Hospitable Community

One of the marks of the early church was the hospitality shared among all believers as they opened up their homes and gave to one another as each had supply.  I grew up in a very hospitable home where my parents were often inviting people over for a meal after church or during the week.  Jesus told us that a mark of being filled with His Spirit would be hospitality.  Hospitality is the idea of inviting people into your space to share with them what you have. 

Today our society has changed a great deal from the times experienced by the early church.  The society in our country is especially different because it is also the wealthiest nation in the world.  Each person has so much in the way of material possessions that they often don’t need anyone else.  One of the large industries in our nation is the business of storage – people paying additional money every month to keep their excess stuff in small garages.  We are a nation of excess. 

This also leads to a nation of isolation.  When every person has everything they need, they have no need for any one else.  Each person can retreat to their own home, to their own family, to their own refrigerator, to their own television and entertainment and cease to be near other people.  Many people would never think of inviting others into their home because of how they might be judged.

The Holy Spirit through Paul reminds us of how important community is to the life of the believer.  The verses in 2 Timothy 4:9-16 speak of those who strengthened Paul and were useful to his ministry.  It was those that left and those that deserted him that brought pain.  Yet in the Spirit’s control Paul said not to count it against them.  He was simply urging Timothy to come soon and bring Mark because they would bring with them strength and comfort as Paul knew he was at the end of his life.  May it not be said of any of us that we were left standing alone on the last day of our defense, and may we never leave anyone to stand alone on their last day.  We need to learn to live in community.   

We suffer today in a society that has been far removed from hospitality and the church is suffering from this condition as well.  This closed-off mentality to joining with people in community can also spill over into our spiritual lives as we are less likely to open up our hearts to the Lord.  God created us to live in community and He, as our example, has existed eternally in perfectly in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The community of God will also be the community of heaven where we as believers will exist forever.  The community of heaven is…

  1. Unchanged – from eternity past and to eternity future the Triune Godhead will exist in perfect community.  The believer who is saved by Jesus Christ will enter into this community of perfect hospitality and love the moment life on this earth has ended.
  2. Unstained – the community of heaven will have no sin whatsoever – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will only dwell in perfection, and we will be made like Christ in glory so that we too will live in an unstained community that is perfect, holy, just, righteous, and without blemish. 
  3. Undeniable – even nature itself proclaims the glory of God and the existence of this community, we know that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men.  Through the lives of believers God continues to make Himself known.  God made Himself known through the early church through their hospitality and care for one another to such a degree that people were added to their numbers daily.  This should be the desire of our church community. 

We must be diligent in hospitality in order to build community.  No one wants to be a part of a community of isolation – people are created for love, and the love of Christ is best shown through a church body that is living hospitably toward all people.  We can live out the community of heaven here on earth now.  Following the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 7:12-20 you must…

  1. Invite people to share in your life – AskJesus for opportunities to show hospitality to others. Matt 7:12-14 tell us to do unto others what we would have them do unto us.  Often we are so filled with pride that we don’t want anyone to do anything for us, so in turn we don’t care to do anything for others.  We must eliminate this pride from our lives – as Jesus tells us in vs 14 and 15 this is a hard way to live – the gate is very narrow.  Will you enter through it? 
    1. Luke 14:12 “He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.”
    2. Include the fringe in your life – Seekby not giving up when you are denied after inviting – keep on being diligent to enter through the narrow gate.  The fringe is not just those who live at a lesser state than you, it can also be those who live at a higher state of material wealth.  We need to live in community with all people.  This may include taking people into your home, feeding people meals, taking people when you run errands – whatever opportunities the Lord offers – be faithful to obey.  Matt 7:15-20 tells us to beware of people like Alexander that Paul references in 2 Timothy 4:14 – you will be known by your fruits.
      1. Luke 14:13 “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,”
    3. Invest in those who will never pay you back – Knockby continuing to offer to give yourself away to others.  The payment for living our the hospitality of Christ on earth is not going to be found here, but will be granted to you in the heavenly kingdom.  Matt 7:19 – good trees bear good fruit, if you are not bearing fruit you are not a good tree.
      1. Luke 14:14 “and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

We must become a church family that lives with hospitality at our core so that we will make Christ known to those who come into our midst.  Hospitality will grow our intimacy with one another and will spread the love of Christ to the world so that many will be saved and we will not only grow in numbers but in depth with Jesus.  This is why we exist. 

Let’s build community together – invite someone today, include those you might normally overlook, and invest in ways that could never bring a return to you.  You will become a blessing to someone like Timothy and Mark were to Paul in his last days.  You will be entering through the narrow gate where the way is hard, but your reward will be eternal and you will come to know heavenly community while still living on this earth. 

Serve Christ today – be hospitable.

Powerful Prayer

As we continue to walk through Matthew 5, 6, and 7 we come to Jesus’ teaching on prayer.  We learned as we studied through chapter 6 about the Lord’s Prayer and about fasting, the importance of surrendering to the will of the Father and desiring that which He desires.  There is no coincidence in the writing of Scripture or the order of teaching which comes from our Savior.  It is important that we realize the importance of prayer as we apply the teachings preceding to creating holy lives.  A person filled with judgment will not be able to pray according to the Father’s will, thus the judgment must first be removed from our prayers.

In preparation for this message it was clear that my personal prayer life is lacking.  It is an area that needs to always be growing.  Prayer is communication and the more intimate we grow with the Lord, the more we will hear His voice and in turn speak back His desires in the form of prayer.  God is not a genie in a bottle waiting for us to request something so that He might serve us.  Rather we are His servants, growing to learn and know His voice in speaking His desires as we utter prayer. 

Our will by nature is opposed to God’s will – only because of the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ do we have access to communication with God.  This opening of the lines of communication comes only through the Son, and once open becomes our focus and desire to understand with ever increasing fervency.  We lack the faith that God alone is enough to satisfy, we believe that if we seek Him and His righteousness alone we will be left wanting – Matt 6:33 tells us He will meet our needs.  Interesting is the fact that it is lack of faith that produces the anxiety and judgment that Jesus speaks of just before our text today. 

Matthew 7:7-11 is the portion of Scripture telling us to ask, seek, and knock – and in so doing God will respond.  Again, these are not our selfish wants we must ask for, or our best interests that we must seek, or the doors we think provide us satisfaction that we must knock at.  These verbs are written in the original language in the present imperative active so they could be translate to keep on asking, to keep on seeking, and to keep on knocking.  Go on asking, seeking, and knocking and as your heart aligns with God’s your prayers will be His actions. 

To learn how to apply this text to our lives we must look at Proverbs 2.

  1. The What of Asking – Wisdom  Matthew 7:7 says ask and it will be given to you.  If we do not know what to ask for it will be asking amiss.  Proverbs 2:1-3 speak specifically about the what of asking – making your ear attentive to wisdom…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding… There is an emphasis on the increased intensity with which you are asking – to call out may be quietly or softly, but to raise your voice is to shout and cry aloud for understanding.  God rewards those who seek Him.
  2. The Who of Seeking – Worship  Matthew 7:7 also says seek and you will find.  Proverbs 2:4-5 speak of this seeking – if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  Again we see the increasing intensity – seeking for silver may be like looking in the cup holder for change – but searching as for hidden treasure requires all of your time and effort and money.  Jeremiah 29:13 tells how we must seek God and we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart.  This is worship – your life pursuing Him.
  3. The Where of Knocking – Word  Matthew 7:7 also tells us to knock and it will be opened.  Proverbs 2:6-8 gives us this instruction – For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.  The Word of God, the Bible, is the exhaled words of God – it is the Word where we must continually knock for it to be opened and for us to obtain the wisdom to know His heart.

Remember Jesus said in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” Wisdom is the way, Worship is only in truth, and the Word is life – it is only by continuously seeking Jesus that we will know what to pray. 

Prayer is intended to be a continuous conversation with the King.  Jesus can do nothing against God – not before His incarnation on this earth, and not after.  Many people pray for God to do things that would cause Him to be unfaithful to His holy standard.  We must never seek to ask Jesus to do anything but that which He has always done in honoring the Father.  As He lives His life manifested in each of us through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit remains One with and true to the Father.  John 5:19 says, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing.’” This truth has not changed – it is important that we learn what the Father is doing so that our prayers will align with Him. 

  1. Ask for Alignment to the Father’s will.  It takes wisdom granted from God in order to know the will of the Father, but if you are praying for something that is outside of His will your prayer is futile. 
  1. Romans 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
  2. Colossians 3:5 “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
  3. Knock for Knowledge– intimacy with Jesus Christ.  To know someone you must listen to him or her.  Reading the Word is listening to God’s voice – it is allowing you the knowledge necessary to have a deeper relationship with him.  The Bible tells us that Jesus will manifest Himself in the lives of His servants that obey Him.  To obey Him we must first know what he commands. 
    1. John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is that loves me.  And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
    1. James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
  1. Seek further Sanctification – eliminate self will.  The reason many of us do not grow in sanctification is that we do not search after God like hidden treasure; we may occasionally look for Him like we look for silver coins, but that is not seeking Him with all of our heart.  There will always be work to do in the area of abandoning self – it is through this denial that Christ manifests Himself in our lives.

There is no human that is able to converse with God without conversion taking place first.  Your life must be His, His Spirit must be placed in you as a seal or deposit guaranteeing what is to come.  Only then can you ask, seek, and knock and it will given, found, and opened.  The real question is do you really want the Truth Jesus will give, or do you want to continue seeking self?  We as a church must learn to ask, seek, and knock in accordance with God’s will so that we might be brought into a deeper intimacy with Him.

No Comparison

As we returned from the mission toHaiti, we opened the Bible to continue looking into the teachings of Jesus during His sermon on the mount.  The portion of Scripture we looked at has to do with the judgments we so quickly form of one another.  Jesus plainly tells us not to judge – or we will be judged with the same measure. 

We live in a society of comparisons – each person comparing themselves to others, or to standards placed by others.  We find these comparisons in business, fitness, media, entertainment, personal relationships, and even the spiritual areas of life.  There is not an area of life that we aren’t susceptible to comparing ourselves to others.  Jesus is telling us not to, and also by His perfection did not compare Himself with others while on earth. 

The reason so many of us get caught in comparison is because of pride.  Jesus told us in Matthew 5:3 that only the poor in spirit would enter the kingdom of heaven.  A person poor in spirit already knows of their nothingness apart from Christ and strives to always be lower than others.  Pride does the opposite and always tries to rise to the top. 

Even while traveling on a mission to another country we can fall so easily to this trap of comparison.  We as Americans can find ourselves looking down upon people who live in much worse conditions.  The truth is each of those people, regardless of their condition in life, is still viewing their world through their own eyes, heart, and soul.  We will never understand what another person sees or feels and so we cannot use ourselves as the standard by which to compare. 

You and I have to come to realize that our own lives are not the measuring stick for people to live by – the only standard is Jesus Christ.  Our responsibility is not to judge people based upon our experiences, our opinions, our revelations, or our perceptions; instead we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and point them to Jesus who is their judge. 

The problem for most Christians is they also look to Jesus and compare themselves with Him as though there is a score card to track.  The truth of Christ is that no other person is like Him.  He alone is perfect.  He was not born of man, but was born of God.  Though He is fully human in flesh, he is not human in nature.  Coming in perfection with divine nature, He remained perfect by resisting temptation and was made perfect in His death by committing no sin!  He considered Himself nothing so that God the Father would be considered all.  Jesus never sought His own glory, but only the glory that comes from the Father. 

Because Jesus did not have the sin nature that you and I have, we cannot compare ourselves with Him – instead we must allow Him to replace ourselves with Him.  He did not come as a teacher only, but as a Savior who would impart to those who believe the Spirit of Himself.  He alone is able to live the godly life, and must have your cooperation to live it through your life.  Instead of comparing your deeds with Jesus deeds, you must contrast your life against His, and by denying all that opposes Him, you will allow His deeds to be your deeds. 

We as Christians must be aware of the sin of self-righteousness today just as much as those who first walked in relationship with God.  Isaiah 65:5 says, “who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you!’” There is great danger when we begin to think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  We begin to compare ourselves with our perception of Jesus and begin to believe that what we have accomplished that looks like Him is to our credit.  Jesus did not regard Himself above others, instead made Himself less than a servant, even to the point of death and death on a cross.

We must learn also how to regard ourselves as less than others.  An impossible task for human sin nature, but only by the manifestation of Jesus in our lives is it possible.  Think about the word judge – a judge sits above the people in a court room as a picture of having the highest authority or rule.  A servant on the other hand stoops down as Jesus did to wash the disciples’ feet.  A servant remains low.  In regarding others better than yourself you must learn to support from beneath, not to rule over.  Trust in God who will be faithful to judge all men according to their deeds.

  • Matthew 7:1 – rulers pronounce judgment and look for the problem in another’s life – this is the opposite of how Jesus lives His life.

We must learn to honor others, while never seeking honor for ourselves.  The only one we should judge is self.  Jesus teaches us in Matthew 7:3-5 about seeing the spec in someone else’s eye, but all the while missing the log in your own eye.  This log is self.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 that the pure in heart will see God.  Often you can’t see God because your heart is impure and the log of pride is blocking your view of God.  It is this log that you must work on removing in order that your heart will be made pure. 

Again, the comparison kicks in as soon as we allow the Lord to live through our lives and serve someone or to honor someone and to avoid judging someone – we suddenly grab the mindset that we deserve something back from these people.  The truth of Christ is that He expected nothing of men in His own life – He was satisfied by the Father alone. 

As you take a look at your life, have you been using score cards and comparisons a lot – either viewing yourself as better than some or worse than others?  Instead of comparing and being concerned with others, first work on the log and trust that God will do the work in others.  Remember that it is not the strength of the vessel that matters – it is the weakness that God uses.  Admit your weakness – rely on His strength and manifested Spirit to carry out His purpose and you will find great peace and contentment.

Significant Insignificance

Paul’s words to us in 2 Timothy as inspired by the Holy Spirit confront us with a personal investigation of what we think we might be bringing to God.  There have been times in my life that I have been confronted with my pride and particular in looking at this text I see that my heart often believes there is something I can bring to God.  The truth is I can only come in poverty – Matthew 5:3 tells us that it is only through the bankruptcy of our spirit that we will be blessed and given access to the kingdom of heaven. 

We live in a world that emphasizes human achievement, skill, talent, gifts, and abilities.  Many of the prime time television shows are dedicated to highlighting these human strengths.  A culture that builds their hopes on the abilities they believe they have soon begins to battle the world around them to keep from losing those perceived strengths.  It is a fight to the top, where no one can stay, only for the top to give way to the next bigger, better, stronger, faster, prettier, thinner, smarter…etc.

In a Christian’s life, once realization of strengths becomes ownership in a person’s heart, pride has taken root.  When the focus becomes the gifts or strengths God may have given to His child, protection under human strength is soon to follow.  The gifts or strengths God has given each of us are not intended for our use and ownership, but for His use and ownership.  Our focus must remain upon God Himself, not our abilities. 

The greatest significance in a Christian’s life is achieved when the true insignificance of his life is realized.  We have a very significant insignificant, because in the hands of our Father, any ordinary life can become extraordinary.  God desires that we empty out our vessels so that He might fill them to overflowing, so the ordinary life to the saint is truly an extraordinary life by the overflowing power of the Holy Spirit. Those who are the greatest blessing to others are those who do not see themselves as a blessing.

Paul was a blessing to many during the years of his Christian walk.  He continues to be a blessing to all who read the Scriptures.  It is beautiful to think of the apostle penning His letters by candle light with no thought that He was indeed writing the inspired Word of God that would never perish.  Verse 6 of 2 Timothy 4 tells us how he is being poured out as a drink offering.  He could say in verse 7 that he had fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.  He knew his reward awaited him, not because of his doing, but because of the Lord had worked through him. 

The goal for us as a church is that we would all learn to place our focus upon the Lord, and to fight the good fight, finishing the race and keeping the faith.  We are a family of brothers and sisters with one Father, and we need to keep our focus on Him.  Jesus instructs us in Matthew 6:25-34 in another way we can do that very thing. 

He instructs us not to be anxious.  The word for anxious in the original language is merimnao which can literally be translated as “being divided.”  In the verses just before this text Jesus taught us that we can’t serve two masters – we cannot serve both God and money or you can’t be divided.  The idea Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:22-23 is of having a singular focus upon the light.  We know the light of the world is Christ.  When our focus is divided, when we try to serve both God and money, we become anxious. 

God is not after our gifts and abilities, He desires our poverty (Matt 5:3).  If we are going to live a life free of anxiety, we must have the manifestation of Christ in our mortal flesh just as the Bible proclaims (2 Cor 4:9-11).  Paul spoke of this manifestation in 2 Timothy 4:8 for “all who have loved his appearing.”  The word for appearing is epiphaneia from which we get our word “epiphany”.  Jesus will appear in our lives as He manifests Himself by His Spirit, overtaking the portions of our nature we willing separate from.  The evidence of Jesus manifested in your life is found in…

  1. Faith– acting as if God will do what He says – Jesus always moved through His earthly life with the confidence that the Father would meet His every need.  There was no anxiety in Jesus’ life – as He is manifested in you and I His faith will take over where our anxiety once ruled.
    1. Trust – as part of faith, trust is having a peace in God’s power and ability – not your own.  Jesus repeated many times throughout the book of John that He was nothing, but that the Father would come through.  Jesus was the Prince of Peace and will manifest peace in your life as your focus fixes on God.
    2. Patience – also as a part of faith, patience is waiting on God’s work.  Jesus was never in a rush as He waited patiently for the Father to finish the work – He knew that the Father knew the right time to move.  Jesus today in our lives will exhibit this same patience. 

Jesus’ earthly life was marked by an intimacy with the Father that has never been rivaled.  Jesus spent His time with the Father – they were One – and Jesus prayed that we also would be one with Him and Father as they are One.  That prayer is realized through our obedience. 

Distance changes perspective!  When we are far from a mountain range it looks small and insignificant, but the closer we get the greater it’s majesty becomes.  The same applies to the Lord God.  The ways of Jesus are to walk further every day from self and closer to God.  Four ways we can do this are…

  1. 1.        Fight – be on the attack against Sin, Self, and Satan. Paul said he had fought the good fight – the only good fight is against that which will separate you from God.
    1. Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
    2. Colossians 3:5 “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
  2. Finish– don’t quit – determine to win.  Paul told us that he had finished the race.  A person doesn’t finish unless they think of the finish the entire way. 
    1. 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
  3. Focus– keep your eyes upon Jesus!  Paul said he kept the faith – faith is our gaze upon the only One who is able to complete it – Jesus Christ. 
    1. Matthew 24:44 “Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
  4. Fulfilled – all who love His appearing will receive the reward – Jesus won the victory on the cross.  The only way we find fulfillment is to find our poverty – Blessed are the poor in spirit – it is only through poverty that true contentment is found. 

Do not focus on your gifts and abilities – but focus your attention on God as you learn of your nothingness.  As our nothingness is embraced we will become secure in Christ alone and confident in His ability to finish the race with us.  A secure family in love with Jesus Christ will bring many sons to glory.  This is the kind of church we all should strive to be.

Access

As we continue to look at the letter written to Timothy and the teachings of Christ during His Sermon on the Mount we see the unity of the Scriptures.  As Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the letter, he tells Timothy, and all of us, that we are to preach the word, in light of the judgment that both the living and the dead will face before God and Jesus Christ. We are to be ready in season and out of season; reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with complete patience and teaching. The reason for the instruction from the Holy Spirit is that the time was coming when people would not hold to sound doctrine, but would surround themselves with teachers that spoke what the people wanted to hear.  Those times have come. 

ThechurchofAmericais filled with all kinds of teaching, much of which has parted from the Bible and become a form of self help inspirational deism.  When a church loses its Biblical perspective of God and the seriousness of sin the rot of idolatry will destroy the people.  To avoid this rotting we are instructed to always be sober-minded, enduring suffering, doing the work of an evangelist, and fulfilling our ministry.  These will only be possible as we hold onto God and the Word as He has revealed Himself through it. 

Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:19 and following about storing up treasure in heaven.  As I meditated on that passage I soon saw a picture of a great big steel vault.  At the front was a door that opened like a large safety deposit box.  There was a man in front of it that had a pile of money, a pile of accomplishments, and a pile of his time – he was hurriedly stuffing his “treasure” into the vault.  But on the inside, what he couldn’t see was a burning fire that was consuming everything he pushed through the door.  He was in a rush to get on to other accumulations and acts of “good” to bring back and stuff in the door. 

So it is with all men and women who try to store treasure in heaven apart from Jesus Christ.  Unless His life is manifested in you and His motivations are the reason for your actions, the “treasure” you are storing will be burned up.  2 Timothy 4:1 confirms 2 Corinthians 5:10 that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. If you are saved, the deeds done in the body will be judged as pure (through the manifestation of Christ) or impure through your own strength and motivation.  All that is impure and for self will burn and all that is of Christ will last (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

In order for you to store treasure in heaven, you must have access!  For the person who has never trusted Christ and entered into a personal relationship with Him there is no chance to store treasure in heaven.  Everything that person does is sin and there is no reward for any of it.  There are many philanthropic people in this world who have nothing to do with Jesus and if they die in that same state all their “good” will burn with them in judgment and they will burn for eternity in hell as punishment for their rejection of God’s only saving grace through Jesus Christ.  Just like in this life, you can’t make a deposit in the bank if you are locked out, so the unsaved cannot make a deposit in heaven. 

Jesus tells us in John 8:34-38 that the person who continues in sin is a slave to sin.  A slave does not stay in the house forever, but a son remains in the family forever.  A relationship with Jesus Christ makes you a son or daughter of the heavenly family of God and only then do you have access to heaven.  Jesus said in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man will come to the Father but through Him.  Our only access to heaven is found in an assigned inheritance granted by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  As a son or daughter, Jesus begins to transform your life by His nature and imparting to you His holiness – all of which when carried out through you life will be stored in heaven in your account. 

God sent His only Son Jesus as our Savior – this is the word that we are to preach and the work we are do as evangelists – to share the good news with everyone.  Our Savior…

  1. Finds us where we are – God doesn’t tell you to clean up your life and stop doing the things you are doing and then come to Him clean for a relationship.  He tells you to trust in Jesus Christ, that He is the only hope you have to get to where you need to go.  Only when you get the relationship will you have the power to stop the things you are doing. 
  2. Forgives all we have done and ever will do – God’s forgiveness is complete and once for all, the Bible teaches us.  Grace covers all sin.  All other world religions contain an element of self justification or a way to earn your way to paradise.  Christ alone offers atonement and grace through what He has already accomplished on the cross. 
  3. Forges His nature into our lives – God sent His Spirit as He promised through the prophets, to impart to us a new heart and to create within us the divine nature of the Son of God.  It is not our sin nature learning how to imitate Christ, but it is our sin nature transformed to the fruit of the Spirit.
  4. Fills heaven with our treasure!  By imparting His Spirit to our lives Jesus is truly filling heaven’s storehouses with your treasure.  The Bible tells us that we will cast our crowns down at Jesus feet when at first we see His face because we will quickly realize how we had nothing to do with the treasure He has bestowed on us. 

Our nature changed by His nature becomes our treasure for His glory!!

The question for you is where are you storing your treasure?  Are you stuffing your vault with your money, your talent, and your time only for it to be consumed by fire?  Or has Jesus Christ imparted to you the Spirit of grace transforming the very person you are? 

Hell is real – it was created by God for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  All those who choose to reject Jesus Christ as Savior will ultimately get what they want – an eternity separated from God, but it will also come with the devastating effects of the lake of fire. 

Heaven is real – it is God’s dwelling place and referred to asParadisein Luke 23 to the thief on the cross from Jesus own lips.  Heaven awaits all those who trust Jesus as Savior – an eternal paradise.  The joy of heaven is not completely delayed for after death, as the relationship with Jesus Christ we experience here on this earth brings heaven to earth and prepares us for that glorious time in life after.  

The Good News – the Gospel is…

  1. Relationship He offers to all men.
  1. Psalm 2:12 “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
  2. John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
  3. RepentanceHe requires of all.
    1. Luke 13:3 “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
    2. Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
    3. RighteousnessHe rewards to all who believe.
      1. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:22 that many will come to Him on that day and say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” Verse 23 records the most fearful words for a person who has lived their whole life believing in their own salvation, but hears “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”  They will suddenly in an instant realize all they had worked for in life, all their “good” deeds were stuffed into the fire and there is no second chance. 

If you lack the assurance that you have kissed the Son instead of just learned about the Son, explained the Son, and told everyone you knew the Son – you need to enter that relationship today.  Like the thief on the cross who only knew that Jesus was the only one who could save him – cry out to the Lord and ask Him to save you.  He will show you the way. 

For the ones who are not saved, but believe they are, 2 Thessalonians provides a strong warning.  2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 

The signs and wonders will be from a false power allowed by God to separate the truly saved from the deceived.  As we are closer to the end times than we have ever been it is possible that this is already begun as the church in America gets further and further from Biblical teaching.  Jesus promised us in Matthew 24 that the elect will not be deceived which brings much comfort to those in the family of God.  There is no matter as serious and no concept to which you should approach with more sobriety than the eternal condition of your soul.

Sharing these truths with those around you is a fulfillment of your ministry, for we have all been called to do the work of an evangelist and to preach the word.  There is a dying world out there, many who do not know of Jesus’ salvation – will you tell them?

Be Equipped

This past Sunday we took a look at these two passages of Scripture as we talked about the need for each of us to be equipped in this event called life.  As we all know different events in life require different equipping.  The degree of your preparation in equipping yourself will depend upon the event you are about to encounter.  When you know the event will be difficult and will require tremendous strain you will put forth more effort to be equipped. 

There is a big difference between the person who wants to paint the landscape of a mountain on canvas to the one who wants to climb the face and enter the landscape of the mountain.  The preparation to be equipped for the two different tasks is also tremendously different.  A painter must only bring his brushes, his paints, and his canvas.  He sits a far way off from the mountain to get the best view.  He sits where the sun will light it just right.  From this distance he can see the base and top, but he has no ability to learn of all the ravines, gullies, cliffs, bridges, and paths that cover the surface of that mountain. 

The climber must prepare far in advance of the day he enters the mountain.  He must equip himself for the task mentally and physically.  He must be prepared for unknown circumstances and possible emergencies.  He must be prepared to face blisters, cuts, bruises, soreness, and headaches.  There are many things the climber does not know about the mountain as he enters in, but he knows the reward is great for reaching the top. 

So it is with our journey toward God.  God is like that mountain.  Too often we have people who sit a far ways off and paint beautiful pictures of themountainofGodwith their words, but rarely do we encounter those who are willing to step into the mountain and endure the difficult climb.  The earthly accolades come for the one with beautiful paintings – he may even become wealthy by selling his canvases.  The climber receives very little earthly reward but the internal reward of the experience is what he longs for.  We must not sit back and paint, but we must learn to climb, blister, and bleed with the desire to reach God.

The journey into the mountain is what Moses was willing to do when all the rest ofIsraelstood at the foot of Mt Sinai and trembled because of the presence of God over the mountain.  We need to be like Moses and see the event of this life as the climb.  It is serious, treacherous, dangerous, but exhilarating with the Lord.  How do you view this event called life?  If you have the wrong view – a small view – a blind view you will not be equipped for the life to which God calls you.  

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us how we can be equipped for this climb as God prepares us through His Word.  Paul by the power of the Holy Spirit says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God”.  Paul is speaking about the Scripture he knew at the time – the Old Testament.  The beautiful thing is that His letter to Timothy would also be fitting into the truth of God’s Word which he was writing about the Scripture.  The Holy Spirit was breathing out these words through Paul.  As the verse continues “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  We see that Paul is equipped for the work because he has been faithful to God’s Word, and is being used on the day he wrote the letter to Timothy for the good work of writing Scripture.  How beautiful to see God’s Word alive and proving itself even as the author wrote it. 

God’s Word is profitable today because He has exhaled His Word for an eternal conversation with His chosen sons and daughters.  God has made His Word available to us through a relationship with His Son any time we choose to access it.  He made the first move in having a conversation with His people.  These four ways the Holy Spirit describes the profitability of Scripture should be meditated upon.  The climber prepares himself for the climb by studying the map.  God provides us with a living map of His mountain that we might be equipped for the journey.

God’s Eternal Conversation with us is for…

  1. Teaching – as He reveals His Doctrine – we have a generation of young people who have been spoon fed for so long that our churches are also full of people who are only looking for a spoon feeding.  We need to love God with our mind and part of that is done through the deep thinking of the doctrines God teaches through the entirety of the Bible.
  2. Reproof – as He reveals His Devotion – God throughout the Scripture continues to prove His faithfulness when man is completely unfaithful.  The original language for “reproof” has the idea of persuasion that is from God Himself.  He is devoted to His Word and has promised to save His people.  Our personal study of God’s Word will give us confidence and trust that we will not otherwise be afforded.
  3. Correction – as He reveals His Direction – The original language carries the idea of setting straight back to the original – God has always brought His people back to the right path and made a way for them to stay on His direction.  We continue to stray off the path He has and so His Word is faithful in setting our direction.
  4. Training – as He reveals His Desires – God desires that we walk upright in all of our ways, but like anyone who must be equipped for a strenuous task, it takes practice.  The Word is used to train us and guide us when we fail so that we might grow and understand His desires more clearly through each act of repentance.  God continues to unveil His divine nature in our natural lives as we train in this journey. 

2 Timothy 3:17 tells us that God uses His Word so that the messenger of God, which is all who proclaim Him, will be equipped for every good work.  What are the good works?  Righteousness.  The problem is that many of us are not being equipped for righteousness because we are equipping ourselves for bad works. 

Jesus in Matthew 6:5-18 teaches us and imparts to us the truth about prayer and fasting.  As we think about being equipped we must realize that we have a responsibility to choose how we will prepare.  When we face the impossible commands of the Lord and step in faith toward obedience He promises to manifest Himself to us.  Only in this way can the teachings of Jesus Christ become practical and effective in our natural lives. 

The hypocrites of Jesus’ day were praying with the purpose of others hearing them and being impressed by their many words and empty phrases.  Jesus teaches us that we are not to be like them.  Instead we are to have a private conversation with the Father in a closed room.  The Father who sees in secret will reward in secret.  Equipping for every good work includes…

  1. Conversation – prayer is not man reaching to God – but it is rather God reaching to man and man’s response to God.  God initiates prayer and provides His Spirit to guide the conversation (Eph 6:18).  You are simply a willing participant in the work that God plans to do and is revealing to your heart as you pray. 
    1. Jesus gives us in Matthew 6:9-13 the understanding of the Conversation that first acknowledges who God is.  Our heart must acknowledge Him as we have experienced Him – until we experience Him as Savior, we don’t have the standing to converse with Him.
    2. We first submit to His position over us and secondly we surrender to His will in our lives and just as heaven always follows His plan, so we surrender our lives to His plan. 
    3. Third we are told to ask for our daily bread.  Jesus told us that He is the bread of heaven, we also are told that Jesus is the Word who became flesh, and thus God will provide for us the Word we need for the day we are in.  Jesus taught us not to worry about tomorrow for today has enough concerns of its own.  Only God knows how His Word will equip you for the day and for tomorrow.  He will provide as you study His Word – we are told to ask.
  2. Covering – part of the conversation with God requires the release of others from the grip of our unforgiveness and in turn asking for the release of ourselves in God’s forgiveness.  
    1. Also the covering we are to ask for is related to the areas of our lives where temptation and evil tend to prevail.  Through our conversation with the Father He is telling us to ask for His covering and protection from temptation and evil.  How many of us have suffered difficult consequences because we didn’t want to be protected or led away from temptation, but rather we wanted to flirt with sin?  As disciples of Jesus Christ we must depart from the sin that entangles us and pray that God will lead us away from those temptations and those places where evil has had a foothold in our lives. 
    2. The apostle Paul shared in 2 Timothy 3:11 that even though he had been through tremendous difficulty and persecution in many places, the Lord delivered him from them all.  Paul received the blessing of God as he was protected and equipped for the good works to come in his life. 
  3. Consecration – fasting for many of the religious people had also come to be a way to gain worldly respect and admiration – though for all the wrong reasons.  The hypocrites would make their faces downcast and dirty so that others would know of their religious activity.  There is no reward in that.  Instead God calls us to consecrate ourselves or set ourselves apart for His use.  The act of fasting is a physical way to reach into the spiritual realm.  By setting aside the food your flesh desires and needs you are in essence praying the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. 
    1. The fast for God acknowledges Him as Lord of your life and shows Him the reverence He is due.
    2. The fast also shows that you are not interested in your will, but rather you are interested in the fulfillment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven.
    3. By fasting from food you are showing God that the daily bread He provides will be enough to sustain you.  This is not only being proclaimed to God, but also to all of the demons and satan himself as a statement that God is enough. 
    4. The fast places you in a humble state and allows you to see areas of your life where forgiveness may be necessary so that you might also be forgiven.  You may be losing out on peace and contentment simply because you are holding unforgiveness in your heart for someone else.
    5. The fast is a dedication to self-denial physically that is training you spiritually to also say no to the temptations that pose themselves to your flesh.  You’re training your spirit to keep in step with the Spirit of God through physical denial.  The food you say no too when you feel a hunger pain will remind you to say know to the temptation when you feel the urge to indulge.

Christians fast for many different reasons, but the reality of fasting is that it is all about God’s will and His purpose.  A humble submission and surrender to Him also promises a reward for you personally.  Matthew 6:18 says “that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  You may set out with specific requests in fasting, but you may end the fast only to realize God had something much better in store and rewarded you in a way you would have never been able to ask.  Those rewards are always found in changes that conform us more into the image of Jesus Christ.  Do not be surprised if your fast results in God’s revelation to you that you are selfish and in need of repentance in a specific area of your life.  But through that repentance God will grant you peace and contentment in Him that you would have never known or experienced.  It will be like a view from an outcropping somewhere on the side of the mountain that provides a breathtaking view of where you have come from, a view the painter will never see without the climb.

We will only be equipped in proportion to our view of this life – without the right perspective we will continue to be unprepared and defeated each day.  God wants us to live in the victory of His Son Jesus – it is only possible through the Word and by entering themountainofGod.  It’s worth the climb.

A Following – Lessons from 2 Timothy Cont’

As we have been studying the principles of the kingdom outlined by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount we must understand how those principles are lived out through our lives.  There are a number of people who think their efforts are enough to attain the lofty goal of meeting God’s standard.  Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and in 5:48 that we are to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. 

The kingdom principles that Jesus teaches are impossible in the human nature.  If Jesus came only to teach an ideal and then leave he would have failed as our Savior.  He didn’t come only to teach, but also to impart to each of His own the Spirit of Grace to make us the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).  He told us in John that it was good that he leave because He would send His Spirit to be our comforter.  By confronting us with the command to accomplish the impossible, Jesus gives us the opportunity by faith to step in and when we do He imparts to us His Spirit which manifests His disposition in our natural life.  In this way, you are carrying out the righteousness of God through your life, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The text today in 2 Timothy gives us the example of how Christ accomplished this in Paul’s life.  The first few words of 2 Timothy 3:10 read “You, however, have followed…”  There are a few different ways to understand this word followed.   There is a physical following where you get behind someone and walk where they walk and say what they say – sometimes we called it follow the leader or copy cat when we were young.  But following is also about mapping a person’s behavior in parallel with their speech.  When we see someone doing something that opposes what they say – it can be said of them “that doesn’t follow.”  Following involves observation and investigation as much as it involves doing. 

Jesus said to His disciples, “follow me.”  He didn’t mean only physically to a destination, but also intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as they watched His behavior, listened to His speech, and witnessed the results of His actions.  We are all called to follow Jesus this same way. 

When I was young I used to look at following as a weakness or with a negative connotation.  We all wanted to be leaders because being a follower wasn’t cool.  Today we have all kinds of crazy movements because kids don’t want to follow so they strike out into absurdity to be a leader, even if it leads to nowhere.  Two questions must be posed to each of us about following.  Who do you follow?  Who is following you?

As I googled “top celebrities followed” Twitter came up and revealed that of the top 10 people followed in our country 7 of them were secular female singers.  Our culture is infatuated with following other people, what they say, where they go, and what they think.  The popularity today of sites like Facebook are due to the fact that people feel more significant by being followed.  The more friends and messages a person gets the more popular they feel and so it feeds the fleshly desires for significance and security.  Our own president Obama was only 7th of the top 10 followed on Twitter. 

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives some instruction to Timothy, and to each of us in verse 10 in following the Lord.  He is proclaiming that Timothy is a witness to Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, and steadfastness.  These characteristics in Paul’s life were evident through his speech and his conduct so that Timothy knew the kind of person that Paul in his natural life had become.  Paul’s life is an example for us of how Jesus will build the kingdom into our lives.  Jesus manifests Himself into our natures, He…

  1. TeachesInstructs through His Word – we must be hearers.
    1. When God breathed out Scripture it became His breath and when we read the Word we are not reading dead cold words on a page, we are receiving the breath and voice of God in our lives.  We must hear before we can obey.
    2. Paul was a Pharisee and knew the sacred writings better than most, yet it had not become the breath of God because Paul still lacked the relationship with Jesus Christ before his conversion.
    3. Paul was a Christian murderer before Jesus saved Him – the teachings spoken of in verse 10 are not to kill Christians, but the revelation of Jesus Christ through His life.
  2. TurnsInspires in His actions – we must be doers
    1. When Jesus came to Paul on the road to Damascus he struck Paul blind and told him he must repent through Ananias (Acts 9:1-19).  Paul was inspired to turn from his former ways by the action of Jesus in his life.  We were each inspired the same way to turn from our sin if we have begun the saving relationship with Jesus Christ. 
    2. Paul’s conduct as mentioned in verse 10 was 180 degrees in the opposite direction after his salvation showing his repentance.  He is writing to Timothy approx 37 years after his conversion and still his conduct can be followed.  Even his aim in life had been changed and was evidence of the work of Christ in his life.
  3. TransformsImparts His Spirit into our lives – we must be receivers
    1. Though Paul uses the possessive pronoun “my” in verse 10 we know that the changes made in Paul were not sourced in his own ability.  It is only by the grace of God that Jesus imparted His divine disposition to the natural life of Paul to reveal the righteousness of God.  The characteristics are true of Paul’s life, but are only present because Christ has supernaturally changed Paul’s disposition.
    2. Verse 10 speaks of faith, patience, love and steadfastness which are all characteristics that the natural man finds impossible, only the transformed life will experience these characteristics. 
  4. TrainsIndoctrinates through difficulty – we must be suffers
    1. How did Paul’s natural life get transformed?  He faced many difficulties and in the impossibilities stepped toward Jesus in faith only to have Jesus manifest Himself into Paul’s life.  With each difficulty comes more of the grace of the Lord Jesus. 
    2. Paul says in verse 11 “yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” We can be confident that our Father will not leave us or forsake us, but that we can be assured from 2 Timothy 3:12 that everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.  It is how we are trained for service with the King. 

2 Timothy 3:13 juxtaposes the godly life with the evil people and imposters who will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  The fear I have is for the person who has been going to church all their lives but continues to live as an imposter, not because they choose too, but because they have deceived themselves to believe they are really saved by the Lord Jesus.  There are some who reject Jesus and will continue from bad to worse, but the imposters do so unknowingly down a road of destructive deception.  I was an imposter for 32 years of my life, though I don’t remember the first 4 or 5.  Still as a young person I thought I was saved, and would have told anyone all about Jesus Christ.  But until I was 32 years old following a crazy set of God ordained circumstances where I placed my life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I was truly headed for hell.  My prayer is that you would not be an imposter but that you would be genuine. 

Verse 14 and 15 of 2 Timothy 3 speak of those who are genuine and will hold firmly to the convictions they have received.  So ask yourself, are you genuine or are you an imposter?   Perception and reality should be the same if you are genuine.  Otherwise there is hypocrisy.   The marks of a genuine life desiring Godliness are…

  1. Secret Life is eliminated. 
    1. John 3:20 “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
    2. Today our churches and leadership is plagued by people living out secret lives of addiction and hidden sin.  For the one who desires to live a godly life, this secrecy is eliminated through confession and repentance.
    3. Paul showed us how his life could be followed because there wasn’t anything he was hiding.
  2. Stated beliefs are applied
  1. James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? … 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
  2. Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
    1. Today many people say they love Jesus, but they live a life of practical atheism.  A genuinely godly life will apply the truths of God’s word to their life and the evidence will be witnessed.
    2. Paul shows us how Jesus manifested His divine nature into Paul’s life through the difficulties and impossibilities Paul faced so that there was evidence of God’s work.
  1. Suffering is received with joy
    1. When our life here is over, only what was done by Christ through our lives will be left and one of those ways we can store treasure in heaven is to receive our suffering with joy.  We have too many Christians moping around to attract anyone to salvation.  Though we are told that Jesus was acquainted with grief and suffered to be made perfect, we are told he was anointed with the oil of joy.  People didn’t avoid Him because He was a drain, though He suffered far more than any of us.  People thronged to be close to Him, and so they should to be close to the Him in our lives. 

We were not just given a good teacher in Jesus, we were given a Savior who is able to save to the uttermost and complete the great work of sanctification in our lives.  We have a responsibility to accept His invitation and to step in faith into the impossible; it is there where we will see His power manifested in our lives.   As our own transformations occur He will be faithful to His Word, Hebrews 2:10 “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

If you have been convicted that you need to confess your secret life, or the lack of faith in your own life, do it today.  Let us pray together as a church that we will learn how to step into the impossible and obey Jesus Christ so that He will bring many to salvation through our fellowship.

Difficult Times – Pleasures Abound

Difficult Times – Pleasures Abound

 

2 Timothy 3:4-9

 

The concept of pleasure today is much different than it was only a few decades ago.  Through the advancement of technology we are offered pleasure on every front from the food choices we have all the way to the vacations and entertainment that can fill our calendars.  We have become a society enamored with entertaining ourselves and finding the most pleasurable ways to do it.  As believers we have to take a strong warning from 2 Timothy 3:4-5 regarding the effects of pleasure on our souls. 

Verse 4 is completing the list begun in verse 2 as the Holy Spirit through Paul paints a clear picture of the kind of people that we will encounter in the last days.  The problem he identifies in verse 4 is that people will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  There is a clear distinction that is made between the two pointing out the contrary nature of the two options.  Either you love God or you love pleasure.  Jesus said it in Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.” The pleasures of this life are connected to the money we spend. 

Some staggering statistics on how Americans spend their money annually: $10.5 Billion on Cigarettes, $51 Billion on pets, $25 Billion on video games, $3.7 Billion on sports supplements, $43 Billion on sports entertainment.  This list is by no means comprehensive and doesn’t include travel, food, clothing, exercise, movies, etc.  It is clear through the marketing on television that we are a society driven for bigger, better, faster, easier – always looking for the next best pleasure.

Even though society is headed that way, we need to be sure we are not headed with it.  As followers of Christ our number one priority needs to be – loving God.  We are told the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  When we put pleasure in the place of God we fall to the sin of idolatry and grieve the heart of God. 

Where does your love for pleasure interfere with your love for God?  Are you one that can’t wait to get done with your God stuff to make the Tee time, or see the big game on, or get to the mall, or get to the restaurant on Sunday afternoon?  It is important that we all take a sober look into our lives and identify where the pleasures we seek are robbing us of love for God and repent of those desires.  The early church was enamored with Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel, and didn’t spend their time on pleasures, but rather spent their time as Acts 2:46-47 tells us dedicating themselves to the Lord’s work and He added to their numbers those being saved day by day. 

How do we live in this generation dedicated to the work of the Lord in the same way the early church showed their dedication?  Jesus teaches us what it is like to have His disposition placed within our lives in Luke 14:33 “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”  We must come to a place in our lives where anything that God asks us to give up is done without though to the consequence to our own life.  Jesus is not telling us that we are to empty our houses and closets in order to appear righteous, but rather to be so disconnected internally to the possessions you have that if any of them must go for His sake, you will gladly part ways with them.  Can you say this is true in your life?  

God is our example in all things, and has never asked us or commanded us to do anything that He himself has not done.  Where men have become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – God has continually and eternally loved perfectly as a triune God.  He demonstrates His love in the following three ways, which become the example for us to follow.  God…

  1. Empties Himself for our sakes – He continues to empty Himself so that we might have life and Jesus emptied Himself of the glory He had always experienced to come and be made in the likeness of man so that He might offer to all man the gift of salvation by faith.
    1. Philippians 2:7 “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
  2. Empowers His own for His purposes – through the granting of His Holy Spirit, God places within the believer His very nature and exhibits His power through the life of the saint.  2 Timothy 3:5 tells us that those who love pleasure rather than loving God have an appearance of godliness, but they deny its power because the Spirit is not displayed through their lives.  They talk a good talk, but the substance of Christ in their life is missing.  The lover of God is marked by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    1. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”
  3. Entreats each person to Himself – through the outworking of salvation in your life, God is inviting others to join Him in a personal relationship to experience the power and love exhibited in your life.  This is the knowledge of the truth that is experienced in the life of a true saint which is opposite the markings of the one who is a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God (2 Timothy 3:7).
  1. Luke 15:28 “But he was angry and refused to go in.  His father came out and entreated him.”
    1. Luke 14:23 “And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”

The purpose of the church is that each person will be equipped for the work of God through each individual life as we each go and make disciples.  In order to be equipped it takes some practical work at times.  The work we did this past Sunday was to take 5 or 10 minutes and make a list of the pleasures we each enjoy in this life.  To list out each thing that will make you feel more important or lovelier in this life that you can control and impart to yourself.  Take some time now and make your own list. 

Being equipped to follow the example God gives us through Jesus Christ requires that we…

  1. Recognize the pleasures in your life.
  2. Renounce the ones that are taking time away from loving God.
    1. The ones that improve your earthly life instead of growing the kingdom are the ones keeping you from the work of God.
  3. Receive Christ as the reward for your pursuit of God.
    1. 2 Timothy 3:7-9 speak of those who are always learning but are not coming to knowledge of the Truth.  Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6) and He told us how we would come to the knowledge of Him in John 14:21 “He who has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me.  And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

2 Timothy 3:8-9 tell us of the kind of people that opposed Moses and were disqualified regarding the faith.  There are many who will fill our churches in these last days that will speak with words of eloquent wisdom and powerful persuasion, but will not display the true power of God through the Holy Spirit and will never come to a knowledge of the truth.  What is the condition of your life?  Is your life marked by the power of the Holy Spirit by the renouncing of the pleasures in your life, or are you so busy seeking pleasure that God gets second best? 

As we learn individually to lose our lives for the sake of Jesus Christ we will find our bonds growing in the church family and the world around us will be invited to join God through our bonds of love and compassion evidenced by the outworking of His Spirit.  Only Christ can provide the comfort people long for – may we be used by Him for the saving of many souls.

Difficult Times – Love in Secret

Learning how to love our enemies last week gave us a clear understanding of the true and perfect love of our Heavenly Father.  His love for us was demonstrated while we still His enemies through the death of Jesus Christ His Son.  God is always our example for life.  When we have question as to how we should act or live we must always turn and look to His life for our understanding.  If we look to the people around us as the example, we will immediately come up short of His standard.  We do not exist to compare ourselves to Jesus Christ, but rather to see the stark contrast and rely on His grace to impart His nature to our natural lives and bring us into conformity with God’s desires. 

The difficult times spoken of by Paul in 2 Timothy are truly upon us as people have continued to live according to the flesh.  There are three words or phrases that we will focus on in this lesson describing the people to be found in these difficult times.  These phrases or words are, treacherous, reckless, and swollen with conceit.  These words must be examined in their original language to help us fully unpack and soberly judge where they may exist in each of our own lives.  The first, “treacherous” has the understanding of betrayal.  The second word “reckless” in the original language has the meaning of someone that runs headlong forward without thought, or someone that is head strong.  The phrase “swollen with conceit” carries the understanding of being clouded up with a wrong spiritual perception. 

We all have been affected by the results of someone else’s treachery, recklessness, or conceit – but just as quickly as we can point these three things out in someone else we must point the finger back at ourselves and realize each of these live within us.  Romans 2:1 speaks of our own guilt, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

These three terms help us understand what prevents the human nature from applying the truths outlined by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.  Jesus is teaching the principle of giving as a form of love, something He knew perfectly as He came to give himself for all mankind as the payment for sin. 

Jesus didn’t just come to be a good teacher, He came to give us the gift of Himself and impart to us the very nature of God through the Holy Spirit in order to carry out the things He taught.  Until He imparts His disposition into our lives, we will never be able to carry out the things Jesus taught.  Only through true relationship and His manifestation will these kingdom principles become reality in our lives.

Jesus gives us an example of what not to do when it comes to giving to the needy.  There are many people who do “kind” acts only for the purpose of selfish gain.  Those who do their kindnesses for the purpose of being seen by men have already received their reward.  There is no more reward waiting.  Jesus is teaching us about how the Father loves us and how we can see Jesus loving others all through the gospel accounts. 

God operates with a perfect motive which is opposite of human motive.  The human nature always acts first for its own good – God always acts for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).  God promised in Jeremiah 32:38-39 “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.”

God’s kindness is done in SECRET

  1. Unknown to us – we rarely see the affects of Jesus’ work through the Holy Spirit in manifesting His nature to our lives.  No one can speak of exact moment God changes a man – yet this is His greatest kindness.
  2. Unexpected by us – we only notice the transformation that God brings in our lives when we are faced with the same difficulty we once faced, yet with a totally different reaction.  The change God brings is directly against our former disposition and is evidenced by His fruit.
  3. Undeniable to others – the life transformed by God stands in such stark contrast to the former way of life that people looking in from the outside cannot deny the true transformation of God upon a life. 

We see these principles in Matthew 6:3 when Jesus commands that we do not let our left hand know that our right hand is giving.  It is being done in secret, but not intentional secrecy, but rather that your nature has been so transformed into being kind that you’re giving is second nature and not noticed even in your own life.  It is evidenced when someone points to your kindness only for you to have considered it normal activity.  Through His disposition imparted to your life, Jesus will use you a vessel for an unexpected blessing and undeniable invitation to a relationship with Himself in the lives of those you encounter.  

Your responsibility in learning to live a truly Christ-like life is found in putting to death the hypocrisy in your life.  Jesus tells us that the people who give by sounding the trumpets are the hypocrites – and to some extent we all have hypocrisy in us.  The only way to rid ourselves of hypocrisy is to admit it exists.  Hypocrites show us the opposite of what we must become in Christ.

  1. Public – people who do things for others to see and take notice.
    1. Treacherous people are one way in public, but another in private – they are always seeking their best first and in the case where their best will be lost they will betray another for the advantage.
    2. Gal 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
    3. Private – God will create privately kind servants, looking out for the best of others first.
  2. Predictable – just as those giving and sounding trumpets – it is predictable how showy people will do what they think will give them greatest significance in the eyes of others.
    1. Reckless people will continue head strong into something to continue to get the desired result they are after.
    2. Matthew 23:1-4 “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do.  For they preach but do not practice.”
    3. Practice – Jesus tells us that His disposition will be manifested into our lives as we put into practice His teachings.  These things do not come easy or quickly, but with much discipline.  We must live it.
  3. Perishing – the hypocrites continue in their path of destruction thinking they have achieved what God wants and continue to seek their own reward only to one day realize all of their efforts were in vain and they will perish. 
    1. People swollen with conceit believe in their own innocence and relationship with God, but do not see their own depravity and will not submit to God’s authority and receive eternal life. 
    2. 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  
    3. Prize – we will receive the prize of eternal life as we submit to the relationship with Jesus Christ through faith and repentance.

When we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and learn to walk in submission to His commands He promises to impart His disposition to our lives in the reality of our existence with others.  We will draw people to a real relationship with Jesus Christ as He uses our lives to love them with a genuine love that is only possible through Jesus Christ.  Though we feel the effects of other’s hypocritical treachery, recklessness, and conceit, we can lose our lives by destroying those tendencies in our own lives.

Difficult Times – Love Your Enemies

As we studied three more phrases in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 used to describe the people we will find in the last days, we see how those three phrases are closely linked to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  The phrases we examined in verse 3 were, without self-control, brutal, and not loving good. These three phrases along with the entire list in this text are describing the attitudes and intentions of the people who will fill the earth during the last days – days of difficulty.  The entirety of the list found in 2 Timothy 3 stem from the root issue Paul mentions in verse 2 that men will be lovers of self. 

As we look at the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-48 we are faced with a question immediately in our own lives.  Who is our enemy?  For many of us, we may not have a direct outward enemy – someone who chooses to come against us for the purpose of defeat.  But the reality of life is that regardless of where anyone might be on their journey in Christianity, they will have an enemy which Jesus is addressing.  Jesus is speaking specifically about the person in our lives that is most difficult to love.  Our enemy is not necessarily someone that comes against us in a forceful manner, though that may be the case for some, but rather it is that person we just don’t like. 

It is the person we avoid, maybe a family member, a former friend, a boss, a co-worker – at any rate it is the person that would be the last in your list of people who you would sacrifice your time and energy for to make them more important than yourself.  By now, there is probably someone on your mind; this is the person Jesus is telling you to love. 

Jesus addresses the Jews who have long heard from the Pharisees, the oral law, that you shall love your neighbor but hate your enemy.  This was a gross misinterpretation of the law as outlined in Deuteronomy forIsraelto love their neighbors.  Jesus clarifies the false teaching and commands them to love their enemy as their neighbor – a bold statement in the face of what they have always known and heard from the teachers of the law.  Jesus is revealing the truth that God’s kindness and generosity falls on the just and the evil the same, and likewise we do not have the right to pick and choose who we are to love or who we are to hate. 

Throughout the whole of Matthew 5 Jesus is pointing to the perfection of the Father’s love for us rather than our ability to maintain perfection.  Jesus provides a clear picture of the impossibility for us to meet God’s standard other than to establish a relationship with Jesus through which the perfection of the Father is passed on.  The Father’s love is perfect in that we were all His enemies, yet He proved His love for us by sending Jesus to willingly die as a sinless sacrifice for sin.

God’s perfect Love is…

  1. Promised in Word – God spoke of His love for us, and as He cannot lie, we can rest in knowing that His love will have its perfect work in our lives to completion.
  2. Present in Deed – By empowering us with His Holy Spirit, God has provided us the ability to obey His commands and keep His statutes, which in turn provides us with the manifestation of Jesus Christ’s nature in our lives – He is present with us.
  3. Paradise infinite – The love God showed for His enemies was not a one time act of kindness but a promise of paradise for all eternity where He will be present with His people forever.  We are totally incapable of sustaining life with out Him, and yet His love is so great that for all eternity He will give of Himself to keep us in perfect contentment.  Our Lord’s love is incomprehensible. 

The real challenge comes when we look honestly at these three phrases in 2 Timothy that mark each of our lives in one degree or another.  We all struggle at times and in different measures with self-control, brutality, and not loving good.  As we struggle, it is important that we look at these three areas of our lives with sobriety and address them with repentance as to change the way we interact with those we would rather just ignore – our enemies. 

To obey Jesus commands in a practical way you need to take a moment and really fix that person or people in your mind that Jesus has reminded you of.  Choose to love your enemies by applying these next few principles in your life and show them the kind of love that Jesus is teaching.  He is not speaking of the flattering of affection, but rather the kind of love He showed His disciples when He washed their feet before going to the cross. 

Living a kingdom life toward your enemies will…

  1. Infuse life into them through your speech.  When we lose self-control it is easy for us to use our mouths to speak a harsh or cutting word toward someone, or worse to speak about them behind their back as a gossip. 
    1. Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
    2. Speaking a blessing into someone’s life is to infuse life into them as Proverbs 18:21 tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue.  This is not flattery, but the truth of what God has done to bring that person into this world and for a purpose.
  2. Improve their life through your actions. When we have a brutality toward serving someone we would rather see them affected negatively in life than to see their life improve.  We have all struggled with this kind of brutality, and Jesus is commanding that we put it aside to see them be elevated above ourselves.
    1. 1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
    2. As Luke 6:28 says above, do good to those who hate you – your enemy may have a hatred for you, but there may be a way you can use what God has given you to improve their life in some way.  As God leads you to this act of kindness you need to be willing to go through with it.
  3. Intercede for them through prayer.  We fight against loving good, because we again would rather see failure from the people we don’t like, because in some way it seems it makes our life feel more significant.  There is only One who is good – it is God, so we must be willing to go to God and ask for His goodness in the lives of the people that we would rather see fail – only in this way can we truly love our enemies.
  1. 1 Timothy 2:1 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,”
    1. Again as Luke 6:28 says we need to pray for those who abuse us – there is no greater gift we can give someone than to bring their concerns and life before the Maker on their behalf.  There is no telling what God may be planning for their life, and we would be too selfish to ask Him to complete it.

I pray that you have identified the person in your life that Jesus desires for you to love and that you will take time this week to be practical in your love for that person no matter how you “feel” about it.  Following Jesus at times goes against our emotions, but we can be assured that He will bring the emotion to match the obedience when we step in faith.  Through these three simple ways Jesus teaches us to love our enemies we will eliminate any enemies we may have.  We will find that there are no people that we can’t love.  We may still have enemies who aren’t hateful toward us personally, but are rather hateful toward the cross and Jesus Christ.  We will never be able to prevent that, but we can take every opportunity to love them in spite of their hatred.  Give them every reason to love you as you obey Christ. 

Who do you need to speak with this week and infuse life through your words?

What can you do to serve that person this week and improve their life?

Will you make a concerted effort to pray and intercede for the good in that person’s life? 

I pray that we as a church will be known by our love, the love that Jesus infuses into each one of us and overflows onto all those around us.