Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                                                                                                                                                                                November 6, 2011                                                                                                                                                                                NO. 41


 Fireplaces And Churches

The weather is finally turning cooler and my thoughts turn to lighting up the gas burning logs in the fireplace. There is something about logs in a fireplace with the flames licking upward and sparkling embers drifting downward after a sharp crackle. The smell of wood burning is intoxicating. It evokes visions of snowy days, hot chocolate, popcorn, and warm, sleepy hours sitting beside the fire.

When Nila and I went house shopping, the one thing we agreed upon was that we wanted a fireplace. We got what we wanted. Getting a fireplace is no problem. Our nostalgia for a fireplace made us forget something very important. It made us forget that to have a fire you must have wood. To have wood, you must cut it and stack it. To build a fire in a fireplace, you must bring the wood into the house. We had forgotten how labor intensive it is to enjoy a fireplace.

However, there is a solution to this dilemma; it is called gas burning logs. You can find them in many models. They come sized to fit your particular fireplace. The artificial logs glow with heat. Flames leap up, over, and around them. There are tiny rocks you spread under the logs that look like ashes. In short, there is an illusion that you are experiencing real logs burning in your fireplace. 

You can even buy an aerosol can of scent that when sprayed gives the smell of logs burning. Now, we sit in front of our fireplace, logs burning (or so it appears), with that intoxicating smell of wood burning (spray a little more of that will ya honey?), and watch the glowing logs (minus the sparkling embers).

We become so engrossed in the moment that we do not stop to think that what we are experiencing is nothing but a replica, a counterfeit of the real thing. It is my considered opinion that we have become much too comfortable with replicas and counterfeits in our lives. Nowhere is this more devastating than in religion. The true religion of Christ has a definitive flavor. There is nothing else like true Christianity. Nothing compares with its distinctive character. But alas, it has been copied and recopied (each time leaving out what one does not like) until it no longer resembles its former self. The problem is that men have drunk from this artificial well so long, they no longer can identify the real thing. Men have eaten margarine until they have lost their taste for butter.

The Devil is cunning. He knows just how to manipulate the artificial to deceive the masses. He makes the counterfeit to appear as much like the original as possible. We all know that the better the counterfeit the greater the value. False religion is the most deadly counterfeit of all. "And no wonder! For Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The religion that errs in one point, though it has the appearance and wears the name of Christ, is a false religion.

Too often, men judge religions on their outward appearance. They see a religion that advocates neglecting of self and automatically assume it is of God. Paul warned against such religions when he wrote, "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,' which all concern things which perish with the using according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:21-23). Piety does not prove that a religion is correct.

Dedicating one's life to the service of others does not prove one's religion is true. While it is true that such dedication proves the proponents of the religion are zealously committed to what they believe, we know that zealous people can and do follow the wrong path.

Jesus' prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem contained several descriptive phrases about certain events. At one point, Jesus said that Satan would deceive the Elect if he could (Matthew 24:24). Satan's tools for this deception were to be false prophets declaring Christ's presence to be here or there and their working of signs and wonders. It is this kind of workings that can turn the Elect away from the Right Way.

Paul also addressed this type of problem among Christians in Galatians 1:6-9. The Christians of Paul's day were being pulled away from the truth by Judaizing teachers. Paul affirms that there is but one gospel. It is the gospel that was preached by the apostles. It is not to be altered. The one who dares to do so is cursed by God. Man may have the best of intentions when he adds something to his religious belief. He may even think (as did the Judaizer) that since God required this at an earlier time, then it is required for all times. It is this kind of reasoning that gives rise to counterfeit churches.

The appeal of counterfeit religion resides in the fact that it requires little work to maintain it. Contrariwise, it takes much work to practice true religion. The true religion of Christ is not passive. Paul instructs the Philippians to work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12). Jesus says we are to strive to enter through the narrow gate (Luke 13:24). To practice the real thing, one must "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

I must admit that I truly enjoy my gas burning logs. The atmosphere and mood is comforting. I appreciate the convenience afforded by their design. However, enjoying conveniences in material things must never bleed over into embracing the artificial in religion.

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him" (John 4:23).

---Glen Young

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If Only...

If only my boss wouldn’t be so rude and domineering, I would try harder and be more cooperative at work. “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” (1 Peter 2:18).

If only my husband weren’t so lazy and self-centered, and would treat me like I deserve, I would go back and live with him. “. . . wives, be submissive to your husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:1-2).

If only people would quit taking advantage of me, I would maintain a better disposition. “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (1 Peter 3:8-9).

If only the brethren were friendlier and that preacher not so dry, I would go to church more often. “. . . let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another . . .” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

If only I had more income and less bills, I would give a lot more. “. . . in the churches of Macedonia . . . in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

If only my family would be more supportive, I would become a Christian. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me . . .” (Matthew 10:37).

Do you notice that what God expects of us, He expects regardless of our particular circumstances? Instead of excusing ourselves due to adverse conditions, let us commit ourselves to our Creator and Benefactor. If only we would be like Jesus, who said, “. . . I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). He not only said it, He lived it — even to the point of death.

---Frank Himmel

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Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.

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