“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7. I’ve never followed celebrities, seeing them as overpaid and opinionated in all the wrong ways about subjects they know nothing about. Instead, the “celebrities” that I have followed have been past and present heroes of the faith who are laboring in the LORD. I’m Facebook friends with quite a few and enjoy when one contacts me privately about something. I’ve even met a few. In our 98-year history, we’ve had quite a few faithful elders, deacons, ministers, and teachers who have made a great impact on the character of the 36th Street Church of Christ today. Too many to name, especially if I were to mention all the frequent speakers for special events, these leaders spoke the word of God to us and were examples of living out the commands of Christ that they spoke. Of the eighteen men who’ve served as elders, three are still serving and seven are members here. We also have a former preacher of a quarter of our time in Vienna, whose father also preached here and around the MOV. So blessed, are you imitating their faith?
“… He who does these things shall never be moved” Psalm 15:5. Contrasted to the “fool” of the previous psalm, the unbeliever who persists in not seeking God or understanding Him through study and prayer, the righteous person is presented here through the question, “Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” The answer is one who “walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.” He despises those who do evil and holds in honor those who fear God while striving to do what is right and shunning the ways of the wicked. What a great summary of the Christian walk. Not enough to just obey the gospel, we must faithfully live before God. Too often, though, we drift into a mediocre existence that is Christian in character but compromises with the world. We declare the corrupt culture as ‘good enough’ and then live up to a standard of our own design rather than the one God declares. After describing the righteous person, the psalm concludes with the statement that the one who does these things shall never be moved. So, are we? If we’ve drifted from His standard, what have we become? If God placed a plum line upon your life, would He find that you’ve moved?
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ …” Psalm 14:1. I’ve preached from this verse when a Sunday has fallen on April 1, referring to this as National Atheists Day, a lesson that believers can smugly say ‘amen’ to. But, as we get deeper into the psalm, it’s evident that God is telling us that all are corrupt and that none are seeking Him. Paul quotes this same passage to Christians in Rome (Romans 3) in the New Testament time to refer to all of mankind and concludes that we are all alike under sin. The only difference is the righteousness that Jesus has gained for us through His willing sacrifice on the cross—that we come into by faith. Indeed, the psalm concludes by making a distinction between the fool who has no faith and the righteous who have His salvation. Since we cannot gain a righteousness of our own, what does the faith that brings us into Jesus’ look like? The psalm tells us to do good and seek God. We must put in the effort to understand, which will require much study and prayer. Then, we must be careful not to turn aside from the narrow path of righteousness, despite all the lures of unbelievers to drag us back. Are you a Christian who lives like a fool?
“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God” Acts 5:4. Was Jesus a communist … or a socialist? After all, detractors will state, members of the church are to have everything in common, and … leaders (or government) controls the collection and use of funds. Leaders in Jerusalem, however, didn’t force Christians to sell homes and lay the money at the apostles’ feet. They did this from their love of God because of what Christ had done for them and their focus on heaven being their eternal home. We see a couple, though, who wanted to look good to the church and still retain the earthly benefit of their property. So, pretending to give the full amount, they gave only a portion to the church, “lying,” as Peter rightly calls it, to God. But, the insight into how the church conducted itself is found here: members sold as they themselves wanted to; the full amount was not required by the church; and the individual decided what to do with all or part of the money. They just had to conduct themselves honestly. How might you be lying to God?
“You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet” Hebrews 2:7-8. Much of the hype at this time of year out in the world has to do with man being powerless in the face of spiritual forces and our frailty in the face of inevitable death. And, while it is true that we are made lower than the angels, it is only for … a little while. You see, we are unique in creation that we are made in God’s image; we are loved so much that God gave His Son to redeem us; He is “mindful” of us and cares for us; and through Jesus’ work on the cross and tomb, we can have the promise of eternal life with Him. This makes us a threat … and we are powerless in the face of spiritual forces. So, while the world hails that and fears death, we instead look to the One who was made lower than the angels Himself but gave Himself as a sinless sacrifice for us. Because He was crowned with glory and honor with everything put in subjection to Him, we who obey Him can share in His glory and honor one day. Meanwhile, He’s our ever-present help in trouble, promising to never leave or forsake us. That’s power!