Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Men Displeased with God

Image In 2 Kings 5, we learn of Naaman, a Syrian general and honorable man, who was stricken with the disease of leprosy. An Israelite maiden was a servant of Naaman’s wife, and told her mistress of the prophet Elisha, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (3).

Inquiries were made, and eventually Naaman made his way to Elisha’s house. Rather than meeting with the man, Elisha simply sent a messenger to him with the following message: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean” (10).

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From the Preacher’s Pen: “The Lord Reigns” (Psalm 97)

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“The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad!” (Psalm 97:1).

There is good cause for rejoicing in the realization that the Lord reigns over our world. The Psalmist expresses the greatness of that reign by writing, “His lightnings light the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (4-5). We rejoice not only because of His power, but also because, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (2).

God is all powerful, and wholly good. He is beneficent, and those who belong to Him will be protected. “You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; he delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (10-11).

It is important to note the contrast between those who belong to Him (His saints) and the wicked. It is not possible to rightly claim to be His if our lives are characterized by sin. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (1 John 3:6).

We have the wondrous promise that God will reward the righteous. The Psalmist concludes, “Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His name” (12). All praise to the Almighty!

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The Parable of the Sower

Image Jesus often taught by parable. A parable is a story told, using simple objects or situations, to illustrate a spiritual principle. Such illustrations can be extremely powerful, and this is certainly the case with his Parable of the Sower. The parable is included in all of the synoptic gospels, (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:2-9, 13-20; Luke 8:4-15).

The accounts reveal that the disciples were first confused about the meaning of this parable. Fortunately for us, Jesus gave to them and us a clear explanation of his words. Consider the following important points that can be derived from this parable. Citations will be from the account recorded by Luke:

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Mining the Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-6

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Our text describes a group of men called “magi,” or wise men, from the east who had observed astronomically a sign which led them to believe the King of the Jews had been born. We can only speculate concerning the nature of that star. It is evident that the sign convinced both these wise men and Herod the Great that the promised Messiah had come.

Herod was a usurper of the throne of Judah, and no doubt this event caused him great anxiety. He was “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (3). This was the first, but not the last time that the Savior would experience the opposition of men who were more concerned with their status than with the truth.

The place of Jesus’ birth was predicted by Micah (5:2). It was Bethlehem of Judea, the home town of Jesus’ earthly father Joseph. Herod’s inquiry of the scribes was for the purpose of locating and killing the child he perceived to be his rival (cf. 2:13).

Mining the Scriptures: Revelation 4:1-8

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In his salutation to the seven churches of Asia, identified by name in chapters 2 & 3, he pronounces blessings upon them from the Father “Him who is and who was and who is to come”, the Holy Spirit “the seven Spirits who are before His throne”, and the Son “the firstborn from the dead.”

(Note: some believe the phrase “seven Spirits” refers to the spirits of the seven churches, but it seems the context is referring to each person of the Godhead, in turn. As such, the number seven would have symbolic significance as a reference to the Holy Spirit).

Regardless, John affirms Jesus as our Lord and Savior (6), and promises His second coming (7). The central theme of the book is our victory through the power of God. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End… who is and was and who is to come, the Almighty” (8).

Joshua: A Godly and Successful Leader

Image The book of Joshua contains a wonderful summary of his leadership of Israel. Joshua was a man of great character and loyalty to God. During his service to God and His people, the nation took possession of the land of Canaan, obtaining the inheritance God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.

While each individual is responsible for his own relationship with God, a good leader can exert influence to keep men faithful to the Almighty. Joshua is an example of such a man. As he ascended to the leadership role, God promised him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). Of course, that favor was contingent upon his loyalty to the Lord, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (1:7).

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From the Preacher’s Pen: A Proper Perspective Toward Sin

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You see many short pithy sayings splashed across Facebook and other internet pages these days — words that are an attempt at wisdom or profundity, sometimes accompanied by a provocative picture to illustrate the point. Many such sentiments are more foolish than wise, more obtuse than profound. Occasionally, though, you come across something pretty good. Like this short, uncredited tidbit:

“I refuse to entertain myself with the things
for which my God went to the cross.”

These words present an attitude of militant loyalty that is sorely lacking among Christians today. We need to understand that entertaining ourselves with sinful things is traitorous action toward God! As James wrote, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).

The next time you are tempted to see that sexually provocative movie, read that racy novel, gaze upon that immodestly dressed woman, hang out with those ungodly “friends” from school or work, or purchase that “sexy” outfit, consider how by so doing you are allying yourself against the Almighty! It is neither smart nor safe to provoke a jealous God! “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’”? (James 4:5). Well, do you think the Scripture says it in vain? Or not?

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God’s Law of Procreation

Image I came across an old chart as I was cleaning out my office last week. It was from a workbook titled, Cottage Meeting Manual, by Maurice Tisdel. The title of the chart was “God’s Law of Procreation.” The information on the chart I will summarize in this short article.

The first column considers the vegetable kingdom. God’s word reveals that the first plants came about through God’s creative work. “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so” (Genesis 1:11). From that point on, however, as observation reveals, new plants have propagated through the seeds of their “parent” plants. Each seed produces a plant of the same “kind” as the plant from which the seed came. There are no exceptions to this rule. It is observable, the result of natural law.

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Brazen

Image In Ezekiel 16, the Lord spoke to Jerusalem, expressing His disappointment at her ingratitude and rebellion, in response to His care and nurturing. He stated, “I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful” (vs. 7). Using the figure of marriage, He later said, “I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine” (vs. 8).

Their response was disconcerting. He charged, “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it” (vs. 15). In fact, Jerusalem was so corrupt that God said, “You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite” (34).

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FB: Cheapening the Term “Fellowship”

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In the New Testament, the term fellowship (from the Greek, koinonia), is consistently used to refer to a joint participation in the spiritual.

  • In 1 Corinthians 1:9, Paul uses it to refer to our relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • In 2 Corinthians 6:14, he admonishes Christians not to be yoked together with unbelievers and evil.
  • In 2 Corinthians 8:4, he attributes the word to the important spiritual work of benevolence to saints who were suffering.
  • In Galatians 2:9, he talks of the “right hand of fellowship”, indicating the apostles’ endorsement of his preaching to the Gentiles.
  • In Philippians 1:5, he notes that their support of his work in preaching to the lost was “fellowship in the gospel”.
  • John speaks of the spiritual relationship we enjoy as children of God, and with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ in 1 John 1:6-7.

Today when religious people use the term they are more likely to be talking about recreation, eating and fun. Putting an (inappropriately) weighty term upon a trivial activity does not make it more credible or important.

Paul wrote, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

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Mining the Scriptures: 2 John 12-13

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John had an important and urgent message to share with the elect lady and her children. As such, he wrote this short epistle to warn of the deceivers who would lead them to forfeit their reward.

However, in the final few lines of his letter, he wrote of a preference to communicate with them “face to face.” Letters could not adequately express either his love for them, or the urgency of his warnings.

Each of us know the truth of Paul’s words. We read fondly the letters of love and devotion sent my family and friends. However, our “joy” is full when we see them in the flesh.

Too, the electronic correspondence of our generation is a pale facsimile of personal communication. “LOL” is an inadequate imitation of the laughter and love we share when we are together. Speaking “face to face” is the better way.

Christian Ethics

Image In previous decades, American society generally shared the same values that are currently held by Christians. Sexual promiscuity, moral excesses, and other vices were frowned upon. Even those who engaged in them understood that they were morally wrong, and hid their actions from plain sight. As time has passed, however, societal values have diverged from the Christian norm. Because of this:

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In the News: Non-Religious Ethics

Image In doing some internet research on the subject of ethics, I came across an article by Rohana R. Wasala, a practicing Buddhist. In his article, titled Ethics and the non religious essence of Buddhism (lankaweb.com), Wasala advocated Buddhism over other religions, noting that Buddhism is not a religion in the traditional sense, in that it has its origin not in a supernatural being, but rather in a philosophy of self.

Interestingly, the author bemoans the fact that Buddhism, as practiced popularly, is not the same as “Pristine Buddhism.” To contrast the two, he states that Pristine Buddhism is free from the element of worship and prayer. He then stated that in contrast, “Unfortunately, Buddhism in popular practice is a different thing. It is today displayed by most followers as a religion.”

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From the Preacher’s Pen: “I DO”

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A recent question to “Dear Abby”:

Q: My question is very simple, Abby. Who determines right or wrong in your life, your opinions, your column? This will tell me all I need to know about your wisdom or advice.

A: Actually, I think your question is anything but “simple,” and the answer is: I DO.

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 11/12/14)

Abby’s response to the question is indicative of current views regarding ethics. It was also characteristic of an earlier age. The book of Judges describes the condition of Israel in this way, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6). The statement was made as an explanation of the practice of idolatry, a heinous and treasonous practice against their God.

The problem with me deciding what is right and wrong, is that I am not the true arbiter of morality. God is! So, if I self-determine my ethics, I am destined to make mistakes. As the wise man stated, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Paul mourned the sins of Israel, saying, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).

Instead, may we admit as did the prophet, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

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The Patternists: Obeying Civil Authority

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We are blessed in the United States with many civil liberties. Despite an increasingly intrusive government, we are the most free of any nation in the history of man.

For the Christian, however, our final authority is God’s word, not the U.S. constitution. This means two things:

  1. A Christian may not be able to enjoy the liberties that are made available under the laws of our land. There are vices (drug and alcohol use, gambling, extramarital sexual activity, profane speech, etc.), condemned by God, that may be allowed under civil law. Further, though we enjoy freedom of speech – hate speech, disrespect of civil authority, etc., violates scriptural principles and are off limits to Christians.
  2. A Christian is bound to keep the laws of the land. This principle is stated by Paul in Romans 13:1-7. Verse 1 states, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” For example, a Christian can not refuse to pay income tax.

An exception occurs when civil law conflicts with God’s law. When commanded by the civil authorities to stop preaching the gospel, Peter and the other apostles responded, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

While the application of this principle can sometimes be difficult and confusing, the principle itself,(as revealed in scripture), is clear and compelling.

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