Monthly Archives: January 1999

Leave No Unguarded Place by Jeff Himmel

as originally published in LifeLines:

In 1453 the city of (modern , ) was besieged by Muslim Turks. The mighty capitol had resisted invasion for nearly a thousand years; and like the armies before them, the could not break through the city’s defenses. Then one day some soldiers found a tiny entryway in the city wall that had been left unlocked and unguarded. Quickly the Turks poured through the opening and stormed the town. The last stronghold of a great empire fell, and the Muslims were in position to sweep across Europe – all because somebody left a door open.

I’ve often wondered about the fellow who was supposed to lock that door. Maybe he just forgot. Maybe he thought it was someone else’s turn. Maybe he was lazy and figured the Turks would never find that door anyway. Maybe he lost the key. In any case, his single careless act altered the course of history.

One verse of a popular hymn says, “Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul.” Perhaps the writer had in mind Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Perhaps the words were inspired by Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” The thought is of utmost importance for every Christian: Don’t leave Satan any opportunity to snare your soul. Remember, one open door is all he needs.

1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The citizens of Constantinople probably thought their city would never fall. That may have led to the very negligence that allowed it to be taken. Don’t ever forget that Satan is a crafty and powerful enemy (Ephesians 6:11-12) who has made it his mission to destroy our souls. We cannot afford to become self-righteous and overconfident; if we do, we set ourselves up to fall into the devil’s hands.

The poor fellow who left that door open at Constantinople probably paid with his life. And if we leave a door open for Satan, it can cost us our souls.

Mainline Churches Losing Members by Jeff Himmel

as originally published in LifeLines:

Every now and then I run across a news item with a title like the one above, reporting on the decreasing ranks of several “mainline” . Groups like the , , and churches have lost tens of thousands of members over the last couple of decades. A large number of those people have left in favor of other religious groups. While a host of things are blamed for this mass exodus, a couple in particular have caught my interest.

One reason people are leaving these denominations is radical liberalism. Mainline Protestant churches have often led the way in digressing from Biblical truth. But many members have decided that enough is enough. Their leaders, teachings, and practices have just become too liberal to stomach. Many of their “clergy” are infected with theological modernism- denying the Bible’s inspiration and authority, embracing theistic evolution, and supporting abortion and homosexuality. And people in these churches are hopping mad about it. They no longer want to be part of any group whose “policies” go against their own religious convictions. For many, the only choice is to pack up and leave.

The discontent isn’t only evident on an individual level. The Episcopal () has even considered severing ties with the U.S. Episcopal church because the American contingent has become so liberal. This sort of unrest is commonplace. And it’s causing many in the denominations to re-examine their beliefs and practices in the light of God’s word. I imagine more than a few are quite surprised by what they find.

People are also leaving denominations because of their . Denominations tend to operate as bureaucracies with progressing levels of authority- local, regional, national- culminating in some governing body or “general assembly.” The average church member feels alienated from this complex political system. Christian Century (2/28/90) observed that “if all national church bureaucracies disappeared- poof!- tomorrow, local congregations might not miss them too much. . . . A recent Presbyterian Church (USA) survey found that most rank-and-file Presbyterians are overwhelmingly uninterested’ in actions at the church’s national level.”

In fact, a lot of folks have gone from “overwhelmingly uninterested” to downright resentful. Many in the denominations are tired of “headquarters” dictating what local churches can and can’t do. They’re upset that much of the money they give is soaked up by bureaucracies, then spent on everything from political campaigns to aiding leftist guerillas in South America. They feel as if their local congregation exists mainly to service the financial needs of .” And some people have even perceived a more fundamental problem: there’s no basis in Scripture for any of it.

Believe me, folks, they’re out there. There are people in the denominations who are fed up with what’s going on. And many are looking around in hopes of finding something better. That presents us with a golden opportunity. These folks need to know that there are Christians who are content to be just Christians. They need to hear us “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). They need to know that the Lord’s church is not a network of bureaucracies or institutions. They need to see “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3) in our work, our worship, our organization, and our teaching.

Reader, if you’ve had enough of man-made religion, consider going back to the basics of New Testament Christianity. Can we assist you in becoming simply a Christian?

Word Study: "Baptize" by Jeff Himmel

as originally published in LifeLines:

“Baptize” is a transliteration (not a translation) of the Greek word baptizo. It means to dip, immerse, submerge, plunge, sink, or drench (cf. Bauer, Thayer). Vine’s Dictionary describes it as a process of “immersion, submersion, and emergence.” The force of the word should be obvious. Early Latin translations of Scripture rendered it mergere, to plunge or immerse.

Yet there has been much disagreement about the acceptable “form” of baptism. Some have adopted sprinkling or pouring as a method more convenient than immersion. But look again at the definition: neither sprinkling nor pouring fits the meaning of the word! If a cooking recipe tells you to immerse a vegetable in vinegar, would you settle for sprinkling a little on it instead? If a dead body is to be buried (“immersed”) in the ground, would merely tossing some dirt on it suffice? Bible narratives of baptism involve not only water (Acts 8:36), but going down into the water (v. 38) and coming up out of the water (v. 39). That would not be necessary except for immersion. Baptism is described as a burial in the likeness of Christ’s death (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). That comparison is hardly sensible if a sprinkling or pouring is meant.

Most Bible scholars concede not only that “immerse” most accurately defines baptizo, but also that immersion was what first century folks did when they “baptized.” Martin Luther sought unsuccessfully to restore immersion as the “proper form” of baptism. John Calvin endorsed sprinkling but noted that immersion was clearly the practice of the apostolic church. Commentator Adam Clarke argued for sprinkling or pouring as acceptable baptism, but still recognized immersion as the meaning of the New Testament term. (If immersion was so obviously the practice of the early church, why argue for something else?)

If Jesus and his apostles commanded that men be “immersed” (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38), then they should be. If first-century believers were “immersed” into Christ in the likeness of his death to receive the new life (Romans 6:3-5), then that is what will bring it to them today. If “immersion” saved men then (1 Peter 3:21), it will save them now.

What God’s Word Does by Jeff Himmel

as originally published in LifeLines:

  • It dwells in us (Colossians 3:16).
  • It makes us grow (1 Peter 2:1-2).
  • It builds us up (Acts 20:32).
  • It makes us complete (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • It works in us (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
  • It sets us apart (John 17:17).
  • It cleanses us (John 15:2-3).
  • It guides us (Psalm 119:105).
  • It instructs us (Romans 15:4).
  • It enlightens us (Psalm 119:130).
  • It is able to save our souls (James 1:21-22).

Why do you read it? by Alexander Campbell

“A man may enter a garden for three purposes: First, to learn the art of gardening; second, for pleasure; third, to gather fruit. So a man may read the Bible for three things: First, to learn to read it or dispute about it; second, to read the historical parts for pleasure; third, to gather fruit. This last is the true way.”