Regarding the “Non-negotiable s” In The Christian Faith

Recently I found a discussion going on about “What are the non-negotiable s, in Christian faith?” Interesting discussion, and one well worth the time. Dad jotted down some 95 things which the brotherhood had either differed over or divided over.
Some, were ‘big deals,’ while many were not, and over time have been allowed to ‘die’ peacefully (For example: women’s head coverings, women wearing pant suits, playing cards, going to the movies, fellowship dinners in the building, Joy Buses, Serving in the military and going to war, etc…)

While other ‘issues’, have been ‘nurtured’ and allowed to ‘codify’ and become ‘defining’ issues, and divide us, (For example: cups, Bible classes, cooperation, instrumental music, clapping in worship, raising hands in worship and prayer, miracles, etc…)

A proper understanding of what the “non-essentials” are, should at least help us move away from being “Issue oriented,” and help us in “keeping the unity of the Spirit.” The original question of “What are the NON – negotiables of the Christian Faith?” should be pretty simple for us, for our ‘creed’ has always been “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

While this article is not ‘exhaustive,’ perhaps it will at least help get us thinking more.

Perhaps it would help to consider several things:
1. What puts one “into Christ”?
Obviously, one must be ‘born’ of water and the Spirit (John 3; Acts 2), being cleansed by the blood and filled with the Spirit. Since the Lord is the One who ADDS… and the Spirit “FILLS,” who among us is qualified to do the “taking away or draw arbitrary lines?” A Christian is one who has “obeyed the Gospel.” He may not be a very ‘good one,’ in our way of thinking, but may be totally accepted by God (Romans 14: 4, 10).
What puts one into Christ is an ‘essential’, non-negotiable.

2. Christians need to be given ‘space’ to “grow in grace.” We grow at different ‘rates,’ and who has not “grown” through the up’s and down’s of life? Are we “in” and “out” of Christ every day? This sort of thinking, has lead to one Christian who said, “Every day from morning till night, I repeat in my mind, “Forgive me Lord,” “Forgive me Lord,” etc., until bedtime.” GRACE is non negotiable (Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 5:4), if we could just gain some ‘balance’ in it. What about I John 1:7? Does the blood of Christ continually cleanse us, or is it a one time thing, and after that “Good luck”? God forbid. It takes time to grow, and change. It takes love and patience to allow for this.

3. Christians may indeed fall away and be lost (Hebrews 6:4-6), but between the ‘sinning’ and the ‘falling away’ and ‘being lost’… there needs to be someone who is “spiritual” to go and at least try and restore (Galatians 6:1-2). It is easy to fall away from a law/works system, but difficult to fall from a grace/faith relationship, (Luke 15:11-32).
(What may help us in deciding what is NON NEGOTIABLE, would be to ask the question, “What would you literally, lay your life on the line for? What were Christians back then, willing to die for? Which “issue,” would motivate you to give your life? “I would give my life for Jesus,” someone says, “but I wouldn’t give my life for a ‘cup’ or …”)

4. What were “lines” which were ‘drawn,’ by Jesus and or the Apostles? Paul spoke “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (I Timothy 1:20), and “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done” (2 Timothy 4:14). Paul also instructed the Corinthians to deal with this person who was living with his Dad’s wife, (I Corinthians 5). (By the way, there is no example in Scriptures, where one congregation has ‘withdrawn’ from another congregation.) If the Corinthian church existed now, they would be ‘written up,’ and ‘black-balled.’ Paul calls them “saints.” Then what about a Diotrophes (2 John)? Bottom line… my opinion… be careful drawing line… let God ‘draw the line,’ and deal with the ‘weeds.’ Go win souls to Christ.

5. Non-negotiables are just that. These are what puts one in Christ and keeps him there, and results in Heaven as his eternal home. All who are penitent believers, having repented of sins, and been immersed in water, indwelt by the Spirit, are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Over time, hopefully we all will grow and change in grace.

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“Redeemed” – Lesson Four – The Cross Of CHRIST

This article is part 4 of 14 in the series Redeemed

(This series is taken from the book “Redeemed” by Jack Exum, published in e-Book format on Smashwords (as well as on

It is ridiculous, a far-fetched fantasy, the most unbelievable, silly, foolish fiction ever heard, IF IT WERE NOT TRUE! God became a man, and lived a perfect life, was crucified on a Roman cross, and through the shedding of his blood, he provided the way of REDEMPTION FOR ALL MANKIND.

Salvation is ‘By grace through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8). Paul was a highly educated man, perhaps genius… and declares, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” Man’s ‘wisdom,’ falls short of God’s, and His plan to save man, (I Corinthians 1:18-29).

Here are a few things that many struggle in believing… 1.) God created the heavens and the earth! (Genesis1:1) 2.) Noah built an ark. Genesis 6:14). 3.) Abraham was told by God to leave his country and go where God wanted! (Genesis 12:1-4) 4.) The prophet Isaiah spoke of the virgin birth (of Jesus)! (Isaiah 7:14) 5.) Jesus said his blood was to be offered for the remission of sins! (Matthew 26:28) 6.) Jesus’ death was for us! (Hebrews 2:9) 7.) Paul the ‘persecutor’ was converted, and became a preacher (Galatians 2). All of these are TRUE!

The logical, pragmatic, reasonable mind often says, “NO WAY,” while the heart says, “YES!” You can have DOUBTS, QUESTIONS, in your head and FAITH in your heart. As your faith grows, doubts leave, and conviction comes. As Paul said, “… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

The primary purpose of the cross of Christ was to uphold God’s righteousness in forgiving sinful man. How could God be righteous and justify, forgive, sinners, and still retain his righteousness?

How can God be true to Himself and yet justify sinful man? His righteousness demands that someone has to pay the price, and ‘balance the books.’ A perfect, innocent sacrifice was needed – JESUS had to die on the cross. Without Jesus death on the cross, God could not justify saving us, so we would be lost (Romans 3:20-26). Jesus paid it all. Through the cross, God’s righteous and man’s salvation is secured. HE DIED FOR SIN – SO WE CAN DIE TO SIN.

Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). His life was changed just as ours can be changed.
Jesus spoke of this ‘drastic change’ in terms of a “new birth.”

The elements of this “new birth are a ‘birth’ of “water” AND “Spirit” (one birth with two elements) (John 3:5). On Pentecost, 3,000 respond to the message of Peter who said “Repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-40). Two commands were given, (1) Repent and (2) be baptized. Two promises were given, (1) Forgiveness and (2) the gift of the Holy Spirit. These believers experienced the “new birth,” and were added to the one body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13).

(All references are from the 2011 edition of the NIV.)

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“Redeemed” – Lesson Three – The Law Of MOSES

This article is part 3 of 14 in the series Redeemed

(This series is taken from the book “Redeemed” by Jack Exum, published in e-Book format on Smashwords (as well as on

The study of “LAW” doesn’t ‘excite’ me. Some may enjoy it, and it’s actually it is pretty important to this whole study. Trying to be saved by it, well, that’s the hang-up! Grace just cannot work under law.

The Law of Moses was given 430 years after God made his promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:17). The importance of this will become clear.
“Law” does three things: 1.) Law PROVIDES guidelines and boundaries, 2.) Law PROHIBITS doing or not doing certain things, and 3.) Law PROTECTS those who are obedient. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing, but Law cannot save us from sin!
Paul describes the situation with NON-JEWS in Romans 1:18-32, where you see all kinds of disobedience and sin mentioned… and even though, because they have moral laws (Romans 2:14-15), it is obvious this law also condemns all who are under it because no one is perfect. It’s not good enough to be ‘a good moral person,’ because of this fact. The ‘law’ of conscience cannot save from sin.

Paul describes the situation of JEWS in Romans 2. They had the Law, the Temple, the sacrifices priests, the covenants etc… but Jews are lost as well, because they cannot keep the Law perfectly either. The blood sacrifices of bulls and goats didn’t take away sin, so they are not any better off than the Gentiles in this respect (Romans 3:20-23).
Law has one purpose, to REGULATE, to make people aware of their sinfulness. It was meant to bring people to the realization, that everyone needs to come to Jesus and be saved by grace through faith… not law keeping, (Galatians 3:19-25). In other words, “ALL HAVE SINNED” (Romans 3:23).

The basic function of LAW regarding the ‘law-breaker’ is to (1) INDICT (2) CONVICT (3) PUNISH. Law is not designed to save anyone or anything. There is no sacrifice or atonement in law… no Redeemer or Savior. “For by law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

The problem was and is that we cannot LIVE UP to the requirements and standard of law perfectly! Instead of law being a ‘salvation bringer,’ it brings a curse. But, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13). He (Jesus) became our substitute sacrificial ‘ram.’ Instead of us dying for sin, He did. You cannot earn or ‘out-perform’ that. We are “saved by grace through faith.”
This is why Paul says, “…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

Gentiles are lost. Are you a Gentile (non-Jew)? Then without Christ you are lost. Jews were lost. Are you a Jew? Then without Jesus (the Messiah) you are lost. All must come to Jesus in FAITH, not through law keeping.
Good news! Jesus came to “seek and save (us all).” Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

(All references are from the 2011 edition of the NIV.)

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“Redeemed” – Lesson Two – ABRAHAM: Promise Of A Coming Savior

This article is part 2 of 14 in the series Redeemed

(This series is taken from the book “Redeemed” by Jack Exum, published in e-Book format on Smashwords (as well as on

In Genesis 12:1-4, the LORD told Abram, “Go…So Abram left…” Between the ‘going’ and ‘leaving,’ we find seven important promises from God. (1) “I will make you into a great nation…” (A reference to Israel), (2) “I will bless you,” (3) “and make your name great” (4) “… you will be a blessing” (5) “I will bless those who bless you…” (6) “I will curse those who curse you” (7) “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. The last one is the most important, since it refers to the coming of Messiah, the Savior for all mankind, through the descendants of Abraham.

Abraham doesn’t promise God anything, he doesn’t bargain with God, he doesn’t argue or complain, or try and earn these blessings from God… Abram believed the Lord, and he “left” his country. His “faith” in God, IS the basis of everything he ‘DOES’ in reference to God. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “By faith Abraham…obeyed” (Hebrews 11:8). It is this faith, by which he obeyed God, this faith was “credited to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6), and without this faith, obedience is meaningless!
The test of Abraham’s faith where he was called on to sacrifice Isaac, the son which God promised him, was the most critical. “By faith Abraham…obeyed.” Isaac was spared, God provided a ram as substitute, and God knew Abraham’s faith was real (Genesis 22).

It was some 430 years later that the Law of Moses is given, but had no part in the “promise.” Paul repeats the promise, “IN YOU (Abraham) SHALL ALL NATIONS BE BLESSED” (Galatians 3:8). Paul recognized that God’s promise to Abraham as the ONE prophecy of the coming of Christ, resulting in salvation made available to Jews and Gentiles, brought together in one body… the church (Ephesians 1:23; 4:4-6). Jesus Christ was the ‘promised seed,’ that would come and break the hold of Satan on the world.

The PROMISE came before the LAW… actually about 430 years before the Law of Moses was given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. The Law of Moses does not make void the promise made to Abraham. When the Old Law was fulfilled by Jesus (Matthew 5:17-18), the Promise (“and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”) given to Abraham continued, and does so today, because of Jesus! The effect of the promise (salvation), is not based on keeping (the) law perfectly (because we can’t), but by faith like that of Abraham.

Now, if you have an OLD LAW (system) and NEW GRACE/FAITH (system) IN FORCE at the same time, you have dilemma… You have to make a choice as to which you will follow. You cannot depend on both covenants for salvation.

Christ came to deliver us from the curse of the law, (Galatians 3:13). Paul says His people are a people of FAITH, having been “baptized into Christ,” not a people of the Law. The result is (in Christ) “there is neither Jew nor Greek … slave nor free … male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

This is the good news, that all who are “in Christ,” are “Abraham’s seed” (‘faith’ descendents) and heirs of a marvelous promise… which is SALVATION through Jesus!

(All references are from the 2011 edition of the NIV.)

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“Redeemed” – Lesson One – ADAM – Prophecy Of A Coming Savior

This article is part 1 of 14 in the series Redeemed

(This series is taken from the book “Redeemed” by Jack Exum, published in e-Book format on Smashwords (as well as on

Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, which resulted in immediate judgment. Follow with me as we look at Genesis 3.

The progression of sin seen in Verse 6: (1) The tree had “good” fruit (“pleasing to the eyes”), 2.) It would “make one wise,” 3.) Eve took it and got Adam to eat as well. (Compare this to I John 2:15-17). God had ‘provided the maximum’ and ‘forbidden the minimum’, yet they went after the one thing which was forbidden. They found out, nothing good comes from sin. They could not blame God, because he warned them.

Using their example, let’s notice what happened: (1.) Unguarded talk (Eve had conversation with Satan (Verse 1). (2.) She loosened her hold on God as doubt grew in her mind (Verse 3). (3.) She looked (and kept looking) at the forbidden fruit (Verse 6), (4.) She longed for (lusted) the forbidden fruit, (Verse 6). (5.) She induced Adam and he listened, and followed her example, (Verse 6).

James speaks of sin’s progression and says “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
Consider the consequences of sin. As you read Genesis 3 here is what you find, (1.) Innocence is lost (Verse 7), (2.) Shame (Verse 7), (3.) Fear (Verse 8), and finally (4.) Death. They discovered what we all know, SIN IS NOT WORTH IT! “All Satan’s apples have big, ugly worms.”

We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), we all deserve to ‘pay the price’ of death as a result of our sins as Paul says in Romans 6:23. God judges all involved in Genesis 3, the Serpent (Genesis 3:14-15), the Woman (Genesis 3:16), and Adam (Genesis 3:17). Let’s begin with Adam…
1.) Adam: Because he listened and followed Eve’s prompting, the ground was cursed and weeds, briars, thorns result. If he was going to eat, it would not come easily. Physical death was also a result of sin, brought into the world (Genesis 3:17-19).
2.) Eve: Her part in sin resulted in pain in childbearing, and a continual struggle to be in control over her husband (Genesis 3:16). (The curse on woman was NOT about sex… That is not a curse!)
3.) Serpent: The snake is cursed (Verse 14), Satan is addressed for his part in this. Here is the FIRST prophecy of God’s plan to save mankind though a Savior. “And I (God) will put enmity (hate, struggle) between you (Satan) and the woman (Eve) and between your offspring (followers of Satan/unrighteous) and hers (Jesus/ followers of righteousness); he (Jesus) will crush your head (fatal wound), and you (Satan) will strike his heel (non-fatal wound, because of His resurrection)” (Genesis 3:15).
Here we see the first ‘glimmer of hope’ for the salvation of man from the awful consequences of sin. In Genesis 3:21, God provides clothing for them with the skins of innocent animals, symbolizing Jesus, and how he would give his life, to cover the sins of man. This is what being redeemed is all about.

The story of redemption is all about JESUS.
(All references are from the 2011 edition of the NIV.)

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Special Plea For Help In Liberia!

The following email was received recently asking for help and prayers. Please read and consider sending help to this brother in Christ.

From: John Kanu []
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2014 2:53 PM
Subject: Thanks

Dear Brother Jack,
Greetings in Jesus name. I am very happy in the Lord to know you here on LinkedIn.
Again my name is John Kanu Pulpit Minister of the Monrovia Church of Christ Monrovia Liberia west Africa.

Brother Jack i enjoyed the level of work you have done and continue to do in the vineyard of God. May God continue to bless you and your wife.

The crises here in my country Liberia i mean the Ebola has brought everything to a halt no government workers go to work. This wonderful crises is presently causing problem in the congregation brother Jack. Lot of our brethren are government workers who have been stopped by the government to help fight the disease.

In our congregation we have three elders and three deacons who are working together with the Ministers in promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope and pray that you can be a help to us here by providing teaching materials, songs books and even food to help fight the crises. We are not actually referring to you but you can be a help for us. We are here to give more information about our plight.

Thank you very much for your endeavor
Best regards
John Kanu

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