Do You Know Him Or Know Of Him?

Do You Know Him Or Know Of Him?

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard


God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This is one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.

John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquainted with the Christ. John paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous books.

He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world. There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about it’s Writer.

He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him. When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and witnessed His miraculous power there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him Luke 9:57-62.

While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am.

By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?

THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

THREE QUALITIES OF A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Two parables and an incident in Luke 18:1-17 reveal three attributes Jesus is looking for in His disciples. As you read through these verses, ask yourself if you struggle with one or more of these. The examples Jesus holds up are all lowly characters–a defenseless widow, a sinful tax collector, and babies and little children. They were all either financially, spiritually, or physically dependent on others, yet these are the ones Jesus tells us to imitate. What are the qualities?

PERSISTENCE (1-8). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is delivered to his listeners for a specific reason, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (1). A widow pleaded for legal protection from a judge who neither feared God or respected men (2). She wouldn’t stop coming to him and pleading her case until finally he relented and granted her request out of frustration and annoyance at her continual coming (3-5). Jesus’ point is that the perfect God will bring justice to His elect who faithfully pray to Him (7). He ties this persistence to faith (8). Jesus is giving us insight into God’s heart and desires. He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He is influenced by our prayers. Do we have faith in that? 

HUMILITY (9-14). Jesus launches into a second parable about prayer, to highlight another necessity in the practice of it. He focuses on an unlikely duo, a prominent religious leader and a contemptible tax collector. Both enter the temple, both for the purpose of prayer. Both prayers are recorded. Jesus evaluates them. The first prayer, uttered by the Pharisee, is self-directed (he prayed to himself), self-righteous (God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector), and self-promoting (I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get). He shows no recognition of or need for God. He’s pretty self-satisfied. The second prayer, uttered by the tax collector, is selfless, self-indicting, and self-emptying. Jesus notes his hesitance (standing some distance away), abjection (even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven), emotion (beating his breast), and honesty (his entire prayer is, “God be merciful to me, the sinner”). Jesus’ analysis? The second man was the one who went home justified, not the first. Jesus’ point is explicit: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14). I may know more sophisticated ways to exhibit my pride and self-righteousness, but the response and result will be the same in heaven. Faithful followers humbly recognize their need of God’s favor. 

RECEPTIVITY (15-17). Parents were bringing their children to Jesus at this time so that He could touch them. We aren’t told why the disciples rebuke them for this, though it could be they were wrestled with pride of position or self-importance. Jesus corrects their course, telling them to let the children come to Him. In fact, He says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (17). He tells them that the kingdom of God belongs to those like these little children. How so? They were dependent on others (15). They were apparently willing (16). They were open (17). Certainly, this is a great exhortation to us as parents, to bring our children to Jesus in the impressionable years of life. But beyond that, there is an admonition to each of us to keep child-like faith and recognize our need to come to Jesus in order to have a place in God’s kingdom.

Often, we think that being in the kingdom is about us daring and doing great things for God. But, doesn’t it begin with our having the lowliness of heart to come to Him, persistent, humble, and receptive? These three qualities put the focus on His attractiveness, ability, and power. If we allow ourselves to be tools in His hand and recognize that it’s about Him and because of Him, then we’ll be faithful followers. 

CHURCH INVADERS

CHURCH INVADERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

During a prayer recently, a brother thanked God that our congregation had not been “invaded.” I thought it was an interesting, thoughtful way to thank God for His protection from physical harm, but it also took my mind in another direction. More often than we’ve faced armed intruders, the Lord’s church has had its share of others who have snuck or pushed their way in and to detrimental results.

Churches Have Been Invaded By Wolves. They are described in stark terms, being “ravenous” (Mat. 7:15) and “savage” (Acts 20:29). They do as Ezekiel described, “tearing the prey” (33:27). The Bible is describing false teachers who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. What’s so alarming is that these are “from among your own selves” (Acts 20:30). These are individuals whose teaching is false by the Bible’s standards, and the fruit of whose teaching causes people to be severed in their relationship to God. Jude describes them as those who can creep in unnoticed, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). God’s remedies to stop such church invaders are godly, qualified shepherds (Acts 20:28-30; cf. John 10:12) and active, thoughtful Bible students who effectively discern spiritual fruit (Jude 3; Mat. 7:15-20). 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Leaven. Paul addresses an issue “within the church” at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:12), which he illustrates by referring to “a little leaven” that “leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). The leavening influence here was unchecked sexual immorality that the church came to accept rather than address. Paul urges Corinth to take action regarding immoralities like those he lists in verses 9 through 11. When a church normalizes and embraces what Scripture condemns, it has been invaded and taken over from God’s will. Churches who adapt views which accommodate the moral decline of their members rather than challenge their members to rise up to The Standard have been invaded. 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Legalists. Jesus targeted the Pharisees more often than any other single group in the gospels. He is most plain in Matthew 23, noting that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (2). While in context Jesus is dealing with matters under the Old Law, what He observes continues to today. How many have put themselves in the seat that rightfully belongs only to God? They exact rules that are too hard for anyone, even themselves, to follow (4), that are borne of improper motives (5-12), that are harder than God’s rules (13), that make disciples of themselves rather than Jesus (15), that major in the minors (23-25), and that create superficial righteousness and inward rottenness (27-28). Such churches are afflicted with those who appear alive, but are spiritually dead. 

Surely we want “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). There’s only one Lord for the one body (Eph. 4:5). He is head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). That is the basis and marching orders for us to prevent any and all “church invaders.” May we keep vigilant to protect the purity of His church (cf. Eph. 6:10-17)! 

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One Of The Hardest Biblical Positions To State

One Of The Hardest Biblical Positions To State

Neal Pollard

There are few statements or pronouncements that are clearer than Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9, yet perhaps none, in our current culture, is more intimidating to state. Jesus contrasts His will on marriage, divorce, and remarriage with the already existent stance of the Law of Moses. He says, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (19:8-9).  From this brief response (the Pharisees ask the question, testing Him in verse three), we see:

  • The teaching transcends time and culture—“From the beginning…and I say to you”
  • The teaching transcends all other authority—“I say”
  • The teaching transcends only believers—“Whoever”
  • The teaching transcends the caveats and conditions men have tried to place on the matter of marriage, divorce, and remarriage (not the specific law with its exception).

Yet, despite the clarity of Jesus on the subject, in the spirit of Christ we want to always approach this with utmost compassion, patience, and tenderness. Souls are at stake. Often, children are involved. Emotions are inevitably involved. A cold, callous treatment of people’s lives will surely draw Divine disapproval. That’s why Jesus’ stated position on this matter is one of the hardest to take. But, that cannot mean that we refuse to stand with Him in His teaching. However, we should ask why it is so hard to stand where the Bible stands on this matter?

—Learned men have stated different positions from this.
—Divorce is so prevalent in our culture.
—All of us have family members who are in marriages that violate Matthew 19:9.
—Marriage involves one of mankind’s greatest drives and needs (cf. Gen. 2:18-25).
—Leadership in more and more congregations refuse to deal with marriage, divorce, and     remarriage in the classroom, pulpit, or the hands-on shepherding of the local church.
—Few of us relish the role of being “the bad guy” (the one who has to break heartbreaking news to husbands and wives).

I could lengthen the list of reasons, and you could add several to it, but if the list grew to hundreds of reasons, we have one sobering, gut-wrenching question to ask, “Do any of them nullify the strength of Jesus’ teaching?” If Matthew 19:9 were not in the Bible, fewer preachers would have lost jobs, fewer elders would have lost favor, and fewer churches would have seen members go to congregations accommodating their marriages. But, Jesus warned that His way was difficult (cf. Matt. 7:14). He tells aghast disciples that discipleship requires whatever sacrifice is necessary to follow Him (Matt. 19:10-12). That message must be shared lovingly, gently, and patiently. There can be no other way (cf. Eph. 4:15). The harsh, unkind, or mean-spirited will deal with the Judge of all (cf. 1 Pet. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1). However, what will be the case for those who neglect, change, or distort what Scripture says to accommodate people? Perhaps there’s no way to ask that question without evoking a visceral reaction from those who have reinterpreted Jesus’ words, but in light of eternity it must be asked. Balance looks for biblical truth in between unbiblical extremes. However unpleasant a position that may put us in, that is the place we must always humbly stand. But, the only enduring place to stand is on the rock solid foundation of Christ (cf. Mat. 7:24-27; 1 Co. 3:11). God give us loving, but courageous, hearts to stand there.

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THE PATTERN FOR MARRIAGE

THE PATTERN FOR MARRIAGE

Neal Pollard

Matthew 19:1-12 records an incident where, because the Pharisees are trying to test Jesus (vs. 3), He has occasion to reveal His will about marriage.  As we analyze this text, we find several notable facts about marriage. These verses show us the mind and will of God on an institution that is increasingly under assault. Consider four facts about this great passage of Scripture.

This is from the Christ. One of the more common arguments made even by supposed biblical scholars is that Jesus never condemns homosexuality. But what does He do? He defines marriage (4-5). The law of exclusion says that what God doesn’t authorize in His Word is forbidden in doctrine and practice. The Lord has authorized marriage as an institution between man and woman. He did not have to say, “…but not between a man and two or more women” and “not between a man and an animal” and “not between two people of the same gender.” He makes clear what He sees marriage as being.

This is from the creation. Other passages tell us Christ is actually the Creator (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2). So not only does He, as Deity, designate what marriage is—He designed it in the first place. Jesus reaches behind changes made to God’s marriage law under the Law of Moses and cites how God designed it “from the beginning” (4). Anything that does not conform to His pattern in this text runs counter to God’s original intent. You may not that this excludes more than same-sex marriage. It excludes adulterous marriage (vs. 9) as well as sex outside of marriage (this is implied here: “joined to his wife,” not “girlfriend”; of course, “fornication” or “sexual immorality” is dealt with explicitly in many other New Testament passages). Jesus goes back to the creation to state the pattern for marriage as being one man and one woman for life.

This is a command. It is not a command that you have to be married, but if you do get married you must conform to Christ’s will concerning it. We see this in the force of Jesus’ “but I say unto you.” He is exerting His right of authority, even showing His law trumps the Law of Moses. A person who is looking to be married must make sure their relationship conforms to His command.

This is controversial.  It is not just the homosexual community who balk at Jesus’ words here. I have close family members (and so do you, probably) whose marriages are at odds with what Jesus commands in this context. Jesus Himself forewarns that this is a difficult and narrow teaching (10), a rejected teaching (11), and a teaching that calls for extreme sacrifice (12). I dare say there is as much blowback from the heterosexual community as the homosexual community where this passage is clearly taught. In either case, it comes down to whether we will follow the command of the Christ, the Creator. Our submission or rebellion cannot change the immutable (i.e., unchangeable) nature of Divine truth.

Marriage is a beautiful gift given by a loving God. Though society may corrupt it and seek to redefine it, but the will of God stands forever. May we have the courage, humility, and strength to take Him at His word and conform our lives to it—on this and every subject.

Why Don’t YOU “Stop The Violence”?

Why Don’t YOU “Stop The Violence”?

Neal Pollard

To borrow the words of our own Mike Bennett, “Excuse me?”  An AP story published this morning is so thick with irony it is palpable!  Two people were arrested and put in jail on Tuesday in Washington, Pennsylvania.  They were two community organizers “with a local Stop the Violence group” and they “severely beat a former roommate with whom they had a property dispute” (via FoxNews.com).  They “allegedly jumped the man as he was walking down the street on Tuesday. Police say the defendants kicked the victim as he was unconscious…” causing injuries too gruesome for me to describe here.  The female defendant “was still wearing the same ‘Stop the Violence’ T-shirt that she had on the night before when she led a march in the city protesting two recent shootings” (ibid.).  “The victim remains in critical condition” (ibid.).

Could there be a clearer example of hypocrisy from the world?  We have seen or heard of the environmentalist driving the gas-guzzling SUV and the televangelist having an adulterous affair, but the peace protestor beating up somebody?  That’s very unattractive!

It is also a reminder to us as Christians about practicing “true religion…unstained by the world” (Jas. 1:27).  Not only are we ineffective, we are counterproductive when we claim to wear the name of Christ and then defame it by our words and deeds.  What about mouths praising God in worship on Sunday profaning man at work on Monday?  What about hands shaking hands or embracing fellow Christians one day then typing in ungodly websites or texting someone not our spouse in sexually suggestive ways the next?  What about words of kindness to each other when we meet followed up by slandering speech about each other or those in the world when we are away from the assemblies?

The Bible warns against hypocrisy, saying “beware of it” (Luke 12:1), “let love be without it” (Rom. 12:9), “don’t be carried away by it” (Gal. 2:13), “eliminate it” (Jas. 3:17), and “put it aside” (1 Pet. 2:1).  It’s easy to see why.  Few things are more repelling and disgusting than to witness hypocrisy.  Let us consider that as we conduct our own lives before the watchful eyes of the world!