February 20, 2011
Our society has trained us to believe that we should be concerned with the physical attraction more than anything else. According to society, as long as the physical attraction is present, little else matters. The result is a conquest for the one who is the most outwardly beautiful person you can find. After all, when was the last time the hero of the movie rode off into the sunset with an ‘ugly” girl? But again, we must consider what the purpose of dating is, and what the constraints of dating are along with the desires of our flesh. Because our flesh desires a physical relationship, and a physical relationship cannot be legitimately accomplished outside of marriage, we must ensure that we take every step possible to prevent the possibility of sin. In Romans 13:14, Paul tells us to, “…put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Contemporary dating (where you have two people off alone together, who have been taught that anything they want to do is ok), is a recipe for failure. This style of dating not only creates a provision for sin, but it encourages the sins.
As we search through the Scriptures, we do not see an example of contemporary dating. It just was not practiced in Bible times. Does this mean that we do not see a standard? No. We must consider what the process of dating (courtship, betrothal, fishing or whatever you want to call it) is all about. What are these traditions and practices for? They should all have one common end: marriage. However, contemporary dating has become a social rite more than a process for determine God’s plan for a mate in your life. People ‘date’ now for companionship, to be a part of the crowd, or just because it is expected of them. Along with this casual attitude toward dating, there is also a casual attitude toward physical immorality. Unfortunately, physical contact and the physical immorality have become an expected part of dating.
Because dating is for one specific purpose, finding a mate, you should not consider dating until you are ready for all of the responsibilities that go along with marriage. That is, you should not start dating until you are physically, financially and emotionally ready to get married and have children. Some people try to assign a certain age to dating. Some say as old as eighteen, other people allow their children to date when they are as young as twelve or thirteen. There is no hard and fast rule in the Word of God concerning the age one should start dating. The qualifications mentioned above are merely signposts which point to one of the key qualifications: maturity. There are many other aspects to maturity to consider. I know, we are talking about dating and purity, not having children, but the goal of dating is marriage and the goal of marriage is having children. So, until you are ready to have children you should not consider dating. Your focus should be on God and God’s plan for your life. As you begin looking for the person with which you will spend the rest of your life, you will want to find someone you will love and who will love you. If you expect to find love, you must be saved and you must be looking for someone who is saved.
1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (8) He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Many people have a mistaken outlook on love. Yes, there are many people who claim to love. Perhaps they have lived with their spouse for decades. This is a choice they have made, but it is not the real love that springs forth from the Spirit of God. They believe love is something everyone is capable of. This simply is not true. Love is of God. Galatians 5:22 tells us that love is one of the fruits of the Spirit of God. If one is not saved, he cannot know what real love is about and he cannot show real love.
After you are saved, you need to ensure your walk with the Lord is as close and vibrant as it can be. Aside from the decision to be saved, the most important decision you will make is choosing the person with whom you will spend the rest of your life. You do not want anything hindering your relationship with the Lord. So, you must have a consistent habit of dealing with any sin in your life. You must be clean!
Dating is just one aspect of your life. As with every aspect of your life, you need to obey the leading of the Lord. The Lord never has, and never will lead you down a path that is not best you. If you trust God and allow Him to lead you, He will show you the best person at the best time for you to look for someone. The relationship will prosper, and the two of you will have great joy in serving each other as well as in serving God. If you do not obey God, you may miss out on the best God has for you and the consequences could be severe.
Proverbs 3:5-10: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
God’s plan is simply the best plan for us to live by, and in His plan, He has chosen the perfect mate for us. We get in trouble when we think we know more about what is best for us than God does and we get in trouble when we think we know the timing for our life better than the Lord. We tend to rely on our own logic or reason; we trust the people around us instead of turning to God for the answers to our questions. God is not only ready to guide us, but He is also anxious to do so.
In addition to trusting the Lord with the decisions of when to date and who to date, you should also consider the advice of your authorities. Your parents have tremendous insight into the people you may bring home. Mothers can look at a girl and see through the polite attitude and pretty face down to the heart of the girl. They can tell you if you have fallen for the wrong type of girl, or confirm that the girl you are interested in is a good choice. Fathers can also help their daughters in the same kind of way. They understand what is in the heart and mind of the young men, and how the intentions for the innocent young girl are not so innocent. In addition to this, your parents can also give you a way of escape from someone who may not be right for you. Since their authority is final, if they say you should not see someone, the discussions is settled. You do not need to worry about explaining why you cannot see the person again, just that you honor your parents, and they have said no. In addition to their experiences, parents also have been given wisdom from God. If they are following God, they are also praying for you as well as praying for the wisdom to train and protect you. God will answer these prayers. This is just one reason why the young person should be praying for his parents. He should be praying for his parents to have that wisdom and discernment as well as the backbone to use it.
Your pastor or youth pastor will also have a lot of insight into the person you are considering. In most cases, they know more about the potential date than you do. They may have access to information about them that you do not. In fact, they may even have counseled with the person you are considering, or even with the last person they dated. They may know more about the other person’s parents than you do. They may know that the family of the person you are dating simply has different standards. They may even know things about you that may make you unsuitable for the person you are considering. They will counsel you in how to discern who is a good choice and who is not. If you are ready to look for someone, they may even be able to direct you toward someone you have not even considered. Your pastor or youth pastor is a valuable wealth of information, and you should rely on them. In addition to all of these things, your pastor and youth pastor are your under-shepherds, ordained by God to be your leaders. You are obligated to honor and follow them in much the same way as you are to follow your parents.
When you get all of this advice, compare it to Scripture. If, for example, your parents tell you physical contact is acceptable before you are married, you must take that advice in the light of Scripture that tells you that fornication is a sin. If the advice you are given is contrary to the Scripture, in any way, you must discard it in light of the Scripture. Hopefully, the advice you get will be confirmed by Scripture. In this case, the advice becomes reinforcement for the Scripture. In either case, the Scripture is the final authority. The Bible, God’s Word to us, is completely without error. In addition to this, the Bible is a living text. That is to say that God uses It, in ways that we cannot understand, to lead us. God uses It to guide us in our daily lives. However, to see and take advantage of this guidance, you must walk with God. You cannot just use the Word of God when you feel like it; you must learn and know the Word. You must study and meditate on the Word on a daily basis. As we have already discussed, your relationship with God is more important than anything else. You cannot sacrifice your relationship with God and expect to be successful.
February 18, 2011
Gen 2:24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

In the Garden of Eden, God created the first family as well as the institution of marriage. Since then, mankind has used a variety of means to put two young people together in marriage. Dating is often used as one of those methods. When we consider the totality of dating, or courting, or whatever you want to call it, we must look at each of the individual aspects of dating.

The first aspect of a proper relationship that we need to consider is the relationship with God. God’s thoughts are of us.

Consider:
Psalm 139:17-18 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

This passage shows us that God’s thoughts are continually upon us, that God’s thoughts of us are more numerous than the sand. When the dating or courting relationship takes ones focus off of God, it is improper. God clearly has instructed us that He is to always be at the forefront of our lives. Anything that takes away from God’s preeminence in our lives is simply a sin. In Deuteronomy 4:24 we are warned that God is jealous of anyone or anything that takes away from His Glory. The next two passages to consider tell us that we should be wholly consumed with the service of God. Nothing should stand in the way of this service.

Mark 12:29-30 “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

Rom 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

The two passages above are in sharp contrast to all-consuming types of relationships we see today. In modern dating, the focus is on self. Even though it may appear that the partner is in upon a pedestal, this is only as a tool to gain one’s own self-satisfaction. Even in the rare case where one truly has the good of the partner at heart, that partner may still be elevated above God. Anytime anything is elevated above God, it becomes a god itself and it is wrong. Even before one should consider dating, he must make absolutely sure that he is completely willing to be a sacrifice for God. It is only when one reaches this level of service to God that he should consider dating.

Next, one must consider his relationship with his parents. In an improper dating relationship, the partner will take precedence over the parents. Often one will convince the other to do things that his or her parents would not approve. In many cases, parents may not even approve of the partner or the relationship. In these cases, the parents must always have the final word. In a proper dating relationship, the parents have full knowledge of everything that goes on, and they will approve of it. This does not mean that one who has ungodly parents who approve of an immoral activity has freedom to participate in the immoral activity. In fact, parents who are out of the will of God may take little or no role in the courting relationship. However, the approval one’s Godly parents is one key ingredient in the mix that makes a proper courtship.
Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Quite simply, parents may elect not to choose your friends, but they have the authority of God to exercise veto power over any potential friend. On a more practical point, parents know and understand a teen’s feelings. Believe it or not, parents were once also teens. Not only do they know what a teen is thinking and feeling, but parents can see things about the potential date that you may not see. Parents also understand your date’s feelings and desires. Parents may recognize danger signs that you do not see, and it is the parents’ responsibility to protect you from these dangers. Young ladies should rely on their dads and young men should rely on their mothers. In both cases, the parents have an insight into how your date thinks. They can see and understand things to which the teen may be blinded.

Of course, anyone looking at a potential spouse should also look to the pastor and his wife for advice. The pastor will have insight into things about the potential spouse that no one else can see. There may be situations which are not public, situations only the pastor knows, which may disqualify the potential mate. The pastor and his wife should also be able to provide good counsel for the young person who does not have Godly parents in the home.

One also needs to be aware of how he can defraud his parents or his date’s parents. This is truer with the ladies than the men, but it does apply to both. As we progress through this study, we will bring out several aspects of the wedding ceremony also. In this case, there is a point in the ceremony where the preacher asks something like, “Who gives this bride?” Why does the preacher ask this question? The answer is simple. Children are a gift from God, but not so much a gift as a loan. Children are given to parents to instruct and train in the things of God. Parents are responsible to bring their children to the point where they are ready to form their own home and have their own children. At the point of marriage, the man becomes the head of a new home, answering to the Lord. Ladies, in God’s order, become the queen of the home. They are in a place of honor but the husband is the head of the home. At this point in the wedding, the father will literally give his daughter to her future husband. If, up to this point, the girl has given her affection or loyalty to anyone other than her parents and the Lord, she has defrauded them. She has literally stolen those affections from her father and given them to another. Likewise, she has stolen purity from her husband.

Next, one must to consider his relationship to his future spouse. There are many aspects of this relationship to consider, but let’s focus on two: the physical and the emotional.

In any relationship, there is an emotional bond that is constructed. If the relationship is not the one God has intended, that emotional bond will be broken and emotional scarring will take place. Every time an emotional bond is created and broken, the emotional scarring weakens the strength of the next bond. Not only is each subsequent emotional bond weakened, but also relationships become easier to end. The first breakup is gut-wrenching. The second breakup is not as bad and the trend continues until breakups become easy. Some Christians, including myself, relate contemporary dating as practice for divorce. Contemporary dating simply makes the process of ending a relationship too easy. Finally, when you find the right person, any little dispute will seem to be large enough to end the relationship. My belief is that the advent of contemporary dating combined with the explosion of sexual immorality are two of the major causes of the dramatic increase in the rate of divorces in the United States.

Improper dating also creates a physical desire. A desire to express affection physically is natural, and is a gift from God. But, the expression of this gift is restricted to the bounds of marriage. Outside of marriage, the romantic expression of affection physically is illegitimate. Any physical contact between a two people who are romantically involved causes feelings of desire that cannot be legitimately fulfilled outside of marriage. Because a desire that cannot be legitimately fulfilled outside of marriage is created, that contact is a sin. This is not to say that any contact between a man and a woman is illegitimate. The contact itself it not wrong. However, within the context of a dating couple, physical contact creates a strong temptation to sin if not the sin itself. Remember: the desire to have something you cannot have is lust.
1Corinthians 7:1-2 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (2) Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Paul is quite clear: except for his wife, a man should not touch a woman because it creates an atmosphere for fornication. With regard to a dating couple, they already desire physical contact. If you add some contact, the sexual process is started. If physical affection is shared, and it is not in the proper context of marriage, then the true spouse is defrauded. Affection that was intended for him or her is taken away.

1 Corinthians 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

1 Corinthians 6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Illegitimate contact during a dating relationship can also spoil the physical relationship that will ultimately take place in marriage. There are a couple of possible reasons for this: The first is that there will always be a desire for bigger and better physical relations. As two people become more familiar and more comfortable with each other they will expand all aspects of their relationship. If either person is “practiced” in the physical aspects, he or she will have something to compare to in the marriage, and the marriage may never seem adequate. I am also convinced that God will deprive a couple of some degree of physical pleasure if they come to their marriage impure. Whichever of these theories is true, neither will take place if you approach the marriage with a pure heart and body.
February 15, 2011
I can take my telescope and look millions and millions of miles into space, watch the blazing suns and rolling planets in the infinite depths of immensity; but I can lay it all aside and go into my room, shut the door, get down upon my knees in earnest prayer, and see more of heaven and get closer to God than when assisted by all the telescopes and material agencies of earth.
-Sir Isaac Newton
In 1 John 1:8 we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Aside from Christ, everyone who has ever drawn a breath is born a sinner and is born with a natural desire to sin. Even when we are saved, and a “new creature” in Christ, our flesh still desires the pleasures of sin. But does that mean that we must continue to sin? With the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Though we are Christians – Saints of God, we are not yet in our glorified bodies. Our spirit has been quickened and made alive, yet our flesh still wants to sin. Despite our temptation, as Christians, we also have the ability within us and the tools available to us to choose whether we will sin or not. Sadly, we exercise our right as a Christian to choose to sin. Though we are not automatically made immune to the temptation of sin, we can choose whether we will sin or not. From the moment we are saved, through the remainder of our lives, we can choose to be perfectly pure.

To be perfectly pure is the goal to which we, as Christians, should all aspire. Though some disagree, perfect purity, or living without sin, is possible and should be the goal of every saint of God. No, I am not disregarding scriptures which tell us that we have all have sinned (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, 2 Corinthians 13:2), but in all of these verses, notice the tense. In each case, the verb sin is in the past tense such as, “…all have sinned…” However, the fact that we have all sinned in the past does not mean that we are all doomed to sin again. Any sin we commit is the result of a choice we have made to sin. In fact, Jesus Himself, when dealing with the woman in John chapter 8, told her to go and sin no more (John 8:11). Jesus clearly set a standard for her as well as all mankind: He wants us to lead a life where we choose not to sin through the grace and power of the Holy Ghost and the knowledge of the Word of God. Was Jesus setting a standard too high for us to reach? Of course not!
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Romans 6:1-2 is just as clear as Jesus’ command to the woman in John 8. We who are saved should not be subject to sin, we can choose whether we will sin or not.

There are several tools we have at our disposal which we can choose to use to defeat the temptation of sin. The first tool we have is a prerequisite we must have to obtain the other tools. This tool is salvation. Salvation is a free gift offered by God. The gift of salvation is accepted by faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary alone. Without Christ’s work of salvation, the other tools we have are simply unavailable or are meaningless to us. The second tool we have is the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God fully indwells the believer at the very moment of salvation. This is the same Holy Spirit of God that stood on nothing and spoke the world into existence. This Holy Spirit lives within the believer and the power of the Holy Spirit is available to the believer. Third, we have the Word of God. How powerful is the Word of God? Christ, when He was on Earth walking in the flesh of man, was subject to the same temptations we all face. Christ was tempted by Satan himself. Each time Satan tempted Christ, Christ responded with simple answers from the Word of God, and each time, Satan was defeated. Psalms 119:11 says plainly, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Fourth, we have the protection of God. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 combined with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” should show us that we can truly live a life without sin. When, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote Philippians 4:13 and said that he could do all things, he included overcoming the temptation to sin.

What does it mean to be pure? There are several definitions of pure. To be pure is to be free from dust, dirt, or taint; to be free from what weakens or pollutes; to be free from moral fault or guilt; to be marked by chastity. Given these definitions, everyone should aspire to a state of absolute purity. While it is true that we should all try to live daily with the aspiration to be sinless through the power of the Holy Ghost, here we are speaking specifically of physical and emotional purity. In our society today, we are bombarded by the media portraying sexual standards that are entirely unbiblical even to the point of being vile. Today’s world is plagued with sexually transmitted diseases, has so many illegitimate children that many high schools now have day care centers and, as a society, sees the murder of an unborn child as an acceptable form of birth control. All of these problems are a direct result of the culture of sexual impurity that is promoted in our society. The clearest indicators of the decline of sexual morals are the statistics. In 1950, only 30% of the population was sexually active by the age of 19 (Please remember that this includes a great deal of people who were married before the age of twenty). The Centers for Disease Control report that today, nearly 75% of the population is sexually active by the age of nineteen while the average age of those who are married has risen to over thirty years.

In the context of sexual purity, many would say that to be pure is to be a virgin. The statistics above are based upon the definition of sexually active as “no longer a virgin”; they do not take into account other activities that are clearly sexual); In fact, many teens only consider one act to be “sex”, however this is not the attitude of the Word of God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that it is possible to commit adultery in your heart just by looking at someone. If this is true, then it is equally true that you can commit sexual sin through other physical activities. Pop culture tells us anything is ok so long as you are ready, but what is ready in their definition? Some say you are ready when you can make a commitment, others say marriage, others have no standard at all. In this text, we will show you how far is too far, and how you can determine when you ARE ready – based on the Word of God.
The Bible version debate is a very critical as well as a very contentious one. The passions run very deep on both sides of the issues. However, many people promote a neutral position on the issue by saying that you can read whichever version you wish, so long as it speaks to you. So, before we examine the issue itself, let’s take a moment to examine the history of the issue as well as why it is so important.

The devil has always used the tool of perverting the Word of God to deceive people. The devil began this practice in the Garden of Eden. God had specifically told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any fruit of the garden except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God warned them that when they ate of that tree, they would die. The devil commented that they would not surely die. Thus, we see the very first time the Devil changed the Word of God. As Lucifer changed the Word of God, Adam and Eve believed him, sinned and condemned the world to death from sin. From this one example, we see the very real danger of perverting the Word of God.

In the New Testament, prior to the canonization of Scripture, we are warned about strange and diverse doctrines (1 Tim 4:1, Heb 13:9). We are also warned of other doctrines in the following passage.

2 John 1:10-11 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (11) For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
In fact, it was John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God cautioned:
Revelation 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
This is a very strong warning for anyone who adds to, removes from or changes the Word of God.
Throughout the Bible times, we see the Devil using this tool. He knows the power of Scripture. In fact, the devil cannot stand against Scripture. That is why we are instructed to memorize Scripture:

Psalms 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Memorizing Scripture is a tool any saint, any believer in God can use to defend against the attacks of the Devil. But, when you memorize Scripture, which version do you memorize? Consider Jesus, Himself. Jesus could have spoken and caused the devil to flee from Him. However, Jesus set an example for us when He was tempted: Jesus quoted Scripture.
Matthew 4:1-11 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. (2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. (3) And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. (4) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (5) Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, (6) And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (7) Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (8) Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (10) Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (11) Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
This is the exact same tool we have at our disposal. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He humbled Himself and used the same tool we can use – the Word of God. Since we know God wants us to be successful Christians, He wants us to have His word.
Finally, Jesus is the Word of God. We see this in John 1:1-4
Joh 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) The same was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Imagine having a form of God in your hands. Now, consider the power of those words. That thought helps us understand why the Devil flees from the Word of God but consider the next verses:
Re 19:15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Re 19:21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
It is that which comes out of the mouth of the Lord which will slay the nations. Jesus' spoken word will be the destruction of all those nations and people who rebelled against Him.

When we realize the Bible is the best weapon we can put in our arsenal to defend against the Devil, when we realize the Bible is a representation of Jesus in our hands, it is easy to understand why the Devil wants it destroyed or corrupted.

In the next article, we will examine the preservation of the Word of God.
February 14, 2011
Sooner or later, every believer will sin. This is inevitable.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Everyone is a sinner. That is, everyone has sinned in the past. Moreover, it is likely that everyone will sin again in the future.
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Despite the likelihood that we will all sin again in the future, God does not want us to sin. God would prefer that we do not sin. But, we are assured that, if we do sin, we will have an advocate with the father. So, think about this. When a believer sins, Jesus will actually stand up for him. Jesus will intercede on my behalf when I sin. He will step in and speak for me. I imagine Jesus standing and pointing to the holes in his hand or perhaps showing his pierced side. In any case, Jesus reminds the Father of the blood he shed for my sins.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
From our point of view, when we sin, we must confess. Confession is simple: it is agreement with God that we were wrong. When we genuinely admit that we are wrong, we will also turn from our sin. This is the essence of repentance.
1 John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
There is a contrast in this passage. On one side, we see that when we walk in darkness (sin), the truth is not in us.  But, on the other hand, when we when we walk in the light or truth, or not in sin, we have fellowship with Christ. It really is an either / or scenario. Either we are not sinning and we have fellowship with God or we are sinning and we do not have fellowship.

In any case, it is wonderful to know that when we sin, we have an advocate - Jesus Christ. We can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus is there to intercede for us when we sin and it is a comfort to know that when we confess, we will be cleansed.
February 12, 2011

Can I ever lose my salvation?

NO! Now, let’s look at why…
John 10:28-29 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (29) My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
There are many reasons why one who is saved could never lose his salvation. Simply, when we are saved, we are safe in the hands of Jesus. Who is more powerful than Jesus? No one. Who can take something from Jesus? No one. So long as Jesus is alive, those who are saved will never perish. More than that, imagine being in Jesus' hand and Jesus' hand being in the hand of God the Father. One who is saved is as safe as anyone could ever be.
John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
He who hears and believes, in other words, he who is saved shall have what God describes as everlasting life. When we think about the timelessness of God, and how He promises everlasting life. God is offering anyone who would be saved everlasting life. In God's mind, how long is everlasting?
John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
This is a crucial point. Many people believe that God will, for some reason, cast them out or take away their salvation. God is proclaiming in HIS Word that this is not possible. We have a clear promise from God that there will never be a point in time where He will cast us out. We can take assurance in this fact alone. However, there is still more.
Rom 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Verses 38 and 39 list a large gamut of things on all levels. In fact, the list of trials generally cover every aspect of our life. Everything which we could possibly face is covered in this list. Yet, despite this all-inclusive list, there is nothing which will separate us from the love of Christ. No matter what comes in our lives, Christ loves us.
1 Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Not only will Jesus always love us, but we are kept by the power of God. Our preservation is not in just any power, but the power of God. A power plant can produce a lot of energy, but they require maintenance and sometimes fail. Sometimes, we see hurricanes or cyclones. These are some of the most powerful storms, but they eventually die out. As powerful as some of these things are, they all fail or die. The power of God which keeps us is the same power which created the world - which created the storms. That is the power which keeps us - the almighty power of God.
Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Another reason we can trust in our salvation is because we are sealed. Again, this isn't just any seal. This seal is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit of God moves into our lives. Lining in us and through us, the Holy Spirit of God becomes our seal literally marking the believer as one who has been redeemed by God. As you study the work of the Holy Spirit, you will see that a part of the work of the Holy Spirit is producing fruit through us. That fruit becomes our seal. As a result of the work of the Spirit of God in the believer's life, and the fruit of the Spirit of God, the world around the believer should easily recognize the believer as a child of God.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Salvation is a gift from God, not something we can earn. Because it is a gift God gives us, it could only ever be taken away from us by the one who gave it to us - God. God has promised never to forsake us which means that God will never take the gift away from us.
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Salvation is not something we can work for - it is not something we earned. Because we do not earn our salvation, we do not have to work to maintain our salvation. This is a key, a critical concept which many people fail to grasp. They falsely believe they must work for and earn their salvation. What gift did you ever have to earn?
Rom 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
An adoption is a permanent acceptance into the family. When one is adopted, he is forever a part of the new family just as if he were born into that family. When we are saved, we are adopted into the family of God to be, forever, children of God.
After looking at these verses, it should be easy to see that once someone is genuinely saved, they are saved forever. One cannot lose his salvation, nor can he have his salvation taken away from him. True salvation is forever.
February 11, 2011
On a more personal note... tonight concluded what turned out to be a spectacular revival. God moved in a way I had not seen in a long time. It seemed like everyone was sick, yet the church was full every night! Now, I am anxiously awaiting Sunday. I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for us. The church seems to be more alive than ever and we're coming off our second great revival in just a few weeks. What more can the Lord do? I have no idea, but He already knows.

 Our preacher keeps saying, "We're on the little end of something big." What a concept. As high, as big as the services of the last few months have been, this cannot be the little end. But, I know my pastor is right. God has big plans for our little church.

Just a few months ago, we regretted seeing the mission leave. Details aren't relevant, but it was discouraging. All those men need to be in a good church. Please pray for CRM. When they left, there was certainly a hole in our midst. Literally - there was a huge hole in the middle of the auditorium. But God is faithful. That hole is full, the building is almost full. It is amazing to see our Pastor take a Biblical stand, then see God honor that stand!

 There have been some changes in the Sunday School program. Now, Kellie and I are responsible for the fifth and sixth grade class. It's a great bunch of kids and we're looking forward to getting to know them better. What about the New Convert's class, you ask? It's not gone, it has just moved to a different time slot. More details about that at a later date.

 We started working in the Bus Ministry last spring. It really is another example of how God moves and works things out. At first, I didn't want to do it at all, even though I have always had a heart for the Bus Ministry. So, I volunteered to be a spare driver. Just driving as needed. A short time later, I was the long-term substitute on the Shelby route - the route with the reputation of being the worst route of them all. Then, my status changed and I was the permanent driver. Well, that has changed also. Now I am the Bus Captain. Again, it is amazing to see how the Lord has expanded my burden beyond my self-imposed boundaries.

 And then, there is the preaching. I've been getting to preach a lot. I have stood up and delivered Bible messages in the past, but it has never been like this. There is a great freedom to preach around here, but there is also a great struggle to preach. The devil doesn't like what is going on around Love Valley and he is fighting it tooth and nail! So, anyway, that is the update. Hope you all have a great night and a great weekend. See you in church!
February 10, 2011
Lately, there have been many people posting various thoughts based on a portion of Philippians 2:12. That portion reads, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Some have claimed that you can literally “work out” or resolve your own salvation while others have lifted this verse as a proof text indicating that you can change principles of the Word of God to suit whatever personal preference you may have. Could there possibly be a verse which indicates salvation is a result of something we work out? Could God have possibly indicated that we should look at clear principles in the Word of God and work their meaning out on our own? NO! This is a neo-evangelical position based in the idea of the Bible becomes the Word of God as you personally apply it to your life. Under this principle, two people can take two completely different, contradictory thoughts from the same passage. Of course, these ideas are completely false. 2 Peter 1:20 tells us, “…no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” We simply cannot lift a passage of Scripture and apply it as we see fit. The Word of God is God’s Word to us. It is what God wanted us to know about Him, about history, about salvation and about the application of His law in our lives. To claim that the Word of God could mean different things to different people is no different than claiming that this article could mean different things to different people. As the writer, I know what thoughts I want to convey. This article means exactly what I want it to mean, nothing else. Likewise, God’s letter to us means exactly what God wanted it to mean. If we apply an interpretation to the Word of God which contradicts any other principle of the Word of God or which violates the meaning God intended for us, our private interpretation is completely wrong. Those who make an application of Phil 2:12 claiming that we can work out our own salvation or work out our own application of other Scriptural principles are wrong and are looking for excuses to compromise the Word of God and mold it to fit their own personal preference.

So, what is this passage telling us? First, we must always consider a verse in its context.
Philippians 2:5-13 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (12) Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
First, we need to remember to think like God. We can never apply our own personal interpretation to Scriptures. We must look for the application God intended for each passage. When we examine a passage of Scripture, we must look at its immediate context. What do the verses around the passage we are examining have to say? What is the general theme of the entire passage? We must also look at the target of the passage. The Bible is written and must be studied in the light of the various dispensations. Passages written to the children of Israel are truth and do contain lessons for us, but we cannot apply the Mosiac Law to our lives. Likewise, events recorded in the book of Acts are historical. We must be extremely careful when we look to the actions of the early church for today’s doctrine. Third, we must look at the people to whom a given passage is written. Some books are prophecy which were written for all generations. Other books are history, recounting what God has done. Still other books were given to the church. In each case we must be very careful in how we apply each book to our lives and to the doctrine and practices of the church.

Next, we see that Jesus was both in the form of God and completely equal with God. This idea shoots down those who believe Jesus was merely a prophet or a “good man.” The Bible is very clear that Jesus is the son of God and yet also God in the flesh. No reasonable person would ever deny this. The Bible shows this, Jesus makes the claim and God acknowledges it. There is little more to discuss regarding the subject.

Third, we see that Jesus, even though He was God, made Himself of no reputation and made Himself a servant. After taking on the role of a servant and the form of a man, Jesus was obedient unto death on the cross. Jesus did all of this for one reason: to purchase salvation for all of mankind.  From the moment man sinned in the Garden of Eden, a price was required. The price required for sin is death. A sacrifice had to be offered. However, any sacrifice we could offer in our own flesh would be nothing but a sin-filled offering. We could never pay for sin with sin. The only offering which could ever be sufficient is a perfect sacrifice. Jesus was that perfect sacrifice. When Jesus made that sacrifice for us, He worked out our salvation for us. Because God, in the form of a man – Jesus, humbled Himself and purchased salvation for all mankind, Jesus is to be exalted above all others.

This brings us to verse twelve. Are we then to work out our own salvation? No. Our salvation has already been worked out by Jesus. So, what does this mean? Again, we cannot lift the verse or a part of the verse out of its context. By doing so, we are perverting the meaning of the Word of God. I must admit, it was hard to grasp the meaning of this verse until I began examining what others had to say about it and even how the verse is translated in other languages. Remember – the King James Bible is not the inspired text, it is the faithfully, perfectly translated text for the English-speaking people. However, even a perfect translation loses something when translated to an imperfect language such as English. The truth I am about to share with you is there in our English KJV Bible. But in this rare case, the truth is more evident in another language. In his commentary, Gill cites the Syriac version, the passage is rendered as “do the work” of salvation. In other words, the fruit of our salvation should work through our lives. When we are saved, that salvation should be evident, working in us and through us.  
February 7, 2011

Many false religions want their followers to believe true salvation is some difficult, lofty goal which must be continually earned (or purchased). The Word of God offers quite a different perspective on the idea of salvation.

1 John 5:11-13 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.(12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
In the passage above, please note the words RECORD, HATH, KNOW and ETERNAL. Based on this passage, one must either trust the Word of God and believe that they can know they have eternal life or believe that God is a liar. With that in mind, we will look several reason why we can absolutely trust in this passage and see that one can know, without a doubt, whether he is saved or not.

The Character of God
There are many aspects of the character of God. Generally everyone with any sense accepts the fact that God’s character is completely above reproach. In fact, God’s sterling character is beyond our very comprehension. For this topic, we will only briefly look at one aspect of His character.
Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
There are people around us who have good character and choose not to lie but we have to understand that God simply cannot lie. A good person may choose not to lie but they can also choose to lie. In God's case, God is simply incapable of lying. It is not a matter of God choosing not to lie, God cannot lie. With that assurance in mind, we can also trust the received Word of God.


The Promises of God in the Bible
If God cannot lie, He will keep his promises to us. The following are only a few of those promises!
John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
God promises everlasting life. Another attribute of God is his timelessness. God has existed forever and will always exist. In that mindset, God promised everlasting life to all who believe.
John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
God promises to accept anyone who comes to Him. God does not reject anyone: no matter what their age, gender, race or what sins they have committed in the past. The murderer can be saved. The homosexual or sodomite can be saved. The liar can be saved. Even the child abuser can be saved. No matter who you are, you can be saved.
Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

God promised in John 6:37 that He would not reject anyone who came to Him. In Romans 10:13, He reinforces that promise saying that whosoever asks shall be saved. Whosoever is a big word with a broad meaning. Basically, anyone who asks to be saved can be saved. God will not reject anyone who genuinely wants to come to Him. So, can you know you are saved? Absolutely.
February 4, 2011
How does a church grow? By evangelism.
Luke 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
The Lord makes it quite clear that He wants us to win souls. If we sit quietly in our own homes or in our own church how will we win souls? We cannot. Typically, the lost man will not wander into the church of his own accord. We must go to the lost and compel them to come in under sound preaching.

So, when you are looking for a church, you must look for an evangelistic church. What kind of outreach program does the church have? Does the church have a church-wide outreach program? A program where the entire membership of the church is encouraged to go door-to-door, and evangelize the lost. Some churches have no soul winning program. How will this church ever grow?

Moreover, this can be an indicator of the spiritual condition of the church. If there is no outreach, it is very likely that there is no burden for souls in the church. If there is no burden for souls in the church, it is likely there is no burden for souls in the pulpit.

2 Tim 4:1-5 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Paul charged Timothy to make full proof of thy ministry. Part of making "full proof" of his ministry was doing the work of an evangelist. This does not mean the Pastor should neglect his church and travel as our contemporary evangelist does. One of the great men of my life, Dr. Bob Kelley, once said, "I have no use for a pastor who leaves his church two or three times a month." The pastor should be the lead evangelist in the church, but he should be in the church. He should lead the church by example, showing them how to be an evangelist in the community.
What should visitation look like?
First, the participants must be saved. This should be simple enough. How can you share a testimony of salvation if you have never been saved? How can you withstand the attacks of the devil if you do not have the help of the Holy Spirit of God in your life? Second, the evangelists of the church must be separated. There are many aspects to separation. However, it is simply a matter of being different from the world. When a lost person is looking for something different, we need to be different. We need to be able to show the lost the difference between living for Christ and living for the world. Along with the idea of separation, the people who are visiting need to be properly dressed. They are representing the testimony of the church. More importantly, they are representing Christ. You can read more about modesty in this article. Third, the people who are visiting must have the proper attitude. It is very possible that someone could have a bad day which carries over into a bad visitation experience. Finally, two-by-two is the rule. One should strive to never visit alone, if possible. Also, less experienced people should paired with more experienced people.
A visitation program should always be paired with some kind of discipleship program. Our church primarily uses the First Steps series. Any new convert needs to be quickly and soundly taught the basic principles of the Word of God.
February 2, 2011

As you read the last two articles, they certainly should have seemed to be very personal in nature. That is, they did not seem to have anything to do with choosing a church. They were building a foundation. In order to chose a church, we must look at the Biblical standards upon which every church should be based. Some of those standards are corporate - they should apply to the entire church. However, some of the Biblical standards we should look for in a church are personal standards. The church which does not promote Biblical personal standards should be avoided.

Friendship of the World

A church will never rise above the leadership of the church. We have looked at the Biblical qualifications of the Pastor, now we will look at some practical standards the Pastor should have.

1 Tim 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless...

When we consider a Pastor, we should look for someone who is blameless. We could group all the measures of blamelessness into one category: he has control of his flesh or he is not worldly.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

We will see a preacher's hatred for the world in his preaching and in the direction his church is headed. If the church is growing as it should, there will be people in the congregation from all walks of life and from all stages of Christian growth. It would be normal or even expected to see a new or baby Christian sitting near a mature saint of God in the same congregation. This is evidence that the more mature Christians are winning souls to Christ. However, we cannot expect that baby Christian to have the same standards the mature saint has. God has not been working on the new Christian as long. So, we would be wrong to judge a congregation because we see a few people who still look worldly. Though we would be wrong to judge a church because we saw a few worldly people in the congregation, if we saw a worldly pastor or deacon, we would be absolutely right to leave that church and never return. As James 4:4 so clearly points out, to be a friend of the world is to also be an enemy of God.

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Sadly, I know some preachers and pastors who love the things of the world. This could be things such as carnal television and movies, ungodly music, inappropriate dress or anything which divides the preacher from the preaching of the Word of God. Their preaching is changed by their love for the world. When sin is in their life, they are hindered. They cannot preach against sin! As they weaken their stand against sin, their church's stand against sin is weakened. Finally, the individuals in their flock are never taught of their sin and are allowed to wallow in their own personal sin.

This all describes the carnal church. The carnal church should be avoided. By contrast, the church you should attend is a church where the Pastor is preaching the whole council of God, is preaching a salvation message, is preaching an encouraging message and is preaching a message which is clearly against sin. Of course, if the Pastor is preaching against sin, it is very likely that he is clean from the sin he is preaching against. This Pastor is not perfect, but is is moving in the right direction. As he moves in the right direction, his flock will follow him. This is a sign of a church you should attend.