Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

The Golden Rule

I think it is safe to say that you like for people to do nice things to you.  For example, if you need help, you like it if someone comes to your aid, or if you make a mistake, to be patient with you, or if you have a great loss, to comfort you in your loss.  Consider the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 7:9-12 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!  Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  Here Jesus reasons that a man will naturally give good gifts to his son and in the same way our Father in heaven wants to give good things to us, His children, when we ask Him.  But then He goes on to teach that since your Father in heaven gives good things to you, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.

This last principle is known as the Golden Rule.  It is often stated as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I like to think of putting myself in the shoes of the other person.  If I were in their shoes, facing the same situation as they face, what would I want someone to do unto me?  That tells me what I should do unto them.  Jesus taught us that following this principle would fulfill all of the Law and the Prophets.  In other words, it would make us pleasing to God.  Let us look at several areas where we can apply this principle.

Suppose your brother sins against you in some way and then he is sorry for what he has done to you.  Do you forgive him?  The Golden Rule teaches us to forgive others because we want to be forgiven when we sin.  Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” 

Suppose you gave a task to someone and they completed most of the task but not all at the end of the day.  Or suppose someone owed you some money but they didn’t have enough to pay you back.  Or perhaps they borrowed something from you and then lost it so they cannot return it to you.  Do you insist on full restitution or do you give them mercy?  You have many opportunities to give mercy to others.  Do you want others and especially God to give you mercy?  The Golden Rule teaches us to give mercy to others because we want to be given mercy.  Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Luke 6:36 “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Suppose you see that your brother has some need in his life.  Perhaps he needs some money to buy something very important.  Perhaps he is hungry.  Or perhaps a storm destroyed his crops or his means of transportation.  Perhaps he has a serious illness and cannot work.  Do you ignore his need and tell yourself that it is his problem and not yours?  Or do you help him.  The Golden Rule teaches us to help another who has needs because we want to be helped when we have a need.  1 John 3:17-18 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Suppose you make an appointment to meet with someone at a specific time and they are late in arriving.  Or perhaps they agree to give you something but they continue to delay giving it to you.  Or perhaps they have a habit or way of doing things that you think is irritating.  Do you get angry with them or cast them away?  The Golden Rule teaches us to be patient and longsuffering with them because we want others and God to be patient and longsuffering with us.  Ephesians 4:2-3 “With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Suppose you have a brother who loses a loved one or someone else close to him.  On the other hand, perhaps he gets the job he has wanted for a long time or he marries the love of his life or he has a new baby.  Do you ignore him or go to him and weep with him when he weeps and rejoice with him when he rejoices.  The Golden Rule teaches us to empathize with others because we want others to empathize with us. Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Suppose you see that your brother is in poor health or is going on a long journey or needs guidance in his life.  Do you pray for your brother?  The Golden Rule teaches us to pray for our brother because we want him to pray for us.  James 5:16 “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

There are many other ways that you can apply the Golden Rule in your life as you deal with others.  Some that come to mind are having compassion for them, bearing their burdens, edifying them, listening to them, being kind to them, giving what they request, greeting them warmly, and loving them.  You do these things unto others because you want them to do these things unto you.  My encouragement is that you apply the Golden Rule in all areas of your life.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Live In Harmony

As spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, we are His church.  We share a common salvation; we assemble together, encourage each other, worship God together, and share the gospel with those who do not know it.  But as with any relationship, things do not always go smoothly.  At times we do not agree with each other.  We may be inconsiderate of each other.  We may even sin against each other.  We are still imperfect individuals upon this earth.  Therefore, it is appropriate to be reminded of the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:8-9 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

“Be of one mind.” This puts the emphasis on what we share together, and not on any differences we may have.  We have a common goal in life, a common salvation, a common Lord, a common purpose in the things that we do.  It means that we live in harmony with each other.  In music, discord is a combination of musical tones that are unpleasant to the ear, whereas musical tones which are in harmony sound pleasant to the ear because they combine well together.  As Christians, we should be harmonious in the things we do together.  Romans 12:16 “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” We treat each other as we want to be treated.  Luke 6:31 “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

“Having compassion for one another.”  Jesus often had compassion for those he met.  For example, in Matthew 14:14 “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”  To have compassion is to feel the pain of another person coupled with an urgent desire to aid or to relieve him of his suffering.  We can live in our own little world and only be concerned about our own problems in life.  But having compassion for one another means that we sympathize and emphasize with each other and take action to help each other through our problems.  Compassion should be motivated by our love for one another.

“Love as brothers.”  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in the same spiritual family.  We share so much together.  Together we stand against the devil and the evilness in the world.  There needs to be a fondness for each other because of what we share in common. 1 Peter 1:22 “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”  This brotherly love causes us to desire the success and well-being of each other.

“Be tenderhearted.”  To be tenderhearted is to have soft feelings for another – to have pity.  Hatred and bitterness are the opposite and cause you to disregard the problems and feelings of another and not help them.  You are to be tenderhearted.  Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

“Be Courteous.”  It means to be humble in your mind, gracious, mannerly and polite.  Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

“Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling.”  To revile someone is to speak reproachfully or to be abusive with words.  A fellow Christian should not do evil to you or revile you, but it may happen.  Whether your receive evilness in actions or in words, you are not to return evil for evil; you are not to take vengeance or return in like manner.  Christ is our ultimate example.  1 Peter 2:21-23 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

“On the contrary, return a blessing.”  Instead of returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, give them a blessing.  You can do something nice to your fellow Christian who is not nice to you.  You can ask for God’s blessings in their life.  Luke 6:28 “Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”  “Knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”  God has chosen to bless us physically and spiritually in spite of our sinfulness, with the ultimate blessing of the inheritance of eternal life.  Ask for God’s blessings on your fellow Christian.

My encouragement to you is to live in harmony with your fellow Christians, to love them and to bless them so that together you may be a light in the world and effectively serve our great God.

Do Not Neglect Your Salvation

You have heard the gospel and believed and obeyed it.  You have died to you past life and made a commitment to follow Jesus.  But over time, this commitment may weaken and you may slip back into the ways of the world.  Don’t let that happen.  Hebrews 2:1-4 “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”  The writer of Hebrews talks about drifting away like a boat that is not tied up and just floats away from the shore and out to sea.  It could also be translated that we let the things we have heard slip away.  Either way, the problem is that we weaken in our commitment to Christ and begin to engage in the ways of the world.  The writer wants to encourage us not to let that happen.  He describes how that in previous time, under the old covenant, every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.  Remember Korah and those with him rebelled against Moses and how the earth opened up and swallowed them whole (Numbers 16).  A man gathered sticks on the Sabbath day and was stoned to death (Numbers 15:23-36).  King Saul did not obey God to completely destroy the Amalekites and he was rejected as king (1 Samuel 15).  The Old Testament is filled with stories of the consequences of disobeying God’s word.  The writer of Hebrews continues by asking how shall we escape if we neglect our salvation.

To neglect something is to be careless, not to care, and to not give the attention something needs.  For example, consider someone who neglects the maintenance of the house he lives in.  If the roof develops a leak, he doesn’t fix it.  If a window is broken he doesn’t replace it.  The paint is dirty and peeling off.  Holes in the walls are not patched. Trees and bushes around the house are not trimmed.  Weeds and grass grow wild and are not taken care of.  You have most likely passed by such a house that is obviously neglected.  But consider what it might mean for someone to neglect their salvation.  He would seldom attend the assemblies of the church.  He would almost never pick up his Bible to read and study it – it would gather dust.  His prayer life would be minimal; most of his prayers would be just to give thanks for food.  Rather than serving God and doing good works, most of his time would be spent in pursuing the things of the world.  By his speech and actions, he looks like someone of the world. 

You can make all kinds of excuses for neglecting your salvation.  Look at the excuses used in Luke 14:16-24 “Then He said to him, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’  But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’  Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’  So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’  And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’  Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'” The excuses all seemed reasonable, but the master did not accept the excuses.  Nor will God accept your excuses for neglecting your salvation.

The writer of Hebrews does not specify the result of neglecting our salvation; instead, he reasons that since those under the old covenant received a just reward for their transgressions and disobedience, how shall we escape if we neglect our great salvation which was brought to us by the Son of God.  He later writes in Hebrews 12:18-29 “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’  And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’)  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.  See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’  Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.” My encouragement is that you not neglect your salvation but have grace to serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Jesus gave the following teaching in Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  He taught us to ask, seek and knock.  The promises are that it will be given to you, you will find, and it will be opened.  How should you understand what He is teaching?

You are first taught to ask.  That means that you should pray and make requests to God.  Some people pray by repeating the same words over and over again, thinking they will be heard for their many words.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”  Even though God knows what you need, He wants you to ask him for your needs.  He wants to give you good things.  Matthew 7:9-11 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  You know that loving parents give good things to their children when they ask.  Your heavenly Father loves you very much and wants to give you good gifts when you ask Him.

There is no promise that God will listen to a sinner’s prayer.  But He listens to the righteous.  1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  1 John 5:14-15 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”  God is everywhere and hears every prayer you make.  If you ask for your pleasures or for things that are not good for you, then don’t expect God to give you these gifts.  But if you ask according to His will, and continue to pray, the promise is that you will receive.

You are next taught to seek.  After asking God for your needs, what are you to seek?  Matthew 6:32b-33 “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  The kingdom of God on earth is His church.  You should seek to be in His kingdom, because the saved are in His church.  You should seek the growth and expansion of His kingdom here upon earth for the salvation of the lost and for the glory of God.  You are to also seek His righteousness through faith.  Philippians 3:9 “And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”  It is also the righteousness that He wants you to demonstrate in your life.  1 Peter 2:24 “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”  You should seek to know the will of God in your life.  You should seek those things that are above (in heaven).  Colossians 3:1-2 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  You should seek God because He is the one that rewards you.  Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  If you seek these things, the promise is that you will find them.

Finally, you are taught to knock.  When you come to a door, say a door to a house, you may want to enter and go through the door or you may want to find someone you think is on the other side of that door.  So you knock to get the attention of someone so that they will answer and open the door.  There can be many doors in your life.  Perhaps it is a door to God so that He will open and give you salvation or what you need in life.  Perhaps it is a door of opportunity, a path that you want to take.  Perhaps it is the door to someone’s heart that you want them to open up and let you in.  The point is that you knock and keep knocking until the door is opened and the desire is met.  I believe Jesus taught persistence in knocking.  Luke 18:1-7 “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’  And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said.  And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?’”  If you knock, the promise is that it will be opened.

Asking, seeking and knocking involve three different methods.  Asking is verbal; you use your mouth to ask God for your needs and desires.  You seek with your mind which is more than asking; it involves making what you seek a priority and focus of your heart.  Knocking involves physical movement and action.  Is there something you need to ask of God?  Is there something you need to seek for?  Is there some door you want opened?  My encouragement is to ask God so that it will be given to you.  Seek God and His kingdom and His righteousness so that you will find them.  Knock on a closed door in your life that it may be opened for you.

Husbands

God has placed the husband as the head within the family.  Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”  See also 1 Corinthians 11:3.  A husband may take that authority and abuse it in how he treats his wife and family.  This should never be the case with a Christian husband.  Instead, he should see his position as a great responsibility and an opportunity to let the light of Christ shine through him.

Husbands are to love their wives.  Ephesians 5:25-33 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  This scripture is very powerful in describing how a husband is to treat his wife. 

A husband is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church.  How much did Christ love the church?  He gave His very life for the church.  In the same way, a husband needs to be willing to give his very life for his wife.  Christ wants to present the church as a glorious church that it should be holy and without blemish.  A husband should want to honor his wife and present her in the best way.  A husband should love his wife as he loves himself; they are one flesh.  The wife’s body is his body.  Normal people do not intentionally harm their own body.  A loving husband will not intentionally harm his wife physically or emotionally.  Instead, he will nourish and cherish his wife just as he does his own body.  This is also how the Lord takes care of the church.  A husband is to love his own wife as himself.

The union of a man and a woman in marriage is a physical union.  Together they procreate children.  The sexual desire should be satisfied in marriage as well as the desire for companionship and affection.  1 Corinthians 7:3-5 “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  A husband should not make inappropriate physical demands of his wife that he loves, nor should he withhold from his wife the things that she needs that he can give her.  The writer in 1 Corinthians tells husbands and wives to not deprive one another except by consent for a time.  When a wife does not have her needs met by her husband, she may be tempted to find another man and commit adultery.  A husband therefore has a responsibility to meet the needs of his wife.

One of the major responsibilities of a husband is to provide for his family.  1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  Any husband who willfully neglects his duty to provide for his family is said to be worse than an unbeliever.

A husband and a wife are two separate individuals.  They are physically different and they have different hormones and emotions.  They may not think alike; they may not act alike; they may have different needs; they may have different priorities; they won’t always agree.  Typically, the husband is physically stronger than his wife; she may be stronger than he is in other ways because they have different strengths and weaknesses.   A man may say that he doesn’t understand women.  But women can be understood.  1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”  By having good communication with his wife, a man can come to understand her and give her honor for what she is.  Together they should work together to receive the inheritance that God has promised us. 

Because of the differences between a husband and his wife, there may be conflict in the marriage.  Conflict can destroy love and lead to bitterness or harshness.  Bitterness comes when you harbor bad feelings and you don’t forgive.  Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”  Husbands here are commanded to love their wives and get rid of bitterness or harshness.  That means that a husband must forgive his wife when there is conflict.  His love for her should dominate their relationship.

My encouragement to each husband is to love your wife.  As a husband, you are the head of your wife, but you also have great responsibilities toward her.  Seek to understand her.  Meet her needs.  Do not be bitter or harsh toward her.  Again I say, love your wife.

Good Works

It is clear that we are not saved by good works.  Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Salvation is a gift of God.  No one could ever do enough good works to earn salvation.  But see the very next verse. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  As Christians, we are created for good works.  God expects each of us to be full of good works.

There are multiple scriptures in the New Testament that encourage good works.  Here are a few.  Colossians 1:10 “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”  1 Timothy 6:17-18 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.”  Titus 3:1 “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.”  Titus 3:14 “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”

Our good works are a light to others and bring glory to God.  Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  1 Peter 2:11-12 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

What are good works?  Let us look as some examples from the Bible.  When Jesus was in Bethany, shortly before his crucifixion, a woman came with a flask of very costly, fragrant oil and poured it on His head. The disciples were indignant, thinking about the cost, but Jesus said that she had done it for His burial and she had done a good work for Him (Matthew 26:6-13).  In Acts 9:36-39 we have the account of a disciple named Tabitha or Dorcus who was described as a woman full of good works and charitable deeds.  Since she had just died, Peter was shown the tunics and garments which she had made, most likely as gifts for those in need.  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus draws a picture of the judgement in which those who were accepted gave food to the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, took in strangers, and visited the sick and those in prison.  Jesus talked about giving a cup of cold water for someone to drink (Matthew 10:42).  The apostle Paul said that if a man desires the position of an overseer (elder), he desires a good work (1 Timothy 3:1).  Jesus was known for good works.  He gave a short description of His works in Luke 7:22b “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  Look at the list of good works expected from a Christian widow that the church would support.  1 Timothy 5:9-10 “Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.”  It is interesting that bringing up children is included as a good work.  The possibilities for good works are unlimited.  When you give of your time and ability and resources to meet the physical or spiritual needs of someone, I understand that to be a good work.

Scripture gives us instruction in righteousness and thus equips us for good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “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.”  Since the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor (see Matthew 22:37-49), good works should flow from your love.

You have been saved by Jesus so that you will be pure and zealous for good works.  Titus 2:13-14 “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  Encourage your brother and sister in Christ to have love and good works; the assembly is one place you can do that. Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

My final encouragement to you for good works is a prayer taken from Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Young Men

Young men are not all alike.  However, they tend to be rough, jokesters, proud, selfish, thoughtless, rash, head-strong and foolish.  Do any of those characteristics describe someone you know?  We can assume that when the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, as recorded in the Bible, that they were young men.  Here is the instruction that Paul gave to Titus.  Titus 2:6-8 “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”  Whether or not you are a young man, these characteristics should be demonstrated by all Christians.

“Sober-minded.”  This does not mean that you cannot enjoy life and at times laugh and have fun.  But your life should be free from excesses, irregularities, and silliness.  Salvation is serious because your life and the lives of others are at stake.  Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” Soberness and seriousness are taught by the apostles.  1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”  1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Judgement day is coming.  1 Peter 4:7 “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”

“A pattern of good works.”  Each one of us is an example or pattern for others.  People watch you to see what kind of life you live, how you react to problems or insults from others, how you demonstrate love for your fellow man, if you are seeking to do good to those around you, if you are you spiritually minded or carnally minded, and many other things that you do in your life.  All Christians and especially young men should be a pattern of good works.  The Apostle Paul understood that he was an example to others.  Philippians 3:17-19 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.  For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things.”  Here is Paul’s instruction to Timothy.  1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”  Since others are watching, be a pattern of good works.

“In doctrine showing integrity.”  That means that you firmly and consistently adhere to the teachings of Christ in your life.  You are incapable of being bribed or morally corrupted.  You are upright.  You practice what you preach.  Romans 2:21-24 “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written.”  Apparently, some of the Jews that the apostle Paul was writing to in Rome did not have integrity; they taught one thing but practiced something different.  1 Timothy 4:16 “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

“Reverence.”  This means to be serious, respectful and have the proper awe and fear for God and others in authority.  Peter taught in 1 Peter 2:17 “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” You know your place in life and submit to the proper authorities. “Incorruptibility.”  This is similar to the integrity discussed above and means to demonstrate sincerity and genuineness in your Christian life.

“Sound speech that cannot be condemned.”  Young men of the world often use profanity, cursing swearing, and vulgar language.  As a Christian, it is a temptation to use the unwholesome words and expressions that you hear all around you.  Ephesians 5:4 “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”  A Christian should use healthy, wholesome speech that no one can fault.

The following exhortation is given in Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.  Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.”

In summary, young Christian men should be sober-minded, in all things showing themselves to be a pattern of good works, showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, and sound speech that cannot be condemned.  When they live that way, their opponents may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of them.

Seek First

What are your priorities in life?  I’m sure that you want the basic necessities in life such as food and clothing and shelter.  Everyone needs these things.  Apparently some people in the time of Jesus were struggling to obtain these basic necessities.  Jesus taught in Matthew 6:31-33 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  Whether it is your basic necessities or other desires and needs, seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness should be your number one priority.

What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness?  The kingdom of God on earth is made up of all true Christians.  It is the church.  Jesus gave parables about seeking the kingdom.  Matthew 13:44-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  These parables teach that obtaining the kingdom of God should be your number one priority, your number one joy and desire.

God’s righteousness is the righteousness which He gives you based on your faith in Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul described his priority in life in Philippians 3:7-9 “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” It is also the righteousness that He wants you to demonstrate in your life.  1 Peter 2:24 “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”  Make it your number one priority to be right before God.

God wants you to seek Him.  Jeremiah 29:13-14a “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, says the Lord.”  Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  As Christians, we seek Him through prayer, scripture reading and study, worship, fellowship and living as He wants us to live.  Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” The glory that awaits you is worth seeking God as your priority in life.

Jesus said that when you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He would supply your needs.  I believe He will also bless you with many blessings.  If you seek your earthly needs and desires first, you will not find room for the things of God.   Try this.  Take a large jar and fill it about three fourths full with rice.  Then take about the same volume of large nuts in their shell, like walnuts, and try to add them to the jar.  You can add a few nuts, but there will not be enough room for all of them.  Then empty the jar and try again.  This time, put the large nuts in first and add the rice afterwards.  It might take a little shaking, but you should be able to fill the jar with both the nuts and the rice.  The rice fills the voids around the nuts.  I hope you get the picture.  The jar is your life.  The rice is the less important activities in life.  The large nuts are the important things of God in your life.  While this is not a perfect analogy, it illustrates the principle of putting the things of God first in your life because there will still be room for many of the less important things, for your needs and desires.  But if you first try to take care of all of the less important things in life, there won’t be room for God.  Jesus said to first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Nothing is more important than the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Being a part of the kingdom of God leads to eternal life.  Nothing is more important than that!

Where do you primarily spend your energies? Is all your time and money spent on goods and activities that will certainly perish, or in the service of God?  You are to seek the things of God as a priority over the things of the world.  Primarily, it means we are to seek the salvation that is inherent in the kingdom of God because it is of greater value than all the world’s riches. Does this mean that you should neglect the normal duties that help sustain your life? Certainly not. But for the Christian, there should be a difference in attitude toward them. If we are taking care of God’s business as a priority—seeking His salvation, living in obedience to Him, and sharing the good news of the kingdom with others—then He will bless us as He promised.  Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

My encouragement is to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first in your life.

Your Adornment

You might adorn the walls of your house with photos or pictures or other ornaments.  A store might adorn the outside of their building with flags or balloons or other objects to get attention and draw in customers.  To adorn is to enhance the appearance of something.   It is common practice for people to also adorn themselves.  This adorning might be eyeliner or mascara or lipstick or rouge.  It might be a different hair color or hair style.  It might be ear rings or nose rings or other piercings.  It might be with jewelry such as necklaces or bracelets or rings.  It might be tattoos.  It might be with colorful dresses or shirts or it might be with revealing clothing.  There are many different ways that people adorn themselves today in an attempt to enhance their appearance and draw attention to themselves.  Does God care about your adornment?

The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:1-4 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel —  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  This Bible version adds the word “merely” which is not in the original text.  Arranging the hair, wearing gold, and putting on fine apparel are all outward adornments.  The apostle is admonishing the wives to adorn themselves with “the hidden person of the heart” rather than using these outward adornments.  I submit that there is a principle here that applies to all of us and not just to wives. 

God does not specifically forbid outward adornment.  In fact, we all adorn ourselves in some way since we all wear clothes and arrange our hair, unless you are bald.  But as a Christian, you will want to avoid certain physical adornments.  Some adornment marks an individual of a particular religion, for example: Muslim or Hindu.  In our local high school, there are at least ten different gangs or groups that can be identified by their adornment; their makeup, clothes, hats, and other adornments mark an individual as belonging to a particular group.  Some adornment marks a person of a certain sexual orientation.  Other adornment marks one as carnally minded and a person of the world.  I encourage you to choose outward adornment that marks you as a holy child of God.  

God is interested in the heart of a person rather than their outside appearance.  The prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to Bethlehem to choose the next king of Israel from the sons of Jesse.  Samuel saw Jesse’s son Eliab and thought that he would be the next king.  1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” Here are a few scriptures that show the importance of the attitude of the heart.  Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”  Matthew 12:33-35 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” 

God wants us to emphasize the adornment of the heart.  The apostle Peter encouraged the wives to adorn themselves “with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  For a woman to have a gentle and quiet spirit today is rare.  However the apostle says that such an adornment is very precious in the sight of God.  The apostle wrote in 1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  Humility is an adornment of the heart that God values; He gives grace to the one who has that adornment and we all desire the grace of God.  The apostle Paul told Timothy to flee the love of money and instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11).  These adornments of the heart are of great value to God and mark you as a child of God rather than a person of the world.  With these adornments, you will be a light in the world (Matthew 5:6).

My encouragement to you is to emphasize the adornment of a virtuous heart.  Since you belong to God, only seek the physical adornments that would please Him.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The Crown

When we talk of a crown today, we may think of a golden headdress, embedded with jewels, worn by a king or queen.  But a crown can also be the reward for victory; it may be given to the champion in a sport.  In ancient sports, it would have been a wreath placed on the head of the winner of a race to honor the victor.  It is in this sense that it is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”  The winners in a physical race would have received a wreath of olive branches and leaves; this crown would soon decay and perish.  The winners in the spiritual race receive a crown that lasts throughout eternity.

The crown we are to receive is the crown of life.  Jesus told the apostle John to write the following to the church in Smyrna.  Revelation 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  These brethren in Smyrna were to suffer many trials and tribulations as you and I must suffer.  But if they were faithful until death, they would receive the crown of life; they would receive eternal life.  James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  This crown of life is given to you if don’t give up when suffering trials and tribulations but you endure until the end.

The crown we are to receive is the crown of righteousness.  Near the end of the Apostle Paul’s live, he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  One who finishes and wins a race receives a crown; the apostle anticipated a crown as well after his life was over.  It is a crown given for righteousness.  Jesus Christ is righteous and has given us His righteousness because of our faith and obedience to the gospel.  Even so, He has saved us so that we would live righteous lives in this world. 

The crown we are to receive is the crown of glory.  The apostle Peter wrote to the elders/pastors/overseers in 1 Peter 5:2-4 “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”  Yes, elders will receive the crown of glory.  But it is not restricted to elders.  All of us should anticipate our crown of glory.

Something that is glorious has great beauty and splendor.  It is bright.  It is magnificent.  It is characterized by great honor.  The crown of glory describes the state of blessedness which faithful believers are to enter after this life.   It is appropriate for you to seek for this crown of glory.  Romans 2:7-10 (God will give) “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

The body we will receive is glorious.  1 Corinthians 15:42-44 “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”  Philippians 3:20-21 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

The crown of glory we will receive is going to be worth remaining faithful.  Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  I hope you can appreciate the glory you will receive.  Ephesians 1:18 “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”  When Christ returns, we will receive this glory.  Colossians 3:4 “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

My encouragement to you is to never give in to unrighteousness or be discouraged by trials and tribulations.  Be faithful until death to receive the crown of life.  It is an imperishable crown.  It is the crown of righteousness.  It is the crown of glory.  Don’t let anyone take your crown.  Revelation 3:11 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”