Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

The Rich

It is easy to want to be rich.  You could buy whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it.  You could purchase many of the pleasures in life.  As a rich person you wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills or buying food or where you are going to live.  Some of the important people of the Bible were rich.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were rich.  Kings David and Solomon were rich.  I suspect that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were rich.  It is not wrong to be rich. 

But Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 19:23-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  It is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom because entering the kingdom requires faith and trust in God.  A typical rich man trusts in his riches.  Whenever a problem comes in life, the rich man uses his riches to solve the problem.  He doesn’t see a need to trust in God.  The poor man must trust in the Lord.  James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”  God wants you to trust in Him rather than to trust in yourself or your riches.  The poor man must trust in the Lord because he doesn’t have any riches to depend upon.

There is no strict definition of who is rich.  I have found that people often don’t consider themselves rich because they can look at someone else who has more.  The one who has more is rich.  The person without a house considers the person with a house to be rich.  The person without a car considers the person with a car as rich.  The person without a savings account in the bank considers the person with a savings account as rich.  And so it goes.  We compare ourselves to others.  They are rich and I am not.  But perhaps you should turn that around and realize that compared to someone else, you are rich.  If you have any possessions at all, you are rich compared to one who has nothing.  And if you are rich, there are things you must be careful to avoid.  The apostle Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 “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, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

“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.”  If you are richer than someone else, it is easy to be proud.  Somehow you might consider yourself better than those who have less than you do.  Do not be haughty because you have more.  You are not better in God’s eyes because you have more.  He is the one who has given you what you have.  1 Corinthians 4:6b-7 “That none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.  For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” 

It is somewhat natural to trust that your possessions will shield you from the problems in life.  Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  You can lose your possessions due to moth or rust or thieves or any of a number of other reasons.  Trust in God rather than in your possessions.  Don’t make the possessions of this life your treasure; lay up for yourself treasures in heaven.

“Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  Seek to be rich in good works.  Use your riches to help with the needs of those who have less.  Be ready to give and to share.  Have compassion on those who have needs that you can supply.  If you do, you will be laying up for yourself treasures in heaven.

Compared to someone who has less, you are rich.  Do not be proud or trust in your riches.  Instead, be rich in good works.

Liberty and Love

The first Christians were Jews just as Jesus was a Jew and His apostles were Jewish.   Then God gave His Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his household to prove that Gentiles were also accepted and could receive forgiveness of their sins through Jesus Christ (Acts 10).  Afterwards, some Jewish Christians insisted that the Gentiles had to keep the Law of Moses to include being circumcised.   The apostles and elders met in Jerusalem (Acts 15) and concluded that the gentiles were not required to keep the Law; they were free from the Law with all of its regulations, commandments and ceremonies.  In discussing this fact, the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13-14 “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.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Today, you have been called to liberty.  You are free from the Law.  You are free to eat all kinds of animals.  1 Timothy 4:4-5 “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  You are free from being required to offer animal sacrifices for your sins.  You are free from being required to observe the three annual feasts.  You are free from being required to be circumcised.  There are many, many rules and regulations in the Law from which you are free and are not required to know and faithfully observe.  But that doesn’t mean that you are at liberty to indulge in your fleshly desires.  You are not at liberty to be sexual immoral or be a glutton or a drunkard or a greedy person.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  You were washed, sanctified, and justified and you are now a slave to righteousness.  Romans 6:18 “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

 “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.”  In contrast to being required to keep the Law, through love we serve one another.  God the Father and Jesus Christ are examples of serving you through love.  Jesus gave the commandment to love.  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.”  You are also taught to love your neighbor and your enemy.  Matthew 5:43-44 “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.”  Husbands are to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and wives are to love their husbands (Titus 2:4).  The Christian emphasis is on love.

The Apostle Paul also told the Roman church that love fulfills the Law.  Romans 13:8-10 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Law.  The first three commandments are to have no other gods before God, to not make and worship any image, and to not take the name of the Lord in vain.  If you love God, you will naturally not do any of these things.  The fifth commandment is to honor your father and mother; if you love them, you will honor them.  The sixth commandment is to not murder; if you love your neighbor and your enemy you will not murder them.  The seventh commandment is to not commit adultery; if you love your spouse you will refrain from adultery.  The eighth commandment is to not steal; if you love your neighbor, you will not take anything that belongs to him.  The ninth commandment is to not bear false witness against your neighbor; again, if you love your neighbor you will only speak truth about him.  The tenth commandment is to not covet anything of your neighbor; again, if you love your neighbor you will be happy that he has whatever possession he has and you will not covet it. 

Interestingly, the fourth commandment is to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; I do not see this commandment to be fulfilled by love.  Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27).  Perhaps the Sabbath was given to man as an act of love by God.

You have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  As a Christian, you are commanded to love.  Let love be your emphasis in life – love for God, neighbor, brother and sister in Christ, spouse, and your enemy.

The Fight of Faith

The apostle Paul gave the following admonition to Timothy.  1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  Just like Timothy, you are in a fight of faith. 

You are in this fight because you have faith.  You believe that there is a God who created everything (Romans 1:19-21).  You believe that God sent His son into the world so that you can be saved from your sin and receive eternal life (John 3:16).  You believe that since Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead that you also will be resurrected after this life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).  You have faith and you are willing to live your life being a follower of Jesus.

It is a fight of faith because the Devil wants you to lose your faith and thus lose the fight.  You can lose your faith by having doubts.  That is similar to the tactic that the serpent used in the Garden of Eden.  Gen 3:1-5 “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’  And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’  Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”  The serpent wanted the woman to doubt what God had said.  The popular media today addresses evolution as if it were a fact; this can cause you to doubt that God created everything.  Today, many doubt the truths about God and Jesus that are found in the Bible.  Even if you believe the Bible, you can doubt that the promises given by God are really true.  “Does He really love me?  Will He give me strength to overcome?  Is He really with me in my trials?  Do all things work together for my good?  Does He really answer prayers?  Is there really a resurrection and a judgement day?”  Such doubts can cause you to lose your fight of faith.

You can lose your faith because of tribulation or persecution.  In explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus gave the following description.  Mark 4:16-17 “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.”  Life is filled with problems.  Maybe some tragedy or difficult situation has come into your life.  Hardships in life can cause you to lose your faith, stumble and lose the fight.  Instead, strengthen your faith.  Problems should be a reason to strengthen your faith and trust in God.  He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

You can weaken your faith by being caught up in the things of the world.  In further explanation of the parable of the sower, Jesus gave the following.  Mark 4:18-19 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”  It is easy to be like everyone else in the world and get caught up in the struggle of life.  Maybe it is just earning a living or maybe it is trying to get material comforts or possessions or pleasures.  The desire for the things of this life can be very strong.  While you may not totally lose your faith, the things of this world can make you unfruitful for God.  As a result, you will at best be providing a weak fight of faith.

If you are fighting a strong fight of faith, what does it look like?  You strengthen your faith through study and meditation on God’s word (Romans 10:17).  You research the lies of the world to be ready to give an answer for your faith (1 Peter 3:15).  You pray often to receive God’s guidance and blessing.  You trust in His promises.  You deny yourself the lusts of your flesh, the lusts of your eyes and pride (1 John 2:15-17) and instead humble yourself before God and seek his righteousness.  The writer of the book of Hebrews describes the men and women of faith in the 11th chapter.  Then he states in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Lay aside every weight that may be slowing you down; lay aside the sin that ensnares you; fight the good fight with endurance.  The apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  Paul had fought the fight of faith to the end of his life and was eager to receive the inheritance and reward promised by God.

Your faith is precious (2 Peter 1:1).  Don’t lose it or let it grow weak.  Fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.

Grace, Love, and Communion

The apostle Paul wrote thirteen of the books of the New Testament.  These books are actually letters that he wrote to churches or to individuals.  In each of these letters, he closes with a blessing that he gives to the church or individual.  A typical blessing is like the one in Romans 16:20b “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Amen.”  However, I am greatly impressed with the blessing he gave at the end of the second Corinthian letter.  2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”  Let us analyze this blessing.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is good to meditate about the grace that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ have for you.  Grace is the friendly disposition that God and Jesus have, demonstrated in their loving-kindness, mercy and blessings given to you.  Grace is sometimes described as unmerited favor.  What if God was not a gracious God?  What if instead He was always your enemy and had nothing kind or good to give you?  If that were the case, there would be no salvation, no hope, and no joy.  But praise be to God and Jesus Christ that they are full of grace towards you.  Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  Even though mercy is a very important part of grace, you must not think that grace is limited to mercy.  1 Corinthians 1:4-7 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You are enriched in everything through God’s grace.  Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Through grace, you find help in your time of need.  2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  God’s grace gives you everything you need to accomplish every good work.

“The love of God.”  Closely associated with grace is the love that God has for you.  The greatest scripture that tells us of God’s love is John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  Romans 5:5-8 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  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.”  The extent of God’s love is demonstrated by His love to you when you were sinful and separated from Him.  Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  The relationship between God and you is described as the relationship between a loving father and His child.  1 John 3:1-3 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”   Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“The communion of the Holy Spirit.”  The word translated communion can also be translated fellowship as in Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  As a Christian, you have the Spirit of God in you.  Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”  As a child of God, you should be led by the Spirit.  Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  The Spirit helps you in your weaknesses and intercedes for you.  Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  You have fellowship with the Holy Spirit; you have the Spirit within you and that Spirit leads you in your life.  How wonderful to have the Spirit of almighty God within you and leading you!

The blessing given by the apostle Paul to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:14 is the ultimate blessing.  Nothing can be greater than to have these great blessings from Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.  Now I send these blessings to you.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.  Be greatly encouraged and filled with joy.

Man of God

Moses was called the man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1).  He was known for communicating with God, being close to God, and doing what God told him to do.  Samuel was known as a man of God as well as the prophets Elijah and Elisha.  God may not speak to you directly as He did to Moses or the prophets, but you can also be known as a man of God or woman of God.  Every true follower of Jesus Christ should be known as a man or woman of God.

You can be considered a man or woman of God because you belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”  It is easy for you to think that you are your own person and you can do whatever you want.  You can pursue whatever career or occupation or position in life you desire.  You can follow whatever pleasure you desire.  But as a Christian, you belong to God.  He bought you at the price of the blood of Jesus.  You are therefore not your own and you are a man or woman of God because you are His.  You are now living for Him.

You should be considered a man or woman of God because of how you live your life.  In 1 Timothy 6, the apostle Paul was instructing Timothy that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  He continues with the following exhortation in 1 Timothy 6:11 “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”  I submit that if you truly pursue these things that you will be a true man or woman of God like Timothy.  So let us briefly look at each of these.

As a man or woman of God, you pursue righteousness.  God made you righteous when you believed in Jesus Christ, you were born again, and you sins were washed away in baptism.  Now you are a slave of righteousness.  Romans 6:18-19 “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”  How do you know the righteousness that you should pursue?  The scriptures tell you.  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.”  As a Christian you should use the inspired scriptures and apply them to your life to become the complete man or woman of God.

As a man or woman of God, you pursue godliness.  Godliness means piety, which is reverence and devotion to God.  It describes an attitude that is centered on God and does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  You pursue faith.  You trust in God and His promises regardless of the trials that come your way; you walk by faith with anticipation of eternal life with Him.  You pursue love.  You decide to love all those around you; you love your family, your brethren, your friends, your neighbors, and even your enemies.  You pursue patience.  You are longsuffering with those around you that try your patience as well as being longsuffering in the trials in your life that would attempt to take your joy.  You pursue gentleness.  You decide to react with gentleness to all and make it easy for any to approach you whether it is to correct you, ask for your advice, or share what is happening in their life.  “O man of God … pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

When Jesus was twelve years old, His parents took Him to Jerusalem.  After several days they left to return home and discovered that Jesus was not with them.  They found Him in the temple, discussing with the teachers of the law.  His mother reprimanded Him.  Luke 2:49 “And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’”  In the same way, the man or woman of God is busy doing the Father’s business.  You have a choice in life.  You can seek to do what you want or what God wants.  The man or woman of God chooses to do what God wants and follows wherever He leads. Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

My encouragement to you is that you be a man or woman of God.  Remember that you belong to God.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Be about His business.

Crucified With Christ

The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  I encourage you to have this same pattern for your life.

The crucifixion of Jesus upon the cross is central to the belief of every Christian.  Because of His obedience to God the Father and His love for you, Christ gave Himself to die upon the cross.  The apostle states that he saw himself crucified with Christ.  That means that he died to his old life just as Christ died upon the cross.  The old nature of sin and following fleshly desires was put to death.  In the book of Romans, the apostle similarly describes this spiritual death as dying to sin and being baptized into Christ’s death.  Romans 6:1-4 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  You should see yourself spiritually crucified with Christ and buried with Him through baptism into death.  Christ’s physical death is a pattern for your spiritual death.  Just as Christ died so that He could be resurrected from the dead and go to reign in heaven, even so you must die spiritually so that you can be born again and walk in newness of life as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:11-14 “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  You are crucified with Christ.

Christ now must live in you.  Romans 8:9-11 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  If you do not have the Spirit of Christ living in you, you are not His.  His Spirit gives life to you.  Christ must live within you.  2 Corinthians 13:5-6 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.  But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”  Is there evidence in your life that Jesus Christ is in you?  Are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?  Christ lives in you.

The life which you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.  Living by faith not only means believing that Jesus is the Son of God, but it means that you are His follower.  Luke 9:23  “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.’”  You deny yourself; you obey His commands; you follow His precepts; you follow His example; you trust in His promises.  The life you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God.

Jesus loved you so much that He gave Himself for you.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”  Now you want to please Him because He first loved you.  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Your service to God is not because you have to; it is not because of what others will think about you; it is not because of the lake of fire that awaits those who reject God’s way.  You service to God is because you love Him because He first loved you.

My encouragement to you is to see yourself crucified with Christ.  You no longer live, but Christ lives in you.  The life which you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Godliness With Contentment

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

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

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

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

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

Self Examination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spiritual War

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

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

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

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

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

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