The Elon Challenger
ELON CHURCH OF CHRIST
New Hope, Alabama
Seeking to challenge your interest in things
spiritual & eternal (Eph. 6:10-18)
Volume 16 Number 2
Table of Contents
Blaming Others for Our Sins —————————— Mike Johnson
Jesus’ Keys to Coping with Success —————- W. Frank Walton
Learning to Forgive Ourselves —————————-Dylan Stewart
Seven Steps in Giving ———————————— Paul S. McElroy
A True Friend———————————————-Author Unknown
Preacher’s Point ——————————————— John T. Lewis
Bible Submission—————————————–Author Unknown
Blaming Others for Our Sins
It is very common for people to try to blame their mistakes on others; we have a tendency to want to shift responsibility. People also blame SIN on other people. Many did this in biblical times; regrettably, the blaming of sin on others also takes place a lot today. Commonly blamed for people’s sins today are:
Satan — The idea “the Devil made me do it” is very common. At least people who say this realize Satan is involved in sin. However, they may not understand that responsibility for sin cannot be shifted to Satan. Eve, in the beginning, tried to blame Satan when she sinned. She partook of the forbidden fruit and said in Genesis 3:13, “ . . . The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” It is true Satan tempts people; he does influence people to sin (I Cor. 7:5). However, Satan can be resisted (James 4:7), and the fact that Satan tempts us does not mean we are not responsible for our sins. It does no good to try and shift the blame to Satan.
God — Some people actually try to blame God for their sins. Perhaps this is what Aaron was trying to do in Exodus 32. He tried to explain the golden calf he made for the people to worship by pointing out (v. 24) that the people gave him the gold, and he went on to say, “ . . . then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.” Was he trying to say that it was some kind of miracle from God?
It is important to understand that God is not responsible for our sins. James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man . . . .” Thus, we cannot blame God.
Wives — Some husbands try to blame their wives for many things and some even try to blame them for their sins.
Consider one Old Testament example. Earlier we noted that Eve tried to blame Satan for her sin. Adam did not try to blame Satan, but instead, he tried to blame his wife (Eve) for his part in the eating of the forbidden fruit. She actually did give her husband the fruit to eat and had an influence on his deed. Nevertheless, this did not make him less guilty.
Further, when a man feels an inclination to shift responsibility for his sins to his wife to justify himself, he should consider the Old Testament example of Job and his wife. Job suffered much affliction, and his wife told him that he ought to just curse God and die. Job rebuked her and said in Job 2:10, “. . . shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” He resisted his wife’s bad advice.
Husbands — At times, a woman who is a faithful Christian will have a husband who is not a Christian. Sometimes she may be neglectful in her service to God, and when confronted about her neglect, may blame her spiritual problems on her husband. Again, the husband may have caused her to become discouraged. (Generally, it is more difficult for a person to be faithful to God if his/her spouse is unfaithful.) Yet, the wife is still responsible for her sins. Many women have remained faithful to God even though their husbands have discouraged them spiritually by their words and deeds.
Peter gave some good advice to women, whose husbands were not believers, in I Peter 3:1 when he said, “Likewise, ye wives be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” The woman is to win her husband to Christ by her “conversation,” i.e. manner of life.
Preachers — Sometimes people become offended by something a preacher says in his sermon and refuse to attend any more services. They sometimes blame their unfaithfulness on the preacher when they are asked about their neglect. It may have been that the preacher said something that was correct and was needful in his sermon. II Timothy 4:2 says that he is to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” It is also true that a preacher can make a mistake in judgment as preachers are not perfect. Regardless of mistakes that others might make, we must remain faithful to God. We can blame the preacher for our neglect, but we are still responsible and must answer to God.
Other Christians — Sometimes a Christian is mistreated by another Christian. He then may try to excuse his neglect in serving God by the fact he was mistreated. Some might say they will not attend services because there are “so many hypocrites there.” These are trying to blame their spiritual neglect on others, but they are still responsible for their sins.
Many people take the easiest course with regard to their sins. Instead of repenting, they simply blame others. It does no good for us to shift responsibility.
A person who is not a Christian must believe (Heb. 11:6), repent (Acts 17:30-31), confess Christ (Rom. 10:10, and be baptized (Acts 2:38). A Christian who sins must repent, pray, and confess his sins (Acts 8:22, James 5:16, I Jn. 1:8-10). God will not excuse any of us because of what someone else did or did not do. We bear responsibility of our own sins.
Jesus’ Keys to Coping with Stress
(Expositions from Matthew)
In our hurry-up, pressure-cooker world, everyone knows about stress. Such pressure comes from the various demands our fast-paced life places on us. Sometimes, they seem like they will pull us apart.
Reading through the Gospel of Matthew, we can observe major crisis moments in Jesus’ own life, noting how the Lord handled each stressful situation. This inductive study yields five “keys” to cope with various kinds of stress in our own lives. We cannot escape stress in this world. However, by faith and trusting obedience to Jesus’ example, we can manage to keep from being “stressed out.”
Remember God’s Word
(Matthew 3:16 – 4:11)
No sooner had God confirmed Jesus’ identity and mission at his baptism than Satan called it into question in the wilderness temptations. Temptation to sin is seductive stress. Each time, however, Jesus responded by saying, “It is written…” He quotes from Deuteronomy, which is the ancient record and review of God’s “son” Israel, who also went through the water into the desert to be tested regarding trust in God. Jesus knew and expertly used the very best Scripture to blunt each temptation. In the stressful arrest in Gethsemane, instead of abandoning His mission, Jesus focused on fulfilling Scripture to help Him stay the course (Matthew 26:54,56).
Instead of falling prey to our changing moods and surging urges, contemplating Scripture helps to refocus our minds in the calm light of unchanging, eternal truth. “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psa 119:165). Fill your heart continually with God’s Word, which is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit encourages and strengthens you in times of trial.
Do God’s Work
As Jesus entered on his ministry of teaching, healing, teaching and exorcism, the needs and demands placed on Him were tremendous. This is the stress of overwhelming demands, with seemingly too much to do and too little time to do it. However, Jesus faced the situation without despair by doing what God had sent him to do — day by day, dealing with one person at a time. He never was flustered nor “lost His cool.”
When the task seems too enormous to bear, remember that we can only breathe one breath at a time, do one thing at a time, take one-step at a time and live one day at a time. We must prioritize our actions to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Do not let trivial things obscure the vital things we ought to be and can be doing. Simply do whatever you know God has given you to do for that moment and that day, without “biting off more than you can chew.” Also, consider this saying: “We must stop stewing and start doing!” Stress can come from an over active mind and an underactive body. God will be with us each step of the way. He will give us strength and guidance for each challenge confronting us.
Rest in God’s Sovereignty
Some cities which saw most of Jesus’ miracles still did not believe in him. This is the stress of disappointing results. Yet, Jesus’ response was a joy-filled heart and a prayer to God — who is always in charge and whose work will never be defeated.
When our agenda crashes, our hopes wither and our plans fail, we must rest in the knowledge that God has an eternal purpose. Remember with Jesus to proclaim before God: “Your will be done!” (Matt. 26:42). He alone is in ultimate control of the universe and eternity. There is not enough power in hell to defeat God in the accomplishment of His purpose. No one will ever thwart his master plan for the salvation of all those whom he has graciously determined to redeem.
Seek God’s Presence
(Matthew 14:12-13, 23)
When word came that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, forerunner and friend, had been beheaded, Jesus went out in a boat to a lonely place by himself, apart from all human company. To cope with the stress of tragedy, Jesus made time for intimate communion with the Father. He drew strength and direction for His Messianic task. Also, when the clamoring crowds tried to make Jesus a political king (John 6:15), Jesus refused the stress of popular pressure by going “on the mountain by Himself to pray” (V. 23).
The same powerful resource of prayer is ours today, if we will seek and receive it, for the work God has entrusted to us (Heb. 4:16). Prayer can relieve the stress we face and soothe our soul (Phil. 4:6-7).
Trust God’s Faithfulness
In the Garden of Gethsemane and again on the cross, Jesus entrusted himself to the Father’s will. In the stress of pain and sorrow, He was confident, even in His abandonment on the cross, that death would not have the final word. He voluntarily yielded up His spirit to the Father’s safekeeping (Matt. 27:50).
Sometimes, life reveals no quick answers, no simple solutions, no ready escapes. Yet, God is always faithful. We can always entrust ourselves to his care, with full confidence and without any reserve. He can see us through today’s stress to tomorrow, even unto the day of eternity.
Learning to Forgive Yourself
Judas serves as our greatest biblical example for how difficult it can be to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. Judas was “remorseful” when he realized the error of his ways after betraying Jesus (Matt. 27:3). He even acknowledged his sins before the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27:4), yet was unable to forgive himself. This immense sorrow caused Judas to kill himself (Matt. 27:5).
If Judas truly repented, God would have forgiven him. God will always forgive us if we truly repent (Mark 3:28). David understood this well, and explains the Lord “forgives all your iniquities” (Psalm 103:3). David’s emphasis on “all” iniquities should comfort us and prevent our remorse from overtaking us when we sin. Judas, however, so deeply entrenched in sorrow, was unwilling to forgive himself, which prevented God from forgiving him.
Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The energy it takes to harbor anger, hatred, and resentment towards yourself is exhaustive. Every bit of energy we give to negative activities and dwelling on regret robs us of the energy we need to become the person God wants us to be. Life is full of choices and every choice we make will either take us in a positive life-giving direction or rob us of the opportunity to be a life-giving individual. Forgiving ourselves does not justify what we have done, and it is not a sign of weakness. Forgiveness is a choice that takes courage and strength, and it gives us the opportunity to become an overcomer rather than remaining a victim of our own scorn.
Failing to forgive yourself puts blinders on your spiritual eyesight. It causes you to see things through the eyes of guilt, shame, and condemnation. It ruins our faith and causes us to go spiritually blind: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). In Col. 3:13, we are told to forgive one another, but did you know the Greek root word for the phrase “one another” actually includes yourself? The Greek root word Heautou refers not only to others, but also to ourselves!
If we are unforgiving of ourselves, we are not really accepting the work that Christ did for us on the cross. God’s Word tells us that Jesus purged, that is, removed, our sin (Heb. 1:3), but if we fail to forgive ourselves, we are, in essence, calling God’s Word a liar. We are essentially saying, “I hate myself because I did that sin… I won’t forgive myself of it!” When God’s Word tells us that the sin has been purged, or removed, from us…who are we to say that it is still part of our past?
When we ask for God’s forgiveness based upon Christ having already paid for our sins and having trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He forgives us (1 John 1:9). However, even though we are released from the bondage of sin, as spoken of in Romans 6-8, we can still choose to wallow in it and act as though we are not freed from it. Likewise, with guilty feelings we can accept the fact that we are forgiven in Christ, or we can believe Satan’s lie that we are still guilty and should therefore feel guilty.
Although sin causes great distress and sorrow, especially when our sins impact those around us, we must not act as Judas did. We must realize that, through God’s grace and mercy, He “has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). Knowing this, we must not mentally or physically punish ourselves to the point that Judas did. If God is willing to forgive us when we fall, we must be willing to forgive ourselves!
Seven Steps in Giving
Paul S. McElroy
A Spanish scholar of the twelfth century, Moses Maimonides, depicts seven steps in what he calls the ladder of charity and giving:
The first and lowest degree is to give, but with reluctance.
The second is to give cheerfully, but not in proportion to the distress of the sufferer.
The third step is to give cheerfully and proportionately, but not until solicited.
The fourth is to give cheerfully, proportionately, and unsolicitedly, but yourself to put the gift in the poor man’s hand, thus exciting in him the painful emotion of shame.
The fifth is to know the object of your bounty, but to remain unknown to him.
The sixth is to bestow charity in such a way that the benefactor may not know the recipient, nor the recipient his benefactor.
The seventh and worthiest step is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty. This is the highest step and summit of charity’s golden ladder.
A True Friend
“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts, nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are – chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them – keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
“I would rather have thousands to say to me at the judgment, “We heard you preach, and you hurt our feelings,” than to have just one lost soul to say, “I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth.” (John T. Lewis)
“To actually and truly stand upon the Bible then is to believe and do the things that the Bible teaches, and to leave undone everything that it does not teach. No man can allow his preference or his opinion to prevent him from doing anything that the Scriptures require; nor can he permit them to incite him to do anything as service to God that they do not authorize and command. In no other way can anyone rightfully say that the Bible is his guide, and that he stands candidly, and fully on Bible ground.”
“Apostolic Times” Jan. 1954
Point to Ponder
Your dollars will go farther if they are accompanied with good sense.
The Elon Challenger is published monthly by the church of Christ meeting at 4021 Hobbs Island Road in Owens Cross Roads. The mailing address is PO Box 149, New Hope, AL, 35760 where any comments, questions, or requests for further information can be sent. The Challenger is also distributed monthly to the Elon congregation as an eight page, paper publication. The editor is Mike Johnson.
The website address is www.elonchurchofchrist.com.
Evangelist & Editor: Mike Johnson