1) How to Avoid Spiritual Failure (Paul Earnhart)
2) Speaking Truth ‘With Grace, Seasoned With Salt’ (Al Diestelkamp)
3) News & Notes
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
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
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).
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).
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
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
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