The Elon Challenger


New Hope, Alabama

Seeking to challenge your interest in things

spiritual & eternal (Eph. 6:10-18)

Volume 16 Number 3

November 2018


Table of Contents

“My Departure Is at Hand” —————————- Mike Johnson

How Does God Speak to Us Today? —————– Leon Mauldin

Poison ————————————————– Author Unknown

Spiritual But Not Religious—————– Matthew W. Bassford

What’s in Your Bucket? ————————— Author Unknown

The Tongue ——————————————- Author Unknown

Truth’s Narrow Door ——————————— Earl Kimbrough

True Riches ——————————————- Author Unknown

What Were They Told? —————————- Author Unknown

Correction Is Grievous —————————- James W. Adams

You Preached Right at Me ———————– Author Unknown

The Conscience ————————————- F.W. Richardson



“My Departure Is at Hand”

Mike Johnson

In II Timothy 4:6, while in a Roman prison near the end of his life, Paul wrote, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”

The Greek word (analusis) which is translated “departure” is found only here in the New Testament.  Paul uses the word here as a metaphor for death and Greek scholars tell us that it refers to the act of releasing a boat from its moorings (Thayer). Picture a boat tied to a dock.  The boat moves up and down and back and forth; the rope becomes tight and then loose.  The boat strains to set itself free from the dock.  Finally, its owner unties the boat, and it departs from the dock.

Paul describes living here upon this earth as, in a sense, tied to a dock.  The time would soon come for the “rope” to be untied, and he would set sail upon the seas of eternity.  His death would be a release.

Consider the way that Peter spoke of his death.  After saying that he must shortly “put off his tabernacle,” (i.e., die) he said, “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease (“departure”-NASB) to have these things always in remembrance” (II Pet. 1:15).  The word translated decease (exodus) is the same word used by Luke (Lk. 8:31) in his account of the transfiguration.  Luke says that when Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah, He spoke of his “decease” (KJV) which would happen in Jerusalem.   Various other translations use the word “departure.” Interestingly, Hebrews 11:22 says that Joseph spoke of the children of Israel “departing” from Egypt to go to the Promised Land.  The Greek word is used here a third time.  The children of Israel would “depart” on a literal journey.

Sometimes we refer euphemistically to a person who has died as one who has “departed.”  Truly, death is not the end; it is simply a “departure” from this life. When a person dies, his spirit leaves his body (Jas. 2:26), and it departs to another place.

We can be comforted by the knowledge that death is a departure.  We mourn when loved ones pass away as we know we will miss them.  Jesus even wept on such an occasion (Jn. 11:35).  But, the person who is a faithful Christian, is simply going to another place which is “far better” (Phil. 1:23).  Truly, death is not the end

In II Timothy 4:7-8, Paul noted that he had fought a good fight, he had finished his course, and he had kept the faith.  Because of this, he could look forward to his departure, anticipating a crown of righteousness which awaited him.   He pointed out that he had a desire to depart and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23).  If we faithfully serve God, we also can favorably anticipate our “departure.”  Paul pointed out that this crown would not be for him only, but is also for all those who love His appearing.

There will be a time when we will be “untied from the dock.”  Will we be ready?




Leon Mauldin

“Comment on the claim that Jesus speaks to some people today, either audibly, or by making a ‘mental impression on them.’’’

Answer: The question really becomes one of whether the Bible is sufficient, or must we look for later revelations.

In 1 Cor. 2:10 ff. we learn that the Holy Spirit  searched the “things of God’’ and revealed them to the  apostles. That which the Spirit revealed unto them was preached orally and also put in written form, under the  direction of the Holy Spirit. Paul “wrote’’ what had been revealed to him so that others could “read’’ (Eph. 3:3).

God has granted unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). In Eph. 3:3-5 we are taught that God made known the truth of Christ by his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This fulfilled the promise Jesus had previously made to the apostles in John 16:13 that the  Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. The Spirit did this.

But the point is, that this inspired revelation is complete. We are furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16,17).

The faith has been once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). This does not leave room for additional revelations. Consider the principle of Gal. 1:9. cf. 2 John 9.

This word is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16), and is the standard by which all will be judged (Jas. 2:12; John 12:48). Jesus calls by the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). Jesus speaks to us through the word (Heb. 1:1,2).

Consider how Jesus speaks to the churches (Rev.  2:1f): “Likewise, the Spirit speaks expressly (1 Tim.4:1f), and, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says  to the churches’’ (Rev. 2:7).

Regarding having a mental impression that Jesus is speaking to one today: Remember that our feelings are not  infallible. They are not our standard (Prov. 14:12; Jer.  10:23). Paul looked back at that time when he had been in error and still was able to say, “I have lived in all good  conscience before God until this day’’ (Acts 23:1; 26:9).

“The heart is deceitful above all things…’’ (Jer. 17:9). This is why we have the Bible. The evidence whereby we may  know if we stand approved before God is not our feelings,  even in good conscience, but rather whether our conduct is  in harmony with God’s word (Phil. 1:27; Jas. 1:21; 1 Pet.  1:22-23).

There is no indication that Jesus speaks directly to anyone today, with either an audible voice, or through  making mental impressions. If we want to hear Him speak, we must listen to His word, the Bible, and specifically the New Testament. Jesus knew that this is how faith in Him  would come about: “I do not pray for these [apostles] alone,  but also for those who will believe in Me through their  word’’ (John 17:20).



Author Unknown

A worldly-wise lady said, “Oh! Oh! All the religions have so much good in them! We shouldn’t criticize or condemn any of them.” To this, a wise man replied, “So has rat poison a lot of good in it; it is 98% cornmeal, yet the 2% poison in it is enough to kill! Error mixed with truth is dangerous and can be fatal.”




Spiritual but Not Religious

Matthew W. Bassford

A few weeks ago, one of the members at Jackson Heights asked me to write about one of those cultural catchphrases, “spiritual, but not religious,” hereinafter SBNR. I agreed, but I had a few misgivings. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what it meant. Does it merely mean, “I believe in God, but I don’t feel like going to church,” or is there something more to it?

In an attempt to alleviate my confusion, I Googled the phrase. This did not help. As far as I can tell, the only thing that unites SBNR’s is that they aren’t naturalists. They have some sense that observable reality is not all there is. Maybe they’re awed by looking at a redwood grove in California. Maybe they believe that they have some kind of inner potential that they want to unlock.

Regardless, there’s Something, and the definition of Something is not at all consistent from person to person. Such variations exist because SBNR’s don’t come together with congregations of like-minded individuals, nor even are particularly concerned whether like-minded individuals exist. That’s the NR part. SBNR’s find their spiritual experiences in solitude.

This is almost incomprehensibly different from my religious/spiritual experience. I believe in objective truth. I believe that God is. I believe that Christ died, was buried, and was raised on the third day. Everything else flows from that.

By contrast, there is nothing objective about spirituality to an SBNR. There are no truth claims. Redwood Guy is not going to argue with Inner-Potential Girl that his way is better. What’s important is not the truth, but my truth, my experience.

With no objective truth about God, there can be no objective morality. I believe that I ought to love my neighbor as myself, and that I ought not commit adultery with my neighbor’s wife. Why? I can come up with all sorts of ethical justifications, but fundamentally, I believe those things because God said so. What God says is right is always right, and what God says is wrong is always wrong.

None of that can stand up for an SBNR. Nobody has ever managed to come up with an objective system of morality independent from religion because objective morality depends on authority. Otherwise, we are all our own authorities, and what makes your authority any more authoritative than mine?

I think human life is precious; Hitler thought whole races ought to be exterminated. What makes Hitler wrong? My say-so? If the Germans had won World War II, would that have made them right?

I’m not denying that SBNR’s can behave morally, any more than that atheists and agnostics can behave morally. At least some people in all three groups view themselves as moral people. The problem is that their morality can have no stronger foundation than tradition and personal preference. It’s Judges 21:25 again. One also suspects that if your morality is based on preference, it will tend to exhibit a certain flexibility according to the impulses of the moment. I ought not commit adultery with my neighbor’s wife, but if my neighbor’s wife is especially good-looking. . .

Third, without objective truth and objective morality, it’s tough to have an objective purpose. I want to inherit eternal life. Either I will succeed in that, in which case my life will have been a success, or I will fail, and my life will have been a failure. Even if an atheistic nothingness awaits me, I will be of all people most to be pitied.

I struggle to see how SBNR’s can have a fundamentally purposeful or meaningful existence. Awe in the redwood grove is nice enough, I suppose, but as a way of making life matter, it’s not a whole lot more useful than the various pleasures of the flesh. Feels are feels, and ultimately they’re unsatisfying.

So too with unlocking our inward potential. You live a life of mindfulness and oneness with the universe, and then you die. Is the dying of the light any better because you didn’t rage against it? I suppose that such people can hope to go to heaven, but I’d much rather place my hope in a the-truth heaven than a my-truth heaven. The latter sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking.

Basically, it seems to me that the big appeal of being SBNR is not in what it offers, but in what it doesn’t require. If you’re just off being spiritual on your own, there are no rules, there are no expectations. Nobody is going to demand that you do anything you don’t want to do.

This kind of freedom sounds inviting (it’s sort of like being an atheist except with more meditation along the way), but in practice, it’s a trap. Jeremiah 10:23 is still true today. None of us are wise enough to make our own way through life. We need guidance. We need a Shepherd. We need one another to keep us honest about following the guidance of the Shepherd.

The SBNR belief system rejects all of those things. I suppose that’s freedom in a sense, but it’s the freedom of life without signposts, stoplights, lane lines, and guardrails. You’re free to do whatever you want.

You are not, however, free to avoid the consequences.



What’s in Your Bucket?

Author Unknown

If you were walking from the well carrying a bucket of water and someone jostled you, there could be spilled from the bucket only what it contained. As you walk along the way of life people are constantly bumping into you. If your life is full of ill nature, bad temper, and ugly disposition, those things will be spilled from it. If it is full of Christian spirit, you will spill a smile or pleasant remark…




The Tongue

  Author Unknown 

“I’ve gossiped about my neighbor,” said the woman to her minister. “One day I saw her stagger across the yard, so I told a few friends that she had been drunk. Now I find that her staggering was caused by a leg injury. How can I undo this gossip I started?”

The minister excused himself for a moment, returned with a pillow, and asked the woman to follow him to a side porch. He took a knife, cut a hole in the pillow, and emptied the feathers over the railing. A small breeze soon scattered tiny feathers all about the yard, among shrubs, flowers, even up in the trees. A few feathers floated across the street heading for unknown destinations. The minister turned to the woman and said, “Will you go out now and gather every one of the feathers?”

The woman looked stunned, and said, “Why, that would be impossible.” “’Exactly,” replied, the minister sorrowfully, “and so it is with your gossip.”




Truth’s Narrow Door

Earl Kimbrough

Jesus said, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door.” (Luke 13:24, RV). Truth is always narrow. This is true of all truth. Two plus two equals four. Of all the answers that might be given as the sum of two plus two, only one is right. A person who accepts the correct answer is necessarily “narrow-minded” – just as narrow in mind as the truth. Religious truth is also narrow. Whatever Christ teaches is truth and however “broad-minded” one might be, it will not change that fact. One’s mind should be only broad enough to accept whatever is true and it should be narrow enough to exclude whatever is not truth. When two things contradict, one or both are false. Truth does not contradict itself. The man who tries to accept all teaching in religion as “all right” if sincerely believed, would be a fool if he so acted in any other realm. Why does religion make it different?

  From The Stevens Avenue Sower



True Riches

Author Unknown

One day a father and his rich family took his son to a trip to the country with the firm purpose to show him how poor people can be. They spent a day and a night in the farm of a very poor family.  When they got back from their trip the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “Very good Dad!” “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Yeah!”  “And what did you learn?” The son answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden; they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have a whole horizon.”  When the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless. His son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are!”




What Were They Told?

Author Unknown

In the first century when sinners were convicted of their sins and obviously believed that “that same Jesus whom” they had “crucified” had been made “both Lord and Christ”, they said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, WHAT SHALL WE DO?” They were not told to “come to the altar and pray through.” They were told by the apostle Peter to “Repent, and be baptized every, one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). This is what should be told believing sinners today.




Correction is Grievous

James W. Adams

“Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way …” (Proverbs 15: 10). Few people are able to accept correction graciously. Our first inclination is always to justify self. This, no doubt, accounts for the bad spirit which is so manifest in brethren who have “forsaken the way” of the Lord when one attempts to correct them. The individual who is completely confident as to the truth of his position is assailed. He knows that the truth will vindicate his stand, hence there is no necessity for violent emotional reactions. When men react violently and angrily to an expression of a belief opposite to their own, it is reasonably certain that they have “forsaken the way.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  From  TIDINGS, 11-3-62



You Preached Right at Me

 Author Unknown

Frequently after a preacher of the gospel declares the pure and plain Word of God in a scriptural and forceful manner, someone in the audience will complain to him, “You preached right at me!”  Actually it is a good thing for the complainer to apply the lesson in a personal and individual way, but usually the complainer is offended because the preacher has “stepped on his toes.”

Many preachers of the gospel can tell you from  first hand experience that frequently a member of the church becomes offended because he feels as if the preacher was “talking about him.” When a person makes this statement you can be certain that the preacher probably was speaking about him, and all others in his condition!   We have all heard the expression: ” If the shoe fits, wear it.”  If the truth spoken condemns your condition, then repent,  because if you do not repent you will perish.  This is plain Bible.

One great principle we all need to learn is this: The gospel lesson is true, not because of who preaches it; but because of what is preached

Any human is capable of believing and teaching error, and we must humble our-selves and realize that we can be wrong. Be honest enough to admit your own errors and be courageous enough to change when found in error. It takes courage to say, “I was wrong.”

As you learn the truth, do not become offended but rather be happy with your discovery.  To say, “I was wrong,” when you learn the truth is but to say, “I am wiser today than I was yesterday. Sermons are preached, not simply to be liked, but to be lived.  Always apply each gospel lesson to your own life (Read Matt. 7:1-5).  Always be as kind and tolerant with others as you want them to be with you (Matt. 7:12 ). Receive “the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11 ). The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.



F. W. RICHARDSON said: “The conscience has been compared to a clock, and the law of God to the sun. The clock is right only when it keeps time with the Sun. And so it is with the conscience. It is a safe guide only when it is directed by the commandments of the Lord.”


 A Point to Ponder

Live so that when people speak evil of you, no one who knows you will believe them.


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

 Evangelist & Editor: Mike Johnson