Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Two Roads

Jesus said that there is a choice of one of two roads in life.  Here is what He said.  Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  God does not automatically set you on one road or the other from birth.  Instead, later in life you make the choice between the roads as to which one you will follow.  Which road of life will you choose?

The first road has a wide gate to enter in.  The way is broad and it leads to destruction.  Many choose this road.  The second road has a narrow gate to enter in.  The way is difficult and it leads to everlasting life.  Only a few find this road.  Jesus didn’t go into a long discussion to describe these two roads, but I think we can give a fairly accurate description of each.

Let us first address the destinations.  The narrow gate and difficult way leads to life – eternal life with God the Father and Jesus Christ and access to the tree of life.  Revelation  22:14 “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”  The wide gate and broad way leads to destruction – the lake of fire “which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) Since there are only two destinations, I hope you already know which one you will choose.

Not only are there two roads, but each road has a gate.  The wide gate and broad way have no entrance criteria.  Anything goes.  You can do whatever you desire.  The broad way is for those who seek after the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  You can seek after money and make money your God.  You can seek for pleasure and whatever feels good.  You can believe whatever you want to believe.  You can believe in false doctrines or false religions or you can believe in no god at all and believe that you came to existence through evolution. You can go after what you think is best for you.  Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” About this way, Jesus said “there are many who go in by it,” meaning that most people go in through the wide gate and follow the broad way.   But this way leads to destruction.

The narrow gate does have entrance criteria.  The first criterion is faith.  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.”  The apostle Paul taught repentance.  Acts 26:20b “That they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.”  He also taught confession that Jesus is Lord.  Roman 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The next criteria are given in John 3:5-7 “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’’”  Faith in God, repentance in a turning from the actions of the broad way, confession of Jesus as Lord, and being born of water and the Spirit are entrance criteria for the narrow gate.

After one has entered through the narrow gate, Jesus also said that the way to life is difficult.  It requires self-denial and taking up your cross.  Luke 9:23-24 “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.’”  It is the way of righteousness.  The way may be difficult, but the result is eternal life.

The two roads of life are very different.  Perhaps someone would want to mix the two but that doesn’t work. Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  It doesn’t work to be unequally yoked with someone going down the broad way.  2 Corinthians 6:14-15 “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?”  Although those going down the narrow way and those going down the broad way are both living in the world, the two ways are separate and very different.

For each one of us, there is a choice of one of two roads in life.  My encouragement to you is to choose the road with the narrow gate.  Even though the way is difficult, it leads to life.

A Good Life

Do you want to live long and have a good life?  As Christians we have a hope of eternal life with Jesus and God the Father.  But still we cling to this life because it is what we have and what we know.  While here, it is natural to make our lives reasonably pleasant; we don’t intentionally want to make our lives difficult or short.  The apostle Peter quoted Psalm 34:12-16 in giving us a prescription for what we should do to have a good life. 1 Peter 3:10-12 “For ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  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.’”  Let us analyze what Peter and the psalmist prescribed for a good life on this earth.

“Let him refrain his tongue from evil.”  The first element of the prescription is to watch your tongue.  You can spew out evil, hateful words, curses, and vulgar language.  You can gossip, slander, and speak evil of your fellow Christian, neighbor or those in authority.  Such a way of living will bring great trouble in your life and all those you come in contact with.  James 3:5-6 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”  If you go about speaking evil, you will set fires everywhere you go.  There will be no peace.  On the other hand, you can refrain your tongue from evil.  Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  A gracious tongue is a big step towards having peace and goodness in your life.

“Let him refrain … his lips from speaking deceit.”  The second element of the prescription is to stop speaking deceitfully.  Deceit is to cause someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.  It is being dishonest.  It is telling lies.  It is being hypocritical.  If you deceive others or tell lies, you only bring trouble into your life.  When the truth is discovered, you lose the respect and trust of others.  Always speaking the truth leads to a good life.

“Let him turn away from evil and do good.”  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.”  Each of these evil actions results in bad consequences.  Life is not good and your days are unpleasant when actions of evil abound.  God is opposed to these actions, not because he wants to deprive you, but because evilness does not lead to a good life and God wants what is good for you.  Instead, when you are righteous, when you do good works towards others, when your life is filled with love, then life is good.

“Let him seek peace and pursue it.”  The opposite of peace is strife.  If you want to love life and see good days, you don’t want strife.  To avoid strife, you have to make an effort to pursue peace.  Rather than insisting on your way, in humility submit to the will of others.  Learn to take it when someone does wrong to you and do not return evil for evil or take vengeance.  Be a peacemaker.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.”  What a wonderful assurance this gives!  When you are a righteous Christian, God has His eyes on you.  That means He is looking after you.  He will give you strength (Philippians 4:13); He will give you direction (Rom 8:14); He will give His blessings.  That doesn’t mean you have no trials in your life, but it means that the God of the universe is on your side.  You want to love life and see good days?  Have God on your side.  “And His ears are open to their prayers.”  He is listening to all of your prayers.  That doesn’t mean that He gives you everything you ask for, when you ask for it.  But we know that God promises to give good things to His righteous people who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). 

There is no assurance that God will listen to a sinner’s prayer.  We only know that He listens to the prayers of the righteous.  “But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  That means that He opposes those who do evil.  What actions He chooses to use against those who do evil is up to Him.  We can be assured that those who do evil will not see good days when God has His face against them.

Since I assume you want to love life and see good days, my encouragement to you is taken from what the apostle Peter wrote.  Refrain your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.  Turn away from evil and do good.  Seek peace and pursue it.

Suffering

We might wish that there would never be suffering in our lives.  We might desire that everyone would like us and treat us with respect and never harm us, that we would never be ill or have pain or lose a loved one, and that there would be no accidents or bad consequences for our actions.  But when we think about it, we realize that this is all unreasonable.  We each suffer in different ways and at various times. 

Sometimes we suffer because of bad decisions or sins we have committed.  If you are reckless in your behavior, you may have an accident and get hurt.  If you unwisely borrow money, you may be burdened with debt.  If you break the law, you may be arrested and suffer whatever penalty the authorities give to you.  If you suffer for bad decisions or sins, you need to accept the consequences with patience and learn from your mistakes.  But if you suffer for doing good and take it patiently, this is pleasing to God.  1 Peter 2:19-21 “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

Christ suffered much.  He tried to prepare His disciples that He would suffer many things.  Matthew 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”  If Jesus suffered, it shouldn’t surprise us if we suffer.  Hebrews 2:9-10 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”  Hebrews 5:7-9 “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”  If Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered, it shouldn’t surprise us if we must learn obedience to God through our suffering.

There are other things we learn through suffering.  The first is patience and perseverance.  Job suffered the loss of his children and the loss of all of his possessions; then he was smitten with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 1 and 2).  Throughout all his suffering, he did not sin.  James 5:10-11 “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.  Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”  We learn patience and perseverance through our suffering.

When we have suffered, we are able to empathize with others who are suffering like we have suffered.  If you have bad headaches, you can empathize with someone who also has headaches.  If you have lost a child, you can comfort another parent who has lost a child.  If you suffer persecution, you can empathize with others who are persecuted.  When you see someone suffering, it is a time to minister to them.  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 “That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

When you suffer, it is a time to draw closer to God and spend time with Him in prayer.   James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” When you suffer, you can share with God your suffering, plead with Him for relief, and receive His peace.  Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

You may suffer because you are a Christian.  If so, that is a time to rejoice.  Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Rejoice if you suffer for your faith.

There are many ways that you and I may suffer today.  Suffering has a place in each of our lives.  We can learn obedience to God in our suffering.  We can learn patience and perseverance.  We are able to empathize with others who suffer as we have suffered.  Suffering can draw you closer to God.  If you suffer as a Christian, rejoice because your reward is great.  

Finally, suffering can make us desire our eternal home.  Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” When we reach our eternal home, there will be no more suffering.

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.