In This Issue
The Pharisees and scribes had rebuked Jesus and His disciples for not following the traditions of the rabbis in their special hand-washing procedures before eating. Jesus denied that there was an obligation to follow such traditions -- and then showed that some of their traditions even contradicted the plain commandments of God. For instance, they had a tradition of dedicating a certain portion of their wealth to the temple, and then ignoring their obligation to provide for their aged parents. Jesus said such tradition clearly violated God's revealed law.
We are reminded of certain religious traditions today that likewise set aside the clear commands of God. 1 Timothy 3:2-4 says that a bishop must be married and have children, yet some modern day religious groups insist that a bishop must not be married. In Matthew 23:9, Jesus commanded His disciples, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven," yet some churches traditionally call their religious leaders by this forbidden title.
As Jesus returned to the hand-washing question, He declared, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man." (Mark 7:15). Later, when His disciples asked for further explanation, He said, "Whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated... What comes out of a man defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (verses 18-23).
Jesus is simply saying that their humanly devised ceremonial washings were not spiritually necessary. There would be no spiritual defilement because someone did not honor such traditions. We do not become spiritually defiled by the things we eat, or by the dirt that may be on our bodies. Spiritual defilement begins in the heart. Not the blood pump, but the heart as the seat of emotions, desire, will and intellect. When a man harbors evil thoughts, schemes and plans in his heart, he is involved in that which will defile him spiritually.
James elaborates on this theme in James 1:14-15, "Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." Solomon wrote "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7).
We are not defiled by rejecting human traditions, but by violating the revelation of God.
--Clarence R. Johnson
FOUR THINGS GOD WANTS YOU TO KNOW
1. You Need a Savior.
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" (Rom. 3:23). "The wages of sin is death…" (Rom. 6:23).
2. You Cannot Save Yourself.
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Prov. 14:12). "Jesus said to [Nicodemus], 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" (John 14:6).
3. God Wants You To Be Saved.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).
4. God Has Already Provided For Your Salvation.
[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).
FOUR THINGS GOD WANTS YOU TO DO
1. Believe Jesus Christ.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
2. Repent of Your Sins.
"God… now commands all men everywhere to repent. " (Acts 17:30). "The Lord… is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).
3. Confess Faith in Christ Jesus.
"Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 10:32).
4. Be Buried in Baptism.
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…'" (Acts 2:38). "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:3-4). "Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Col. 2:12).
When you have learned these four things God wants you to know, and have obeyed these four things you need to do, the precious blood of Jesus will wash away your sins, and you may begin to walk a new life in Christ Jesus, Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; Rom. 6:3-5.
--Clarence R. Johnson
DOES FASTING MAKE US MORE SPIRITUAL?
When Jesus was born, fasting was a prevalent practice among the Jews. Its origin, however, cannot be traced to heaven's command. What God did command was that they "afflict their souls" in mourning for their sins on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29) -- "afflicting" would be expressed logically in the form of abstinence from food. In fact the day of atonement became known as "the fast," (Acts 27:9). Fasting was also associated by the Jews with times in their history when they had experienced great tragedy. Because fasting is naturally associated with deep grieving, they fasted as they remembered the death of Gedaliah, the breach in the wall, the capture of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple (compare Jeremiah 52:7; 41:4; Zechariah 7:3; 8:19). It was designed for deep, soul searching and grieving for sin.
When Jesus began his ministry, the Jews had changed those occasions of fasting into pretentious demonstrations of piety. In fact, to intensify the outward show of righteousness, they even added weekly fasts -- it had become "religiously correct" to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12). Their sad countenance and the disfigurement of their faces were a mere facade, an identity badge designed to prove their holiness, as though there was some special, spiritual value in abstinence itself (Matthew 6:16-18).
Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:1) and taught that when disciples did it they were not to act hypocritically as the Pharisees did (Matthew 6:16-18), but he never commanded its practice. Paul fasted (Acts 27:21; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27) and, it appears that, at least some of the time, his fasting was involuntary. But, nowhere, in any of his epistles, did Paul require it of disciples. Some of the brethren at Antioch fasted and prayed as they anticipated the perilous times ahead for those sent on the first missionary journey, (Acts 13:1-3), which was certainly appropriate, in view of the uncertain difficulties which lay ahead.
All of which says it was lawful for first century disciples to fast and would also be for us, if we so choose. But it was never commanded nor essential to spiritual well being. If you wish to fast, do so, but "abstinence does not necessarily make the heart grow fonder" nor is one who fasts more spiritual than the brother who does not. On the other hand for those who have never fasted, you might try it sometime just to see how much control you have over yourself (cf. 2 Peter 1:6).
-- Jim Everett, Bible Viewpoints
Genuine faith is based on evidence that admits of no doubt, and to believe in a person means more than to believe that such a person exists. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). In addition to accepting the truth that God is, we confidently trust Him for the fulfillment of His promises. In all genuine faith there is, therefore, the element of confidence and trust. We trust Him to fulfill His promises, and we confide in His wisdom and goodness.
It is true that Abel heard God's command and obeyed, and therefore he made his offering by faith (Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4). But there was something back of all that. Why did he do what God said, and why did not Cain do what God said? Abel had confidence in God's wisdom and goodness. Cain had confidence in his own wisdom and way. Hence, Abel followed God's way and Cain followed his own way. Abel did what God commanded because he had more confidence in God than in himself.
--R.L. Whiteside, Gospel Preceptor, Vol. 2, # 8
Oct. 17-19, 2003
Oct. 19-23, 2003
Oct. 24-26, 2003
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Clarence R. Johnson
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