FORWARD!  
BACK TO THE 1st CENTURY!

United We Stand!
      Thank you, Jesus, for your example.  You gave up everything and you gave everything.  You brought nothing with you, but you
opened the door to all things.  You fought in the flesh so we could see your Spirit at work.  You stayed loyal to truth and your father
and even demanded it of others.  Then you died for us so we could live.  How can we thank you enough?  

     When today's seniors were children, there were all kinds of "sins" that we do not consider sins today.  For instance, it was a sin to eat at a
restaurant that served liquor or go to pool halls because they always served liquor.  After all, drunkenness is a sin.  It was a sin to play with
dice and playing cards because they were used to gamble away men's pay checks and their families would go without.  It was a sin for
women not to wear hats in church because they weren't being humble enough.   

     What changed?  It got so all the restaurants served liquor, so we'd never go out to eat if we stayed away from them.  Pool tables started
to be set up in homes and even in church halls for the young people.  Monopoly and other innocent board games were invented where dice
and playing cards were used.  And women started getting fancy hairdos they didn't want mashed down by hats.  

     Did sin change?  No.  God never changes and he is the one who decides what a sin is.  Of course, sin is anything that ultimately hurts us.  
Our Creator was not picking on us when he created his lists of things for us to do and not do.  Our Creator always wanted the best for us.   

     But our perception of what would lead us into sin changed.  We decided we could eat among people who drank without being tempted to
get drunk.  We decided we could play with dice and playing cards without being tempted to gamble.  We decided women could go hatless to
church without being tempted to usurp authority.  

     But people who went to church did not change easily or quickly.  They changed only when they began to be ready in their private lives for
change.  

     People from every type religious background are reading this book.  In fact, you are probably attending church where the members come
from many religious backgrounds.  Some of you have even given up attending church anywhere.  

     One ever-lingering problem is how to determine what is a sin and what isn't so that our worship services are approved by both the
congregation and God.   

     Oh, Jesus.  Our sins caused your death.  We are so sorry.  And every time we sin, we crucify you anew.  I study the Bible a lot so I
can identify sin and so there aren't so many for you to forgive.  We love you.  


                 But I Thought the Bible Said That  

     Remember the apple in the Garden of Eden?  At least, that's what we were all told when we were young.  Probably most people reading
this book have since come to realize the Bible never mentions an apple.  Genesis 3:6 merely says, "fruit of the tree was good for food....she
took some and ate it."  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     How about angels marrying people?  Weren't some of us told that the sons of God mentioned in Genesis 6:1 were angels, even though
sons of God never means that anywhere else in the Bible, and even though Jesus himself said in Mark 12:25 "neither marry nor be given in
marriage...like the angels in heaven."  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     Can forty days rain flood the world?  Ask anyone who lives in the northwest U.S. or southwest Canada.  It rains months at a time there.  
Genesis 7:11 says, "[a] all the springs of the great deep [ocean] burst forth, [b] and the floodgates of the heavens were opened." Genesis 7:24
says, "the waters prevailed upon the earth 150 days."  Some Christian scientists believe there was a tidal wave created by the springs in the
ocean that lasted 150 days.  Now that would flood the world!  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     Then there's the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah.  We were always told God destroyed these two cities by God, which is true.  But
there were two other cities destroyed with them.  Deuteronomy 29:23 says Admah and Zeboiim were also destroyed with them.  Did people
purposely deceive us?  No.  These other cities certainly aren't listed in the Genesis account.  It's an easy mistake to make.  Were we
mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     How about Moses' Ten Commandments.  There were indeed ten commandments written on two stone tablets.  But all anyone has to do
is try to plod through Leviticus to see that there were hundreds of commandments, not just ten.  Leviticus starts out, "The Lord called to
Moses...,'Speak to the Israelites.' "  And yet, even though we know about them, we don't usually make the connection.  They were all part of
the Law of Moses.  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     Many have trouble understanding how a good God could randomly select territory belonging to another nation and have them killed just
so the new Jewish nation could move into their "Promised Land."  However, it was not random and wasn't just a killing spree.  Four hundred
years earlier, God told Abraham in Genesis 15:16 that his descendants were to punish the Amorites for their sins which will have reached their
"full measure" by then.  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     We refer to the psalms that David wrote, regardless of which psalm it was.  Even though he wrote most of them, he did not write near all
of them.  Asaph wrote many, Solomon wrote some, Ethan, Moses, Babylonian exiles.  Just look at the subtitles in that book.  We've just
always assumed David wrote them all.  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     What about the star in the east?  How many of us have referred to that in regards to Jesus' birth?  However, the star was not in the east.  
The wisemen were in the east seeing the star where Jesus was in the west (Matthew 2:1).  Also, we assume the star lasted until the wisemen
showed up.  But Matthew 2:9-10 tells us that after they left Jerusalem upon being told the king was to be born in Bethlehem, "the star they
had seen in the east went ahead of them....When they saw the star, they were overjoyed."  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  
But mistaken.  

     How about Jesus' bar mitzvah, calling a boy to the Torah, at age twelve?  There was never any such ceremony in Bible times.  It is no
where in the Bible.  This ceremony is to celebrate a boy's thirteenth birthday, not twelfth, and is not found in any Jewish writings until the
Middle Ages, centuries after Bible times.  Check your encyclopedia.  It's all there.  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But
mistaken.  

     Consider all the times we have turned to Psalm 23 for comfort.  Yet, all that changed for Christians.  Luke 1:78-79 says that the coming
of Jesus is to bring the sun to those in the shadow of death.  To the Christian, there is no darkness in that valley.  Wow!  How could we have
missed it?  Were we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     Then there's the so-called "fact" that Joseph died during Jesus' boyhood.  It's easy to come to that conclusion because of mentioning some
of Mary's activities during Jesus' adulthood, and Jesus' having the Apostle John take care of her after his death.  However, John 6:42 says "
'IS this not Jesus, the son of JOSEPH, WHOSE FATHER and mother WE KNOW?' "  That is present tense.  This was said the spring
before Jesus was crucified.  It could be that Joseph was sick during Jesus' ministry and did not get out.  If he did die during Jesus' last year,
can you imagine his turmoil in deciding whether or not to return Joseph to health?  What a whole new train of thoughts arise from this.  Were
we mistaken?  Yes.  Honestly mistaken.  But mistaken.  

     So now that we've admitted we can be mistaken sometimes after all, is it possible we've been mistaken about some very critical things in
the Bible?  

     There are people today who say we should keep the Laws of Moses where they concern worship.  But Colossians 2:14 says God
"cancelled the written code with its regulations...nailing it to the cross."  Hebrews 8:13 says, "By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the
first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear."  Hebrews 9:1 goes on to say, "Now the first covenant had regulations
for worship."  So, if we take part of the Old Testament worship, we have to accept burning incense, having a high priest, offering animals, and
all the other regulations too.   

     Oh God, I thought I knew the Bible better than that.  I thought I was a good student.  What else have I gotten mixed up on?


                       Re-educating our Consciences  

     Have we been doing things in our worship services that we were told not to do in the Word of God?  That's a sin of commission.  For
instance, adding lemon pie to the Lord's Supper would be a sin of commission.  Have we been omitting things in our worship services we are
told to do in the Word of God?  That's a sin of omission.  For instance, eliminating prayer would be a sin of omission.  

     But this is not always a simple thing to come to terms with.  

     It is a sin to go against our consciences (Romans 14:22-23).  Our consciences have been trained.  They may have been trained rightly or
wrongly.   

     For example, Christians in the city of Corinth had previously worshipped idols.  Before their conversion, they had offered sacrifices to
their god and then had eaten them as part of their religious rite.  (The Jews did the same thing in their worship of God under the Law of
Moses; for instance, by eating the Passover Lamb in their homes that they had previously sacrificed at the temple.)  

     In Corinth, apparently there were more sacrifices than the people could eat, so the rest was sold in the meat market.  We know that idols
are nothing but wood or stone carved by man and have no life or power in them.  But for the person who used to worship that lifeless statue,
it was a sin to eat the meat because, to them, they were worshipping that idol.  They had not completely retrained their consciences.  

     Paul warned, "Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an
idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled....Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling
block to the weak.   

     "For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what
has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against your
brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (1 Corinthians 8:7-12).  

     A modern example of this might be people who are used to bowing down before a cross.  But later they realize this is a form of idolatry.  
If a congregation has a cross inside and there are a lot of people who used to bow down to it and would be offended by it, perhaps the cross
should be taken down for awhile.  

     In medieval times, people died at the stake rather than bow to or kiss a cross, or even make the sign of a cross.   

     
Foxe's Boook of Martyrs tells of Francis Gamba in Italy who was sentenced to execution for his beliefs in 1553.  Just before lighting the
fire, a monk held a cross up to him, and he said, "My mind is so full of the real merits and goodness of Christ that I want not a piece of
senseless stick to put me in mind of Him."  For that, a hole was carved through his tongue and then he was burned alive.  [1]  

      John Willes in Ireland in the 16th century was flogged because he refused to kneel to the cross or to make the sign of the cross on his
forehead.  [2]   

     Near that same time in the Netherlands, a widow named Wendelinuta, was sentenced to be burned at a stake for her beliefs.  At the place
of execution, a monk held a cross to her and said that if she would kiss it, she would be saved.  She answered, "I worship no wooden god,
but the eternal God who is in heaven."  Thereupon, she was strangled and burned to ashes.  [3]  

     In 1560 in Rome, Italy, an old man was condemned to execution for refusing to be part of the Roman Catholic Church.  When they
fastened him to the stake, a priest held a crucifix out to him, and he replied, "If you do not take that idol from my sight, you will constrain me
to spit upon it."  Then he reminded the monk of the first and second commandments to refrain from idolatry.  Thereupon he was burned to
death.  [4]  

     So, while it is possible to look at a cross without worshipping it, some religions have done just that.  People coming out of those religions
are offended by an image of the cross for that reason.  They should not be forced to look at the cross on display because of our lack of
sensitivity to their conscience.  

     What is the best way to re-educate a conscience?  Paul, in Romans 9:1, said, "I speak the truth in Christ - I am not lying, my conscience
confirms it in the Holy Spirit."  

     Jesus was the Word that lived a perfect life (John 1:1, 14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the life."  Therefore,
the "truth in Christ" would be the Word.  Furthermore, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth, and said that God's Word was the
Truth (John 14:6, 16f; 17:17).   

     Therefore, having one's conscience confirmed in the Holy Spirit is not the result of following an emotion but rather the result of following
the Bible, the Word of Truth.  This, of course, will lead to emotion; but the emotion does not do the leading.  

     God, I'm trying.  But my conscience was formed so long ago.  It's so hard to change.  Help me.  


                             To Compromise....

      But it takes time to study and learn everything God has to say on a topic.  If we plunge into things too fast that are offensive to people, or
if we suddenly keep people from doing things they always thought were holy, we could play a part in searing the conscience of someone.  

     Do we refuse to meet with people because they have not had time and/or opportunity to search the scriptures about their beliefs?  

     North America is the last stronghold of Christianity in the entire world.  Mohammedism is by far the largest religion, and it is everywhere,
including North America.  We are also being bombarded by the New Age movement, a movement that says the god of the Buddhists, the
god of the Hindus, the god of the pantheists, the god of the witches, the god of the Christians is all the same God because they are all
man-made religions anyway.  We need to strengthen each other as much as possible.   

     Fighting from within will destroy us the rest of the way.  The first-century church thrived when people fought them from without, even to
the death.  But fighting within will destroy us.  In fact, fighting from within is one of the causes people completely leave Christianity.  

     When there are bills before the legislature challenging our faith, do we check on each other's beliefs on how they interpret grace or the
thousand-year reign before banning together to oppose legislation that will hurt our nation?  

     When there is a National Day of Prayer, do we refuse to participate because we might not believe everything the same way someone else
who is praying does?  God knows all.  He will sort it all out.   

     When there is a March for Jesus, do we refuse to march because we might not believe everything the same way the person next to us
believes?  How could the people on the sidewalk possibly know this?  All they know is that Jesus is being magnified ~ no more, no less.   

     If we were threatened with imprisonment or even death for believing Jesus is the Son of God, would we refuse because someone else was
going to be imprisoned or executed with us who didn't believe all the details that we do?  

     Should we try compromise?  Just what can we compromise on and not compromise on?  Compromise is hard.  It's frightening.  We're
talking about eternity here.  How many chances do we dare take in displeasing God?  In the next section we will discuss how far we can go
with compromise before it becomes heresy.  But for now, we will look at ways compromise was practiced in Bible times.  

     The Jews certainly had some major problems to face when they were converted to Christianity.   

1.         To Jews, Saturdays were considered holy (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-16).  Now, as Christians, Sundays were considered holy (Acts
20:7; Matthew 28:1).   

     How did they handle it?  Since their 24-hour days ran from sundown to sundown, as soon as the Sabbath was over, for instance 6:00
PM, they began keeping Sunday holy, for instance 7:00 PM.  

2.         Jews had to offer innumerable types of sacrifices for many different types of sins (Leviticus ch. 1 - 7).  Now, as Christians, they had
to refrain from that because Jesus had been sacrificed for their sins once for all (Hebrews 9:23-28).     

     How did they handle it?  Every Sunday they gathered together to have the Lord's Supper which they did in remembrance of his sacrifice,
and to contemplate their sins (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32).  

3.         Jews had to go to the temple three times a year for special religious feasts, Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread), and so on.  Now,
as Christians, the feasts were unnecessary because Jesus brought us out of slavery to sin, Jesus gave a new law, and Jesus was the final
sacrifice to atone for our sins.  

     How did they handle it?  They took advantage of those old feast times and went to the temple to explain how Jesus had become their
Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and other such Christian beliefs.  And those living in Jerusalem went to the temple every day (Acts
2:46-47) to explain their new-found faith in their new-found Savior, Jesus.  

4.         Jewish male babies had to be circumcised as a testimony to carry on to the next generation the promise of God to be their King of
kings (Genesis 17:10-12).  One of the derogatory terms the Jews had used for Gentiles was "the uncircumcised."  Now, as Christians,
circumcision was unnecessary, for the promised King of kings had finally come.  

     How did they handle it?  The apostles and elders in Jerusalem decided to not place that burden on the Gentile believers (Acts 15:10-11,
19).  Was this easy for the Jews?  No.  Paul told the Jews in several letters to quit pressuring the Gentile Christians to be circumcised (1
Corinthians 7:18-20; Galatians 6: 12-13).   

     However, in order to not offend the Jews to whom Timothy was preaching the gospel, Paul circumcised Timothy, whose father was a
Greek and apparently kept his Jewish mother from carrying this out in his infancy (Acts 16:1-3).  But Paul refused to circumcise Greek Titus
because Jewish Christians were insisting Titus do so in order to be saved (Galatians 2:3).  

     Although Paul sometimes kept an old Jewish regulation, he told other Christians they did not have to because it meant nothing any more to
God.  It is something he occasionally did by himself.  It never became something he insisted others do.  

5.         Whenever Jews asked God for such things as traveling mercies, or whenever they wanted to dedicate themselves to God for a special
period of time, they made a vow which they paid for at the temple and let their hair grow (see chapter on "Giving" in this book).  At the end of
the vow, they shaved their heads.  Now, as Christians, they did not have to pay for their prayers.  They went directly to God free of charge,
for Jesus had paid the ultimate price.  

     How did they handle it?  On a visit to Jerusalem, the apostles and elders there apparently gave Paul some bad advice, but meant well by
it.  They encouraged Paul to pay the expenses of some other Jewish Christians to complete their vows and for Paul to do the same himself.  
So they went to the temple and did so.  But a week later, Paul was falsely accused by the very Jews he was trying to appease (Acts 21-26).  
As a result he was arrested, imprisoned a couple years, and finally sent to Rome for more imprisonment and trial.  

6.         Jews had to go through priests to take care of all ceremonies (Leviticus).  Now, as Christians, they could participate in all ceremonies
directly.  

     How did they handle it?  They were continually told that every Christian is a priest (I Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 and 20:6) and
they must offer their bodies as daily sacrifices (Romans 12:1).  

     Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22, "To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. ...To those who not have the law, I become like
one not having the law....To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I
might save some."  

     Paul spent a lot of time discussing this problem of conscience with the church at Rome.   

     "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.  One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but
another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man
who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  Who are you to judge someone else's
servant?  To his own master he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:1-4).  

    There was a congregation as long time ago in Arkansas that decided to merge with another one because their beliefs were almost identical,
but not quite.  They disagreed with what to do with the contribution and the church building.  The more conservative group did not want their
contribution going to help works of other congregations because they felt this was allowing elders of one congregation to be over elders of
another congregation.  They also did not believe dinners and parties should be held in the church building.  

     Neither concern was a matter of salvation.  The two congregations decided they should honor the more conservative ones.  Therefore,
none of the regular Sunday contributions went outside of their merged congregation.  Whenever a dinner or party was held in the building, it
was mentioned but not emphasized; those who went home due to their conscience were never taunted for not staying.  

     Thank you for your Word, God.  These examples really help me.  The Jewish Christians had to make a lot of changes in the way
they worship.  If all I had to change was two or three things, it would be nothing compared with what they went through.  


                       The Secret:  Conservative  

 There is a wonderful secret to getting along.  Go along with the more conservative group and the rest work around them.  Who are the
conservatives?   

     Primarily, conservatives are the ones who (1) take practices in the Bible literally, and (2) don't practice anything not commanded or
modeled by the apostles.  Those who want to add to the practices of the conservatives can do so before or after a regular service, or in
private.  

     Making concessions is very difficult, especially the first time.  After all, we're talking about our salvation.  For people who even
subconsciously believe other Christians have to answer to them instead of to God it is extremely difficult.  One must pray about it.  After all,
Jesus told a man to carry his bed on the Sabbath.  

     Perhaps we should make this our motto:  


In matters of salvation and worship ~ unity.
In matters of opinion ~ liberty.
In all things ~ love.


     For example, if some believe in both foot washing and instrumental music and others believe in neither, could not a concession be made?  
Singing without an instrument is not considered a sin by anyone, so that concession is easy.  On the other hand, foot washing never hurt
anyone, so perhaps those who do believe it could do so in their homes, thus making that concession easy too.  

     Paul continued in Romans 14:5-8:  

     "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his
own mind.  He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.  He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he
who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.  If we
live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord...."  

     As discussed in the chapter on the Lord's Supper, Acts 20:7 says the early Christians met on the first day of every week (Sunday) for the
specific purpose of breaking bread in the religious sense.  But what about people who want to keep Easter as a special time once a year?  
Continue to keep the Lord's Supper every week.  Then once a year, devote your entire service to the Lord's Supper ~ though not necessarily
on the day denominations and Catholics believe Easter must be kept.  

     Congregations get together every year to thank God for their blessings on Thanksgiving.  The Bible does not tell us to keep Thanksgiving.  
It just is not there.  However, as long as we are continuing to thank God every week in some way for his blessings, the congregation could
spend extra time one of those weeks thanking God.  The one special day is not to take the place of all the other days of thanksgiving.  

     Paul continues, "....For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  You,
then, why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.  It is
written, 'As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'  So then, each of us will give an
account of himself to God" (Romans 14:9-12).  

     There are some things mentioned in the Bible that some Christians think were meant to be kept as a ceremony.  Other people think they
were meant for practical purposes.  For example, Jesus washed the apostles' feet when he instituted the Lord's Supper (John 13:1-14).  In 1
Timothy 5:9-10, the church is told to support widows with no family if they are over 60, were faithful to their husband, and was known for her
good works such as raising children, showing hospitality, washing saints' feet, helping people in trouble, and devoting themselves to good
deeds.  

     Some Christians believe anointing a sick person's head with oil is ceremonial while most others believe it is practical.  James 5:14-15 says,
"Is any one of you sick?  He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the
prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up."  

     Most Christians tend to believe such anointing was for medicinal purposes.  When Jesus talked about the good Samaritan who helped the
man robbed and beaten along the road, the Samaritan "went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine" (Luke 10:34).  
Anointing and pouring are the same thing.  

     However, if there are people who come into a congregation whose consciences have been trained to believe this is ceremonial, once again
the more conservatives should be honored.  But if they would like to pour oil on the heads of whichever of the sick desire this for ceremonial
purposes in their home, they would not be hurting anyone.  

     Paul continues, "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or
obstacle in your brother's way.  As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself.  But if anyone regards
something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.  If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.  Do
not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.   

     "Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of
righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men
(Romans 14:13-18).  

     There are groups who think going to church once each Sunday is enough.  However, there are people who sometimes have to work on
Sunday morning, or are sick on Sunday morning, or have some other unavoidable hindrance on Sunday morning.  

     According to 1 Corinthians 11:33, right after Paul spent the previous 32 verses talking about the Lord's Supper, he said, "So then, my
brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other." Returning to church in the evening so people who missed in the morning can
take of the Lord's Supper among other Christians is commendable.  

         So they need to attend church on Sunday evening to keep the Lord's Supper on the first day of every week.    These morning
absentees could go to another room in the church building on Sunday evenings to partake of it while the remainder of the congregation sings
some songs.  Or they could stay with the rest of the congregation and be served while everyone else is respectfully quiet.

     There are others who believe only a church officer such as a bishop is allowed to hand them the communion.  If someone feels strongly
about this, until they are re-educated more fully, it wouldn't hurt for an elder to accommodate this person temporarily.  After all, ushers have
been putting the communion into the hands and mouths of the sick and palsied for many years and it was not a sin.  

     Paul cautions, "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  Do not destroy the work of God
for the sake of food.  All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.  It is better not to eat
meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.  

     "So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.  Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what
he approves.  But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come
from faith is sin" (Romans 14:19-23).  

       There are some people who love a good choir.  But the New Testament says every Christian should sing (see chapter in this book of
music).  Still others believe God called them to sing solos.   

     With honoring the more conservative ones of the congregation, during the main worship period, everyone would participate in the singing.  
But the male soloists could lead congregational singing.  And rather than singing in the place of the congregation, both male and female soloists
could sing for funerals, weddings, in nursing homes, hospitals, for special groups, to shut-ins.

     Similarly, there are people who have been used to singing with an instrument.  With the more conservative ones of the congregation being
honored, the main worship would not include instruments.  But those who cannot see anything wrong with the instrument, could sing with an
instrument at home.  (However, do re-read the chapter on Music where it is explained that instruments were part of OT worship.)

     We must never destroy those for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15).  If the more conservative ones in the congregation believe something
is wrong, they should not be forced to witness it or participate in it.  

     Everyone in the congregation with more liberal beliefs must agree to not approach the conservatives to try to talk them into their added
belief.  We must trust human nature.  We must maintain unity.  In unity is strength.

     Everyone must be honored with the amount of faith they have at the time.  After all, if someone is going through a great deal of personal
turmoil at home, just attending on Sunday morning and asking for prayers may be all they can handle.  Foot washing may be the farthest from
their minds.  We must not burden them too fast with too much.  

     God, I never thought of it this way.  This really helps.  Thank you for your Word.  I really do want to honor it.  And I want to
honor those you love.  Help us understand each other better.


                            How Far is Too Far?  

 When does a congregation quit being accepted by God?  Revelation 2 and 3 point this out with seven congregations, all of which Jesus was
about to disown if they didn't change their ways.  

     The church in
Ephesus was full of good works, did not tolerate wicked men, tested and rejected those claiming to be apostles, endured
hardships, never grew weary, and hated Nicolaitans (explained below).  BUT, they were doing all this either because it was fun or out of
legalism, but not out of love.  
A CONGREGATION WITH NO LOVE is not accepted by God.  

     The church in Smyrna endured afflictions, poverty, and slander by Jews.  Further, they were about to endure imprisonment and even
executions.  In such a state, this congregation must have drawn very close.  They had nothing to brag about but Jesus.  God had nothing
against them.  

     The church in
Pergamum remained true to Jesus even where "Satan has his throne," did not renounce faith in Jesus even when one of
their members was put to death.  BUT, they ate food sacrificed to idols and were sexually immoral.  Further, they upheld Nicholaitans.  
Nicholas means conqueror or controller; laity means the commoner.  They'd developed a clergy-laity system and let their leaders get by with
it.  
A CONGREGATION THAT TOLERATES IDOLATRY, IMMORALITY AND A SEPARATE CLERGY is not accepted by God.  

     The church in
Thyatira performed deeds of love and faith, and did so more all the time.  BUT, they tolerated sexual immorality, eating
food sacrificed to idols, and a prophetess who taught "deep secrets" (occult).  
A CONGREGATION THAT TOLERATES
IMMORALITY, IDOLATRY AND NEW AGE VIEWS is not accepted by God.  

     The church in Sardis did some good deeds.  BUT they were dead, asleep because they were not doing enough good deeds.  A
CONGREGATION THAT DOES NOT CENTER ACTIVITIES AROUND GOOD DEEDS is not accepted by God.  

     The church in Philadelphia had many good deeds, kept their faith even in weakness, and remained loyal despite pressure from Jews, and
endured all this patiently.  God had nothing against them.  

     The church in
Laodicea had no good points.  Their deeds were done haphazardly.  They were luke warm.  Instead they bragged about
their wealth.  
A CONGREGATION THAT IS CENTERED AROUND O.T. TYPE MATERIALISM INSTEAD OF GOOD WORKS is
not accepted by God.  

     To recap, then, what types of congregations are not acceptable to God?  Those who....  

1.         have no love.  

2.         tolerate those who do not believe in Jesus.  

3.         tolerate immorality.  

4.         have a clergy-laity system.  

5.         do not emphasize and carry out good works.  

6.         are known primarily for their big building and important members.  

     God, this is a real eye opener.  I'd heard so many things that I thought God would hate or love.  Your Word is so clear.  Thank
you for caring enough to write it for us.  


                     ....Or Not to Compromise  

 But there is a limit to compromise.  If we compromise too far, we can get involved in heresy.  Heresy, sectarianism (denominationalism), and
choice come from the same word in Greek, "haimorrhoeo, haireomai, hairesis," depending on how the word is used.   

     Technically, the word heresy in its simplest form means  choice, and therefore is not necessarily good or bad.  For instance, Jesus was
chosen to be God's servant on earth (Matthew 12:18); Paul had trouble choosing whether to prefer being on earth to preach or going to
heaven to see Jesus (Philippians 1:22); God chosen Christians to be saved through his divine plan (2 Thessalonians 2:13); and Moses chose
to be mistreated rather than stay royalty (Hebrews 11:25).  

     All of these examples of choice ("hairesis") involved life-or-death situations.  None of the choices involved anything simplistic.  And none
of these choices were made on the spur of the moment.  They were made after weighing the evidence.  

     Furthermore, if groups of people make the same choice and it involves religion, the group is called choosers or sectarians.  

     Acts 5:17; 15:5, and 26:5 all refer to the sects of the Jews, either the Sadducees who did not believe in a literal resurrection of the dead
but also believed people should follow just the Bible, or the Pharisees who did believe in the literal resurrection of the dead but also believed
people should follow priestly traditions/creeds as just as holy and binding as the Bible.  

     When Christianity first began, it, too, was considered a sect of the Jews.  In Acts 24:5, the Jews in Jerusalem referred to Paul's teaching
on behalf of "the Nazarene sect," of course referring to Jesus being from Nazareth.  In verse 14, Paul referred to it as the sect called "the
Way."  Even the Jews in Rome referred to "this sect" (Acts 28:22).  

     Thus far, heresy has been identified with private decisions and group decisions.  What about decisions an individual tries to FORCE ON
groups of people?  These are what are normally translated "heresy" in the Bible.  These are the kinds of choices that are sinful.  

     In instances below where the entire passage is quoted, the word translated from this Greek word for heresy is underlined.  (In the KJV,
these underlined words are translated "heresy".)  

     
MISAPPLICATION OF A RITUAL IS HERESY.  In 1 Corinthians 11:17-19 Paul says there were divisions regarding how to keep the
Lord's Supper because they had turned them into large feasts, kind of like potluck dinners where the poorer members couldn't come because
they couldn't bring their share of the food.  Paul concluded that these differences [heresies] "show which of you have God's approval."  

     
HATEFUL ATTITUDES RUBBING OFF ON OTHERS IS HERESY.  Galatians 5:19-21 lists works of the flesh.  Most involving
"heresy" are in verse 20 ~ hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions [heresies].  

     Just before he died, Peter described and warned about heresy in his second letter 1:15 - 3:2.  It is interesting that it has been in Peter's
name that many heresies have come about, yet he is the one who warned about it so vehemently.  

     "I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live....And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be
able to remember these things...."  

     
DENYING JESUS IS LORD IS HERESY.  "....But there were also false prophets among the people [of Old Testament times], just as
there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them -
bringing swift destruction on themselves..."  

    
 MAKING UP STORIES OF VISIONS OR TWISTING THE TRUTH IS HERESY.   "....Many will follow their shameful ways and
will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.  Their condemnation
has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping...."  

     God will punish such people severely.  "....For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into
gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare...the flood...if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning..."  

     
DESPISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE IS HERESY.  "...if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from
trials, and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.  This is especially true of those who follow the
corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority...."  

     
INVOLVEMENT IN THINGS THE BIBLE IS SILENT ABOUT IS HERESY.  "....Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to
slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such
things in the presence of the Lord.  But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand...."  

     God will do unto heretics as they have done unto him.  "....They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and
destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.  They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done...."  

    
 BOASTFUL WORDS TO FILL PERSONAL EGOS IS HERESY.  "....These men are springs without water and mists driven by a
storm.  Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human
nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error...."  

      
TAKING PEOPLE BACK INTO WORLDLINESS OR THE O.T. LAW IS HERESY.  "....They promise them freedom, while they
themselves are slaves of depravity ~ for a man is slave to whatever has mastered him.  If they have escaped the corruption of the world by
knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the
beginning.  It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs
on the sacred command that was passed on to them.  Of them the proverbs are true:  'A dog returns to its vomit,' and, 'A sow that is washed
goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'"  

     To recap, then, heresy is...  

                 ...misapplication of a ritual.  

                 ...hateful attitudes rubbing off on the others.  

                 ...denying Jesus is Lord.  

                 ...making up stories of visions or twising the truth.  

                 ...despising the authority of the Bible.  

                 ...involvement in things the Bible is silent about.  

                 ...boastful words to fill personal egos.  

                 ...taking people back into worldliness.  

     God, this really helps.  Now I understand heresy.  Now it is clear.  Now I know that sometimes I have been guilty of heresy
myself.  I'm so sorry, God.  I didn't mean to.  


                              Back to the Bible  

     The only way to avoid heresy is to compare everything with the Bible.  "I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy
prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles" (2 Peter 3:2).  

     How do we do that?  In our rushed world today, we are blessed to have a complete index to the Bible the size of a large phone book
called a concordance.  By using it, we can look up everything God has to say about any topic.  Then we will have the whole story, God's
point of view, all we need.   

     Then it is up to us to accept it ~ no more and no less.  Is this easy?  Is it easy to give up previous ideas and notions and beliefs?  
Absolutely not.   

     Each congregation might list all its beliefs and practices, then go through the New Testament by subject to examine God's opinion of those
beliefs and practices.  If they are in the Bible, they should be continued.  If they are not in the Bible, they should be discontinued.  And if, in
the process, we find beliefs and practices that are in the Bible but never adhered to by the congregation, these can be adopted.  

     Is that possible?  With an open mind it is.  If egos enter in and people become afraid their pet projects or their pet practices or their pet
offices are being threatened, it doesn't matter what is in the Bible.  People will justify; that is, create a justification of their own rather than of
God.   

     On the other hand, it would be much easier for a congregation to start with a blank sheet of paper and decide that whatever type of
worship is found in the New Testament, that will be practiced.  If it is not found there, that will not be practiced.  

     Be careful that only the New Testament is referred to.  The Old Testament tells of worship under the Law of Moses.  If we copy one way
in which they worshipped, we must copy it all ~ including animal sacrifices (James 2:10).  Jesus nailed the old law to the cross (Galatians 3:10;
Colossians 2:14).  

     Therefore, before such a search is made, it must be decided that the congregation will follow the Bible and be willing to give up whatever
is necessary with the understanding that their beliefs and activities will be elevated in the process.  

     The apostle Paul warned Timothy shortly before his death, "fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.  Some have
rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith" (1 Timothy 1:18-19).  How does this happen?  How do people shipwreck their faith?   

     "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith....Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences
have been seared as with a hot iron.  They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods" (1 Timothy 4:2-3).  

     Oh Father, from now on I want to worship you only the way you want to be worshipped.  Help me as I search.  I want to draw
closer to you, not in the ways I want, but in the ways you want.  I no longer want to worship my desires, but yours.  I love you, God.  


                    A Personal Restoration Movement  

     There is a difference in a Reformation Movement and a Restoration Movement.  Reformation is Reactionism.  For example, in the
Reformation Movement if the Catholics do something one way, Reformers will do it the opposite way.   

     For example, Catholics use unleavened bread for the Lord's Supper; therefore, reactionaries will use leavened bread for the Lord's
Supper.  Catholic priests wear ornate vestments; therefore, reactionary leaders will wear plain vestments.  Catholics practice baptism for
salvation; therefore, reactionaries will eliminate baptism.  No one checks to see what God has to say about it in the Bible.  They just react to
what has been done in the past.  

     Many people and congregations have been involved in a Restoration Movement without identifying themselves as restorers.  Any
individual or congregation who insists on only the Bible with no creeds or requirements set forth in its world headquarters is involved in a
restoration movement.  But a restoration movement can only be carried out with access to the Bible.   

     Restoration movements have popped up through the centuries.  The New Testament church has never really died.  (See chapter on the
Church through the centuries in Europe.)

     Its history is fascinating.  Each movement was its own restoration movement.  Restoration movements are spontaneous and local.  It is
often difficult to find these movements, because they normally did not meddle with what other congregations were doing and refused to
become the official national religion declared by their parliaments.  All they wanted to do was please God and not man.  

     There are many lonely people out there who think they are the only ones who read the Bible for themselves and the only ones who want
to follow it.  When I first met a certain man named John, he was one of those people.  He had drifted from one church to another, trying to
find the church of the first century, the church of the New Testament.  

     "I finally decided there was no such thing." So he quit going to church anywhere.  His frustration was unbelievable.  

     Then, when we met, he said one day, "What do you think about...."  I gave him my reply, and he suspiciously said, "How did you know
that?"  I said, "Because the Bible says so right in such-and-such passage."  

     So he said, "Well, what do you think about...."  I replied to that, his eyes got wide, and he said once again, "How did you know that?"  
Once again I said, "Because the Bible says so right in such-and-such passage."  

     He sat down.  This was not happening.  Not after all those years of searching.  He said, "Well, try this one.  What do you think about...."  
Once more I gave him a reply out of the Bible.   He just sat there staring.  

   Finally he said, "And I thought I was the only one."  So I said, "There's a whole congregation I attend that puts the Bible above everything
and everyone else."  He could hardly believe his ears and immediately began attending.  

      What was most sad about it is that he had attending a congregation like that which I normally attend and he was put off by it because of
the reputation of the minister and some of the members in town.  He also said, "All they ever wanted to do was debate."  How sad.  All those
empty years he wasted searching.  

     Every time we find a Restoration Movement, we find individuals and congregations who answer only to themselves and to God.  Do we
need to have a world headquarters to decide what to believe?  Do we have to consult with representatives of other congregations to decide
what to believe?   

     Do we have to even check up on other congregations to be sure they conform?  Although it is encouraging to know which other
congregations there are who are like minded with us, we do not need to get with them to decide what to believe, nor do we need to get with
them to check them out.  That is when we get into trouble.  That is when we take the place of God.   

     For an effective Restoration Movement, we must let loose of control.  We must quit trying to control other congregations by attending
synods to vote for what we should believe in or pressuring them through church papers.  The Bible allows only for such decisions to be made
on the congregational level.  To be the true church of Christ, the body of people Jesus named after himself, we must follow his instructions
through his apostles found in the New Testament.  Do we have the courage?  

     Dear Father in heaven.  Sometimes I forget you are the Father and I am the child.  Sometimes I want to take your role.  Forgive
me.  Help me let go.  Help me concentrate on my own worship, and the worship only of my own congregation.  And help us
understand as you do.  

                                  Holy Wars  

     "Holy wars" have been fought trying to win over people who did not see a need to change because they did not understand the potential
for a greater good by changing.   

     "Holy wars" were fought to try to win converts.  The crusaders went out and murdered Moslems who refused to become Christians.  
"Holy wars" have also been fought in a sort of civil war, Christians arguing with fellow Christians over often vague points of doctrine.  

     One way to contain our "holy wars" is to eliminate discussions of opinion.  
     We get side tracked from our main purpose of the church's existence ~ to save souls ~ in order to argue with each other within our
denomination or with people of other denominations.  Is winning that important to us?  What about cooperation?  

     It's our arguing that creates our divisiveness.  And usually our arguing is a matter of semantics.  

     1 Timothy 1:3-7; 6:4-5 says false doctrines "promote controversies rather than God's work ~ which is by faith.  The goal of this command
is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  Some have wandered away from these and turned to
meaningless talk.  They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm."  

     "....he is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy,
strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between m en of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think
that godliness is a means to financial gain."  

     H. G. Wells, the famous historian, said, "Jesus had called men and women to a giant undertaking, to the renunciation of self, to the new
birth into the kingdom of love.  The line of least resistance for the flagging convert was to intellectualize himself away from this plain doctrine,
this stark proposition, into complicated theories and ceremonies, that would leave his essential self alone....  

     "Jesus called himself the Son of God and also the Son of man; but he laid little stress on who he was or what he was, and much upon the
teachings of the Kingdom....By the fourth century of the Christian Era we find all the Christian communities so agitated and exasperated by
torturous and elusive arguments about the nature of God as to be largely negligent of the simpler teachings of charity, service, and brotherhood
that Jesus had inculcated." [5]  

     2 Tim. 2:23-26 warns, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the
Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently
instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and
escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."  

     Finally, after reminding Christians we were all saved from sin by Jesus Christ, he goes on to say, "But avoid foolish controversies and
genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.  Warn a divisive person once, and then
warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is
self-condemned" (Titus 3:9).  

     Jehovah God.  I fall at your feet, a sinner.  I have argued with people in the church we both should have remained silent about.  
I've caused you grief and pain.  There are so many important things to talk about - like lost souls.  I got side tracked.  I promise to
do better.  

                             Matters of Opinion  

     What makes something a matter of opinion?  It is something that cannot be proven, or something that the Bible seems to provide two
points of view on which we humans still have not figured out how to reconcile and balance.  

     The Apostle Paul explained this in his encouraging letter to the church in Rome which consisted of people of all nationalities and religious
backgrounds:  

     "So whatever you believe about these things KEEP BETWEEN YOURSELF AND GOD" (Romans 14:22).  

     Let us cover some of those matters of opinion.  It will probably make you nervous; it did me.  But let's think about it.:  

Once Saved, Always Saved:  
      John Calvin began this theory.  He said that once a person is born again and becomes a child of God, they never get unborn and
unfathered.  This is logical enough.  On the other hand most Christians say it is possible for a child of God to fall away and cite scriptures to
prove it, including the parable of the prodigal son.  Perhaps if we'd stop to understand what each other is saying, we'd see that we are talking
about two sides of the same coin.  Proponents of the first issue are trying to reassure people that once they are saved, they don't have to
guess whether they are saved.  Proponents of the second issue are trying to warn people that they must continue to live the Christian life and
not fall back into old sinful practices.   
Just keep your opinion to yourself.  

Predestination:  
     Another theory which John Calvin spent a lot of time on is his insistence that we are chosen by God and that we do not do the choosing.  
Yet we find scriptures relating to both.  God calls the church out of the world.  The church is made up of Christians.  A careful study will
reveal that God chooses those who qualify based on God's standards.  A Greek study of the word '"choose" and the word "church" reveals
this.  Why do we pick away at each other on all the various possibilities of a should-be-simple concept?  All we do is tear and destroy each
other for whom Jesus died!  
 Just keep your opinion to yourself.  

Premillenialism:  
     Still another argument is about premillenialism.  This is a fancy term for the thousand year reign of Christ on earth.  Many people believe
this will literally happen.  Other people quote 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 that says, "the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still
alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever."  But
what difference does it make?  We don't understand everything about the end of the world anyway.  Would it change our Christian life to
switch opinions?
 Just keep your opinion to yourself.  

End of World:  
     Another argument somewhat related to this is the recent predictions that the world will come to an end very soon since the third
millinneum after Christ has arrived.  This is based on adding the approximate age of mankind since Adam, and the conclusion that we are now
entering the seventh millennium of the world, which we should consider the "day of rest."  Others quote such scriptures as Acts 1:7, "It is not
for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority." Once again, what difference does it make?  The important thing
for all of us is that the end of the world for us may be tomorrow in an auto accident.  We must always be ready.  

Ordination:  
     There are people who believe a minister should be ordained, and that it must be by a higher power in the church as a whole.  Others
believe ministers do not have to be ordained at all.  A search of the scriptures reveals that sometimes it was an assistant to an apostle,
sometimes it was the eldership, and sometimes it was the congregation (the laity) that ordained ministers.  Does it matter as long as what they
teach is truth and as long as any ordination stays within the congregation?  

Closed Communion:  
     Some people believe only Christians are entitled to partake of the Lord's Supper.  Therefore, they have a special service with only
members allowed in where they commune together.  Other people react as though to say, "Is the lost person who partakes of the Lord's
Supper any more lost by doing so than they were?  Would we be sending them from hell #1 to hell #2 by letting them do what their
conscience allows?"  Let us not devour each other and the lost over something that may help the lost understand the significance of Jesus'
death for us.  

God-Caused Death Means Hell:  
     Many people believe that God causes all deaths and that is unfair to the person who never got a chance to really live.  They act as though
such people are doomed to hell and their life on earth was their only chance at happiness.  Others believe that, as with Moses whom God
caused to die, sometimes God is in a hurry for us to be with him.  We have no way of understanding everything God does.  If we understood
everything God did, we'd be gods ourselves.  If we as simple Christians love God, we will give him the benefit of the doubt.
 Just keep your
opinion to yourself.  

     As H. G. Wells said in his history of the world, "It will be obvious that any doctrine, such as...consecration of the elements [bread and
wine] in the sacrament a miraculous process performed by the priest, and only to be performed by the priest, and which makes the sacrament
the central necessity of the religious system, enhances the importance of the priestly order enormously.  On the other hand, the view which
was the typical 'Protestant' view, that this sacrament is a mere eating of bread and drinking of wine as a personal remembrance of Jesus of
Nazareth, does away at last with any particular need for a consecrated priest at all." [6]  
Just keep your opinion to yourself.  

Trinity:  
     Probably the oldest argument in the church is centered around the Trinity, a term which is not even in the Bible.  Since the days of the
apostles, Christians have tried to understand how there can be a Father called "he" in the Bible, a Son called "he" in the Bible, and a Holy
Spirit called "he" in the Bible, and yet there be but one God.  The first great
major split in the early church came because of this, doctrines
which formed the original basis for the groups we today identify as the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  
Why do we have to understand it?  People have been known to be burned at the stake over this (as well as many of the other above
arguments).  Why?  
Just keep your opinion to yourself.  

     As H. G. Wells explained, "These fine differences about the constitution of the Deity interwove with politics and international
disputes....[Arians who believed in Father and Son, but not a separate Holy Spirit] probably because of their simple minds found the
Trinitarian position incomprehensible." [7]  

Conclusion:  
   I have just  mentioned some very touchy subjects.  It bothered me to bring up some of them, for some I care about very dearly and would
go to my death for them.  But in the 21st Century, the church is in jeopardy.  Can we stop talking about matters that don't interfere with
salvation or worship long enough to unite somehow and return the church to its former strength, or even stronger?  All we need to agree on
is....

(1) ....how to be saved/become Christians (so we know who to recognize)
(2) ....how to worship (because we do that together).  

     Wells concluded in another place that "we are bound to recognize that beneath these preposterous refinements of impossible dogmas
there lay often a real passion for truth ~ even if it was truth ill-conceived.  Both sides produced genuine martyrs.  And the zeal of these
controversies...a base and often malicious zeal." [8]  

     What God through the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:15-18 should frame our attitudes toward others claiming Christ:  

     "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here
[in jail] for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble
for me while I am in chains.  
BUT WHAT DOES IT MATTER?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true,
CHRIST IS PREACHED.  And because of this I REJOICE!"  

     Must we be enemies over our opinions?  Can we not keep them to ourselves?  

     I may think that I am strong and you are weak, while you may think you are strong and I am weak.  Who is to say who is right?  If it has
nothing to do with salvation, it could be opinion.  God told us, "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable
matters" (Romans 14:1).  

     Everyone is at a different place in their Christian maturing process, sometimes because of previous training, sometimes because of age,
sometimes because of different backgrounds, sometimes simply because of personality.   

     Because I make myself go to church every Sunday, does that make me spiritually superior to the one who does not, but who has
converted two people to Christ in the last year compared with my none?  Because I read the Bible through every year, does that make me
spiritually superior to the one who does not, but who reads selected scriptures to people in nursing homes?  

     "Who are you [we] to judge someone else's servant.  To his own master he stands or falls....So then, each of us will give an account of
himself to God" (Romans 14:4, 12).  

     Father, I'm a sinner just like everyone else.  Forgive my arrogance over things that are just a matter of opinion.  Help me to
return to matters that really are important.  Help me spend my time ~ not in arguing with my brothers and sisters ~ but in snatching
people out of the jaws of Satan.  I have let you down.  I have let the church down.  I have let the lost down.  I promise from now on I
will do better.  




                     The Second-Century Church  

     About AD 96, Clement wrote in his Epistle to the Corinthians, verse 21, "It is right therefore that we should not be deserters from His
will.  Let us rather give offence to foolish and senseless men who exalt themselves and boast in the arrogance of their words, than to God.  Let
us fear the Lord Jesus, whose blood was given for us." [9]  

     About AD 100, Ignatius wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians, verse 3, "Even though I am in bonds for the Name's sake, I am not yet
perfected in Jesus Christ.  Now am I beginning to be a disciple....For I ought to be trained by you for the contest in faith, in abomination, in
endurance, in long-suffering." [10]  

     Soon after, Ignatius wrote in his Epistle to Polycarp, verse 1, "...exhort all men that they may be saved....Suffer all men in love, as also you
do.  Give yourself to unceasing prayers.  Ask for larger wisdom than you have.  Be watchful, and keep your spirit from slumbering.  Speak to
each man severally after the manner of God.  Bear the maladies of all." [11]





                             ENDNOTES:

[1].  Forbush, William F., Editor, Fox's Book of Martyrs, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1968, pg. 103  

[2].  
Ibid., pg. 271  

[3]   
Ibid., pg. 173  

[4].  
Ibid., pg. 105

[5].  Wells, H. G.,
The Outline of History, Garden City Books, Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1961, Bk 6, Ch. 28, pg. 432  

[6].  Wells, Book 6, Part 33, pg. 589  

[7].  Wells, Book 6, Pt. 28, pg. 432  

[8].  Wells, Book 6, Pt. 28, pg. 434  

[9].  Lightfoot, J. B.,
The Apostolic Fathers, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1965, pg. 22-23  

[10].  
Ibid., pg. 64  
[11].  
Ibid., pg. 86