TODAY is the day of your salvation

As I was sitting in my school bus waiting to begin my route, I was scrolling through my news feed and came across this article that I want to share with you.

There is nothing new or unusual about this article (link to it below). Sadly, such a thing has become more normal to us as this world and it’s technology allow us immediate information on what is happening around our world.

https://share.newsbreak.com/15q55bin

Below is just a sample of the article that I hope might open our eyes once again to the sad reality that our Bible teaches. “ And inasmuch as it is [a]appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). And this reality happens to the very young as well.

“15-year-old dies at high school track and field practice, Indiana district says (A 15-year-old) freshman died at his high school’s evening track and field practice, according to an Indiana school district.”

“The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township and Lawrence North High School are extremely saddened by the (sudden) and unexpected death of a 15-year old freshman student … at Track & Field practice,” a district spokesperson said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, teachers, and classmates.”

Notice that this was a teenager not an elderly person who lived a full life. No one knows when his/her life will be required of them. No one knows how it will happen. I am sure that this young boy, so full of life, never in his wildest dreams thought that that day would be his last.

His last to participate in track and field. His last to hug his parents and tell them he loved them. His last day to joke around with his peers. His last day to look to Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins.

Admittedly, I don’t know this young man or his family. I don’t know if he was part of a loving functioning family or not. I don’t know if he professed faith in Christ. What I do know however, is that EVERYBODY NEEDS THAT FORGIVENESS!

Our youth is a time when we think we are invincible; a time when getting old and dying are the last things on our minds. In some ways this is normal, even right. But take notice to the counsel we receive from scripture.

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Our children desperately need us to teach them about Jesus and His Word. They need godly examples to follow in a culture that is one of perversion and death. A culture that’s primary purpose seems to be to entertain us right into hell!

It’s challenging enough for us older folk. Imagine what it must be like for our children.

Today it’s a new day. You feel great, even blessed, but you are not guaranteed to make it through. Neither are our children! Have you been instructing them in the things of God, their creator? Have you shared the gospel with them?

Today just might be the last chance you have.

My reading suggestions

I thought it might be helpful to give you some reading ideas for the new year that may help expand your bible knowledge and foster a greater application of the truths taught. So, here are some of my recommendations:

Relating to the Doctrine of God:

  1. J.I. Packer; knowing God (A classic)
  2. Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God (one of my favorites, very helpful).

Relating to the Inspiration of the Scriptures:

  1. Edward J. Young; Thy Word is truth (very readable)
  2. Theodore Engelder; Scripture cannot be broken

Relating to Divine Providence:

  1. Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal predestination of God and the secret providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole

Relating to the incarnation:

  1. Calvin’s Institutes are a great go-to for an overview of theology. In this case Book 2 chapters 12-14.

Relating to Justification:

  1. Charles Hodge; Justification by faith alone
  2. R.C. Sproul; Faith Alone: The evangelical doctrine of justification.

Relating to the Gospels:

  1. Tom Weaver; The Gospel Dilemma (helps to explain the transitional nature of the NT).

Hopefully, you find these suggestions helpful. Happy reading!

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”

The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). 

Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.

Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!

God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).

Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).

The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children

BUMPER STICKER THEOLOGY

While shopping online for some Christmas gifts these past few days, I had come across many quaint and quippy slogans or mantras that have been pasted on everything from pens to cars. You know what I mean, you have been seeing these things in your holiday shopping as well. And it’s not just something new that retailers are doing this year, they have been doing it for as long as I can remember.

Some of these slogans are cute or funny. Some are true, some false; some political, some apolitical. Some are religious and therefore deserve a bit more scrutiny than the others because they invoke scripture in many cases. So, I began looking at these slogans with a more biblical focus, rather than entertaining eyes and here are a few that unnerved me the most.

NUMBER 1

This is a play off of the ”got milk” slogan from a few years back. This one makes me twitch because RELIGION never saved anybody! Untold millions of people ”got religion” of one stripe or another, and they are going to hell. Why, because they don’t have Jesus Christ! A better sign would be ”IN Christ?”

Number 2

This one just makes it appear that Christians may not be able to come all the way and love like Christ Jesus loves. That forgiveness with Christ is possible but perhaps not with us! This sticker fails in portraying the ”love your neighbor as yourself” teaching of scripture.

NUMBER 3

Need I say anything? Try Jesus? Like we try different food items? Like we try out various sports? Try Him out like we would the millions of self-help theologies out there? The bible says: ”Look unto me and be saved.” ”That whosoever believeth in me.” ”repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

We do not try Jesus out to see if He fits our choosing. We humble ourselves under His mighty hand so thankful HE CHOSE US!

NUMBER 4

This one is a play off of the Coke logo. Just what does it mean that enjoying Jesus Christ relieves thirst? I have been In Christ for 30 years and I have been thirsty everyday of my life! Spiritually speaking the statement is more confusing. ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Do I believe the bible or the bumper sticker? Just joking, the Bible always!

NUMBER 5

This one appears to be using the Christmas story, and in particular, the wise men from the east who arrived in Jerusalem looking for the ”King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). The problem that should be obvious with this sticker is that the Bible tells us that ”there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:11).

Paul is speaking about sin fallen human beings lefts to themselves and without divine intervention. I do not think the writer of this bumper sticker had that in mind!

These are a few that irked me more than most. Perhaps you have some you would like to share, I would be happy to hear from you.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas.

FAVORITISM

 (James 2:1-13)

Vending machines have come a long way since we were kids. It used to be you slid in a couple of coins and pulled a lever, and down would drop your snack or drink. Now there are lights, levers, cranes, codes, and chutes that make the purchase a production of its own. But one of the greatest advances in vending machine technology was the ability of the machine to accept bills rather than just coins. Especially as prices increased, it came as a relief not having to search the car seats for that extra quarter – now you just slide in a dollar bill or two, and you’re ready to snack. That is unless your dollar bill is rejected!

What a terrible feeling. You watch your dollar get sucked into the machine, and then it spits it back at you. You check the little picture to make sure George’s head is facing the right way and try again. If you’re rejected again, you do that little ritual that you saw some other guy do – you take the bill and rub it on a corner, trying to take out any possible crease in the bill. You unfold any turned-up corners and hope you’re bill is good enough. If you still find your bill rejected, you’re now ready to take the machine on – that’s why they put those machines behind metal bars!! “What’s the deal,” you think. A dollar is a dollar, after all, (whether) it’s fresh out of the mint or if it’s been folded, wadded, washed, and taped. Why should this machine accept a good-looking bill but reject an old, worn-out one? A clean, fresh bill is of no more value than a worn-out one.

As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are so much like those dastardly vending machines. We tend to be more accepting of people who have it all together and tend to be less-than-accepting of people who have been folded,

wadded, washed, and taped. People who have been through the ringer often find themselves spit out by many of us who prefer to accept only the pristine.

So, let us take a good hard look at this portion of scripture today, this section in James that speaks on this topic and let it remind us as well as encourage us to be set apart through our Christ-like character, and our biblical beliefs—all of which should drive us toward those who need Christ, regardless of skin color, economic status, or political beliefs.

My brothers and sisters, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.For if a man comes into your [a]assembly with a gold ring and is dressed in bright clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in, and you [b]pay special attention to the one who is wearing the bright clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil [c]motives?

FOCUS ONE: The exhortation and clear illustration

In verses 19-27 of the previous chapter, James shows the importance of putting spiritual truth into practice. He speaks of “hearing” the Word and then urges his readers to be “doers” of the Word (22). What he so simply and yet profoundly shows us is that “real” hearing involves “doing.”

So those verses 19-27 show us the importance of putting spiritual truth into practice, especially regarding our tongue and those less fortunate. James begins his discussion on favoritism by using a “prohibition.” He says, “hold not the faith of our Lord with respect of people (favoritism). It is a present tense imperative in Greek, which means that James is talking about a practice “already” in progress and is commanding them to stop it! We can see that they were guilty of doing this by looking at verse 6.

Do you see the point that James is getting at? Look again at verse 1 and then 5-6. The fact is—-partiality or favoritism is a contradiction to the faith. It is inconsistent with faith.

Now let’s take that truth further and study the illustration James uses in verses 2-4. 5-6 tell us who God has chosen! There are many ways in which we can display favoritism. 

1. By treating one person more favorably than others ex. Genesis 37:3—Jacob loved Joseph more than all his

children.

2. By not giving equal justice under the law (Exodus. 23:3)

3. By church leaders not applying sound doctrine impartially within their sphere of influence—ex. 1 Timothy’s admonition to leaders.

4. By allowing perceived wealth or lack thereof to influence us—this example is right here in our text.

All of these have at least one thing in common: our tendency to form judgments based on selfish, personal criteria rather than seeing others as God sees them.

Read verses 2-4 again.

Two men enter your church in their day synagogue: the first one, a man of wealth. The second was a shabbily dressed dirty man, probably a beggar.

You show the rich man special attention, lead him to the front row in the church, you tell him it is such an honor for you to have him present with you. However, the other guy is quickly and bluntly told to stand against the wall in an un-obvious place. Or sit on the floor somewhere out of the way—what a stark contrast in behavior we witness here. James then brings it all home in verse 4. He assumes that his readers will understand what he is saying and agree with his conclusion. “Have you not discriminated (shown favoritism)? You Have become “judges with evil thoughts.”

In other words, when they so judged between these men based on perceived status, they became unjust judges. They, in effect, were working against the Lord who, Peter said in Acts 10:34, “of a truth I perceive that God is NO respecter of persons.”

It is the same for us. When we so judge others, we become unjust judges and work against the very Gospel we profess to love. How might you be showing favoritism in your home, church, workplace, school today?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: did God not choose the poor [a]of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and [b]personally drag you into [c]court? Do they not blaspheme the good name [d]by which you have been called?

If, however, you are fulfilling the [e]royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators. 10 For whoever keeps the whole Law, yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do murder, you have become a violator of the Law

FOCUS TWO: The error in judgment 2:5-11

James advances two arguments against the practice of favoritism

1. The social argument (5-7)

2. The moral argument (9-11)

Notice the tone of James in verse 5. He loves these people and wants them to understand their errors and the seriousness of it.

How was the early church formed? From the wealthy or ruling classes? Not hardly! It was primarily made up of poorer people. Poor in the eyes of the world, that is. We see it in the gospels (Matthew . 11:5); Paul implies it (1 Corinthians . 1:26-29), and James declares it right here in our text.

Wow, reread verse 5. But they are not r-e-a-l-l-y poor, are they? They are RICH in faith and heirs of the kingdom! Don’t misunderstand James here. He is not saying that all poor people are rich in faith, and he does not exclude the rich from being in the heavenly roll of the redeemed. God does not show favoritism in His redemption, and THAT IS THE POINT! Neither should we practice favoritism.

They were despising the very ones God had chosen (6). They were acting foolishly because the very ones that were oppressing them, the very ones that were taking them to court, the same people were even blaspheming the very name by which they were called “Christian” (Christ-follower). And they were holding them up in esteem over the poorer brother whom God called unto Himself! This leads us to the moral argument.

James now reflects them to the “royal law.” What is that? Is it a law different than the Mosaic law? Is it a law from some king that they must follow?

The answer is found in the same verse (8). The commandment James uses here (love your neighbor as yourself) is the second table of the Ten Commandments given back in Exodus 20. It is “Royal” not simply because it is lofty, but because it is the supreme law by which all others are subordinate! We find Jesus Himself stating this in Matthew 22:35-40. He said that on these two commandments (love for God, Love for others), “hang” all of the law and the prophets).

James point here is that even if you fulfill the Royal law and love your neighbors like yourself, you are doing right. Yet, if you show favoritism, you have violated this law and stand convicted as a transgressor of the Royal law and, it does not get any better, in that you offended the law in that one place, you are guilty of offending ALL of it (10).

Brothers and sisters, is there any place in your hearts, in your lives, where you may be practicing this very sin? At home between your children? At work? In your friendships? The right course of action is to show favor to e-v-e-r-y-o- n-e, whether rich or poor, beautiful or not. 

True gospel love, Christ-like love, overlooks such superficial distinctions and shows kindness to a person despite any distasteful qualities that person may have.

Question: Why is it so difficult for us at times to treat others with mercy?

11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do murder, you have become a violator of the Law. 12 So speak, and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy [a]triumphs over judgment.

FOCUS THREE: The warning (2:11-13)

James continues his explanation by explaining the “unity of the law.” Simply put, God’s law has many facets to it, but it is essentially one! (11) Violating His law at one point is more than just violating “a command.” It is to violate the will of God and to contradict His character and nature. When we view it from God’s perspective, an act of favoritism is far from being insignificant!

Verse 12—”so speak and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of Liberty.”

James warns his readers to remember that they will be judged one day for everything done in the body, whether good or bad. This judgment will take place at the (bema) judgment seat of Christ. We read about that in 2 Corinthians. 5:10.

Yes, indeed, believers are no longer under condemnation (Rom. 8:1), but that verse states that we still have accountability before God for the things we have done in the body. Paul explained this in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Jesus, Himself stated the basic principle being brought out in verse 13 in Matthew 18:33.

These people, as recipients of mercy, should be merciful. You and I, as recipients of mercy, should be merciful!

Dear Christian, as one commentator put’s it: “the presence of love (mercy) shows that God has performed a work of grace in our hearts, making us like Christ, as a result, we can have confidence before Him when we are judged.”

Conclusion:

The way we show our faith in Christ is in obedience to His commands, heralding MERCY over judgment because God has shown mercy to us through Jesus Christ.

Faith and its substance

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

Scripture reference ( Hebrews 11:1-6)

Illustration: Imagine for a moment you are standing on the seashore, gazing at a large ocean liner. The sun is shining, there is no wind and the sea is calm. Suddenly, to your amazement, about 30 people dive off the end of the ship and cling to a lifeboat.

You shake your head in disbelief at their foolishness. Then, without warning, that great ocean-liner strikes an iceberg and suddenly sinks, taking with it all on board.

Those who looked like fools in abandoning the ship were actually wise, and those who seemed wise by staying on board, were in truth, fools!

We don’t have to have to much perception to see that this great ocean liner, mother earth, is slowly sinking. Economically, politically, and industrially, she is reeling to and fro. We have enough major problems to sink a ship—inflation, unemployment, starvation, violence, corruption, population explosion, drug addiction, etc.

The first words from the “captain of our salvation” in Mark 1:15 are to abandon ship (repent and believe the gospel), before judgement falls. In that day, those who have obeyed His word (exercised faith) will be seen by the world to be wise, and those who refused to obey the command will —sadly—–but surely—- perish.

11 Now faith is the certainty of things [a]hoped for, a [b]proof of things not seen. For by it the people of old [c]gained approval.

By faith we understand that the [d]world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he was attested to be righteous, God testifying [e]about his gifts, and through [f]faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for before he was taken up, he was attested to have been pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.

Those words in Hebrews tell us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for. The conviction of things not seen. They tell us it is impossible to please God or be saved by God without faith. Faith it seems, is very important, not just in this life, but the one to come. So, let’s take some time and look into what the word of God says about faith and how it applies to us.

FOCUS ONE: The nature of faith 

 Genesis 15:1-6 (Abraham and the promise)

Almost ten years had passed since the original promises were given. Neither Lot his nephew nor Eliezer his steward could fulfill the promise. Who then is going to be his heir? That’s the 50 million dollar question on Abrams mind.

Questions abound, but here we see God graciously revealing Himself as the Lord of the covenant. God, more explicitly, makes the promise clearer to Abram. The heir would be his very own son who was yet to be born. Greater than that the Lord tells him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. God reaffirms His oath to Abram and Abram believed! His faith, we read, was “accounted to him as righteousness,” that is, a God righteousness, not a works righteousness.

Abraham exercised great faith, and that is amazing considering the lack of evidence for those promises being fulfilled. So, it appears that there is a vital difference between knowledge and faith, so, lets explore that a bit further.

FOCUS TWO: Hebrews 11:1-3 (faith the substance)

Here we can quickly gauge that there is a difference between (knowledge) and (faith). Knowledge is based on experience while faith is based on testimony. We exercise faith ever day in our society. For example, a check is accepted by faith (the issuer promised that he has the money in his account). one commentator explains: “Gospel faith rises above this everyday type of faith in one major essential: belief in the divine testimony. We have never seen God, heaven, angels, etc. The divine word, however, testifies to their existence. FAITH takes this divine testimony and acts upon it. Faith appropriates all the promises of God and proceeds on the basis of those promises. Faith gives substance to things that are not yet seen. By faith we apprehend the presently invisible and gain greater assurance of its reality.”Faith is taking almighty God at His word, asking no questions. That is what Abraham did and that is what all these people in the hall of faith recorded here did!

But faith also has many benefits.

  1. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (Blessings of)

These words remind me of Psalm one, they are almost identical. Here as in Psalm one the writer is describing the blessedness which comes to the person who trusts in the Lord. The basic idea here in a life of faith is stability (like a tree planted).

“The tree that has found a source of sustenance by putting down deep roots also yields its fruit in season, even though drought surrounds it. The roots of the life of the blessed man are found in God, in whom is his trust. Such a life, such faith, produces holiness and righteous deeds.”

  • Philippians 1:6 (God will complete what He started)

Another wonderful benefit and great encouragement is found in these words. God is the originator of our faith in Him, He is also the completer of this walk of faith (cr. Rom. 8:28-30). But faith in check writers or governments no matter how trustworthy, can never save us from our sins. That is why:

3. John 20:27-31 (Faith in Jesus is essential)

Thomas struggled with believing the Lord rose again. He did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples and he made the statement that he would not believe unless he could See His hands and place his finger in them(look at verse 25).

8 days later the Lord appears again and Thomas is with them. The Lord gives him the opportunity to “touch and see,” but he doesn’t, he cries out “my Lord and my God.” Please take notice to what Jesus says in verse 29. “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Faith in the word of God saves. And that is even more blessed, according to Jesus, for those who do not have the opportunity to touch Him and walk with Him!

God’s word tells us how to be right with Him. It tells us how we can be forgiven and reconciled to Him. One place we see this is in John 3:16-18, 36:

God so loved the world

He gave His only Son

The one believing

Should not perish BUT have everlasting life!!

The one who believes (trusts in His promise) is born again, forgiven, justified.

The one who does not trust in His promise will not be forgiven or justified and will suffer the wrath of God for all eternity. I hope each one of us here today are trusting in His promise of salvation through Christ Jesus.

If you could imagine a place on earth that never saw the sun. Day in, day out, it is covered with a thick cloud. From the time a person was born, until the time he died, he never saw even a tiny glimpse of the sun.

Now, suppose you visited this place and tried to convince the inhabitants of the reality, beauty, and power of the sun. “where I come from,” you say, “a huge yellow ball rises up over the sea each day and floats across the sky, no strings attached, giving warmth and light to those upon the earth.”

“The reason you don’t experience it, is because you are cut off from it by the clouds.”

Although the thought may seem fantastic to those people, the fact that they don’t believe in it, does not change the reality that it exists.

Friends, each of us are born separated from the reality of God’s love by our sins. The cloud of sin cuts us off from the warmth and light of God’s love. The love of the unseen God may seem somewhat unbelievable to us, nevertheless, it is a reality.

Let us look to Christ who saves us by faith Let us walk in this life by faith not sight And one day our faith will be made sight!

Illustrations by Ray comfort

THE POWER OF GOD TO CHANGE LIVES!

EXTENDED READING: MARK 1:21-28

DEVOTIONAL READING: VERSES 27–28

27 And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.

During Christ’s earthly ministry He not only taught the people about God, their creator, sustainer, and savior, He also displayed the power of God in His many miracles and healings that He performed. This scripture displays one such time in the life of Christ when He and His disciples walked into a town known as Capernaum.

His teaching had authority behind it, unlike that of the Scribes and Pharisees. His authority extended into the realm of healing people from various diseases and demon possessions, as is testified to hear by Mark. The audience was amazed at what had just taken place, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit inside the synagogue, was freed from his bondage by Jesus Christ!

God’s power to change lives was on display then and is still active today! If this Jesus has the power to cast out demons, how much more able is He to free us of our bondage, our sins that so easily entangle us? 

John”s testimony was : “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Will you look to Him today and have have your sins forgiven?

PRAYER: Father, I pray for anyone reading this devotional that does not know Jesus and has not yet received His saving grace. Please draw them to yourself, grant them repentant faith and new life in Christ. Help them understand that you are able to remove the bondage of sin that they are under and replace it with thy righteousness thru Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Amen

THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT (CHRIST!)

PHILIPPIANS 4:10-23

BRIEF INTRO: At the beginning of this letter to the Philippians, the apostle had written about their “participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). He acknowledged that they consistently cared for, prayed for, and participated with him as much as they could over the years regarding the gospel ministry. In the verses that we will be looking at in this study, the apostle again picks up on that theme, if you will, and expresses his great joy at their “revived concern” for him.

I have broken down this section of our text into three parts: The value of giving, The importance of learning, and then conclude our study with the benediction. I will be looking at this section like a sandwich: The bread is about Christian giving from the top and bottom of verses 10-19. The filler will then be what we learn in verses 11-13. Let’s begin! Are you ready?

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now, at last, you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked an opportunity to act.

14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my difficulty.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the [a]first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek the [b]profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am [c]amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus [d]what you have sent, [e]a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

FOCUS ONE: The value in Christian giving (4:10, 14-18)

Paul now reveals to these believers the great joy he experienced when their messenger, their “missionary” to him, arrived with all their varied gifts and supplies that Epaphroditus brought. This incredible act of benevolence towards him and subsequently to Christ (v.18) was a cause of joy to his soul.

He says that this was a “revived concern” for him. He means that those circumstances, perhaps many and varied, kept them from sharing with him what they wanted to for some time. Take notice that this lapse of support was not intentional on their part, rather than they “lacked opportunity.” Whatever hindered them from showing their concern for him has now apparently been removed, and with great joy in their hearts and renewed vigor, they send one of their own, one whom they love dearly, Epaphroditus, to minister to Paul. This is not a rebuke but a recognition of their faithful care and concern for him.

Paul reminds them of several things regarding their ministry to him: First, they were the only church that shared with him at the beginning of his preaching the gospel (v.15). Perhaps some were unable, maybe he was duly supplied and not in any immediate need, maybe some were able but didn’t meet his needs at times as 2 Corinthians 11:9 seems to suggest (The Macedonians referred to are the Philippians Acts 16:12)!

But these folks faithfully sent gifts towards the apostles’ needs (v.16). Their giving was abundant and well-pleasing to Paul and God, whom they ultimately serve (v.18). Please don’t be thinking that Paul was only in it for what he could get from these churches, not at all. He was a humble, faithful, selfless servant who thought MORE about the benefit their giving would be to them than he did of any help it would be to himself. 

Paul was not looking for any more from them. He felt that he had received everything from them possible and was “made full,” or amply supplied (v.18). their generosity was above and beyond what he could have asked for, and he was delighted with their sacrificial giving as a church on his behalf as an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

“Paul looked beyond the most recent gift (vv. 10,14,18). He indicates that such gifts are spiritual investments that pay eternal dividends” (v.17). With much joy in his heart and thanksgiving on his lips, Paul encourages this church by telling them, “what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well- pleasing to God” (v.18).

Paul uses this type of OT phraseology elsewhere in His writings. In Ephesians 5:2, he used it in speaking of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We see this as well in Leviticus about an offering that pleased God. It seems that he wanted to express to them his great praise and acceptance of their gifts and sacrifices on his behalf. Our great God is ultimately the One who meets the needs of His children. He uses other people at times to be His hands and feet, but ultimately, He is “the giver of every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). He is the One who provides for our needs “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (James 1:19)! God indeed used this church to meet someone else’s needs, and He will do the same for them (v.19).

There is a wellspring of application here:

  1. Our hearts challenge us as it applies to our giving. 
  2. Are we giving to “the cause of the gospel” as we should?
  3. Are we consistent at it?
  4. Are we sacrificially investing ourselves in those who sacrificially give of themselves in gospel work (missionaries)?
  5. Are we trusting God to supply all our needs as we give to other’s needs?

I admit that these questions challenge me; how about you? Perhaps we need to be in prayer over these things. Maybe it is time for “a revived concern” on our part. I will be praying with you.

We will continue with this study next week.

FINALLY, BRETHREN

PHILIPPIANS 4:8-10

BRIEF INTRO: Now that Paul has addressed the issue of disunity within this local church and especially the two women at its heart, He signals that he is coming to an end of his writing. Yes, he appeared to signal this before (3:1), but with approximately (according to one commentator) 40% of his letter yet to come, it seems logical to deduce that he does not mean to signal “finality,” but rather is using the term in the sense of “furthermore,” or “adding to that.” In our text, he is using the exact Greek phrase to signal the true final words of his epistle to them.

In our previous study, we observed the apostle exhorting this church (Rejoice, be anxious for nothing, and make known, are all in the imperative – commands) to practice specific positive biblical virtues. Today, in our study, he continues with this appeal by directing them to the things their minds should be dwelling on. Paul desires that these Christians “keep on thinking and doing what is morally and spiritually excellent.” This involves meditating on such higher and nobler things and then putting them into practice. And, as we will observe again, they are encouraged to follow his example.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

FOCUS ONE: In these verses, we find six adjectives that are to lead Christians into a higher, more reflective sense of thinking, introduced by the word whatever. Some view these things as “old-fashioned ideas,” while others view them as a “Charter for Christian Thought.” Either way, Paul is reminding them AND us “that careful, logical, and noble thinking produces noble living; high thinking produces high living; and holy thinking produces holy living,” as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Such things were exemplified in Jesus Christ (2:5-11) and are produced within us by the working of the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer.

So, let’s put them in order, and I will give a brief definition of each that I hope will help us grasp the greater sense of each and help us engage the obvious battle for the mind that such thinking elicits (Hebrews 5:16-26).

We are to dwell on:

  1. Whatever is true
  2. Whatever is honorable
  3. Whatever is right
  4. Whatever is pure
  5. Whatever is lovely or lovable
  6. Whatever is good repute or attractive

We should notice that Paul changes the sentence structure to conditional clauses at the end of the verse (if there), so those things are not included in this list but will be discussed later.

Truth is reality, in it is a sense of validity, reliability and is the opposite of what is not. It exemplifies God’s character and should characterize the Christian as well. Honorable is dignified, worthy of reverence, and seems to combine a sense of gravity with dignity. Paul used this word in his pastoral epistles, referring to the qualifications of a church leader.

Right refers to what is upright, conforming to God’s standards, and worthy of His approval.

Pure emphasizes moral purity, that which, in KJV language, is “unsullied.”

Lovely is used in the sense of what is pleasing, agreeable, or amiable. Not to be confused with what is pleasing to the flesh, but the Spirit!

Good repute directs us to what is praiseworthy and rings true to the highest standards—God’s standards, not ours or our cultures.

Some people become discouraged when they read things as we have in this epistle. “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ” (2:5).” “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). And, “let your mind dwell on these things” (4:8). But we shouldn’t because, in all these exhortations to Christ-like-ness, God is actively working within us to conform us into the image of His Son (1:6; 2:13; 4:7,9)!

FOCUS TWO: Paul has changed his sentence structure at the end of verse eight to conditional clauses (if there), “A rhetorical device that forces the reader to exercise his own discernment and choose what is excellent and praiseworthy.” It appears that the apostle would have these believers, and us secondarily, focus our minds on these things because when we do, we will be living in obedience to Gods Word, we will be walking in unity, and we will “appear as lights in the world” (2:15)!

Dear reader, these are things that should occupy our minds. These are things that occupy our Lord’s mind. How can we grow in holiness, serve one another, be effective witnesses for Christ, or have intimate, powerful prayer lives if we allow our minds to be engrossed with things that are opposed to the things the inspired Word of God teaches us? 

We often struggle with applying the knowledge we acquire, so our loving Heavenly Father provides us godly examples to imitate (3:17; 4:9). No, we are not to imitate men who walk in the flesh, but we are graciously encouraged to emulate those whose lives are imitations of Christ! Such people exhibit the application of such truths in their daily walk, which, in turn, helps us visualize what conformity to God’s word looks like when it is fleshed out.

As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

FOCUS THREE: Paul had become their teacher shortly after his arrival in Philippi (Acts 16). What they had learned, what they had observed in his life, took place in the short period he was with them (Acts 16:40), and he wanted them to continue practicing these things. 

He uses four verbs that are formed into two pairs (Exegetical Commentary). The first pair, “learned” and “received,” describes the Philippian’s instruction by Paul. He is the person who taught them Christian doctrine and Christian living. The next pair, “heard” and “saw,” depicts their personal observation of the apostle – both his speech and his conduct.

In my meditation on these things, it became clear to me just how much we need both. As Christians, we can’t lead balanced lives if we only have one avenue of personal growth absent of the other. Preaching and teaching are essential, but if it is lacking any application to my daily life, to my walk of faith, it will serve to wound me more than aid me. Let me explain my thinking: I can fill my head with all kinds of bible facts, doctrine, and theology, but if that “knowledge” sits in my head, if I don’t know what it is supposed to look like in applying it in my life, or I’m not encouraged by observing it in others, what use is it to me? 

Real-life illustration: Many years ago, I was a member of a small local church in my hometown. I was a member there for many years and also preached and taught there often. I often overheard a few gentlemen express their disgust at the topic the pastor would be preaching or teaching on that Sunday. Many times I would hear one or the other say: “Why doesn’t he teach on Romans 7 and 8 or Hebrews 5,” I already know all about 1 Corinthians 13.”

Do you see the problem? What good was the “knowledge” about Christian love to them? I observed their rudeness, pride, and self-focus all too often while I was there. They didn’t need more knowledge; they needed to apply what they knew in their own lives and relationships with others.

Paul lived what he preached. His life spoke more eloquently than his lips, I read somewhere. Life examples like that are models that we can follow, confidently trusting that “the God of peace will be with you!”

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY

In speaking of a person’s faults,
Pray don’t forget your own;
Remember those with homes of glass
should seldom throw a stone;
If we have nothing else to do,
But talk of those who sin,
‘Tis better we commence at home,
And from that point begin.

We have no right to judge a man
Until he’s fairly tried;
Should we not like his company,
We know the world is wide;
Some may have faults – and who has not?
The old as well as the young –
Perhaps we may, for aught we know,
Have fifty to their one.

I’ll tell you of a better plan,
You’ll find it works full well;
To try my own defects to cure
before of others’ tell;
And though sometimes I hope to be
No worse than some I know,
My own shortcomings bid me let
The faults of others go.

Then let us all, when we commence
To surrender friend or foe,
Think of the harm one word would do
To those we little know;
Remember, curses, sometimes, like
Our chickens, “roost at home,”
Don’t speak of others’ faults until We have none of our own.

James J. Boucher