Overcome

Jesus came to this earth and overcame.  He overcame the temptations of the devil who wanted Him to fall down and worship Him (Matthew 4:1-11).  He overcame those who were opposed to His teaching.  He overcame the religious leaders who wanted to destroy Him.  He overcame all the physical and spiritual temptations He experienced as a man.   He overcame the power of sin and death through His sacrificial death and resurrection.  There were many tribulations that He went through, but He overcame them all.  He overcame the world. Jesus said in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Our lives on the earth are not easy.  We can be overcome by our fleshly desires, our desires for pleasures, our desires for possessions, and our desires to be important.  We can be overcome by sin.  Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”  Peter taught in 2 Peter 2:19 “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”  Not only is this true for people in the world who have never believed, but it can happen to us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior.  Peter continues in 2 Peter 2:20 “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.”  I encourage you not to be entangled with the pollutions of the world and overcome by them.

Just as Jesus experienced many trials and yet overcame the world, we also will experience many trials in our lives but we must overcome through the help of God.  I encourage you to see yourself as one who overcomes with the help of God.  1 John 4:4 “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

The apostle Paul understood this struggle.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”  Paul knew that he had to discipline himself and overcome or he would be disqualified.  Near the end of Paul’s life, he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  The apostle Paul overcame.

Jesus sent messages to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.  To each of the churches, the message was to overcome.  The one who overcomes will receive a blessing.  Following are the collection of the blessings promised to him who overcomes.  Revelation 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:26-28 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations —  He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels — as I also have received from My Father;  and I will give him the morning star.” Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:12 “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:21 “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

I encourage you to see yourself as one who overcomes with the help of God and receives the blessings of God.

Swift To Hear

Let us consider the instruction given in James 1:19-20 “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

“Swift to hear.”  It has been my observation that some people are broadcasters.  By that I mean that they talk a lot and don’t listen much.  They are primarily interested in telling what they believe, what they think, and what they know.  Instead, the first emphasis is on hearing.  That could mean that we truly listen and seek to gather information before jumping to conclusions, accusing someone, or getting angry.  It could mean that we are open to instruction rather than saying things that show our ignorance.  It could mean that we are open and receptive to godly counsel and correction from others.  Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Multiple times, Jesus gave the admonition as in Matthew 13:9 “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  He wanted the ones He was teaching to hear and understand what He was saying.  The first instruction is to hear and seek to understand.

“Slow to Speak.”  This means that you are slow in giving a response and take time to consider what you say.  Proverbs 29:20 “Do you see a man hasty in his words?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”  Here is a way to ensure that you correctly hear the other person.  Rather than immediately formulating an answer to what you think the other person said, instead say “Do I hear you say…” and say in your words what you understood him to say.  For any of a number of reasons, you may not correctly understand what he is trying to say.  By getting clarification on what he is saying, you won’t make the mistake of misunderstanding him and responding to the wrong thing.

Perhaps you have seen people arguing over something.  Each person that argues attempts to force what he thinks upon the other person without truly listening to what that person is saying.  Often in an argument, both individuals are talking at the same time because each one thinks that he is right and the other person is wrong.  2 Timothy 2:24-25 “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.”  This describes a gentle, patient, and humble spirit of the Christian.

We, as Christians, need to control our tongues.  James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”  One typically puts a bridle on a horse so that he can control the horse and so that the horse will not run away with the rider.  In the same way, if one thinks he is a pious person and worships God but he doesn’t control his tongue, he deceives himself.  Proverbs 13:3 “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.”  Proverbs 10:19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”   Proverbs 29:11 “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”

“Slow to wrath.”  Anger is an intense emotional state induced by displeasure.  My observation is that one often gets angry when he feels that his rights have been violated or that things are unjust.  Wrath may be a synonym of anger but often it seems to take anger one step further with a desire or intent to punish or get revenge.  I suppose that every one of us has been angry at one time or another.  Even Jesus was angry at times with people when they were unreasonable (Mark 3:5).   In the description of the characteristics of love, love is not provoked.  1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.” “Slow to wrath” implies that it should take a lot of injustice before we finally become angry.  We have already read 2 Timothy 2:24 where we learned that a Christian should be gentle, patient, and humble. 

“The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  If anger or wrath advances to a desire for vengeance, such a desire will not produce the righteousness of God.  We are told that vengeance only belongs to God.  Romans 12:19 “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  We have additional instruction in Ephesians 4:26-27 “’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  Maybe your anger burns within you for what you see as an injustice – but do not take vengeance; let your anger subside by the time that the sun goes down. Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

My encouragement to you is to apply the instruction of James.  James 1:19-20 “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

The Lord’s Supper

While I partake of the Lord’s Supper in our assembly, I find it a great opportunity for meditation.  Some churches seem to rush through this time as if it is a task that must be done so they can check it off the list.  Instead, I believe it should be a time of great spiritual meaning to us.

Here is the account given by Matthew.  Jesus was eating the Last Supper before He was betrayed and crucified.  Matthew 26:26-29 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’”  Here is the instruction given by the apostle Paul to the Corinthians.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

There are multiple controversies relative to how the Lord’s Supper should be observed. I don’t plan to address any of them.  I’m only interested in the spiritual significance of the observance.  There are only two elements of the Lord’s Supper:  the bread, which He said was His body, and the cup or fruit of the vine, which He said was His blood.  Jesus said to eat and drink “in remembrance of Me.”  The writer of 1 Corinthians added: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”  What does it mean to proclaim the Lord’s death?  I believe that the Lord’s Supper is a visible, physical sermon that proclaims the message of the cross.  All those who participate in or see the Lord’s Supper should receive the message: Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world.  With the Lord’s Supper, we are also to remember Jesus.  There are many, many things we can remember about Jesus.  As space permits, let me suggest a few things to remember.

Perhaps the first thing that we can remember about Jesus is what His death means to us.  1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” Hebrews 10:12-14 “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”  1 John 3:5 “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”  Jesus was the pure, sinless sacrifice to God – the just for the unjust.  His death means the forgiveness of our sins.  You might even personalize this by realizing that He died for you and that you received the forgiveness of your sins.

Perhaps next you can remember what God did for us.  John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Titus 3:4-7 “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” God loved us enough to send His Son for us; He demonstrated His great mercy and grace.  You might personalize this by realizing that God loved you and gave His mercy and grace to you.

Perhaps next you can remember that your baptism follows the same pattern of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Romans 6:3-7 “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”  You also have died to your old sinful way of live so that you are no longer a slave of sin but you walk in newness of life.

Perhaps next you can remember what Jesus actually went through for you.  You can remember the agony He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane.  You can remember the trials that He went through before the Sanhedrin Council, Pilate and Herod.  You can remember the painful scourging that He went through at the hands of the Roman soldiers.  You can remember how they all mocked Him.  You can remember Him being nailed to the cross and suffering one of the worst deaths that man could imagine.  You can remember the darkness that came over the land.  You can remember that He said in anguish “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  He was beaten, mocked, spat upon, scourged, pierced with thorns, nailed to the cross, and hung in shame.

I am sure that there are many more things you can remember about Jesus when you partake in the Lord’s Supper. The next time that you partake, I encourage you to remember Jesus.

Keeping the Commandments of God

Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  You and I are not under law.  Keeping the law given by Moses with all of its commands and regulations or keeping any other law does not save us.  Instead, we are saved by grace through faith.  Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Even though we are saved by grace, we still have commandments that we are to keep.  The apostle Paul stated to the Corinthians that it was not important whether a person was called when he was a Jew (circumcised) or a Gentile (uncircumcised).  What was important was keeping the commandments of God.  1 Corinthians 7:19 “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” 

We demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commandments.  Jesus said in John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  We can’t say that we know God if we do not keep His commandments.  1 John 2:3-5 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”  We are in God and He is in us when we keep His commandments.  1 John 3:24 “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”  We abide in God’s loves if we keep His commandments.  Jesus stated in John 15:9-10 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”  Jesus stated in John 15:14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

There are multiple commandments from God.  The teachings of Jesus that we find in the books of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John contain His commandments.  God gave the apostles the Holy Spirit to guide them; their writings contain commandments of God.  The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:37 “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”  The apostle Paul wrote the following to Timothy.  1 Timothy 6:11-14 “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate,  that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.”  It appears that fighting the good fight of faith and laying hold on eternal life is a commandment.   

The greatest commandment is to love.  One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”  Mark 12:29-31 “Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.   And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.   And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”  Perhaps the reason that love is the greatest commandment is that when we have the proper love, we fulfill all of the other commandments.  Romans 13:8-10 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  When it is obvious that we love each other, everyone will know that we are His disciples.  John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  The apostle John expanded it to two commandments: belief and love.  1 John 3:21-23 “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.  And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”

When we love God, we will want to keep His commandments.  1 John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”  When we truly love God, His commandments are not burdensome; it should be our desire to keep them as we seek to please Him.

My encouragement to you is to love God and demonstrate your love by keeping His commandments.  The greatest commandments are to love God and to love one another.

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.”