Saturday, March 29, 2014
Being a Christian is a skill like any other profession. It is not limited to a select group of people who have some special talent which allows them to be faithful while others fail. Christians who are faithful to God, are people who practice their convictions. They work at it. They try to improve. They're concerned about their souls. They analyze their weaknesses, and strive to strengthen themselves in those areas.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Thus, Paul admonishes Timothy, and us, to diligently seek God's approval, and to be become skilled in the use of the word of truth. "Rightly dividing the word of truth" simply means to become skilled in its use.
The American standard version translates this passage, "handling aright the word of truth." Handling the word of God properly is dependent upon the principle of practice. We must become familiar with God's word so that we can use it effectively. We must apply the word to new problems, consult it to answer various questions, and use it in defense of the faith. As someone put it, "The way to do that is to just do it!"
We should not be fearful. We will miss now and then, but if we hit home runs every time we got up to bat, there wouldn't be any room for improvement. We can't be perfect by ourselves, but if we practice, God has promised to reward us with perfection in heaven according to 1 Corinthians 15:49-57.
In the meantime, its our duty to practice. Study the word. Meditate on it. Develop a desire to learn more, to understand more. Use the word in everyday situations, apply it to our lives. If we have a true desire to improve at something, we practice. If we want to be good at it, we practice. If we want to go to heaven, we practice.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Faith is essential in order to be saved, but can faith alone save us? According to James 2:14-26, the answer is, "No." In verse 17, James said, "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead," and in verse 24, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." In Acts 10:34-35, as Peter was speaking to Cornelius and his household about salvation, he said, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him."
Suppose that a rich man tells someone he would give them a new car, and in order to claim the gift they had to buy license tags for it, get insurance on it, and come by his house and pick up the key. Once that person has met those requirements, would he have done anything to earn the car? No, he would have simply fulfilled the qualifications for claiming the gift of the car. The same thing is true of salvation. When we obey the gospel of Christ, we simply fulfill the requirements the Lord has laid down in order to claim the gift of salvation.
What are these requirements, and where can I go to find them? There is no one place in the New Testament where we can find all that God has said about salvation. We must search the Scriptures to determine what God expects of us.
Those requirements are: faith or belief - John 3:16, Mark 16:16; repentance - Acts 2:38, Luke 13:3; confession - Matthew 10:32, Romans 10:9-10; baptism - Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21. One can't leave out any one of these things and still claim the gift of salvation. If I love the Lord, I will not omit anything He has asked me to do. Once I have met all of His qualifications, I know I am saved. In order to maintain that salvation, I must remain faithful to God following the teachings in the New Testament, and this means, according to Revelation 2:10, even if it causes my death. Think on these things, and search God's word to find the truth about them.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
The largest room in life is the room for improvement. Self-improvement should be the aim of each and every Christian. We need to look to Jesus as our example. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." The apostles Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13).
Robert Louis Stevenson remarked, "There is one person whom it is my duty to make good, and that is myself." Oliver Wendell Holmes, famous novelist and poet of the 19th century, wrote, "To reach the port, we must sail, sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail and not drift, or be at anchor."
No one ever drifted into improvement. It takes a determined effort. There's room for improvement in everyone's life. If you want to improve, you must start with yourself. If you aren't attending all the services of the church, by all means, start doing so. If you aren't studying as you should, start today. If you aren't promoting unity and love among the brethren, don't wait until its too late, start today.
Paul's prayer for the brethren at Colosse needs to be made for all of us who desire to do the will of God. He said, "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy..." (Colossians 1:10-11).