Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Older Women

God wants men to be the leaders in the family and the church.  Husbands are to take the responsibility of being the head of the family.  Ephesians 5:22-23 “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.”  The leaders of the local church are the elders, also known as bishops, overseers, and pastors, indicating the functions they perform (see Acts 20:28).  In reviewing the qualifications for these individuals, it is obvious that they are to be men (Titus 1:6-9).  While men have the responsibility to be the leaders, women have important functions in both the home and the church.  The apostle Paul taught Titus in Titus 2:3-5 “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”  Let us look at these characteristics of older women in the church.

The older woman should be reverent in behavior.  She should be respectful and others should respect her and see her as a mature, holy woman of God.  She knows her proper place and dresses, speaks and acts appropriately.  She should not be a slanderer.  That means she should not be a false accuser, a gossip, a critical person, tearing other people down with her words.  She should love her fellow Christian even when they are not perfect.  She should not be given to much wine, meaning she is not a drunkard.  She exercises self-control in all her actions.

The older woman is to be a teacher of good things.  She has experienced many things in her life and gone through multiple trials.  She should now impart her wisdom to the younger women.  God has not given the woman the role of teaching in the church assembly.  1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”  The apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that a woman is to keep silent in the churches.  But this teaching was not just to the Corinthians in the first century.  The apostle Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”  A woman is not to teach in the church or have authority over a man.  The roles of man and woman are a result of Adam being formed before Eve and Eve being the one deceived in the Garden of Eden.  But there remains a teaching role for the woman outside of the church.  It should be obvious that it is appropriate for her to teach her children.  As we find from Titus 2:4, the older woman should teach the younger women how they should behave.  The things the older woman should teach the younger women are some of the things she has learned in being a Christian woman.

The older woman is to teach the younger women how to love their husbands.  Unfortunately, not all husbands are easy to love.  Perhaps the husband is the silent type or he is a workaholic or he doesn’t help her as he should or he has other flaws.  The wife is still to love her husband.  By her love and Christian behavior, she has the potential to have great influence over her husband.  1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”  The older woman can teach the younger women how to love their husbands even if he is not easy to love.

Next, she is to teach the younger women to love their children.  You would think that it is natural for all mothers to love their children.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Children can be a source of irritation and trouble in the family and some mothers want to be relieved from the responsibility of their children.  The wise, older woman should admonish the younger women in loving, disciplining, and instructing their children.

Next, she is to teach the younger women to be discreet and chaste.  Discreet is to exercise good judgment in conduct and speech.  The younger women need to be taught how to have appropriate speech and action that is becoming of a Christian woman.    Chaste is to be pure.  The younger women need to be sexually pure and spiritually pure from other carnal thoughts and actions.

Next, she is to teach the younger women to be homemakers, good, and obedient to their own husbands.   The bible teaches that the man or husband has a responsibility to provide for his household (1 Timothy 5:8) and the woman or wife has the responsibility to be a homemaker.  Today, in the modern world, these lines of responsibility may be blurred.  While a woman may work outside of the home and a man may do much inside the home, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the older woman is to teach the younger women their responsibility in the home.  The younger women are to be admonished to be good – good in all respects.  They are to be admonished to be obedient to their own husbands.  Previously, I quoted Ephesians 5:22 that women are to submit to their own husbands; this is the role that God has designed.  The older woman can teach the younger women how to be obedient.

My encouragement to the older women and the younger women is to learn how to live appropriately in speech and action so that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Love Your Enemies

I hope that in your life you are surrounded by those who love you.  But sometime in your life you will encounter someone who may be you enemy.  Who is your enemy?  It is someone who hates you or is hostile towards you, someone who seeks to inflict physical or emotional harm, someone who is opposed to the righteousness that you stand for as a Christian, someone who seeks to take from you what you have, someone who slanders you, or simply someone who is against you.  Jesus taught you how you should deal with your enemies.  Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?   And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Your natural reaction to your enemies is to focus on the injustices you receive from them.  Your carnal reaction may be to hate them, to be hostile to them and to say hateful things to them.  You naturally want to tell everyone how badly you have been mistreated.  You may want to destroy your enemies.  Didn’t the Israelites of old follow God’s direction and destroy their enemies?  It is natural to think that “you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But God never said that.  Now you are commanded to love your enemies. 

Before you were saved, consider what your relationship was with God.  Romans 5:6-10 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  As a sinner, you were an enemy of God.  But He loved you.  He considered your need for salvation and demonstrated His love toward you by sending Christ to die for you.  God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  He further loves mankind when “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). 

Just as God loved you, even when you were His enemy, you in turn should love your enemies.  You should do good to your enemies just as God does good to both the just and the unjust.  You should want your enemies to be saved just as God wants all to be saved.  You have to separate the sin from the sinner.  You hate the sin, but you love the sinner. Rather than focusing on the injustices (sin) you receive from your enemies, see them as individuals who are hurting and have needs to include their need for salvation. 

So how are you to treat your enemies?  First, you are to bless those who curse you.  That means you give them good words for their bad words.  You wish them well.  It is not that you want them to continue in their evil ways, but rather that you want them to have good things in their life and eventually eternal life.  You pray to God that His blessings may be given to them.  You can only sincerely do this if you really love your enemies.

Second, you are to do good to those who hate you.  You greet them in kindness.  You open the door for them when they enter or exit a building.  You pick up what they have dropped.  You feed them when they are hungry.  You give them a cup of cold water if they are thirsty.  You give them a gift if you see they have a need.  If there is some way you can serve them, you do so.  You can only sincerely do this if you really love your enemies.

Lastly, you are to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.  This isn’t a prayer that God will exercise his vengeance upon them.  Rather it is a prayer that their hearts will be changed and that they will find God.  Since you love your enemies, you want the best for them.  So you pray that good will come into their lives.  You can only sincerely do this if you really love your enemies.

The Apostle Paul put it a different way in Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

My encouragement to you is to love your enemies.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Spiritual Maturity

The birth of a baby is a wonderful thing.  If it is a normal child, we wonder at the perfection of a tiny human being – hands, feet, legs, eyes, ears, mouth, ten fingers and ten toes – a beautiful child.  But that baby is completely helpless; he needs his mother and father to take care of him so that he can grow and mature into an adult.  Soon after birth, he is hungry and cries to be fed.  He soon learns to hunger for the milk that fills him up.  He grows rapidly and soon he is crawling and then walking.  He now eats solid food that gives him nourishment.  But such a child cannot make decisions for himself; he needs his parents to teach him and train him.  As he gets older, he learns to make good decisions.  Through the help of his parents and instruction in school, he learns many things about the world and how to live and act among other people.  Over time, he grows to be an adult, and even has children of his own.

We observe and understand the growth and maturation of children.  But there is also a similar process in the spiritual realm.  Jesus taught us that we must be born again.  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.’’”  For you to enter the kingdom of God, you must die to you old sinful life and be born again spiritually.  Then you should desire the milk of the word, the Bible, in order to grow spiritually.  1 Peter 2:1-3 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  You must lay aside the old sinful life to include malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking.  But that is not enough.  As a spiritual child, you must also desire the milk of the word in the Bible.  There should be a hunger to know God and His righteousness so that you can grow and mature spiritually.  Your motivation to lay aside the old sinful life and to grow spiritually is that you have seen and tasted the grace of the Lord.  He has forgiven you of your sins; He blesses you with all spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3); He has given you eternal life; He has prepared a heavenly home for you.  You should have a strong desire to grow and mature spiritually and please your Father in Heaven.

If you saw a fifteen year old child still living on milk and in diapers, you would think that something was seriously wrong.  In the same way, if you saw a spiritually immature Christian who was not growing or maturing, you would also think that something was wrong.  One of the most obvious signs of an immature Christian is that they still have their carnal or fleshly nature.  1 Corinthians 3:1-3 “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”  For the Corinthian church, the carnal signs of spiritual immaturity were envy, strive and divisions.  For you, it could be a continual love for the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16).  Are you looking lustfully at another person; do you have a strong desire for the possessions and pleasures of the world?  Is most of your free time spent on these things?  These are indications of spiritual immaturity.

We have more instruction about spiritual immaturity from the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 5:12-6:3 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will do if God permits.”  As a mature Christian, you must go beyond the teachings of repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, the resurrection and eternal judgment.  These are important, but there are other important teachings that you need to understand and follow.  You also must become skilled in righteousness and discern between things that are good and things that are evil.

The Apostle Paul had additional teaching about spiritual maturity in Ephesians 4:14-16 “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ —  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”  Here the apostle teaches us to be sound in our understanding of Christian doctrine and not be naïve and deceived by false teachings.  One of the duties of the body of Christ, the church, is to help the spiritually immature to grow and mature.

What does a mature Christian look like?  Galatians 4:19 “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.”  When you have Christ formed in you, when you demonstrate His spirit, His love and His actions in your life, then you are spiritually mature.  Seek and set your mind on those things that are above.  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.”  My encouragement to you is to be spiritually mature. hading;\ls

Knowing God

When you come to the end of your life and you stand before Christ, you want Him to accept you as one of His.  You do not want him to reject you.  Matt 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’   And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  These individuals thought that the Lord knew them.  They thought they had served Him and even had prophesied, cast out demons, and done many wonders in His name.  But the Lord is saying that He never knew these individuals that He is rejecting.  You want to be known by the Lord.  It is also important to know God.  2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  When Jesus returns, He will take vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel, but He will also take vengeance on those who do not know God.  It is important to be known by God and to know God.  This relationship between you and God is of all importance.  If you do not have this relationship, you will be rejected and receive His vengeance.

What does it mean to know God?  What does it mean to know anyone?  There is a difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone.  I know about the President of the United States of America.  I know what he looks like; I know his political party; I know the promises he has made; I know where he stands on some important issues; I know some of the decisions he has made.  I know about the President, but I do not know the President.  I have never met him; I have never spent any time with him.  And he certainly does not know me.  On the other hand, I know my wife.  I have known her for over fifty years.  I know the things that she likes; I know that she is loving and caring; I know that she is a server and a giver; I know pretty much what she will say and do in certain circumstances.  I have spent many years with her.  Given my illustration between my knowing about the President and knowing my wife, my question to you is ‘Do you know God?’  You can go to the church assembly every Sunday and even be very knowledgeable about the Bible and many of the teachings found therein.  You can know about God, but do you really know God?

Jesus knows the Father.  One day Jesus was speaking to the Jews. John 8:54-55 “Jesus answered, ‘If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.’”  Another time, He said in Matthew 11:27 “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  Jesus certainly knows the Father.  He was in the beginning with the Father; together they created the universe; the Father told Jesus what to do and what to say while here on earth; many times, Jesus spent much time in prayer with the Father.  Jesus has revealed the Father to you and me.

Jesus used the illustration of Him being our shepherd.  John 10:1-5 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”  Sheep know their shepherd.  He has led them to pasture; he has watered them; he has rescued them from danger.  In Psalm 23, David describes how the Lord was his shepherd.  The point is that the shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know the shepherd.  Many flocks of sheep can be mixed together in one place, but when a shepherd calls his sheep, only his sheep follow him because they know him and they know his voice.   This illustrates how we should know our shepherd.

Part of knowing God is keeping His commandments and walking as Jesus walked.  1 John 2:3-6 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”  Your works cannot deny your knowledge of God.  Titus 1:15-16 “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”  Having love for one another is one of the important characteristics you must have in knowing God.  1 John 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

My encouragement to you is to truly know God.  Study the Bible to understand God.  Keep His commandments and walk as Jesus walked.  Spend much time in prayer with your Father.  Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Develop an intimate knowledge of God.

Learn To Take It

As a child, when I suffered some wrong from another, I would sometimes run to my dad to complain about the injustice I had received.  My godly father would tell me: “Learn to take it.”  I didn’t appreciate what he was teaching me.  It seemed right to me that justice needed to be served.  I wanted my father to come to my aid and somehow correct the wrong that I had suffered.  But he had a godly principle to teach me.  Look at what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”  The “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was given in the Old Testament in Exodus 21:22-25 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus is teaching differently from the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  He is teaching us to “take it”.  The evil that another might give to us, we accept and do not respond in kind.  He also demonstrated this principle in His own life.  When He was arrested and brought before the High Priest and the council of elders, they reviled him and accused him, they spit in His face, they beat Him, and they struck Him with their hands saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” (Matthew 26:67-68).  He could have called for twelve legions of angels to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53); as the Son of God, He could have struck them all dead.  But instead, He took it.  He took all the abuse they gave to Him and did not retaliate.  The apostle Peter teaches us in 1 Peter 2:18-24 “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 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: ‘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.” Jesus did not revile; He did not threaten; He did not strike back.  Instead, He took it and committed Himself to God.  When you and I do good, suffer and take it patiently, this is commendable before God.

I believe there are several important principles here.  First, to suffer while doing good and to take it patiently is to have great faith in God and be in submission to Him.  Faith is to trust that God is in control in all circumstances.  Faith is to trust that all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).  In a sense, to fight back would be to also fight against God, since God is allowing the suffering to occur.  To accept it patiently would be to submit to God and accept what He is allowing to happen.  When Jesus suffered without fighting back, He too was accepting what God was allowing to happen.

Second, to give an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would be to respond to an evil action with a corresponding evil action.  He that does that makes himself a wicked person just like the other one.  Instead of returning evil for evil, Jesus teaches us to return good for evil.  Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  To return good for evil is to be like your Father in heaven.  It is also to be like Jesus.  While Jesus was suffering on the cross, Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’”

Third, to give an eye for an eye is to take vengeance.  Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  God is the one to take vengeance – not you.

My encouragement to you is to learn to take it.  There are many circumstances in life where you will be doing good but you will suffer from the words or actions of others.  It could be at home, at work, at school, on the highway, at the store or any place where you interface with other people.  It could even be from fellow Christians.  When you do good but suffer for it, accept what God is allowing to happen to you.  Do not repay evil for evil.  Do not take vengeance.  Overcome evil with good.

A New Commandment

Jesus gave a new commandment in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Jesus obviously loved His disciples in that He fed them, led them and patiently taught them.  Then He gave His life for them.  John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  He commanded us to love one another as He loved us.  Everyone will know that we are His disciples if we love one another as Jesus loved us.

Think of the fellow Christians that you know – especially those in your own congregation.  How much do you love them?  Maybe there are some that you don’t love because they have trespassed against you.  Maybe they have said bad things about you.  Maybe you have had a disagreement.  Or maybe they have a way of just irritating you.  Maybe you see them at the assembly but you don’t really know them.  Do you love all of your fellow Christians?  How special are these individuals?  You share the same God the Father, the same Lord Jesus as your savior, and the same Holy Spirit to live within you and intercede for you.  You share the same salvation and the same eternal home.  You share common believes and practices.  You labor together and together you stand against the evilness of the world and the false doctrines that abound.  Because of what you share together, your fellow Christian should be very special to you.  God loves them and you should love them too. 1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9 “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

Your love for your fellow Christian should not be pretend, but pure and genuine.  Romans 12:9-10 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”  You should have kind affection for your brother.  You should want his success.  You should enjoy sharing time together.  Your love should be pure.  Don’t love him just a little, but have fervent love for him.  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.” Out of love, you should serve your fellow Christian.  Galatians 5:13 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

As with all people that we are close to, there will be times when there is conflict.  This is true within our earthly family, between husband and wife, between parents and children, and between children.  This is also true within the church; there is potential of conflict between brothers and sisters in Christ.  Love is especially needed in times of conflict.  Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”  Christian love will cause you to bear with one another and forgive one another.  It will cause you to be merciful, kind, humble, meek and longsuffering with your brother.  Love will cause your Christian brother to have the same attitudes towards you. 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.”  Regardless of how your Christian brother treats you, you should not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling but instead bless him.  Ephesians 4:1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 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.”  Keep Christian unity.  Have fervent love.  1 Peter 4:8 “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”  By having fervent love towards your brother, you can pass by his faults and forgive his offences, as far as is consistent with the truth.

It is so important to keep the new command from Jesus to love one another.  It is my encouragement to you to determine to increase and abound in your love for your fellow Christian. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

Life Is Short

Your life and my life are short.  Even if you live to be over 100 years old, your life is still short compared to eternity.  Those who live to be old often look back over their life and realize how quickly it has passed.  Isaiah 40:6-8 “The voice said, ‘Cry out!’  And he said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.’”  Surely human life is like the existence of grass.  When the rain comes and the temperatures are warm, the grass quickly grows; we enjoy it while it is green and produces a pretty flower.  But soon the season passes, the rain stops, the flower fades, the grass turns brown, and it is soon gone.  That is like our life.  James put it another way.  James 4:14 “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  The steam rising from a hot cup of coffee on a cold day quickly vanishes. Even so, our lives here on earth are quickly over like the vapor.  The psalmist wrote in Psalms 39:4-6 “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.  Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.”

Since life is short, how should you act?  First, don’t give in to temptation, but deny yourself.    You may be tempted to enjoy the pleasures of sin, but they only last for a short period of time and then the pleasure is gone.  Be like Moses.  Hebrews 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”  Cast off the works of darkness.  Romans 13:11-14 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  Life is short – deny yourself.

Don’t be afraid to suffer or die for Christ.  Many of the early Christians walked boldly to their execution because they realized that life is short and eternity awaits.  The apostle Paul wasn’t’ afraid.  Acts 20:22-24 “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  Life is short – don’t be afraid to suffer and die for Christ.

Use your time wisely in your service to God.  Ephesians 5:15-17 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Galatians 6:9-10 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Life is short – be busy in the service of God.

Be Patient in Trials.  Whatever trials you suffer, they are only for a moment in this short life.  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.”  Whatever pain your trials give you, you can endure them because they are just for a moment.  Life is short – be patient in trials.

Prepare for eternity.  2 Peter 1:5-11 “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. ”  Life is short – make your calling and election sure.

Deny yourself and don’t give in to temptation.  Don’t be afraid to suffer or die for Christ.  Be busy in the service of God.  Be patient in trials.  Prepare for eternity.  Life is short.

Do Not Love the World

The apostle Paul had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel of Jesus.  Over the period of time that he was bound, various Christian brothers were with him and ministered to him; mention is made of Luke, Demas, Mark, Aristarchus, Crescens, Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus.  He certainly taught them the things of God.  Perhaps they brought him food and other necessities.  Luke, being a physician, probably ministered to Paul’s health.  Some were Paul’s messengers to carry letters to the churches or to preach the gospel in some location that needed to hear the word.  Paul had obviously sent Timothy on some mission, because he wrote two letters to him.  In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he asks him to return because he needed him.  2 Timothy 4:9-10 “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.”  Of special note is Demas.  Demas had forsaken Paul.  Demas had ministered to Paul, had been taught by Paul, and had suffered alongside of Paul. But Demas had had enough; this life as a Christian was difficult and not what he wanted.  He wanted to enjoy the pleasures of this life rather than to deny himself.  Demas loved this present world.

What does it mean to love the world?  The apostle John taught us what it means.  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.”  To love the world is to have a strong desire or lust for the things of the world.  The lust of the flesh is a strong desire for the sensual pleasures of life.  This would include sexual pleasures and desires for lots of delicious food and drink.  From the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, I believe the lust of the flesh would include adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, drunkenness, and revelries.  The lust of the eyes would be anything that you see that creates in you a strong desire to possess it.  This might include a beautiful or handsome person, clothes, houses, lands, furniture, motorcycles, cars, trucks, toys, cell phones, guns, and travels.  The pride of life is anything that makes you feel superior to someone else.  This might include honors or titles your receive, your accomplishments, your physical or mental characteristics or skills, knowledge you have, special family members, and important people you know or have met – anything you can be proud of or will make people look up to you.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are not of the Father, but are of the world.  These are the things that people of the world desire and seek.  To love the sensual pleasures of life, to love the possessions of this life, and to desire to be superior to others is to love the world.  Apparently, Demas wanted these things rather than to love and serve God.

John said that if you love the world, you don’t love God the Father.  In other words, you can’t have a love for both – it’s one or the other.  Jesus taught in 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.” James 4:4 “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  You may want to somehow have both a love for the things of the world and a love for God.  But it is clear that you must make a choice because they are opposed to each other.

So, when you love God, does that mean you must give up all pleasures and enjoyment in life?  Of course not!  1 Timothy 6:17 “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.”  God wants you to enjoy the things He richly gives you.  You can enjoy a beautiful sunset or flowers or rocks or wildlife or the stars; you can enjoy the wonders and beauties of God’s creation.  You can enjoy intimacy with a loving wife or husband.  You can enjoy the birth of a child.  You can enjoy the possessions He has given you.  Ecclesiastes 2:24 “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.”  You can enjoy a simple meal with loved ones.  You can enjoy the fruit of your labor.  God gives you much to enjoy in life.  In fact, I dare say that when you love God rather than the world, you will have more true pleasure in life.  Matthew 6:31-33 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  God’s will is that you first seek Him and His kingdom and His righteousness, then your needs will be satisfied and He will give you much to enjoy in life.

Loving God means that you deny yourself rather than love the things of the world.  Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’”  My encouragement is to love God.  Deny yourself in that you do not love the world.  By loving God you will find your life. 

Causing Others To Sin

We should all be very careful not to cause someone else to sin.  Jesus had called a little child and set him in the middle of His disciples.  He said in Matthew 18:6-7 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”  Jesus said that it would be better to be drowned in the sea rather than cause a little child who believes in Him to sin.  He said woe to the person who causes someone else to sin.

What does it mean to cause someone to sin?  Does it mean that you force them to sin and they have no alternative but to sin?  No.  God always provides a way to avoid sin.  1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  Causing someone to sin means that you put a stumbling stone in their way.  Picture yourself walking a familiar path at night in the dark.  If someone put a stone in that path where you least expect it, there is a good chance that you will not see it and you will stumble and fall.  However, if you are very careful, you can avoid the stone and not fall.  Causing someone to sin means that by your actions you influence that person to sin.  In effect, you put a stone in their path and they are likely to stumble and fall.

Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:31-32 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  The husband that divorces his wife puts her in a very dangerous situation.  She isn’t forced to commit adultery, but she is very likely to do so.  Her husband, by divorcing her, has taken away his companionship and his financial support.  In order to fulfill her sexual desires and needs for companionship and financial support, she will likely find another man; whether she marries him or not, she will be committing adultery.  By divorcing his wife, he has put a stumbling stone in her way.  Jesus said woe to the person who causes someone else to sin.  Woe to the husband that divorces his wife and causes her to commit adultery.  If she were already involved in sexual immorality before the divorce, the husband divorcing his wife does not put a stumbling stone in her way, since she has already stumbled and fallen.

Since you should want to avoid causing someone else to sin, let us look at some ways that you can do that.  We already discussed the husband divorcing his wife; by his actions, he has put her in a very vulnerable position.  So the first way that you can cause someone to sin is that by your actions you put them in a very vulnerable position.  If an attractive young man or woman were to show themselves in public with very little clothes or revealing clothes, another person might see their body and develop lustful desires.  I believe this would be a case of putting another person in a vulnerable position or putting a stumbling stone in their way.  I encourage you to be careful to not do anything that would put anyone in a vulnerable position to sin.

Another way that you can cause someone to sin is by being a bad example.  Perhaps you lie or cheat or disobey the law or use bad language and a weak Christian sees you doing so and follows your example.  Or perhaps you have faith that you have liberty before God to do something, but a weak Christian does not have the same faith; if he follows your example, he will be sinning.  The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?  And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”  In this case, the issue was eating meat offered to an idol.  But your case may be something else that your brother considers wrong.  Paul wrote further in Romans 14:21 “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” Have the attitude of Paul that you will avoid any action that might be a bad example to your brother and cause him to sin.

I suppose there are other ways that you can cause your brother to sin.  Two that come to mind are false doctrines and discouragement.  Teaching him a false doctrine might cause him to follow that doctrine and sin. Romans 16:17 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”  You can discourage your brother by your words and actions.  For example, if you forsake the assembly, this discourages your brother; you are not there to encourage him (see Hebrews 10:25).  Your discouragement of your brother could cause him to fall away and sin. 

Realize the influence your words and actions have on others.  My encouragement is to be careful how you live your life so that you do not cause another to sin.  Romans 14:13b “But rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”

The Judgment

Most people in the world want to live as they please and do what they want.  The Bible clearly tells us that there are consequences for our actions.  Romans 2:5-8 “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’:  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath.”  Wrath or eternal life – which will it be?  Be sure that there will be a judgment.  Hebrews 9:27-28 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  The judgment will be after death.  Christ was offered to bear our sins, praise God!  There will not be a time after death to change your destination; now is the time you have to determine the outcome.

God already knows if you are His or not.  2 Timothy 2:19 “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’”  Either your name is in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27) or it is not.  When the Lord comes again, the righteous will go to be with the Lord.  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  If you are in Christ, everlasting life is yours.

While at the end of this life your eternal destination is already fixed and clear to God, you will still appear before the judgement seat of Christ.  Acts 17:30-31 “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 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.”  The apostle states that all will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  “All” would include the unsaved and the saved.  What is this judgment going to be like?  Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”  This implies to me that there will be a detailed review of what each of us has done. 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.”  This judgment will be a personal evaluation given to each individual of what his life has really been like.  A person may have done or thought things in secret, but these things will be revealed.

The object of this judgment is that each one will be recompensed for his deeds, whether good or bad.  Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”  Jesus will give each his reward based upon his works, whether good or bad.  The judgement will be fair and without any partiality.  1 Peter 1:17 “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”

Since God knows everything that you do and the secret counsels of your heart, should you not love God and be careful in what you do and think? Hebrews 4:13 “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.”  When you appear before the judgment seat of Christ, you will have to give an account and you will be rewarded based upon what you have done.

If you love the Lord, you do not need to fear him; you can be bold.  1 John 4:17-18 “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” You will receive the crown of righteousness.  2 Timothy 4:8 “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  My encouragement to you is to love the Lord and seek to please Him because one day you will stand before His judgment seat.