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From the desk of Steve Patton
“The unity of the heretics is schism” - Tertullian
Born in 155 AD, Tertullian was a vigorous opponent of heretics in the Lord’s church. He understood the cruel divisive nature of false teachers. He saw their one great shared characteristic - division.
He fought heretics vigorously, particularly the ideas of the heretic Marcion, one of several who were influenced by Greek philosophy and tried to merge its ideas with Christianity. But often such men were more than just teachers of false doctrine. Their lives were also far from exemplary.
Scripture teaches us that false teachers are often men whose very lives are false, with selfish, even impure motivations. Peter described men who brought in destructive heresies as men who will lead others to follow “…their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”
Heretics often divide to create their own parties. We must watch, not only for false doctrine, but for those who seek to lead others astray for personal advantage and their own aggrandizement.
Paul told Timothy "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5). And "The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition" (2 Tim. 2:25).
Tertullian’s statement reminds me of the apostle Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” False teachers stand out most clearly when standing in contrast with the approved. That is when factions become most evident. We must stay vigilant in defense of truth, but also against pride, the factious and the impure. By our efforts the church will be inoculated against such men.
It is Hard to be a Christian by Steve Patton
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." - Genesis 6:5
What a world in which we live today. Immorality is not only pervasive, it is not just accepted, but it is glorified. We have a gay man running for president, but corruption is rife throughout all of politics, the business world, entertainment - every aspect or our culture. “Evil men go from bad to worse,” Paul wrote. How could it possibly be worse?
I am preparing to teach a class next quarter on Church History, a favorite subject of mine. As I study, one thing impresses me so deeply about the early church. I cannot imagine what it was like to live as a Christian in their time. What they faced cannot even be compared to our world. The immorality and corruption in government was beyond belief. In excavations of Pompei, walls of prominent homes were painted with pornographic art. Pedophilia was common. Men kept mistresses, marrying mainly just to produce heirs. Romans 1 says man’s decadence was so bad that Paul writes three times “God gave them up.”
It was in that culture the church began. It faced cruel treatment almost from its inception. It is hard to imagine the ridicule from the pagans who reveled in debauchery. But early Christians even faced hatred and physical persecution from their own spiritual ancestors, the Jews. Christians fled Jerusalem because Stephen was stoned to death, and imprisonments and executions multiplied (Acts 9:1).
Whenever you feel it is tough to live as a Christian, go back and read Acts. Read what Paul suffered (2 Cor. 11:23-28) along with others of the faith.
Yet the scriptures say, “…but if any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” Stand with the martyrs of your spiritual heritage. Let God be glorified in you. Let your “light afflictions” bring to you “an eternal weight of glory.” Heaven will be worth it all.
From the desk of Steve Patton
“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
- Jonah 4:11
The infinite love of God extends beyond we human beings. It is true all things God does relate to the accomplishing of His eternal purpose. But there are many passages of scripture that indicate God’s eternal purpose includes care for all His creation. His statement to Jonah indicates God was not only concerned for the souls of the Ninevites, but also for their animals. Other passages indicating this fact:
- Psalm 145:15 - “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
- Psalm 104 - 10“You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; 11 they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst…14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth…21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.”
- Luke 6:26 - “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
God is daily involved with all His creation. He indirectly operates through natural law He established, but He has not left this world to operate fully upon its own. He would intervene to spare the animals of Nineveh as well as its inhabitants. He ended three years of famine at the prayers of Elijah, which affected animals as well as humans. He caused Jacob’s flocks to prosper when Laban’s did not. The goodness of God is seen beyond Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.
We should not doubt that God knows all His creation. He cares about it and watches over it. God is still at work in His creation. We should give thanks for the continual work of the hand of God.
2017 Bible Reading Plan
Commit to spending some time each week in 2017 paying attention to the message of the prophets! Download the Bible reading schedule here. This week's reading is Lamentations 1-5.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
It's Not A Sin If You Don't Act?
Being tempted isn't a sin. I've said that many times to many people. I've said it to people who were struggling with sin, seeking to encourage them that not acting on the temptation is itself a victory. And this is true... in part. After all, we know our Savior was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4.15). Being tempted isn't a sin.
However, we might have mistakenly lumped temptation in with desire. Temptation arises from an external stimulus and seeks to arouse our desire. And when our desire is sufficiently enticed, we sin (James 1.14-15). So, it's not just the actions that are wrong, but the condition of our heart which make those actions possible. This was Jesus' point in the sermon on the mount when He emphasized that true righteousness warns against more than the actions of murder and adultery, but must govern the hatred and lust within (Matthew 5.21-28). It is why He said our sinful actions proceed from the heart (Matthew 15.19).
We cannot prevent temptation from coming our way; the world is filled with them. But our aim is to condition our hearts so that not only do we refrain from acting on temptation, our hearts don't even desire to act! Then we will truly be "pure in heart" and have the hope of seeing God (Matthew 5.8).