Defending the Faith

Defending the Faith

In our culture there are innumerable philosophies vying for our attention as well as our devotion. How do we know what’s best; what’s right; what’s wrong; what’s true? Even in our churches, in which we should find the very truth of God, there are competing doctrines and biblical interpretations which seem to muddy the waters. And then there are those who use the platform of biblical instruction to promote themselves as they advance their ideas and philosophies for personal satisfaction and gain. This is why Jude pens his letter – to counteract those who would seek to coop the early church for their own purposes.

Jude begins with a brief salutation and then states his purpose – to encourage the believers to contend for the faith. Contending for the faith is something we need to do as individual Christians and as the church. The spiritual warfare is real. It is a real struggle – an agonizing struggle – and one that we can’t naively ignore. In our culture there are innumerable philosophies vying for our attention as well as our devotion and we tend to avoid the conflict of competing ideals. Conflict is stressful whether it is internal or external. To avoid the stress and pain of conflict we simply go along to get along. Indeed, tolerance has become the ultimate test of morality as opposed to the absolute truth of God’s word. If you choose to not follow the path of agreeably going with the societal flow, you will be branded as the most evil among us.

Therefore, we must contend for the faith – defend the faith – and do so with the love and compassion of Christ. The first step in contending for the faith is knowing the faith. Study the scriptures to “present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

The next step in contending for the faith is openly and honestly discussing the truth, but we must remember that our fight is not with people, but with demonic forces of evil who are dead set (pun intended) on opposing God and the One Who is the way, the truth, and the light. The struggle is not against those who espouse such errant thoughts, but against the evil forces that perpetuate them. Furthermore, as we defend the faith, we must not become defensive. While we argue for the faith, we must not become argumentative. In our contending for the faith, we must not become contentious. We must stand firm on the truth of God ‘s word – firm in our salvation – firm in the saving grace of Jesus.

We love because He first loved us. We speak truth because He spoke (and speaks) truth to us. And we speak the truth in love because His love and truth is the only thing that will save this dying world.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, November 27, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com .

Handouts are also available at: fromthebackporch.org .

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

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Email – fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Godly Leadership

In Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy he gives Timothy advice and encouragement by telling him what Godly Leadership looks like. In so doing he gives excellent advice to all Christians about how to respond to adversity. He says that Godly leaders will rejoice when they face persecution for Christ’s sake. They will endure hardships for the cause of Christ. The same should apply to all who believe.

Godly leaders must teach sound doctrine under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They should do so in the faith and love found in Jesus. The same should apply to all who believe.

Godly leaders should accept the challenges laid down by the saints who have paved the road for the Gospel of Peace. They should persevere with the determination of the soldier in battle; they must press on to win the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ; and, like the farmer, they should wait patiently on the Lord because they know that He Who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it in Christ Jesus. The same should apply to all who believe.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, August 21, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Calling for Unity in the Church

In his first letter to the Corinthian church he begins with his usual pleasant greetings and fond remembrances, but he then he gets straight to the point that is of foremost importance – division within the church. Satan loves to drive wedges between believers and he will stop at nothing to get a group of Christians to look away from God by focusing on their own opinions and attitudes. And if that misdirection involves the things of the church it is even better.

Paul addresses the issue by reminding the church of what is really at stake. Unity. Jesus in His high priestly prayer asked the Father for His people to be one – even as He and the Father were one. Jesus knew that a church divided against itself could not stand. (Mark 3:25) He also knew that His church would have to be known by the love they shared. (John 13:35) Paul knew this also and he understood fully that the gospel message of Jesus Christ had to spread without hindrances like squabbles over something as insignificant as a personality contest.

The fact is that we must be unified, as Paul instructed the Corinthians, and in order to be unified we must have the same heart and mind as Jesus. If we will but look up and focus on Him, we won’t become preoccupied with the junk around us. Furthermore, we won’t be annoyed by people around us because we are focused not on their idiosyncrasies, but on Jesus. And as the final illustration in this lesson shows, the closer we get to Jesus, the closer we get to our brothers and sisters in Christ and the more we become of one mind and one heart.

The gospel message must be proclaimed but it will only be successfully proclaimed by a united body of Christ.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, August 14, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Giving Is the Living of the Christian Life

Giving is the living of the Christian Life. When thee church was in its infancy there were many unusual events that helped establish the church and outline the role it would play in the lives of the believers and the world at large. In Acts 4 & 5 we find one of those times when things were happening that would lay the groundwork for the church for centuries to come.

The church’s financial position was sound because the members of the church were of one mind and one body. (4:32) They claimed no ownership of their possessions and shared willingly with those in need. They even sold houses and land and gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as situaltions arose requiting such funds. No one was lacking – all had all they needed to live.

(Note: It was not a communistic society, for no one was compelled to surrender their possessions to those in authority. The generous actions on the part of church members was totally voluntary.)

One such generous church member was Joseph – nicknamed Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. He sold a piece of property and brought the money and gave it to the apostles in an act of worship. His gift was certainly an encouragement to the early church.

Another man, Ananias, also sold a piece of property after which he and his wife Sapphira kept some of the proceeds from the sale for themselves and gave the balance to the apostles. The Holy Spirit was grieved by this action but not because they kept some of the money. They had lied saying that they were giving all of the proceeds from the sale to the church. Peter (no doubt enlightened by the Holy Spirit) called their hand on the matter and each, in separate incidents, died as a result of their deception.

Giving is at the heart of Christianity. “For God so loved the world that He gave. . .” And while this foundational truth is real, so is the truth that truth is foundational to the living of the Christian Life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He also said that the Father seeks those who would worship Him in spirit and in truth. And don’t get me started on passages like 1 Timothy 1:9-10 where liars are included in a list of sinners and reprobates. Lying is a big deal to God. After all, it is one of the Big 10!

So, in this one passage we have the high standard of giving and sharing juxtaposed with the low standard of deception and greed. And the lesson is obvious. Giving is the living of the Christian Life while lying is the living of the life honored and adored by the Father of Lies – Satan himself.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 24, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Decline of the Church

Photos by Roman Robroek

The link below will take you on an emotional journey through a reflective essay by Roman Robroek, a Netherlands-based urban exploration photographer. I found both the photos and Roberoek’s written reflections to be both disturbing and melancholic; interesting and depressing; beautiful and yet gut-wrenching.

Photographer Captures the Decline of the Church in Italy

However, the eye-opening moment came when I realized that this is a picture of our life in Christ and our bodies as a living temple in which dwells His very Spirit. In his conclusion Robroek writes:

Today, abandoned churches in Italy and elsewhere offer a unique glimpse into the past. A source of reflection, perhaps, as they prompt us to think about the future. If a church, once the most important haven in the community, can become a pile of ruins, what does that say about what we hold certain today? These are the traces of the past of many communities, and if we follow them, we can see where we all came from and perhaps where we’re going.” ~ Roman Robroek

Many, if not most, of the churches were abandoned due to the influence of socioeconomic influences as well geopolitical forces. However, no matter the cause, these buildings did not suddenly decay – it took years of lack of use and neglect for them to devolve to this state. And so it could be with the temple of the Lord. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we fail to glorify God in all we do and when we neglect our relationship with God, deterioration begins. It may not seem like much at first, but over time our lives can become spiritually empty and the worship of God a thing of the past. As we neglect the things that once brought us closer to God – things like Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers – our spiritual lives become empty shells left to fall to the natural forces of the world. What was once a person who was a shining beacon of the Truth of Jesus Christ in the community becomes a monument to the ineffectiveness of the gospel to stand up against the ravages of the society in which the Christian dwells.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:3-7.

“Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises” and we must “make every effort to respond to God’s promises.” We do these things not to gain salvation nor to gain favor with God, but rather because of the life we have in Jesus. We do these things, not in our own power, but by the power of the Spirit Who dwells within us. We do these things in response to His great love. We do these things so that others will see Jesus in us. We do these things so that God’s Temple – the body of the believer – will be a walking and talking testament to the Truth of the Gospel. And that testimony is not of what once was, but for what is and what ever more shall be – the living and vibrant love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.