If they are, the Bible is full of extremists (including God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the apostles, the prophets, etc). Let us observe that:
1. One is not an extremist because he insists on divine authority from Christ for teaching and practice. The Holy Spirit requires this Col. 3:17; Heb. 8:5.
2. One is not an extremist because he rejects human traditionalism in religion – even though it may be “common practice of the brethren.” Jesus denounced such Matt. 15:6-9.
3. One is not an extremist because he refuses to encourage false teaching and teachers in any way 2 Jn. 9-11. Fellowship with God is at stake here.
4. One is not an extremist because he publicly challenges men to give authority for their practices. Jesus did Matt. 21:24-27.
5. One is not an extremist because he is willing to meet another in public encounter (that is before an audience) and challenge a brother for his departure from the truth. Paul did so Gal. 2:11-14; Acts 15:1-2.
6. One is not an extremist because he calls the names of men who teach the churches error and cause digression. Paul sets the example for this 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:15-18.
7. One is not an extremist because he presses the truth with vigorous contention for the faith. The apostles did and we are instructed to do so. Jude 3; 1 Thess. 2:1-2.
8. One is not an extremist because he refuses to back away from the thick of a fight for truth. Paul says God has not given us “the spirit of fear” (cowardice) 2 Tim. 1:7-8. A gospel preacher should be ashamed to be a coward.
9. One is not an extremist because he teaches faithful Christians to mark and avoid brethren who teach contrary to apostolic doctrine. This is demanded Rom. 16:17-18.
10. One is not an  extremist  simply  because  his  teaching  causes  division.  Jesus’ sword – the word of God – does some disturbing and dividing Matt. 10:34-35. Certainly not all division is laudable. Some of it is deplorable and sinful. It is always sinful to divide people by the preaching of error. On the other hand, division brought about by the proclamation of TRUTH – division that results when some men take their stand upon a “thus saith the Lord” and others rally to their human traditions – is to be expected. It was so in New Testament days. It is true today. Men are OBLIGATED to teach the truth. And men are OBLIGATED to separate themselves from error Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 6:14-18.
The Real Concern
     The real concern of every Christian should be to determine TRUTH. If one searches the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and learns that a thing is taught of God, the truth is EXTREMELY right, and he must believe it, regardless of what others may say or do. To refuse to believe it simply because others may consider it to be extreme is to dishonor the Author of Truth. When problems arise and when questions are raised about any matter, our interest must lie in the Word of God as an infallible, all-sufficient standard of correct faith and practice. As was stated before: IT IS BETTER TO BE EXTREMELY RIGHT BY FOLLOWING THE TRUTH THAN TO BE EXTREMELY WRONG BY REJECTING IT.
---Barney Keith
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