Can You Do Better?

Doing Good Things Better

Phil. 3:12-14

Warren E. Berkley

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:12-14, ESV).

This article is not about exposing sin, demanding you renounce some wickedness, quit lying or stealing. While those guilty of these misbehaviors need to repent and be forgiven, this kind of thing is not the subject of this article. This article is about pressing on and straining forward to start doing good things better.

Can you pray better? Not just longer prayers, though that might be part of the progress you need to make. Consider giving more thought in framing your prayers or expanding who and what you pray for. Initiate petitions that honor Christ, praise God, and advance the proclamation of the gospel. But also, pray for people you don’t agree with and don’t like. You’ve been engaged in prayer for many years. Now find ways to do that better. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Can your prayers become more effective and fervent?

Can your attendance be improved? Can you give up some of the weak excuses, gain better control of your schedule, re-think your priorities and improve your attendance? By attending every service you enjoy the advantages of edification and the encouragement you lend to others and receive from them. Christians in the early church were together and that unity was critical to their survival and their capacity to share the gospel with others. “All who believed were together,” (Acts 2:44).

Can you reach out to people in a better way? Are there people you know who need you to move closer to them, get to know them and help them? For most of us, I believe, there are people we are acquainted with who need something we can give. But we have not taken the time. We have been too busy with so many of “our things.” I speak not of money primarily, but of encouragement, listening, praying with, studying with and befriending.

Can you help someone begin reading the Bible? Make a list of 5 people you know. Are all five of those people reading the Bible? Pick out one and ask if they read the Bible daily? If not, offer to show them and help them get started (do that without being critical). Periodically review or re-make your list. There is no better endeavor you can invite someone to begin. All many people need is a little encouragement.

Again, this article was not written to the idolater, the liars or false teachers. Rather, to Christians who are doing good things already. I believe we can do these things better. Let’s press on toward the goal.

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The Strength of the House

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The Strength Of The House
We Live In (Eph. 2:19-22)

Warren E. Berkley

To introduce this text, let me bring to our attention two commonly
recognized dangers: (1) being a stranger in a foreign land, and (2) being in
a building that is falling down.

While preaching in the Philippines in 1981, for an hour or so in Brookspoint
on the island of Palawan, I was separated from the group. I had traveled to
the country with John McCort, and we were accompanied by a collection of
native preachers, guides and helpers. I was waiting for a jeep to be
repaired and the group went somewhere with the promise they would return for
me in a few minutes. It was almost an hour. There was no immediate threat or
danger. But I was alone in a strange place. I was a stranger and foreigner
and felt the full impact of that alienation. The American Embassy in
Manila – upon our arrival – warned us: You are not citizens of this country
and do not have the rights and privileges the natives enjoy. Be careful! To
be in a place you are not familiar with and where you enjoy no guarantee of
any protection is unsettling, to say the least. It is commonly recognized as
a danger (especially in view of current terrorism) to be a visitor in a
place where you hold no citizenship.

People are also dreadfully aware of occupying a building that is falling
down! We all remember watching the Twin Towers in New York coming down.
Those buildings were occupied by real people, and we saw video footage of
some jumping to their death. I was in Houston on that day and my wife was in
one of the tall buildings in the downtown area. I was uneasy until they
evacuated that building, which they did within minutes after the attack.
These are two common fears – being stranded in a foreign country, and
occupying a building that is falling down.

Christians who remain in the house of God are not troubled by either fear.
This text established that great truth.

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow
citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself
being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted
together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being
built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:19-22).

When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he addressed Gentiles who were now
Christians. He wanted them to remember their previous condition, to provoke
gratitude to God who brought them near “by the blood of Christ.” In that
context he said: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and
foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household
of God,” (Eph. 2:19).

The words “now” and “no longer” bring attention to their new, changed status
as “members of the household of God.” Because of the blood of Christ, their

active faith in obedience to the gospel changed their status. That change is
described: “now . . . no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow
citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What a cause
for joy, gratitude and continued obedience! They were now citizens in the
Kingdom and identified with others who enjoyed the same relationship with
God. If you are a member of the household of God, this statement should
renew your gratefulness to God and your daily devotion to Him.

“It is as if they who had dwelt in the waste and howling wilderness,
scattered defenseless and in melancholy isolation, had been transplanted,
not only into Palestine, but had been appointed to domiciles on Mount Zion,
and were located in the metropolis, not to admire its architecture, or gaze
upon its battlements, or envy the tribes who had come up to worship in the
city which is compact together; but to claim its municipal immunities,
experience its protection, obey its laws, live and love in its happy
society, and hold communion with its glorious Founder and Guardian.” (Eadie,
quoted in Pulpit Commentary, Eph. 2:21).

The stability of the building depends upon the foundation. Verse 20 affirms
the house of God to be “built on the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Not only can we
rejoice that we have been accepted as a member of God’s house, we can know
that the structure is well built and will stand. The household of God was
built on and stands today on the truth of Jesus Christ (who He is, and what
He did). “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 3:11).

The household of God is well built, unlike the nations and institutions of
men. “The whole building” is “fitted together,” and “grows into a holy

temple in the Lord,” (Eph. 2:21). There is no reason for any member of the
household of God to fear the collapse of the structure! It is true,
individual members may walk out. We must guard against any attitudes or
actions that would lead us out of God’s house. But there is no justification
to fear that the “building” will be destroyed, or that God will misplace us
(see 2 Tim. 2:19). Structural integrity is assured by the builder. As a
Christian, you are not just a guest or occasional visitor – but a permanent
member of the family, in a house upheld by divine power!

And in this place; as a member of this house, we are “being built together
for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” God has made it possible for us
to enter this building and dwell in Him! Verse 22 is about fellowship with
God.

The impact of this passage for Christians is, this is the strength of the
house we live in! Whatever may happen to us on earth, as long as we stay in
the household of God, we are secure.

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the
heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God
the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the
Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks
better things than that of Abel.” (Heb. 12:22-24).

Remember Memory Verses?

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I’ve Been Thinking About Those “Memory Verses”

Warren E. Berkley

Have you ever wondered why we stop doing certain things? I mean, as a people – in society, in families, in local churches. Do you sometimes remember things we used to do that we no longer do anymore? And why did we stop?

I grew up in the 50’s and early 60’s. In my family and in the Bible classes I attended in my youth, a vital part of our learning was Memorizing Scripture. In Bible classes in those days we used lesson booklets called “Quarterlies.” There would be a subject or passage developed, followed by question and answer exercises. But at the top of every lesson, a memory verse. The Bible class teacher would often call upon students randomly to recite their memory verse; recitation was a valued educational tool in those days.

In the public schools you memorized and recited your multiplication table and the alphabet. When I got into music we committed to memory the lines and spaces on the music staff. Even in my college days in history courses, dates and events would be memorized (even if you did this the night before the exam).

Memory work was a prominent feature of children’s Bible classes. Preachers in those days would memorize whole sections of Scripture, and I remember as a child being mesmerized when preachers would quote the entire second chapter of  Acts. In Vacation Bible School in the 50’s everybody learned the 23rd Psalm.

Why did we stop? There was a time in my life when I was tempted to think – Well, we stopped doing those things because we have learned better methods; we are smarter now. But today I don’t think that’s the right answer. I’m afraid so many things we used to do in local churches we simply don’t take time to do anymore and to our fault. Ladies Bible Classes. Vacation Bible Schools. Gospel Meetings. And Memory Verses. Perhaps there can be value in re-visiting things we used to do, if for no other reason – to assess the value and perhaps revise and repeat.

Memorizing Scripture is a valuable legacy of my childhood. Oh, I didn’t always enjoy it then; sometimes, I had to say my memory verse before I could go out to play. Tree houses awaited my constructive skill. There were crawdads to be caught; bikes to ride and balls to throw. But I would have to say my memory verse before any of that. I know the value of it now and appreciate my mother’s diligence.

The case for memorizing Scripture can be initiated in Psalms 119:11. “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against you.” I do not argue this is specifically and only about memorizing Scripture. But I think it obvious, memorizing scripture will facilitate and expedite the application of this!

If I need to have the Word of God in my heart to defend myself against sin – – one thing I can do is memory work. It is not the only thing but let us not exclude this time-honored method. I must read the Word. I must seek to study and understand it within the context. I must make an application of the Word in my daily life – All of this is essential. But one step in this total work can be memorizing Scripture.  “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” If this is my pledge to God. If I want to take every step I can away from sin – one thing I can do is, memorize portions of the Word.

Don’t do this to impress others by your recitations (see Matt. 6:1-18). Don’t do this as a substitute for reading and study.

Do it to help put the Word in your heart. Do it for ready use when talking to others (1 Pet. 3:15). Do it to defend yourself against temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). Do it for recall and reference. Involve your children; join with friends in a team effort. It will be a task never to be regretted.

Teddy Bear Christians

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My late step-father, Judson Woodbridge, once preached here in McAllen. Because of his influence and recommendation, I worked with a church in Kansas (Mulvane) for almost ten years. He passed away a few years ago and I’m thankful that before his death I had the privilege of having his counsel as a young man. I went into his office on various occasions and he would let me thumb through his sermons outlines.

I came to an outline one day that had a curious title: “TEDDY-BEAR CHRISTIANS.” I said, “Judson, what’s this about.” He said, “well, there are some Teddy-Bear Christians.” They really don’t want to learn and grow and obey and learn of Christ – they just want a Teddy-Bear. They don’t really want a Savior and moral leader and elder brother or High Priest; they are not willing to let Jesus be the authority over their hearts and lives daily.

They want to sing about Jesus and talk about Jesus – but to really learn what He did, what He means and the kind of life He wants us to live — there is little interests. They just want a Teddy-Bear.

God sent His only begotten Son to live in a human body, suffer and die and be raised from the dead. The spiritual needs we have are fulfilled by God in Jesus Christ. And the offer of gospel preaching is, to come to him in obedient faith and let Him be the Lord of our lives from now on. This is no Teddy Bear religion.

Consider

Consider Him

(Heb. 3:1)

Warren E. Berkley

In the first two chapters of Hebrews there is a very clear line of thought developed. Following this line of thought will not only open up the book of Hebrews to better study but will provide great truth to change your life or keep your life changed. Here’s the way this line of thought might be outlined:

  • God has spoken in His Son (1:1,2).
  • His Son, Jesus, is far above angels (1:3-14).
  • Therefore, we should give more earnest heed to the gospel (2:1-4).
  • Though above angels, Jesus was made lower than the angels; deity became flesh, but was exalted: “crowned with glory and honor,” (2:5-8).
  • The incarnation took place “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone,” to “bring many sons to glory,” (2:9-13).
  • He frees us from the lifelong fear of death and comes to our aid (2:14-18).

This leads us to Hebrews 3:1 – “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”

This word “consider” in this verse has no casual connotation. In modern use we may apply the word “consider” to matters of no great importance. Or we may use the word to indicate some passing notice or choice we might think a little about. “Consider” in this passage means much more. This has to do with perception far deeper than casual choices.

It means “to perceive clearly,” and “to understand fully, consider closely.” Jesus said to consider the beam in your own eye (Matt. 7:3) and consider the lilies of the field (Lk. 12:27). Later in Hebrews, Christians are admonished to consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works (Heb. 10:24). W.E. Vines says of the original term, “It is translated by the verbs ‘behold,’ Acts 7:31,32; Jas. 1:23,24; ‘perceive,’ Luke 20:23; ‘discover,” Acts 27:39.”

In your Bible reading and study, little will be accomplished until you really get serious about considering Jesus Christ. Everything in the Old Testament points to Him. Everything in the New Testament informs us of His arrival, showing Him to be our Savior. The preaching of the apostles was the preaching of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” (1 Cor. 2:2). Baptism is “into Christ,” (Rom. 6:3), putting us into the Church of Christ (Acts 2:47). Those who have obeyed the gospel are Christians (of Christ), and they live under His authority (Matt. 28:18-20).  There is salvation is no other name (Acts 4:12). If you neglect the truth about Jesus Christ, you have missed the point of the gospel. Consider Him. He must be the object of close and serious consideration.

The exhortation in Heb. 3:1 is directed to Christians: “holy brethren,” “partakers of a heavenly calling.” The Hebrew letter was originally written to Christians who came out of Judaism. They were being tempted to abandon Christ and drift back into Judaism. One step they needed to take away from this temptation was, to consider Jesus Christ; to seriously think about and discover the value of the truth about Him.

You cannot be faithful to a Master you do not know! You cannot effectively share a message you do not fully appreciate. You cannot relate to your brethren and serve their needs if you do not cherish your elder brother. Consider Him.

He is “the Apostle.” Jesus is the One sent by God (Jno. 3:34; 5:36-38; 20:21). God didn’t send an angel. He didn’t send Moses to be our Savior. Jesus is the One sent. Consider Him.

He is the “High Priest of our confession.” Think of access to God. Jesus is our access to God. He came “to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people,” (Heb. 2:17). “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:15,16).

You can be a stronger, better person, as a result of every moment you spend in serious contemplation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Consider Him. Who is He to you? The race God has set out before us cannot be finished without “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Heb. 12:2).

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”

“This verse holds up Jesus as the Apostle, High Priest and Paragon of all religious pro-fession, the only infallible Exemplar, the universal Archetype of the Gospel dispensation, in contradistinction to Moses in bygone ages.” (W.B. Godbey)

From Barnes: “Consider – Attentively ponder all that is said of the Messiah. Think of his rank; his dignity; his holiness; his sufferings; his death; his resurrection, ascension, intercession. Think of him that you may see the claims to a holy life; that you may learn to bear trials; that you may be kept from apostasy. The character and work of the Son of God are worthy of the profound and prayerful consideration of every man; and especially every Christian should reflect much on him. Of the friend that we love we think much; but what friend have we like the Lord Jesus?”

Barnabas

Barnabas

A Good Man

By Mark McCrary

“For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”

In Acts 13, two men prepared for a journey that would change the world. One was known and respected throughout the church, the other was a newcomer with a tainted past—Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus. However, 2000 years later, the lesser known is now considered one of the pivotal people in the history of the early church (if not history itself), and the one well known at the time little more than a footnote in the history of the New Testament. But, what a footnote he was!

If there is one passage that sums Barnabas up it is Acts 11:24, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” While many would wince at what the world views as a rather drab description (“good”), his goodness made him quite distinct and worthy of imitation. “Goodness” is a character trait that is to be found in a disciple of Christ (Galatians 5:22). So, what made Barnabas so good?

First, Barnabas was good because he thought of others. The first time we are introduced to him he is seen as a giver (Acts 4:36-37). In the early church, many of the pilgrims to Jerusalem at Pentecost stayed behind to learn and were in deep need of care. A spirit of generosity arose (4:34), with Barnabas being specifically mentioned. We don’t know how much he gave, but we can be certain it wasn’t pocket change! How many of us would have done the same for people we barely knew? You can answer this question today by looking at how you spend your money, time and energies in helping others. What the church needs today are more people who take their faith seriously like Barnabas (James 1:22; 2:13-14; 1 John 3:14-19). The need is for Christians who are always looking for ways to help others. We learn from Barnabas that good people look to others and earnestly try to make a difference in their lives.

Second, he was good because he encouraged others. In the same text, we find the apostles named him “Barnabas,” which meant “Son of Encouragement.” For lack of a better term, it was a nickname—a term of endearment. One does not get such a name unless it is earned. He proved his ability to encourage others. “Encouragement” did not mean he went around patting people on the back and telling them to “hang in there!” It means to comfort, console, entreat, or counsel. He was a man who noticed people and wanted to bring out the best in them—he pulled for the underdog. This was seen in his standing next to Saul when he came to join himself to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27). We need more people like Barnabas; Christians who are willing to work with the weak and lift them up, giving them time, attention and encouragement. This demands we look outside of our own world and into the world of others; to those who have fallen (Galatians 6:1-2); to those who sorrow (Romans 12:15); to those who could be more in the Lord’s service if helped.

Third, Barnabas was good because he included others. His reputation was so good among the saints in Jerusalem, when an incredible preaching opportunity arose in Antioch, Barnabas was the one the church sent to evangelize. Naturally, he encouraged these new saints (Acts 11:23). However, the work seemingly was greater than one man could really accomplish. Lesser men may have desired to keep all of the glory for themselves, but not this good man. He was not threatened by including others and sought out Saul of Tarsus to help. For a year they assembled with the church and taught, accomplishing, together, a great deal. Leonard Bernstein once said that the hardest instrument to play was the second violin, because no one wants to play second fiddle. Barnabas did not seem to mind as long as he could play in the band. There is always a temptation, unfortunately, to be more like Diotrephes (3 John 9), excluding others in order to gain more glory and importance; not wanting to share the responsibility because we don’t want to share the glory. To Barnabas, a good man, the work was more important.

Finally, he was a good man because he stood for the truth (Acts 13:46 and Acts 15). He had a deep love for the Lord. This was why he thought of others, encouraged others and included others. We learn from Barnabas that compassion and strength are not mutually exclusive of one another (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Compassion without strength is empty; strength without compassion is brutal. Because Barnabas understood this, he was a good man.

In the end, Barnabas was good because he allowed himself to be used by God and God in turn worked through him. “He was a good man”—a simple description, but how significant!

From the Book, People of the Past – Lessons for Today

Book Review

“The Church of Facebook” by Jesse Rice

by Warren E. Berkley {From Pressing On Magazine, Oct. 2015}

I’ve just finished this book by Jesse Rice. First, the word “church” is not used in the true Biblical sense. Second, this book is not really an approach to the subject that draws mostly from Scripture.

It is a journey/history of social media, sometime tangled up in academic research and conjecture through applying various physiological and social studies. If you can wade through some of that, there are benefits. Rice calls upon the reader to carefully consider Facebook and other social media, not just as another communication method. Rather, a “hyper-connection” that could change the way we interact with people in ways that (1) may reveal disturbing things about who we are and (2) may transform us into people who have lost some valuable connections.

With any new technology, the user must apply a discipline whereby the new tool is applied without taking us down a destructive path.

Here are some quotes from the Rice book:

At the root of human existence is our great need for connection: connection with one another, with our own hearts and minds, and with a loving God who intended intimate connection with us from the beginning. Connection is the very core of what makes us human and the very means by which we express our humanity.

Facebook even goes so far as to “suggest” friends for us; we are literally empowered and encouraged to go “friend-hunting,” to simply and easily add to our collection by clicking “add to friend.” And there are many more choices—reconnecting with long-lost friends, connecting informally to those with whom we’d normally have a purely professional relationship (bosses, coworkers, teachers), even starting our own groups and fan clubs. That’s a lot of choices. That’s a lot of control over our social worlds. But are we better off for it?

Stone notes that our habit of continuous partial attention is having a detrimental effect on the quality of our attention. By trying to keep from “missing out” on anything, we become overstimulated and unfulfilled. In addition, Stone says that all of those choices are actually undermining our sense of control and making us feel increasingly powerless. This can happen when we begin to feel at the mercy of our technology—a knee-jerk, out-of-control kind of experience.

Today’s online social networks are congeries of mostly weak ties—no one who lists thousands of friends on MySpace thinks of those people in the same way as he does his flesh-and-blood acquaintances, for example. It is surely no coincidence, then, that the activities social networking sites promote are precisely the ones weak ties foster, like rumor-mongering, gossip, finding people, and tracking the ever-shifting movements of popular culture and fad. (Rice quotes Christine Rosen)

“In effect the hyper-connection of Facebook changes the nature of our relationships by turning our friends into audiences and us into performers.”

Throughout the Rice book, one repeated statement is, “There is a force that is capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, therefore creating spontaneous order.” You may decide, after reading the book and reflecting on what you have witnessed, that the use of social media through the keyboards of many, is creating spontaneous disorder!

I cannot endorse all that is in the book. In fact, I cannot understand all that is in this book. The academic studies are tedious. But there are some worthwhile sections that will provoke useful thought about our use of social media. It is here. Let’s be disciplined and godly in our use of it.

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