Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

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.

Itching Ears

When you have an itch, you want to scratch it.  You have learned that scratching an itch usually relieves the itchy sensation.  The apostle Paul wrote about itching ears in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”  There will be people with itching ears – ears that want to be “scratched” with what they want to hear so that their hearts will be pleased and satisfied.  People will go after teachers that tell them things that are pleasing to their ears but the things they tell them are not sound doctrine.

It seems that if you search, you will find someone who will preach and teach almost any doctrine.  Most people want to be rich and be blessed financially.  There are those who preach a “prosperity gospel”.  The prosperity gospel is a belief by some that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. The prosperity gospel views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, He will deliver security and prosperity (Wikipedia).  To me, this sounds like an itching ear situation.  People want to be told that God will give them financial blessings and physical well-being.  Is it any wonder that there are large churches with rich leaders that teach this doctrine?  It is not my purpose here to refute this doctrine, but suffice it to say that God does want to bless you, but the blessings are primarily spiritual.  Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

Another false doctrine is that Jesus accepts you in your continued sexual immorality.  There are those who teach that you can continue as a homosexual or as an adulterer or a fornicator and God will accept you.  Any marital situation is alright; any lifestyle is acceptable.  Again, this sounds to me like an itching ear problem.  People want to be told that they can continue in their sexual immorality.  Is it any wonder that there are large churches that follow these doctrines? But God hates sexual immorality.  1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “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.” 

The examples given above are just a small sample of unsound doctrines that people with itching ears will follow.  The problem is that many people do not have a love of the truth.   The apostle Paul wrote about some who didn’t love the truth.  2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  When one really loves the truth, he will seek for the truth and accept it into his life regardless of the consequences.  He values the truth above any pleasure falsehood might provide.  When one does not love the truth, God will send a strong delusion that he should believe a lie.  When he searches, he will find someone who will tell him what he wants to hear.

The approach to follow is what the apostle Paul taught.  2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”  Proclaim the truth.  Be ready at all times to stand up for the truth.  Seek to convince others of the truth.  Rebuke those who reject the truth.  Exhort those who have the truth to remain steadfast in the truth.  Have patience and be longsuffering.  Do not give up your stand for the truth or your attempts to influence others to accept and follow the truth.

The truth is very important.  John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” He stated in John 18:37b “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  Jesus brought the truth to the world.  The writers of the New Testament wrote the truth.  It is the truth that sets you free.  John 8:31-32 “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” My encouragement to you is to love the truth.  Seek the truth and when you find it, hold on to it and follow it.  Determine in your heart to never have itching ears to be turned away from the truth.

Things That Cause You To Sin

As Christians, we are by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body.  Romans 8:12-13 “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  I understand that none of us can put to death the deeds of the body with our own strength. We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God.  And yet, you have a part to play in removing sin from your life.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”  If necessary, pluck out your eye or cut off your hand to remove the cause of sin from your life.  The principle is that whatever in your life causes you to sin, remove it.   It is better for you to remove sin causing things from your life than that you be cast into hell.  Let us look at some things in your life that might cause you to sin.

People in your life might cause you to sin.  While you should be a good influence to others to bring them to Christ, they may also be a bad influence on you to cause you to sin.  1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’”  If you keep company with those who do evil, they can corrupt you to follow their ways.  Their evil speech may influence you to copy their speech.  Their lust for the things of this world may influence you to also lust for the things of this world.  Their bad habits may become your bad habits.  They may convince you to join them in some evil practice.  The Israelites were told to destroy the people in the land of Canaan and not make covenants with them because of the potential that they would be a snare to the Israelites (Exodus 34:12-16).  The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”  If other people in your life cause you to sin, end your relationship with them, if possible. It is better that you remove their influence for you to sin than that you would be cast into hell.

Most people have access to the internet, either on a computer or on their phone.  You can find much useful information via the internet.  You can have communication with friends and loved ones through social media.  But the internet can also cause you to sin.  It can certainly cause you to waste your time and money.  It can bring you false ideas and doctrines.  It can bring you sexual immorality through pornography.  Because of the easy access to images and information that are evil, the internet can cause you to sin.  If that is the case with you, I encourage you to cut it off and cast it from you.  End your use of the internet.  Like the internet, television has the capability for good.  But like the internet, it also has the potential to be a source of sin in some of the same ways as the internet.  If television causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.

Places that you visit might also cause you to sin.  If going to a bar or business that serves alcoholic drinks cause you to get drunk, don’t go to the bar.  If a casino or other location of gambling causes you to gamble away your money, then don’t go to these places.  If some store causes you to buy things that you don’t need or can’t afford or are evil, then don’t go to that store.  If visiting a licentious city causes you to commit sin in any way, don’t go to that city.  I remember the time when my parents and I drove through the city of Las Vegas; my godly father hated the evil of that place so much that he was extremely nervous in just driving through the city.  If a place causes you to sin, “cut it off and cast it from you.”

You may think of other things in your life that cause you to sin. Most of the things that cause you to sin do so because you are tempted to love the world or the things in the world.  1 John 2:15-16 “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.”  The real answer is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  It is in your mind and heart where you decide to either love the things of the world or love God and present your body as a living sacrifice to Him. 

Until you reach the state of loving God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), there may be things in our life that cause you to sin.  My encouragement to you is to cut these things from your life and “cast” them from you.  It is better that these things be out of your life than that you sin and be cast into hell.

A Living Hope

We all need hope.  If you are sick, you need hope that you will get well.  If you have a bad relationship with someone, you have hope that it will improve.  If you don’t have a job, you hope that you will find a job.  If you don’t have the money to buy what you need, you hope that you will have the money.  Hope and faith are related.  Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  One has faith in a favorable outcome in the future, and therefore develops hope for that outcome.  When one does not have hope, then he has despair which may result in a sense of failure, depression, giving up and no longer trying.    

People without Christ have no hope after this life.  Ephesians 2:12 “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”  But now you have a hope in a glorious inheritance.  Ephesians 1:18 “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

Sometimes a person might have hope in some favorable outcome, but then events do not turn out like he had hoped and his hope is destroyed.  For example, the disciples of Jesus thought that He was going to establish an earthly kingdom for Israel.  When Jesus died, that hope was destroyed.  In the book of Luke, we are told about two individuals who were walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem when Jesus joined them; they were kept from recognizing Him.  Luke 24:19-21a “And He said to them, ‘What things?’  So they said to Him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”  Jesus went on to explain to them that their hope was not destroyed, but misplaced. 

Your hope as a Christian is not a dead or empty hope.  It is a sure thing; it is a living hope.  1 Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  The power of God stands behind your hope to make it a sure, living hope.  The assurance of your hope was given by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

As a Christian, your hope is an anchor of your soul.  Hebrews 6:18-19b “That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”  Just as an anchor holds a ship sure and steadfast from being blown away by strong winds, even so, your hope holds you sure and steadfast when the troubles, trials and tribulations of life might blow you away from Christ.  Your hope in the promises of God saves you from despair, from depression and from giving up on your Christian life. 

Just as your hope is an anchor in your life, your hope saves you.  Romans 8:23-25 “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Your hope saves you in the sense that it keeps you from giving up when things get rough.  It causes you to eagerly wait for your hope with perseverance.  It motivates you to purify yourself.  1 John 3:2-3 “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.”

My encouragement to you is to have your hope as an anchor of your soul.  Let it cause you to remain faithful and true.  Hebrews 10:23-24 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”  Your faith should cause you to be diligent so that you will have full assurance of your hope.  Hebrews 6:11-12 “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  Don’t give up your faith.  Colossians 1:23 “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”  Be grounded and steadfast as you wait for your blessed hope.

Paul Part 2

We learn much from the Apostle Paul.  He wrote in Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”  You and I are not the apostle Paul but we can learn much from his faith and his life.

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.’”  Like Paul, do not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.  It is powerful and tells one how he can believe and be saved.  Paul wanted to be bold in proclaiming the gospel.  He asked for prayers in Ephesians 6:19-20 “And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”  You also can pray and have others pray that you will be bold in standing up for Christ.

Before he was a Christian, Paul persecuted the church; he put believers in jail and was responsible for the death of others.  As a result, he considered himself the chief of sinners.  1 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  While you have not done what Paul did, you also are a sinner.  Don’t compare your sin to someone else.  Your sin is enough to condemn you to eternal punishment.  Appreciate that Christ Jesus came into the world to save you.  He forgave your sin.  Paul also stated in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  By the grace of God, you are what you are today.  God’s grace should motivate you to serve Him; He loves you so much.

He had compassion for the poor.  He was eager to remember the poor.  Galatians 2:10 “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.”  He would avoid anything that would make his brother stumble.  1 Corinthians 8:13 “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”  He had a deep concern for all of the churches.  2 Corinthians 11:28-29 “Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?”  Have a deep compassion and concern for your brother and sister in Christ.

When threated with prison and tribulations and even death, he didn’t back down.  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.”  Don’t let any tribulation or trial cause you to be spiritually weak or cause you to fall away.  Finish your race with joy.  Don’t even count your life dear to yourself.  Eternal life awaits you.

His desire was to gain Christ and attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:8-11 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  Forget everything in your past, good or bad.  Seek to know Christ and seek to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  He considered any problems in this life little compared to the glory God has for us.  Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

He fought the good fight and won.  2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  When you come to the end of your live, be able to say that you have successfully fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.

My encouragement to you is to follow the life of the great apostle Paul.  While you and I will not do the great deeds that he did, you and I can have the same attitude and faith that he demonstrated.

The Apostle Paul

We learn much from the Apostle Paul.  He wrote in Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”  You and I are not the apostle Paul.  He had a special role that Jesus chose for him.  Remember he was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus.  At that time, his name was Saul.  Acts 9:3-6 “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.  Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’  And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’  Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’”  Paul was blinded and led to Damascus.  In the city, Ananias was told to go to Saul.  Acts 9:15-16 “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”  Yes, Saul (or Paul) was specially chosen.  Yet his life holds many examples for you and me to follow.  Books have been written about Paul, but let us take a quick look at a few areas of his life.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:10-11 “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra — what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.”  Timothy knew the life that Paul had lived.  We also know much about Paul.  The second half of the book of Acts (chapters 13-28) and his 13 letters included in the Bible describe the manner of his life.  We read how he traveled through much of the known world of his day, preaching to people who didn’t know about Christ.  Romans 15:20 “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation.”  It wasn’t easy, his work for Christ.  He described his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:26-27 “In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

As a result of his preaching the gospel among pagan idolaters as well as among Jews that didn’t believe in Christ, he was severely persecuted.  2 Corinthians 11:23-25 “Are they ministers of Christ? — I speak as a fool — I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep.”  They tried to kill him multiple times.  Especially noteworthy is the time in the city of Lystra when the people threw stones at Paul to try to kill him.  They dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  But he revived and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

In addition to preaching the gospel, Paul also worked hard night and day to provide food for himself and those with him.  2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”  His work was making tents.  Acts 18:1-3 “After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.  And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.”

He was not a great public speaker.  Physically, he seemed weak.  2 Corinthians 10:10-11 “’For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’  Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.”  He had a “thorn in the flesh”, perhaps some physical disease or injury that Jesus refused to take from him.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  He learned to trust Christ for his strength. Yet he was bold and stood up to the apostle Peter when he needed to.  Galatians 2:11 “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed.”

There are many other things we could consider about him, but thank God for the apostle Paul.  My encouragement to you is to let some of the manner of life of Paul rub off on you.  Tell others about the good news of Jesus.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for Christ, even if it means hardship and persecution.  Work hard to provide for your family.  Even if you are not the most talented individual, be sure to use what God has given you to serve Him and others.  Trust Christ for your strength. 

The Spiritual Perspective

In the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew, Jesus gave teachings that were different from the commonly held teachings of His day.  For example, Jesus taught in Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.  The sixth commandment in Exodus 20:13 states “You shall not murder.” The commonly accepted teaching was that you were not guilty before God unless you actually killed another.  To be angry with your brother without a cause implies that you do not like him and perhaps even hate him.  To say to him “Raca!” is to call him empty or worthless; it is a term of great contempt.  To say “You Fool!” was to call him evil or a rebel against God.  To be angry with your brother without a cause or to say to him “Raca!” or to say “You Fool!” did not physically kill him.  But Jesus taught that such a spirit of contempt for your brother makes you guilty before God.

Jesus went on to teach in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’   But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  The seventh commandment in Exodus 20:14 states “You shall not commit adultery.”  The commonly accepted teaching was that you were not guilty unless you actually committed the act of adultery.  But Jesus declared that with God, looking lustfully at another woman was just as bad as physically committing the sexual act. 

With these two examples, I believe that Jesus is teaching a very important principle.  The Jews of Jesus’ day were guilty of trying to keep the letter of the law without keeping the spirit of the law.  By the “spirit of the law”, I understand that God’s requirement for righteousness and holiness of His people extends beyond what was written in the law. God, through Moses, had given many commandments and regulations.  The scribes and Pharisees attempted to keep every rule as much as they could but they had missed the true meaning behind the rules.  Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.   Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”  They were making sure that they gave to God a tenth of their garden herbs in an attempt to completely keep the law.  But they had missed the spiritual principles of justice, mercy and faith.

You and I can be guilty today of the same kind of attitude that the scribes and Pharisees had.  We can take the commandments and admonitions we have under the New Covenant and follow the letter of what is written, but miss the spiritual principles.  For example, it is stated in Hebrews 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  It is easy to take the position that one should not miss an assembly of the church whenever it meets.  A person might be judged as a faithful Christian if he attends all of the assemblies.  While that person could physically be present at an assembly, his heart might be somewhere else; he might only reluctantly be at the assembly and when the assembly is over, leave as soon as possible.  Yes, we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  But what are the spiritual purposes of the assembly?  One of the main spiritual purposes of the assembly, as stated in Hebrews 10:25, is to exhort one another to remain faithful and zealous for God.  We should want to be at the assemblies because we love our fellow Christians and we want to do what we can to encourage and exhort each other.

My encouragement to you is to find out what God really wants from you.  What are the spiritual principles behind the commandments and admonitions of the Bible?  Instead of murdering or having contempt for your brother, love him with a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).  Instead of committing adultery or lusting for a woman, walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Romans 8:4).  Seeking God’s spiritual principles should apply to all areas of your Christian walk from your praying to your giving to how you dress yourself.  Seek to discover in all areas what pleases God.  Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”  Jesus always did what pleased His Father (John 8:29); follow His example.  Don’t just keep the “letter of the law”.  Have the attitudes, the actions and the faith that He desires.  Avoid anything that might displease Him.  Serve God from you heart.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Why Do You Have Trials?

Every one of us experiences trials and tribulations in life.  If the tribulations are severe, you may ask “Why me?”  Why am I given this trial; why am I going through this troublesome time?  Let me suggest several reasons trials may come upon you.

First, you may experience trials because of poor decisions that you make.  Solomon in the book of Proverbs emphasizes the necessity to get wisdom.  Proverbs 3:13-18 “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold.  She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.  Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.”  If you foolishly spend your money on things you do not need, you may not have the money to buy things that you do need.  If you go to the store and buy poorly made merchandise, and then bring it home and it soon breaks, you will suffer the trial of spending your money with nothing to show for it.  If you have work to do but you procrastinate and waste your time, you may not get your work done.  You will suffer the consequences of your poor decisions.  Ephesians 5:15 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.”  Ask God for wisdom in all of your decisions (James 1:5) so you can avoid trials from poor decisions.

Next, you may experience trials because of sin that you have committed.  Sin looks desirable to our fleshly nature, but it results in consequences that are usually very bad.  If you commit a crime and the authorities apprehend you, you may have to go to prison.  If you commit adultery, it may ruin your relationship with your spouse.  If you take illicit drugs, you may become addicted and suffer the damaging effects of the drug.  If you tell a lie and it is discovered, you will lose the trust of others.  The trials that come upon you will be a result of your sin.  If there is sin in your life, repent and confess your sin to God to ask for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9).  When you turn from your sin, you will only have to suffer the consequences of the sins of your past and not of the present.

You may experience trials as a result of your faith in Jesus Christ.  Others may persecute you because they don’t have faith and they don’t like you for having your faith.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  You should rejoice for persecution trials.

You may experience trials because you live in a fallen world.  You may be involved in a car accident through no fault of your own, and suffer injuries.  You may be bitten by a mosquito and get malaria.  A thief may steal your possessions.  God allows trials to come into your life to mold you into the person He wants you to be.  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.”  God knows the character that He wants you to have; He wants you to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:29).  For example, He wants you to have sympathy for others in their trials (Romans 12:15).  When you have had trials in your life, you can encourage your brother because you know what he is going through.  God wants you to have patience and perseverance; you also gain these when you go through trials.  There are many good characteristics you gain when you successfully go through life’s trials.  God is still working on you.

You may go through trials because God allows your faith to be tested.  Abraham’s faith was tested by God (Genesis 22:1-18).  God asked Abraham to take his son of promise, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice on a far mountain.  Abraham got up early the next morning to obey God; he was willing to sacrifice his son even though God had promised that through Isaac he would have many descendants.  He put Isaac on the altar and took the knife to slay his son when the angel stopped him.  Abraham successfully passed God’s test of his faith (Hebrews 11:17-19).  Although God will not ask you to sacrifice your son, He may test your faith through trials.  1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Some of the trials you face may seem like a testing by fire.  Are you going to remain faithful or not.  Is your faith strong and genuine or weak and short lived?  If your faith stands the test, you will receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus comes back.  James also talks about trials testing your faith.  James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James even encourages you to be joyful when trials test your faith because you can eventually be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I have suggested several reasons for trials and tribulations you experience in your life.  Regardless of the reason for the trials you face, I encourage you to never lose your faith and become discouraged.  Don’t ask “Why me?”  God allows trials to come into your life for your good.  None of your trials will separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus your Lord (Romans 8:39).

Men of the Last Days

There have been wicked people on the earth for many, many years.  Men were wicked before the flood.  Genesis 6:5 “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Throughout history, men have been wicked.  Does it seem like there is increased wickedness today?  The apostle Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”  Let us look at the nature of these men that Paul described for the purpose of contrasting their nature with the nature of a true Christian.

“Lovers of themselves.”  While it is natural to take care of yourself and not hate your own flesh (Ephesians 5:29), “lovers of themselves” implies a selfish, me-only attitude.  In contrast, a Christian, loves his neighbor as himself (Matthew 22:39). 

 “Lovers of money” or covetous. For many, money seems to be all important.  They will do anything for money and anything to get rich and to have material possessions.  They covet what others have.  In contrast, a Christian has godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6) and he does not store up for himself treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19-20).

“Boasters and proud.”  A boastful person wants everyone to know how great he is and how great are his accomplishments and possessions.  He is proud.  In contrast, a Christian is humble and gives glory to God, realizing all blessings come from God (1 Corinthians 4:7).

“Blasphemers.” A blasphemer is one who speaks ill of God, the Holy Spirit or Jesus.  In contrast, a Christian glorifies God with his body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). 

“Disobedient to parents.”  Many children today are not disciplined and are rebellious to their parents.  In contrast, Christian children obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2). 

“Unthankful” or ungrateful.  The attitude is that the world owes them.  They believe that they deserve to have good things and for others to serve them.  In contrast, a Christian knows that all good gifts come from God and gives thanks to Him for all blessings (Ephesians 5:20).

“Unholy.” These are wicked individuals – those filled with evil deeds.  In contrast, a Christian is holy and set apart for God’s service (2 Peter 3:11). 

“Unloving” or without natural affection.  This implies that they don’t even love those close to them that an individual would normally love, such as their wives, children or friends.  In contrast, a Christian is filled with love and is even willing to give himself up for his wife (Ephesians 5:25).

“Unforgiving” or trucebreaker.  They are against all others but they themselves cannot be trusted.  In contrast, a Christian forgives others their trespasses (Matthew 6:14).

“Slanderers”.  They falsely accuse others and try to ruin their reputation.  In contrast, a Christian is truthful, kind and gracious in speech (Colossians 4:6).

 “Without self-control.”  They give in to their appetite for sinful pleasures.  In contrast, a Christian does not yield to temptation but resists the devil (1 Peter 5:9). 

“Brutal” or fierce.  These are wild, impetuous, and violent.  In contrast, a Christian is kind and gentle (Philippians 4:5). 

“Despisers of good.”  These are hostile to virtue.  They value being bad and wicked and are opposed to things that are good and righteous.  In contrast, a Christian is dead to sin and is a servant of righteousness (Romans 6:18-19).

“Traitors.”  These are individuals who cannot be trusted but will betray you.  In contrast, a Christian is a true friend, dependable and trustworthy (Matthew 5:37). 

“Headstrong” or heady.  These are individuals who are rash in what they say and what they do.  They don’t use wisdom or listen to advice.  In contrast, a Christian uses Godly wisdom and seeks the leading of the Holy Spirit for his actions and direction in life (Romans 8:14). 

“Haughty” or high minded.  A haughty person has a very high opinion of himself and looks down on all others as being inferior.  In contrast, a Christian sees others as more important than himself (Philippians 2:3-4).

“Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  Many people today spend much time and money on sports, games, and other recreation.  In contrast, a Christian puts Jesus first.  He spends time praying, reading and studying the Bible, and serving God and his fellow man (2 Timothy 2:15). 

“Having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  Many say that they believe in God and claim to be a Christian.  But their lives do not show a true faith or God’s righteousness. They only have a form of godliness.  In contrast, a Christian serves God from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).

Do you see the great contrast?  Do not be like the world in any of these ways.  Instead, I encourage you to be a light to the world as you live a genuine Christian life.

The Light of the World

Have you ever been in total darkness?  If you are in a dark room or outside at night, there is usually some faint light from a source such as the stars.  Perhaps you have been in a deep cave that no light enters.  It can be rather scary to be without light because you need light to see what you are doing and to see where to go.  The opposite of darkness is light.  The sun is an extremely bright light.  God dwells in unapproachable light.  1 Timothy 6:16 “Who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” 

When Jesus was here on the earth, He spoke of Himself as the light of the world.  John 9:4-5 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  In this sense, He was the spiritual light of the world rather than a physical light.  John 8:12 “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”  Jesus has returned to heaven; now you and I are to be lights of the world.  Jesus taught in Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  We are not the same light as Jesus, but as He lives within us, we become lights of the world.

Having light gives you a couple of abilities.  Light gives you the ability to understand what objects are like.  You see their color, their shape, their texture and their size.  Light also gives you the ability to see where you are going and how to accomplish a task.  Jesus was the light of the world in both senses.  He taught the truth.  He said in John 18:37b “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  Through Jesus as the light, you can see and understand what truth is.  Through Jesus, you can also see where you are going and how to walk in this life.  The psalmist wrote about God in Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

In the country of Israel today, there are cities such as Nazareth that are built upon a hill.  At night, the lights of the city can be seen from a great distance.  A lamp put on a lampstand gives light to all who are in the house.  In both cases, the light is obvious and should not be hidden, just as you should not hide your light and your good works.  At the same time, you are not to do your good deeds so that you will receive the praise from others.  Matthew 6:1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  Other people will naturally know what kind of person you are and see your good works.  But if you motivation is to receive their honor and praise, you will receive no reward from God.

Jesus said that men would see your good works and give glory to God.  Your good works are the light that others can see.  Jesus went around doing good.  Acts 10:38 “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”  Many people were attracted to Jesus because of the good that He did.  When people came to Him, He took the opportunity to teach them.  You and I should also be known for doing good.  Titus 3:8 “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”  There are many good works you can do.  When Jesus described the judgement in Matthew 25:31-46, the good works He listed were giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, lodging to the stranger, clothes to the naked, and visiting the sick and those in prison.  James, in James 1:27, described pure religion as visiting the orphans and widows in their trouble, and keeping yourself unspotted from the world.  I believe that good works also include bearing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Good works are implied in Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  Be careful to maintain good works.  Your good works cause you to be a light to the world.  Others will see your good works and glorify God.

Why do you do your good works?  It is not to receive the praise of others.  Your good works should flow from your faith in God, your obedience to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and your love for your neighbor.  As Jesus brought God’s word, you too become the message from God.  You reflect the light of God.  Others will see that you are different from the selfish people of the world, and they will give glory to God.  Perhaps they will glorify God for the blessings you give them.  Or perhaps they will glorify God by becoming a fellow believer.  I encourage you to be the best light to the world that you can be for God’s glory.