April 3, 2023
Is it the case that God chose some individuals, before time began, to be saved? Did God choose others, before they were born, before they had an opportunity to choose or reject Christ, to be eternally lost? If so, is it therefore the case that Jesus died only for the elect and not for the whole world? These are doctrines that are taught by many well-meaning people in Christendom. But do these doctrines line up with scripture?
Hear the words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 NAS95) Did Jesus die only for the elect, or for the whole world? Is His offer of salvation only for some, or for anyone who will believe?
Jesus says in John chapter 5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24 NAS95) Again, is Jesus offering eternal life to all? Is He offering life to anyone who will hear and believe? Or is He only offering life to those individuals who were already chosen for salvation before time began? If that is the case, how can Jesus say they have passed out of death into life, if they already had life?
What about the following scriptures? Paul writes to Timothy that God, our Savior, “…desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4 NAS95) Or consider what Peter wrote, that the Lord is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NAS95) What is God’s desire? It is for all people to be saved! He does not wish for any to perish, but for all to repent! Is this really God’s desire? If so, how could we conclude that He was pleased to condemn the majority of mankind to the fires of hell before they had a choice to accept or reject Jesus? Are we to believe that God truly desires for all to repent, but created most people with the complete inability to do so? Do these ideas line up with the plain statements of the word of God?
I am so thankful that God does indeed desire all people to be saved. He gives all people the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. This is the plain testimony of scripture. Praise God for sending His Son to rescue from eternal condemnation any and all who will hear and believe!
Leave a Comment » | 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, available to all, John 3:16-17, John 5:24, not wishing any to perish, salvation | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden
March 25, 2023
Dr. Harvey Floyd was my Greek teacher at Lipscomb as well as having him for many important Bible classes like Romans. I recently came across an interview of Floyd from the Gospel Advocate (October 1993). His words are still instructive though said over twenty years ago.
My greatest emphasis in life is to convince everyone of the complete authority of Scripture. If churches of Christ ever abandon submission to God’s written Word, we’ve lost everything.
Restoration only makes sense with an authoritative source. Without the guidance of Scripture, life becomes a sea without a shore.
Today’s religious leaders are far too interested in trendiness. They float from one fad to another without any clear emphasis or substance. Instead of the Bible, they fill their teaching with insight into “many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings” very entertaining, perhaps, but not distinctively Christian.
In the past, you could accept that our brethren were inerrantists — that cannot be assumed today. We are moving into a vague religiosity instead of a passion for restoring New Testament Christianity. This is more dangerous than anything else.1
Rodney Stark gives a memorable illustration of the loss of confidence in the authority of Scripture in his book, The Triumph of Faith. After World War I, the majority of missionaries to Africa came from the United States. At that time, ninety percent of these American missionaries came from Congregationalists (today known as the United Church of Christ), the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Episcopalians. By 1935, they were only sending half of all American missionaries. By 1948, it dropped down to 25 percent, and today, the number is only 4 percent. Stark explains: Why the decline? The liberal denominations stopped sending missionaries because they lost their faith in the validity of Christianity.2
If there is one thing Floyd taught me, it is that there are good, satisfying reasons for believing in God, the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. When questions are raised about our faith, you only need to search for answers, and they will be found. Making fun of faith is nothing new (“a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”), but the wisdom of God is always stronger. It is a vital thing to learn submission to God’s written Word.
— Russ Holden
1 Gregory Alan Tidwell, “An Interview with Dr. Harvey Floyd” Gospel Advocate (Oct. 1993):14. The quotation in Floyd’s interview is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.
2 Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith, Kindle location 2260.
Leave a Comment » | Bible authorative, Dr. Floyd, religious fads | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden
March 21, 2023
There are amazing things going on in the spiritual realm when the word of God is read or proclaimed. There is an ongoing interaction between the word, the devil, and human hearts that cannot be seen, but is very real.
Jesus revealed this profound three-way interaction in a parable. He tells us that the word of God is like seed that is sown, and human hearts are like the soil. Some will hear the word of God with little interest and little attempt to understand. For these, Jesus says, “…the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in the heart.” (Matthew 13:19 NAS95) Satan is very real, very active, and very dangerous. He will gladly snatch away the word before it can ever germinate in the heart.
Some will hear the word and accept it joyfully, but only for a while. For these, Jesus said, “… he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:21 NAS95) Isn’t it tragic that in times of trouble, some will turn away from the very thing they need most? We see it happen today—people turn away from God when life gets difficult instead of running to Him all the more.
Some will hear and accept the word, but then it is choked out by thorns. Jesus said of these people, “…this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22 NAS95) Worry and the love of money and pleasure have a powerful blinding effect on people. Worry will stop us from trusting the promises of God. The pursuit of riches and pleasures will cause us to feel self-sufficient and uninterested in blessings from God. In the end, no fruit is ever produced.
And yet, there are those who will hear the word “…in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (Luke 8:15 NAS95) These are the ones who bear fruit for God, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23 NAS95) These are eager to hear, eager to accept, eager to live the word of God. They hold on to the life-giving word of God with all of their might. They are richly blessed, and they bear much fruit for the Lord.
What is the lesson for us? Jesus said, “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” (Luke 8:18 NAS95) We have a choice before us today, and every day concerning how we will listen to God. May we always listen with good hearts and hold fast the word in our hearts.
Leave a Comment » | Luke 8:11-18, Matthew 13:18-23, Parable of the Sower, power of the word of God | Tagged: Hearing the word, Parable of the Sower | Permalink
Posted by Scott Colvin
March 15, 2023
What is the source of ongoing strife and turmoil in the home? Our home life is supposed to be a source of great blessings, but sometimes it is more of a source of stress, anger, and contentiousness. Husband and wife cannot seem to get along. The children are disrespectful to their parents and constantly fight with their siblings. Mother and Father have grown weary of their children because of their behavior and have “checked out” mentally. Problems such as these are common in the world and even within the church. What is the source of these problems, and what is the solution?
The source of these problems is that one or more people in the family have stopped heeding the voice of the Lord. When the Lord and His word are at the center of the home, peace and harmony will abound. The question is, are we listening to His voice? Are we seeking His wisdom? Listen to where the wisdom of God will lead us: “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her…Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.” (Proverbs 3:13-15, 17-18 NAS95) What will the wisdom of God bring into all aspects of our lives, including our homes? Pleasantness, peace, happiness, and life. But if we choose not to listen, if we choose to go our own way, we will only hurt ourselves and rob ourselves of His blessings. We must hold fast the wisdom of God!
God designed human beings. He designed marriage. He designed the family. If we will listen to His voice, our homes will function beautifully, and blessings will abound. Sure, difficult times will come, but in those times, we will find that our homes will be a place of comfort and solace rather than a place of additional stress and turmoil. May we all experience the blessings in our homes that God intended for us to enjoy.
Leave a Comment » | children, family, parenting, Proverbs 3:13-18 | Tagged: God's design for the family, Wisdom for families | Permalink
Posted by Scott Colvin
March 7, 2023
Spirit-filled Christians will sing praises to the Lord. Listen to the connection between the Spirit and singing in these words: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord…” (Ephesians 5:18-19 NAS95) Being filled with wine leads to dissipation (wastefulness, debauchery), but being filled by the Spirit leads to (among many other things) singing of praises.
Similarly, Christians who are filled with the word of Christ will sing praises. “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 NAS95)
What kind of singing will those who are filled with the Spirit and the word offer? It is singing which speaks to, teaches, and admonishes those assembled. When we sing together, we are reminding one another of God’s word and what God expects of us as His children. Singing is a mutual teaching experience, and it should engage the minds of those gathered.
The Spirit-filled, word-filled believer will offer singing to God that not only engages the mind, but also the heart. Perhaps at times, we have been guilty of singing the words of hymns that we know well while our hearts are disengaged. But true worship is about offering our hearts to God in praise and thankfulness. Worship is to come from our innermost being. Many try to create a meaningful worship experience by focusing on external things—a great sound, great lighting, great visual effects, etc. But true worship doesn’t come from external things. It comes from the heart. I am convinced that the most meaningful songs in God’s eyes, and the most beneficial songs for us, are the simple songs of praise that come from a grateful and reverent heart.
One might look at our simple worship and think that there’s not much to see—and they’re right. But the question is, what is going on that you can’t see? What is going on in the hearts of those gathered? In the spiritual realm, there is meaningful, uplifting, powerful worship coming from thankful hearts that are filled with the Spirit and the word. Let us worship God with all our hearts this Lord’s Day.
Leave a Comment » | Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19, Holy Spirit, sing, singing, Spirit, word of God, worship | Tagged: singing and making melody, worship in spirit | Permalink
Posted by Scott Colvin
March 2, 2023
Some people make me nervous when they quote scripture. It is because what they seem to mean by the verse doesn’t seem to be what the verse appears to mean in context. For example, consider Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV)
What some seem to mean is that their impulses are so Spirit guided, they don’t need to worry about what scripture says. Now I’m not opposed to feelings and impulses. When I have impulses to give, serve, or speak a good word for Jesus, I’m endeavoring to act on those impulses. I do believe in God’s providence to put opportunities in our way. But feelings are not a test for truth. Hopefully our feelings flow from our acceptance of truth and are tested by truth.
So, what does Paul mean by freedom? It is helpful to look at other places where he explains his concept of freedom.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, ESV)
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13, ESV)
For Paul, freedom in Christ is freedom from the bondage to law which condemns us when law is used as a means to salvation. We can’t be saved by our perfect law keeping (by merit), because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Our freedom in Christ is also the freedom not to sin. We have forgiveness of our sins by the atoning death of Christ, so our past burdens are removed. We have spiritual help in the present to aid us in the battle against temptation and to grow in Christian graces. Paul warns Christians of the two paths in life that we still face: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace…. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:6, 13, ESV)
Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do as you please and ignore scripture. Scripture, after all, is the Spirit’s inspired message. It is freedom from perfect law keeping and merit when we accept God’s grace in the atoning death of Christ. It is freedom from the bondage to sin, when we find and use the spiritual resources that God has richly provided for our victory. The journey in Christian living has taught me that this is true Christian freedom. The freedom to be the human being God intended me to be for there is found love, peace, and hope.
Leave a Comment » | 2 Corinthians 3:17, freedom, freedom in Christ, Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:13, grace, Romans 8:13, Romans 8:6, salvation | Tagged: bondage to law, Christian freedom, freedom from sin, grace, sin | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden
February 21, 2023
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 of the tremendous hardships he and his co-laborers in the Lord were facing. They were afflicted in every way. They were perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and constantly delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). Despite all of this, he writes to the church at Corinth, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NAS95)
While facing death and heavy persecution on a daily basis, Paul was able to say, “I do not lose heart!” How could he say this? How could he have this attitude? What can we learn from him that will give us this kind of resilient faith that can find joy in the worst of trials?
First, note that Paul focuses on the inner man, not the outer man. Though our outer man (our body) faces decay, our inner man can be powerfully renewed by the Lord. Our inner man can be glowing, even when our circumstances are very dim. Second, notice that Paul focuses on the “eternal weight of glory” that is being produced by the afflictions he faces. When we face trials, let us focus on the fact that for the faithful, those trials are producing a weight of glory for us in the heavenly realm. With this proper perspective, we can begin to see that the trials, while painful, are not simply negative events without meaning. On the contrary, they are producing something glorious and far beyond comparison. Finally, note that Paul’s focus is not on what is seen, but what is unseen. This is absolutely critical for finding God’s help and power in trials. We tend to focus only on the problems before us—the things we can see. If we would learn instead to focus on the unseen: our loving Savior, His eternal promises, and our home in heaven, we will find comfort and power from the Lord to overcome our trials.
Are you beginning to lose heart because of difficulties in your life? May the Lord help us all to focus on the inner man, the eternal weight of glory that trials can produce, and the unseen, eternal things of God.
Leave a Comment » | 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, discouragement, hope, mindset, renewal, suffering | Tagged: eternal weight of glory, hope in discouragement, hope in suffering, looking at the unseen | Permalink
Posted by Scott Colvin
February 14, 2023
There is a beautiful story told in Luke chapter 7 of a woman whose life was deeply touched by Jesus. She was a sinner. Everyone knew it. When this woman heard that Jesus was visiting the home of Simon the Pharisee, she came to meet him there. She brought with her a jar of expensive perfume, so expensive in fact, that it probably cost an entire year’s wages. She came into the house, kneeled down at Jesus’ feet, and began to weep. She wept so profusely that Jesus’ feet became wet with her tears, which she dried with her hair as she anointed his feet with the perfume. What an outpouring of love and adoration! What a sight this must have been to those reclining at the table! Simon was disgusted with this whole scene and said to himself, “Doesn’t Jesus know what a sinner this woman is?”
Jesus used this moment to teach Simon a powerful lesson about forgiveness and love. Jesus said to him, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NAS95) This is a lesson that we need to take to heart. Love is the fruit of forgiveness. This woman’s outpouring of love for Jesus was a direct result of the forgiveness she had received. She knew what a sinner she was. She knew her great need for forgiveness, and she knew what a tremendous debt had been canceled. This deeply touched her heart. Her lavish acts of adoration and service for Jesus—the One who brought her such grace and forgiveness—flowed freely from her innermost being.
On the other hand, the one who is forgiven little loves little. We see this truth played out in Simon’s heart, and it can play out in our hearts, too. When we don’t realize our great need for forgiveness, or haven’t received it, or haven’t come to realize or appreciate the forgiveness we have, there will be little love for God or for others.
What about you and me? When is the last time you fell down at Jesus’ feet and wept with joy? When is the last time your heart has been touched by His forgiveness? Shouldn’t His grace cause us to worship, adore, and serve Him? But when there is little desire to worship Him or serve Him, what has gone wrong? Perhaps we, like Simon, haven’t realized our great need for forgiveness. Perhaps we have forgotten the great debt that God has canceled forever through the cross of Christ.
Love is the fruit of forgiveness. Let us express the depth of our love to God and Christ Jesus on this Lord’s Day.
Leave a Comment » | forgiveness, love, Luke 7:36-50, service, worship | Tagged: He who is forgiven little loves little, Parable of Two Debtors | Permalink
Posted by Scott Colvin
February 4, 2023
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6 NAS95)
Why do bad things happen to good people? This is an age-old question that mankind has wrestled with for millennia. We might sharpen the question and ask, “Why do bad things happen to God’s people?” If we are children of God, why do bad things happen to us? Why doesn’t God choose to protect us from all the suffering in this life?
This passage shows us that sometimes it is necessary that the people of God face trials. Why would God ever deem suffering necessary? Because trials that come upon us, if we keep looking to the Lord, will cause us to grow in our faith. As Peter says, trials prove our faith. Trials refine and purify our faith just as fire refines gold. When we learn to lean on God through our trials, we will find that we are spiritually strengthened.
There is no doubt that trials can be very painful, and yet here is a powerful picture of joy mingled with pain. The Christians that Peter is writing to are suffering. They are distressed. They are going through fiery trials of suffering for Christ (1 Peter 4:12-13), and yet they simultaneously have a great joy. They are greatly rejoicing even though they are distressed by various trials. What is the source of this joy? It is everything that Peter reminded the saints of in the previous verses. Take a look at 1 Peter 1:3-5. They greatly rejoice, even in trials, because they have been born again to a living hope in Christ. They greatly rejoice, even in trials, because they have an inheritance reserved for them in heaven—an inheritance that is “imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away.” They greatly rejoice, even in trials, because they are protected by God through faith for a salvation that will one day be revealed to them.
Yes, it is necessary that we face trials in this life. Are you going through a season of trial right now? Hold on to the Lord! He will never leave you or forsake you! If you will cling to Him in faith and reflect on His promises, even in the midst of suffering He can cause you to “…greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…” (1 Peter 1:8b NAS95)
Leave a Comment » | 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:8, if necessary, purpose of trials, trials | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden
January 28, 2023
Let’s be honest, parenting is a hard job. Running here and there to keep our children fed, clothed, educated, well-rounded, and happy can be exhausting. Yes, parenting is a tough job, but it is also a great joy. Our children are a tremendous blessing from the Lord. They are like beautiful olive plants around your table (Psalm 128:3). How can we truly nurture and protect these gifts from God?
Most parents’ minds are completely absorbed in taking care of their children’s physical needs. But how are we doing with providing for our children spiritually? We can get so busy providing physical things (which are certainly important) that we can neglect the spiritual things that are far, far more important. Providing spiritual training and instruction for our kids is the most important thing that we can do as parents! For what will it profit our children if they are well-fed, well-educated, and well-entertained but lose their soul?
Is the Lord important to you? Is your faith important to you? Are there godly virtues that are important to you? Do you want your children to cherish these things, too? Of course, the church can (and should) help instill godly values in your children, but the most powerful way in which these things will be transmitted to them is through you! The evil in the world has a strong pull that must be counteracted with sustained effort. If we do nothing and just hope that our kids will pick up godly values on their own, the odds are very high that they will one day walk away from the Lord.
So, what can we do? I want to encourage you to start a tradition in your home of family devotional time. What might this look like? It will vary from family to family, but the idea is to spend quality time together as a family being near to God. Spend some time reading the word together. Give your children time to think and ask questions about what you read. You may be surprised by the great questions they have. Spend some time singing with your children. You might learn that your kids have hymns that are special to them. Spend some time in prayer together. You might find out new things that are on your children’s hearts. You don’t necessarily have to spend a long amount of time, and even if your children are very young, you may be surprised at what they are capable of learning.
Parents, it is up to us to instill the things of God in our children. Would you give family devotional time a try? I am convinced that it will be a great spiritual benefit to you and your kids, and it will make for some of your most cherished memories as a family.
Leave a Comment » | children, family devotion, parents, spiritual training and instruction, teaching children | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden