Are You Running On The Wrong Fuel?

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Have you seen the commercial where a young lady is at a gas station trying to put diesel fuel into her new car? People all around the service station notice and try to stop her. Events begin to happen in slow motion. As she lifts the nozzle and opens her fuel-cap, the townspeople are running and yelling and waving their arms to gain her attention. But no one can stop her!

The commercial returns to real time as the neighbors arrive at the pump, only to find that her sporty little car actually has a diesel engine under the hood. The people look relieved and the young lady looks confused – she knew she had selected the right fuel all along.

The commercial is hilarious because everyone knows what happens when you put diesel fuel into a gasoline engine – you wreck the engine! You cannot do it. It does not work.

Likewise, people are designed by God to run on certain “fuel,” but how many of us are trying to run on the wrong fuel? Notice the invitation extended by God’s prophet Isaiah.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,

Come to the waters;

And you who have no money,

Come, buy and eat.

Yes, come, buy wine and milk

Without money and without price.

2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,

And your wages for what does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,

And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.

Hear, and your soul shall live;

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you —

The sure mercies of David,” Isaiah 55:1-3

Why do we spend all of our money, time, and energies on things that do not satisfy, that is, on the wrong fuel? Greed, materialism, gluttony, and mammon – all these give the appearance of satisfying our souls and bringing purpose to our lives. But they fail. We were made to run on different fuel – the Word of God (Matthew 4:3-4).

Until we stop trying to fill our hearts and lives with poor substitutes for a right relationship with God, we are wrecked engines trying to run on the wrong fuel. Isaiah’s invitation resonates with all who realize that their own attempts at joy, peace, and abundance have only ended in frustrations and yearnings.

It is time for something different, something more. It is time to feed our lives with the right fuel. It is time we trust and obey God’s Word.

by Andrew Roberts

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Drawn To Jesus

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Recently I’ve been learning about the religious phenomenon of “Muslim-Background Believers” (MBB). That is, people who live in predominately Muslim lands, or even grew up in Muslim households, are leaving the religion of their youth for the gospel message.  Their conversion stories are gripping, inspiring, and abundant.

Some MBB remain in their homelands and face terrible persecution at the hands of their families, their neighbors, and their governments where apostasy is a capital crime (I Am N, Voice of the Martyrs, 2016). Many must flee their nation to preserve their lives (Islam and Terrorism, Mark A. Gabriel, 2015). I’ve benefited greatly from a number of books written by MBB that share an insider’s perspective on Islam, contrasting it with the Christian Faith (Unveiling Islam, Caner & Caner, 2009; Understand My Muslim People, Abraham Sarker, 2004). These books and many more encourage Christians to understand Muslim backgrounds, offer answers to Islam’s objections to Christianity, and explore ways to help other Muslims leave Islam (Answering Islam, Geisler & Saleeb, 2003; Beyond Opinion, Ravi Zacharias, 2010).

What is drawing Muslims out of Islam? Why are they willing to risk such great personal cost? I’m learning that it’s the same compelling evidence and message that draws all people to Jesus. Listen to some of the reasons:

 

“These converts evidently found something in Christianity that they felt was lacking in Islam. Many are attracted to the figure of Jesus, others find the Christian dogma of forgiveness of sins comforting, and still others are impressed by the charitable behavior of individual Christians around them. But if there is a common thread running through these conversion testimonies, it is that Christianity preaches the love of Christ and God, whereas Islam is forever threatening hellfire for disobeying, and obsessively holds up the wrath of God in front of the believer. In other words, the two religions have two totally different conceptions of God: In the former, God is near, loving, and protective, God the Father, in the latter, God is a remote, angry, tyrannical figure to be obeyed blindly.” – Ibn Warraq, Leaving Islam, p.92

“Muslims are drawn to the love of Christ, and this is a big responsibility as well as a blessing. When I read the New Testament, what amazed and astounded me the most was the teaching on love, not only toward one’s kin and kindred, but even toward one’s enemies. It was so different from my training in Islam that it actually made me angry that someone could suggest something so obviously impossible. But as I continued reading, the reality of it entered my heart and changed my life.” – Sam Soloman, Beyond Opinion, p.78

“After one year of reading the Bible in an honest way, I understand now what happened to me. I found my way to God, the real God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope now for all the people I love, my family, my friends, and everyone else to change also and begin to read the Bible in an honest way. I am sure that God will help them find their way.” – Desert Son, a Saudi Arabian Muslim convert to Christianity, Leaving Islam, p.95

“Christianity is life, Islam is death” – an Algerian Muslim convert to Christianity, El Youm (an Algerian Arabic daily, December, 2000)

 

People, any people, can be drawn to Jesus by the Word of God. The Father draws people to Jesus by the teaching of Scripture (John 6:44-45). So when people honestly read the Bible they discover the gospel of Jesus. Jesus’ gospel is the true message of light (John 8:12), life (John 11:25), and love (John 15:10-15)! It is the Word of Truth (1 Peter 1:22-25) and the Power to Salvation (Romans 1:16). Nothing compares to the New Testament because the gospel is true and world religions are false. Faith is founded on the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

People have all sorts of backgrounds – religious and irreligious. People have all sorts of baggage – sin and guilt. And all people have the same appointment to keep – death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Will you have the Savior on that day?

Are you drawn to Jesus?

Will you help others learn about Him from the Bible?

 

By Andrew Roberts

An Extra Day

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Leap Day! Leap Year! An extra day! What would you do with an extra day?

Joshua’s prayer for an extra day is an amazing Bible account.

The prayer was a dynamic mixture of God’s determined will and mankind’s bold request. The result was a miracle.

“Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies…So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel,” Joshua 10:12-14.

The Lord fought for Israel and protected her against her enemies, the Amorites. The Lord was with Joshua and the troops, He even rained hail down on the enemies (Joshua 10:11). The hail killed more Amorites than the sword!

That day was special. There has been no day like it. But what was more special than the sun stilled was the prayer prayed! There has never been another day where the Lord heeded the voice of a man like that.

Joshua wanted more time, an extra day, to fulfill the Lord’s determined will. The Lord fought for Israel and Joshua fought for the Lord. It’s exciting to see that when the Lord reveals His will, and His people are eager to obey, the only thing yet required is the time to do it. And God supplies the time!

For New Testament Christians, the apostles teach us to consider each day as time God has given to serve Him. Time is a valuable and limited resource. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” Ephesians 5:15-17.

It’s safe to say that Joshua understood what the will of the Lord was in his day (Joshua 10:8).

So, it’s not beyond Christians to understand what the will of the Lord is either. The Scriptures teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What remains for us to attain is an attitude of faith like Joshua. An attitude that says, “I will spend today serving God. I will not procrastinate but I will ask God to give me all the time necessary to accomplish His will. And if I get another day – even an extra day – I will use it in the same way: for the glory of God.”

Make the most of your leap day, make the most of every day!

By Andrew Roberts

Islam, Abortion, and Other Hot Topics

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The calendar year has changed but challenges to the gospel remain. By God’s grace we have entered 2016 but it is surely so He may work in us according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). A new year means fresh opportunities to be “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13), “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), and examples to others (1 Timothy 4:12). Such biblical mandates compel us to bring biblical truth to bear on the pressing issues of our time.

So many of the WithGodsWord followers live in Middle Tennessee that we tend to think of all of our readers as neighbors. Jackson Heights Church of Christ (Columbia, TN) makes this blog possible and we sure appreciate all who read and comment on the posts. Our desire is to continue to send you a weekly, insightful, encouraging Bible message – free.

But today is a little different. We want you to know about something special going on at Jackson Heights Church and invite you to be part of it. At the beginning of each month we are going to have a sermon addressing the Hot Topics of our times. Here are the first three:

  1. January 10, 10:15 AM – “Answering Islam’s Challenges”
  2. February 7, 10:15 AM – Racism
  3. March 6, 10:15 AM – Abortion

Would you consider attending one Sunday morning to worship God and explore what the Bible says regarding the pressing issues of our time? We would love to meet more of our readers and these are great opportunities.

People have genuine questions, anxieties, experiences, and opinions about all of the subjects we wish to address throughout the series. Our goal will be to share Book, Chapter, and Verse from the Bible so you can see God’s Word on these matters for yourself. Whether these kinds of topics stir up anger, shame, sorrow, or fear, we can know that there is grace in the gospel and the power of God to redeem us, transform us, and fill us with hope and peace about tomorrow. With God’s Word we can know what is right and how to live it righteously (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16).

We hope to see you this Sunday.

By Andrew Roberts

Three Gifts You Never Exchange

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Confession time: I know I don’t always give “the perfect gift” to my loved ones. My family is so gracious, I’ve probably missed even more often than I realize.

Even with the best of intentions, I’ve fallen short in creativity or attention to detail. My second-guessing and insecurity about this is heightened during the holidays, so I save receipts. They can always exchange a gift when it is the wrong color, wrong size, or otherwise unwanted. And there are no hard feelings about it. I’ve chosen to exchange gifts myself. Haven’t we all?

But God is not this sort of gift-giver. Rather, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Our good Father gives us exactly what we need when we need it (Matthew 7:11). There are no genuine exchanges for something better. Better gifts do not exist! In fact, only deception, foolishness, or selfishness would move people to exchange God’s good gifts for the devil’s inferior and damnable knock-offs. Let’s notice three of God’s gifts that the Bible warns us never to exchange.

  1. Never Exchange the Truth of God for Lies. The Wise man advised his son, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). The apostle Paul explained that wicked, idolatrous societies have exchanged the gift of Truth for lies and reap the disastrous results. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25). God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17) and Scripture is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Perhaps we fail to recognize that every word from God is a gift from Him, the gift of Truth. The Bible is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange The Faith for Worldly Philosophies. There is only one faith, one gospel, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:5; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9-10). Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to guard the faith and don’t exchange it for fashionable worldly philosophies. “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Likewise, Christians at Colosse were warned. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Let us respect Christianity as it is revealed in Scripture and not attempt to wed it to worldly philosophies or discard it in favor of man-made religions. The Faith is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange Salvation for Sin. The greatest gift that God gives us is salvation in Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift is priceless because it is only obtainable by the precious death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:26; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Yet Temptation often offers us something in exchange for our salvation. The Hebrew writer warns Christians to view temptation to sin like Moses, these things are only “passing pleasures” and not worth exchanging our eternal reward (Hebrews 11:24-26). Furthermore, learn from Esau not to be shortsighted by the selfishness of the flesh to exchange our birthright of salvation (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation is a good and perfect gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God only gives perfect gifts. He doesn’t include gift receipts. The devil tries to fool us into thinking he can make an exchange for something better. But remember that no matter how Sin wraps the package, it only contains error, apostasy, and death (James 1:14-15). Never exchange God’s good gifts for that.

By Andrew Roberts

A Bold Confession of Despair

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I felt, with many believers, frustration and righteous indignation at the recent New York Daily News cover story. “Prayer” is disdained as mere platitudes and God (along with those who look to Him for guidance, comfort, and protection from evil) is mocked. The headline suggests that God is absent or aloof when people are “lying in pools of blood.” Ironically, those with the courage to publicly affirm their faith in God and call for prayer are denounced as cowards. These are the times when Christians have a lot of praying to do – especially for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” What an ideology. What a message. If hurting families are robbed of the spiritual solace and support of their neighbor’s prayers, what is left? If the sovereign, holy God will not right all wrongs on His Day of Reckoning, what is left? If all our hope and future rests solely on the shoulders of mere men – elected officials – and their proper governance, what is left?

Despair.

This incendiary message amounts to a bold public confession of despair. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Yet when we are overcome by evil, the result is despair.

  • If you begrudge prayers for victim’s families, you have despaired.
  • If you blame God for the evil actions of men, you have despaired. (This statement is in recognition that the God these politicians are invoking is not the same one that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook were serving with their assault rifles. The Muslim shooters were acting in accordance with the written decrees of their god and so he reasonably shares some culpability.)
  • If you conclude that the highest power in heaven and earth is mankind, well, how could you not despair? Evil has overcome you.

Evil will overcome us…

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with government. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” so the government better. The government can “end [the] gun scourge.” The government can fix everything, right? The government has omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, right? The government can save us, right? The Bible says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1; cf. Psalm 20:7). Ancient Israel made the mistake of looking to government (either their own or national allies) instead of God to deliver them from evil. The prophet encountered the-“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”-message in his day and made clear that impressive horses and chariots cannot overcome evil. Don’t put your trust there. Government cannot overcome evil. If this is the plan, then, “Hello, Despair.”
  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with another law. Obviously the answer to the murders in San Bernardino is another law restricting gun ownership. At least that’s where the New York Daily News seemed to be going with their piece. It’s just so logical: If law-abiding citizens can no longer purchase guns then law-breaking murderers will not possibly acquire them either.

My point here isn’t so much about gun control. A person can become a Christian, faithfully serve God, and go to Heaven whether their nation allows them the right to bear arms or not. My point is about law, in general. We are inviting despair if we think a stricter law or more laws will overcome evil – any laws. Law has never delivered people from evil. People break laws! Law would overcome evil only if it was kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11). Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ, only Jesus Christ has ever kept a law perfectly, none of the rest of us. Jesus Christ can overcome evil but another law in our justice system cannot. Of course we need law and order and government has a role ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). A law names and convicts evil. But if another law or a harsher law is our answer to overcome evil… “Hello, Despair.” Somebody will break the new law too, eventually.

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil without God. In Romans 1 we read of a society that knew God but rejected Him. They chose willful ignorance of the true God. What does that look like? “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…murder…deceit, evil-mindedness…haters of God, violent, proud…inventors of evil things…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:28-31). It looks like San Bernardino and a myriad of other reports on the evening News.

What do you think? Are parents talking about God to their children, so that they might “retain God in their knowledge”? Do the halls of Academia “retain God in their knowledge” as they present either science or the humanities to educate our populace? Do public officials or religious leaders “retain God in their knowledge” when they preach to the masses that all gods and religions are basically the same and thus shape public opinion and policy?

Surely it can’t be both ways. If we ignore, forget, or despise God then we cannot decry “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” We are overcome with evil. “Hello, Despair.”

Yet evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). Friend, there is no good without God (Matthew 19:16-17; James 1:16-17).

  • Evil is overcome with God by the gospel. Governments and laws won’t overcome evil but the gospel can. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel changes our state with God and justifies us by forgiving our sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11). A sinner dies to sin and gets a new life when they are baptized (immersed in water) and buried into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-14). Their heart is changed. Their mind is renewed. Their life is transformed from the world around them (Romans 12:1-2)… a world currently intent on forgetting God. Evil is overcome by God, not false religions, not governments, not laws, and not practical atheism. His plan to overcome evil by defeating Sin is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:27). Evil is overcome one soul at a time as they respond to the gospel.
  • Evil is overcome with God by prayer. I don’t know if I will vote for any of the men on the cover of this paper. I don’t know if any of them will even be on the ballot by the time elections roll around. But they got it right when they asked a nation to pray for neighbors and victims. Bible believers know to pray for the hurting, their leaders, pray for peace, pray for all the saints, pray for boldness, and pray for their enemies (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). They also know to keep praying during dark times (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Evil is overcome with God by love. God loves sinners and Jesus died to redeem them regardless of how they have sinned (John 3:16). You and I are no more sinless than Muslim terrorists or the editors at New York Daily News. We are all equally lost apart from God’s love and gracious salvation. Love is shown and known when it touches the despairing. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what people need to hear right now. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair. Let Christians hear it for what it is – an angry and rebellious child pushing away the only parent whose love can make things better. Aren’t our arms tired of pushing God away? Aren’t we ready to surrender our personal rebellions to God? We must come to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ who fixes us by His love and teaches us to love our neighbors also (Romans 13:8-10; Titus 2:11-14).

“Innocent Americans” are not “left lying in pools of blood” because there has been too much God in this society or too much prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair, especially when the truth is so obvious – only God can fix this. Only the gospel changes people. The Bible – God’s Word – has the answers. Who will share it with others? Who will listen and respond?

By Andrew Roberts

Truth, Sincerity, and a Bloody Tunic

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Have you read, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23)?

Sadly, Truth is not a hot commodity these days. The item flying off shelves is Sincerity – especially in religious matters.  While the wise man counseled God’s people to value Truth (i.e. “buy it”), the current society prefers to question the existence of Truth. No one would dare question Sincerity, though. Today, if a person sincerely believes something to be so, who has the audacity to challenge its accuracy?

Personal perspective, individual preference, emotional response – Sincerity is the standard to go by. The mistaken notion is that Sincerity constitutes Truth. As if believing something strongly enough could make it so.

But this is as wrong as it could be. You don’t believe something to make it true; you believe something because it is true. Christians don’t believe the gospel to make it true; they believe the gospel because it is true!

Truth accords with reality. Truth is the way it is. Truth is the fact of the matter. What is True is true whether you and I know it or not. True is true whether you and I like it or not. True is true whether you and I believe it or not. Our sincerity about something will never change the truth of the matter.

A Bible event testifies to the distinction of Sincerity and Truth. In the book of Genesis, Jacob believed with all his heart that his son Joseph was dead (Genesis 37:31-35). Joseph’s eleven brothers conspired to trap him and sell him into slavery. To hide their misdeeds, they took Joseph’s colorful tunic, tore it, and dipped it in blood. Then they presented the garment to Jacob and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”  Jacob said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.” Jacob tore his clothes, he wore sackcloth, and he refused to be comforted. Jacob said that he would go to his grave mourning. He sincerely believed Joseph was dead. In truth, Joseph lived. No matter how sincerely Jacob believed Joseph was dead, it did not change the truth that Joseph was alive.

We may pity Jacob because he was misled by his sons and the bloody tunic. What a shame to needlessly mourn like that. In fact, when the eleven admitted that Joseph lived, Jacob had a hard time believing them (Genesis 45:26-28).  Jacob was deceived and committed to a delusion for many years. But that did not change the truth: Joseph lived.

This account shows us three things about the Truth. First, one can be ignorant of the Truth. But that does not change it. Second, one can be deceived about the Truth. People can lie and lead you astray. It happened to Jacob. But that does not change the Truth. Finally, a person can be utterly sincere in some falsehood or delusion. But that will never alter the Truth.

Religion is not exempt from the force of Truth. Thoughtful people can look at different world religions and wonder if any of them are true. Every religion presents its own cast of characters, holy books, system of salvation, stories of origin, antidotes for suffering, and visions of future life. Are they all true? It is impossible.

Yet some people would say that various religions are all true in their own way; there are many paths and many truths – even portions of Truth are sprinkled throughout them. Another popular idea is that most all religions are basically the same anyway, so people should find the one they like best or content themselves with the religion of their parents. It matters little practically.

The gospel destroys these notions because the gospel is true (Ephesians 1:13). The gospel is the true word of the Lord (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s word is Truth (John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The Bible is true. So Christians are both lovers of truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and preachers of truth (Colossians 1:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:15).

People can be ignorant of the gospel, but that does not change it. They can be misled or deceived about the gospel, but that does not change it. They can be completely sincere in their faith and dedication to error, but that will not alter the gospel either. There is no salvation to be found in counterfeit gospels or false religions (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 4:12).

The world would like Christians to stop pestering people with Truth. “Leave other cultures alone,” they say, “Let them celebrate their religious heritage. After all, they are sincere.”

Surely they are sincere but so was Jacob. Sincerity does not make a religion true nor does it secure a soul. The gospel says that people are lost because of their sins and there is only one savior – Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16; 3:23; 6:23; John 14:6). People must be told the Truth (John 8:31-32) and encouraged to seek the Truth. Let’s search God’s Word to discover Truth (Acts 17:11). Let’s get back to buying Truth.

By Andrew Roberts