The Chastening of the Lord

There are multiple reasons for trials and tribulations in your life.  Trials may come as a result of your faith in Jesus Christ.  Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  You should rejoice for persecution trials.  Trials may come to test the genuineness of your faith.  1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Abraham’s faith was tested by God and he passed the test (Genesis 22:1-18).  Is your faith genuine and strong?  Trials will prove the nature of your faith. 

While there may be multiple reasons for trials in your life, I want you to consider that God allows trials to come into your life to chasten you for things that need to be changed in your life.  You are a child of God and He loves you.  1 John 3:1a “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” Since He is your heavenly Father and you are His child, He is going to treat you like an earthly father would treat the child that he loves.  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.”

When you sin, God allows you to suffer the consequences of your sin.  I like to divide consequences into natural consequences and logical consequences.  Natural consequences are things that naturally occur as a result of what you do. Sin looks desirable to our fleshly nature, but it results in consequences that are usually very bad.  If you commit a crime and the authorities apprehend you, you may have to go to prison.  If you take illicit drugs, you may become addicted and suffer the damaging effects of the drug.  If you tell a lie and it is discovered, you will lose the trust of others.  These kinds of things will come upon you as a natural consequence of your sin.  There may also be logical consequences.  The Old Testament is filled with example of times when the Israelites turned away from God and worshiped idols.  God sent prophets to rebuke them and encourage them to change.  When they did not change, He allowed various nations to conquer the Israelites, enslave them, and mistreat them.  Sometimes the Israelites repented and turned back to God.  In the same way, God may allow trials to come into your life as consequences of your sin in an attempt to cause you to repent and turn away from your sin. He wants you to be holy and righteous before Him. 

Jesus said in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Job 5:17-18 “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.  For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.”  1 Corinthians 11:31-32 “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”  If you take God’s chastening in the right spirit, you will appreciate that He loves you and He wants you to change from your sin.

The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthian church in the first Corinthian letter for some of the wrong things they were doing.  We see that they took the rebuke from Paul in the correct spirit.  Paul later wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”  Just as the Corinthian church had godly sorrow and repented, when you sin and God chastens you, have godly sorrow and repent as well.  James 4:8-10 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

I encourage you to accept the rebuke and chastening from the Lord when you sin.  Humble yourself.  He loves you and wants you to be holy before Him.

Being A Disciple of Jesus

Are you a true Christian?  By that I mean are you a true disciple and follower of Jesus?  Jesus described what it means to follow Him.  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.’”

Why would you want to follow Jesus?  He gave the answer in 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.”  When you follow Him, instead of receiving eternal damnation, He gives you eternal life.  There was a time when many of the disciples of Jesus were leaving Him.  John 6:66-69 “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’  But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”  Eternal life is yours only if you follow Jesus.

Jesus gave three elements of following Him.  The first is to deny yourself.  The only way to truly follow Jesus is through self-denial. There is no other way. While self-denial may sound miserable, it is actually wonderful.  You simply deny yourselves those things that are temporarily pleasurable but eternally painful.  Titus 2:11-12 “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.”  God’s grace should teach you to deny yourself.

To deny yourself ungodliness is to deny yourself anything that is contrary to the characteristics, thoughts and actions that God desires.  This includes denying yourself anything of the occult such as magic, fortune telling, horoscopes, witchcraft and black magic.  It includes denying yourself to be intoxicated with alcohol or other drugs.  It includes denying yourself wild parties, lying, stealing, murder, selfishness, hatred, fighting or anything else that is contrary to what God desires.

To deny yourself worldly lusts is to deny yourself the strong desires for the things of this world.  1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.”  Lust of the flesh includes looking on another person to lust for them, illicit sexual encounters, pornography, eating too much, wanting to have “fun” all the time, or any strong desire for things that please your senses.  Lust of the eyes is to have a strong desire for riches, toys, cars, houses, jewelry, the latest technology, or the nice things that others have (which is covetousness).  Pride includes things which you think make you better than others.  You can be proud of your accomplishments, possessions, knowledge, abilities, and physical characteristics.  Deny yourself worldly lusts.

You may also have to deny yourself other things in life.  You can’t just marry anyone – you should marry only another believer (2 Corinthians 6:14).  You may have to be careful in your occupation, your friends, how you spend your time, and how you spend your money if these things would take you away from Jesus.  If you want to follow Jesus, you must first be willing to deny yourself.

The second element that Jesus gave for following Him is that you must take up your cross.  What does it mean to take up your cross?  Some interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, or a physical illness. They say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.”  Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.  Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus.  By saying “Take up your cross and follow Me”, Jesus was giving us a word picture of the concept of “death to self”.  Matthew 16:25 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  The idea is that nothing in this life is worth keeping if it means losing eternal life – not a job, not a family, not a group of friends, not earthly pleasures, not even your very identity.  You have to die to self everyday. You die to self by putting God and His will and His way of living first in your life.  Anytime you feel the pain of an insult, disappointment, suffering, physical challenge, failure, injustice, trial or temptation, it’s an opportunity to die to pride, die to ego, and die to sin.  In other words, die to self.

The last element that Jesus gave is to simply follow Him.  1 Peter 2:21-24 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”  You must seek to live as He lived.  He suffered; He committed no sin; no deceit was found in His mouth; when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when he suffered, He did not threaten; He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; He sacrificed Himself for others; He went around doing good; He demonstrated great love for others; He had compassion for those hurting; He resisted temptation; He was a person of prayer; He obeyed His father in everything.

My encouragement to you is to be a true Christian.  Deny yourself.  Take up your cross.  Follow Jesus. 

Add To Your Faith

In 2 Peter 1:3-4, the apostle tells us that God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  He has also given us exceedingly great and precious promises so that we may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  Peter continues in 2 Peter 1:5-11 “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

You are saved by God’s grace.  You do not earn your salvation.  But for the very reason that God has given you so much and has promised great and precious promises, you should want to add to your faith.  You should not be content with just a basic belief in God and Jesus Christ His Son.  Because He loved you so much, you will want to love Him in return.  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Since you want to love God, what do you add to your faith?

Peter tells you that the first thing that you add to your faith is virtue.  Virtue means moral excellence.  Your life of sin you lived before you had faith should become a thing of the past.  You will seek to purge from your life any sexual immorality, lying, hatred, drunkenness, wild partying, envy, lust and such like.  Instead, you will seek to add love, patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness and similar virtues to your life.  You will seek to add moral excellence to your faith.

Peter next tells you to add knowledge to your virtue.  The apostle Paul spoke about the Jews in Romans 10:2 “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”  You must not be that way.  You will want to know God.  What is He like?  Is He a God of love?  Is He a God of vengeance?  How has He dealt with mankind in the past?  How tolerant is He of sin and rebellion.  Does He forgive if people repent?  What are the things that please Him and the things that displease Him?  You will want to read and study the Bible so that you can gain the knowledge of God and His ways.  You will want to draw near to God so that He will draw near to you.  You will want to know God and be known by God.

Peter next tells you to add self-control or temperance to your knowledge.  While self-control may be part of virtue, it is very important to give attention to adding self-control to your life.  You can have all the knowledge of God and what pleases Him but if you cannot control yourself in what you say and what you do, the knowledge will not do you any good.  You must resist temptation and control yourself.

Peter next tells you to add perseverance or patience to your self-control.  Perseverance means that you continue to have faith and obedience to God without giving up due to tribulation, trials or discouragement.  Romans 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Perseverance must be added because all will be lost if you give up.

Peter next tells you to add godliness to your perseverance.  Godliness means to be devout or to do what is well-pleasing to God.  Beyond seeking to obey the commandments and the written word, you will seek to do in your life what truly pleases God the Father.

Peter next tells you to add brotherly kindness to your godliness.  The original Greek word basically means brotherly love.  Jesus said in 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.”  You cannot truly love God unless you love your brother and sister in Christ (1 John 4:20).

Finally, Peter tells you to add love to brotherly kindness.  1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”  Just as God is love, you will want to be characterized as a person of love.

You need to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.  If these things abound in your life, you won’t be barren or unfruitful.  But if you lack these things, you are shortsighted or simply blind and you have forgotten that God cleansed you from your old sins.

Peter concludes by saying to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  I think it is safe to turn Peter’s statement around.  If you do not do these things, your calling and election will not be sure; you will stumble and your entrance into the everlasting kingdom of Christ will be in doubt.

I encourage you to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.  Make your calling and election sure.

Lay Aside Every Weight

This encouragement is taken from Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, we have enumerated many individuals who went before us who had faith and trusted in God.  Some accomplished remarkable deeds.  Many suffered great hardships.  Some endured torture, scourging, trials of mockings, and horrible deaths.  Others were destitute, afflicted and tormented.  None have yet to receive the promise – the ultimate heavenly country.  All were dependent on God and trusted Him.  The writer of Hebrews encourages us to envision them as witnesses or perhaps like spectators in a great arena looking down upon the contestants below – upon us.  They know what it is like to fight the great fight of faith and they are observing us in our fight of faith.  How will we perform?  Will we emulate their accomplishments through faith or will we fail because we are overcome by sin or become discouraged?  Many suffered far greater things than we will and yet they succeeded.  Will we succeed as well?

In order to succeed, we are first encouraged to lay aside every weight.  If you are going to win the fight or if you are going to run the race, you will be hindered by any extra weight that you are carrying.  Why would you want to carry additional baggage when you have a contest to win?  What might a weight be?  Maybe it is financial debt that you have to pay off.  Solomon observed in Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”  Maybe a weight is your strong desire for the things of this world.  Maybe a weight is a bad relationship with any who would encourage you to sin or engage in unprofitable activities.  A weight in your life would be anything that slows you down, any burden that you choose to carry, or anything that hinders you in your life of faith.  Lay aside every weight you have.

In order to succeed, we are next encouraged to lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares us.  You might envision an unseen snare or a trap that you fall into.  Or you might picture yourself walking in a forest and a root or vine trips you and causes you to stumble and fall on your face. Whether it is some lust of the flesh, or some strong desire for the things of this world or your desire to be better than others in pride, sin will ensnare you.  Sin will cause you to fall or lead you in the wrong direction away from the heavenly goal.  Appreciate the consequences that sin will have upon your fight of faith.  When you fall into the trap of sin, get up and start again.  When you are led in the wrong direction, get back on course.  Repent of any sin when you discover it in your life.  Lay aside the sin that causes the problem and refocus on the goal that is set before you.

In order to succeed, we are next encouraged to run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Your Christian life of faith is a race.  But it is not a sprint.  It is a long distance race that requires endurance.  A long distance runner might suffer pain and exhaustion before reaching his goal.  If he decides that the pain is too much or that he is too exhausted and he gives up, he will not finish the race; he must endure.  In the same way, whatever might cause you to be weary or discouraged in your life of faith, you must endure in order to finish the race.  The apostle Paul near the end of his life said 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.”

We have been encouraged to emulate the cloud of witnesses that are described in Hebrews 11.  Next we are encouraged to look at Jesus.  Jesus is the reason for your faith.  Because Jesus went to the cross and suffered and died and took your sin upon him, you can now be justified before God and receive His blessings to include eternal life.  Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith.  But look at what He had to go through.  He didn’t want to be abandoned by those who loved Him.  He didn’t want to be mocked and humiliated.  He didn’t want to be beaten and whipped in scourging.  He didn’t want to be nailed to a cross and suffer the cruelest death.  He didn’t want to be burdened with our sin.  Jesus looked past all of this and saw the glorification that the Father promised; he saw the joy that was set before Him.  As a result, He endured the cross, He despised the shame, and He has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Jesus is our ultimate example.

Here is my encouragement to you.  Look at the people of faith that have lived before you.  Look to Jesus.  Many of them suffered much more than you will but they didn’t give up.  Follow their example.  Lay aside any weight in your life and any sin that ensnares you.  Look beyond the problems of this life and see the joy set before you.  Run your race with perseverance and overcome discouragement and weariness.  You must finish the race.

The Heart

Some or the Jewish religious leaders came to Jesus and asked Him why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders and did not wash their hands before they ate.  They were concerned that the disciples of Jesus had transgressed the traditions and thus they were defiled or unholy.  Jesus responded in Matthew 15:10-11 “When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’” He continued to explain in verses 17-20 “’Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.’” Germs, dirt and other things can be on our hands and get into our mouths when we eat and potentially make us sick.  But these do not make us unholy before God.  The evil and sin that come from our hearts are what make us unholy before God.

We understand that the physical heart is perhaps the chief organ within the body.  It pumps the blood to all parts of the body and is vital for physical life.  By an easy transition, the word “heart” came to stand for an individual’s entire mental and moral activity or the inner person of an individual.  Just as the physical heart can be healthy or diseased, even so the inner-person heart can be holy or morally corrupt.

Either good actions or sin can come out of your heart.  Here is what Jesus taught.  Matthew 12:34-35 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”  The source of sin is the heart. 

A person’s heart dictates his actions. The natural way of a person’s heart is to be proud and self-seeking and to follow the desires of his sinful nature.  That heart does not please God.  In order to please God, each one of us must have a new heart.  Each of us must obey from the heart the form of doctrine given to us. Romans 6:17-18 “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”  The gospel is the death burial and resurrection of Christ.  In the same way we must die to our old sinful life, be buried in baptism and rise to walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:4 “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.”  The result is a new heart that causes one to walk in this newness of life. Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  The mind is the same as the heart.  We are transformed because we have a new heart. Ezekiel 18:31 “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?”

What kind of heart should you have?  You should have a heart that loves God with all your heart.  Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”  You should fervently love your fellow Christian with a pure heart.  1 Peter 1:22 “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”  Your heart should have its treasure in heaven.   Luke 12:34 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  You should have a pure heart – not an impure heart that partly wants to please God and partly wants to satisfy its fleshly desires.  Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  These are a few characteristics of the heart you should have. What kind of heart do you have?  Examine yourself.

If you see that your heart is not right, repent.  Repentance basically means that one changes his heart.  Simon, who had been a sorcerer, wanted to buy the gift of imparting spiritual gifts.  Here is what Peter told him.  Acts 8:20-23 “But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.”  Simon needed to repent to change his heart.  Do you need to repent?

Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?  I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”  My encouragement is to examine your heart and repent if there needs to be a change.

Life and Godliness

Here is the introduction that the apostle Peter wrote in his second letter.  2 Peter 1:1-4 “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 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.”  Let us discover what he is telling us.

“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” Peter was, perhaps, the leading apostle sent by Jesus to the world.  He was the chief spokesman on the day of Pentecost when the church began and he was the first to preach the gospel to the gentiles.  Even so, he calls himself a bondservant of Jesus Christ.  He saw his place as one who served Jesus and sought to accomplish His will here on this earth.  You and I should also see ourselves as servants of Jesus to do His will wherever we find ourselves in this world, rather than to please ourselves.

“To those who have obtained like precious faith with us.” The letter is addressed to all who have the same faith that Peter had.  Peter had been with the Lord, had seen Him crucified, and then had seen him resurrected.  He believed that God had given Jesus as the sin offering for the world.  While you and I have not seen what Peter had seen, we believe that Jesus has died for us as well.  We also have the faith that Peter had – the faith of equal value – the same faith that saves us.  This letter from Peter is for us.

“By the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Our faith is based upon the salvation we receive because of the righteousness of God and Jesus.  God is a holy and righteous God.  Jesus did not sin during His time here on earth.  2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God has given us righteousness because of our faith in Him (Romans 4:5-6).

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” We now can enjoy God’s grace and his gift of peace because we know God and Jesus.  God’s grace is His kind disposition towards us – His desire to bless us in many, many ways.  One of the great gifts from God is that we now have peace with Him – we are no longer His enemy.  As a result we can have peace in our hearts because of God’s love towards us.  Peter blesses us that this grace and peace be multiplied in our lives.

“As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” Through this grace and power of God, He has given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  Although we have received many physical blessings from God in our lives, I do not believe Peter is talking about physical things; I think he is talking about spiritual things.  God has given us His son.  He has given us instruction on everything we need to live our spiritual lives on this earth and to receive eternal life.  We don’t lack anything; we don’t need another sacrifice on our behalf; we don’t need more instruction; we don’t need another revelation from men or angels.  We have all that we need pertaining to life.  We also have everything we need for godliness.  Godliness means to be devout and denotes that piety which is characterized by a Godward attitude and does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  God has given us instruction on all things that we should do to be well-pleasing to Him.  Again, we do not need another revelation – we have all things that we need to be pleasing to Him.

“Through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” We know that God is all glorious and full of all virtue.  In turn, He has offered us to share in the glory of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:14) and to have virtuous lives.

“By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises.” The promises we have from God are indeed exceedingly great and precious.  He has promised us eternal life, a rest from our labors in a place where there will be no tears, pain, death, sorrow or crying.  He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He has promised to lead us in the many decisions of life.  He has promised to listen to our prayers.  These are but a few of the exceedingly great and precious promises.  “That through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.”  Through these promises we share the blessings of the holy God.

“Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  The people of the world are corrupt, evil, and perishing.  This corruption is caused by their lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride (1 John 2:16). God’s grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12) and in doing so, we escape the corruption that is in the world.

I hope you are encouraged by these words of the apostle Peter.  Because of your faith, you have grace and peace from God. You have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness.  You have been given exceedingly great and precious promises and you have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Without Faith

When I look around me, I see the evidence of God.  I see all that He has made and how wonderful it is.  I see the beauty of flowers, trees and animals.  The plants use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.  Animals breathe in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide.  I see the seasons that allow plants to grow, produce fruit, die and grow again.  I see the rain that brings water and that comes in its season each year.  I see all plants and animals producing after their kind.  I see how a person is wonderfully made; all the parts of a body work together so that he can function.  I understand that there are billions of cells in a human body.  Each cell is a wonderful factory that performs its purpose.  Each cell reproduces itself in a complex, marvelous manner.  God gave life to all the living plants and animals.  There is complex design in all that He has made.  It didn’t just evolve over billions of years.  Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” 

The writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Coming to God implies that one draws near and worships God.  But one cannot possibly come to God without first believing that He is.  Many today do not come to God because they do not believe in Him.  Romans 1:18-20 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”  

While there are many who do not believe in God, there are also many who do believe that He is, but they still do not come to God.  Perhaps they do not want to come to God because they desire to practice sinful ways.  John 3:19-20 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” 

Perhaps many do not come to God because they do not know that God has revealed Himself and His will for mankind through the Bible, the word of God.  Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  One cannot come to God, unless he believes that He is what He has revealed Himself to be in the Scripture.  John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  God’s son came to this earth and revealed the Father and His will to us.

In order to come to God, one must not only believe that He is, but also that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  One must realize that coming to God has great rewards or benefits. One of the first benefits is avoiding God’s wrath.  Jesus will come back to this earth “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8)  When one comes in faith to God through Jesus Christ, he is saved from God’s wrath.  Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” The one who is justified before God by faith has peace with God and has the hope of glory.  Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” A believer can come to God in prayer to obtain mercy and grace in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  His grace includes divine assistance, strength, leading, protection, and rewards in heaven.  There are many great benefits for coming to God.

But God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  One must diligently seek God.  Consider what King David told his son Solomon.  1 Chronicles 28:9 “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.”  There is no promise of rewards for those who half-heartedly seek Him. One must diligently seek Him.  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.”

How can you diligently seek Him?  James 4:8-10 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  Cleanse your hands from all sin.  Purify your heart.  Have Godly sorrow and repentance for your sins.  Humble yourself before God.  Study and meditate on His word.  Spend time in Prayer.  Be zealous for good works.  I encourage you to believe that He is and that He will reward you if you diligently seek Him.

The Parable of the Sower

Jesus gave us the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9 “Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.   Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.   But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.  But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.   He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”  I picture the sower as a man with a pouch of seeds.  He reaches into his pouch, grabs a handful of seeds, and with a sweep of his arm, he throws the seeds in a semi-circle in front of him.  He is not extremely accurate with the seeds he has thrown, so some seeds fall on the hard packed path, some among the rocks, some among the weeds and finally some on the good ground that he has prepared for his crop.

Jesus gave the meaning of the parable in Matthew 13:18-23 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.   Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.  But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  The sower would be anyone who preaches or tells someone about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We need not be careful who we tell about Jesus, because we do not know the kind of heart that person may have.  It may be sooner or later that the seed (the gospel) will bear fruit.  The Holy Spirit can work in the heart of that person to believe.  Isaiah 55:11 “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  Now let us look at the various types of hearts that receive the message of the gospel.

The wayside is hard packed ground.  So the seed sown by the wayside sits on the top of the ground where the birds can easily come by and eat the seed.  This is like a person who hears the word but does not understand what he has heard or doesn’t care about the message.  Perhaps he is so involved in his sinful life that he is not open to the gospel.  For whatever reason, the devil comes and takes away the word from his heart and perhaps convinces the person that the message is not true or it is not something he needs to waste his time on.

The stony places are mostly rocks and very little soil.  The seed begins to grow, but because of the lack of soil, the roots grow very little.  The plant receives very little nourishment from the soil and cannot draw up much water when it is hot during the day; therefore it soon dies.  Jesus said that is like one who experiences trials or persecutions in his life and quickly gives up.  He does not appreciate the need for patience and endurance to receive the promises of God, so he loses his faith and goes back to the ways of the world.

The place of thorns or weeds is perhaps good soil, but the plant that grows must compete for water, sunshine and soil nutrients with the weeds that grow around it; so it doesn’t produce fruit.  Jesus said that is like the one who has many worldly cares and desires for the riches of this world.  I’m afraid that many believers today are like this type of seed.  They believe the gospel and are baptized; they continue coming to the church assemblies.  But they are so involved in the things of this world that they don’t produce fruit for God or no fruit to perfection (Luke 8:14).

The final type of soil is good ground.  The seed enters the ground, quickly germinates, puts down roots into the soil and a healthy plant grows up.  Over time, with the help of the nutrients of the soil, good water, and plenty of sunshine, the plant matures and bears fruit – some plants produce a lot and some not so much.  Here is what is recorded in Luke 8:15 “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”  When a believer has a noble and good heart and keeps the word, with patience he can indeed bear fruit for God.  May God send us those with noble and good hearts!

What kind of soil are you?  What kind of heart do you have?  Certainly you don’t want to be like the one who hears the word but lets the devil take the word out of your heart so that you never believe.  Nor do you want to be like the one who hears and believes but as soon as tribulation and persecution come your way you lose your faith.  Do not be like the one who hears and believes but still has a strong desire for the things of this world or gets entangled with the cares of this world so that you never produce fruit for God.  Instead, I encourage you to be one who believes the message, puts it into practice in your life and has a desire to serve your God and Savior so that with patience you produce great fruit in your life for God.

Resist the Devil

The devil is the enemy of God.  Rather than submit to God, He sinned from the beginning and separated himself from God.  1 John 3:8 “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  Since the devil is the enemy of God, Jesus Christ came to the earth to destroy the works of the devil.  The devil is powerful, but he does not have the power 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 devil is in the world but God is within us.  We are able to overcome the power of the devil because God is greater than the devil and God is within us.  Just as we cannot see God, we cannot see the devil.  We certainly see God by what He has created.  We see the work of the devil in influencing people of the world to sin before God.

The devil desires for us to sin and come to his side away from God.  You remember that after Jesus was baptized, He was tempted by the devil.  Matthew 4:1-3 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” You can continue reading in Matthew chapter 4 to see other ways that the devil tempted Jesus.  Jesus might have been weakened by fasting forty days and forty nights.  The devil tried to separate Jesus from God and cause Him to sin.  But Jesus resisted the devil and used the word of God to combat him.  Jesus did not sin and did not go to the devil’s side.

Just as Jesus was tempted by the devil, you and I will also be tempted by the devil.  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.”  God does not tempt us, but the devil tempts us.  He can use our own unholy desires to tempt us and entice us.

1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  Be sober.  This isn’t a game we play with the devil.  Be vigilant.  Keep awake and watch out for the devil’s attacks.  The devil is compared to a lion.  A lion uses multiple techniques to kill and devour its prey.  Often times a lion tries to sneak up on its victim and catch them unaware.  At other times, a lion roars to transfix and paralyze its victim with fear, which is why they roar just before they attack. 

The devil uses many tricks and devices to get to us.  He puts his disciples in the world next to Christians (Matthew 13:37-42).  He takes the word of God out of people’s hearts so that they won’t believe and be saved (Luke 8:12).  He can put ideas into people’s hearts so that they follow them and sin (John 13:2). He can use our pride against us.  In giving the qualifications for an elder or overseer, the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:6-7 “Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Just as a hunter may use snares to catch his prey, the devil uses snares to capture individuals to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:25-26 “In humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

The battle we fight against the devil is a spiritual battle not a physical battle.  It requires spiritual armor and weapons.  Ephesians 6:11-18 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” We need God’s truth, God’s righteousness, the message of the gospel, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer to combat the devil.

My encouragement to you is to be sober, be vigilant, submit to God and resist the devil.  James 4:7 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  Through the power of God you can overcome the devil.

Endurance

What kind of person are you?  Once you make a commitment, do you keep your commitment through good times and bad?  When you start a job, do you continue working until it is finished?  Or do you give up when you face difficulties and discouragements?  Jesus told the parable of the farmer that sowed seed.  Some seed fell on the wayside or by the road, some on the rocks, some among thorns and some on good ground.  Jesus explained the parable in Luke 8:11-15 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.   Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.   But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.   Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.  But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”  I especially want to concentrate on the seed sown on the rock as opposed to those sown on good ground.  Those sown on the rocks believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.  Whereas those sown on good ground keep the word and bear fruit with patience.

As a Christian, you made a commitment to God.  When trials and temptations come into your life, you have to decide whether you are going to keep your commitment to God or you are going to fall away.  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.”  God provides a way of escape so that you can endure and keep your commitment to Him.  You have to make the choice.  James even taught us to have joy during trials.  James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  If you keep your commitment to God you will develop patience and the character God wants you to have.

When you are tempted to fall away, you need to be reminded of the reasons why you made your commitment to God in the first place.  Hebrews 6:10 -12 “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.  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  God has given you many promises to include eternal life.  Through faith, patience and diligence you will inherit the promises.  Matthew 24:12-13 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

We need to remind ourselves that Jesus is coming back to receive us.  We need to endure and be patient until He comes.  James 5:7-8 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Hebrews 10:35-39 “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:  ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” 

You are not alone in experiencing temptations and trials in your life.  Your brothers and sisters in Christ also have trials.  We have many examples in the Bible of those who experienced trials and yet remained faithful to God.  James 5:10-11 “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.  Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” We have the story about Job recorded in the book of Job.  He experiences trials far worse than any trial you will endure, and yet he persevered.  He lost all of his possessions, all of his children and had terrible pain and suffering in his body.  Eventually, God relieved Job of his trials and greatly blessed him. 

My encouragement to you is to be patient, endure the trials that come into your life and remain faithful.  2 Timothy 2:11-13 “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.  If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” Endure and don’t give up.