Water or Vinegar?
This past Sunday night, Jan 31st, 2010, I had the opportunity to speak at our (now) monthly Youth Devotional. Unfortunately due to nerves I forgot to start my recorder. I have my notes and I’ll try to edit them into something that resembles a recreation of that night. I did leave some of the points out in my notes out when I gave the lesson, but I’m keeping them in there because I believe they help the narrative better.
First, I started out with four different glasses containing clear liquid in front of me: a cup with a smiley face, a cup with Snoopy and friends on it, a swirled glass from Red Robin, and a Coca-Cola glass. I then asked for a volunteer.
Several hands shot up quickly. [Mr. Burns]Excellent.[/Mr. Burns] I called on one of them and asked him just to pick one of the glasses and drink what was in it. He grabbed the Coca-cola glass and took a BIG mouthful and immediately spit it out.
You see, only one of the glasses had water in it, the rest had vinegar.
Water and vinegar pretty much look the same. And sometimes on first glance, a lot of places of worship look the same.
Good things can come out of both water and vinegar. They’re both ingredients in some very tasty recipes, but there’s one thing water can do that vinegar can’t, and that’s quench your thirst.
The same is with places of worship. You see some of them doing a LOT of good, clothing people, feeding the poor, giving people something to feel good about, the list can go on for miles. However there is only one that has the water of Life that Jesus speaks of to the woman at the well in John chapter 4. We want to pick that one, and not the ones filled with vinegar.
And there are a ton of places to worship, all teaching some sort of religion, but according to Jesus in Matthew chapter 7 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
I then asked the volunteer: “Why’d you choose the one you chose?”
He responded with the typical, “I dunno…”
I guess he could’ve picked one of these glasses because he thought it looked cool, or maybe he likes Snoopy, or likes smiley faces… Or trusts that Coca-Cola would be the right one because that’s the one he’s heard of… Unfortunately none of these things have anything to do with what’s inside of them.
I recently had a conversation with a brother that has fallen away. He had come to my office to talk to me about selling life insurance, and was trying to garner some sort of rapport with me. “Hey, I heard you’re a member of the church of Christ too, is that right?”
I replied, “Sure am.”
“Do you still attend?”
I’d like to believe that I kept a straight face. If I’m a member, then I’m attending still, right? I replied affirmatively and told him which congregation I currently attend.
His response: “Oh yeah, I visited there once, it was too conservative for my tastes. You know how when you grow up in one type of church, you just gotta find something different.”
Again, I struggled to keep my expression from changing. He grew up in a place that knows and taught the truth, but instead of sticking with it, He has chosen to drink vinegar over water, because the design of the cup is different. Hopefully I can have a chance to talk to him about it in the future, maybe talk to him about the ultimate life insurance. I’ll try, but I’m not certain it will be any good. Paul warns Timothy of this in 2 Timothy chapter 4:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth.”
He may have already made his decision.
He used the term conservative when talking about our congregation and I have to keep from rolling my eyes when people start throwing the labels conservative and liberal around in reference to places of worship. These are man-made labels. God doesn’t use them. There is really, only scriptural, and unscriptural.
Our decision of where to worship cannot be based on if its in a house or in a building, or how pretty and new the building is, or the number of people that attend, or how many kids they have in their youth group. It has to be based on something stronger, something that doesn’t change with the whims of the people that attend. It has to be based on the Truth.
I asked the volunteer, “If I’d let you, how would you determine which has water and which has vinegar?”
He replied with, “Smell them.”
Examine them, right? Perform some tests?
This is how we are to determine where we are to worship.
In 1 John 4:1, John tells us to “test the spirits” and warns us that “many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
We have to examine what they teach… and make sure that its the Truth.
Knowing that there is vinegar in some of these, if I hadn’t placed any restrictions, he would’ve done everything he could to find the glass with the water. Why then, with something so important on the line as their soul, would anyone want to choose without examining it first?
What If I were to pour some of this vinegar into the water, would he still want to drink the water? Even if a place does everything else right, but is just a little wrong in their teaching, they are still wrong.
We must study the Bible to know the Truth.
Paul, in his letters to Timothy stresses several times the importance of studying the Scriptures. In 2 Timothy 3 starting in verse 14 he says: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Timothy was like most of the kids I spoke to that night, he was raised by family that knew the Scriptures. Not everyone has had that luxury. Some people have been raised in religions that have false teachings, some don’t believe in studying the scriptures diligently. My eye twitches EVERYTIME I hear the phrase, “Oh that’s not a salvation issue” when baptism, or church attendance, or any number of scriptural issues are brought up.
Those kids are very blessed to have the parents they have. But what if I asked the parents to pick from a glass, and instead of tasting it, smelling it, or examining it, they grabbed one and handed it to their kids. Do you think that they would, knowing that it could have vinegar in it, drink it without testing it themselves?
The same applies to worship as well. I know that everyone that teaches at our church strives to teach only the truth, but I, along with the elders, and the teachers, can be wrong. Don’t take what we say at face value. It is each individual’s responsibility during sermons and classes to follow along in their Bible, take notes and study them afterward, and by all means, ask questions. Never stop testing the spirits, because ultimately, the only one that is responsible for your soul at judgment day is yourself.
We’d already heard Jeremy give the invitation that night, we’d sung an invitation song and given anyone an opportunity to come forward. I want to stress that that is not the only time that a person can respond to the Lord’s invitation. It can be anytime, day or night.
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