Guard what is entrusted

1 Timothy 6:20–21 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

Each of us has been entrusted with the Gospel.  The Word of God, which is truth, is a target for people who want to deceive with false “knowledge”.  They corrupt the Gospel and call it truth.  They replace sound doctrine with man-made ideas and call it “enlightened”.  In many cases, they include a part-truth, but stop short of the whole truth.  In doing so, they lead many astray.

Timothy, a pastor, was entrusted with leading a church, keeping the hearts and minds of God’s people focused on the Truth.  But we don’t need to be pastors or teachers to feel the same obligation.  You and I are all called to be guardians of the Truth.

This is not a sentry position where we lock up the Gospel and stand guard lest anyone should get ahold of it.  We preserve God’s Word and sound doctrine by spreading it, sharing with all who will hear.  Sometimes for fear of being able to answer those who oppose the Gospel, we keep it quiet.  While it may sometimes be necessary to refute opponents, all we really need to do is spread God’s Word.  Truth will prevail on its own.  Darkness cannot remain where there is light. It’s our job to shine the light (Matthew 5:16).

Seeing Clearly

I Corinthians 13:12 (NLT) “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely.”



This world is so confusing. As I’m writing this, the United States is in the midst of our Presidential election season. With all of the things said, the promises made, and the outlandish behavior from candidates and voters alike, it’s hard to know what to believe about anything anymore. What’s right? Who’s right?

If there’s one thing that God’s Word does, it’s bring clarity to a foggy world. The Christian worldview doesn’t make all things known or completely understood, but it helps to know that all things have their purpose and that we’re promised that one day we will understand it all. One day all of this mess will make sense.

I’m big on reading Bible passages in context because sometimes we have the habit of making something mean something other than what was intended. If you and I will read this Scripture from 1 Corinthians in its proper context, we’ll see a theme surrounding it. Love. So, to borrow a question posed famously by Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Love, according to the Apostle Paul, is the glue that holds everything else together. It’s the thing that makes everything else make sense. If we do all of the things religion requires, but we don’t love, we’ve missed the whole point. Even our political choices should be motivated out of love. What does that look like? I’m going to be honest, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that the primary catalysts for all Christians to act are faith, hope, and love. If the greatest of them is love, we should be looking at the world through that scope. How would our actions be different if we saw that more clearly?

Desire reconciliation, not revenge

lightstock_160956_medium_user_3963721“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 

-Matthew 5:38-39

The way of Jesus Christ is often counter-intuitive, often counter cultural. The way of the world is to get back at those who have wronged us. And why is that? It’s because human nature instinctively drives us to defend ourselves and we feel a sense of entitlement to seek an “eye-for-an-eye.” The way of Jesus, though, is to forgo our entitlement and let go of our right to get even.

It’s hard, isn’t it? Think about the last time someone did something to you that was deserving of revenge. What did you do? Did you store up resentment? Did you take action to get what you deserve? Or did you turn the other cheek? Depending on your answer, I would ask you how you felt about your decision. Did it give you peace? Did it help your relationship? Did either of you benefit from your choice?

God isn’t just about do’s and don’ts or listing off rules to make us unable to do anything. He’s actually very concerned with our character, with our relationships, and with our spiritual maturity. Giving up the right to seek revenge, even when no one would fault you for doing so, isn’t about being weak. It’s ultimately about having the peace of God. It’s about having the character of Christ. And it’s about reconciliation with others.

This doesn’t mean to become a door mat or to accept abuse, but it does sometimes mean sacrifice. It’s not easy, but it wasn’t easy for the one sinless man who ever walked this earth to be executed for wrongs that He didn’t commit either. Next time you face the option of getting even or getting peace, pray for guidance. Choose the way of Christ.

Let your light shine

lightstock_827_small_user_3963721Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus spent most of the Sermon on the Mount telling His followers about the Kingdom of God and about who they are. He didn’t begin by telling them anything to do, He led up to that. The Sermon on the Mount is mostly descriptive, not prescriptive. First came the statements and the definitions, then came the mission.
In Matthew 5:14, notice that Jesus does not tell His followers to go be the light of the world. He tells us that we ARE the light of the world. We are the light of the world because God illuminated our hearts so that we’ll know Him. He then shines through us for others to see Him and know Him. Our testimonies as Christians are not always verbal. Sometimes it’s the good works we perform that ultimately lead people to see Jesus working in our lives. So what are “good works?”
There are obvious things that we can do for others to show them the character of God, like caring for the poor and loving the lost. There are other things that might not be as obvious, attitudes of the heart that manifest themselves in our actions. Sometimes pointing the way to God is as simple as doing things without complaining. One thing is for sure, others are watching. We are the light of the world whether we want to shine or not.
Salvation brings transformation and a Christian who has no good works to show for their transformation isn’t a very good witness. The Bible is very clear that works don’t save us from God’s wrath and reconcile us to Him. Only Jesus’ work on the cross can do that. It’s equally clear, though, that we’re supposed to do good works. We’re created with a purpose and given a mission, to point others to the Father by shining the light He’s put within us.

Don’t be a fool

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Psalm 14:1a The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” 

Have you ever been called a fool for believing in God or for following Christ? It’s pretty common in this age for the default setting to be atheism, whether one would wear that label or just practice it with their actions. But the truth is, it’s the one who rejects all of the evidence of God’s existence that’s really the foolish one.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the Psalmist. Even the Apostle Paul points out that the self-revelation of God as to His existence is overwhelming. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Did you catch that? The person who denies the existence of God is “without excuse.” It’s not the one who believes what’s been made known who’s a fool. It’s the one who sees the truth and still denies it that acts unwise.

God makes himself known in many ways. Most importantly, He came to live among mankind as a human himself. Anything God ever wanted us to know about himself, He revealed in the person of Jesus. He was and is God in the flesh. To accept Him is to have life and freedom. To reject Him is to lack life and freedom. Be wise. Don’t be a fool.

Starting over

This means that anlightstock_1665_small_user_3963721yone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! -2 Cor. 5:17 (NLT)

What does it mean to start over? Every year, around this time, millions of people resolve to change certain aspects of their lives. Some succeed, many fail. Most resolutions fall short because there was no commitment to real life change. Goals without real resolve don’t produce movement or real transformation.

I’ve never been big on New Years resolutions. It’s always seemed to me that if I really wanted to change something about my life, I shouldn’t wait until a certain time of year to do it. The time is now! I get why people do it, though. The start of a new year on the calendar signifies a new beginning, a chance to start over. That’s a great time to make some choices towards a better life. There’s a much better chance to start over, though.

God’s Word says that when we place our trust in Jesus, He forgives us, cleanses us from our sins, adopts us into His family, and gives us a new identity. We get a chance to not only begin a new year, but begin a whole new life. The slate is not just wiped clean, the slate is gone completely. Our identity is not what it once was. Our identity is now in Christ. I’ll dig deeper into that idea as we go on. It’s important.

Starting over is a choice. I became a new person when I was saved, but only after I made a decision to embrace my new identity did I see revolutionary growth in my life. Maybe that’s you right now. Maybe you’re like me. You crossed the line of faith, and you’re forgiven, but you’re not seeing some of the expectations you had coming true for you. For me, that brought a lot of confusion and made me question my conversion. I hope that this one-year journey we’re going to take together puts to rest any doubts you have about your salvation.

Decide today to start over with the new life you’ve been given. Even if you’ve been saved for years, it’s not too late. Take the first step in the journey of discipleship and do as the disciples did when Jesus bid them, “Follow me.” This new life is from Him, for Him, and about Him. It’s a wild ride, and it’s all worth it.

Do not cease to give thanks

INGMRF-00042023-001Ephesians 1:15-16 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers

Spiritual growth comes in seasons. There are times when our faith is strong and there are times when it is not as strong. This is true with anyone. In those times when the momentum isn’t there and it seems that we’ve lost steam, it’s important that we never cease giving thanks.

It’s in those times, when we’re down but still giving thanks, that our faith grows. Our gratitude to our Father grows our love towards Him. Our increased love towards Him results in our loving others more as well.

Paul’s expression to the church in Ephesus demonstrates how thankfulness for someone else’s faith and love can encourage them and help them to be more thankful, to grow in love for God and in love for others. Thanks leads to faith, which leads to love, which leads to more love, more thanks, more faith, and on and on.

Try this. No matter how you feel right now about your current situation, just give thanks to God for all that He is. See if you don’t increase in your love for Him as you pour out gratitude. See if you don’t have a different attitude.

 

When to give thanks

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1 Thessalonians 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

There’s never a bad time to give thanks to God.  In America we set aside a specific day to celebrate what God has done, calling it Thanksgiving, but if it’s the only day of the year that we’re grateful to our Lord, then we’re suffering from a lack of humility.

Whether we’re in good times of prosperity or bad times of suffering and need, we can be thankful because God is good.  If we’re lacking something right now it’s not because God is unaware of our need; it’s rather because He has a purpose and we get to be a part of it.  He will provide as only He can and we should thank Him everyday for doing so.

The difference between thanksgiving and praise is the purpose behind it.  Thanks is given for what God has done, but praise is given for who He is, even when we don’t feel He’s done anything lately.  Praise isn’t a response to God’s provision, but a celebration of all that He is and all that we know He can do.  Thanksgiving and praise go hand-in-hand and they ought to be on our lips constantly, whether we’re currently receiving blessings or not.

 

How to give thanks

lightstock_68414_medium_user_3963721Ephesians 5:20  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

How should we give thanks to a God that gives us far more than we can imagine to ask for?  How can we ever give Him thanks for all He’s done and all He is?  Well, we never can.  But the point isn’t to make things up to God with our gratitude.  The point is that we should be grateful for everything and at all times.

We give thanks by praising Him.  Just telling Him, literally, thank you for what you’ve given me, for what you’ve done, and for who you are.  Express in words your thankfulness.

We give thanks by responding.  God has done so much for us all, we can show Him we’re thankful by carrying out what He’s called us to do.  We can show Him we’re grateful for what we have by sharing it with others, by taking care of what we’ve been given, and by being content.

We give thanks by trusting.  When we’re in hard times and it seems as though God has forgotten about us, we can be thankful to Him for what He’s done in the past by trusting Him with the present.  Sometimes just praying, knowing that God has provided in the past, and believing that He can do it again, is a great way to thank Him.

Why to give thanks…II

Thanksgiving

1 Chronicles 29:12-13  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

Not only should we give thanks to God for who He is, but we should be ever so grateful for all that He’s done.  He’s able to do far more than we can even imagine, and He even sometimes responds to prayer better than we thought He would.  Not only is He good, but He provides.

All of the good we have in our lives is from the Lord.  We owe Him our thanks because nothing we have here is our own.  It’s all His and He allows us to be temporary caregivers to His things.  He provides our physical needs, but think of all the other wonderful blessings He gives that have nothing to do with “things” at all.  The intangible blessings are usually the most satisfying.

Imagine, the Lord of all things created, in heaven and on earth, giving up His Son for the sake of mankind, that we might be reconciled to Him.  Even if He never gave us another single thing in this life, that’s a sufficient reason to give praise and thanks for the rest of eternity.  We give thanks because of who His is, and because of what He’s done.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known

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