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

We Give Thanks!

giving thanks

In Colossians 1:3, Paul wrote, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” His specific reason for thanking God at that time was the “faith in Christ Jesus” and “love for all the saints” that the Colossians had exhibited to him.

Paul serves as a good example of one who was mindful of the blessings of God, and who endeavored always to acknowledge them. We too should be quick to thank God. We have much for which to be thankful:

  • Spiritual Blessings. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” ALL is inclusive. Every aspect of our spiritual lives. It encompasses our standing with God, our relationship with His people, our opportunities to worship and serve, the privilege of adoption, the hope of heaven.
  • Physical Blessings. “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Again, this is an inclusive concept. God created the physical universe, and wonderfully fashioned man from the elements He had created. Our homes, our families, our food, our health — all of these are blessings that have their origin with God. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

Prayer is offered to God for many reasons. We petition Him for forgiveness, offer praise to His name, make petitions to Him on our own behalf, and on behalf of others. All of these are legitimate and important. No aspect of prayer is more important than acknowledging the blessings bestowed upon us by our God, and thanking Him for His grace.

“Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Contending for the Faith

The United States is among the most tolerant and permissive of societies. Yet it is a society that is extremely intolerant of a very few things. One example of intolerance is with regard to “political correctness.” There are certain attitudes and ideas, which if expressed, lead to the ruin of public reputations and careers. Often those who rush to condemn these attitudes, (what they call “hate speech”), are the same ones who clamor over the right to freedom of expression. This is incongruous, but is nevertheless a rather prominent feature of our day.

This is also true in religion. These permissive influences claim that all religions have worth and that religious criticism is a form of that “hate speech.” Pleas for toleration have led many to the irrational claim that all these terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists had “nothing to do with religion.” They ignore the fact that such extremists have declared a “jihad” (holy war) against all non-muslims. Continue reading » Contending for the Faith

A Militant Faith

A peculiar aspect of our culture is a tendency to shy away from any reference to militancy as a positive characteristic. I suppose that there has been so much violence that people are uncomfortable even entertaining the concept of a legitimate use of force — i.e., a defensive application.

And yet, scripture commonly makes use of the concept.  For example, Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith…”  In another place, Paul described the characteristics of the mature Christian in militaristic terms, exhorting the Ephesians: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13). Continue reading » A Militant Faith

Spiritual Navalwatching

I came across a quote from 1970 by a denominational writer that indicates a problem that, in my opinion, is applicable to the Lord’s church today. The quote is below, with some of my own comments after.

“…(We) of the late twentieth century contribute to the falsifying of the church’s proper function through our subjectivism … (The present) is possibly the most subjective period in all of church history. Today everybody talks in psychological terms. We enjoy nothing better than to probe our inner life and its real or imagined frustrations. We wallow in our misery. We go to psychologists, we go to psychiatrists, we go to counsellors. This predilection has been called “navelwatching” by some people; that is, we enjoy nothing better than to sit down narcissistically and look at our own psychic navels. This delightful activity allows us to become completely involved in ourselves. We enjoy our problems. Someone has called our epoch “the Age of Analysis” . . . and it is that, for we want to solve all our problems by subjective concentration upon them.”

John Warwick Montgomery

So much of the Christian’s responsibility is focused outward. We can become so entranced by our own spiritual “navels” that we leave the greater commands to “love God” and “love our neighbor” undone. It seems to me important to focus on God’s commandments, and our responsibilities to Him and others, and spend less time focused inwardly – “paralysis by analysis.” Now, I am not objecting to examining ourselves (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5), but rather noting the destructive tendency to focus on self rather than others.

Are your insecurities, feelings, musings, captivating your attention? Does they lead to missed opportunities to do the Lord’s work? Does your faith consist predominately of introspection – whether of your failings or your strengths? If so, perhaps you need to look outside of yourself, and get busy doing “the work” (cf. James 1:25).

Some thoughts that came to my mind while reading the quote above:

  1. Truth is objective, not subjective.
  2. Selflessness is seen in our actions toward our fellow man.
  3. The spiritual works of evangelism and edification are indicators of a faithful, zealous Christian.
  4. Intellectualism does not equate to strength in faith (“…and the common people heard Him gladly” Mark 12:37).

 

Proper Attitudes Toward Knowledge

It is right to emphasize the importance of gaining knowledge of God’s word.  The Psalmist expressed the proper attitude toward seeking such knowledge when he wrote, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).  However, it must be recognized that gaining knowledge is the means to an end in its impact on the Christian’s faith.  It is not an end in itself.  Our standing with God is not dependent upon of our knowledge of truth per se, but upon our acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord.

One might object that knowledge of Christ is necessary for that acceptance, and that is entirely true.  Jesus affirmed this very thing when he said to a group of Jews who expressed their faith in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).  We are to be disciples of Christ.  To be His disciples, we must know and adopt His teachings.  However, it is important to remember that the newborn babe in Christ is as accepted of God as the most mature Christian.  Immediately upon being washed in the blood of the Lamb, we receive the forgiveness of our sins, and can claim the right to an eternal inheritance.  The Ethiopian Eunuch who “went on his way rejoicing” (cf. Acts 8:39) immediately following his baptism, had equal claim to the heavenly Father as the aged Paul, who had “fought the good fight” (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7) as a learned and mature apostle of the Lord. Continue reading » Proper Attitudes Toward Knowledge

How My Self-Identity Influences My Actions

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Merriam Webster defines self-identification: “the act of identifying yourself as a particular kind of person.” It is a term that has only recently gained prominence. Typically, it is used with regard to race, gender or sexual attraction. A dictionary example given is that of a man who has one parent who is black and another who is white, who self-identifies as black.

Most examples of self-identification are logical. I have children, thus self-identify as a father. I also self-identify as a husband, as a grandfather, as an American, and proudly, as a Texan. These examples are fact based. However, some other recent examples of self-identification defy logic and fact.

Continue reading » How My Self-Identity Influences My Actions

Devoted Disciples

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The Lord’s church today needs devoted disciples! Webster’s New World Dictionary, in describing the nuances of the term “devote”, states, “Devote suggests the giving up or applying of oneself or something with the seriousness or earnestness evoked by a formal vow (to devote one’s life to a cause).” Consider the Apostle Paul’s sentiment as recorded in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It must be stated that the only true disciple of Christ is the devoted disciple of Christ.

Continue reading » Devoted Disciples

I Do NOT Preach Hate!

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In our society, the religious views I hold are considered by the majority to be hateful and intolerant. Words like bigot, misogynist, legalist, homophobe, Islamophobe and worse are used to describe me simply because I hold to a Christian worldview that is informed by the holy scriptures. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator recently stated that an individual who held such values to be true, “is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.”

Continue reading » I Do NOT Preach Hate!

From Where Do Wars Come?

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James wrote, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (James 4:1). Commentators differ on what “wars” James refers to — big ones, or little ones. However, the motivation for is typically the same — Lust!

Selfish desire is at the root of most strife, whether disputes between nations, or petty squabbles among individuals. James wrote, “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war” (4:2).

One nation covets the land or resources that are owned by another. One ruler wants riches he sees beyond the borders of his own land. Lust and covetousness is the root of war!

The same is true in religion. Wars have been fought because of sectarian jealousies. The continual war between Jews and Muslims is fueled in part by claims made on the old city of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. Each faction covets the same plot of land.

Strife was caused in Corinth because each faction wanted exalted status (1 Corinthians 1:10-15). Conflict existed between two women in Philippi, presumably for the similar reasons (Philippians 4:2). Paul’s remedy? “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

Selfish desires bring war and conflict. Humility brings unity and expressions of love and peace.

Social Media Guidelines

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Social Media in our day and time is ubiquitous. In December of last year, Facebook boasted an average of over 1.23 Billion daily users. That is about 4 times the entire population of the United States, every day! Other popular Social Media sites include Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
With such ubiquity comes the danger of abuse and sin. Christians need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of using these sites, lest we “fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7).

Continue reading » Social Media Guidelines

Graceful Speech

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“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

Paul’s instruction here is coupled with the previous exhortation, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” (vs. 5). So, the graceful speech under consideration here has special application to interaction with those who are not Christians. Consider the instructions…

  • “Let your speech always be with grace.” The word “grace” here is defined by Thayer, “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm.” The Christian is to be inoffensive in his manner of speech. That does not mean that the gospel of Christ will not offend. What it does mean is that such offense, if it comes, is the fault of the hearer, not the speaker. Our purpose is not to win arguments or to tell people off – it is to plant and water that God may give “the increase” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6).
  • “Seasoned with salt.” Albert Barnes makes a good point about this. He notes that although we don’t always talk about religion and our faith, piety should always be “sprinkled” in our conversations. In other words, our faith should always be the spice of our communication with others. They hear what we say, and see Christ in us.
  • “That you may know how to answer each one.” Three things to note here. 1) We can’t “know” unless we have studied. 2) We can pray for wisdom (cf. James 1:5) with the confidence that God will supply us with what we lack. 3) Practice leads to proficiency. In order to get good at our spiritual communication with the lost, we have to share the saving gospel with them.

So, let’s get to it!

God’s Provision

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After leaving Egypt, the Israelites found themselves trapped on the shore of the Red Sea. With the sea at their backs, and Pharaoh’s army rapidly approaching, the people complained to Moses, saying that it would have been better for them to remain slaves “than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:12). Moses responded, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today” (13). Since God was with them, victory was assured. The Egyptians were wiped out.

In contrast, Joshua and the people were routed by the weak and small denizens of Ai, as recorded in Joshua 7. Why? Sin was in the camp, and God said to Joshua, “Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you” (12). Since God was against them, they were defeated.

Continue reading » God’s Provision

Man Can’t Do It…But God Can!

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Early in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he had a dream. The dream made him anxious, and he sought it’s meaning. His astrologers, sorcerers and magicians were more than willing to provide an interpretation, but Nebuchadnezzar obviously did not trust their powers of divination. So, he created a test. Before giving him the interpretation, they had to describe the dream itself. They replied, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean” (Daniel 2:10). Their explanation did not impress Nebuchadnezzar. He became angry, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be killed!

Nebuchadnezzar’s disgust was understandable, even if his murderous response was not. These dream interpreters were not claiming psychological insight. They claimed to be able to “divine” the interpretation. That is, they claimed a supernatural ability to determine a dream’s meaning. Logically, if one possessed such supernatural powers, “divining” the dream itself would be as simple as the interpretation. By their inability, they showed themselves to be charlatans.

Continue reading » Man Can’t Do It…But God Can!

True Wisdom

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In 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Paul made a simple but compelling argument:

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory .”

Simply put, if those of the world are as wise as they claim to be, they would accept the Lord of glory rather than oppose Him!

Notice that Paul did not argue whether Jesus truly is the Son of God. To Paul, that was an established truth. His faith in His Lord would not waver… he was an eyewitness of the resurrected Lord.

We too believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. And so, when we consider the philosophies of men — the secular influences that hold sway in our society — we have confidence that they are not as wise as they believe themselves to be. If they were wise, they would acknowledge the truth. Jesus is the Son of God, and the Lord of our lives.

So, the Lordship of Jesus is commonly rejected in the world today. Paul rightly predicted that the powers that be “are coming to nothing.” The truly wise among us will acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and submit fully to His will.

It’s Cold Out Today!

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The weather has changed, and it is cold out there today! Thankfully, here in North Texas the winters are relatively mild, so the cold temperatures will probably not hang around very long. It is also fortunate that this front did not bring in sleet or snow, making it dangerous to drive.

It is in winter that we expect snow. It comes with the season. The writer of Proverbs used this truth to make an important point:

“As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool” (26:1).

The phrase “is not fitting” is an interesting one. It indicates that honor does not properly belong to the fool. Such a situation is the direct opposite of that declared by the Psalmist, “Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (93:5). Where holiness makes sense and is a proper adornment for God’s house, there is nothing natural or appropriate in a fool being honored.

And yet, we do it all the time! Such adoration and honor is heaped upon our entertainers, our athletes, our politicians. By honoring them as we do, we encourage and enable their foolish actions and values.

Concerning the fool being honored, Keil and Delitschz noted the following: “he will make unjust use of it, and draw false conclusions from it; it will strengthen him in his folly, and only increase it.” Proverbs 19:10 says, “Luxury (“delight” KJV) is not fitting for a fool.”

Instead, foolishness should be discouraged, both in others and most importantly in our own lives. Praise for foolishness is as incongruous as snow in summer!