Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Spiritual Maturity

We read in Isaiah 44:4 that God’s people will “spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses.” Our Christian walk should be a walk that desires to be pleasing to God first and foremost. When this happens, then we will see growth and maturity take hold in our life here on earth. Every one of us should have a constant desire to progress toward spiritual maturity in all aspects of our life. There are several areas in our life that God wants to see us mature and develop in. These are:

1)  Fruitfulness: “Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10). God asks that we share his word with others. This is something that should be on all of our hearts. We should look for opportunities to share the good news to those we come in contact with. 

2)  In Christ: “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-- Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).  “that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). In order for us to mature in Christ we must learn what a good work is (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). When we speak “the truth in love,” we are growing in Christ because we are speaking His truth and we are doing it in love, caring for the soul of another. 

3)  In Love: “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). The true Christian test of life is whether one can show a genuine love for the brethren. For us to be able to mature in the sight of God, this is something that all of us must possess. As Paul stated, it is also an area in which we need to continue to increase. There is nothing that takes the place of loving and caring brethren who genuinely look forward to seeing and being with each other at every opportunity. May we all grow in our love for one another!

4)  Unto Perfection: “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1). The word “perfection” means “completeness.” Once we have learned the truth of God’s word and have been obedient to the gospel, we should then progress onward to maturity, not returning to the basic elements again. We need to learn to be teachers (Hebrews 5:12-14), and the only way to do this is through the word, having a desire for God’s word in order to grow to completeness. Peter writes, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). When we are “perfect” or “complete,” then we will never stumble (2 Peter 1:10). In order to progress to this point we must strive to put all the characteristics mentioned by Peter to use in our life. We must add “ virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

5)  Grace and Knowledge: “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). When we learn and understand the great gift that God gave us in His Son, then we should be motivated to grow in the knowledge of our Lord. The more we know, the better we can defend the gospel and spread the gospel. Jesus wants us to know Him as He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). We need to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord.

In conclusion, our spiritual maturity will be realized when we put away childish things from our life (1 Corinthians 13:11) and begin to cultivate an understanding of the word (1 Corinthians 14:20). If we will follow the example of Jesus (Ephesians 4:13, 15; Philippians 3:15), and partake of the deeper truths of the gospel (Hebrews 5:14), then we will be able to overcome any temptation that is cast our way (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 John 2:14). When this happens, then it will be obvious that we are pressing toward maturity in our Christian life. It may then be said of us: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Living a Faithful Life

We can read in the second book of Timothy where the apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy to live a faithful life unto the Lord. The instructions that he gave him are inspired instructions for us today. Let’s look at this passage of scripture and then I’ll make some comments regarding some of the things that Paul points out. “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. 22) Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:1-7, 22-26).

Endure Hardship
When we are determined to study God’s Word and to apply His teaching in our life, then we will be able to endure hardship. No matter what Satan throws our way, we will be able to overcome. We can never walk in the steps of the Savior if we don’t learn what it is that we must do to walk in His steps. Jesus said: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). He has promised us that if we will take up His yoke, and learn about Him, then we will find rest for our souls. The faithful man of God is the one that really trusts in the Lord and counts on Him to deliver the faithful from the Devil.

Paul explains to Timothy (and to us), that we must endure hardship if we are to be counted worthy of Christ. A soldier of Christ is one that will do whatever it takes to please Him. If we are honestly, sincerely striving to please Jesus, then we WILL NOT get involved with the various affairs of this life which do not promote good, honest, Christian living. We should be busy pleasing our Lord!

Pursue Righteousness
We are encouraged to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace”. I just don’t understand why it is that individuals become Christians, and yet never really want to live as a Christian. I used to play baseball and I loved to play baseball from the time I was ten until my mid-thirties. When I put on that uniform and took the field, I was determined to do the very best I could for the team and myself. I practiced hard and played hard as I tried to become the best player I possibly could be. Here’s my point; If I was not determined to do the best I could in baseball, why play? Why should I pretend to want to play baseball if my heart was not really into it? When I became a Christian, I decided to live my life the very best I could for the Lord. In order to do that, to pursue righteousness, and the love of God, it meant that there were some things in this life that I could not do. Being a disciple of Christ means that I have to be careful where I go, what I watch, what I do, what I wear, what I say, and what I think. Paul said in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-- meditate on these things.” 

Correct Those Who Are In Opposition
A faithful Christian who cares about the souls of others will do what they can to correct those who are in opposition to the truth. Sometimes this is not pleasant but must be done so that they may see their error, repent, and escape the snare of the Devil. Remember, if you are ever corrected by a loving saint, count it a blessing, because they care for your soul.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Keeping Your Christian Charge!

In 1 Timothy 1:5 we read "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith". That one verse pretty much sums up what the Christian charge is all about. If we would all learn to love with a pure heart accompanied with a good conscience before God with an unwaiverable faith, we would possess some fine Christian virtues. The Lord has given us this charge and it was given to preachers (2 Timothy 4:1-2), Elders (1 Peter 5:1-4), the rich (1 Timothy 6:17) and to all (1 Timothy 1:5). The Christian has a big responsibility to God. Among the things we are charged with is "not to teach strange doctrines" (1 Timothy 1:3). However, today we can see man making up new religious rules and changing the doctrine that God has given us in scripture to fit into their individual needs and wants. This is wrong and we are going to be held personally responsible for changing God's word!


We are also told not to trust in riches of this world. Paul told Timothy to "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17). There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, but when one lets the wealth rule their life instead of allowing God to have that place, then it is wrong and we will be held responsible for it. Those are two things we are charged not to do. But what are we charged "to do" as Christians?

The apostle Paul sent his letter to the Thessalonians and in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 we can read where the Lord was willing for the letter to be read to "all the brethren". Likewise, we are to read the scriptures and put into practice the things that God tells us to do in our own lives. We can further learn from our opening scripture of 1 Timothy 1:5 that we are to have faith in God. This is further stressed in verse 19 where it says "keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith". It is such a wonderful thing to see Christians that possess a deep and abiding faith! No matter what happens they realize that God is with them and they will stay faithful to God to the very end of their days on this earth. But we are not done yet.

The Christian charge continues in that we are to do good (1 Timothy 6:17-18), to love (1 Timothy 1:5), tell others about Christ as Paul instructed young Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 4:1-2, to war a good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18), and to give of our means (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Some Christians have an even deeper responsibility if they hold the position of Elder. Peter said to "shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:2-4). Men who serve in the position of an Elder in their local congregation have a responsibility to ensure that all Christians that meet together in that local work are instructed in righteousness and must ensure that no false doctrines are preached or taught within the local congregation.

We need to understand how important our Christian charge is to serve God. It is essential to heed the commands of God in order for us to lay a good foundation in which to build upon as Paul instructed in 1 Timothy 6:19 when he said "storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed". Material things of this life will pass away. We brought nothing into the world and can't take anything out of it either (1 Timothy 6:7). We must strive to live a life with God eternally (1 Timothy 6:17-19), and to receive the crown of righteousness that is reserved for us (1 Peter 5:2-4). Won't you keep your Christian charge? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Being a Disciple of Christ

I have wondered many times why it is that some Christians do not seem to be truly devoted to their Christianity. I now believe it is because they do not understand what it means to be a genuine disciple of Christ. One can never hope to be the kind of Christian God intends for one to be if one has not learned discipleship. Webster defines disciple as: “A pupil or follower of any teacher or school; A follower of Jesus". Every Christian must learn that one must forsake every person and every thing and put Christ FIRST in their life. To forsake is to "give up; renounce; leave; abandon; desert.” Those unwilling to do so will not enter into heaven and will never become the servant that Jesus expects one to be! When a Christian can truly grasp the importance of following Christ, doing ALL His commandments, then one will become an effective servant in God's kingdom. When one does not learn this lesson first and foremost, then one will find that they are spinning their wheels and being unstable because "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).


We Must Take A Stand For Jesus Above All Else
Every Christian must first strive to do Christ's will. Jesus said that only those that do His will enter into heaven and those that don't will be cast away into an eternal hell (Matthew 7:21-23). In Matthew 10:32-39 we can learn a valuable lesson on what Jesus truly means by being a true disciple of His. We have got to be willing to confess Jesus each day of our lives before men. No matter where we are, or what we are doing others should see us living a life as a Christian "proclaiming godliness". It is only when we take a stand FOR Christ that He will take a stand for us: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). One of the toughest things we must do as Christians is to go against the personal beliefs of our own parents, brothers, or sisters. Jesus addresses that in this passage. We must be prepared to even put our physical family second to Jesus if we ever hope to have eternal life with Him. He said "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). When we make decisions to do things with our family at the expense of doing Christ's will then we are not worthy of being His disciple (Matthew 10:35-38).

We Must Be Willing To Deny Self and Serve Jesus
This may be the hardest lesson for a Christian to learn. Until one can put their own interests, passions, and desires, second to serving Christ, then one is not ready to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus said "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). Many will be cast away into hell on the day of judgment because they would not deny their own lusts and desires and put Jesus first!

Excuses Won’t Cut It - We Must Not Look Back
In Luke 9:57-61 Jesus urged several to follow Him. But in each case they made excuse for why they had to do something else first. Jesus sums this up by saying "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Then later in Luke 14:16-33 He told the story of the man that made a great supper and invited many. But those that were invited made excuses why they could not attend. Jesus invites us to join Him in teaching others and living the Christian life but many make excuses on why they can't put Jesus first in their life.

A disciple of Christ truly loves Jesus and one another (John 13:34-35; 14:15,21,23) A true disciple will continue in His word. Jesus said: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). See also Acts 14:22. A true disciple will be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). Only a dedicated disciple is worthy to wear the name Christian (Acts 11:26).

Each and every Christian must be determined to follow Jesus. If you do, you can have peace through His word which says; "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Let us be determined to walk in the light of Christ, serving Him because we have a sincere desire to and not looking back because we KNOW that our reward is ahead of us if we remain faithful to Jesus until the day of our death! May God bless each of us as we strive to put Jesus FIRST each day that we live. Our eternity with Him depends upon it! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Our Conscience

No doubt you have heard things like "let your conscience be your guide," or "if it seems right then it must be right," or "no one can have a good conscience while doing something wrong." To find out if these statements are true we must go to the source of all authority and that is the teaching of Jesus Christ and His inspired Word, the Bible. I believe it is true that our conscience should help guide us through life but we need to understand that our conscience is only as accurate as it has been taught. Just because we think something is right, it may not necessarily be so. The apostle Paul said: "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). We know that while he was doing these contrary things that he was doing them in "good conscience". "Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1). Therefore, just because something seems right to us, this does not make it absolutely so and we can also do things without it offending our conscience. 

Our Conscience Must Be Trained By the Word of God
Our conscience must be trained to discern between right and wrong. If it has only been trained by our parents, then we will develop a conscience that will consist of values that we have learned from our parents. We need to ask ourselves, "where did my parents get their values?" If their values came from God’s Word then they have passed on values based upon God’s teaching and that is good. However, if they received their values of life from other sources, then you have received your values of life from your parents based on sources other than the Word of God. Why is this important? Because when our earthly life is over we are going to be judged by the words of Jesus. Jesus said: "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). We need to understand that we must live our life on this earth with a good conscience that is based solely on the words of Jesus Christ and the authority that He gave to His inspired apostles. Peter wrote: "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).
 
The Bible Is Our Inspired Guide
The apostle Paul plainly taught that the Bible is the true source wherein man can be made perfect in God’s sight. He said: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is only through scripture that we can truly learn what God wants us to do in order to be pleasing to Him. The Bible must be our guide throughout life, not our conscience. Unfortunately most people go through life living for the moment and basing just about everything they do on how it makes them feel. As long as their conscience does not bother them, then they continue to partake of all the pleasures of life without any regard to what awaits them after this earthly life comes to an end. I urge you to do as the Bereans did back in the first century as they "….received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Remember, your conscience is only as good as it has been taught. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Being Imitators of Christ

As a Christian and preacher of the gospel of Christ, it is so refreshing to see Christians standing up for what they know is right based on the Word of God. It is encouraging to see Christians who are truly dedicated and consistent in their stand for truth, wanting to please God in all manner of life. In the society that we live in today this is not an easy task. Christians who read and study the Word of God know that it is very important to stay the course of righteousness and faithfulness in able to receive the crown of life. The apostle Paul encouraged us to “….be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). A dedicated Christian is one who understands this because living in eternity with Christ is their goal (Revelation 2:10). In writing to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul said for them to “….have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). There are many Christians today that need to read and then make application of what Paul has said here. Christians are to be a special, or peculiar people, set apart for service to God (1 Peter 2:9). This is not the case when one becomes engaged with anything that God has called unrighteous. We are to “expose them,” not fellowship them.

Christians know what God wants. Christians know that God is righteous and that people who do things contrary to His teaching are deserving of an eternal death. Yet, many Christians still engage themselves in unrighteous practices and give approval of others who may also practice them. Paul wrote: “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). Jesus said that we must “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Christians, we must be determined first and foremost to live for God in all manner of our life. A failure to do so will result in an eternal separation from Him forever more. Stand up and let God and others see that we are imitators of Christ, not the people of this world (1 Corinthians 11:1)!

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Prepare to Meet Our God

According to Matthew 10:28 we can read where man consists of a soul and a body. We can learn from this reading that the soul is more valuable than the body. Jesus said "...do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The soul is more valuable because the soul is eternal and the body is mortal. The soul of man is that part which was made in the image of God, while the body was made from the dust of the earth. In the first book of the Bible we read: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). The Word of God, or the gospel, is that which appeals to the soul and as the soul is more important than the body, we believe that the best service we can render to mankind is to present the gospel, which is God's power to save the soul. The inspired apostle Paul wrote: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). What is it that has the power to save souls? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Therefore, we must learn and understand that it is our soul that is to be cherished. Jesus again tried to make this very clear when Matthew wrote His Words in Matthew 16:26. Jesus Himself speaking says: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Have you thought about this question that Jesus asked? Have you exchanged your soul for the material wants and desires of this world?

While the Christian is taught to care for their body, the thrust of the gospel of Christ is directed toward the saving of the soul. It is unfortunate that too many churches today overemphasize the material, the social, and the political. It is our soul that must be prepared to meet our God!