30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

June 11, 2000

Speaker: Richie Thetford


Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, thanking you for tuning in this morning to WAVG radio to listen to a message of God. Before we get to our lesson of the hour entitled"Christianity" I want to let you know about our Vacation Bible School that will be held at the Clarksville church of Christ on July 17-21 this year. We want to announce this early so that you can make plans now for you and your children to be able to attend this year's Bible school. Our Bible school will be held each night from 7:30-8:30 PM with this year's them being "How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?" This promises to be one of the best Vacation Bible Schools ever and we want you to plan on attending. You can enroll your children in one of two ways. If you have access to the internet you can enroll your children on-line by going to our WEB Site at www.ClarksvillechurchofChrist.org and follow the directions to enroll your children. You may also call 944-2305 and leave your name and phone number and we will return your call to get the necessary enrollment information. We look forward to seeing you and your children at VBS this year! At this time I want to encourage you to get your Bible, pen, and piece of paper out and be ready to write the scriptures down and turn to them as the truth of God's word is presented this morning. How many times has it been that you have heard something discussed in matters of religion and wished that you had a pencil handy to write down that passage of scripture or that particular thought? I want to give you a chance right now to get your pencil and paper ready so that you can be prepared to write these verses down so that you can do some serious study at a later date. Jesus said: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). As we have discussed on this program before, many false prophets are out there trying to deceive innocent people into believing a lie. I want to make sure that I am only presenting the truth of God's Word and I want you to test my words to make sure that I am not putting forth a doctrine that is false but rather is true. I want to encourage you this day to learn the truth. Jesus said plainly in John 8:32: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Every sincere, religious person will want to learn the truth in order to make sure that his call and election is sure (2 Pet 1:10).

We read with interest the reports on every hand of the growing disenchantment with present religious bodies which have originated in the recent past centuries and have become meaningless. We hear of displeasure with the denominational structures and their pronouncements which reflect only the preferences of an influential elite, ignoring the convictions of the masses. Because of these aspects of modern religion some have decided that Christianity is not relevant to this day and age. Many have rebelled against the present day denominational divisions seen around us. I believe that many have so decided to cast aside religion because they are not sufficiently acquainted with the scriptures to be able to distinguish between the gospel of Christ, and what men have added to religion; things which indeed are not relevant to serving God.

If some of the things which you see practiced and done in the modern denominational world have troubled you and you have felt the urge, or perhaps even a yearning, to return to the simple uncomplicated religion of Christ; to strip away all of the non-essential elements of religion and simply abide by the truths of Christ Jesus, truths which alone can transform the soul and lead it to God, allow me to suggest that such a possibility actually does exist.

Let us begin with one essential fact. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His coming, His mission, and His message were all foretold in the Old Testament. Better than 350 prophecies were made concerning the coming of the Christ, with each one being fulfilled when Jesus came upon the scene of humanity almost 2000 years ago. Some of these prophecies were of the most minute detail, but He was the fulfillment of each and every one of them. Prophecies such as Isaiah 53 and Jeremiah 31:31-33, as well as others. Jesus came to establish a new covenant with mankind. Listen to the Hebrew writer in chapter 9, verses 15-17: "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives."The New Testament, as we now know it, is the word of Christ. By studying it we become aware that among the followers of Christ in the first century, no denominational organizations existed whatsoever. All such denominations began at a much later date. You just do not read of denominations in the Book we call the Bible. Have you ever read about this denomination, or that denomination, in God's Book? If they are not found in the Bible, then where did they originate? They must have come in the minds of men.

When we read from the Bible, God's Book, we see people hearing the gospel preached and in faith obeying the conditions of God's grace. That is, they turned to God, that's called repentance, and were baptized in order to be forgiven of their sins. Being saved from past sins, they were added to the Lord's people, the church. You can read about this in Acts 2:34-47. As the gospel spread, we find them assembling together in congregations in various localities. Yet, they all believed the same thing and practiced the same things. The apostle Paul states that he preached the same message in every place he went. Listen to the great apostle, "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Cor 4:17). He would not preach one thing in one place and something different in another place. Can you imagine, in your wildest dream, that Paul would teach that Baptism is a burial in water when he went to Rome, but when he goes to Corinth, he would teach that Baptism could be done by sprinkling water over the candidate? Yet, that is exactly what we see about us today. Groups teaching different things and practicing different things. In the first century, each congregation was under its own elders, or overseers. Acts 14:23 states, "And when they had appointed for them elders in every church..." These elders did not make laws. They were given the responsibility of tending and caring for the congregation as shepherds would care for a flock. So states Paul in Acts 20:17, 28 and Peter in 1 Peter 5:1-3. Hear him, "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellowelder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock." That's reading through verse 3. There were no earthly headquarters over these congregations. The only headquarters those disciples knew was in heaven, where their head, Jesus Christ, was and is.

Their worship was something to participate in, not something to watch. They were participants, not observers. They were there to give honor and glory to Christ Jesus, not to be entertained by professionals. On the first day of each week they partook of the Lord's Supper and engaged in the study of His Word. So states Luke in Acts 20:7, where he says that "Upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered to break bread, Paul discoursed with them..." These early Christians shared their mutual responsibilities by sharing their prosperity, and we find contributions being collected by no other day. You can read about that in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2. As stated, each one was involved in their worship, because each one was and is a priest in God's house. So states John in Revelation 1:5-6, "and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth, Unto him that loves us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priest unto his God and Father..." No one can perform his service or worship for him.

These early disciples were commanded to live godly lives. They cared for those who were destitute among them, or the poor saints. They taught others the word of God. They sent out preachers when they could not go. The gospel was preached throughout civilization in a very short time. Paul states in Colossians 1:23, "if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." And all of this without any organized machinery, not so much as the need for centralization. The disciples were known as Christians. Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16. They were not different kinds of Christians. They wore no sectarian names. Their religion was not sensual nor materialistic. They sought to impress no one, except God. And God is impressed only with an obedient heart. We impress God, not by shouting and hollering, but by complying with His Word. Their appeal was not social or recreational. They offered the gospel to a troubled world for it was, and is, God's power to save. Does not Paul state, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). Nothing else can do what the gospel can do. It does not need the machinery of man to accomplish its end.

Someone might say, "If only such could be found today." I answer, It can be. Men and women over the earth have despaired of denominationalism, seeing it as a cause of division and as a deterrent to the simple gospel of Christ Jesus. They desire the simplicity of what Christ gave. They desire a removal of those things which divide the world religiously. My friends, there is a group of people who meet within minutes of where you live who are pleading for just that. They worship and serve God in the same way the early disciples worshiped and served God. Christ is their only creed and the scriptures their only guide. They are not members of any human denomination, they are simply a congregation, or church of Christ. They would like to share Christ with you and with all the world.

You, too, can be just a Christian and serve God without belonging to any denomination, bound by no denominational laws or obligations. If such freedom appeals to you, please contact us. We would be more than happy to hear from you. God's word can be studied and discussed in reasonable and understandable sessions. Are you willing to take the Bible, and nothing but the Bible as your only guide from earth to heaven. If so, please contact us. You have nothing to lose, unless it be your soul, the most precious possession in which you have.

Let's continue our thought this morning, talking about Christianity. One time a "union meeting" was held with two different denominations working together -- one preacher from one denomination one night, the other one the next night. They had agreed not to teach their own peculiar, denominational doctrines and agreed to preach just the Bible. As a result of the preaching during the meeting, some three hundred souls responded. However, as the meeting drew to a close, one problem was quite obvious -- what should the converts be called and where should they worship? One hundred decided to join one denomination, and another hundred decided to join the other. The third hundred asked, "Haven't we obeyed the Gospel? Haven't we been saved? Aren't we Christians?" They reasoned, therefore, that they should not join themselves to a denomination, but should simply band themselves together to work and worship just as Christians did in the first century, to be a church that belongs to Christ.

Today, in the confusion of religious division that exists in denominationalism, a person in inclined toward throwing up his hands in exasperation. One should think seriously about this problem of division. As you ponder it, think about the illustration we just used. Is it possible for a person to be JUST a Christian. This is all that one needs to be. In fact, is there any other solution for removing the religious division that we see around us today? Can a person be just a Christian, a child of God; wearing the name of Christ, and it only; whose loyalty and subjection is to Christ only; forgetting about denominationalism and its divisive ways?

In the first century there were no denominational churches as we see around us today. Look into your Bible and see if you can find even one. Does that tell you something? Does it not mean that denominations originated many years after the first century, therefore, none of them can be the church that was built by Christ Jesus. In Matthew 16:16-18, Jesus said, "I will build my church."Did He build differing denominations? To ask the question is to answer it. Can you feature Christ establishing the church in Jerusalem that teaches one thing. Then establishing a church in Corinth that teaches altogether something different. Then establishing a church in Philippi that teaches things different from the one in Jerusalem and the one in Corinth? It follows then that there was no such thing as denominational Christians in the first century.

The apostle Peter affirmed that there is salvation only in the name of Christ. Acts 4:12 so affirms. In Acts 11:26, we learn that, "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." The apostle Peter tells us that when one suffers as a Christian, we should not be ashamed to suffer "on this behalf" (1 Peter 4:16). The name Christian is the name given by God for His children to glorify Him. What kind of Christians do we read about in the first century? I can read of only one. Can you find another?

The word "Christian" is used rather loosely in our day and times. Some are called "good Christian people" who do not even believe in Christ, much less obey Him. We hear nations called "Christian nations" whose principles are basically atheistic and humanistic. To be a Christian means to be "Christ-like." The term Christian can scripturally be applied only to one who has submitted himself or herself to the will of Christ; thus that one is Christ like. That one becomes a servant of Christ, following His commandments and living as He directs.

How does one become a Christian? The first essential step is to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Christ Himself said, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24). Yet, there were those who believe in Him, but were not Christians. Note John 12:42. Thus, faith is necessary, but faith alone is not sufficient unto salvation. James tells us that "faith without works (Obedience) is a dead faith" (James 2:26).

For one to become a Christian, repentance is required. Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30). Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life.

In Romans 10:10, Paul states, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Thus the believer, who repents, is willing to confess his or her faith in Christ as the Son of God.

In Galatians 3:26-27, we read, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Faith, yes indeed, but also baptized into Christ as a result of one's faith in Christ. Paul, himself said that he was told, "to arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). The apostle Peter states that baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21). Does it? Read the passage for yourself, then tell me that this is not so.

To deny the necessity of faith, repentance, confession and baptism is to stand opposed to all of these passages that have been mentioned. Anyone who is a Christian became such by believing in Christ as the Son of God, repenting of their sins, confessing their faith in Christ with their mouth and being buried in the waters of baptism for the remission of sins; each act or deed as important at the others. When one agrees with and obeys the commands of Jehovah, then and only then does one receive the forgiveness of sins that comes from the Father in Heaven and can be called a Christian..

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we read, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." reading through verse 19. This new creature or creation is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is from a burial in baptism that Paul says we are raised to walk "in newness of life." In Romans 6:4-7, the apostle Paul writes the following, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin." Being a new creature, one is thus transformed by the renewing of the mind as stated in Romans 12:1-2. These scriptures affirm the fact that this new creation is spiritual and is the result of obedience from the heart to the commands of the gospel. Also, all who are new creatures in Christ are ONE in Christ. All have been born of the Father in response to the seed provided by the Father, which is the word of God.

Christians are referred to as children, saints, brethren and disciples because these suggest different aspects of this relationship. However, the name that God gave for His children is "Christian" (Acts 11:16). This name was given to the exclusion of all names which show allegiance to a man, method of worship, or some type of organization.

Religious division frequently exists because of man-made names. Religious people like to be thought of as Christians with each being a different kind of Christian. Was there more than one kind of Christian in the first century? Not that I have been able to find. If you know of one, perhaps you will share that information with me. I would be more than happy to hear of it. Those in the first century were Christians, just Christians. Real unity is possible only through the name of Christ. Human names will continue to divide men religiously. And yet, it seems that this is what the majority of religious people desire. They seem to revel in the fact that there are so many differing denominations. Surely, the Lord is not pleased. He prayed for unity among believers. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 17:20-21, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Jude 3, reads, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Here the term "the faith" refers to that system of faith or the gospel. Paul states, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God"(Romans 10:17). The Christian has no other creed or belief. The Word of God is referred to as the Seed of the kingdom in Luke 8:11. It is called the seed because it is planted in the human heart ( or mind) and brings forth fruit unto God. When the Word is sown it will produce like kind. Have you ever heard of sowing watermelon seed and getting pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers and perhaps watermelons? The farmer knows better than that. Yet, religious people feel that they can plant the seed of God and come up with all kinds of Christians. An honest heart knows better than that. When the seed of God's word is sown, it will produce the same results in the hearts of everyone who accepts it. Now, if is it mixed with some other kinds of seeds or tares, then, perhaps others plants will be developed. But, they will not please the God of this Universe.

The traditions of men cause religious division. Jesus said that those who follow the commandments of men are worshiping Him in vain. That's the reading of Matthew 15:9. And, yet, men come along and say, "It makes no difference what one believes just so long as one is honest and sincere." My listening audience, that is the message of Satan. The Devil would have you believe that what you do is not important. God's Word says that it is important what we do, because what we do must be in harmony with the revealed word of truth, the seed of the kingdom.

As a follower of Christ, one must be loyal and faithful to Him. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Our Lord also states, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10). In spite of the many verses that demand obedience to Christ Jesus, mankind comes along and seems to offer more loyalty to their denomination than to Christ. When our affection leans more toward defending our denomination than defending the name of Christ, we will be encouraging religious division. And to encourage religious division is a slap in the face of our Lord and Savior.

When one becomes a Christian, his or her life becomes Christ centered in everything that is done. Being a Christian will make one a better husband, a better wife, a better parent, a better son, a better daughter, a better employer, a better employee, a better neighbor, a better citizen, and on and on we could go. This nation would be a better nation if all were Christians. Our world would be a better world. Can you not imagine what our land would be like if all citizens were following the Master in all that we do. There would be no need for locks, for police, for our court system, etc. What a wonderful world this would be if every one were Christians, just Christians, nothing more nor nothing less. May God give each of us the courage and the desire to look deep within our lives and ask ourselves, "Am I a Christian?" You know what, you really can be!

This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"