Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Godliness With Contentment

The apostle Paul gave Timothy the following instruction.  1 Timothy 6:6-10 “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

The word translated as godliness means piety, which is reverence and devotion to God.  It describes an attitude that is centered on God and does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  Contentment is the feeling of satisfaction one has with one’s possessions, status, or situation.  Godliness with contentment would be to set one’s heart on God and on doing what pleases Him and be satisfied with the possessions, status or situation that God has given.  The apostle Paul had learned godliness with contentment.  Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Paul had put his faith and trust in Christ.  He knew that whatever his situation, God still loved him and would carry him through.  Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Rather than concentrate on his earthly situation, the apostle looked forward and prepared for his eternal home in heaven.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  When you put your focus on being ready for your eternal home, you too can have godliness with contentment.  The things of this life are all temporary and will pass away; our eternal home will never pass away.

You brought nothing into this world.  When you were born, you had no clothes and no possessions.  When you die, you also take nothing with you.  I have seen a picture of a hearse pulling a trailer.  Whatever the purpose of the trailer, I am still convinced that whoever died did not take any possessions with him to the next life.  I do not believe it is wrong to make your situation in life better if you are able.  We are required to provide for ourselves and for our own household (1 Tim 5:8).  If you can go to school or receive training or look for a better job to better provide for your household, then do it.  From the Bible we learn that Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were tent makers; Lydia was a seller of purple; Luke was a physician; before they followed Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen. The problem comes when making money consumes you and you do not have godliness; you do not put God in first place in your life.

The problem may also be that you desire to be rich or that you love money.  Such an attitude has many problems.  Money becomes your god; it is more important than your Heavenly Father.  Since money or being rich is so important, you are likely to compromise your godly principles.  Truth, honesty, justice, mercy, and righteousness will likely be compromised in your search for riches or money.  You will fall into temptation, a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts.  You will love the things of this world rather than the things of God.  1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  Money is not evil.  But the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

Hebrews 13:5-6 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’   So we may boldly say:  ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’”  My encouragement is that you have godliness with contentment.  Put God first in your life; put your trust in Him that He will help you through the trials of life.  Do not desire to be rich or love money, because it will pull you away from the faith and from God.

Self Examination

The purpose of school is to teach you things you need to know in life.  When you started out, your teachers taught you how to read and write and how to do math.  The further in school that you went, the subjects became more complex and perhaps more difficult.  Frequently, the teacher would test you to see how much you knew.  The purpose of a test was to make sure you understood the subject and that you were ready to progress further.  At the end of a class, the teacher might give you a final examination that covered all of the material in the class.  Sometimes, your successful completion of the final exam would determine if you passed or failed the class.

Can you see that your final judgement before God is similar to a final exam in school.  Will you pass or will you fail God’s final exam?  2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 

We have the story of the Israelites that left Egypt.  Did they pass their test?  We read in the writings of Moses how the Israelites were delivered from bondage as slaves in Egypt.  Through Moses, God performed many miracles in the plagues He brought upon the Egyptians.  He even parted the sea and allowed the Israelites to walk through on dry land to escape Pharaoh and his army.  1 Corinthians 10:1-13 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.  And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’   Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.  Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  The Israelites were saved from their slavery in Egypt, but when they went into the wilderness, they failed the test.  Most of them died in the wilderness and they did not enter the Promised Land because of their disobedience.  The apostle Paul addressed Christians when he stated: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” 

We also have the example of Esau.  Hebrews 12:15-17 “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”  Esau was the first born and should have received the inheritance from his father.  But he sold his birthright because he didn’t place great value on it.  He too failed the test and did not receive the inheritance.  The writer of Hebrews addressed Christians when he said “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.”

In school, one way to assure yourself that you knew the material you were being taught was to test yourself before the final exam.  The same holds true with your spiritual life.  2 Corinthians 13:5-6 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.  But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”  You can examine your own life and actions to see if you truly are in the faith.  You can test yourself.  Is there sufficient evidence that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are in you by the fruit that you bear?  You do not want to be disqualified.

You have been given exceedingly great and precious promises, to include eternal life with God.  You do not want to fail your final exam before God.  The apostle Peter tells you how to make sure you pass your final test.  2 Peter 1:4-11 “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.  Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  You can make your calling and election sure.  You can ensure that you pass your final exam.  How?  The way is to make these things yours (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love) and have them abound in your life.

My encouragement to you is to examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourself.   Be diligent to make your call and election sure.

Secrets

Perhaps you have some secrets in your life that you have never told anyone: secret things in your past, secret things that you desire, secret plans that you have made, or secret fears that you have.  What you should not have are secret sins that you hold on to.  1 Timothy 5:24-25 “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later.  Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.”  Some sins are obvious and open for everyone to see.  But some are hidden and God will deal with them later.

God is all seeing; He knows everything that you do.  Hebrews 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” There is nothing hidden from God; everything is naked and open before him.  He can even discern the thoughts and intents of your heart.  Daniel 2:20-22 “Daniel answered and said:  ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His.  And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.  He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.’”  Deeds even done in darkness are not hidden from Him.

God knows everything about you; there are no secrets from God.  Psalms 90:8 “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.”  Since God already knows your sins, you should then be open and honest with God.  Confess your weaknesses, your failings and your sins to God that he may forgive you.  1 John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Seek the cleansing from God that He offers when you humble yourself before Him.  God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  Psalms 19:12-13 “Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse me from secret faults.  Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.  Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.”

Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders of His day.  Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  Don’t be like that.  Don’t be a hypocrite who appears righteous on the outside but you hide your lawlessness and sin.  My encouragement is to live an honest life.  2 Corinthians 4:2 “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  

We have addressed secret sins.  What about secret righteous deeds that you do?  Matthew 6:3-6 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.  And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.   But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  Actions such as your charitable deeds, your prayer, your fasting and your Bible study should not be done by you to make a show so that you will receive the praise of others.  Instead, they should be secret between you and God.  Not everything good that you do will be a secret; how you live your life and the results of your righteous deeds will be obvious to others. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  It is good for others to see your good works, but don’t do the good works so that they will be seen by others and so that they will praise you.

1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”  Whether your secrets are good or evil, God will bring every work of yours into judgement.  So cleanse yourself of secret sins.  If you have secrets, let them be the secret good things that you do from your heart that please God.

The Spiritual War

Whether you realize it or not, you are in a fight and in a war.  Your fight is not a physical fight but a spiritual fight.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  Over the past, people have used physical warfare to force their religion on others.  History shows that armies that claimed to be Christian or Muslim or some other religion have fought to win others for their cause.  Many people have died or been forced to accept another religion.  But your warfare is not physical but spiritual.  Your main enemy is the devil and his forces that oppose God.  Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Your fight may be on many sides.  The first fight is your own personal fight for your soul.  If you lose this fight, all other spiritual fights are without meaning.  1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”  Your own fleshly desires and pride work to draw you away from God and the things of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”  The works of the flesh are described in Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.”  These are the kind of things which war against your soul.

Another fight you may have is against those who oppose you in your walk of faith.  They may oppose you in what you believe, the principles that you stand for, and the way that you live your life.  1 Peter 3:14-16 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’   But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”  You must know why you believe and live as you do; you must be willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake; you must be ready to give a defense to those who oppose you.

Another fight you may have is to win souls for Christ.  There are many around you that are lost and do not know God.  The world is filled with those who don’t believe in God and His work of creation.  The popular doctrine is that everything has evolved through natural selection.  I encourage you to know why you believe in God and what evidence you see proves His creation and design of all things.  There are also many who believe in God but have never obeyed the gospel.  The gospel message of Christ is powerful.  The apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”  The truth of God as revealed in the Bible is powerful in changing lives.  We previously had 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  God’s message is powerful.  It can pull down strongholds, cast down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

The armor for your warfare is described in Ephesians 6:13-18 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”  Your weapons include truth, righteousness, faith, the gospel, the word of God, and prayer.  These can empower you to pull down strongholds, cast down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

Do not be ignorant of the war that you are fighting.  My encouragement is to be brave and fight using the spiritual weapons God has given you.

Without Prejudice or Partiality

In almost every country today, there is prejudice and partiality.  Prejudice is an irrational hostile attitude, fear or hatred towards a particular group.  Prejudice and partiality can be shown towards or against people of a particular race, color, country of origin or ethnic group.  Prejudice and partiality may be shown to men or to women, to the old or to the young, and to the poor or to the rich.  If you are different from others is some way, you may be the subject of prejudice and partiality.  The apostle Paul was instructing Timothy and he gave the following charge.  1 Timothy 5:21 “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”

Prejudice is not just a modern occurrence; it has been happening for thousands of years.  The ancient Egyptians disliked people who were shepherds.  Joseph warned his brethren about this in Genesis 46:33-34 “So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ that you shall say, ‘Your servants’ occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers,’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”  The Israelites lived in the land of Goshen, which was an area different from where the majority of Egyptians lived, because of the prejudice against them as shepherds.  This is not unlike today where there is a ghetto or area where people of some special group live together because they are different in some way.

The Jews in the time of Jesus had no dealings with the Samaritans.  When Jesus passed through the region of Samaria, he rested by a well while his disciples went into the village to buy food.  John 4:7-9 “A woman of Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”  Jesus went against the common prejudice by speaking with the Samaritan woman.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the first Christians were only Jews.  These Jewish Christians had prejudice against gentiles.  The apostle Peter was sent to convert the gentile, Cornelius, in Caesarea.  When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was confronted by the other apostles and brethren.  Acts 11:1-3 “Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.  And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’”

When Peter was with Cornelius, he made the following statement.  Acts 10:34-35 “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.’”  God is not interested in whether a person is of a particular race, color, country of origin or ethnic group.  He is interested in those who fear Him and work righteousness.  If God shows no partiality, then you should show no partiality as well.  Romans 10:12-13 “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”  Whoever comes to the Lord from any group will be saved.  Galatians 3:26-29 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither 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.”  It doesn’t matter what race, color, country of origin, ethnic group, gender or social standing you have.  We are all one in Christ Jesus.

It may be common to show partiality to the rich and against the poor.  James 2:1-7 “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.  For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?  Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”  You should treat the rich and poor alike, without partiality.

Love for others should motivate you to discard prejudice and partiality.  James 2:8-9 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” 

My encouragement is that you conduct your life without prejudice or partiality.  All people are valued by God.  Whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Godly Sorrow

In the first letter that we have that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he addressed several significant problems in the church.  These problems included divisions among the brethren, an accepted brother committing sexual immorality, suing each other in the courts, participation in idolatrous practices, and improper observance of the Lord’s Supper.  The apostle’s rebuke of the Corinthian brethren was appropriate; there were many things they needed to correct.  How was the Corinthian church going to respond to the instruction and rebuke they received?  In the second letter to the Corinthians, we are told how they responded.  2 Corinthians 7:8-11 “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.  Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance.  For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner:  What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”

When a person is found guilty of a wrong-doing, whether that be against the law of the country or a sin against God or an offense to a friend, how is the person going to respond to being found guilty?  The first typical response is to deny any wrong-doing; the facts must not be true or the conclusion about the facts is wrong.  The person denies any guilt.  When the Lord told Abraham that he was to have a child by his wife Sarah in their old age, she overheard and laughed.  When asked why she laughed, she denied that she had laughed (Genesis 18:10-15).  She lied in her attempt to cover her guilt. The second typical response to being found guilty is to shift the blame; he is only guilty because of the fault of someone else.  When Adam was confronted by God because he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he blamed the woman (Genesis 3:12).  He was only guilty because the woman wrongly influenced him.  Another typical response a person may have is to justify his actions.  He did the wrong thing for a good reason.  King Saul did not utterly destroy the Amalekites as directed and his excuse was that he wanted to save the best to sacrifice to God (1 Samuel 15:20-23).  Another typical response is to minimize his guilt by pointing out the greater guilt of someone else.  His hope is to make his offense look small.  The scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery; they wanted to stone her.  But Jesus caused them to realize that they were also guilty of sin (John 8:2-11).  Another typical response is to admit his guilt and be sorry that he got caught; he is not sorry that he did what he did – he is only sorry that he was found out and has to suffer the consequences.  Given a similar opportunity, he might do it again and try not to be caught.  All these responses are wrong responses to being found guilty.

The last response to being found guilty is to have godly sorrow, repentance and vindication.  Godly sorrow is to truly regret that you did the wrong thing.  There are no excuses.  There is self-condemnation.  You are guilty.  The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of this world produces death.” By definition, repentance in the Bible means to change one’s mind or purpose.  Since your actions are directed by your mind, repentance also means that your actions will be changed as well.  Repentance leads to salvation.  There is no regretting of your decision; you are not going back to the old way.  You have changed direction.  Vindication means that you want to make things right; you want to clear yourself in this matter.  Observe how the Corinthians responded to being found guilty by Paul.  2 Corinthians 7:11 “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner:  What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”  That is the kind of response that God desires from you when you are found guilty.

Let us look at the example of the Jews on the day of Pentecost when they heard the preaching of the apostle Peter.  Peter convinced them that they had rejected and crucified the Christ that they had been looking for.  Acts 2:36-38 “’Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”  They followed the pattern of godly sorrow, repentance and vindication.  They were cut to the heart from the words of Peter; there was self-condemnation.  They were told to repent – to change their thinking and their actions.  They were told to be baptized for the remission of sins to make themselves clean before God. 

If you are found guilty of a sin or offense, don’t excuse yourself.  Instead, have godly sorrow for your action.  That godly sorrow will produce repentance that leads to salvation.

Widows

God is a merciful Father in heaven.  He cares for those who are in distress and need.  He takes special care over the orphans and widows.  Psalms 146:9 “The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down.”  He expects you to also have concern for the orphans and widows.  James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  While it is important to keep yourself free from the sin that is in the world, it is also important for you to help the orphans and widows since it is assumed that they do not have the resources that they need.  God cares for these individuals and He wants you to also care for them.  Certainly there are some widows who need no help; but many widows are left without resources when their husband dies.

The prophet Elijah prophesied that it would not rain and it did not rain for three years and six months.  He was sent to a widow in Zarephath and God miraculously provided food for the widow during the time of the famine (1 Kings 17:8-16).  Jesus was passing through the city of Nain when a young man died, the only son of a widow, and was being carried out.  Jesus had pity on the widow and her son and raised him from the dead (Luke 7:11-15).  God cares for the widow.

When a widow is in need, the first responsibility lies with the family to provide for her needs.  1 Timothy 5:4 “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.”  The family should not expect the church to help the widow; it is their responsibility first.   Verse 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.”  Those who do not provide for their own family members demonstrate an improper attitude and spirit and the apostle Paul states that they are “worse than an unbeliever.” Verse 16 “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”  The church’s resources are limited so it should have the responsibility only for widows who are really destitute.

If a Christian widow has no family, then the church should provide for her needs.  Apparently the early church in Jerusalem was providing food for the widows there.  Acts 6:1 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”  There was a problem in that not all widows were receiving equal care.  The apostles solved this problem by appointing the seven.  Even so, this demonstrates that the church supplied the needs of the widows.

The apostle Paul gave Timothy the following instruction concerning widows in the church.  1 Timothy 5:3 “Honor widows who are really widows.” Verse 5 “Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.”  One who is really a widow means one who has no family to help her and one who is Godly and trusts in God.  Then the apostle gives the qualifications for the widow that the church is to help.   Verses 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.” 

Let us look at these qualifications.  “Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number.”  The church is to care for the widow who is old and not likely to marry again.  1 Timothy 5:11-15 “But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith.  And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.  Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.  For some have already turned aside after Satan.”  The younger widow should marry again or she might become idle and be a gossip or a busybody.

“Unless she has been the wife of one man.”  Perhaps this means that she was faithful to her husband or that she was not divorced and remarried.  “Well reported for good works.”  We have the story of the widow Tabitha (or Dorcas) in Acts 9:36-41 who sewed clothes for others; she died and the apostle Peter raised her from the dead.  “If she has brought up children.”  She could have raised her own children or orphans.  “If she has lodged strangers.”  This demonstrated her hospitality.  “If she has washed the saints’ feet.”  Remember, all Christians are saints.  She should have demonstrated her service to fellow Christians.  “If she has relieved the afflicted.”  This demonstrated her mercy and service to others.  “If she has diligently followed every good work.”  I believe this summarizes the godly life of a widow that is qualified to be cared for by the church.  These qualifications can also be an encouragement to a woman on the kind of service she should desire to provide in her lifetime.

My encouragement to you is to be careful to provide for any widow in your family; since she is family, she is your responsibility.  If you are a woman, live the life of service described under the qualifications of the godly widow above; someday, you may be a widow needing help.  If your church has qualified widows, be eager to serve them.

Cleansing

You know what it means to be dirty.  You get dirt or grease or food on your hands or clothes and you need to wash it off.  Water is usually good to wash off most things, but sometimes you need soap or detergent or something stronger to come clean.  But what about being dirty spiritually?  Your sins are what make you dirty before God.  But praise to God, Jesus washed you in His blood.  Revelation 1:5b-6 “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  It is wonderful to know that you are washed, sanctified and justified.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  You have received a washing of regeneration.  Titus 3:3-5 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  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.”  This washing of regeneration is understood to be baptism.  You have been washed; your sins have been forgiven; you were made clean before God.

Let’s say that a mother gives her child a bath before going to bed.  But that child immediately goes out in his bare feet and walks through some mud.  The mother might be upset with the child, but she would not have to give him a complete bath again; all she needs to do is to wash his feet.  1 John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  When you sin as a Christian, you should confess your sin and He is faithful and just to forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  It is like having your feet washed to make you clean again.

Once you have been cleansed from your sin, you should want to stay clean.  The apostle Peter gives a very graphic description of those who have been cleansed but return to their sinful life.  2 Peter 2:22 “But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”  The apostle Paul puts it another way.  Romans 6:1-4 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1 “Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’  ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 

Since your Father in heaven loves you and has promised to bless you in so many ways, you will want to cleanse yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.  We are told what the works of the flesh are.  Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Cleanse yourself from all this filthiness of the flesh.  But you also will want to cleanse yourself from filthiness of the spirit.  These might include impure thoughts, lies, lust and covetousness.  Even if you don’t commit sins of the flesh, you can sin with you thoughts and your spirit.  Clean both the inside as well as the outside of your “cup”.  Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”  Clean both your thoughts as well as your actions.

Look at Paul’s admonition again.  2 Corinthians 7:1b “Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  Perfecting holiness implies a continual process of cleansing yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.  It may be a lifetime process of separating yourself from the ways of the world and drawing closer to God. 

You have been washed from your sins in the blood of Jesus.  My encouragement to you now is to cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Be An Example

Timothy was a young man when the apostle Paul wrote to him the following exhortation.  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.”  Just as Timothy was to be an example to other believers, you and I are to be examples to other believers.  People watch you to see how you live your life.  They look to see if you are sincere, to see if you are hypocritical, to see if you have integrity, and to see if you are following the spiritual principles laid out in the Bible.  People discover what kind of Christian you are by how you live your life.  The new believers typically look to those who have been Christians for a longer time to learn how they should act or react in the different situations of life.  I remember Christians that I have looked up to and have taken as examples.  I learned from them how to walk in faith; I learned how to react to trials and temptation; I learned from them how to preach and teach; I learned from them how to pray; I learned from them how to love my fellow brother and sister in Christ.  Many things I have learned from the example of other Christians.

Timothy was instructed to be an example to the believers in six areas.  These same six areas apply to you today.  The first area is “in word”; I understand this to be the words that you use – your speech.  People judge you by what you say and how you say it.  Are you often critical of other people?  Do you use sarcasm? Are you frequently telling jokes with some being in bad taste?  Do you swear or curse?  Do you tell lies?  Psalms 34:12-13 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?  Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”  James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”  Instead, be an example to others by edifying with your words and by being thankful and praising God. 

The next area is “in conduct”.  Jesus showed his apostles how to be servants when he washed their feet.  Jesus was an example to us in other ways.  1 Peter 2:21-24 “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.”  As Jesus is your example, you must be an example to other believers with the conduct of your life.  Cheerfully be a servant to those about you.  Show joy in your life.  Freely give to those in need.  Demonstrate self-control when tempted or tried.  There are many areas in your life where you can be an example to others in your conduct.

The next area is “in love”.  Again, God and Christ are our examples of love.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”  From 1 Corinthians 13 we learn the characteristics of true love.  One of the most important characteristics of love is that it “does not seek its own”.  When you truly love others, you show that you are not selfish but that you seek their good and want the best for them.  Are you being an example of love by demonstrating your care and concern for others?

The next area is “in spirit”.  You are an example in this area by your manner of living – by your disposition and attitude.  You should show with your spirit that the Holy Spirit is living within you.  Galatians 5:22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  You are an example in spirit when you show love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your life.

The next area is “in faith”.  The apostle Paul told the Romans in Romans 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”  Your faith may not be spoken of throughout the world, but others will see your faith by how you live.  You show your faith by your obvious trust in God and His promises.  You demonstrate your faith when you put yourself into God’s hands in the time of trial and by being a prayerful person.  You are an example in faith when you walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The last area is “in purity”.  Perhaps this was especially important for Timothy as a young unmarried man.  He needed to be an example in sexual purity.  Whether you are unmarried or married, you also should be an example in sexual purity.  But sexuality is not the only area where you should demonstrate purity.  You should have a pure heart towards God in all areas of your life and not be partly good and partly sinful in any area.  Be an example of a pure, genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

When the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to be an example in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity, I do not believe that Paul wanted Timothy to be a hypocrite and pretend to be good in all these areas.  No, he wanted Timothy to be careful in his actions and not do anything that might be misinterpreted as unrighteous.  Jesus taught us in 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.”  Live your life so that you will be the example that causes others to glorify your Father in heaven.

Be Holy

God is a holy God.  He is unlike any other.  He is pure and without any evilness or sin.  He cannot lie but is always true.  He is love.  He has great mercy.  He is almighty – none come close to His power and might.  He is all knowing.  He has always existed and will always be.  He is everywhere.  Words seem inadequate to describe our God.  But one word seems to sum it all up – holy.  Revelation 4:8 “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’”

God chose the Israelite nation to be His people.  He asked the Israelites to consecrate or set themselves apart from all other peoples and the practices of the other nations and dedicate themselves to Him.  Leviticus 11:44-45 “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.  For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  The Israelites were to be holy – separate or set apart to God.  As God gave instructions to the Israelites, He told them that certain things were to be holy – separated and set apart for Him and His worship.  Garments in His worship were to be holy.  There was holy oil used in His service.  The altar was holy.  Specific places were to be holy.  The Sabbath was to be holy.  And as previously stated, the whole Israelite nation was to be holy.  Many things were declared to be holy because they were set apart and consecrated to God. 

Just as the Israelites of old were to be a holy people, the church today is holy.  Ephesians 5:25-27 “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.”  Christians are to be a holy nation.  1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”  As the Israelites were told not to intermix with the peoples of the land of Canaan, so Christians are to separate themselves from the world.  2 Corinthians 6:14-18 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’  Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’  ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”  You, as a believer in Jesus Christ, cannot be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  You, as a righteous child of God, cannot have fellowship with lawlessness.  You, who walk in the light, cannot have communion with darkness.  You, who are in Christ, cannot have agreement with false worship, idolatry, witchcraft, sorcery or other such false religions.  Separate yourself from the ways of the world; do not touch the unclean things the world craves, and be a holy child of God.  Be set apart and consecrated to God.

Since you are holy and set apart for God, your actions must be different from the world’s actions.  1 Peter 1:13-16 “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; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”  Let your actions reflect you obedience to God and rejection of your former lusts and sinful actions.  Be holy, for God is holy.

Unless you are holy, you will not see the Lord.  Hebrews 12:14 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”  One day Jesus will return; the heavens will pass away and the earth will be burned up.  2 Peter 3:10-11 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?”  My encouragement to you is to be holy and demonstrate your holiness in your daily conduct.