Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 

 

 

Gary Pollard

This week we will do a brief study of I Peter 3.17-22. 

In verse 17, the emphasis in the original text is “doing good.” If it is God’s desire (this is emphasized) that we suffer, it is better (stronger, more prominent, more advantageous) that we suffer for doing good works than evil works. How much more powerful a message do we send when we come under fire for doing something that benefits others? If we suffer for doing something bad, we’re just another criminal. But to suffer in the act of doing something good – in context – is a far more powerful evangelistic tool. 

In the following verses, Peter gives a powerful example of Christ’s focus on getting rid of sin. He put everything into saving mankind – including giving His own life – so that we could all have the opportunity to come to God. Even before the destruction of the world through the flood He made sure everything had the opportunity to hear about their spiritual state. Whether this was done through Noah and his sons or whether He had a more direct hand in this is immaterial. The point of the text is that the message got out to those who are “now in prison.” His goal was to bring others to God, even when it caused Him suffering. 

Only those who did listen and obey – eight people – were rescued from evil by the waters of the flood. Notice that the Spirit does not record Noah’s ark as being what saved them! They were saved in the important sense by the destruction of evil. Our focus is not earthly. 

Just as water saved Noah and his family from evil, water saves us from spiritual death. Being immersed in water is how we make a formal appeal to God for a clear conscience! Some translations render this, “A promise to God from a good conscience,” as if baptism is some kind of outward sign of an inward faith. This is not reflected in Greek; it is a conscience cleared by an appeal to God, because of the resurrection of Jesus. He has all power, so He can clear our record when we submit to Him. 

Having all of this as a background, we have some motivation to keep our actions pure, suffer for doing good things, and understand that God’s power is what saves us. Peter gives many other phenomenal motivators for living a pure life, which we will look at in detail in the coming weeks. 

WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE ARE RAGING

WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE ARE RAGING

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

When I preached in Livingston, Alabama, Selman Falls would often lead us in singing the song, “He Will Hide Me.”  This M.E. Servoss hymn was in the Songs of the Church hymnal.  Servoss, a woman from Chicago (“Mary Elizabeth”), was a prolific hymn writer.  This was maybe her most notable hymn.  Perhaps no imagery is more graphic in scripture than depicting troubles as a storm (cf. Psalm 55:8; Proverbs 1:27; Isaiah 25:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:19; etc.).  Storms are frightening and damaging.  I sat in a hallway with my head in my lap in Junior High in Franklin, Georgia, during a tornado and my family and I rode out a hurricane in Virginia in 2003.  The unknown of what the storm will do adds to its ferocity.

I read David McCullough’s Johnstown Flood, about the torrential rains that broke the Little Fork dam and unleashed a calamity of its kind unmatched in modern, U.S. History.  People were completely swept away, crushed by debris, drowned, and even burned to death.  The storms of that late May day in 1889 cost 2,209 people their lives.  McCullough tells about Victor Heiser’s incredible survival in this flood.  He climbed into a barn just before the powerful waters blew through the property and he watched the family house (in which his parents were) instantly demolished.  The barn was carried downstream in such a way that it barely missed whole houses, freight train cars, barns, and the like before the then sixteen year old Heiser found refuge with nineteen others in the attic of a two-story brick house commandeered by the flood.  Along the way, he witnessed the deaths of several not so blessed as he.  Heiser made the most of the blessing.  He grew up, became a doctor, and it is estimated that he saved as many as two million lives through the development of the first effective treatment against leprosy.  He died at the age of 99 in 1972.

Most storm survivors are not as acclaimed and famous as Victor Heiser.  So many have taken hold of the hand which calms the storms and have enjoyed the Lord’s guidance as they weathered their own storms of tragedy, trouble, and transgression.  They reached their end, many of them having aided others to escape through Christ!  Spurgeon and a friend saw a weather vane upon which were written the words, “God is love.”  The friend objected, saying, “God’s love is not so fickle and transient.  That vane is not correct.”  To which Spurgeon replied, “No, friend, you have misunderstood its meaning.  It is correct.  It suggests that God is love, which ever way the wind blows.”

Donna Dungan, a wonderful Christian lady who has lived along the Gulf Coast where many fierce storms have blown, wrote a poem to comfort a friend suffering from an unknown virus that eventually took her life.  Her beautiful words may bring you comfort as you deal with your storms.  I close with it.

Though a fierce storm is raging about you
And you fear there is nothing you can do
There’s a place in your heart where He meets you
And in the eye of the storm He carries you through
Don’t let go, don’t try to leave the eye, or the storm will take you in
Nothing will overtake you while you are holding on to Him
There is a place of peace and rest that is safe from the battles of life
A place in your heart where He will shield you from worry and strife
Our Lord never sleeps nor slumbers while His children are in pain
He alone has the power to hold you up until you are whole again
Oh, please don’t let go–just hold on
In the eye of the storm just hold on.

 
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A LINK TO HISTORY

A LINK TO HISTORY

Neal Pollard

He was named after a World War I general, born in Los Angeles in 1918 just after the American doughboys went “over there.”  There are four men who played Major League Baseball older than Robert Pershing (“Bobby”) Doerr (Mike Sandlock in 99, Eddie Carnett and Alex Monchak are 98, and Carl Miles in 16 days older than Bobby), but his Major League debut was the earliest.  Unlike anybody else among the top 15 oldest living baseball players, Doerr was an everyday player who achieved some notoriety. He’s the oldest living player who is in the Hall of Fame.  But, making his debut in 1937, Doerr is a part of these interesting facts.  He played against Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Hank Greenburg, Schoolboy Rowe, Lloyd and Paul Waner, and Pie Traynor, as well as many other all-time greats.  Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove were teammates. Lefty pitched to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. In 1925, his rookie season, Grove sat across the dugout from Jimmy Austin (age 46), Oscar Stanage (age 42) and Chief Bender (age 41). Sitting in his dugout, though, was Jack Quinn (age 42), who was a teammate of Austin’s on the 1909 New York Highlanders, a team that also included Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro. We could keep going, but we’ll stop there. Doerr, a man still in his right mind, could tell you all about Lefty Grove and heard who knows how many stories Grove told about players who played in the 1800s, connections to the earliest days of baseball.  Doerr is a link to history (info via baseball-reference.com).

How many have pointed out the interesting facts from the Genesis genealogies, where it is possible that Noah’s grandfather, Methusaleh, may have known Adam?  They were most certainly contemporaries, and that covers a span of 1656 years (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/).  Noah and Seth, Adam’s third son, would have been alive together for 34 years before Seth’s death. To appreciate how incredible that is, consider that 1656 years ago was the year 359 A.D., 4 years before Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate, becomes Roman emperor (http://www.fsmitha.com/time/ce04.htm).

It would not take a lot of digging around in our congregations to find individuals who provide us a link to church history.  Consider Bear Valley for a moment. Johnson Kell had Hugo McCord stay in his home one summer several decades ago, the two even going on a long run together.  Converted as a soldier during World War II, Johnson would have been in the church when great preachers like Marshall Keeble, N.B. Hardeman, and others were helping the church grow so much.  Harry Denewiler grew up in the church, and at nearly 90, could have been in the assemblies when great preachers of the 1920s were filling the pulpits of the midwest.  Two of our members, Jean Wilmington and Maurya Fulkerson, were baptized by Rue Porter when they were school-age girls. No doubt others have recollections of the church that reach back to the 1920s and 1930s, like Neva Morgan, Carolyn Barber, the Brennans, and others. Many conversations I had some years ago with Rooksby and Bea Stigers centered around their recollections of those who spoke of the establishment of the church in the Denver area.

As a lover of history, I am thrilled in my soul to think that we are linked to great men and women of God who helped start and build up the Lord’s church.  When I was seven years old, my family and I visited in the home of Zana Michael, a then 100-year-old sister in Christ who was a member where dad was preaching in Barrackville, West Virginia.  She was four years old when the church there was established. Some of the great preachers of the 19th Century traversed the bergs and valleys around Barrackville and sister Michael heard several of them. We got to hear her, regaled by her clear recollections, and linked through her to such wonderful history.

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Zana Michael is the lady in the middle

Isn’t it thrilling to think of ourselves as being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), sometimes getting to hear from those who heard from those who take us further back in time toward the beginning of the church?  This afternoon, as Carl and I sit and watch the Rockies and Cardinals lock horns on the baseball diamond, we’ll get another chance to join the historical continuum of a grand old game. Every Lord’s Day, as we engage together in worship to God, we join in the grandest historical continuum of all, linked ultimately to Peter, Paul, John, and the rest. Until we exult in heaven some day, what could exceed that thrill?

His Name Meant “Comfort”

His Name Meant “Comfort”


Neal Pollard

Whose name meant “comfort”?  Noah’s! Lamech says as much.  When Noah was born, Lamech proclaimed, “This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Gen. 5:29). The NIV and KJV, among others, puts the word “comfort” for “rest,” Lamech was optimistic that Noah, would help alleviate the labor pains of farming in cursed ground.

Have you stopped to think about the meaning of Noah’s name and the mission of Noah’s life? What was his task? He was to build the ark, but he also preached (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). Now, as to how many people Noah preached to, the Bible is silent. One might assume that he preached as far and as widely as a man engaged in such an enormous building project could. Or, one might say that he preached by the example of his righteous life (cf. Gen. 6:9).  The best understanding of 1 Peter 3:18-21 may be that Christ preached to the disobedient ones through Noah’s efforts prior to the flood.

If Noah did preach to the disobedient, and/or admonished and exhorted onlookers and scornful neighbors to get on board the ark, he still was seeking to provide comfort. The thing to understand about giving comfort is that it does not always mean speaking soothing words, placating people, or telling them what they want to hear. That is, at times, a very appropriate and needed response–especially when people are suffering or trying to stay faithful. Yet, comfort can also be the fruit that only comes after a warning or rebuke. When a person is on a self-destructive course, they are destined for something inconceivably awful! What can a compassionate Christian do but try with tremendous effort to steer them back on course? That may be the only way that wayward sinner comes to the place where eternal comfort is once more a possibility.

Remember Jude’s teaching. He said, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). Sometimes, comfort is in the product and not in the raw material or the manufacturing. Always being loving, let us risk offending now so that eternal comfort can be had later! The Christian’s name, nature, and business centers around that real, spiritual comfort, both for the Christian and those whose lives he or she touches (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).