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By AL DIESTELKAMP
relatively new phenomenon in our nation is the emergence of what are
known as “sanctuary cities” in which people who have committed certain
federal crimes are immune to deportation. Needless to say, this has
created great controversy among the citizens of our nation.
Unfortunately, a similar problem exists among our brethren regarding
corrective church discipline.|
Corrective discipline is neglected in many congregations. We ought to
ask ourselves how it happens that churches that are known for going “by
the Book” are able to ignore the command to “withdraw from every
brother who walks disorderly” (2 Thess. 3:6). We might be tempted to
blame it on influence from the permissive attitude in our current
culture that values “tolerance” over truth. While that may make matters
worse, the problem has been around far too long for that to be the real
answer. I suspect one of the main deterrents to corrective church
discipline lies with the fact that almost everyone has close family
members or friends who have become unfaithful and many are unwilling to
obey the apostle’s command to “not keep company” with them (i.e., 2
If my suspicion is accurate we should be reminded of what Jesus said
about familial relations taking priority over Him: “He who loves father
or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or
daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37).
Another deterrent to church discipline is the unpleasant nature of it.
Even the scriptures testify that “no chastening seems to be joyful for
the present, but grievous…” (Heb. 12:11a). This truth is in the context
of respecting the discipline of the Lord, illustrated by discipline
fathers administer to their children (vv.5-10).
The lack of joy is not only for the one receiving discipline,
but also for the ones
| administering it. However, whether it is the
Lord’s discipline, a father’s discipline, or church discipline,
“nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness
to those who have been trained by it” (v.11b).|
Even if a congregation is faithful in disciplining one who continues in
sin, he is likely to simply seek out another congregation who will
accept him with no questions asked. This diminishes the effectiveness
of the chastening. Of course, a congregation has an obligation to
determine whether any previous withdrawal was justified, but too often
no effort is made in that regard. The need and desire for greater
numbers causes many brethren to adopt the “I know nothing” approach.
Some express the fear that any inquiry would be a violation of local
autonomy., while others simply don’t believe in corrective church
discipline except in extreme situations.
Though no congregation would likely admit they have become a “sanctuary
church,” there is no doubt that there are churches that are known for
harboring those from whom other brethren have had to withdraw
themselves. Sometimes they are even willing to accept some about whom
we are commanded to “deliver unto Satan” (1 Cor. 5:4-5).
The existence of “sanctuary churches” has made it possible for
backsliding members of faithful churches to employ a clever scheme to
avoid any effective corrective discipline. What they do is let it be
known that they have “placed membership” with another congregation and
shortly thereafter just quit attending, knowing the “sanctuary church”
will do nothing.
Signs in front of our meeting places often include the inviting words,
“Everyone Welcome.” It is true that we should welcome everyone to her the word proclaimed, but this does not mean that we should accept
|everyone into fellowship with us in our work for the Lord. When
Saul of Tarsus tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem the disciples
rejected him until Barnabas vouched for him (Ac. 9:26-28). Later in
life, as the apostle Paul, his reputation was such that he needed no
“letters of commendation,” like some others (2 Cor. 3:1). These
examples make it clear that the early church recognized the right and
need for a local congregation to control who will be part of its
Often when brethren move from one community to another we already know
of their faith and can accept them without any question, but when they
are not known to us we would do well to make sure they are true
disciples and have the endorsement of faithful brethren from whence the
came. We should especially be wary of those who leave a congregation
near to where they live in favor of a church that is more distant lest
we harbor ones who are avoiding responsibility or simply evading
ANTICIPATING AN OBJECTION
When the apostle Paul commanded brethren in Thessalonica to “withdraw
from every brother who walks disorderly” (2 Thess. 3:6) he apparently
was addressing an actual problem of some who were “not working at all”
(v.12). Some who are resistant to withdrawing from those who are “out
of duty” when it comes to worship will insist that this command does
not apply. However, the command is to withdraw from every
brother who walks disorderly—not just those who are “busybodies” as a
result of not working. The apostle gave a wide-ranging command and
applied it to a specific form of disorderly conduct. Think about it!
Failing to work is no more “disorderly” than “forsaking the assembling
of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25).
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The Knowledge of Good and Evil
By ANDY DIESTELKAMP
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil an evil tree with evil
fruit? This was the tree that was in the middle of the Garden of Eden
and of which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat. Was this tree evil?
Before answering this question it would be appropriate to look at some
other passages of Scripture that relate to the subjects of good and
1 Kings 3:5-12 tells us of King Solomon’s famous request for wisdom.
Actually, the request was for the ability to discern between good and
evil. This request was pleasing to God and He granted this ability to
Solomon along with riches and power.
Hebrews 5:12-14 says that a spiritual infant is one who is only able to
handle the milk of the word. In contrast, a spiritually mature person
is able to handle the meat of God’s word and is exercised in the
discernment of good and evil.
In these two passages it is clear that the knowledge of good and evil
is a sign of spiritual maturity. It is essentially a positive quality.
So, why was God pleased with Solomon’s request but angry at Adam and
Eve’s partaking of that knowledge?
Was the tree or its fruit inherently evil? No! God made them and God is
not the originator of evil. God declared His creation to be good and
that included this tree (Gen. 1:31). God’s reason why Adam and Eve were
not permitted to touch or eat of this tree is not specifically given.
“For in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” was not God’s
rationale for forbidding contact with this tree. It was God’s warning
of punishment if His command was ignored.
This prohibition, however, does not imply that the tree was evil. We
err greatly if we assume that something that is forbidden is therefore
inherently evil. Parents will forbid children to play in busy streets
or to get anywhere near them. Are streets evil? We will tell small
children, “Don’t touch that stove,” “Don’t go in that yard,” “Don’t eat
those cookies.” Are stoves, yards and cookies evil? These things may be
forbidden, but that doesn’t mean that the objects themselves are evil.
Now, consider the approach of Satan as recorded in Genesis 3:1-7.
Notice his presentation of God’s words. “Indeed has God said, ‘You
shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’” At first glance
this may appear to be a fair presentation of God’s instructions, but
notice the subtle shift in emphasis. God actually said, “From any tree
of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil you shall not eat...” God’s
| presentation of His
instructions was positive with only one prohibition. Satan misquotes
God and places emphasis upon the negative. This is still an often used
and persuasive tactic. Never mind all the advantages and blessings that
come with obedience. What is usually emphasized by those in the
temptation business is what is being deprived. Peers, for example, will
say, “You mean your parents won’t let you stay out past 8:00?!” The
“friends,” in an effort to modify the behavior of another, focus not on
the loving, secure home that continuously provides for every need, but
on the restriction. It is an attempt to distort perspective, and it is
often very effective.
However, in the case of Eve, her first response to the tempter was
good. She re-emphasized the positive statement of God while including
the restriction and the punishment for failure to pay heed to this
restriction. It is here that Satan not only misquotes God, but
contradicts Him. “You surely shall not die!” To sweeten the temptation
Satan exaggerates the benefits of eating the forbidden fruit. Yes,
their eyes would be opened (vs.7)! Yes, they would be like God in their
knowledge of good and evil (vs.22)! What Satan knew that he didn’t tell
them was that those “benefits” were not worth the sacrificing of their
relationship with God for a relationship with him.
With his questions and statements Satan implied that God was
unreasonably withholding something good from Adam and Eve. He implied
that God’s warning of death was just an idle threat or bluff to
intimidate them. Eve could have said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are
not mindful of the things of God.” Instead she gave Satan’s comments
the weight of authority as she selfishly looked on the forbidden fruit.
Deceit, lust, greed and vanity all played a part in the fall of
mankind. Evil was not in the tree and it was not in the fruit or the
knowledge that was obtained. Evil was in the simple act of disobedience
to the will of God. The opinions of Satan were trusted more than the
command of God. The desires of the flesh were valued more than the
desires of God.
What we learn from Adam and Eve and the forbidden tree is that any
rebellion to God or His ways is evil. It is evil no matter how it
appears. It is evil no matter the good that we think will be
accomplished. It is evil no matter the personal benefits we think that
we’ll obtain. Adam and Eve were presented with a choice. Daily we are
presented with similar choices. Which will we choose: good or evil,
God’s way or some other?
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|Do You Think There's Nothing in a Name?
By AL DIESTELKAMP
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has been considerable discussion among brethren concerning how local
congregations identify themselves on signs and advertising. Should we
stick with “church of Christ” or would it be wise to choose another
Most all agree, at least in principle, that there is no single
description prescribed in God’s word that we must use to the exclusion
of all others. However, some get nervous when a congregation chooses to
be identified in some other way.
I’ve heard some ask, “Would you be willing to erect a sign that
says, ‘This is not a Church of
|Christ?’” That’s supposed to settle the
But that argument won’t work. In return I would ask another
question: If you were to purchase an existing building that had a sign
out front that read, “Church of God,” would you take it down? You
would, and so would I! Why? Not because it fails the scriptural test,
but because we don’t want to be identified with the denomination using
that name. They have spoiled a perfectly good description.
A number of years ago there was a diet product on the market called
Ayds. When scientists decided to name a fatal sexually-transmitted
|disease AIDS, despite the difference in spelling, the company felt it
was in their best interest to choose a different name for their product.
Likewise, in some communities where digressive brethren and sectarians
use and abuse the name “Church of Christ” faithful brethren may be
motivated to use another scriptural description.
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|BEING A COMPANION
By STEVE FONTENOT
|“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” (Gen. 2:18, NASB).
Man had a problem: loneliness. Therefore, man had a need: suitable (“meet” KJV) company (the opposite of being alone). One who accompanies is a “companion.” “Companion” is from Latin, panis, bread and com, with. “To eat bread with.”
That’s about all the “companionship” some know in a marriage. There’s
no sharing of feelings, goals, dreams, sorrows, tears, heartaches. They
do little together, except eat together and have kids together. And
they may fuss together occasionally. Maybe they will spend a week or
two together a year on a vacation. But day to day they live in separate
corridors. They pass and say, “hello.” But often one does not really
know how the other feels. For they do not share that with them.
Sometimes other people know their mate better than they do. Sad isn’t
it...? It’s not what God intended.
It takes trust to be a good
companion. Trust that your companion will keep confidentiality, that
they have some sense of judgment, that they really care about you. Trust—you can’t buy it. You can’t demand it. You can earn it (or destroy
it). It must be sad (and lonely) to have a “companion” you don’t feel
you can trust. And it must be sad (and lonely) to have a “companion”
you believe doesn’t trust you. Sad. It could be so much better.
is a requisite for a healthy relationship between companions. When a
man “honors” his wife and a woman “respects” her husband, they are much
more inclined to share, not only their bread and bed, but their dreams,
fears, aspirations, sorrows, goals, disappointments...their life.
Then there is love (1 Cor. 13:4f). You enjoy being with someone who is patient and kind. “Love is patient, love is kind.”
|Love “is not jealous” of the other’s freedoms, schedules, abilities, and accomplishments. Of course, love,
not being filled with an overestimation of one’s importance or
accomplishments, “does not brag” about one’s freedoms, abilities, or
Love “is not rude” and
therefore does not unnecessarily embarrass a companion before others.
That may make one feel important, or vindicated, or gather attention,
but love “does not seek its own.”
It’s not inviting to share too much, whether time or heart, with
someone who gets upset easily or keeps dragging up the past. But love “is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Being a good companion may try you at times. You’ve got to put up with
some things, give the benefit of the doubt, hope for the best, and be
willing to stick with your mate through the bad times as well as the
good. Indeed, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
that’s what God intended to mold and regulate this relationship when He
made it and pronounced it, “very good.” Sadly, some have forgotten how
to love. Some never learned. Some never will. Of course, it doesn't
have to be that way. We could learn to love.
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” It wasn’t then. It isn’t now.
It’s not good for the one who is supposed to be the companion to be
lonely either. But, it happens. It happens all over this world. We
should know better. We, God’s people, could do better. Will we?
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By DAVID DIESTELKAMP
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yes, the grace of God is amazing – and beyond amazing! The way He loves
us, forgives us, serves us, came and died for us—inexpressible, amazing
God’s grace is amazing because of its “exceeding riches” (Eph. 2:7),
but it is also amazing because it is rare. “For scarcely or a righteous
man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to
die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were
still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8). But should it be so
Most human grace is un-amazing. “…if you love those who love you, what
credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And
if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
For even sinners do the same” (Lk. 6:32-33). People don’t experience
amazing grace, but we’re different. We revel in the amazing grace of
God, desperately needing it, continually praising Him for it, but then
are content to extend un-amazing personal grace to others. We love
others like the world does—loving
|the loveable. We love those who love us, who benefit us, who reciprocate. There’s certainly nothing amazing about that.
Think of Christ’s love challenge: “This is My commandment, that you
love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12). Every amazing facet
of the love of God that we discover is to inspire amazing love in
ourselves toward others. Toward all others! Don’t be content with
un-amazing love in any situation. In fact, in unloving situations—when
others are unlovable and the world wouldn’t love them—we have the best
opportunities to show the amazing grace of God that is in us.
Are we content with un-amazing grace in the area of forgiveness? It
requires amazing forgiveness from God to satisfy our desperate
spiritual needs. What do we do with Ephesians 4:32 which says we are to
be “…forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you”? Is our
forgiveness of others amazing or un-amazing grace? How can we require
amazing grace for our unforgiveables, then extend un-amazing grace that
|forgiveables? Isn’t it in unforgiveable situations that
we have the best opportunities to show the amazing grace of God that is
After Jesus’ amazing act of humble service in washing the disciple’s
feet He concluded: “…I have given you an example, that you should do as
I have done to you” (Jn. 13:15). All service toward God and others
should be amazing acts of humble sacrifice. Jesus was not satisfied
with un-amazing grace in anything He did. It’s not about the other’s
worthiness, deserving, what they do for us, or what they will do with
what we give them. None in those motivations are amazing. None of those
motivations were involved in God’s amazing grace to us. It’s time for
us to show the world that Christ is different—He’s amazing, and He’s in
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:5).
940 N. Elmwood Dr., Aurora, Illinois 60506
|Faith in God's Promises Tested Over Time
By ANDY DIESTELKAMP
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tend to be very time oriented, whereas God is not so. He created time
(cf. Gen. 1:14), but He is not bound by it, for “with the Lord one day
is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8).
Our earthly lifespans are relatively short. They are virtually nothing
when compared to God’s eternal existence (cf. Psa. 90:1-12; Jas. 4:14).
Thus, we have very limited time to live by faith.
The time between the first specific promise to Abraham that he would
have a son of his “own body” (Gen. 15:4) and its fulfillment in the
birth of Isaac (21:5) was about fifteen years. It had been 25 years
since Abraham left his homeland (12:4). That’s a long time for anybody, let alone senior citizens, to wait for the birth of a child!
The faith of Abraham and Sarah was tested during this prolonged time.
Sometimes it failed; but, overall, it sustained them. On one occasion,
before their promised child was born, they were visited by “three men”
(18:2) to whom they showed respectful hospitality (18:3-8; cf. Heb.
13:1). When these strangers questioned Abraham about his wife by name,
it likely piqued not only his interest but Sarah’s curiosity as well.
As she covertly listened through the tent door, she heard the
announcement that she would “have a son” (Gen. 18:9,10). Upon hearing the message,
“Sarah laughed within herself” with incredulity (v. 12). Yet imagine
the embarrassment felt when
|Sarah’s unbelief was called out with the
rhetorical “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (v. 14). In a typical
reaction, Sarah denied laughing but had to reveal her eavesdropping to
do so, only to be told, “No, but you did laugh!” (v. 15).
Surely we can all relate to Sarah’s disbelief. We claim to be people of
faith, but often when our faith is tested, we laugh at the thought that
God could or would do what He has promised. We know that nothing is too
hard for God, but we do not always live and talk like that is true. We
give up on God. Thankfully, He is gracious and does not give up on us,
just as He did not give up on Sarah. “If we are faithless, He remains
faithful” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Sarah is not remembered by God for her laughing. Notice how God
remembers her. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to
conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because
she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11). We may not pass
every test of our faith, but if we will repent and learn from our
failures that God is faithful, He will graciously remember our sins no
more (e.g. Jer. 31:34). May we have the humility to acknowledge Jesus
as our Savior and say, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk. 9:24).
323 E. Indiana Avenue, Pontiac, Illinois 61764
|"I feel that I am right in my belief"
By STEVE FONTENOT
did Saul when he locked up Christians in prison and gave consent to
their death (Ac. 26:9-10). So does the Muslim, the Hindu, the Mormon,
the Roman Catholic, the Baptist, the Methodist, the Presbyterian…the
idolater, the Christian, the Jew. What does this prove? They feel (subjective) they are right, not that they are right. In fact, they can’t all be right!
Is there no objective (external) standard of “right” by which feelings
can be measured? Indeed there is—the written word of God—the Bible,
correctly interpreted and applied. This is what Jesus pointed a man to
when he asked the most important question, “What shall I do to inherit
eternal life?” Jesus did not respond, “How do you feel?” or “What’s in your heart?” He said, “What is written in the law? How does it read to you?” (Lk. 10:25,26).
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