Going straight to the Cross

Evangelism Depends on You

by Mitchell Skelton

During the preparations for an evangelistic crusade in Latin America, a very poor, unshaven man came to one of the week-long biblical counseling courses. It was unusual to see a man of this condition attending an in-depth training session. Most often, those with a better education and social standing are the ones who take an active role in this type of intensive preparation. The illiterate man attended every class, but those in leadership did not expect him to do much counseling. Several weeks later, all available counselors were busy when a physician walked in. This shabbily-dressed man greeted the doctor and took him into a room for counseling. Once the director discovered what had happened, he became deeply concerned. When the doctor came out, the director asked if he needed any help. The physician replied, "No, thank you. This fellow has helped me very much." The next day that same doctor showed up with two other colleagues and asked to see the shoeless man. By the end of the week, that illiterate man had led four doctors and their wives to Christ. God needs nothing more than available servants.1

The call to evangelize was given to every Christian, when Jesus said "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel." "Go Ye" means Go Me! There are no excuses for not being evangelistic. Every Christian can evangelize in some way. You can tell someone why and how you came to Christ.

Evangelism by definition is spreading good news to a lost and dying world. Christians should be compelled to evangelize. "Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it" (1 Corinthians 9:16–19). Christians should be compelled by the love God has shown to us (John 3:16). We should be compelled by our love for others.

Evangelism has no room for excuses. If you are a Christian then you know enough to tell someone how to become a Christian. The power of the gospel message is not in the one who delivers but in the message itself. "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

Unleash the power of the gospel today! Tell someone about Christ.

1 Christian Reader, Sept./Oct. 1991, p. 61.

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Faith's Hall of Fame: Part 2

Abraham & Sarah by Mitchell Skelton

Hebrews 11 is like the portrait gallery of Faith's Hall of Fame. As we walk through it, we come to a portrait much larger than the others. Instead of a single person, we see two. Abraham is the main figure, but in the background is his wife Sarah. As we look at this picture, we see the reason why it is displayed so prominently in the hall.

If anyone was ever sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they did not see it was Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and Sarah are commended because they took God at his word and believed in his promise. They gave up the things of this world and looked forward to a greater reward.

Abraham was considered faithful because he trusted God's word.

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:8-10).

When God spoke to Abraham, he believed and obeyed. In the same way, God speaks to us today through his word. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:1,2a). To be faithful to God we must not only believe in him but we must obey his word. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Abraham and Sarah were considered faithful because they trusted God's promises.

"By faith Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren -- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore" (Hebrews 11:11,12).

Abraham and Sarah trusted God to fulfill his promise. "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11 NKJV). God has made a promise to us and asks us to trust in his promise. "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring -- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.' The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness -- for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Romans 4:16,22-24).

Abraham was considered faithful because he trusted God's guidance.

"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.' Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death" (Hebrews 11:17-19).

God tested Abraham's faith when he commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. God never induces anyone to sin. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone" (James 1:13). However, God does test our faith to see if it is genuine. Abraham did not question God. Even though he had received the promise through Isaac, he trusted in the Lord; it was for God to reconcile his promise and his command. He trusted in his guidance. God's promise to those who trust his guidance is a home in heaven. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16).
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Faith's Hall of Fame: Part 1

Abel, Enoch & Noah by Mitchell Skelton

Reading Hebrews 11 is like walking through a portrait gallery full of all your favorite heroes. It is here we see a portrait of our heroes of faith. Beginning our walk through Faith's Hall of Fame, the Hebrew writer reminds us that God does not expect us to believe without evidence. Biblical faith is not blind faith. God has not asked us to believe without evidence of his power and proof that he will do what he says he will do.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:1—7).

Abel's Faith in Worship

The Hebrew writer informs us that Abel's offering was accepted because it was offered in faith. Does this mean that Abel's brother, Cain, did not believe in God? We know that Cain believed in God, so what was the difference between the two. Paul explains how one comes to faith in this way, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). From Paul's explanation, we realize that Abel's offering was made in accordance to God's revealed will or "by faith." Cain obviously ignored God's instructions as is evident from God's rejection of his offering. Abel's example of faith speaks to us yet today. In all matters, we should listen to God's word. We certainly should worship God according to his will. "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23,24).

Enoch's Faith in Life

Enoch's life was lived according to the will of God. "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Genesis 5:24). The praise of Enoch by the Hebrew writer shows that faith in God and living a Godly life are requisite to please God. "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:3-5).

Noah's Faith in God's Word

Noah took God at his word, no matter how unbelievable it seemed. God told Noah some unbelievable things. The earth had never flooded before and destruction of this type was unheard of. Yet, Noah's faith moved him to act.

It is our faith that moves us to do good works. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10). A faith without works is no faith at all. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:14-18).

It has been said, "There are thousands of ways of pleasing God, but not one without faith." A faith that pleases God is one that worships him, walks with him and works for him.

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Concerning Translations

by Mitchell Skelton

It seems that recently much ado is being made about Bible translations or versions. It is sad to see brothers and sisters in the Lord dividing over the issue of which version of the word of God one should use. Some brethren insist that the King James Version is the only version we should use, while others are adamant about using any version but the King James. It is in light of this controversy that I would like to offer some suggestions regarding translations.

Keep the issue of translations in perspective.

If everyone would be honest with themselves, I think we all could agree that anyone can be saved reading just about any translation. (There are a few exceptions, the New World Translation, for example.) Even more important is the logical progression of insisting on only one translation. If we insist that only one translation is acceptable, then are we also saying that the type of Bible one uses is an issue of salvation? I think it quite proper to suggest that God did not call us to convert people to a translation or to dispute with brethren about translations, but to save the lost and build up his church.

Be flexible concerning which translation you use.

When doing personal work or one-on-one evangelism, it is always best, if possible, to allow the person you are studying with to use his or her own translation.

Every translation is imperfect.

Few would argue that any one translation is without fault. The real issue that remains is, What version best expresses the original language in this particular verse? Each translation is a work of man and thus is subject to the limitations of man's knowledge and biases. Each translation is also subject to the "subjective science" of textual criticism, meaning simply which Greek text should be used when there is a variant.

Consider the source when someone criticizes a particular version.

The ultimate test of a translation is whether it faithfully represents the original, not whether it agrees with a favorite translation or a particular interpretation. The great majority of those who discuss translations are not qualified to judge for themselves the relative merits of differing Greek texts. To do so would require them to examine and judge the relative merits of the manuscripts on which the different Greek texts are based. Even if one had the ability to complete such an endeavor, it is questionable whether to do so would be an efficient use of a minister's time.

Evaluate a translation on the basis of the translator's purpose and methods.

Any student of the Word should read the foreword or introduction of any translation he is thinking about using. Some examples: The Amplified Bible was never intended to be read in public. Today's English Version is in simplified English for a purpose and that is why it is so different. A paraphrase should be judged and used as a paraphrase, not as a literal translation. The difference between the New International Version and the King James Version is largely a matter of a difference in translation theory and practice.

There is safety in numbers.

All else being equal, in translation there is "safety in numbers." Translations by committees are more likely to be trustworthy in their entirety than those by individuals. However, in particular verses, the best rendering may be from a translation by an individual.

Why not just translate word for word?

A literal translation is not always the best translation, for two reasons: (1) It will most likely be hard to read. (2) A word-for-word translation may not best express the meaning of the original language. There remains value in a more literal translation since it leaves less room for interpretation on the part of the translators and thus gives less opportunity for their biases to become part of the translation. However, there may also be value in a freer translation in that it may better get across the original idea although in different words.

Every translator has biases.

The reader should watch for certain biases to show up in the translation. However, the translator's biases will not necessarily be reflected in the translation. People often assume that liberal translators will offer corrupt translations. This is not necessarily true, for two reasons: (1) The highest value of scholarship is to be honest and deal fairly with the evidence; liberal scholars in general embrace this value. (2) Liberal scholars (defined as those who do not believe the Bible is inspired) have no reason to offer a corrupt translation because they do not believe in the Bible anyway.

For study use more than one translation.

It has been said that the best translation is a variety of translations. Comparing and contrasting various versions is often helpful in understanding a passage. One should avoid the tendency, however, to search through two dozen translations to find one that suits one's predetermined understanding of what a word or verse means.

Don't force people to stop using the King James Version.

Many people have used the King James for more years than many of us have been alive. It is not necessary nor wise to force these people to quit using it. However, if this version is used, the meaning of antiquated words and difficult passages must be explained. Furthermore, the minister needs to find a way to help people understand that what really matters is the original text of which the King James Version is a translation.

Don't force people to use the King James Version.

In my opinion, it is unwise to ask children or people who have never read the Bible to begin their study of Scripture by using the King James Version. To do so places an unnecessary stumbling block in their way. They must learn to read a different language with strange words before they can begin to understand what the Lord would have them do to be saved. There is no evidence that the Lord wanted the language of Scripture to be hard to read.

Much material for this article comes from Coy Roper, Notes on the New Testament.

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Contagious Christianity

by Mitchell Skelton

When my oldest daughter woke up this morning to get ready for school, she was complaining of a sore throat. It is not like her to want to miss school. She has perfect attendance so far this year. However, this morning she stated that she just did not feel like going. I was able to secure an appointment for her with the family physician first thing this morning and wouldn't you know, it's strep throat. The doctor explained that she would be contagious for at least another twenty-four hours, anyone who comes into contact with her is potentially exposed, bad news for the Skelton household. As we traveled back to our home I started to dwell upon the past twenty-four hours, did I share a drink with her? Have I been exposed to this highly contagious disease?

What about your level of contagion as a Christian? Jesus said that as Christians we should live such lives that we literally "infect" those around us.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:13–16).

While I don't think Jesus had in mind contagious diseases when he was preaching the Sermon on the Mount, he definitely had in mind the principle. A little salt in a pot of beans makes for some very good eating. Jesus said that his followers were to be the salt of the earth. Our lives should be lived in such a way that we make a difference in the lives of those around us. If we are not having that effect then Jesus says we are "no longer good for anything."

Jesus also uses light as an example of contagious Christianity. It doesn't take much of a flame to light up a dark room. Light chases away darkness. When Christians live their lives and spread their influence to the world around them, darkness (evil) is driven away! We don't put our Christianity on display to receive the praise of men, instead we do it so that God will be glorified.

The good news for the Skelton family is that once the antibiotic kicks in then the contagious phase of strep throat is finished. The bad news for Satan is, there are no antibiotics that can "cure" a contagious Christian.

Let us make the effort each and every day to "infect" someone with Christ!

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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.
by randal @ 1/20/09, 11:55 AM

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June 2024
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