WE MUST COMPETE LAWFULLY
Christians know that their lives must be more than politically correct form. They know their lives must contain substantive accomplishments. They know that fruit bearing is a requirement of faithfulness (John 15:1-8).
Jesus enumerated the fruits of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and ministering to those in prison; calling those who do them "blessed of my Father" (Matthew 25:31-46). The righteous of God will receive the end of their labors (Heaven) because they will have accomplished the required means (fruits).
The question we face is whether or not the end justifies the means used to accomplish that end. Paul wrote the young evangelist Timothy a warning concerning these matters. His words were these, "And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Timothy 2:5). The Amplified Bible translates the last portion of the verse as, "he is not crowned unless he competes lawfully," then adds "(fairly, according to the rules laid down)."
It is clear to the honest that the means used to accomplish a righteous end must be those that are lawful, i.e. those sanctioned by God.
Recently, a man was executed for murdering another man. Now, that is not all that note worthy. But wait a minute. The man who was executed was a preacher, and the man he murdered was a doctor. There is more. The preacher murdered the doctor because he was a doctor who preformed abortions. The preacher claimed he committed the murder in an effort to save the lives of untold numbers of babies. What was the end result of the preacher's actions? The doctor he murdered will not kill any more babies, that's for sure. However, the means he used was unacceptable to a law-abiding society. Would any faithful Christian uphold this preacher's means of accomplishing his desired end of stopping the doctor from performing abortions? The answer is no!
The previous example is a rather drastic one. However, it illustrates that rational people have no problem agreeing that the end (stopping a doctor from performing abortions) does not justify the means (murdering the doctor).
However, this is not always the case, because the relevant illustrative example is not always so drastic. Satan is artfully subtle and deceptive. His devise is to make a thing appear benign. His argument is; what does it hurt to do it this way?
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the 'kitchen in the church building' issue. Many of us oppose this type arrangement and are often taken to task as those who are against eating in the church building. This is simply not true. To avoid rehashing old arguments, let's approach this as we have begun. We shall look at the practice of 'fellowship meals' or 'love feasts' as a means to bring about spiritual growth.
Every local church should work toward the greatest possible spiritual growth. Peter expresses it this way "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:18).
The question is; how do we accomplish it? Some brethren say we do it through social functions such as 'meals'. They tell us that we need to spend more time with one another and the way to do it is to have covered dish meals together. To make these meals more convenient, we build a kitchen in the church building with a corresponding dining hall. Now we are cooking! Excuse the pun. Now we can have services along with a 'fellowship meals' and never leaving the building. Now I ask you, how convenient is that? And while we are scarfing down Aunt Susie's chicken-n-dumplings, and Mabel's shuck beans cooked with a ham bone, and Katie's home made rolls, and Darlene's candied tatters, and finish it all off with a big ole piece of Granny Jo's soup bean pie. While our tummies are getting distended with all this fellowship, we can just edify each other all over the place. Ain't God lucky He's got such fine Christians like us? Excuse me, could you pass me that fried chicken please.
The truth is, God does not condone this kind of foolishness. Jesus condemned this attitude in some of His followers. It happened this way. "After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased" (John 6:1-2). "Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?' But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, 'Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.' One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?' Then Jesus said, 'Make the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.' Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, 'This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world'" (John 6:5-14). "So the people, finding that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, themselves got into the small boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found Him on the other side of the lake, they said to Him, Rabbi! When did You come here? Jesus answered them, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, you have been searching for Me, not because you saw the miracles and signs but because you were fed with the loaves and were filled and satisfied. Stop toiling and doing and producing for the food that perishes and decomposes [in the using], but strive and work and produce rather for the [lasting] food which endures [continually] unto life eternal; the Son of Man will give (furnish) you that, for God the Father has authorized and certified Him and put His seal of endorsement upon Him" (John 6:24-27 AMP).
Jesus fed the multitude because it was needed. His feeding of the five thousand was incidental to His bringing of salvation to them. In other words, Jesus did not use two fishes and five barley loaves of bread as means to accomplish the end of bringing salvation to the great multitude that followed Him.
Jesus' rebuke of those who could not understand how He got across the sea hits the core at the problem. People must follow Jesus for the correct reason. Jesus said they followed because of the loaves and were filled with carnal food. The danger of using local church sponsored kitchens, fellowship meals, love feasts, etc. is to put the emphasis on loaves and being filled with carnal food. To use these as means to bring about the desired end (the salvation of a soul) is to compete unlawfully (see 2 Timothy 2:5).
Do you really think Jesus would entice the lost to come and enjoy a 'fellowship meal' with Christians with the intentions of teaching them the gospel hoping that somewhere between the fried chicken and lemon meringue pie they might be baptized? I think NOT!
By Glen Young via Road Creek Bulletin
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