The Best Thing To Do For The Body This Year

Neal Pollard

When it comes to caring for the physical body, I have a lot to learn. While I work out nearly day, my most developed muscle is the table one. I will be working to use that muscle far less this year. But judging from all the new faces in the gym this morning, there are a lot of people who are going to be exercising their bodies who haven’t been doing so—at least for the next few days or weeks.

When it comes to caring for the spiritual body of Christ, I have even more to learn. Helping the church grow, develop, and fulfill its purpose better is a challenge that grows more daunting with each new year as our culture changes, our own distractions mount, and our sight is so easily eclipsed by the influence of this world. With that in mind, there is something we can do for His body that will give it its best opportunity to please God.  It centers around what we do with the Bible, as a church.

We must have confidence that God’s Word will give us what we need to have to be what we need to be. Through such, we will be “nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). It takes the Word to cause “the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). Isn’t this what Paul is also saying to Colosse, when he urges them to hold fast to the head so that the body would grow “with a growth which is from God”? (Col. 2:19).  We cannot hope to strengthen and protect Christ’s spiritual body locally without consulting the training manual of the Great Physician.  Let’s make that specific and practical:

  • Preachers must lovingly preach even the difficult subjects (i.e., God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, the distinct plan of salvation, the undenominational, singular nature of the New Testament church, God’s sexual ethics, the role of men and women, God’s pattern of worship, personal purity, etc.) and be a living example of the believer as their ethic is driven by that Word.
  • Elders must shepherd guided by the infallible Word and not with personal favoritism, deciding solely on popularity or what the majority favors, bending to political correctness, fear of offending influential members, and the like.
  • Deacons must function in a way that shows discipline, dedication, devotion, and discretion which is shaped and guided by the New Testament pattern for their works.
  • Members must follow with love, esteem, and cooperation when their leaders urge them to follow God’s truth, even if it’s distasteful to us or challenges our comfort and complacency.
  • Individual Christians must discipline their hearts and minds to be open and submissive to what they encounter in Scripture rather than be defensive and rebellious.
  • Families must dedicate themselves to studying and honoring the Word at home, in their daily lives, to grow and mature in the Words of truth.
  • Each of us must see the mandate to save souls, repeated throughout the New Testament, as a personal responsibility for which God holds us all accountable.

Isn’t it exciting to think about how much stronger the body of Christ where we are might be this time next year? If each of us will allow God’s inspired word to be the beacon and guide of our lives, His body is going to be powerful, noticeable, and desirable. We will draw men to Christ. We will be the picture of spiritual health. As you make your resolutions, won’t you determine to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you (Col. 3:16).

Working out

What It Takes To Grow The Church In Our Culture

Neal Pollard

It was such a treat to be among the hearty, faithful Christian men of central Wyoming and the Bighorn Basin. By Bible-belt comparison, they come from small congregations. But their passion and desire to grow the church is humongous. Near the end of their men’s retreat, they divided into groups to discuss the obstacles to growth and suggestions for growth. What they came up with was incredibly insightful, helpful to especially anyone living in the current, western culture.

Among the obstacles they listed were:

  • Lack of commitment
  • Fear
  • Political correctness
  • Biblical ignorance
  • Sin
  • Apathy/indifference
  • Misplaced priorities
  • Lack of adequate leadership

For those in Alabama, Oklahoma, and California who would say, “Those are our obstacles!”, isn’t it interesting how common our struggle is.  The same factors are holding back our growth all over the nation.

Yet, I love the suggestions they came up with. I think they are key to tapping into our growth potential throughout the country and, to a great extent, throughout the world. They suggested the following:

  • Increase fellowship—The key to growth is being in each others’ lives more
  • Emphasize and empower Bible study—There can be no spiritual or numerical growth without growing our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word
  • Think outside the box—Staying faithful to truth, get out of method ruts and overcome fear of rejecting a different, scriptural method just because it is new
  • Challenge greater application of biblical truth—Every class and sermon must have a viable “so what”
  • Be intentional in our relationships—Realize that our jobs, community involvements, friendships, etc., are means to an end rather than an end of themselves. They all exist as opportunities to evangelize.

Our brethren in the deep south, the north, the Atlantic region, the upper midwest, the southwest, the far west, the northwest, and, in short, any recognizable region of the country share a desire to be relevant and meaningful in our communities. We want to honor Christ and grow His body. But it will take measurable steps. It won’t happen incidentally! We must act on our hopes and desires. We must personally engage ourselves in enacting these suggestions daily! In so doing, we’ll not only avoid being part of the problem but we’ll be part of the solution.

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Staying On The Rails

Neal Pollard

Without A Belief In The Bible’s Inspiration…

  • Why would I read, meditate upon, or study it daily (or at all) to guide my life?
  • What will be the paradigm for directing and shaping my life?
  • From where will I draw my understanding of Who Jesus is, what He did, and how I must relate to Him?
  • How do I form my understanding of where I came from, why I am here, or where I am going?
  • Why would I trust or follow what it says to do in even a single case, circumstance, or verse?
  • What logical, ultimate constraint do I have from any behavior or act I desire to do, no matter how aberrant or outlandish society finds it?
  • How do we evaluate the content of any word, attitude, or action for rightness or wrongness?
  • On what basis would I accept absolutes, which I must (even if I absolutely deny the existence of absolute truth)?
  • Who or what will be my standard of authority?

One of the most famous movie scenes of all time depicts Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Harrison Ford, desperately running, orange prison jump suit, shackles, and all, as a derailed train caroms out of control, rapidly gaining on him, and threatening his life. The videography is spectacular, cutting quite an imposing figure.  A multi-ton mass of metal off the rail and out of control promises nothing but damage and destruction.  As long as the train is on the track, its weight and speed do not pose a threat.  If it is not, the prospects are frightening.

The premise that the Bible is the Word of God from the mind of God through men provides an answer to all the above, weighty questions.  If one refuses to accept the Bible is what it claims to be (1 Cor. 2:11-12; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Jude 3; etc.), then of necessity he or she must choose an alternate guide for life.  It is fair to evaluate that alternative with equal criticism and scrutiny.  Wisdom would seem to suggest choosing what best explains the whole picture–our complex design, moral compass, appreciation for beauty, universe’s order, and more.  What we are talking about are the very biggest issues of life! They deserve our deepest thought and wisest choice.

 

A Precept, A Principle, And A Practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neal Pollard

Whether we are preaching, teaching, or simply trying to engage in spiritual self-improvement in personal study, our approach to Scripture, to be profitable, should have three basic components for maximum effectiveness.  When we are studying a Bible book and engaging in proper interpretation, we will discover a precept.  A “precept” is simply a rule meant to regulate how to live and behave.   The very word appears 19 times in Psalm 119 alone.  God’s Word is full of precepts, God showing us how He wants us to live.  When our attitude is to see the Bible as God guiding us through earthly life toward a heavenly home with Him, our time in study will be so profitable.  Such an approach will also help us open our mind to see the heart of God.  Thus, from precepts flow principles.  These are the inspired truths of God that form the foundation for how we view the world and how we live in it.  The more we are in that word, the more influenced we are going to be by God’s precepts in determining our principles.  We will look to see how His word applies in our lives.  If all is as it should be, these principles find their way into our practice.  He tells us, we accept and understand it, and then we do it.  How profoundly simple!  The Bible is not an archaic volume best meant as a shelf’s dust collection.  It is a living, breathing book (Heb. 4:12).  It is an exegetical, explanatory, exercise manual.  We grow thereby (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2).

THE ROAD TO UNIVERSALISM

Neal Pollard

 

Universalism is the idea that all are saved or that one is saved without his meeting any conditions whatever.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved” (www.merriam-webster.com).  What are the true , ultimate implications of this increasingly popular idea?  Is it not that impenitent mass-murderers, political despots (like Hitler, Hussein, and Khadafi), rapists and molesters, and the like will eventually be saved?  We are repulsed at the very idea!

 

However, how does one get to universalism in the first place?  May I suggest that it is incrementally, bit by bit.  It is also the case that some will not go as far as the illustrations above, but they will be willing to say that people will be saved who have not fully followed the Lord’s teaching.  We are not talking about following Scripture perfectly every time and in every regard.  That is the extreme, false idea of “perfectionism.”  Instead, we are talking about omitting conditions for salvation and/or conditions for the saved.

 

It might be easier to answer “why,” possibly, people want to widen the circle of supposed divine acceptance of people.  One reason could be that we tend to believe in “meritorious works.”  By this I mean the idea that if people are basically good, moral people (and this is often subjectively determined), then they will be saved based on their goodness.  But this denies the atoning work of Christ at the cross and shifts the power from His sacrifice to our goodness.  Paul says, “There is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10).  There are acts of obedience required of us to receive the benefits of God’s grace, but there are no substitute or partial plans.  Another reason might be the climate of “political correctness” that pervades our culture’s thinking.  We find it distasteful to exercise judgment or evaluate the content of another’s behavior (cf. John 7:24?). We do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings or be seen as condemning another.  Nobody likes to be the “bad guy.”

 

Most people do not begin by saying absolutely “all” will be saved.  Before that, they will say that all sincere, devout believers in Christ will be saved (but, Mat. 7:21-23).  They might say that generally good people will be saved (but, Isa. 64:6).  They might say that sincere people in all religions will be saved (but, Ac. 4:12; Jn. 14:6).  But to say this, “they” must try to take the place of Christ as the one having all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat. 28:18).  No, the road to universalism ends at an eternally frightening destination.  Let us remain on Christ’s way, the narrow way (Mat. 7:13-14).  As the song suggests, “There Is Just One Way To The Pearly Gates.”