Grace to Help

Sunday, July 31, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (ESV).

Hold Fast (4:14-16)

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Life is difficult, at times, and for some of us more than others. We face temptations and/or persecutions. We get discouraged or disheartened. We get hurt by others. We feel lonely, unappreciated and/or rejected. We experience difficulties and hardships, and we lack understanding as to why all these things are happening to us and/or what we are supposed to do about them. People we love betray us and forsake us. People misunderstand us and judge us falsely. Those who don’t like us may even willfully try to destroy us and our reputations, or they may try to trip us up so that they can discredit us and our ministry.

So, why do all these types of things happen to us? And, how are we supposed to respond to such difficulties as these? We read in the Bible, God’s Holy Word:

God “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11). “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (See: 1 Co. 11:27-31). “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer… Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Co. 1:6, 9). “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4).

And, we read: “… so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know” (1 Thess. 3:3-4). “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Ro. 5:3-5).

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14). And, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 1:6-7

So, sometimes we are disciplined by God because we fail ourselves to examine our own hearts, and to repent of any known sins, and sometimes it is so he may make us holy and mold us into the image of Christ. We also go through difficulties and trials to mature us in our faith, to teach us perseverance, and to develop within us steadfastness; to train us to rely on God and not on ourselves, and so that we may learn to be compassionate and to comfort others with the comfort we received from God in our suffering. So, when we go through these trials we need to listen to our Lord speak his words to our hearts, we need to learn what it is he is trying to teach us, and we need to allow him to change in our hearts what needs to be changed. He knows our weaknesses, he sympathizes with us, and he is there to help us through our times of trial if we will let him. Trust now in his sovereignty.

Appointed by God (5:1-6)

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

In Old Testament times, and before Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, the people of God had human priests who served as mediators between the people and God, and who made sacrifices for sins, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. Yet, when Jesus died on the cross, the veil that stood between us and the Holy of Holies was torn in two, thus opening the way for all of those who put their faith in Jesus Christ to go directly to God. Through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, he became not only our sacrificial Lamb whose blood was shed for our sins, but he was also the high priest who made the sacrifice for our sins. Now he is our only high priest, i.e. he is our only mediator between us and God the Father. And, now we are “to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

Learned Obedience (5:7-10)

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus Christ, when he walked the face of this earth, was fully God yet fully man. He suffered like we suffer and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. And, yet, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and God heard his prayers because of his reverence. When it was time for Jesus to go to the cross, he cried out to the Father and he asked him, if it was God’s will that this cup of suffering, which he was about to undergo, could pass from him, that it would be so. And, yet, he submitted to the Father’s will, for he wanted the Father’s will to be done. And, having accomplished and completed, through his suffering, the purpose for which God had sent him to the earth, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. He died on the cross. Even though he knew no sin, he became sin for us so that when he died our sins died with him.

That just blows me away, i.e. it astounds me that Jesus, God the Son, should have to learn obedience, and that he should have to go through suffering in order that he might become the source of our eternal salvation, but that was the Father’s plan for him. And, it is the Father’s plan for us that we go through suffering so that we learn obedience, and so we submit to the Father’s will for our lives, and in order that we might complete the assignments God has given to us, i.e. that we might fulfill the purposes for which we were created by God. It was the Father’s will that Jesus be crucified on a cross in death to sin, and be resurrected back to life so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). The Father did not rescue Jesus from death, because that was for our salvation. We also must die to sin and walk in the Spirit if we want to have eternal life with God.

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.

Entering His Rest

Friday, July 29, 2016, 7:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Full Release.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 4:1-13 (ESV).

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

United by Faith

The Israelites of the Old Testament had been miraculously delivered by God out of slavery in Egypt. Then, they spent 40 years in the wilderness, largely due to their continual rebellion against God, I believe. After that they were led by Joshua into the Promised Land, though not all of them. In fact, only a small percentage of them made it into the Promised Land, which was a prefiguring of our eternal rest with God. The reason the people did not enter the Promised Land was because of their unbelief and their disobedience to God. They were not united in faith with those who did believe, i.e. with Joshua and Caleb.

So, a warning is given here to all within the gathering of those who proclaim to know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. We are being cautioned to make certain that we have responded to the good news of the gospel of our salvation with genuine faith. Faith has been defined here in the book of Hebrews as obedience to God, not having sinful and unbelieving hearts that turn away from God, not hardening our hearts through sin’s deceitfulness against the things of God and his will for our lives, and holding firmly to the hope and the faith we profess with the confidence we had when we first believed, and to do this to the end.

But, is that consistent with the whole of the New Testament? Yes, it is! Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). Paul reiterated what Jesus said when he stated that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (walk) according to the Spirit. He said that if we walk according to the flesh we will die (in our sins without Christ), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (eternally with Christ) (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God but we walk in darkness (live sinful lifestyles) that we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). In other words, true belief in Jesus results in a transformed life of the Spirit of God.

His Rest

So, what does it mean to enter his rest? The “rest” being spoken of here is our eternal rest, which is our eternal life with God, i.e. our salvation, yet it is also a promise of our future home with God in heaven. The striving spoken of here to enter that rest is not works-based salvation, though, for this rest involves cessation from works. So, what does this all mean?

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we surrender our lives to Christ, and the Holy Spirit transforms us away from sin to walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. Our lives are no longer our own for we were bought back for God (redeemed) by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins. Now we are filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God to live holy lives, pleasing to God. We rest in Christ, trust in his love, yield to his sovereignty, believe in his promises, and we hold fast to the hope of our future home in heaven with God. There we will be completely at rest, for we will no longer be in these flesh bodies. We will be free from temptation to sin, and free from pain and suffering, which will be glorious. Amen!

How do we enter his rest? We who have believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives enter that rest. Believing in Jesus Christ is also equated with obedience to our Lord, not in sinless perfection, but in a consistent walk of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit living within us. Disobedience keeps us from entering his rest. Yet, this is not works-based salvation. This is not about us trying to earn or to deserve our own salvation via good works. This is about trusting in our Lord, resting in him, surrendering our lives to him, and submitting to his will for our lives and to his teachings, that we may not just be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word. When we genuinely believe in Jesus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Ro. 6:1-23).

The Word of God

God has given us his Word to speak his truths to our hearts so that we might obey what he teaches us. Many study the Word of God for head knowledge or for intellectual stimulation or in order to win arguments with people. But, the Word is not for those purposes. In other words, it is not what we know that matters, but what we do with what we know. Wisdom is applied knowledge. If we don’t apply to our lives what we have learned, what good is all that knowledge? Not much! So, we read and study the Word of God not just so we know what it says but so we DO what it says.

We are also given the Word of God to convict us of sin and to direct us in the path we are to follow. The Word of God cuts right to our hearts, it exposes wrong attitudes and actions, and it reminds us of the right way. If we don’t follow what it teaches us, we quench the Spirit of God and we sear our consciences and pretty soon we don’t even hear the Spirit of God speaking to our hearts anymore. Many people, even many who call themselves Christians, ignore God’s Word or they block it out from their minds or excuse it away so that they don’t feel guilty when they are doing what they know is wrong. Yet, ignoring God and his Word does not mean we are free from guilt. God’s Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We can’t hide from God, although we may fool humans.

One day we are all going to stand before Almighty God and we will have to give an account for what we did with Jesus and with the gospel of our salvation and with the Word given to us. Many will say on that day that they did this or that in his name or for his sake, but he is going to say to them, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” And, it is because they did not combine what they heard with genuine faith, which includes repentance, obedience, surrender and submission to Christ and his teachings and to the cross of Christ in our lives.

Full Release / An Original Work / April 15, 2012

Walking daily with my Savior
brings me joy.
Loving Father; precious Jesus;
He’s my Savior and my Lord.
Gently leads me; follow Him.
I’ve invited Him within.
Now abiding in His presence,
oh, what peace.
From my self-life
He has brought me,
By His mercy, full release.

Hope and comfort,
peace and safety Jesus brings
When I daily bow before Him;
Obey freely; do His will.
Follow Him where’er He leads.
Listen to Him; His words heed.
Now obeying his words fully,
oh, what love
That He gives me
through salvation,
By His Spirit, from above.

Loving Father; precious Jesus,
He’s my friend.
With my Savior, by His Spirit,
I will endure to the end.
Share the gospel, tell what’s true.
Witness daily; His will do.
Tell the world of how their Savior
bled and died.
On a cruel cross He suffered
So that we might be alive.

Consider Jesus

Thursday, July 28, 2016, 6:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Me Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 3 (ESV).

His House (vv. 1-6)

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Jesus Christ is God the Son, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is also our creator and he is the sustainer of all things, which are also under his control. In other words, he is completely sovereign over all he has made. Yet, he left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on the form of a man, humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that when he died our sins died with him and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, our sins remained dead and buried, because he rose victorious over hell, Satan, death and sin on our behalf. Through faith in him, therefore, we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

In Old Testament times, and up until Jesus Christ died for our sins and was resurrected from the dead, God’s (the Lord’s) house was a physical temple with physical walls and rooms and doors. In the inner part of this temple, which was called the Holy of Holies, dwelt the Ark of the Covenant. God’s presence was within that ark. Only the priests could go into the presence of God, though. There was a thick veil that stood between the presence of God and the average person. Yet, when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that veil was torn in two. Jesus’ death had made the way for us, as sinful humans, to be restored to God and to be able to enter into his presence ourselves, through faith in Jesus Christ and in what he did for us in giving his life so we could be delivered from slavery to sin.

Now we, who are believers in Jesus Christ, are God’s house. He dwells within us by his Spirit. Yet, this belief in Jesus is not a one-time deal and then nothing happens until we go to heaven when we die. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him that he must deny self and take up his cross daily and follow Christ. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives (if we die with Christ to sin) we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). Paul said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (walk) according to the Spirit. He said that if we walk according to the flesh we will die (without Christ), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

In John 3:16 we read that whoever believes (is believing) in him has eternal life. We are not saved on the basis of past belief. The Word of God teaches that we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. And, it says that we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. True belief in Jesus Christ is continuous and it lasts until the end, although this passage would seem to indicate that holy brethren (brothers and sisters in Christ), who share in a heavenly calling, could harden their hearts, and that they could, indeed, fall away from the living God.

Exhort One Another (vv. 7-19)

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Again, this is being addressed to those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. This is not speaking to non-believers, as some might think. The example being given to them, as a warning to them, was of those who had been God’s chosen people, his children, and of their disobedience, and of their straying hearts, and how they were not able to enter into God’s eternal rest due to unbelief. And, the warning here is being given to Christians that they are to take care that they don’t follow the Jews’ example, and that they don’t be led to fall away from the living God. Remember what it says in Romans 11:21-22:

“For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

These are not my words, they are God’s words, and there are many more just like them:

“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (I Co 15:2).

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Co. 1:22-23a).

This goes right along with what Jesus said about those who would come after him (Lu. 9:23-25), and what Paul said about the righteous requirement of the law being fulfilled in those who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Ro. 8:1-14). And, it fits with John 3:16 where it says that those believing (present tense) in him have the hope of eternal life. In other words, we are not saved, then we live our lives however we want, and then we go to heaven when we die. Scripture teaches salvation as having a beginning, a middle and an end, and our salvation won’t be complete until Christ returns for his bride. It also teaches us that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). This is the reason for our salvation.

So, we are being encouraged and warned here against taking our salvation for granted, and against thinking we can just live however we want and that we can still have the hope of heaven when we die. Whether you believe he is speaking here to nominal (in name only) Christians or to real believers in Christ, or not, the result is still the same. A saved life is a changed life, transformed of the Spirit of God in death to sin and in living to righteousness. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness (according to the flesh), we are liars, for we are still dead in our sins, and we don’t have the hope of eternal life. We have to continue in genuine belief in Jesus Christ until the end, when he comes to take us home to be with him. And, genuine belief results in spiritual change that walks by faith, according to the Spirit, and no longer according to our sinful flesh.

Give Me Jesus
Oh, What Gladness!

An Original Work / December 2, 2013

Give me Jesus. He’s my Savior.
I’ll walk with Him in His favor.
I’ll abide in His love always;
Follow His ways to the end.

Jesus is the Son of God.
He died upon a cruel cross.
He’s forgiven all my failures
By His mercy and His love.

Give me Jesus – His compassion,
And His mercy; loving kindness.
Let Him teach me how to love Him,
And to please Him. He’s my friend.

Jesus died for all our sin
So we could have eternal life.
He will free you from your bondage
If you trust Him with your life.

Give me Jesus. Let me trust Him.
May I listen to His teachings.
May I follow where He leads me
In His service. He’s my Lord.

Jesus Christ will come again
To take His bride to be with Him.
Oh, what gladness; free from sadness
When I meet Him in the air.

“To My Account”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016, 3:03 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken Hearts.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philemon 1:1-20 (ESV).

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

The Story

The Lord Jesus is using this story this morning to talk with me about something that is presently going on in the world and in the church, so I am going to share what he is teaching me, and I hope it will help to encourage and to strengthen your hearts.

This is a story about a man, Onesimus, who was a slave to a slave owner, his master, Philemon. Onesimus, nonetheless, appears here to be a fugitive slave, one who had disobeyed and who had deserted his master. Yet, under the ministry of Paul, while Paul was in chains for the gospel, Onesimus believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of his life. Paul said of him that formerly he was useless to Philemon, probably because of his rebellion and desertion, but that now Onesimus was useful to both Paul and to Philemon because of his faith and his obedience to Christ and to the gospel.

So, Paul was sending Onesimus back to Philemon, and he asked him to receive him back, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He asked that Philemon would welcome Onesimus as he would welcome Paul. And, then Paul said something remarkable. He said, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”

Useless

So, this is what the Lord is teaching me this morning through this passage: In the Old Testament and until Jesus Christ died and was resurrected from the grave, the Jews were God’s chosen people. They were his servants and he was their master. Throughout various times in their history, though, they rebelled against God, their Lord and master, and they did what their flesh desired. They deserted their God who had nurtured them, cared for them, loved them, and had delivered them time and time again from their enemies. They wandered off to follow after the gods of this world, and they mixed their worship of the one true God with the worship of idols. So, they were useless to God because they had deserted him and had wandered off to go the way of the world and to follow after their own flesh.

Then, the Lord fast-forwarded me to today. After Jesus died and was resurrected from the grave he made the way possible for all of us to come to God and to be restored to him via faith in Jesus Christ. Whether Jew or Gentile by birth, he made us all one through faith in Jesus Christ. He delivered us out of bondage to sin and he rescued us from the control of Satan over our lives, and he became our owner-master and us his slaves-servants. Only those who have faith in Jesus Christ are now God’s children – the children of promise – and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven (See: Gal. 3-4).

Nonetheless, many of God’s children (bondservants) have deserted him, have disobeyed him, and have wandered off to follow after the gods of this world or are trying to mix their worship of the one true God with the worship of idols made by man. They are listening to humans instead of to God, and they are being persuaded to desert the Jesus of the Bible and the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles. Instead they are accepting and are embracing a diluted gospel message which tolerates sin, and preaches that we don’t have to repent of our sins and that we don’t have to obey Christ. They have replaced the teachings of scripture with man-made philosophies and marketing schemes, and many are buying into a message of “unity,” which is intended to lead us all to a one-world religion.

The Call

God has been calling out to his wayward children for some time now, just as he did with the Israelites of old, and he has been confronting them with their sins of adultery and idolatry, and has been calling them to come home to God, to repent of their sins, to reform their ways, and to follow Jesus Christ with their lives in faithful obedience and in surrender to God’s will and purposes for their lives. But, many who call themselves Christians, and who say they are followers of Christ, are not listening to God but are following their own stubborn ways, much like God’s children of old. So, God is sending divine discipline upon them in order to get them to repent of their sins, and to forsake their idols and their adulterated religious practices. He is calling them to repent of their rebellious ways and to submit to his Lordship over their lives.

I believe that much of the distress and unrest that we are seeing in the world today, including now in America, is God’s divine discipline against his wayward church in order to get them to repent and to return to their Lord and master. He is using people in positions of wealth and power in the world as his divine instruments of judgment to wreak havoc in our nations, who will then bring “order out of chaos” (the chaos they first created), only it is a one-world order with a one-world “unity” religion (See: Rev. 2-3; Rev. 13, et al).

Useful Now

In Jeremiah 31 there is a promise of restoration and renewal for the repentant, and there is a promise that God’s people will be revived spiritually. This promise was to encourage the hearts of those who had labored long and hard in being the Lord’s servants and witnesses in taking God’s messages to the people, and who had wept over the spiritual decline and rebellion of God’s children. I believe that same promise of restoration and revival applies to the wayward church today and is given to those who have labored long and hard in being the Lord’s servants and witnesses in the sharing of the gospel to the world and in the sharing of messages of repentance to the wayward church. I believe there is hope, and that through difficult times and the persecution of the church that we are going to see revival.

We have hope because of what Jesus Christ did in dying on the cross for our sins. When Jesus died on the cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us. Our sins were, thus, charged to his account, and he took our punishment so that we can go free. Through faith in Jesus Christ, his righteousness is credited to our account. This is true forgiveness! If we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, even if we have wandered away, for a time, and we have followed the ways of man, and have been involved in adopting a diluted and adulterated gospel message, our Lord is ready to take us back if we repent of our sins, and we choose to come home to Jesus (See: Rev. 2-3). You are never too far gone to be forgiven of sin or to be restored back to your relationship with your Lord (owner-master) Jesus Christ. He longs for you to come to him (or to return to him).

Broken Hearts / An Original Work / December 14, 2012
Based off Jeremiah 31:15 (cf. Matt. 2:18)

Weeping in Ramah;
Her children no more.
Rachel is weeping;
Her comfort forlorn.
Jesus is waiting;
Her comforter be,
When she calls on Him,
Down on bended knee.
He has provided our
Sins’ sacrifice,
When He died for our sin,
Paying the price.

Our hearts are broken;
We’re feeling her pain;
Looking for answers
And someone to blame.
Jesus is calling us;
Him to believe;
Turning from our sins,
So we can be free.
Trust in His promises.
Lean on His grace;
Living for Jesus,
Eternal life gain.

Days of confusion,
Distress, pain and grief;
Looking for someone
To give us relief.
Our God and Father
In heaven above
Is looking down to us;
Providing love.
Call upon Him in your
Sadness and pain.
Trust your life with His Son;
Live life again.

The Way We Live

Monday, July 25, 2016, 3:05 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Titus 3:1-8 (ESV).

Be Gentle (vv. 1-2)

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

The word “submission” means “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person” (Google). We are to obey those in authority over us unless those authorities require that we disobey God and his Word.

Where it says here, in this translation, that we are to speak evil of no one, the word translated as “speak evil” means “to blaspheme” or “to slander.” It means “to speak lightly or profanely of sacred things,” or “to speak evil against,” or “to use abusive or scurrilous language about (God or men)” (biblehub.com). It means “to speak irreverently about God or sacred things” (Google); to swear or to curse.” The word translated as “no one” can also be translated as “nothing,” which fits with the context of speaking “lightly or profanely of sacred things.” If we slander someone, we make willful false statements against that person in order to damage that person’s reputation.

So, we should not be engaged in speaking irreverently or lightly about what is sacred (of God or about God), or in using abusive language about God or humans, nor should we swear at or curse people or willfully lie about someone in order to destroy that person’s reputation. Yet, we are to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, and confront evil, and warn others of false shepherds, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, so that others are not deceived, and so that they do not fall into the devil’s trap.

There is a difference between quarreling and discussing or debating a subject. Quarreling usually gets heated, and angry and unkind words are generally exchanged between people. Yet, this does not mean we can never disagree with another person or that we can’t have a friendly discussion on topics where we may have differences of beliefs or opinions. Paul debated often with people, trying to convince them of the truth. Sometimes we need to look honestly at different sides of issues and prayerfully consider whether or not we are on the right side, or whether or not we need to change our thinking. But, we can do this respectfully, kindly and thoughtfully without fighting and without getting nasty.

To be gentle means to be “forbearing, fair, reasonable” (biblehub.com), and this is how we need to treat one another, especially when we have differences of beliefs or opinions.

Once Foolish (v. 3)

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

The Bible says that all of us have sinned, and we have all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval (Ro. 3:23). It says that there is no one righteous, not even one. We have all gone astray. If we say we have not sinned, we are liars. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ we are all lost, without hope, and destined to spend eternity in the fires of hell (or the lake of fire). It is only by God’s grace to us that any of us are saved and that we are made righteous in God’s sight, so this is why we should be “forbearing, fair, and reasonable” with others because we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient and led astray. This, in no way, means we should placate sin, or that we should tolerate sin in our own lives or in the lives of others, but that we should demonstrate love and compassion towards those who do sin, and we should lovingly and gently (reasonably) lead them to the knowledge of the truth.

By His Grace (vv. 4-7)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Again, it is only by God’s grace that any of us are made righteous with God. Even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ comes from God. Not one of us can affect our own salvation. We can never be good enough nor can we do anything to earn our own salvation. Our good deeds will never outweigh our bad deeds. So, we have no bragging rights. Instead, we should be humbled that God would save us, and that Jesus would love us enough to give his life up for us, and that our Lord would forgive us of all that we have done wrong. I know that I am so thankful for God’s grace to me and for his forgiveness of my sins.

Because of God’s grace to us, and due to Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, in which he put sin to death, when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died, too, “to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:14). Because Jesus died on a cross for our sins, in order to put sin to death, we can be delivered out of slavery to sin and can become slaves of his righteousness.

Good Works (v. 8)

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

We are not saved by “good works,” but “good works” are part of what we are saved for. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). These “good works,” nonetheless, are not fleshly works or things we think up (create) in our own minds and decide of our own human will that we should do for God. These are “good works” which God prepared beforehand that we should do; that we should walk in them, which has to do with our lifestyle. So, if we want to know what good works God prepared beforehand that we should do, then we need to inquire of him as to what those are, and then we should do them. They should become part of who we are, i.e. a part of our everyday lives.

In all that we do we should be humble, submissive, obedient, kind to others, thoughtful, considerate, honest, and trustworthy. We must live holy lives, pleasing to God. We ought to consider that our lives are not our own, to be lived how we want, for we were bought back for God with the price of Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for our sins. Therefore, we should honor God with our lives in all that we do, and are, and think, and say. Let it be so! Amen!

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.

Godly Living

Sunday, July 24, 2016, 7:35 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Titus 2 (ESV).

With Sound Doctrine (v. 1)

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Not all of us are called of God to be teachers of the Word, in the sense that we are the ones responsible to conduct a Bible study with a group of people at a specific time and day, and in a particular location. But, if we are Christ’s followers, we teach every day of our lives by how we live, by our attitudes, by our words and by our actions. Yet, we are all called of God to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and to declare the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (See: Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:9). We are to be Christ’s witnesses throughout the earth and to make followers of Christ of people of all nations (See: Ac. 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20). So, in this sense we are all teachers.

So, as Christ’s followers – as his servants and witnesses – what can we learn from this passage of scripture with regard to our own attitudes, thinking, speaking, teaching and actions? Where do we fit into all of this? And, what needs to be changed in our lives?

When we share the Word of God with others, whether formally or informally, and whether in teaching a class to a group of students or in witnessing or in fellowship with other believers, our teaching needs to be in accord (agreement) with sound doctrine. So, whose doctrine? – The Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Charismatics, Lutherans, or Presbyterians, etc.? The answer is “None of the above.” In other words, we don’t get our doctrine from church denominations, but we get it straight from God’s Word through the witness of the Holy Spirit within us, who was given to us by Jesus Christ to teach us all things. We examine the scriptures ourselves, and we read them in context, and we compare scripture with scripture on similar topics, and we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to teach us what is truth.

Sound in Faith (vv. 2-6)

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.

I am now 66 ½ years of age, with a few gray hairs on my head, so I fit into the category of an “older woman,” yet I don’t think you have to be old (or older) to do most of what is being taught here. These are qualities taught in scripture which we all should emulate.

We must all demonstrate seriousness about God and his Word. All of us ought to exercise self-control, and we should not be out-of-control. Each one of us must be sound (unblemished and firm) in our faith, and we ought not to be like those who are being tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine, “by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). Every one of us ought to show reverence (respect and honor) by how we live our lives. And, none of us should slander another person, i.e. willfully tell what is untrue about someone in order to damage that person’s reputation.

The lot of us are to first of all be in submission to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and then we are to be submissive to those in authority over us, providing those authorities do not ask us to disobey God and his Word. God and his word are always to be followed above the demands or requests of human authority, especially when human authority commands or invites us to disobey God (See: Ac. 5:17-29; cf. Daniel 3; Daniel 6).

As well, scripture teaches mutual submission, one to another, i.e. that we should defer (yield) to the wishes or requests of others, at times, when it is appropriate, or out of love for one another when compromise of truth is not involved (See: Eph. 5:21). For example, just because you have a position of authority does not mean, for instance, that you can’t learn from or listen to or yield to someone under your authority. For example, woman was taken from man’s side to be his helper and companion. He should not stomp on her. And, those in authority over the church should not rule with an iron fist, but should set the example for the believers in how to live, not domineering over them (1 Pet. 5:1-3).

A Model (vv. 7-8)

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Each and every one of us, who are followers of Jesus Christ, are to lead others by our example, whether or not we have any position of authority over anyone. We are to walk the talk and not just talk the walk. We must not compromise with the world around us or adopt worldly thinking and philosophies and attitudes into our lives. Instead, we are to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. We must walk in purity and no longer conduct our lives according to the passions and desires of our sinful flesh. In every aspect of our lives we ought to set a godly example to other believers and to non-believers. This is not saying we will live in sinless perfection, but we must never use lack of perfection as an excuse for continued willful sin against God, but instead we must conduct our lives according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14).

We are all going to face opposition when we truly commit ourselves to following Jesus Christ with our lives, so we must be strong in our faith. We should be students of the Word and be ones who commune with God throughout the day. We have to know the Word of God so that we can use the Sword of the Spirit (the Word) accurately when Satan throws his evil darts against us (See: Eph. 6:10-20).

Submission to Authority (vv. 9-10)

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

In America, in the year 2016, slavery is not prevalent, at least not now. So, what can we learn from this? For one, when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, he becomes our master and we become his willing bondservants, so we should live our lives like we believe this. We should treat our Lord as though “Lord” is not just a title for Jesus Christ, but as though he truly has lordship over our lives, and as though we honestly see ourselves as his willing bondservants and slaves to righteousness.

As well, when we work in the employment of someone, we agree to follow the rules and the instructions given to us by our superiors, unless, of course, we are being asked to disobey (sin against) God. The attitudes here describing bondservants toward their masters is not unlike what our attitudes and actions should be like toward those we serve as employees. We are to be honest in all our dealings, and never lie to or cheat our employer. Instead, we should live such godly lives before our employers that if any of them do not know Christ that they will want to come to know Christ, too.

The Grace of God (vv. 11-15)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Basically, Jesus didn’t die for our sins just so we could escape hell and just so we could go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. And, he died for us in order to redeem us (buy us back for God) from all lawlessness (wickedness) “and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” He died, not just to save us from hell, but he died to transform us and to conform us to his likeness.

His grace, thus, is not just forgiveness of sins and removal of punishment and the promise of eternal life with God. The purpose of his grace is to deliver us out of slavery to sin and to make us slaves of his righteousness. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. May that never be! The purpose of God’s grace is to change us from living our lives according to the flesh and to transform us to living our lives according to the Spirit. A saved life is a changed life; a life transformed of the Spirit of God away from sin and to God and to his holiness. To be holy means to be set apart from (different, unlike) the world because we are being conformed into the image of Christ.

So, if you have been convinced that you are a child of God, and a believer in Jesus Christ, but you have not been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24), then submit yourself to the cross of Christ today, and surrender your life to Jesus, and truly make him Lord (owner-master) and Savior of your life while you still have today.

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.

The Good Fight

Friday, July 22, 2016, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Timothy 4:1-8, 16-18 (ESV).

Be Ready (vv. 1-2)

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Most all of us are teachers in one way or another, even though all of us don’t have the gift of teaching. We teach every day of our lives just by how we live our lives, by how we treat other people, and by what we say to them. If we have children and grandchildren, they learn from our examples and from the things we say to them, or from the instructions we give to them. So, we need to watch our lives closely, and carefully weigh the things we say to others. And, we need to guard our own hearts and attitudes, because whether we recognize it or not, we are teaching others, if by no other way than our own life examples.

Also, there are many different ways in which we teach others besides just standing or sitting in front of a group of people and purposefully and thoughtfully imparting to them some knowledge or wisdom or understanding. In other words, as followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ we are to be his witnesses in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who need to hear (Ac. 1:8). We are to make disciples (of Christ) of people of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matt. 28:18-20). We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16), and we are to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

Paul instructed Timothy to preach the word; to be ready in season and out of season; and to reprove and exhort with complete patience and teaching. We read in 2 Tim. 2 that “if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (v. 21). So, we are to make ourselves ready spiritually for every good work God has for us, through repentance and obedience, in the power of the Holy Spirit now living within us, and in cooperation with the Spirit’s work of grace in our lives, including we should always be ready to share Christ and the truths of his word with others.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).

Be Sober-Minded (vv. 3-5)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

That time has already come when people will not endure sound teaching. In America, in particular, so many people are flocking after teachers who tell them what sounds good to their ears and what allows them to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. So many people who profess to be ministers of the gospel and teachers of the Word are teaching the philosophies of humans, instead. They tell people that they don’t have to repent of (turn away from) their sins, and that they don’t have to obey Christ and his instructions to us. And, then they convince them that God is pleased with them no matter what they do, and that nothing bad will happen to them, i.e. that God will never discipline them or chastise them for their disobedience. They convince them, too, that a mere confession of Christ as Savior gets them out of hell and promises them heaven.

But we are to be sober-minded, i.e. we are to take God and his Word seriously, and we are to follow (obey) Christ, being doers of the Word and not hearers only. If we continue in sin (in living sinful lifestyles), but we say we have fellowship with God, the Bible says we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). If we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus Christ died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). So, don’t be fooled! One day you will stand before God and many are going to hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

So, for those of us who are Christ’s followers, we need to stand strong in our faith and on the word of God, and we should not give way to the devil’s evil schemes against us. We should never compromise truth to be accepted by people or to be liked, but we should continue to share what we know of God’s word with whomever will listen. And, we should be faithful to whatever God has called each one of us to do collectively as well as individually.

Keep the Faith (vv. 6-8)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Many of us are suffering rejection and persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ, for our witness for him, for our testimonies of his saving grace, and for the sake of the gospel and the teaching of truth. We long for our heavenly home, but we know God still has a purpose for us on this earth. So, we will remain, and we will continue in Christ and in what he has called us to do until he calls us home.

As Christ’s followers, we are in a spiritual battle. Our enemy is Satan and his many hordes. They want nothing more than to destroy (obliterate) the gospel and to dissuade, discredit and/or to destroy its messengers. So, God has supplied his servants and messengers with spiritual armor with which to fight off our enemy’s evil schemes and attacks against us (See: Eph. 6:10-20). And, daily we must fight this battle for our own survival, yet we don’t fight it in our own strength or with our own resources. We fight in the power and strength of the Lord who has already won this battle for us. And, we use the weapons of warfare he has supplied to us. When Satan lies to us, we respond with the truth. When he tempts us to doubt, we respond with faith. When he twists the Word of God to his advantage, we pull out the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and we proclaim it with confidence.

We don’t give up, either, even when things get harder and harder. We don’t retreat out of fear of what humans might do to us. We will never make things better for us by shrinking back. Running away from God or trying to escape our circumstances so that we don’t get hurt doesn’t work. We only make things worse for ourselves, not better. The best place to be ever is right in the palm of God’s hand, doing exactly what he has called us to do and to be no matter how much we get hated, rejected and persecuted in return. There is no peace in this world like the peace that comes to a life surrendered to Jesus Christ and to his will for our lives. We keep running the race, keeping the faith, and fighting the good fight! And, one day we will see, if we don’t now, that it was worth it all to follow Christ and to impact other lives for Jesus Christ and for eternal salvation.

Trust in God (vv. 16-18)

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I love these words! They are so encouraging to my heart. Even if everyone we know and love turns against us, God will never leave us or forsake us. Even if all desert us, he will stand by us and he will strengthen us, if we are his followers. Even if Satan throws all his darts at us and he threatens to undo us, we trust in God’s complete sovereignty over our lives, and we believe in his many promises to us, and we rely on his strength to see us through it all. Satan will try to get us to fear opposition, but that is when we put on our spiritual armor and we fight off his lies with the truth. No opposition against us can prevail against us unless God allows it, and he allows it for a purpose, and that he will equip and empower us to respond to it in a way that is fitting a servant of the Most High God.

Our God may not always deliver us physically from persecution. In fact, his word teaches that we are destined for it, and that, as his followers, we will be treated as he was treated. But, he will rescue us spiritually, and he will strengthen and encourage us in our faith, and he will supply all we need to persevere and to grow in our faith to maturity through these difficult times. We just have to trust him with our lives, believe that he has our best interest at heart, and be confident in his love, grace and mercy – that he will work out all things for the good (what is best) of those who love him. We just need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not on our circumstances, and believe him to heal our broken hearts.

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.