Gifts From God

You and I have a loving God that has given us so many things.  James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Let us consider some of the many gifts that He has given us.

Because of His love for us, God gave us His Son.  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.”  Not only did God give us His Son, but Jesus Christ also gave Himself for us.  Galatians 1:3-5 “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Only through the gift of Jesus Christ can we be delivered from this present evil age, become holy before God, and have everlasting life.

God gave us His favor, His grace.  His grace has given us salvation.  Ephesians 2:8-9 “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.”  Because of the grace God has given us, we should desire to deny ourselves and live righteously.  Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  His grace not only gave us salvation, but we are enriched in everything.  1 Corinthians 1:4-7 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God has also given us His Holy Spirit.  The apostle Peter spoke of this gift on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Acts 2:38-39 “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.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’”  When we repent and are baptized, we receive the remission of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We receive the Holy Spirit when we obey Him.  Acts 5:32 “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

As mentioned earlier, God has given us eternal life.  Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  We are the sheep of our shepherd Jesus.  Here is how He described it.  John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

God has given each of us different gifts and abilities.  Romans 12:6-8 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”  1 Peter 4:10-11 “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

We are given good things from God our Father when we ask Him.  Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is tre among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  One big reason we pray to God is to receive His gifts in our lives.

Space here does not allow me to list all of the good gifts that the Bible describes that we receive from God.  To mention a few more, He gives us wisdom, peace, rest for our souls, an inheritance, the right to become His children, strength in our time of troubles, along with many physical blessings.  Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness and has also given unto us exceedingly great and precious promises of things to come.  2 Peter 1:2-4 “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  Because of all that He has given, I encourage you to praise God, deny yourselves ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live righteously before Him.

Watch

Jesus used many parables in His teaching.  His parables are stories that illustrate one or more spiritual principles.  Jesus gave the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.  But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.  And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’  Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’  But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”  Jesus gave this parable to teach important principles about the kingdom of heaven. 

This parable is about a wedding that followed the customs that were common during the time of Jesus.  A wedding would often be held in the evening or at night.  Many friends and relatives would attend and would wait for the arrival of the bridegroom to welcome him so that the wedding could begin.  Since the wedding was at night, the guests would have lamps or torches that were lit to provide light when the bridegroom arrived.

Jesus is the bridegroom.  In the book of the Revelation, we also read about the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus).  Revelation 19:7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  The wife of Jesus is understood to be the church; in the end, the church will be married to Jesus.  From the parable, the virgins would be true believers.  Virgins had not been intimate with men, but were pure.  True believers are also pure and holy.  But five of the virgins were wise and five were foolish.  Some believers are wise and some are foolish.  The five wise virgins not only had oil in their lamps, but they had extra oil in their vessels to replenish their lamps if the bridegroom took a long time in coming.  The five foolish virgins did not have extra oil and were therefore unprepared when the bridegroom was delayed in coming.  When they went to buy extra oil, the bridegroom came and shut the door.  When the foolish virgins returned, the bridegroom would not let them enter to participate in the wedding and told them that he did not know them.

What can you learn from this parable and how can you apply it to yourself today?  You do not want to be turned away when Jesus returns someday.  In this parable, it was not a matter of being pure and holy, even though we know that is important.  It was a matter of being ready when the bridegroom returned.  You and I must be ready when Jesus returns.  Jesus said “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Jesus gave additional admonition to watch in Matthew 24:36-44 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Mark 13:35-37 “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning —   lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Revelation 3:1-3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”  1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

From these scriptures, we get an idea as to what it means to watch.  It means to be ready for the return of Jesus to be at any time.  It means to strengthen the things that are weak and correct the works that are not perfect before God.  It means to stand fast in the faith, be brave, and be strong.  It means to not sleep spiritually.  1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”  My encouragement to you is to watch and be ready for Jesus to return.

Children of God

We all understand that God created everything.  After He created us, He could have looked down upon us as just things that He created.  Instead, because He loves us, He has chosen to call us His children.  1 John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”  Since we are Christians, God chose to adopt us.  Ephesians 1:4-5 “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”  Galatians 3:26-27 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  The relationship between us and God is similar to the relationship of an earthly father and his children.  Let us look at some of the ways we should relate to our Father in heaven.

You have probably seen small children imitating their parents.  Sometimes children want to dress like their parents, walk like their parents and even talk like their parents.  It is natural for children to imitate their parents, because early in life they learn so much from them.  In the same way, we should imitate our Father in Heaven.  Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”  Since God is love, we should also walk in love.  Luke 6:35-36 “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.”  Since God is kind and merciful, we should also be kind and merciful and imitate other attributes of God.

Children are taught to obey their parents.  Their parents usually know what is best for their children and the dangers that the children need to avoid.  In the same way, God knows what is best for us, so we must be obedient to our Father in heaven.  1 Peter 1:13-14 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.”  One time Jesus was told that His mother and brothers wanted to talk with Him.  Matthew 12:49-50 “And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.’”  Just as Jesus is the Son of God, we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus when we do the will of the Father in heaven.

Children often come to their earthly father to ask for his help and the resources they need.  In the same way, we are taught to come to our Father in heaven for His help and His resources.  Matthew 7:11-12 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  He already knows what we need, but He wants us to ask Him.  Matthew 6:6-8 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

A good earthly father trains and disciplines his children to make them into the children he thinks they should be.  In the same way, our Father in heaven disciplines us as we need it so that we become the people He wants us to be.  Hebrews 12:5-11 “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Earthly fathers typically leave an inheritance to their children.  In the same way, we are heirs of our Father in heaven.  Romans 8:14-17 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  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.”

There are many ways that we can relate to God as our Father in heaven; I have listed only a few ways.  What a wonderful relationship we can have with Him!  1 John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  I encourage you to love your Father in heaven and be the child that He wants you to be.

The Temptation – Sin Process

James teaches us about temptation and sin.  James 1:12-15 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  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.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation.”  The word “temptation” can mean two different things.  It can mean a trial that God allows to come upon you that tests your faith.  Therefore, it could be persecution, loss of loved ones, illness, financial difficulty or any of a number of trials that can come upon you.  I believe that Peter wrote about such trials in 1 Peter 1:6b-7 “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.”  The word “temptation” can also mean an enticement to sin; perhaps that is what Jesus meant when He gave the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”  Whether it is a trial or an enticement to sin, blessed or happy is the man who endures temptation.  By enduring, it is implied that the temptation occurred over a period of time and that the man withstood the test, did not sin, but remained faithful to God.

“For when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  In other words, when the man has withstood the test, has not lost his faith, has not given himself to sin, but has remained faithful, he will receive the crown of life.  I understand this to mean that he will receive life, eternal life, as his prize or crown.  He doesn’t earn eternal life because eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23).  But it is conditional.  It is conditional to those who have been approved – who have withstood the test; it is promised to those who love Him.

“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.”  Since there are two meanings of temptation, here James choses the meaning of enticement to sin and says that God does not entice you to do evil.  God is not enticed to do evil because He is God and there is no part of God that is evil.  He never entices you to do evil.  The devil or Satan may entice you to sin just as the serpent beguiled Eve and she ate of the forbidden fruit.  Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11).  But God does not tempt anyone to sin.

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”  Whether or not the devil is involved in your temptation, you are responsible for your own actions.  James says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires.  There is a part of sin that is attractive and desirable; if sin didn’t have some appeal, no one would ever sin.  Each one of us as humans has fleshly desires; fulfillment of some of those fleshly desires may be contrary to God’s will and therefore be sinful.  To be a true follower of Jesus, there are times you must deny yourself what you desire.  Matthew 16:24 “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.’”

You and I need help from God when we are tempted.  Jesus used scripture to combat the Devil when He was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11).  God has promised to provide a way of escape from temptation.  1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  Jesus admonished His disciples to watch and pray.  Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  You can find help from your temptation.

James wrote that each one is tempted “when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”  Not only does one have a sinful desire, but there is the enticement to fulfill the desire.  Rather than just acknowledging a sinful desire and immediately rejecting it, the word “enticed” implies to me that one thinks about how desirable a sinful action might be so that the desire to yield to the temptation becomes greater.  My encouragement is to avoid being enticed by seeking to put sinful thoughts out of your mind when they come and praying for God’s help.

“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”  At some point, you may yield to your temptation and sin.  Usually, it is when you say or do something sinful.  But Jesus taught us that sin can be in the heart without outward actions.  Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“And sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”  I do not understand that when one sins he immediately has spiritual death.  But if sin is left unresolved and un-repented, it typically grows and draws one away from God and brings forth death.

My encouragement is to understand the temptation and sin process so that you can overcome and stand the test.  Watch and pray so that you overcome temptation.

To Be Seen By Men

Jesus was highly critical of the religious leaders of His time because of their hypocrisy.  One of His biggest criticisms was that they did many of their works to be seen by men.  Matthew 23:5-10 “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’  But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.”  A phylactery was a small strip of parchment with portions of the Law written on it; it was fastened with a strap to either the forehead or the left arm to remind the wearer of the duty of keeping the commandments of God.  The Jews understood that they were commanded to do this (Deuteronomy 6:8).  To make their phylacteries broad was to make them big so that others would see how righteous they were. The Jews were also commanded to make fringes in the borders of their garments with blue thread as a reminder to keep the commands of the Lord (Numbers 15:38-39).  To enlarge the borders of their garments was to make them big and obvious so that others would see how righteous they were.  The religious leaders also wanted the seats of honor at feasts or synagogue assemblies so that others could see that they were the righteous ones.  They liked titles of honor and to be respected as a righteous person.  They did all these things to be seen by men.

The religious leaders were also very careful to pay a tenth of their garden herbs.  They felt that this carefulness to tithe even the small things showed how righteous they were.  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!”  These religious leaders were careful to tithe everything so that they would be seen by men, but they neglected more important things such as being just and fair to everyone, being merciful to those who sinned, and having faith and trust in the Lord.

Jesus spoke about not doing charitable deeds to be seen by men.  Matthew 6:1-4 “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.  Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.   But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”  Jesus also spoke about not praying to be seen by men.  Matthew 6:5-6 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  Jesus taught us to do our charitable deeds in secret and pray our individual prays in private.  That way, our actions will be motivated by our love for those in need and our true devotion to God rather than a motivation to be seen and praised by men.

Jesus summarized his criticism of the religious leaders in Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” You also can appear righteous to men on the outside but inside you can be full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  You can attend all the church meetings and activities and do good deeds to be seen by men so that they think you are a good Christian, but inwardly you can be filled with selfishness, pride, lusts and hatred.  God knows the true condition of your heart.  Romans 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”  Circumcision was the cutting away of the flesh of a man and was a sign that a man was one of God’s people.  As a Christian, you are to have your spiritual heart circumcised and have your heart truly dedicated to God.  This is done, not for the praise of men, but because of your faith and love for God.

But some may wonder about the teaching of Jesus 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.”  Here Jesus teaches you to let others see your good works.  I understand that if your motive is to receive the praise from men, then your motive is wrong.  If you motive is to obey and glorify your Father in heaven, then let them see your good works.

Is your heart full of hypocrisy and lawlessness or is your heart dedicated to God?  Examine yourself.  2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.”  My encouragement to you is to seek to please God from your heart and not to do your deeds to be seen by men.

See Your Brother In Need

Do you know what it feels like to have a need?  I suppose that each one of us has needs.  We all need air to breathe and food and water to sustain our bodies.  We probably all need love and have a need to feel a purpose in our lives.  We all need God and appreciate that He gave His one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  A need is something that you require to avoid a bad consequence.  I suppose that there are all kinds of needs.  Some needs, like air, are very basic.  At the other end of the spectrum, you may also say that you need something when in reality it is actually just a desire or a want.

Do not just think of what you need, but consider the needs of your Christian brother or sister.  The apostle John taught us in 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” When you have resources and you see your brother in need but you coldly avoid sharing with him what you have, how do you have love?  How can you say that you love your brother and how can you say that you love God.  1 John 4:20-21 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”  Since loving God is the first and greatest commandment, opening up your heart to love your brother and helping him in his time of need is of great importance. 

Jesus described His judgement of the nations in Matthew 25:31-44.  He will separate the people to the right and the left as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  Matthew 25:41-46 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’  Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’  Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  The reason given for sending those on the left to everlasting punishment was that they saw those who had needs and they didn’t minister to the needs.  They saw those who were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, or sick or in prison.  These had needs of food, drink, lodging, clothes, and to be visited.  Those on the left saw the need, had the ability to help, but shut up their heart and did not help.  They did not have the love of God in them.  Therefore, they were rejected by the Lord.

Here are some of the commands given in the Old Testament relative to the poor and those in need.  Deuteronomy 15:7-11 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.  Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you.  You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.  For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” Leviticus 25:35-37 “If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.  Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.  You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.” 

There may be times when it unwise to give for a need.  For example, if someone is lazy and will not work, neither should he be given food to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  If someone misuses your gift and purchases something different from the intent of the gift, it may be unwise to continue giving to that person.  I do not have all the answers on giving.  I do know that the Bible is clear that the motive for helping those in need should be love.  If you shut up your heart and do not demonstrate love, the love of God does not abide within you.  1 John 3:18 “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:16  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

The responsibility for helping those in need rests with those who have the ability to supply the need.  1 Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

My encouragement to you is to be eager to help those who you see that have a need.  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.”

A Double-Minded Man

James taught us to ask God for wisdom.  James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  In his teaching, James instructs us to ask for wisdom in faith.  I believe that this instruction about praying in faith for wisdom applies to all of our prayers.  All of our prayers should be prayed in faith.  The things that we ask for in our prayers should be according to His will.  1 John 5:14-15 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”  If we ask for things for our own pleasure, we will not receive our request.  James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

James not only teaches us about praying in faith, but he also teaches us about doubting.  “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  If you have ever been to an ocean beach, you have seen how waves wash up upon the beach and then recede.  Or if you have been out on the ocean when it is windy, the wind causes waves with their peaks and valleys; a small boat goes up and down as it rides the waves.  In the same way, a person who doubts is like the waves on a beach that goes back and forth or like a small boat which goes up and down on the waves.  Sometimes the person believes God’s promises and that God will answer his prayer and at other times he doubts or doesn’t believe that God will answer him.  He goes up and down.  Part of the time he believes and part of the time he does not.  James calls such an individual a double-minded man and says that he is unstable in all his ways.  He also says that such a man should not suppose to receive anything from the Lord.

Abraham is our example of an individual who believed and didn’t doubt.  God promised him that he would be the father of many nations when he was old and didn’t have the promised son.  Romans 4:18-25 (Abraham) “Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’  And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.  And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’  Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”  Abraham was fully convinced that what God had promised He was able to perform even though, from a worldly standpoint, it was nearly impossible.  He didn’t doubt.  And so Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness.  He is our example to have strong faith and not doubt.  When you have such faith, God will also count you righteous.

You can be double-minded about other things.  Consider being spiritually minded and also carnally minded.  The apostle Paul described this conflict in Romans 7:18-20 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”  Paul gave additional instruction on this subject in Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” I believe that within each of us as Christians there is this battle of wanting to please God and also wanting to please ourselves.  In this way we can be double-minded.

Seek to have a pure heart and not to be double-minded.  Jesus taught in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Paul instructed Timothy in 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.” 1 John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  We should seek to have a pure life and a pure heart.

I encourage you to have stronger faith and not doubt.  Ask God to strengthen your faith.  Seek to purify your heart and not to be double-minded.

The Greatest Is The One Who Serves

Jesus gave us a great lesson about serving as recorded in John 13:3-17 “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’  Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’  Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’  Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’   For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’  So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?   You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.   If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.   Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’”  In the time of Jesus, most streets and paths were not paved; people generally wore sandals.  Therefore, their feet would get very dirty from the dust or the mud of the street.  To wash someone’s feet was a very menial task for a servant.  And yet, Jesus, the son of God and their Lord and teacher, washed the feet of His disciples.  Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  Some believe that today they should follow this command of Jesus.  Others would say that times have changed and that most people today do not walk on dirt streets and wear sandals.  You must decide what you will do.  But we cannot ignore the fact that Jesus, the son of God, washed His disciples’ feet as an example of the service we should have for one another.

One time the mother of James and John came to Jesus to request that her sons would sit on the right hand and on the left of Jesus in His kingdom.  These were considered positions of great authority.  Jesus told her that these positions were not His to assign but only by the Father.  The other disciples were greatly displeased with the two brothers.  Matthew 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.   Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”  There are two points I wish to emphasize.  First, that the greatest among Christians is the one who serves.  Whoever desires to be first should be the slave.  It is not necessarily the one who has the greatest power, or the one who is most knowledgeable, or the one who is the most visible or the most vocal.  The greatest is the one who serves.  Second, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.  We know that Jesus is the greatest.  And yet, He came to serve His disciples, the people that came to him for help, and you and me today.  Since we want to follow the example of Jesus, the conclusion is that you and I should seek to serve our fellow Christians and those around us.

Our motivation for serving one another should be our love for others.  Galatians 5:13-14 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  1 John 3:16-18 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  Jesus gave us the example of love by laying down His life for us.  If we love our brother, when we see him in need, we will serve him in love.

I think it is important to consider the many, many ways that you can serve others.  Jesus listed feeding someone who is hungry, giving drink to someone who is thirsty, giving lodging to a stranger, giving clothes to someone who is naked, and visiting someone who is sick or in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).  Jesus also spoke of giving someone a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42).  We already read about washing dirty feet.  John wrote about having this world’s goods and seeing your brother in need.  “This world’s goods” could mean any possession or perhaps money that you might give to your brother in need.  A mother serves her husband and her children in food preparation and all the care that she provides.  A father serves his family by working to provide for their needs.  Children serve the family by the chores they do.  One who speaks before the church serves his fellow members.  Holding open a door for someone is a simple way of serving.  Praying for the needs of your brother serves him.  May God open your eyes to the many opportunities for service to others.

God remembers how you serve others in love.  Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”  My encouragement to you is to be eager to serve others out of love.

Hatred

Have you ever hated someone?  Or is there someone you now hate?  To hate is to intensely dislike or have malicious feelings toward someone.  It may be because of what he has done or said to you or perhaps done to someone else.  You may wish that you could pay him back or that something bad would happen to him so that he would get what he “deserves”.

But hatred towards someone else is not what a Christian should have.  1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  If you hate your brother, you are a murderer because in your hatred you wish bad things to happen to your brother.  1 John 2:9-11 “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.  He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”  God is light, and for you to have fellowship with God requires you to also be in the light.  But if you hate your brother you are in darkness and walk in darkness because your hatred has blinded you.  1 John 4:20-21 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

Maybe the person you hate is your enemy and is against you.  There is still no justification to hate your enemy.  Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Your Father in heaven makes His sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  His desire is that good would come to all people.  In this respect, you should be like Him.  He wants you to love your enemies.  Hatred is the opposite of love, so you must remove hatred for others from your life.

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

So how do you deal with the hatred that you may have?  I think the biggest step is to forgive him.  Jesus taught in 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.”  Since it is very important for God to forgive your sins, it is vital for you to forgive the person that you hate.  Forgiving means that you no longer feel resentment towards the person.  The person still needs to answer to God for what he has done.  You may still need to be cautious to avoid future harm.  But you don’t hold resentment towards him.  When the resentment is gone, the hatred should also be gone. 

It may be very difficult to forgive another.  I encourage you to separate in your mind the trespass from the person.  The trespass may be very bad, but the person is a precious individual created by God; he needs God’s salvation.  Turn the individual over to God.  Jesus taught us to “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)  Pray for the individual and pray that God would help you to forgive.

If there is someone you hate, I encourage you to give up your hatred.  You cannot love God as you are commanded to do and at the same time hate your brother.

Wisdom

Each day, you and I make hundreds of decisions – what we say, what we do, what we do in preparation for the future, how we react to problems we experience, how we react to people we interact with, and so forth.  Some decisions are small while others are large.  Some decisions are easy to make while others are difficult.  If we make good decisions, things generally go well with us, but if we make bad decisions, we will suffer the consequences.  We say that one is wise if he makes good decisions based upon a combination of knowledge, experience and intuitive understanding.  We say that one is a fool who consistently makes bad decisions.

King Solomon is known as one of the wisest men that ever lived.  His writings are included in the Bible.  Here are some things he said about wisdom.  Ecclesiastes 1:16 “I communed with my heart, saying, ‘Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.’” Ecclesiastes 2:13-14a “Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.  The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. ” 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.” Proverbs 3:21-24 “My son, let them not depart from your eyes — keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck.  Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 4:5-9 “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.  Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you.  Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.  Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her.  She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you.” Proverbs 8:11-12 “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.  ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.’” Proverbs 16:16 “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”  The book of Proverbs contains many wise sayings from Solomon.

God is wise.  His wisdom far exceeds the wisdom of anyone else.  1 Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  The commands and principles of God lead us to wise living.  Violation of God’s commands and principles leads to bad consequences and a foolish way of living.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”  Keeping the commands and principles of God is building your life upon a firm foundation so that you can withstand all the troubles and trials of life.  This is true wisdom.  The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 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.”  I encourage you to read and study the Bible and follow its instruction so that you may be wise.  

James describes the difference between demonic wisdom and Godly wisdom.  James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.  For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

I encourage you to be wise in how you live.  Ephesians 5:15-17 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  If you desire to be wise, read and study the Bible.  You can also ask God for wisdom.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”