Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Worshipping Other Than God

After Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  The third temptation that Jesus received from the devil is recorded in Luke 4:5-8 “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’  And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’’”  From this we can understand that the devil has authority over the kingdoms and the glory of the world.  He offered to give it all to Jesus if He would worship him.

Perhaps you have heard a fictional story of an individual selling his soul to the devil so that he could have great wealth or power.  Would you be tempted to sell yourself to the devil to get something of great earthly value?  Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.   For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.   For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’”  To lose your soul would mean to lose eternal life and instead receive eternal damnation.  Is there anything that the world has that would be worth losing eternal life?  Even if you gained everything in the whole world, would that be worth losing eternal life?  And yet, every day, people choose to sell themselves for far less than the whole world.  Not that they make a formal contract with the devil.  But they make decisions and enjoy the pleasures of sin which lead themselves away from God and cause them to lose their souls.  For example, those who chose to take recreational drugs and become addicted are in effect selling themselves to the devil.  Those who chose the path of sexual immorality are doing the same thing.  There are many ways that a person can chose the things of this world which cause him to lose his own soul.

Jesus resisted the devil and did not yield to the temptation.  He told the devil to get away from Him because He recognized how evil it would be to worship him.  Jesus declared “It is written ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”  This is quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13-15 “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.  You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.”  God is a jealous God.  We often think of jealousy as being bad, but it is not bad for God to be jealous.  It means that he is intolerant of you worshipping anything besides Him; He demands that all worship and service go to Him.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Today it is unusual to see someone worshipping an idol of a god.  However, people worship many different things today.  Jesus said “You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Mammon is riches or anything that you treasure.  What might be a treasure?  It could be a job/career, a house or a car or some other possession.  It could be riches or pleasure or power.  A treasure would be anything that you consider of great value.  People today worship things that they treasure.  They worship their treasure by lusting for it or by spending most of their time and energy pursuing it.  You have your choice of worshipping and serving God or something else that you treasure.  Jesus gave the following admonition.  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.”  Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven rather than pursuing treasures here on earth.

What do you worship?  Evaluate what you lust or have strong desire for and what you spend most of your time and energy pursuing.  Jesus said “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”  My encouragement to you is that you only worship the Lord and serve Him only.

Do Not Tempt The Lord

After Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  The second temptation that Jesus received from the devil is recorded in Matthew 4:5-7 “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’’  Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’’”  If you are not to tempt the Lord your God, what does it mean to tempt God?  The word tempt usually means to entice to do wrong.  But God cannot be tempted to do wrong.  James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”  A different way of translating Jesus’ words would be “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  The devil was tempting Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God by encouraging Jesus to throw Himself down from the highest point of the temple to see if God would keep Him from getting hurt.  Such an action by Jesus would put God to the test.  Would God protect Jesus and keep Him from getting hurt or not?  But Jesus responds that it would be wrong to test God in this way.

Jesus took His words from Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.”  We read about Massah in Exodus 17:1-7 “Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water, that we may drink.’  So Moses said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?’  And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’  So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!’  And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go.  Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’  And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.  So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”  The Israelites were naturally thirsty since they had no water.  But they tempted or tested the Lord when they requested proof that the Lord was among them. 

You can tempt or test the Lord if you expect God to prove Himself to you in some miraculous way.  You are in essence saying “Show me that you really are God.”  I have heard of individuals who are in difficult situations and they say to God “If you will get me out of this situation alive and well, then I will believe in you and be a faithful Christian.” That seems to me to be tempting or testing the Lord.  You should have faith in Him without requesting some miraculous sign.

To expose yourself to a danger with the vain expectation that God will protect you from the natural consequences is one way to tempt or test God.  In Mark, we have a description of the signs of believers.  Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  The apostles had these signs.  They cast out demons, spoke in tongues, and healed the sick; the apostle Paul had a snake bite him and he suffered no ill effect (Acts 28:3-6).  However, there are religious groups today who believe that these signs should apply to them as well.  One of the things they do is handle poisonous snakes with the expectation that if the snakes bite them, they will receive no harm.  It seems to me that they are testing the Lord by their actions.

Another example of testing God is found in Acts chapter 5.  Acts 5:1-11 “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.  And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?  While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’  Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.  So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.  And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.  Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter answered her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?’  She said, ‘Yes, for so much.’  Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’  Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.  So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”  Why did God make such an example of Ananias and Sapphira by causing them to die?  The reason is that they attempted to lie to God and test God.   But God knows everything.  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.”

My encouragement to you is to never tempt or test God.  Don’t expect Him to prove Himself to you by some miraculous sign.  Don’t attempt to lie to God.  He knows everything that you do.

The Word of God

After Jesus was baptized, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Matthew 4:2-4 “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’  But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’’”  The first temptation that the devil gave to Jesus was to tempt Him to prove that He was the son of God by turning stones into bread.  Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Let us consider how important this principle is.

Obviously, you and I have to eat in order to live.  Without food (bread) we starve and die.  But the principle given by Jesus is that you and I must also take in the words of God to live.  While food gives live to our physical being, the words of God give life to our spiritual being.  While you and I do not want to miss a meal, we should also not want to miss taking in the words of God on a regular basis because they sustain our spiritual life.

We should live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  God does not speak very often to man.  But He did speak to Jesus and Jesus relayed what God said to us.  Jesus is spoken of as the Word; He was in the beginning with God.  John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.”  Jesus relayed to us the words of God.  John 12:49-50 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”  Jesus gave many of God’s words to His apostles.  But He also sent the Holy Spirit to guide them and tell them more of God’s words.  He told His apostles in John 16:12-13 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”  You and I have the words that proceeded from the mouth of God because we have the words written down of what Jesus said that came from God and the words that the apostles wrote down as they were guided by the Holy Spirit who received the words from God.  Yes, you and I have the words of God because they are recorded in the Bible.

You have faith because of the word of God.  Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  You are born again through the word of God.  1 Peter 1:23 “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”  Just as good food enables a child to grow and mature, the word of God also causes you to grow spiritually.  1 Peter 2:2 “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” You live by the word of God (Matthew 4:4).  God’s word will judge you in the last day.  John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”  How important is the word of God!

The word of God is living and powerful.  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.”  Because of the power of the word of God, it will change your life, if you let it.  You will be transformed into His image; you will become a light in the world.  His love will be perfected in you.  1 John 2:5 “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”  But you must be a doer of the word of God.  James 1:22-24 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”    

As Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Implant God’s word in your heart so that it will save your soul.  James 1:21 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”  I encourage you to have a healthy diet of the word of God and live by it.

A Pure Heart

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy as to a young man.  Here is one of Paul’s exhortations – 2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  While the apostle Paul did not list the youthful lusts, let us consider some typical youthful lusts.  While youth may be especially prone to these lusts, they can certainly apply to older people as well. 

Perhaps the greatest youthful lust is sexual lust.  It seems that society encourages sexual lust by modern dress, television, the readily available pornography on the internet, dating, and other activities and media.  The apostle Paul also warned the Corinthians to flee sexual immorality.  1 Corinthians 6:18-20 “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  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.”  In both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians, Paul told them to flee.  To flee is to run away from danger.  It doesn’t mean to see how close you can get to it or to experiment with it.  It means to run away from it because of the danger it presents.  Since your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you belong to God, you are to glorify God with your body and spirit. Sexual lust or immorality does not glorify God.  Sexual lust is a danger that wars against your very soul.  1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”  Sexual lust is something that you must run away from because it is so dangerous.

Another youthful lust is the lust for the things of this world.    The things of this world that one may desire include the clothes, the vehicles, the toys and the pleasures of this world.  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.”  By loving the things of the world, you do not love God, the Father.  Lust for the things of the world may manifest itself in materialism – a desire for material things.  Or it may manifest itself in a desire to be rich.  1 Timothy 6:9-10 “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 lust for the things of this world is something you should flee because of the danger it presents.

Another youthful lust is the desire for fame or power.  Jesus’ disciples wondered which of them would be the greatest.  Luke 22:24-26 “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.  And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’   But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.’”  God’s way is opposed to the way of the world.  The greatest in God’s kingdom will be the servant of all.  Flee also this desire for greatness or fame.

Timothy was to flee youthful lusts and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. To pursue is to try to catch or capture something.  Pursuing seems to be the opposite of fleeing.  You and I have been made righteous by Christ’s sacrifice.  Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s (Christ’s) obedience many will be made righteous.”  As a result, you are to pursue righteousness.  I understand this to mean that you seek to do the right thing at all times.  Paul put it another way when he said in Romans 6:18 “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

You are also to pursue faith, love and peace.  To pursue faith would mean to seek to increase your faith.  To pursue faith would also mean to purposely live your life in faith – trusting God and His promises.  To pursue love would mean to live your life loving all those you interact with – your family, your brethren in the church, your neighbor, and even your enemy.  Seek to have greater love for others.  Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  To pursue peace would mean to seek to have peace with everyone you interact with.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  A similar exhortation is given in Romans 14:19 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy ends with the words: “with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  If Timothy would flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, he would serve the Lord out of a pure heart.  A pure heart is one that is wholly dedicated to the Lord.  If Timothy would not fully flee youthful lusts but instead entertain some of the lusts or if he would not fully pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, his heart would be divided and not pure.  My encouragement to you is to follow Paul’s exhortation to have a pure heart before God.

Repent

Before Jesus came John the Baptist.  Matthew 3:1-2 “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’”  Jesus came with a similar message.  Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”  When the kingdom came after Jesus’ death and resurrection, here is what Peter preached.  Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”  John, Jesus and Peter each preached repentance.  Repentance is necessary for anyone to become a Christian.

We are all sinners.  Before our salvation, we followed our own selfish, fleshly desires which resulted in sin.  We had to change the direction of our lives.  It is like having the desired destination in the East, but instead, we were going west.  We were going in the wrong way and have to change our direction.  From the basic meaning of the Greek word, repentance means to change one’s mind or purpose.  It is a change of heart.  If you truly change your mind and purpose, your actions will necessarily be changed as well.  The change is from having your mind set on what you desire to having your mind set on what God desires.  It requires humility on your part and an acceptance of Jesus as Lord of your life.  Repentance is necessary before you can be saved and your sins forgiven.  Peter said “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”  The Lord wants everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

While repentance is required when you initially become a Christian, there may be other times when repentance is required.  We have at least two examples in the Bible of such repentance.  The first example is Simon the sorcerer.   Initially he accepted the gospel and was converted.  Acts 8:18-23 “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’  But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!  You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.  For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.’”  Simon was told to repent of his wickedness.  The second example is with the church in Corinth.  In the first Corinthian letter we find the church had many problems, including condoning a man who had his father’s wife.  Paul wrote in the second letter in 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.  Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.”  From these two examples we learn that repentance may be necessary for a Christian when there is a departure from the truth.  In other words, we may need to change our thinking and our actions if they are opposed to the Lord.

While repentance means a change of mind and purpose, there needs to also be a change of actions.  John was baptizing in the Jordan.  Matthew 3:7-9 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.’”  John was concerned that the Pharisees and Sadducees had come to his baptism but that they had no intent to change.  He admonished them to bear fruits worthy of repentance.  The apostle Paul described his ministry in Acts 26:20 “But declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.”  Paul’s teaching was that individuals needed to repent but also do works befitting repentance.  And so it is with you.  Your actions need to demonstrate that you have repented.

Repentance is required of everyone because we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.  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.”

My encouragement to you is to repent any time the direction of your life is opposed to God’s way.  When you change your mind in repentance, be sure that you bear fruits worthy of repentance.

Approved to God

The apostle Paul gave the following exhortation to Timothy.  2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  I encourage you with the same exhortation, but let us investigate what the exhortation should mean to you.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God.”  Diligent could also be translated to study, to endeavor, or to labor.  The idea is to put significant energy and effort into presenting yourself approved to God.  Many people, who call themselves Christians, do not put much energy into their walk before God.  They don’t read and study the Bible; they don’t meditate on God’s word.  Psalms 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”  They seldom pray.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”  They do little in the way of having a worthy walk.  Colossians 1:10 “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  They may have faith but they don’t add to their faith.  2 Peter 1:5-8 “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.”  Your genuine Christian life requires diligence and effort as you present yourself approved to God.

Your diligence and effort before God is not to earn your salvation.  Salvation is a gift from God.  Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Your motivation for your diligence and effort should be your love and gratitude for all that God has done for you.  Through Christ you have been redeemed.  You have received the forgiveness of sins.  You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1).  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

“A worker who does not need to be ashamed.”  When Jesus was baptized, God spoke from heaven.  Matthew 3:17 “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”  Even though you are not Jesus, you also want to be well pleasing to God – you do not want to be ashamed.  In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the one talent servant did nothing with his Lord’s money; he should have been ashamed with his performance.  On the judgement day, others will be ashamed of what they have done as Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’“  Live your life so that you will not be ashamed before God.

“Rightly dividing the word of truth.”  The Greek word translated “rightly dividing” means to make a straight cut.  Figuratively it means to dissect or expound correctly the divine message.  It means to correctly handle, teach and apply the Holy Scriptures.  When you read and study the Bible and when you teach others, you need to give the correct meaning of the Word as it applies to your life and the lives of others.  Many people do not rightly divide the word of truth.  There are many false doctrines which abound from those who incorrectly interpret and apply the scriptures. There are multiple warnings in the Bible against false doctrines, heresies, and false prophets and teachers.  If you depend on the teaching of someone else, that person, even though very sincere, may be wrong.  It is important for you to rightly divide the word of truth for yourself.

In summary, I encourage you to be diligent and put energy into your spiritual walk – that you may do what pleases God so that you will not be ashamed when you stand before Him.  Be careful to correctly handle the Holy Scriptures as you apply them to your life and teach them to others.

Doing Good

Jesus Christ came from heaven to this earth to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), to be the savior of this world (1 John 4:14), and to give us eternal life (John 17:2).  He also left us an example of how we should live (1 Peter 2:21).  One example that He left us was that He went about 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.”  Jesus described the good He had done in Luke 7:22-23 “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’”

While you and I will not perform the miracles that Jesus performed, we should go about doing good as He did.  Hebrews 13:15-16 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  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.” 

You may ask, “What good can I do?”  Jesus gave you examples of doing good when he described the judgement in Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”  Certainly giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and visiting the sick and those in prison would be doing good.  Helping widows and orphans would also qualify.  James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  Jesus talked about just giving someone a cup of water to drink.  Mark 9:41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”  The possibilities for doing good are many and varied.  Maybe being courteous or encouraging someone or telling them about Jesus or praying for them is the good that you can do for them.  I recommend letting the Holy Spirit guide you into the good you can do.  Whatever good you may do, let that be a significant part or your life.

Knowing to do good and not doing it is sin.  James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  Doing good is a way of letting your light shine.  Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  1 Peter 2:15 “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”  Continually doing good is a factor in receiving eternal life.  Romans 2:6-7 “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.” 

To whom should you do good?  To everyone, especially fellow Christians.  Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Luke 6:32-36 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

Sometimes it may seem that the good you are doing is not appreciated or fruitful. Maybe you want to forget about doing good to others and instead just do what you want to do.  My encouragement to you is to not grow weary in doing good.  Galatians 6:9-10 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Be a person known by God and man for doing good.

A Faithful Saying

What is a faithful saying?  It is a saying, statement or doctrine that is true and you should trust what it says without any doubt or hesitation.  Also, it is worthy of being received by all because of the value of the saying.  It is worth knowing, repeating and perhaps committing to memory.  I am sure that there are many faithful sayings, but in the Bible we find that the Apostle Paul gave four faithful sayings to Timothy and one faithful saying to Titus.  Let us look at these.

The first is found in 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.”  This is one of the greatest truths that we should believe and accept.  It is reinforced by the words of Jesus himself in 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.” God does not want people in the world to be condemned and perish.  Instead, He wants them to be saved and have everlasting life with Him.  For this purpose, He sent His Son so that whoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.  It is indeed a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  I believe that the words “of whom I am chief” are the Apostle Paul’s assessment of his own prior life.  You also should see your sinfulness before salvation.

The second faithful saying is found in 1 Timothy 3:1 “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” The word bishop means overseer.  The apostle Paul spoke to the elders at Ephesus and told them in Acts 20:28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” From this we learn that elders are to be overseers (bishops) and shepherds (pastors).  So elders, overseers, bishops, shepherds and pastors are all words describing the same position or work in the church.  The faithful saying is that if a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.  This faithful saying does not seem to have the same importance as our first faithful saying.  And yet, it is important.  The church needs good elders/bishops/pastors.  Such leadership is needed to make the local church strong and healthy.  When done correctly, it is not an easy work.  For a man to desire this work demonstrates his desire for the success of God’s kingdom.  I hope more men will desire this work and prepare themselves to be qualified to serve.

The next faithful saying is found in 1 Timothy 4:8-9 “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.”  Godliness is reverence and devotion to God.  It describes an attitude that is centered on God and does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  We are not saved by works, but God has saved you so that you will do good works.  The life that pleases God, or godliness, promises a good life here and now and it also promises eternal life that is to come.  To be reminded of that makes this is a faithful saying.

The next faithful saying is found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 “This is a faithful saying:  for if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”  Here are other scriptures that support this faithful saying.  Romans 6:4-5 “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.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”  Revelation 2:10b “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Matthew 10:33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”  Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

The last faithful saying is found in 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.”  This faithful saying emphasizes godliness and is somewhat similar to the faithful saying in 1 Timothy 4:8-9 quoted above.  You should be careful to maintain good works.

Here are the five faithful sayings.   “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.”  “Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”  “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”  “Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.”  I encourage you to accept these as faithful sayings.

What Do You Think Of Yourself

What do you think about yourself?  What do you think about your abilities, your potential, and what you have accomplished in life?  There are two extremes one can go to.  One extreme is for a person to see himself as nothing and incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile.  He is unwilling to try to accomplish much in life because he has failed before.  He sees others as much more capable and so he is willing to sit back and let others do the work and take the lead.  He is constantly putting himself down.  He is willing to take a back seat.  The other extreme is also common.  Such a person has too high an opinion of himself.  He is proud of his abilities and accomplishments.  He boasts about what he has done or what he can do.  He wants to be heard.  He wants his ideas and opinions and plans to be accepted and followed.  He does what he wants to do because he believes that his ways are always right.

The Israelites initially did not have a king.  Since they wanted to be like the nations around them, they asked God for a king.  God told the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul to be king (1 Samuel 9 and 10).  Saul was very handsome and he was taller than any of the people; he was blessed physically.  But Saul had a low opinion of himself; he was from the smallest tribe of Israel and his family was one of the least in the tribe.  When Samuel called all the people together to proclaim Saul as king, they couldn’t find him because he was hiding among the equipment.  Saul was bashful.  After Saul became King, his feelings of importance changed.  Now, he was the one everyone looked up to.  He made the decisions on what was to be done.  One time, God through Samuel told Saul to punish the people of Amalek for the bad things they had done.  Saul was told to utterly destroy the Amalekites and kill all of the people and all their animals.  Saul and his army went and destroyed most of the people and animals.  But he saved the king and the best of the animals.  1 Samuel 15:17-19 “So Samuel said, ‘When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?  Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’  Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?’” Saul changed from having too low an opinion of himself to having too high an opinion of himself when he made the decision to disobey God and do what he thought was best.  From Saul you should learn to have the appropriate opinion of yourself.

Having too low an opinion of yourself can cause you to be like the one talent man that Jesus taught about in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  The one talent man did nothing with what he was given and he did not make a profit for his lord.  His lord called him wicked and lazy and he was cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Having too high an opinion of yourself leads you to be like the Pharisee that Jesus taught about in Luke 18:9-14.   His teaching was for those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.  Luke 18:11-12 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.   I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’”  This Pharisee was proud and righteous in his own eyes.  But he was not justified before God.

You need to be careful in you self-assessment.  Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”  You need to think about yourself and whether or not you are walking in the truth or not and whether or not you are contributing what you can to the kingdom of God.  Galatians 6:3-4 “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”  If your honest assessment of yourself is good, then you can be happy.  If it is not good, then pray God to help you correct what is missing.

When you think about yourself, don’t compare yourself to other people.  2 Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”  All of your abilities and resources come from God.  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?”  Give God the glory for everything.  2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”  It is only by the grace of God that you are saved.

We need each other.  Every one of us is necessary in the body of Christ to serve in God’s kingdom.  1 Corinthians 12:20-22 “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”  Rather than having too high an opinion of yourself, it is better to be humble and value others more than yourself.  Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

My encouragement to you is to have a sober judgement of yourself, having neither too high nor too low an opinion of yourself.

Pass It On

During Jesus’ ministry, he sent out seventy disciples to prepare the way for Him.  Luke 10:1-2 “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”  The potential harvest indeed is great for those who would obey the gospel.  But there are few laborers to bring them in.

Of all His disciples, He then chose twelve.  Luke 6:13-16 “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:  Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.”  These twelve, Jesus named as apostles.  The word apostle means “sent”.   To these twelve (less Judas), He gave the great commission and sent them to the world.  Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.   Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’  Amen.”

During His ministry, Jesus concentrated on the twelve apostles and taught them the things he wanted them to learn and teach the world.  However, there were times when He went with just Peter, James, and John.  These three went with Him upon the mountain of transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), when He healed the synagogue ruler’s daughter (Luke 8:51), and when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33).  It appears that He concentrated His special training upon these three.

Jesus taught His message to a select few men who were then instructed to pass the message on to others.  The apostle Paul used this same method in spreading the gospel.  We know he trained Timothy and Titus; we have Paul’s instruction to these two in his letters to them that we call the Bible books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.  Perhaps there were others that Paul trained.  He wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  This seems to be the example for us – to train a few who in turn will be able to train others.  I encourage you to find those in your life whom you can train who will pass the word on to those who follow them. 

The family is one good place to put this plan to work.  Ephesians 6:4 “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”  Some parents take the position that they don’t want to pass their faith on to their children but they want their children to develop their own faith; I think this is a foolish path for parents to take.  It is contrary to what the scriptures teach.  The fathers are given the responsibility to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Mothers are also very instrumental in the spiritual training of the children.  In my personal situation, I had godly parents who trained me.  But my grandmother was especially instrumental in my early spiritual training.  There was a time in my childhood where I had a special time every day with my grandmother for spiritual training.  Hopefully my story can serve as an encouragement to you as a parent or grandparent to guide your children in the training and admonition of the Lord.  In time, your children can pass the word on to their children or others that they know.

The local church should provide training for those who in time will pass it on to others.  Some congregations have one man who does the majority of the speaking and serving.  I believe it is God’s plan that multiple men participate in the edification of the church.  1 Corinthians 14:31 “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”  In our congregation, we had an elder who made it his mission to train the youth of the congregation.  The boys received training in public speaking, music and song leading.  As a result of those efforts of the past, today we have a good group of men who provide excellent edification of the congregation through public speaking and song.  These, in turn, now provide training to the youth of the congregation.

You can also share the gospel with a friend or acquaintance.  When the early church faced persecution, they scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.  Acts 8:4 “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”  There are likely many of your neighbors who do not know the word.  You can share with them and when they are converted, they can share with others what they know.

The laborers in God’s vineyard are few.  My encouragement to you is to find opportunities to pass your faith and spiritual knowledge on to others.  Instruct faithful individuals who will be able to teach others also.