The Gospel Observer (December 27, 2015)

Contents:

1) Grand Themes in Scripture: Hope (Stan Cox)
2) Wake-Up Calls: Who Needs Them? (John Thompson)
3) News & Notes
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Grand Themes in Scripture

Hope

Stan Cox

Hope is listed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13 as one of three things which “abide.”  “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Because of the great sacrifice of our Lord on the cross at Calvary, mankind will always have hope.  Until the world ends, hope will continue.  But, the concept of the Christians hope is one that may be unfamiliar to many.

It is important first to define what is meant by the term.  Hope is defined by Webster’s in the following way:

    to cherish a desire with expectation of fulfillment.

Or, as a synonym for trust:

    To long for with expectation of obtainment.  

This definition is an accurate explanation of the Biblical term as well.  The Greek word elpis, is defined by W.E. Vine as, “favourable and confident expectation,” and states that the term has to do with “the unseen and future” (Vol. 2, pg. 232).

While the term is loosely used in our day, often referring to an idle dream rather than an actual expectation, it is important to note its scriptural use, and subsequent impact upon the Christian.

When the scriptures speak of hope, it is not an idle speculation concerning what might happen in the future.  It is not a “pie-in-the-sky” gamble, with little chance of realization.  Rather, it is founded in the promise of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  As we hope in the promises of God, we truly can expect to achieve the end He has reserved for us.

The reason for the sure and enduring nature of our hope is its foundation.  Note Paul’s words, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

We use the term in this sense from time to time, in the same way Luke used it in Acts 16:19, when he wrote about the slave owner’s loss of profitability because of Paul’s exorcism of the spirit-possessed girl.  “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”  The girl was the basis of their hope of profit.  Without her ability to tell fortunes, their hope was gone.

In the same way, Jesus Christ is the basis of our hope.  Without his sacrifice on the cross, and his subsequent resurrection from the dead, we would be without hope.  Paul wrote, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).  Fortunately, Christ was resurrected, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21).

Because of what Christ has accomplished for us, as the children of God we can reasonably expect to obtain a heavenly reward at the judgment. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The nature of the hope is sure because it is God who reserves it for us.  Because of God’s faithfulness, we can know that what He promised we will receive.

The object we hope for is of inestimable value, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in  heaven” for each of us.  It is this hope which motivates us each day as we live for Jesus.  We fix our eyes on eternity, and we steadfastly strive toward that goal.  As Paul said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

— Via Watchman Magazine, April 2004, Volume VII, Number 2
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The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

“And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. And when they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people” (Acts 13:28-31).
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Wake-Up Calls: Who Needs Them?

John Thompson

I recently read of an older Christian whose much younger close relative died suddenly in her sleep. The gentleman had fallen away many years ago, but he viewed this tragic incident as his “wake-up call.” He heeded that call and was restored to a right relationship with his Lord. How wonderful that he came to his senses, but how not so wonderful that it took the untimely loss of a loved one to give him the prod.

Wake-up calls can be found in all sorts of events and happenings.  All it takes is a split second of time, a blink of an eye, a turn of the head, a glance away and then back for some life-altering event to take place. Terrible accidents, natural disasters, the evil that men do to others, even extraordinary kindnesses: all have the potential to be wake-up calls. However, all too frequently, that potential goes unrealized.

The Bible is full of stories of individuals and even various groups, both small and large, of people who received wake-up calls and how they responded is highly instructive for us today. We will find out, I believe, that the people of the Bible responded in the same ways that people respond today. It really boils down to the fact that some will respond favorably and the majority will respond negatively.

Cain’s wake-up call came when God asked him, “Why are you angry?” God reminded Cain that if he did well he, too, would be accepted (Genesis 4:6- 7).  God set the alarm bells ringing but Cain not only reached out and shut the alarm off, he also became even angrier and slew his brother, Abel.

Sometime after the church was established, Stephen found himself disputing in a synagogue regarding Jesus. He was brought before the council where he proceeded to tell them the truth regarding their rejection of Jesus; this was their wake-up call, a golden opportunity for them to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah, but, instead, they became enraged and stoned Stephen to death. There have always been those who will react violently when truth is put before them. They would never think to smash their alarm clock against a wall when it rang to awaken them, but they will try to “smash” the one who would awaken them spiritually.

Many others in the Bible reacted less violently, but chose not to be awakened nonetheless. Some are like the sleeper who, by force of sheer habit reaches out for the alarm without conscious thought, turns it off, and within seconds reenters deep sleep. Perhaps the young man, in Matthew 19, is an example. Jesus told him the one thing he lacked was proper perspective on his worldly possessions. He went away sorrowful. So many others depend heavily upon the snooze button that allows them to keep delaying what they do not want to do, which is to awaken. Felix, in Acts 24:25, was like that. “And as he (Paul) reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.'” Felix simply hit the snooze button once again.

I could keep on citing additional examples from the Bible, but those offered will suffice to make the point that if you are not in a right relationship with God, you need a wake-up call. Throughout each day God provides multiple wake-up calls, no doubt hoping that each one will be the one that finally clicks. If an individual needs to make changes, how severe of a wake-up call is needed? Why does it so often seem to require some tragedy to bring one to his senses? The prodigal son of Luke 15 who did not come to his senses until he had wasted his inheritance and faced starvation comes to mind here. Peter, who failed to acknowledge his betrayal of Jesus until the rooster crowed, also fits the pattern.

If you have not yet obeyed the gospel plan of salvation what is the wake-up call that would move you to do so? And should you experience such a wake-up call would the alarm bells ring sufficiently loud to awaken you, or would you, arouse enough to shut off the alarm or just continue hitting the snooze button? If you are a baptized believer, how severe of a tragedy would it take to awaken you and bring you back into the fold? Consider your answer well.

— Via University Heights Messenger, December 20, 2015
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News & Notes

We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Lonnie Drain (Janie Thornton’s brother) who passed away December 27.   Let those of us who are Christians be remembering his loved ones in prayer.

Let us also be praying for the following: Danielle Howard (will soon have surgery to place stents in her arm to eliminate swelling in that arm), Anita Young (healing from hip surgery in having a bursa removed), Shirley Davis (hip trouble and soon to have surgery on her toe), Deborah Medlock (pain around shoulder area and waiting to hear of recent results of an MRI, CT Scan, and X-rays), Mary Vandevander and Sue Wooten (shut-ins),  Andra Johnson (having difficulty with her pregnancy), and Misty Thornton (heart trouble and undergoing more tests).
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The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

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The Gospel Observer (December 20, 2015)

Contents:

1) How to Avoid Spiritual Failure (Paul Earnhart)
2) Speaking Truth ‘With Grace, Seasoned With Salt’ (Al Diestelkamp)
3) News & Notes
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How to Avoid Spiritual Failure
by Paul Earnhart

In his final hours in Rome, awaiting an inevitable execution, a very lonely apostle Paul suffered some additional heartbreak. “Demas,” he wrote, “hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). We are left to speculate as to the particulars — what dread, fears or powerful allurements led this faithful friend and co-worker to abandon the kingdom of God and to forsake his burdened brother. It was not as though he had fled the field at the first approach of trouble. During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome Demas had evidently been a steadfast companion (Philemon 24; Colossians 4:14). Now, unexpectedly, this heart-mauling betrayal and desertion. Only those who have had a trusted companion in Christ — one who has proven himself in many a crisis — to suddenly turn from God and run for the world can understand. It can numb the spirit.

What is it that can cause one who has invested so much in the kingdom to suddenly abandon everything? Some fade early because they have little understanding of the calling of God and even less commitment. The first approach of temptation and hardship devastates them (Luke 8:13). Others seem to have a deep commitment to righteousness but not an absolute one. Their price for betrayal is high but they have one nonetheless, and when it gets high enough they run. The wealthy young ruler who came to Jesus was like that. He was willing to give up a lot, but not everything (Matthew 19:16-23).

Paul said that Demas “loved this present world.” The “world” is many things. John describes it as a way of thinking where lust, materialism and pride abound (1 John 2:15-16). What was it that got to the faithful Demas? Was it fear of death or imprisonment? Or was it something more subtle like a nostalgic longing for the old easy ways free of constant unabating warfare? We are not told which one of these undid Demas but one of them found its mark.

Breaking points can come to us too if we are not very careful. A deep hurt we cannot find it in ourselves to forgive. A disappointing marriage. Failures with our children. Lost health or prosperity. Anything we had never imagined happening to us. And often it’s just plain prideful stubbornness. At any rate, don’t ever say you’d never do what others have done. You’ve never been all the places you could be. Peter learned a valuable lesson about that (Matthew 26:31-35). It is far better that we know our own weaknesses and watch and pray that we enter not into temptation (Matthew 26:41). Satan loves an arrogant and self-confident man.

Another lesson to be learned from the failure of others is that those who at last go back, at first look back. Departures of apparent suddenness are really the end of a process. Our Lord warned that those who put their hand to the kingdom plow and look back longingly at the world are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). The disciples who go back are those who first begin to cultivate again the values of the world and like the Israelites in the wilderness grow nostalgic amidst their trials for the fleshpots of Egypt. They forget, of course, the galling bondage that accompanies the life of sin. These are the ones who gradually cease to meditate upon God’s word (Psalm 1:1-2), then become prayerless (James 4:1-2) as God and Christ seem far away. First men cease to study, then to pray, and, finally, to care. Sometimes this all begins as a casual flirtation, a few little compromises dismissed as harmless. Too much time with worldly companions (1 Corinthians 15:33), too much interest in a job (1 Timothy 6:9-10), too much concern with being accepted and making our mark in the world (1 Peter 5:5). Finally, it becomes a passionate love affair that makes us heedless of the injury we do to our Savior, ourselves and others.

Satan is the master of the “short step” method. Slow change is more effective in producing spiritual collapse than sudden departure. The danger of alerting the victim to what is happening is eliminated. We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13). Warning flags need to start flying the moment we feel the slightest ebb in commitment. Beware the spiritual slow leak. The unfailing answer to this kind of spiritual failure is the daily discipline of an uncompromising dedication which admits of no exceptions and makes quick and humble redress for every transgression. Burn all your bridges and press on to the heavenly mark (Philippians 3:7-14). And if, in spite of everything, you happen to stumble badly, don’t let despair destroy you. Remember that everyone who has faltered has not ultimately fallen. We can all thank God for that. John Mark’s disgraceful desertion in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) was not the end of him because he didn’t allow it to be. Paul sent for him during his last hours (2 Timothy 4:11) and the Holy Spirit chose him to record the gospel story. We don’t have to be like Demas. In the mercy of God we have the privilege of being like John Mark or Peter, and, yes, even Paul.

— Via Christianity Magazine, February 1984
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Speaking Truth ‘With Grace, Seasoned With Salt’
by Al Diestelkamp

Most of us can testify that there are certain foods that are not very palatable without adding some salt. Even the scriptures quote Job’s rhetorical questions, “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” (Job 6:6).

The Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul to use our knowledge of this to illustrate the need to use wisdom, gentleness, and tact in our conversations: “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:5-6).

While Paul’s primary focus in this text is on our conversations with “those who are outside,” I doubt that anything less would be expected when speaking with brethren. In fact, he makes this clear in another epistle, urging Christians to “keep the unity in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) by “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). The wisdom of Solomon testifies that “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious” (Eccl. 10:12), and “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).
There are some foods that I hate, and no amount of salt is going to change my mind about it. Similarly, most of the world does not love truth. Jesus declared Himself to be “the truth” (Jn. 14:6) and, as such, “the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5). But He warned that men “loved darkness rather than light” (Jn. 3:19). Our task is to try to change people’s “taste” from “darkness” to “light.” In doing this our speech must “always be with grace, seasoned with salt,” all the while realizing that gentleness and tact will not make truth palatable to those who love darkness.

Unfortunately, even some whom we may call “brethren” don’t care much for truth. Paul wrote of an approaching apostasy causing people to “perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). They who did not receive the love of the truth had actually refused the truth in exchange for a lie so they could have “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12).

To love the truth is to regard it, which does not always equate with liking it. Truth is not always likeable. Truth sometimes hurts. It sometimes saddens. It may disappoint or discourage. But even so, it is still to be loved.

Along with truth comes responsibility, and love of the truth demands change. If while trying to reach a destination, I find that I have been misguided as to the route I must take, or I have mistakenly taken a wrong turn, learning the truth may be unpleasant; but it benefits me if I regard it. In spiritual terms, this is called repentance. There’s no virtue in being unyielding.

Too Much Salt

Dieticians often warn about the dangers of the overuse of salt. Regardless of the health risks, we know that too much salt defeats the purpose of making food palatable. In our pluralistic society which has taken political correctness to the extreme, there is the danger of our speech becoming so gentle and tactful that the power of truth is missed altogether. We do people no favor by altering truth in an effort to avoid hurt feelings and also risk causing genuine truth-seekers to gag at our lack of conviction. We can “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3) without being contentious, by speaking the truth in love and using speech with grace, seasoned with salt.

— Via Think on These Things, July-August-September, 2015, Volume 46, Number 3
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“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).
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News & Notes

We are glad that Danielle Howard is now back home and continuing to improve, following her kidney transplant.

Anita Young’s surgery went well in removing the bursa in her hip that had been giving her trouble.  She will return to her doctor tomorrow for an update.

Shirley Davis has now completed several weeks of antibiotics through an IV, which appears to have cleared up her infection.  She will, however, be requiring toe surgery probably sometime in early January.

Deborah Medlock is still having pain in her neck and shoulder and will be seeing her doctor this Tuesday for x-rays, a CT scan, and an MRI.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (December 13, 2015)

Contents:

1) “We Beheld His Glory” (David McClister)
2) Return to the Lord (Warren E. Berkeley)
3) News & Notes
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“We Beheld His Glory”
by David McClister

God’s presence is an indescribable glory. In Biblical scenes where God appeared to men, the word “glory” usually pops up in the Biblical text. When Israel complained about food, Moses told them “in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord,” which is exactly what happened: “they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud” (Exod 16.7 and 10). One of the best descriptions of it comes in Exodus 24, where Moses described what he saw on Mt. Sinai: “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top” (vv 16-17). While the word “glory” does not appear in the story of the burning bush (Exod 3), it is clear that Moses had seen the same thing there.

Perhaps the closest anyone came to seeing God in his glory in the Old Testament was Moses. You remember the famous scene: after Moses had been near God on Mt. Sinai, Moses asked to see God’s glory. God replied: “‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen'” (Exod 33.20- 23). In a similar scene, when Solomon’s temple was finished and dedicated, the Bible reports that “the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chron 5.14). God’s glory was a fearful and overpowering thing, and yet it was also strangely attractive.

As impressive as those experiences must have been, none of these people saw anything near the fullness of God’s glory. But God spoke of the day when his people would see his glory in an unprecedented way. The prophet Haggai said “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former” (2.9). Isaiah predicted that the wilderness (a metaphor for God’s people in this context) “will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” (35.2).

When we come to the New Testament, John plainly tells us “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father” (John 1.14). The apostle Paul, using language borrowed from the Biblical creation account, said a similar thing about Jesus in 2 Corinthians 4.6: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Just exactly what about Jesus was so glorious? His words? His actions? Was John referring to what he saw at Jesus’ transfiguration? The answer lies in the statements of Jesus himself. As the time for His death drew near, he said “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Clearly, Jesus was speaking about his death. In John 13.31, on the way to Gethsemane where he would be taken into custody by his enemies, he said “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” Furthermore, Jesus said “if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12.32). The “lifting up” of which Jesus there spoke was not his ascension to heaven, but his being lifted up on the cross. Like the burning bush of Exodus 3, Jesus’ death would be a spectacle full of the glory of God that would attract people to it.

So what was the glory of God that was so visible in Jesus? What was so glorious about his death? It was God’s love, which was fully displayed in the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus died because of God’s love for us (John 3.16). That great display of God’s love, mercy, and grace is designed to touch our hearts and draw us to God. It fulfills God’s words in Jeremiah 31.3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Like Moses at the burning bush, when we see the outpouring of God’s love on the cross of Jesus, it is supposed to get our attention and make us want to go near and understand it more perfectly. The gospel story is the story of how God loves us and sent Jesus to die for us. This is why Paul calls it “the glorious gospel” (1 Tim 1.11; see also 2 Cor 4.4).

When John says, therefore, that “we saw his glory,” John meant that he had seen, above all, the death of Jesus and had come to understand that it was a proclamation of God’s great love. The death of Jesus, announced in the gospel, was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction that people would see the glory of the Lord. John also added that the glory he saw in the death of Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” This is exactly what God tried to convey to Moses. You remember that scene where Moses asked to see the glory of God? This was God’s first response to that request: “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exod 33.19). In other words, God was saying to Moses, “The most glorious thing about me is my love, mercy, grace, goodness, and compassion.” And that is what was on full display in the cross of Jesus.

— Via Focus Online, November 23, 2015
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Return to the Lord
by Warren E. Berkeley

Built in to the message of the prophets was the appeal to repent. These men were sent by God to expose sin and urge the guilty to repent. Often the appeal was framed as a challenge to return to the Lord (Isaiah 6:10; Jeremiah 3:1; Malachi 3:7). For instance, Joel’s appeal to Judah was for the people to repent of their sins. “So rend your heart,” and “return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13). Through the distribution of His judgments (locusts, drought, desolation), God intended to admonish His people to come out of their sin and back to Him. It was His loving purpose to prompt a change in their direction. The essential definition of repentance has not changed through the dispensations. We can, therefore, use Joel’s statement as the basis for our understanding of returning to the Lord. And this study can find application for those who have been baptized but have left their God.

Repentance is a change in direction. The simple word “turn” shows that to be so. Those guilty of sin (before or after baptism) need to turn; a change of direction is needed. If you’ve been letting the world influence your thinking, your speech, your conduct, your dress or attitude, you need to change your direction. If you’ve abandoned the assembly, harbored ill-will in your heart, accepted false teaching, helped false teaching advance, participated in party strife or refused to grow, God seeks a change in your direction. Repentance is a change in your direction, turning from your sin to the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Repentance occurs in the heart. Observe in verse 12 of Joel 2, “with all your heart.” Everything we do before God ought to be done with a whole heart. Repentance, to be complete and genuine, must come from a whole heart: a heart of reverence for God, love for God; a heart influenced by the cross of Christ. Repentance should be the product of a heart of mature responsibility toward everything that is holy and right. The conviction of sin from the Word should be let in, so that repentance finds its true and good expression.

Repentance is not just a ritual. “So rend your heart, and not your garments….” It was customary among the Jews to express their emotions in very public, visible ways. To this day in middle eastern cultures, when a family member dies, there may be public weeping and wailing; throwing dust in the air; beating the breast and the rendering of garments. The problem to be noted here is, the emotion must not be ritualized and confused with true repentance. The fact that someone may cry in public or come down an aisle doesn’t assure wholehearted repentance. Repentance is a personal decision to leave sin behind and come to God. It is a decision of heart, productive of good fruit. It may be accompanied by some open expression, but the essence of the matter lies in the heart and the results in life.

Repentance is made possible by a gracious God. “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love….” If you are alive to hear the Word, be convicted and repent, thank God that you have such a blessed opportunity. Thank Him for the precious blood of Christ. “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.” If you are alive today, you can repent. Thank God for the time He has given you to return to Him, but don’t presume upon His grace and providence. “He relents from doing harm,” but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Repent while there is time.

If you are reading this as one convicted of your sin, now is the time to repent. If you just plan to repent someday, that isn’t good enough. Ask God to relent, turn from your sin and enjoy peace with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ.

— Via The Beacon, February 18, 2014
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News & Notes

Anita Young will be having surgery this Thursday, due to bursitis.

Danielle Howard is progressing well from the kidney transplant.  The swelling in her arm, which had been attributed to a dialysis port, has gone down.  She should be home this Friday.

Shirley Davis has also been improving, though still having pain and difficulty with her left hip. She will be seeing her doctor Monday in Jesup, and another in Waycross on Thursday.

Deborah Medlock has arthritis in her neck which is causing continual pain and the need for a neck brace.  She is also experiencing continual numbness on and near her left shoulder and will soon be having tests: x-rays, CT scan, and MRI.

Andra Johnson is now expecting her third child with the delivery date for July.  She had a little trouble with her previous pregnancy and has been having a little difficulty with this one, too.

Let us also be remembering the shut-ins: Mary Vandevander and Sue Wooten
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (December 6, 2015)

Contents:

1) Simon the Sorcerer (W. Curtis Porter)
2) News & Notes
——————–
acts 8_13b
-1-

Simon the Sorcerer
by W. Curtis Porter

A number of “Simons” are mentioned in the New Testament. There was Simon, whose surname was Peter, also called Cephas, who was one of the twelve apostles of the Lord. In the list of apostles there is also Simon the Canaanite, or Simon the Zealot, as he is also called. There was also Simon, a man of Cyrene, who was compelled to bear the cross of Jesus on the way to Calvary. But the Simon of this lesson is Simon the sorcerer, whose brief history is given to us in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

This man was in Samaria at the time Philip went there to “preach Christ unto them.” In fact, he had been there for a long time before Philip went. His work of deception is described for us in Acts 8:9-11. This record tells us this: “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, this man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” Thus we are told that Simon was engaged in the use of sorcery. Sorcery means the use of magic, necromancy, witchcraft, soothsaying, fortune-telling, sleight-of-hand tricks, and other such things. The use of any of these often baffles the minds of men. Whatever form of sorcery Simon engaged in — whether simply sleight-of-hand tricks, some other form of magical arts, the claim to foretell the future by the aid of divine power, or simply fortune-telling, he had succeeded in deceiving the people. He had been “giving out that himself was some great one” and had “bewitched the people” to such an extent that they had great regard for him and had concluded that “This man is the great power of God.” But it was all deception. He was not aided by divine power at all and was simply practicing “fakery” as a means of livelihood, as many others are doing today.

But Philip went to that city to preach Christ to lost men and women. In connection with his preaching he actually wrought miracles by the power that God had given him. He cast unclean spirits “out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed” (v. 7). There were no tricks, schemes, artifice or deception about this. The people could see the difference between the tricks of Simon and the miracles of Philip. Consequently, they “gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (v. 6). As a result, “There was great joy in that city” (v. 8). Furthermore, Luke tells us in verse 12: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Not only were the Samaritans thus converted, Simon the sorcerer was converted too. The inspired historian informs us in verse 13: “Then Simon himself believed also and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” This shows that Simon became a converted man, a child of God. It points out the fact that he obtained the salvation of his soul. Jesus had said in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The very things that Jesus specified in this great commission upon which he promised to bestow salvation were done by Simon. “He that believeth and is baptized,” said Jesus, “shall be saved.” And Luke says that Simon believed and was baptized. That being true, we can be sure of the fact that Jesus bestowed the salvation as promised.

Many people do not believe that Simon was saved. They say his conversion was not genuine, that it was a sham conversion, and that he never really did what God requires men to do. Well, what do you think about it? Are you going to take what uninspired men say about it or what the book divine says? Modern preachers say he did not believe, that he only pretended to believe; but Luke says, “Simon himself believed also.” Had it been only a pretense, Luke evidently would have revealed the sham involved. But he did not. He actually says that Simon believed. Well, that is enough to save any man, without anything else, according to modern preachers who preach salvation by faith only. But Simon did more than that — he believed and was baptized. If his belief was not genuine, neither was the faith of the Samaritans. The preceding verse tells us that the Samaritans believed, and then Luke says that “Simon believed also.” Note that word “also.” It means that Simon did what the others did — they believed; he believed also. So whatever the Samaritans did, Simon did; if their faith was genuine, his was genuine too. Therefore, he did become a child of God, for he did what Jesus said men must do to be saved.

But following that obedience to the will of God Simon committed sin. His sin is revealed to us in verses 18 and 19 of this chapter, the eighth chapter of Acts. I trust you will read it with me. Here is the way the passage reads: “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Incidentally, this shows us how miraculous gifts were bestowed on men. It was not through the “laying on of the disciples’ hands.” That is the way modern-day-healers would have it. But it was “through laying on of the apostles’ hands.” Just any disciple could not lay hands on others and give them the power to work miracles. No one could do that but the apostles. That explains why the apostles Peter and John were sent from Jerusalem to Samaria. Philip, the evangelist, was already there, and he had been able to work many miracles; but he could not lay hands on others and give them the Holy Spirit. He was not an apostle. So two of the apostles came from Jerusalem to lay hands on the Samaritans and give them such power. Hence, when the last apostle died and the last man died on whom they had laid hands, the gift of miracles must have ceased. No man lives today who ever had the hands of an apostle laid on him; consequently, no man lives today who has the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. But Simon wanted that power and offered to buy it from the apostles with money. This also shows that such power did not belong to all disciples, for if it did, he would have had it already; and there would have been no occasion for him to try to buy it with money. But he did not have such power. None did except the apostles. So he tried to purchase it; but in doing so, he sinned.

In referring to this sin Peter said in verse 21: “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.” And at verse 25 he said: “For I perceive that thou are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” This statement does not read as I have heard men quote it. Preachers sometimes quote it like this: “I perceive that thou are yet in the gall of bitterness and still in the bond of iniquity.” It is quoted this way for the purpose of proving that Simon was never really converted, that it was all a matter of pretense, and he had never been freed from his former sins. This would, of course, set aside any possibility of his being a case of apostasy. It would prove that he did not fall from grace. And all of that would be true, of course, if the passage said: “Thou are yet in the gall of bitterness” or “Thou are still in the gall of bitterness” or “Thou are still in the bond of iniquity.” Surely that would prove that his old sins were still clinging to him.  But it just so happens that the words “yet” and “still” are not in the passage. Had you ever noticed that? Look at it again in verse 23. Does it say, “Thou are yet in the gall of bitterness”? The word “yet” isn’t there, is it? But “Thou art in the gall of bitterness.” Does it say, “Thou art still in the bond of iniquity”? The word “still” is not there, is it? But “Thou art in the bond of iniquity.” So Peter tells him what his condition is now — not that he had never been made free from sin. We have already found that he had, for he did what Jesus said men must do to be saved.

Besides this, when Peter told him what to do to get forgiveness, he made a statement that proves that only one sin was charged against him. Let us read it in verse 22: “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” Notice that “this thy wickedness.” The word “this” is a singular demonstrative pronoun. He was not told to repent of all the wickedness of his past life, but only of “this wickedness.” His former wickedness had already been forgiven him upon his obedience to the word of God. But here is a sin he committed since, and this wickedness is charged against him. And he was told to repent and pray “that the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” The passage does not even say “that the thoughts of thine heart may be forgiven,” but it says “thought” — just one. The only wicked thought charged against him was the thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money. So the whole story proves that Simon became a child of God, then sinned, or fell from the grace, or favor, of God and had to meet certain conditions to have this sin forgiven.

In the story of Simon, we have, therefore, what we may call the second law of pardon. It is the law of pardon to the erring child of God. People have often said that if baptism is for the remission of sins, then every time a child of God sins he would have to be baptized again. That might be true if baptism was required of a child of God. But when Peter commanded men to “be baptized for the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38, he was talking to alien sinners, not to children of God. The commandment of baptism belongs to the law of pardon to the alien sinner. But to the child of God who sins, God has given a different law that does not include baptism. That law is shown in this story. Let us read it again: “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (v. 22). So the law of pardon to an erring child of God involves repentance and prayer to God. And, of course, as other references clearly state, by a confession of such faults. When the child of God sins he is not to “repent and be baptized,” as alien sinners are required to do, but he must “repent and pray God” for forgiveness.

Denominational preachers have inaugurated the mourners’ bench system of getting religion and have required alien sinners to “pray through to salvation.” I have often called upon such preachers to give the passage in God’s book in which God ever commanded alien sinners to pray for forgiveness. In response to that call I have had them produce Acts 8:22. But this text has no reference to alien sinners. The language here is spoken to a man who had already obeyed the gospel of Christ. He had already received the forgiveness of his alien sins. He was not an alien sinner, but an erring child of God. You can’t take the language addressed to him and apply it to an alien sinner without wresting the Scriptures. There is no passage in which God requires alien sinners to pray through to salvation. But in Acts 22:16 we have the case of an alien sinner, Saul of Tarsus, who was seeking to be saved. He was engaged in prayer when Ananias, sent by the Lord, came to him to tell him what to do. If prayer is the plan for an alien sinner, Ananias should have told him to pray on. But he did not do so. He stopped the prayer by saying: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” This alien sinner was down praying, but the man of God told him to tarry no longer in prayer, to arise, (to get up), and to be baptized that his sins be washed away. Alien sinners are told to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), but they are never told to “repent and pray God for forgiveness.” Children of God who sin are told to “repent and pray God” that their sins might be forgiven (Acts 8:22), but they are never told to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” Let us, therefore, not wrest the Scriptures by applying to aliens or to Christians those things that have no reference to them.

— Via Bible Banner — October, 1942
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

On December 4, Danielle Howard had a dialysis port removed; for not only will she no longer be needing it, but her doctor also thinks it had caused the blood clot in her jugular vein, which she is still being treated for.  Though no longer in the hospital, she is housed nearby for the frequent times she must return for follow-up exams.  Recently, she had five exams in one day, lasting from about 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  It looks like she’ll be home by the 18th of this month.

Deborah Medlock has been in continual pain and not getting much relief from pain medicines.  She has arthritis in her neck and is now having to use a neck brace.  She is also experiencing continual numbness below her collar bone on her left side, left shoulder, and left side of her upper back, which reminds her of the mild stroke she had about a year ago.  Her  doctor will soon be running some tests on her: x-rays, CT scan, and MRI.

Shirley Davis is still housebound and undergoing daily antibiotic IVs.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (November 29, 2015)

Contents:

1) Keeping a Pure Conscience (Sean P. Cavender)
2) News & Notes
——————–
Acts24_16
-1-

Keeping a Pure Conscience
by Sean P. Cavender

While standing trial before Felix, the apostle Paul stated that he had strived to live with a pure conscience before God and men (Acts 24:16). This should be the goal of each and every child of God — living life with a pure conscience (I Timothy 1:5,19). The conscience can be a valuable tool for the Christian which gives personal insight into one’s own actions, thoughts and desires.

While the conscience is not authoritative, binding or infallible it can be helpful. Although your conscience can be mistaken — no matter the amount of sincerity shown in any practice — it can be a good gauge of one’s spiritual status before God and before men.

When one’s conscience is alarmed it is because of some area of weakness or sin which causes one to feel guilty. That feeling of guilt is the natural result of a wounded conscience — you are supposed to feel that way! The trouble is, many people ignore that feeling of guilt and continue practicing such sin which causes one’s conscience to be hardened or seared over (I Timothy 4:2).

The Conscience Is a Witness

The term conscience is defined as co-knowledge with oneself. The conscience shares information with yourself by processing your innermost thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires. The conscience is able to provide helpful insight into why you are involved in certain activities or why you react in certain ways to particular events. It serves as a self-witness.

The conscience can be a witness defending our actions (Romans 2:15). The apostle Paul said that he had served God with a clear conscience all of his life even while persecuting Christians (Acts 23:1). Paul’s conscience defended his actions. Paul was convinced he was doing what God wanted him to do by killing Christians. Therein lies the key to keeping a pure conscience: performing the will of God. Now we see in Paul’s case that his conscience was wrong. However, we must teach ourselves what is pleasing to God in order to keep a pure conscience for we will be judged based on the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16). We cannot determine practice just because we like an activity, or we think it is right. We must study God’s word and allow that to be the judging factor.

The conscience can also testify against us, accusing us of guilt (Romans 2:15). When our conscience is telling us we are guilty of some sin we must eradicate that sin. Ignoring a guilt-bearing conscience can cause worry, anxiety, festering, turmoil, distress, grief and anger — none of which are profitable emotions. Far too often we ignore these feelings, or we turn to encouraging books, or complain that we don’t get enough encouragement from the preacher, etc. What people need to do is repent.

The conscience will be judged before God. The terms “heart,” “conscience,” “thoughts” and “secrets” are used interchangeably (Romans 2:15-16 NASB) and will be judged by God who will bring every deed into consideration (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The standard that the conscience will be judged is the gospel. Thus, it is vitally important to live by that standard in order to keep a pure conscience.

The Conscience Is a Weapon

The term justification is a legal term which means to be free of any guilt. The result of justification is peace with God (Romans 5:1). Yet this peace can be disrupted by the piercing weapon that the conscience is. Eliphaz described the conscience as “sounds of terror” in one’s ears and destroying the peace that one enjoys (Job 15:21), which results in distress, anguish and fear (Job 15:24). What caused the turmoil and fear? Transgressing the commandment of the Lord (Job 15:25). The conscience is unsheathed when we sin against God Almighty!

The target of this weapon is the heart. The conscience is used to convict and bring a knowledge of sin. That conviction of sin should lead one to repent (Acts 2:37-38). When the weapon has been used and cuts at the heart it arouses the feeling of guilt. What is the purpose of the guilt one may feel? It is there to make you repent! That is the purpose guilt has. Do not ignore the guilt-bearing conscience.

The conscience is supposed to feel guilt; it is supposed to be harmed when one sins. The grief and guilt you feel from a wounded conscience are natural (Psalm 73:21). Our society tends to think of guilt as a negative feeling that we should ignore. Do not ignore the guilt you feel — its purpose is to cause repentance. To rid your conscience of guilt you must repent!

The Conscience Is a Warning System

The conscience is intended to sound an alarm when it has been harmed. The conscience is supposed to be sensitive to sin. In order for the conscience to be sensitive to sin it must first know what sin is. We must educate ourselves concerning the law of God. If we do not read, understand and apply God’s law then how can we expect to know what sin is? All sin must be defined and shown to be transgression through the Scriptures. We cannot quit preaching against sin to soothe our conscience because then we will have untrained consciences that will be given over to sin. Danger also lies when we become associated with sin, causing one to become desensitized resulting in indifference (I Timothy 4:1-2). Indifference will ultimately lead to approval of sinful activities. Paul warned the Gentiles of judgment for approving sinful activities with no differentiation between slanderers, gossips, haters of God and murderers (Romans 1:32). Thus, the warnings to flee and abhor sin and cleave to what is good (Romans 12:9).

When we find ourselves in situations that cause us to feel uncomfortable, then our conscience is telling us to flee! However, if we ignore our conscience we run the risk of losing any sensitivity we may have to sin.

Pharaoh allowed his heart to be hardened because he ignored God’s glory (Exodus 7:1,3), refused to believe in God (Exodus 7:13), and was impenitent (Exodus 9:27,35). There is great danger in ignoring the cries of our guilty conscience.

The Conscience Can Be Made Whole

Even though our conscience may be giving us the warning that we have sinned, we may take steps in order to clear our conscience. Our consciences are intended to be pure and whole. How can I maintain a pure conscience? In order to keep a pure conscience we must follow through with repentance by doing five steps to clear your conscience.

1. Confess and forsake sin (Psalm 32:5; I John 1:9)

2.  Ask for forgiveness and be reconciled to those whom you’ve wronged (Matthew 5:23,24; 6:14-15)

3. Make restitution (Numbers 5:6-7; Luke 19:8)

4. Don’t procrastinate in clearing your wounded conscience (Acts 24:16; Titus 1:5)

5. Educate your conscience (I Corinthians 8:7,12; Romans 14:23)

By following these five steps we will strengthen our conscience, our knowledge and our faith. Repentance is necessary to keeping a pure conscience.1

Conclusion

Keeping a pure conscience is vital to each Christian’s faith (Romans 14:22-23). Knowing that we have maintained a pure conscience, we may be confident when we appear before the judgment seat of God, knowing that there is laid up for ourselves a crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:7,8).

1. The five steps in order to keep a pure conscience was borrowed from John MacArthur’s book, “The Vanishing Conscience.”

— Via articles from the La Vista church of Christ
——————–

Ephesians 6:10-12

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

On November 6, Shirley Davis had fallen while at the hospital.  She was going there for her first antibiotic treatment to be received through an IV, which was needful for an infection in her toe.  In falling, the right side of her face hit the wall, putting a gash near her eye and badly bruising her face.  Her right arm was also bruised, and though the soreness from these injuries have subsided; the pain in her left hip, which she also landed on, continues about the same as initially; and pain pills do not give her much relief.  She is now housebound, but receives her IV there and will continue to do so about an hour a day for six weeks, until December 14.

Let us also continue to remember Danielle Howard in prayer as she is in the process of having a blood clot dissolved in her jugular vein.  She is now no longer in the hospital for that, but she is returning regularly and will continue to do so for a few more weeks, due to her recent kidney transplant.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)