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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN




A Theft-Free Zone

An Oil of Olay advertisement features openly gay comedienne and TV show host Ellen DeGeneres. At one point she looks into the camera and says with a straight face (no pun intended), "Inner beauty is important . . . but not as important as outer beauty." Say what?! If your moral belief system has a gag reflex, that statement ought to trigger it. No Christian, no matter how old or young or how physically beautiful or plain, ought to swallow such a blatantly false message. The bottom line on outward beauty — no matter how much Oil of Olay you rub on — is that it can't do a blessed thing to keep you from acting out in some ugly ways. Some who have really beautiful skin still commit some really ugly sins!

Inner beauty in the Bible is equal to Christ-like character. Ephesians 4:17-6:9 tells us how that beauty affects a person's overall personality and conduct. This passage discusses at length how conversion to Christ ought to affect a person's behavior and relationships. The centerpiece is 4:20-24 where the apostle Paul discusses the inner changes Christ works in the lives of those who hear and embrace and obey the Gospel of Christ. The extended passage is a good commentary and amplification of Paul's teaching in Romans 6:3-4 where he teaches that, after dying to sin through repentance, we are buried into Christ's death through baptism and then raised up to walk in newness of life! We are not to be content simply to get into Christ — we are to allow Christ to get into us! As we continue to study and obey His word in our daily lives, the moral values and characteristics of Christ are formed into the very fabric of our hearts and minds. And they will affect the way we live our lives (see Ephesians 4:25ff). Let us focus on Ephesians 4:28 — "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good,
that he may have something to give him who has need? This passage was first addressed to Christians! It still is! It is a call to any Christian who might be engaged in any kind of stealing to stop it. Cold turkey. If you stole in the past, do it "no longer." If you aren't doing it now, don't start. If Christ is truly in us, we will strive for moral excellence and integrity in our Christian lives. Instead of stealing from others, saints will work and share with those in need. Stealing has No place in a Christians's life – 'thieves. . . will not inherit the kingdom of God" 0 Corinthians 6:10). You may have to lock your car on the church parking lot, and in some places it may even be wise for the brethren to post a security patrol during worship. But the saints who sit on the pews to worship a sinless Savior ought to be honest with God and each other. What difference does it make? Consider the following. A little boy walked on the beach and spied a matronly woman sitting under an umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her and asked, "Are you a Christian?" When she said, "Yes," he went on to ask, "Do you read your Bible every day?" She nodded her head that she did. He pressed on and asked, "Do you pray often?" and again she answered, "Yes." With that he asked his final question: "Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?" Heaven will be a theft-free and a thief-free zone, and the world ought to be able to see that the church on earth is, too. It will, if we let Christ have His way in our lives. Can the beauty of Jesus be seen in you?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ