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Necessary Things

“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” Acts 15:28

                 Unnecessary necessaries clog our lives.  Junk drawers, packed closets and stuffed files illustrate the point.  A brief look inside many pockets and purses may reveal a lot about what we think are necessary things: Cell phone; chapstick; Kleenex, keys, perfume, eyeglasses, nail clippers, nail files, compacts, drivers’ license, credit cards, coupons, gum and pocket knives.  In a real emergency, however, many things we think are necessary would prove useless.  If you need food, water, protection from the elements and predators, the list of necessities would change dramatically.  From a spiritual standpoint, it’s amazing how many complicate life with burdens that hurt rather than with truths that help.  Man anoints the accessories, secures the superfluous and falls for the fluff, but tragically overlooks things critical to survival. 

                Are there necessary necessaries?  When the Apostle Peter opened up the door of salvation to the Gentiles, it touched off a huge debate over whether or not the Gentiles should be included in the church.  Many Jews thought that the Gentiles had to submit to circumcision, keep the Mosaic ordinances and observe many other Jewish rituals.  The first General Conference was called to settle the dispute.  Finally, the church leaders ruled that the Gentiles were not obligated to keep the Jewish observances with the exception to prohibit four things:  meats offered to idols, drinking blood, eating things strangled and fornication.  They wanted to “lay upon you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these necessary things.” 

                Note that this ruling was limited to the difference between the Jewish religion and the Gentiles.  It could not mean that these were the only requirements of salvation because it mentions nothing of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism or any other vital components of the gospel.  Yet, the idea of necessary things rings true. 

                Remember Naomi and two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth?  Uprooted, devastated, ravaged by adversity, Naomi had made a hard decision to go back to Bethlehem.  The story, however, is not really about Naomi.  It is about Orpha and Ruth.  It came down to deciding what they thought were the most important things in life.  “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee …for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Ruth 1:14-18.  Orpha could not let go of those things that had no ultimate value.  But Ruth took inventory of her life.  She recognized that all she had in Moab were idols, superstitions, and a life of emptiness.  She had found something in Naomi’s God that far outshone anything she had ever known in Moab.  She reduced her entire life to the things that she knew she really needed. 

                I contend that we can we reduce salvation to a few necessary things.  It may look confusing.  Christianity is only one of twenty-two major groupings of religion in the world.  Moreover, under the Christian umbrella, hundreds of denominations, sectarian beliefs, branches and divisions vie for recognition.  Some hardly believe anything; others live in communes or caves.  Some compromise away whatever truth they had: others suffocate themselves with legalism and drop out of circulation because of fear.  The point is that we cannot entrust our eternal salvation to man and his beliefs.  If you will pick up your Bible and seriously investigate the things that are necessary, you will find everything you need to know.  Each of the following instances settles the issue of necessities.

                Faith.  This is square one.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Hebrews 11: 6.  Nobody can find salvation unless he or she has faith.  You have to believe that man is a sinner, that the sin-contaminated soul cannot enter into eternal life, that Jesus Christ is the only savior of man and that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the gospel of our salvation. 

                Repentance.  Many scriptures speak of repentance, but this verse clinches it.  “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”  Luke 13: 3, 5.  Repentance means to feel genuine remorse for sin.  It means to turn away from a life of sin.  The deeper the repentance, the deeper the conversion.  Unless a person repents, salvation is impossible.

                Water Baptism.  Baptism is not optional.  If it were, Peter would not have risked losing his Jewish friends by supervising the baptism of Cornelius.  “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”  Acts 10: 48.  Also, baptism is the way to get into Christ.  “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Galatians 3: 27.

                Holy Spirit Baptism.  Birth of the Spirit is a salvation requirement.  “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.   Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” John 3: 5-7.  This is underscored by the New Testament pattern.

                Belief in the deity of Christ.  The fully enlightened  revelation of Jesus is to understand that he is God Himself!  “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”  John 8: 24.  Jesus is the Father!  “Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”  John 14: 8-9.  The phrase, “ye shall die in your sins” flags this as a necessary truth.

                Holiness.  Finally, separation from the world qualifies as a necessary doctrine.  Some assert that we need a more convenient message to preach to the world.  The bible, however, refutes this position.  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”  Hebrews 12: 14.  Is this not a scripture that testifies to the necessity of holiness?  As long as this scripture and a host of related scriptures are in the Bible, it represents an indispensible component for eternal life.  Here is the secret to living a holy life:  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 5: 16-17.

                Be wary of those who constantly pry around necessary things, treating them as unnecessary vestiges of tradition.  Whenever a cardinal truth falls away, the entire structure becomes weakened.  Ironically, the failure of every organization, denomination or sectarian belief was caused by people who were attempting to make things better. 

                One more point:  necessary things may be necessary, but don’t think they are difficult or dreaded.  Jesus said in John 10:10 “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”  The good news is that the most important things, the necessary things, are also the best things! 

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