Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

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.

The Salt of the Earth

Most of us like to eat.  We also like to have food that has a good flavor.  Maybe that is sweet or sour, salty or savory.  Maybe you like it roasted or barbequed.  Maybe you like it with tasty sauce or hot and spicy.  When Rebekah prepared food for Isaac, she made it savory, just as he loved it (Genesis 27:14).  But what if your food was bland, with no taste to it.  You probably wouldn’t like it very much. 

Jesus told us that we, as His followers, are the salt of the earth.  Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”  Just as salt enhances the flavor of food and makes it taste good, we make the world have a good flavor to God.  Yes, the world is full of evilness and sin, but righteous Christians make the world tolerable to God. 

Remember the condition of the world before the flood.  Genesis 6:5-8 “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.  And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”  God chose to destroy the world with a great flood because there were only eight righteous persons – Noah, his wife, his three sons and their three wives.  Perhaps not enough seasoning of righteousness for the world to be saved.

Also, remember Lot and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Genesis 18:20-26 “And the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’  Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.  And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?  Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’  So the Lord said, ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.’”  Abraham continued to bargain with the Lord until the Lord agreed to spare the city if there were just ten righteous there.  But there weren’t that many righteous, so God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.  All that left the city of Sodom were Lot, his wife and their two daughters.  And even Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  Again, there was not enough seasoning of righteousness for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to be saved.

What about today – in your city and in your country?  It seems that there is much evilness everywhere.  It seems like the world is getting more and more wicked.  There is violence on the increase.  The killing of unborn babies is a plague throughout the land.  Homosexuality is open and condoned.  Witchcraft and Satan worship and the occult is on the rise.  Greediness and disrespect for the law is common.  Drug use and addiction and is a plague.  You, as a Christian, are called to be the salt of the earth.  Are you?  Are you known for always telling the truth?  Are you busy going about doing good and helping others?  Do people know you for taking a stand against wrong and instead defending what is right?  Do you make it known that you believe in God and that Jesus Christ is His Son that came into the world to save sinners?  Are your actions righteous?  Are you flavoring the world around you for God?  Are you the salt of the earth?

Jesus said that “if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”  When salt no longer has the capability to enhance the flavor of food, it is worthless and can be thrown away.  You might as well throw it on the ground and walk on it.  What does that say about you and me?  If we no longer flavor the world, what benefit are we?  If we do not provide a good influence in the world, what good are we to God?

As too much salt makes food unfit to eat, I suppose there is a way that we can make ourselves distasteful with our “righteous actions”.  I’m not suggesting that.  Instead, my encouragement to you is to use wisdom in being the salt of the earth.  We find Paul’s admonition in Colossians 4:5-6 “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  Be the salt of the earth that God wants you to be.

The Inheritance of an Adopted Child

Before you were a Christian, you were alienated and an enemy of God because of sin. Now you have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Colossians 1:21-22 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”  Instead of being an enemy of God, He adopted you as His son or daughter.  Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”   Romans 8:15-17 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”   

What a wonderful relation you now have with God as His adopted child!  You can cry “Abba, Father” to God.  Abba is an Aramaic word that a small child might speak to his parent who he loves and in whom he has complete trust and dependence.  The word Father implies the relationship of one who begat you, one who you honor and obey, and one who gives you your inheritance.  Since you have been adopted as a child of God, you are now an heir of God and a joint heir with your elder brother, Jesus Christ.  You have an inheritance reserved in heaven for you.  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.”  Your inheritance from God is just waiting for you.  It is incorruptible and undefiled in that it will not decay, rust, be contaminated or diminish in value.  God is protecting it and has reserved it for you in heaven.

I don’t fully comprehend what our inheritance is.  This lack of comprehension is similar to that expressed by John in 1 John 3:2 “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.”  Our inheritance will be fully revealed to us later on.  However, we know some things about our inheritance.  In speaking about the judgement day, Jesus described our inheritance as a kingdom that we inherit from the King.   Matthew 25:34 “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.’”  In order to understand our inheritance better, we are told that it will be rich and glorious.  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.” You should expect the inheritance to be something very special since you are inheriting from your Father God, the creator of all things.

As you continue your life here on earth, be careful that you do not sell your right to your inheritance, as Esau did.  Hebrews 12:15-17 “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.  For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”  You do not want to come to the Judgement Day and realize that the way you lived your life resulted in you giving up your right to your inheritance.  You have to overcome in this life in order to receive your inheritance.   Revelation 21:7-8 “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  You must be diligent along with having faith and patience.  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.”

Praise and thank God for adopting you as His child.  He loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to die so that we could become His sons and daughters.  Praise and thank God for giving you a rich and glorious inheritance.  Colossians 1:12 “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”   Be assured that God will give you the inheritance that He has promised.  Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12 “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

All Scripture

You have accepted the gospel of Jesus and learned many things about Jesus, God the Father, their ways, and their promises from the Holy Scriptures.  You must continue in the things you have learned.  The apostle Paul gave the following instruction to Timothy, his son in the faith.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Just like Timothy, you have learned many things from the Holy Scriptures. 

When the apostle wrote to Timothy, the writings of the New Testament had not been collected together into a single book.  The Holy Scriptures that Paul referred to were likely the Old Testament Scriptures, from Genesis to Malachi.  They include writings of history, instruction, wisdom, psalms, and prophesy.  As Paul said, these scriptures are inspired by God.  That means that they were “God breathed”.  The apostle Peter described it similarly in 2 Peter 1:20-21 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,  for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  Inspired means that the Holy Spirit of God moved them or spoke to them the things that they were to write.  Yes, these holy men of God were humans and they were the ones who did the writing, but their message is from God, the I AM, the creator of the universe.  He wants His message to be passed down to all mankind.  He wants people to know His words.  As Jesus said in Matthew 4:4b “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”  You know the words from God because the Holy Spirit of God inspired the holy men of God who wrote the scriptures. 

The writings of the New Testament are also inspired by God.  From Matthew to Revelation, these books were written by the apostles and followers of Jesus.  Jesus gave many of God’s words to the apostles while He was on the earth, but He also sent the Holy Spirit to guide them after He returned to heaven.  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.”  Just as the holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to write the books of the Old Testament, I believe that other holy men of God were moved by the same Holy Spirit to write the books of the New Testament.  The apostle Peter wrote concerning the apostle Paul’s writings in 2 Peter 3:15-16 “And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”   Peter understood that God had given Paul wisdom for his writings and some people twisted what Paul wrote as they also twisted the rest of the Scriptures.  The implication is that Paul’s writings were considered by Peter as part of the Scriptures, inspired by God.  So, you and I have the Holy Scriptures, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, which are inspired by God and collected into the Bible.  These writings are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 

The Bible is profitable for doctrine.  That means for teaching.  You are taught from the Bible many, many things.  You are taught about God and about His nature – who He is and what are His characteristics.  You are taught what pleases Him and what displeases Him.  You are taught how He hates sin and unrighteousness.  You are also taught that He loves you.  John 3:16 “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.”  You are taught about His plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.  There are so many things that you are taught by the Bible; it is profitable for doctrine.

The Bible is profitable for reproof.   That means that it is helpful in convicting the sinner of the error of his way.  It is helpful in imposing discipline on those who depart from God’s ways.  It is helpful in combating error or false doctrine.  The Bible is profitable for correction.   That means that when there are false notions, mistaken views, or improper actions, the Bible is helpful in restoring things to their proper place and making things right.  The Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness.  That means that it teaches you what God considers right or just.  As such, it teaches you what you should believe and how you should act.  Altogether, the Bible enables you to be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

My hope is that you appreciate that the Bible contains the words of God as He inspired holy men to write His message.  My encouragement to you is that you continue in the things which you have already learned and been assured of from the Bible and that you diligently seek to learn more and more of its truths which will make you wise for salvation.

Blessed Are You

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He gave what is known as the beatitudes, recorded in Matthew 5:3-12.  They are called beatitudes because they are attitudes that followers of Jesus should “be” or have.  Jesus says that individuals are “blessed” or “happy” if they have these attitudes or characteristics.  Jesus was teaching His disciples and they were amazed; one reason they were amazed was that what He taught was in contrast to what they had heard and seen from their religious leaders.  His teachings are certainly in contrast to the standards and practices of the world.  But God has different values than the world.  Isaiah 55:8-9 “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” I am confident that you want to be blessed by God and truly happy, so let us consider the attitudes or characteristics you will want to have.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The poor in spirit are those who lack the proud, haughty, arrogant attitude of the world.  Instead, they are humble and realize that they need God’s forgiveness and His righteousness and they need to give themselves to Him.  If you are poor in spirit, you can be in God’s kingdom.  James 4:6 “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Those who mourn are those who are contrite and have godly sorrow for their sins.  It seems that today many take pride in how bad they are.  But it is only when you appreciate your sinfulness and repent that you can have the forgiveness of your sins by God.  Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”  When your sins are forgiven, then you can be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  Those who are meek are those who are mild and gentle.  This is in contrast to those who are harsh, aggressive and difficult to deal with.  Jesus describes Himself as meek or gentle in Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  You need to be meek or gentle like Jesus.  In saying you shall inherit the earth, perhaps He is referring to you inheriting the new earth.  2 Peter 3:13 “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  Righteousness is having right actions or conforming to the revealed will of God.  But none of us are righteous of ourselves.  Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”       If you have a strong desire to be righteous before God, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you can come to Jesus for justification and be filled with His righteousness.  Romans 3:24 “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”  To be merciful is to have compassion, pity, and a desire to help those in need.  You can be merciful to those who are guilty of some offense against you.  In that case, mercy means forgiving. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  You must forgive to receive God’s forgiveness.  But your mercy can also apply to those who are suffering and in need.  If you are merciful and help others with their needs, God will also be merciful and help you with your needs.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  A pure heart is one that has the single purpose of pleasing God.  Most people have a divided heart; part of their heart wants to serve God but the other part wants to please themselves.  James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  I encourage you to have a pure heart in your desire to please God in all things.  The promise is that you will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  As a peacemaker, you seek to live at peace with others and work to resolve conflicts between your neighbors, family members, and fellow Christians.  Romans 14:19 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”  God values the peacemaker; when you have that attitude, God claims you as His son (or daughter).

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Jesus was persecuted.  The prophets of old and the apostles and early Christians were persecuted.  If you stand up for Jesus and let your faith and trust in Him be known, you will receive persecution from those who reject Jesus and His way.  Don’t be afraid to receive persecution.  Rejoice that you have a great reward in heaven like others who have suffered for Christ.

Here are the attitudes or characteristics you will want to have to be blessed by God:  poor in spirit (humble), mourn (godly sorrow), meek (mild and gentle), hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker, and persecuted for Christ.  The blessings you will receive are: being comforted in mourning, being given mercy, being filled with righteousness, having the kingdom of heaven, inheriting the earth, seeing God, being called sons of God, and having a great reward in heaven.

Strife or Peace

There is much strife in the world today.  There is strife between nations, strife between political parties, strife between co-workers, strife in marriages between husband and wife, strife between parents and children, and even strife in some churches.   The works of the flesh are described in Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Looking at the list of the works of the flesh, strife can be caused by hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy and the like.  James describes some reasons for strife in James 4:1-3 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Strife may occur in the church. There can be multiple reasons for such strife.  It could be due to one or more individuals exhibiting fleshly attitudes.  It could be due to someone holding to a false doctrine.  1 Timothy 6:3-5 “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”  If one in the church does not follow the truth of Jesus Christ but instead exhibits a sinful attitude and causes strife, you may need to withdraw from him.

A Christian cannot always avoid strife.  Jesus had conflict with the religious leaders when He stood against their hypocrisy and false teachings; this conflict eventually led to His crucifixion.  Steven disputed with the Jews in Acts 6 and 7, which led to his being stoned to death.  There was a major conflict within the early church as recorded in Acts 15:1-2 “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.”  As a result of the council in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders were able to resolve their conflict and come to a resolution and agreement.

In any conflict that you find yourself engaged in, you should not exhibit the works of the flesh as listed above.  Instead, you should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  Having love, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control will resolve many conflicts without strife.  2 Timothy 2:23-26 “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.  And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”  In this passage, the Apostle Paul states that the servant of the Lord must not quarrel.  He emphasizes gentleness, teaching, patience and humility.  He also teaches to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes.  Sometimes conflict can be avoided by simply refusing to get caught up in a dispute in matters that hold no great importance.

As much as it depends upon you, seek peace and avoid strife.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  Pursue peace.  Romans 14:19 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”  Be humble and submit to one another.  1 Peter 5:5-6 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”  Consider the other person better than or more important than yourself and look out for their interests.  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 be a person that pursues peace.  If possible, avoid or resolve strife by having love, gentleness, patience and humility.

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.