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"Lovers of pleasures"Sunday, February 01, 2015
“Lovers of pleasure”
The apostle Paul told Timothy that perilous times were coming. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than loving God,” (II Tim. 3:2-4).
Such people were described as “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (verse 5). How can a person retain a “form of godliness” if they love pleasure rather than God? This situation is where someone will serve God as long as that service does not conflict with anything else they like.
Keep in mind that these pleasures are not inherently sinful. These pleasures might just being things that are fun, exciting or thrilling – sports, playing games with friends, going to concerts, etc. The issue is that these people become more passionate about their fun than they are about God and thus only have a form of godliness.
Faithful Christians love the Lord and do not just want to appear godly – they want a genuine relationship with Him. From an eternal perspective, sacrificing our relationship with God in exchange for a little more time spent playing sports, going fishing, visiting friends, etc. makes no sense! We should not see God as the ultimate fishing buddy – we should our relationship with Him as something far greater than any earthly pleasure. If we put Him first, there will be no conflict between loving God and earthly activities.
In closing, consider this illustration. A married man is leaving work, but his friends try coax him to spend time with them at the bar under the pretense of “working late”. A man with a strong love for his wife will not hesitate to choose her every time because there is no comparison between the choices. And so it is with God’s people. His faithful children will seek true godliness and reject having just a form of godliness every time.
It's all about authoritySunday, February 01, 2015
It’s all about authority
Does God really care how we accomplish what He wants us to do? Do the ends justify the means in spiritual matters? Many people today toss Biblical authority aside because they feel that certain Biblical truths do not matter or are less important than others. They are not unique – the Bible is full of people who thought this way too. Let us look at these examples to see what we can learn.
Logically, we can only know God’s opinion on anything from on His word. For example, God does not care whether we eat meat or only vegetables. Both are acceptable to Him (I Cor. 8). A person cannot know this without seeing it in His word. “Feeling” that God will accept something is not the same because it cannot be proven.
Some brethren in the first century thought that it did not matter how widows were taken care of, so long as they were looked after. How did they know this conclusion was acceptable though? In I Timothy 5:16, brethren were told that using money from the church treasury to take care of widows was wrong if that widow still had family members who could care for her. There was obviously a proper way to care for these women. The ends did not justify the means.
Consider the subject of church discipline. A church could choose to ignore the sinful behavior of a member and hope that behavior would stop. What if that erring brother does stop sinning and repents? Was the church right to remain silent? Not according to I Corinthians 5. There are many ways to do things for the Lord. However, the scriptures are clear that we are wrong if we lack His authority!
Too many religious groups today justify their actions based on results. A common strategy, for example, is to use free food to draw people to church events. Some people have certainly become members of these groups because of that first invitation. Did these religious groups stop to consider what our Lord says about this strategy though? Jesus Himself gives an answer in John 6:26.
It can be difficult to say that something was not done properly when good things result from it. We need to remember, though, that we care how things are done because the Lord cares how things are done. The point is to avoid sin! Consider Philippians 1:15-18. Paul said some preachers were sinful yet had some success in converting people. The apostle rejoiced for the converts but still did not approve of the sinful preachers. Regardless of how many converts they made, these sinful preachers were still not approved in God’s eyes.
Paul’s example clearly demonstrates that the ends do not justify the means even when there is some success. People need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I will not do things that are scripturally inappropriate – going to a bar, for example – to try and teach them. We need to remember how powerful our example can be (I Tim. 4:12). Doing things for God in our own way might work in the short term, but we are compromising our teaching by not consistently following only God’s word. We also need to remember that we are potentially hurting our example to all the other people observing the situation.
How things are done plainly matters to God. It also matters to Christians who want to respect God’s authority. When we think with our emotions and not with our heads, we run the risk of establishing our own righteousness rather than seeking righteousness through Christ (Rom. 10:1-3). Make sure you consider what God says about something rather than just assuming it is okay. Paul made it clear: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col. 3:17). It is all about God and His authority.
Motivated but not wastefulSunday, January 25, 2015
Motivated but not wasteful
When Jesus sent out His disciples in what is often referred to as “the limited commission” (Matt. 10), He clearly told them to shake the dust of their feet and move on if people did not receive their words (verse 14). There are some valuable lessons to learn from this.
Do not focus on those who do not want it
It is so easy to lose our desire to tell others the good news because so many people do not want it. But our Lord does not want us to focus on those who reject it. If we do, we are no longer working for Him. Though Jesus knew that many would reject Him (Matt. 7:13-14), He still came and made salvation available to everyone. Christ did this because He does not want any to perish (II Pet. 3:9). We must remember that because Jesus made salvation available to everyone, everyone needs to hear the gospel message. Do not neglect sharing the word with those who may be interested because you wasted time with someone who clearly did not want it.
Do not force people to listen
Some religious radicals believe their “god” wants them to kill those who reject him. Christ wants us to love all people (Matt. 22:39). We demonstrate that love by offering the lifesaving message. If people reject it, we move on and hope that the seed we planted will grow in the future. It is not our place to get angry or give ultimatums. Our weapons are not carnal (II Cor. 10:4). We carry the sword of the spirit, which is the soul-saving word of God (Eph. 6:17; Rom. 1:16).
Do not forget to move on
Consider our original passage. Jesus told his followers to shake the dust off their feet as they departed. In other words, they were to leave and continue teaching. God’s people never stop teaching because there are many more doors of opportunity. One neighbor says no, but there are others. One coworker says no, but there are others. The key is to not grow weary in well-doing (Gal. 6:9).
This bulletin points out two facts. You either need to obey the gospel or need to share it. May we all do what is needed to follow Christ!
Plenty of motivationSunday, January 25, 2015
Plenty of motivation
There is no question that Satan would like God’s people to keep the gospel to themselves. This is why Christ admonished His followers to not hide their lights under bushels (Matt. 5:15). Saints should not find joy in having the light and keeping it to themselves. Rather, there are many reasons why children of God should seek out opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Here are a few to consider:
They are commanded
Those who make it their aim to please God know that they must walk by faith (Heb. 11:6). This entails both listening to God’s word and doing what it tells us (Rom. 10:17; James 1:22). Jesus plainly stated that we ought to spread the good news (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20). We should be honored that Jesus has invited us to share His message! Indeed, those who love the Lord will keep His commandments (John 14:15). This alone is plenty of motivation for Christians to seek and teach others. But there is more.
They are aware of the terror of the Lord
Before becoming Christians, we all find ourselves guilty of sin and have no way to directly deal with it (Eph. 2:12). The thought of losing our souls and enduring eternal punishment is part of the reason we each became Christians. Recall what Paul wrote: "knowing therefore , the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (II Cor. 6:11). Because we know the awful fate that awaits those lost in sin, we too should be motivated to share the gospel message with those around us. But there is more.
They had people that helped them
Recall Jesus’ lesson about extending mercy because we each received mercy (Matt. 18:23-35). As Christians, we should appreciate those who took the time to teach us. It should also remind us of the importance of sharing that message with others. We might be the last person with an opportunity to give the good news to a person! This, too, is plenty of motivation to teach others. But there is even more.
They have joy in planting and watering God’s word
No one enjoys telling bad news. However, the gospel is fundamentally good news – it explains a way out of the sin we would otherwise be ensnared by! It is hard to keep the story of Jesus Christ and salvation to ourselves (Acts 8:4). We get a thrill out of sharing God’s word. Imagine how we will at harvest (Luke 15:10). We should also be heartened to know that we are only tasked with planting and watering as God will give the increase (I Cor. 6-9). Thus, we should be motivated to know that we can share the word with everyone and not worry over who might receive it. But there is even more.
They know it helps them get stronger
When we share good news with someone else, we then share in their joy when they receive it. Students are not the only ones who benefit from lessons as the teacher must also study and prepare. When we are told that when we teach, we also teach ourselves (Rom. 2:1). This is exactly why saints are told it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). We should thus be motivated to share the gospel with others as we know we will receive joy in return. But there is even more.
They know the laborers are few
We know that sharing the gospel is an important task. With so few available to share it, we should be motivated to get to work (Matt. 9:37-38). God’s people want to be useful in His kingdom and are full of zeal (Titus 2:14).
Having discussed all of these points, how can God’s people not be motivated to go and teach the gospel?
Defending the truthSunday, January 18, 2015
Defending the truth
As I write this bulletin, there are plans for me to meet with a local religious leader and one of their members to talk about the Bible. The member just wants the religious leader and I to present what the Bible teaches about salvation so she can determine who is telling the truth. I think open discussions are great and would be thrilled if more people could listen. When I present from the Bible though, I need to remember the points our Lord makes about defending our faith.
Consider the event in Matthew 21:23-27. Jesus was in the temple teaching when the elders and chief priest confronted Him. They wanted to talk about the idea of authority and asked Jesus a couple of questions. Let’s break down this encounter to learn how to stand up for what we believe.
Have a willingness to talk
The first thing that we notice from our Savior is that He didn’t run away. He actually welcomed the opportunity to have a discussion openly. Christ didn’t say he would talk about this later, privately, when no one else is around. As a matter of fact, it was while He was in front of those people, whom He was teaching, that he agreed to talk (verse 24). There is something seriously wrong with any religious teacher who would refuse to talk about what he believes openly.
Establish that it goes both ways
Nobody wants to participate in a discussion where someone is on the defensive all the time. It is never fair to force one person to defend what they believe while the other person just asks further questions. These situations are never profitable for people who are genuinely seeking the truth. When Jesus was asked questions (verse 23), He also stated that he would gladly answer their questions if they would answer His (verse 24). If both parties state and defend what they believe, listeners can decide for themselves. If someone refuses to state what they believe or will not defend it, we should be concerned.
Focus on facts, not personalities
All-knowing Jesus could have easily belittled or made fun of the religious leaders who confronted Him. He could have brought up past events or, knowing their hearts, even challenged their motives. Notice that He did not though. Truth and true motives will surface during the discussion. Jesus asked them a simple question, and they refused to answer (verse 25-27). I recognize that focusing on Biblical facts will anger some people, but this just reveals that they are more interested in “winning” the argument rather than sharing Biblical truth. Truth does not need to be defended with name-calling, belittling, yelling or lost tempers.
Do not be afraid to expose error
The short confrontation between Jesus and the leaders of the synagogue ended when Jesus told them that because they would not answer His question, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things,” (verse 27). If someone wants to talk about the word of God, they need to be prepared to face the consequences. Jesus was not going to apologize, nor did He need to. By refusing to answer questions from Jesus, these men demonstrated that they could not refute His teachings. This is evidence that Jesus was right.
We do not need to sugarcoat our faith to defend it. We must be willing to state that if “2 + 2 is 4”, than any other answer is wrong. We cannot be for something without being against something contrary. This requires courage. Remember, the only thing that suffer from sound investigation is error. Let us all be willing to give an answer for the hope that is within us (I Pet. 3:15).