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Traditions: Good or Bad?

by Jimmy Jividen

To one person, religious traditions stimulate warm secure feelings. They are cherished, time-honored customs and a part of his religious heritage. He can sing with reverence: "Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!"

To another person traditions bind religious beliefs and practices no longer relevant in our time. They are despised and should be discarded.

How should we regard traditions? Can we separate the good from the bad? The Scriptures speak of both kinds.

The religious traditions of men are bad. They do not come from God and must not be bound upon men. Jesus said that such traditions "invalidate the word of God" (Matthew 15:6).

Anything bound as religious law, or anything practiced as religious ritual that does not come from the authority of Christ in the Scriptures should be regarded as a tradition of men. Christ does not sanction it, and His church must not bind it as law. These traditions of convenience or opinion would include whether or not to have church buildings, whether to use song books or to sing from hymns projected to a screen, whether to stand during prayer or to sit or kneel, and other such practices that can change with the times and circumstances.

On the other hand, religious traditions coming from apostolic authority are good. They come from God and are binding on men. These traditions are revealed in Scripture and exemplified by the apostles (2 Thessalonians 3:6,7). Paul encouraged Christians to... "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

It is by these apostolic traditions that we know how to obey, worship, and serve God. We in the 21st century who desire to follow Jesus should examine our traditions to see if they are from God or man.

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Every Member Is Important

by Jimmy Jividen

Some of the Christians at Corinth had a poor self image. They were "ungifted" and felt inferior to those who possessed the showy miraculous gifts of speaking in foreign languages. They felt "left out" in the church and "unimportant."

Paul used an analogy to deal with this problem. The church, he said, is the body of Christ. Every Christian is a member of this spiritual body, just as the arm and leg are members of our physical body. They are connected and interdependent. The poor self-perception of the "ungifted" is reflected in the text. "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body ... because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body" (1 Corinthians 12:15).

Paul affirmed that every member of the body is important. Every Christian has a place and is needed. To prove this, he asked three rhetorical questions: "If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? ... And if they were all one member, where would the body be?" (1 Corinthians 12:17,19).

Every member was important at Corinth. It is the same today. Those members who perform "unglamorous" jobs are necessary. Those with physical and mental abilities are important. Paul said, "The members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary" (l Corinthians 12:22).

Instead of being envious or feeling inferior because of our own limitations, we should rejoice that we are all a part of the body of Christ. Our concern should be to do what we can with what we have where we are.

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It's Good to Be Sure

by Jimmy Jividen

There are many things we do not know. Some things we do not know because we have never investigated — like the average life span of a kangaroo. Some things we do not know because they are beyond the scope of our limited experience on Planet Earth — like the number of galaxies in the Universe. Some things we do not know because they are beyond our limited capacity to know as created beings — the secret things belong to God. We need only to trust Him who does know. That's faith.

God has revealed His will for man in the Scriptures. They are trustworthy, absolute, and objective. They reveal all we need to know for "life" and "godliness". "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (2 Peter 1:2,3).

We accept the Scriptures at face value. They answer all the big questions about life. We can be sure of the answers because they come from the God we trust.

One who doubts the Scriptures must be miserable. His questions remain unanswered. His doubts make him like "a wave driven by the winds and tossed" (James 1:6). Isn't it good to be sure?

Thanks to The Voice of Truth International, Vol 41, page 24.

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Grace Only?

by Jimmy Jividen

Man needs grace. He finds that he is a sinner - one who has rebelled against God's will. He is guilty and lost and can do nothing to save himself. His judgment is damnation without hope.

Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It cannot be earned by good works or bought with money. God unconditionally gave it to man without cost. That is what makes it grace. Paul described it thus:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

Grace is free to man, but it cost God His Son. God loved man even though he was unworthy and sinful. To show that love, he graciously sent Jesus into the world to live as man and die for man. Grace cost Jesus his life. He graciously died on the cross to save man from the punishment that his sins deserved. So, although grace is free, it was very expensive for God.

God's grace has been extended to all men. Does this mean that all men will be saved? Not at all. God's grace is sufficient for all men everywhere - but not all men will receive His grace. A gift of water to a man dying of thirst will not be of any benefit unless he drinks it. Even so, the gift of God's grace will not benefit man unless he receives it. Man is not saved by grace alone, because God does not force His grace upon anyone.

A man can respond to God's grace in two ways. He can receive it in faith and submission, or he can reject it by rebellion and neglect. Grace can be offered to a person, but without benefit because it was received "in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1).

Why would anyone refuse to receive the grace of God? It is free to all who receive it. However, it must never be used as an excuse to continue in sin (Romans 6:1,2).

Thanks to The Voice of Truth International, Vol 6, page 32

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True Worship

by Jimmy Jividen

Worshipping God is more than saying the right word at the right time and place. Jesus corrected such a misconception with the woman of Samaria.

"...Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father....God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:21,24).

Worshipping God is more than giving a pleasing performance to show your devotion. Jesus corrected such a perverted view of worship in the Sermon on the Mount.

"And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full" (Matt. 6:5).

Worshipping God is more than stirring the emotions. Emotional feelings can be caused by human phenomena and false religions. Such emotions can confuse the mind and overpower the will. Paul described it thus:

"You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols; however, you were led" (1 Cor. 12:2). "...we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Eph. 4:14).

True worship is my spirit seeking communion with God's spirit in praise and thanksgiving. Our wills, as well as our words, become living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God. These - our will and our words — are the only things we really own. True worship is giving ourselves to God.

Thanks to The Voice of Truth International, Vol 20, p. 71.

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Forthright Magazine continues, more dynamic than ever! We have groups created for FMag on Facebook and the Churches of Christ Network. Announcement blog is up and going on Preachers Files. Email lists about FMag and FPress are available both on Yahoo and GoogleGroups. And, to top it all off, we're twittering for both on Twitter.com.
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