[forthright] Big Boy Tomatoes/Abel, Enoch & Noah

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jul 2004 11:43:42 -0500
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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Big Boy Tomatoes by Mike Benson
Abel, Enoch & Noah by Mitchell Skelton
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COLUMN: Fidelity

Big Boy Tomatoes
by Mike Benson

Question: "I am concerned about religious
division. Surely the Lord isn't pleased with so
many religious groups teaching different
doctrines, wearing different names, and
worshipping in different ways. What can we all do
to become one in Christ?"

Answer: You are correct. Jesus is not pleased with
religious diversity. In fact, nearly two thousand
years ago He prayed, "I do not pray for these
alone, but also for those who will believe in Me
through their word; that they all may be one..."
(John 17:20, 21a). To produce true unity we must:

1. Sow the SAME seed. In the parable of the soils,
Jesus said the "seed" was the word of God (Luke
8:11). That being so, preachers must plant the
same seed/word into the hearts of men in order to
reap unity. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all
speak the same thing, and that there be no
divisions among you, but that you be perfectly
joined together in the same mind and in the same
judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). As long as
different seeds are sown, we can expect to reap a
bumper crop of denominationalism and division.

2. Sow the RIGHT seed. Since the seed is the word,
and the word of Christ is truth (John 17:17),
preachers must plant the right seed (John 1:17;
14:6) into the hearts of men in order to enjoy
oneness in Christ. Sowing the seeds of human
opinion will never produce the kind of crop for
which Jesus petitioned His Father. Only the seed
of truth (John 8:32) will yield unity (Ephesians
4:3).

3. Harvest the SAME crop. If I plant "Big Boy"
tomato seeds in my garden in the Spring, I should
expect to reap Big Boy tomatoes in the Summer,
right (cf. Galatians 6:7)? Tomato seeds will not
produce cucumbers, cantaloupes, okra, corn, beans,
onions, spinach, or potatoes; they will only
produce after their own kind (Genesis 1:11). This
same principle is true in religion.

"The seed of the kingdom will produce the kingdom;
it will not produce anything different from the
kingdom... It has never been known to produce
anything other than the kingdom of God, the church
of the Lord. The Word of God preached in this
community always produced exactly what is produced
in another community when preached there. But we
see several hundred different religious
denominations in the world today, differing from
each other in name, doctrine and practice.

Why are all of these different bodies in
existence? They have been produced by the sowing
of the seed, the preaching of religious doctrines.
Just as sure as there are bodies differing from
each other, seeds differing from each other have
been sown. If the same kind of seed had been sown
in every community, the same results would have
been produced... So the Gospel preached in
Jerusalem which produced the kingdom of God, the
church of Christ, will not when preached in
America produce a hundred different denominations.
The fact that the many denominations are in
existence is positive proof that something
different from the Gospel, the Word of God, has
been preached."/1

When the apostles planted the seed of God into the
fertile hearts of men (1 Corinthians 3:5), what
kind of crop did they harvest (1 Peter 1:23; Acts
11:26)? Did Paul and Peter sow the same seed and
yet reap radically different crops? Did they reap
religious diversity (Philippians 2:2)? Did they
reap different religious groups, who wore
different names, and who worshiped God in
different ways? Did they reap corn, beans, and
potatoes (1 Corinthians 1:13)?

I appreciate this thoughtful question. May we all
strive for the unity which Christ desires.

1/Roy H. Lanier, Sr., "Why We Preach the Word,"
Gospel Advocate, June 1991, 17-18.

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COLUMN: The X-Files

Faith's Hall of Fame: Part 1 - Abel, Enoch & Noah
by Mitchell Skelton

Reading Hebrews 11 is like walking through a
portrait gallery full of all your favorite heroes.
It is here we see a portrait of our heroes of
faith. Beginning our walk through Faith's Hall of
Fame, the Hebrew writer reminds us that God does
not expect us to believe without evidence.
Biblical faith is not blind faith. God has not
asked us to believe without evidence of his power
and proof that he will do what he says he will do.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and
certain of what we do not see. This is what the
ancients were commended for. By faith we
understand that the universe was formed at God's
command, so that what is seen was not made out of
what was visible. By faith Abel offered God a
better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was
commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well
of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks,
even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken
from this life, so that he did not experience
death; he could not be found, because God had
taken him away. For before he was taken, he was
commended as one who pleased God. And without
faith it is impossible to please God, because
anyone who comes to him must believe that he
exists and that he rewards those who earnestly
seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things
not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save
his family. By his faith he condemned the world
and became heir of the righteousness that comes by
faith (Hebrews 11:1—7).

Abel's Faith in Worship

The Hebrew writer informs us that Abel's offering
was accepted because it was offered in faith. Does
this mean that Abel's brother, Cain, did not
believe in God? We know that Cain believed in God,
so what was the difference between the two. Paul
explains how one comes to faith in this way,
"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the
message, and the message is heard through the word
of Christ" (Romans 10:17). From Paul's
explanation, we realize that Abel's offering was
made in accordance to God's revealed will or "by
faith." Cain obviously ignored God's instructions
as is evident from God's rejection of his
offering. Abel's example of faith speaks to us yet
today. In all matters, we should listen to God's
word. We certainly should worship God according to
his will. "Yet a time is coming and has now come
when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of
worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and
his worshipers must worship in spirit and in
truth" (John 4:23,24).

Enoch's Faith in Life

Enoch's life was lived according to the will of
God. "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more,
because God took him away" (Genesis 5:24). The
praise of Enoch by the Hebrew writer shows that
faith in God and living a Godly life are requisite
to please God. "This is love for God: to obey his
commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for
everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is
the victory that has overcome the world, even our
faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he
who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John
5:3-5).

Noah's Faith in God's Word

Noah took God at his word, no matter how
unbelievable it seemed. God told Noah some
unbelievable things. The earth had never flooded
before and destruction of this type was unheard
of. Yet, Noah's faith moved him to act.

It is our faith that moves us to do good works.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through
faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the
gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can
boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared
in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10). A
faith without works is no faith at all. "What good
is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith
but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose
a brother or sister is without clothes and daily
food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you
well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing
about his physical needs, what good is it? In the
same way, faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will
say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your
faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith
by what I do" (James 2:14-18).

It has been said, "There are thousands of ways of
pleasing God, but not one without faith." A faith
that pleases God is one that worships him, walks
with him and works for him.

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