In our time, it is difficult to discern those who seek the truth. We are bombarded with information via technology, much of unknown origin, and much with slick and professional presentation, so if we do not listen or read carefully, and think for ourselves, it is very easy to become lead astray.
Recent studies have shown that the percentage of young people attending church has declined quite dramatically, and of those young people who do attend church while living in the home, once they leave and enter the world on their own, their probability of continuing worship dwindles to minuscule proportions. A problem with this, is that on the rare occasion they do choose to attend church and seek God, does the church they choose to attend, truly serve Jesus?
In Jesus’ time, even though our Lord was in their presence, the Pharisees could not see and accept the Truth. This was something that Jesus knew would happen, because while they strived to serve and believe the law, they were unfamiliar with, and thus could not recognize the Spirit. Thus when they preached, they did so for their own gain and recognition; in other words, they tried to achieve glory for themselves, instead of praising and giving glory to Him who was in their presence. Tonight I am reading through John, and two verses need to be looked at together in order to better grasp Jesus’ teaching (these are the words of Jesus).
“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth;”
“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
To further expound on Jesus’ thoughts, he was saying that the people of his time were incapable of both interpreting and applying scripture. In modern times we would term this “Practical Application.” Such as if a young student has read a book on changing the spark plugs in a car, when he grabs a wrench and actually does so, he is applying his newly found knowledge. For us as Christians, when we have felt the Spirit enter us, and begin to listen and discern His teachings, we are applying His Spirit, or the will of God to our lives.
In Jesus time the Jews were not capable of doing so, as is evident from his teachings, that while he was among them, they were spiritually unable to connect the Scriptures to their Savior. This is especially apparent in verse 44:
John 5:44 “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God”
The Pharisees glorified in themselves instead of the purpose they were supposed to serve, choosing to believe their way and path was right, and good and true; when our Savior Himself was in their presence, begging them to believe and understand.
The same is true today as was true in the time of Jesus… Hubris (excessive pride, or self-confidence), is most often accompanied by ignorance and insecurities, or in other words, those with the strongest desire to speak the loudest, carry with them thoughts and words of the least value because they are either not truly seeking the truth, or they are not motivated to put forth the error required.
Remember for example that in Luke, Pontius Pilate was required by the custom of Passover to commute the sentence of one prisoner, and the Jews or “multitude” were given a choice… instead of choosing our Savior, they chose Jesus Barabbas. In verse 44 above, Jesus is rebuking those who were attempting to establish glory for themselves, by discrediting the Savior; when all they had to do was obey the revelation of God in order to win his approval.
Jesus’ goal is not human praise or glory, but praise that comes only from the Father. Here Jesus is saying that in his time, as is true in ours, people only accept (or perhaps Covet would help here) praise from one another. In doing so, all they will accomplish is to drive away those very souls that Jesus is striving to save.
We have all suffered in our lives, some more so than others, and then there are those who have suffered beyond what a human mind would consider necessary. Often we will ask ourselves why this occurs if God is real, yet we must remember the control that God has allowed Satan over our lives as we live life in this current form.
People will often reference a verse in Corinthians that God will ‘never give us more than we can handle,’ but we must remember that is temptation, not suffering. Resisting temptation is resisting Satan’s hold on you, his attempt to pull you away from God. Here is the verse most people are referring too:
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Resisting temptation is not easy for any of us, be it lust of the flesh, a vice, greed (which is ever more common), or any temptation to act in a way that is against God. Suffering though, is something else.
I have written about suffering before, but tonight while looking over the Word I came across a verse that touched my heart again, as is happening more frequently than ever:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Notice here that it says “glory in our sufferings.” Most of us would say, how on earth could that be a “glorious” thing? That’s something that is a little difficult to grasp. Essentially, if you are a Christian, and not the ‘pretender’ that was commonplace even in the time of Jesus, but is more so now; you are at Peace both with yourself, and with God. However, just because we are at peace with God, and ourselves, does not mean that our lives will be peaceful?
Quite simply, we are Christians living in a sinful nation. Our society has begun a path of dissension away from God, believing that they should live life as ‘they’ see fit, not as God has decreed. This is nothing new, as society has repeated itself here before on multiple occasions. We as Christians of course do sin, all humans do, but hopefully we make the choice of sinning consciously considerably less often than others, and at least attempt to live a life that will be pleasing to God. This brings us to the key of tonight’s thoughts: Our knowledge that God has accepted us because of our Faith in Christ, and through that Faith, Grace has been bestowed upon us, and the knowledge of our future glory should result in us exulting in trials and tribulations brought forth in this life.
Many times in this life I have allowed people to “do me wrong,” where I had both the knowledge and the means to “redeem myself” in my eyes, but I would have been wrong in doing so.
In this life it is not mine to redeem, but God. He is our salvation, and he is a jealous God. Remember our physical bodies and this life were designed with an expiration date, however, our souls have the opportunity for eternity.
I mentioned the other day if you want to live for a lifetime, live for this life. If it is eternity you seek, find out the meaning of life.
Today was one lesson, and that lesson is hope. Faith in Christ should spring hope eternal into your heart, and our suffering in this life should cause that hope to well up in our souls knowing that greater things are to come.
In modern times it is difficult to approach people about saving their souls. Most will scoff at you, and think that they understand everything there is to know about life. That they know more than God who created our universe, our planet, our bodies, and our souls. Most intuitively, have you ever thought about what was involved in the creation of our emotions? How could we for example, as humans, create an emotion out of thin air, that is so powerful, it would cause one human being to give up his very life, his existence, so that another could live? Never mind the creation of various lifeforms in and of themselves, which is awe-inspiring, the creation of our emotions is well beyond human understanding. So if you have a friend who is an Atheist, or is lost, or is someone you care about, or is even a complete stranger… what must you do in order to lead them to the path of redemption? There are three basic steps that you may consider:
1. An awakening to one’s true condition:
This is a tough one. The act of sinning is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, basically a self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept or belief, that by the very nature of being incorrect, can cause itself to come true.
Let me help with the understanding a bit. Let’s say that “Bob” is an atheist, so Bob says “Since there is no God I can not sin” (and therefore be unconcerned for the repercussions of his actions). So Bob runs around sinning all day long because he thinks it is fun. Therefore Bob fulfilled his own ‘prophecy’ that he can not sin, by foolishly believing there is no God, so he can run around doing sinful things and “have fun” by not worrying about “getting in trouble” for his actions.
Every person I have encountered in my life who says they do not believe in God, has at one point or other admitted the possibility that God might exist, they just choose not to believe it. There are many reasons why someone may do so, perhaps a violent past, love for a person who is a sinner, and in whom they desire approval, any number of things; but since they have not placed God at the forefront of their lives, and allowed the Holy Spirit to enter their soul, and the blood of Jesus wash away their sins (and the pain those sins caused), they continue to live in an illusion that they perceive as true.
So how can you help them? Well, first you must somehow show them that the act of sinning, blinds humans to their true condition. What does this mean? Generally people will try to imagine themselves as happy, when in truth they are not. It is a desire for approval from others, and a validation of their existence that is pacified by the blindness of their own insecurities. So when they sin, Satan (who is much more powerful than people realize) hardens their heart from the truth. Imagine slowly wrapping layers of iron or steel around the container of one’s own heart, that will only stop the truth from coming in, but will allow the lies to flow like the wind. By blinding a human heart from the truth, Satan paves his path to victory.
To give you an idea of how powerful Satan truly is, think of the Garden of Eden. The very paradise created by God almighty, in which he placed his children Adam, and Eve, was breached by Satan in the form of a serpent. God only had ONE rule that Adam and Eve must follow, and that is not biting the forbidden fruit. So what did Satan do? He convinced Adam and Eve that God was wrong, in his own garden! How insane is that? In the very paradise created by God, Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God was wrong, with a lie!
So what was the lie? Genesis 3:4 “You will not surely die” … and of course, die they did, after they were kicked out of the garden.
So if we know that Satan is powerful enough to fool God’s original children in his own garden, we know he is powerful enough to fool us in modern times, and he is doing so on a massive scale. How many people in the world today think the things they see and hear in their daily lives through the various mediums we have available are acceptable? Not only accepted, but expected?
It will not be an easy job to convince someone you care about, not to mention a complete stranger that they need to think about the bigger picture of life, and our purpose in this life. Our purpose in life is not to drink, or cavort about with friends in meaningless pursuits, or watch t.v. or play video games, although having fun is certainly one of the things God wants us to do. In a way, our purpose in this life is to prove ourselves worthy for the next one. For example, if your friend is an atheist, does he believe that if someone murders 100 people, that upon their death a punishment will not be enforced? If so, what about “lesser” sins? In other words, if drastic actions have a logical conclusion of punishment, what about those that he may consider to be less extreme?
You must teach them that they are blind to their own condition. Once they accept that, the door has been opened, a breach has been introduced into the shell Satan has placed around their heart. The good news is, that every living being that has received the Breath of Life from God almighty has a hint of truth within them. We all have a mustard seed of truth planted in our souls, that has been surrounded by the weeds of humanity that must be plucked away, so that our seed of salvation can grow into a new garden, tended by Jesus Christ.
2. An honest confession of true sin.
Once your friend’s eyes have been opened, and they begin to see the truth, have them examine their own lives. It is much better if a person comes to their own revelations of the extent of their sinfulness. Ask them, what type of things do you do, or have done, that you think God may disapprove? A common mistake Christians make when trying to help their friends is what I call “Hen-Pecking.” They will pick away at every thing their friend does, and turn them away from God. Remember, God wants his children to choose to come to him. That is why we are here. He wants us to choose goodness over evil, so don’t Hen-Peck your friends, such as saying “Oh my Gosh, you can’t wear that,” “stop smoking,” … stop doing this, stop doing that…etc.. God knows our sins before we commit them, and he accepts our failures, just as he accepts us for who we are.
One of the most basic points that Pastors and Christians miss, is that God loves us not just because he is our Father, but because He knows what He created us to be. In other words, he knows our potential. he knows what we CAN become. Remember, everybody sins. That is a given. God allowed us to retain our free will, he did not have to do so. He chose Moses to lead Israel to freedom, and Moses committed murder in his younger years, BEFORE God chose him to part the Red Sea. So the point here, is don’t hen-peck your friends. Love them. Lead them to the path of salvation, but let them take their own steps, in their own time. The Holy Spirit will guide them when they are ready. Love that is forced will never last. Love that is a choice, taken through free will, can last forever.
3. An actual return to the father.
Romans 10:13 is a common reference point for Redemption: ““Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
I disagree with some interpretations, where people will say that just by saying the words you are automatically saved. What I mean by that, is God can read our hearts. God is the ultimate multitasker. If we as human beings can create super computers that run thousands of cores, with terragigs of memory, how many cores would God have in comparison?
What is important here, is that you work with your friend and try to help him humble himself before God. True humility, the setting aside of pride and hubris, and allowing God to see the shame in your heart for your actions, and by praising him in earnest is the key. Open your heart to God, let Him see your love for him, your thankfulness for the gift of life he has bestowed upon you, your true repentence… Cry our with your heart, mind, body, and soul, and let God know not only that you love him, but that you are thankful to him, repentent to him, and ashamed before Him that you did not see the Truth sooner. Then realize, that now that you do see the Truth, you will not live just for this lifetime, but for eternity.
Have him pray in earnest, something like this:
This is a prayer that I wrote to use in place of what is commonly referred to as the “Sinners Prayer”
“Lord Jesus, I am a sinner and am not worthy of you or your Father’s Kingdom. I know that you had to sacrifice yourself not just to save me, but all of my brothers and sisters. I can not comprehend the suffering you endured for us, but beg that you allow me the opportunity to repent of my sins, and allow the blood of your sacrifice to wash away my sins, and the stain they have placed upon my soul. Please allow the Holy Spirit to flow into me completely, and guide me along the path that you wish for my life to take, so that I can become the person You and the Father wish for me to be. I pray this in your name. Amen”
Here is a common Sinner’s Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.
2 Peter 3:18 (NET)
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.
Here Peter is reminding us that a believer must constantly grow in their spiritual life, for if we stop feeding the spirit, our inner strength becomes weakened causing us to become more susceptible to temptation by the evil one. Therefore, in order to grow spiritually, we must maintain a healthy relationship with Christ by praising Him throughout the day as we dive deeper into his Word. This will help us to develop and mature in the spirit where we can draw upon the Grace of Christ to give us strength, and thus increase our personal knowledge of the Savior.
Timothy’s father was a Greek and not a Jew, but he had studied scriptures since childhood, and his grandmother Louis and mother Eunis were both Jewish, and eventually Christian and were both deeply respected for their Piety.
Paul knew however that Timothy was timid, and had concerns about how Timothy would prevail when preaching the Word of Christ for Paul while Paul was incarcerated. When Timothy initially began following Paul and became his constant companion, Paul actually circumcised Timothy himself so that he would be accepted by the Jews (even though in Acts it says this is not necessary), but they both agreed to make the extra effort to ensure acceptance while evangelizing.
Paul was so concerned about Timothy that he wrote a letter on his behalf in 1 Corinthians 16:10-11 (NIV):
“When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.”
Expositor’s comments that when Paul was writing this letter he recalled how hard the Corinthians were towards him, which gave Paul the concern that Timothy as a timid soul, would not have the success that Paul desired:
“The reference to Timothy’s coming must be connected with Ac 19:22, where Paul sent Timothy (and Erastus) into Macedonia. Therefore, at the time Paul wrote this, Timothy was traveling and was expected to arrive in Corinth (1Co 4:17). Because Paul remembered that the Corinthians had acted so harshly toward himself (4:1, 8-13), he was afraid that they would treat the timid Timothy (1Ti 4:12; 2Ti 1:7) coldly.”
In 2nd Timothy 2:15 (below) Paul admonished Timothy, with the hope of motivating him, and stated that when we do God’s work, we must “rightly divide” (KJV) the Word of Truth. These words are important to understand, because in Paul’s admonishment, he stated the prime directive for a Disciple of Christ; and different translations reveal subtleties of Paul’s intent and purpose. So following are four different translations to give a broader perspective of Paul’s meaning. First is the King James Version of 2nd Timothy 2:15:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
This is the most commonly referenced and accepted translation of Paul’s admonishment of Timothy. Now let us compare three other translations, to see if any further insight can be gleaned from them. Here is the NIV translation:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Notice here that the NIV translation states “correctly handles” the Word of Truth. Now we compare that to the NRSV translation and see:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
Above, instead of “rightly divide,” or “correctly handle” we see the use of “rightly explaining” the word of truth. This paints a slightly clearer picture of Paul’s intent, but one final translation may bring all of these interpretations of Paul’s meaning together. Let us take a look now at the NET translation:
Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.
In the NET Bible Notes, they reference that accurately is a figure of speech that means something akin to “cutting a straight road.” In referencing the Word of Truth, this would mean to handle the word of truth without deviation.
If we are to be representatives of the Most High God, speaking on His behalf to his lost sheep in order to bring them back to the fold, we must not fail in our purpose. We must not fail, not only to ensure that we are not punished, or ashamed in the face of the Most High God; but we must not fail because if we do, we will fail to bring His children back into his loving arms, and this is our purpose.
This is why handling the message of truth accurately is so important. How many pastors today fail to thoroughly study Word of God? How many false teachers do we have today, claiming to represent Christ, when instead, they serve their own purposes? If we are his representatives, we will teach the Message of Truth accurately, and we will strive to educate ourselves so that there is no possibility of error. If we do not take these steps to learn His word, we can not be, and should not be His teachers.
You can be a good person who wants to serve the Lord, but are also lazy, and refuse to take the time and put forth the effort to learn his Word. Always making excuses why you can not do so, instead of putting forth the effort in How you Can do so. There is a massive difference between accepting the responsibility of being a Child of Christ, to being a Representative of Christ. With representation comes an inherent responsibility to guide the hearts and minds of those children you attempt to either bring into His fold, or raise up to represent him.
There is no greater honor than being a representative for Christ, guiding and protecting the souls of his children as we prepare in this life to enter his Kingdom. You must not fail, you must not shirk your responsibility, you can not rest while any of his children are lost in the wilderness, because that one time that you decide to rest instead of serve, a child of his could become lost in the wilderness forever.
Psalms 31:5 “Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
While these words of David are often used by people of faith as they are about to leave this life, they should also comfort the believer living in this life. For what man should care about is not his physical being, or material wealth, but his soul. Once we of faith commit our souls to Jesus, it is in the safest hands it could possibly be. Therefore, we should always strive to live in Peace. Not because we are unconcerned about this world, but because we know our future is assured. Interesting to note is that David of course was unaware of Calvary, yet he had no doubt eternal redemption was at hand. 🙂
I was reading Paul again over dinner this evening, and 2 Corinthians 4:11-12 spoke to me:
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
What Paul was saying here, is that everything that he suffered in serving Christ was akin to the sufferings that Christ endured for us. Indeed, throughout scripture Paul was constantly being delivered from one situation or another, which is a testament to how Christ was at work in Paul’s physical being. One way we as Christians can apply this verse to our lives, is that if we are living in this life as Christ desires, yet we still suffer, then that suffering is also for Christ.
It may take awhile for the idea to sink in, but I may have to add this concept to one of my books.