Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 27, 1961

From A Preacher's Note-Book

James W. Adams, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

"I Shall Not Want"

There never has been a generation of men upon the earth who seemingly have "wanted" so much as ours. There is in the hearts of men a restless, unsatisfied, forever-seeking spirit that keeps the world in constant turmoil. Harried as we are by this state of perpetual agitation on every side, how refreshing it is for the Christian to open his Bible and be confronted by the supreme confidence and serene stability of the "man after God's own heart." Said he, "I shall not want." No experience of life held for him any terrors, because of his supreme confidence that he would not in any situation "want." Whence came such confidence on his part? How could he be so certain? Was such serenity only blissful ignorance? Indeed not! Rather, it was a conclusion drawn from a completely adequate premise; namely, "The Lord is my shepherd." Hear him, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." (Psa. 23:1) The secret to stability of mind and serenity of spirit ties in who and what "Shepherds" our lives. Can you truthfully say, "The Lord is my shepherd."

Marks Of False Philosophy

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ .... Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head.... " (Col. 2:8, 18, 19)

False philosophy has been the curse of the church of our Lord almost from the day of its existence in the world. Like a termite, burrowing from within and undermining the very foundations of the Lord's house, it has worked through the ages to weaken and destroy. It lies at the tap root of every apostasy to which the church of our Lord has succumbed. Its identifying characteristics should, therefore, be of great interest to us.

1. Its motivation is malevolent. It is designed to "spoil." Some translations render this "make a prey." The idea is simply that it is designed to ensnare the child of God and make it possible for him to be used for the wicked designs and carnal benefit of another.

2. Its results are ruinous. It robs the believer of his eternal reward. "Let no man beguile you of your reward" is the language of our text. Here the figure is that of the ancient races in which the participant is led astray from the marked course of the race, hence thus robbed of his reward. The idea of a "marked course" in religion is to our erudite doctors of philosophy within the church these days arrant "legalism." This is not new. It was even in apostolic days a source of trouble and a mark of apostasy.

3. It affects a spurious humility, a "voluntary humility." No false philosophy presents itself in its true nature. It rather affects a guise of humility and piety. Its advocates are men professedly devoted to God and His Word. Its proposals are identified with the accomplishment of God's purposes in the world. It calls for labor and sacrifice on the part of the believer based on the assumption that such is true submission to the will of God. Yet, the humility thus proposed and imposed is "self-induced."

4. It introduces a corrupted worship and service. The particular species of philosophy to which our text refers introduced a "worshipping of angels." By corrupted worship and service, we mean a worship and/or service which the Lord has not authorized. Modern false philosophies are not necessarily trying to invoke the "worshipping of angels" but have and do introduce other unauthorized practices in worship and service equally as destructive in character. It is quite as contrary to the Divine will to corrupt the form of our worship and service as it is to corrupt the object of our worship and service.

5. It pretends to a knowledge that transcends the revealed. It does not claim for itself precept, approved example, or, necessary inference of Holy Writ. It affects knowledge of a "realm of liberty" which lies apart from "Divine Revelation" governed by "the law of expediency." Truly, it "intrudes into those things which it hath not seen." Human wisdom, reason, and logic are the means of its justification rather than a "thus saith the Lord." It is "after the traditions of men" and the "rudiments of the World" rather than "after Christ."

6. It is inflated with carnal egotism and human pride. It is in the language of our text, "Vainly puffed up by its fleshly mind." Numerical growth, increase of wealth in contributions and property, acceptance and recognition by the world, institutional development in the fields of education and benevolence, worldly prestige of rich and famous (sometimes notorious) members, academic degrees in the fields of secular learning, weight of majority viewpoint are commonly appealed to and utilized by brethren in our day in support of their false philosophies.

7. It ignores the authority of Jesus Christ. As our text suggests, it does not "hold the head." It refuses to recognize and respect the "headship" of Christ. It thus ignores the only basis for divinely authorized "unity." For it is only from Him and through Him as "head" that the body (church) can be "knit together." (Col. 2:19) Likewise, it ignores the divine condition of true spiritual growth. Observe, the verse further says that by "holding the head" the body (church) "increaseth with the increase of God." Not all prosperity is true spiritual growth. This is a fact often overlooked by brethren these days when they write in their bulletins, "Brethren, we are growing." "There may be a morbid increase, as there may be an unnatural enlargement of some part of the human body; but it is only the excessive inflation of worldly splendor and ecclesiastical pretension." (George Barlow, Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Vol. 29, p. 433). True spiritual growth can only be enjoyed through absolute submission and obedience to the will of Christ our Head. (The principal headings of this article were suggested by homiletic comments on the passage of Scripture under consideration in Vol. 29 of Preacher's Homiletic Commentary by George Barlow.)

"Between The Spur And The Bridle"

"Reason lies between the spur and the bridle." (George Herbert) Much wisdom resides in these words. The bridle is employed for control and direction. The spur is utilized to inspire motion. Too much use of the bridle will destroy initiative and promote sloth. Undue employment of the spur is often productive of violent and destructive action. The bridle and the spur are both indispensable. The bridle without the spur is worthless. The spur without the bridle is dangerous and ruinous. Indeed, it is true that "reason lies between the spur and the bridle."

In the rearing of children, parents have to learn this lesson. Some parents subscribe to the "no-bridle" school of thought — "Let the child express himself without restraint." Some subscribe to the "no-spur" school of thought — "Do as I say do and don't think for yourself." The course of reason lies between the two.

In the church these days, there is the "no-bridle, all-spur" school of thought: "The end justifies the means; get the job done; don't pull the Book (bridle) on us; we do lots of things for which we have no Scripture." Then there is the "all-bridle" individual. He is born in the objective case. The Scriptures to him have been given by the God of heaven to keep His servants from doing anything rather than to "spur" them on to the right things. Surely "reason lies between" these two attitudes.

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Wisdom In Battle

Military figures are very common in the Scriptures. The Christian is described as a soldier (2 Tim. 2:3) and the Christian life as a warfare with Satan. (Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:4) Christians are likewise taught to use wisdom in their battle with sin and Satan. Anticipating the Christian warfare, our Lord said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Mt. 10:16) Paul exhorts: "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." (Col. 4:5)

Some, with a distorted concept of that which loyalty to Christ, His Word, and His church requires, feel that a violent, frontal attack on any and every species and degree of error in practice or teaching is the only course consistent with truth and righteousness.

This reminds us of a story we read in The Encyclopaedia of Prose - Illustrations. It seems that in ancient times the leader of an army was pressed by his enemy. A close friend advised him to protract the fight as long as possible, because the enemy was suffering for provisions. The leader of the besieged army failed to heed the advice of his friend and threw his army into conflict with his attacker. As a result, he lost both the battle and his empire. He killed himself because of the disgrace and was laid in an unhonored grave. If he had taken the advice of his friend and avoided head-on conflict, hunger would have routed his enemy. Think of the waste of life, the loss of battle, and the sacrifice of an empire which could have been avoided if this man had not felt that valor demanded violent, frontal contact with the enemy.

Victory over sin and Satan, for truth and over error, is the object of the Christian's warfare. Loyalty to Christ does not demand a foolish, frontal violent assault upon every species and degree of error. The tactics of battle should be determined by the circumstances which prevail and the prospects for victory. Due consideration should be given to securing victory with the least loss to the forces of truth. We are dealing with immortal souls. Let us not win a doctrinal victory and lose the object of our warfare, the souls of dying men. No rule can be successfully discovered that will cover every situation. Let us be slow, therefore, to criticize the methods of another in pressing the battle for truth.