Devotional # 196. 1 Timothy 1:18-20

Devotional # 196. 6/27/16. 1 Timothy 1:18-20.

Intro. Do you have friends that have left the church? Chances are good you do, considering 69% of American evangelical teens leave the church after high school, never to return.[i] And if they do make it past high school, 712 of 18-29 year olds leave the church every single day; some return but ultimately 1.7 million will never come back.[ii] In fact, adults over 30 are leaving the church in record numbers also[iii]. There are multiple reasons for this but in today’s Devotional we’re going to study what Paul says about people “leaving the faith.” We’re going to look at where the church has failed and what we can do to fix it. Just remember some of Paul’s words can seem a little harsh but we’ll view this in light of context and that Paul told us that “love” is crucial in all situations (v. 5, v. 14).

v. 18. Paul stops talking about his personal experience with the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12-16, Devotional #195) and turns to talk about his spiritual “son” Timothy. Remember this letter was written to instruct Timothy on how to deal with the problems in the Ephesian church (see Devotional # 192 and Devotional # 193 for more). Here, Paul makes a “charge”, which means an encouraging command, to Timothy to “have faith and a good conscience” (v. 19).

Faith” isn’t blind confidence. Hebrews 11:1 clearly defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair” (Source 2). Like Timothy we must remember to recognize and agree, by taking the action of faith that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Along with “faith” Paul tells Timothy to have a “good conscience.” God has given everyone a conscience, some people chose to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes into their heart and enlightens their conscience. Other people chose to ignore their conscience and eventually silence and suppress and deaden it. Were you ever blamed for something you didn’t do? Your conscience was clear even if you were frustrated or punished. What about the person who does something wrong but doesn’t believe it should be considered wrong, and therefore feels like they have a clear conscience? There is obviously a difference but what exactly is that difference? We must first start with a biblical foundation to determine when something is right or wrong. Peter tells us to keep “a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:16, NIV). Clearly “a clear conscience” comes from “good behavior in Christ.” It may be closed-minded to say that a clear conscience can only come from a biblical basis, but nevertheless true.

After his “charge” Paul reminds Timothy that there were prophesies about him. These were given when elders laid hands on Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14) and may have been general although they could have been about his spiritual gift(s) (also 1 Timothy 4:14). One of the prophesies was for sure that he would “wage the good warfare.” Paul associates the Christian walk with life and death warfare, which he’s used before, for example read Ephesians 6:10-20 (Devotional #118, Devotional # 119, Devotional #120). This warfare is very precise and isn’t “a fight” or “warfare in general” but very specifically spiritual warfare. This will be important for us to remember when we look at verse 20 down below.

v. 19. Here Paul actually states the encouragement command to Timothy, “having faith and a clear conscience”, which we just studied. Then Paul moves to those who have left the church. The statistics that I quoted above came from John Dickerson’s book The Great Evangelical Recession but Dickerson doesn’t just give us the main problems with the church – he gives us biblical solutions too. Here in 1 Timothy 1:19 we see our first solution to healing our churches: unity on essential beliefs. Should the church unify in everything? No. “‘In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Christ.’ Our unity must give and insist on clear boundaries about the essentials. Our unity must grant us gracious room to disagree on non-essentials. And our unity must exalt Christ and His gospel.”[iv]

We’re told here that one of the “essentials” is “faith and a good conscience” and if anyone “rejected” that, it could not be tolerated. Paul likens it to being “shipwrecked” (something he knew about, see Acts 27, Devotional # 71) and, in a minute, he’ll call it “blasphemy” (v. 20). We can’t over overemphasize the negative affect of calling yourself a Christian but living a life without “faith and a good conscience”. Let’s read on to get a better understanding.

v. 20. Above I noted one of the biblical solutions Dickerson mentions is unity, a second solution is: healing in discipleship and shepherding. And here, in verse 20, Paul points us in that direction. He names two of the guys in the Ephesian church who rejected “faith and a good conscience”. Not much is known about Hymenaeus and Alexander except “Hymenaeus is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17 in connection with Philetus, another false teacher. Alexander may be the opponent of the faith referred to in 2 Timothy 4:14,15” (Source 3). And Paul tells Timothy that he has “delivered [them] to Satan.” This sounds questionable and harsh but as I said at the beginning we need to properly understand what Paul is saying and more importantly why. Paul is saying that people like Hymenaeus and Alexander are serving Satan and if they are doing that then they can’t be allowed to fellowship with believers.
Do you remember that Timothy was told “wage the good warfare” in verse 19? In Ephesians Paul reminded us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, Devotional #119). So Paul wasn’t saying Hymenaeus and Alexander were the root cause, they were just a symptom of the Devil’s manipulation.

Yes, it was important for Paul to kick them out of the church so that they couldn’t influence other believers to think incorrectly but equally as important was the desired outcome. Paul says he kicked them out so that they “may learn not to blaspheme.” Time and again when a person was kicked out of the church the hope was that they would see the error of their ways, repent and come back into fellowship with the congregation and with Jesus Christ (for example 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Paul is teaching Timothy and us the importance of taking a firm stance on an essential belief but also setting the people up for healing via discipleship and shepherding.

 

References.

Source 1: John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession, 2013, p. 99.

Source 2: S. Michael Houdmann, http://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-faith.html

Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1862.

[i] Source 1, p. 99

[ii] Source 1, pp. 103-104

[iii] Source 1, pp. 106-107

[iv] Source 1, p. 152

Advertisements

Devotional # 186. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Devotional # 186. 4/18/16. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10.

Intro. This whole section today is about God’s righteous judgment. I’ve done my best to break it down for us to understand but I must acknowledge that it’s meant to be taken as a unified explanation for us to understand Gods righteous justice. As I mentioned last week in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3 (Devotional # 185) we’ll look at verse 4 and following to see how the “faith” and “love” that has grown affects other churches (verse 4) and is evidence of “the righteous judgment of God” (verse 5). In fact, for all of the important prophesy of the future that Paul gives us we’ll see him tie it all back to the persecutions we currently face and the faith and love that continues to grow. Finally, I will wrap up with a special application about groups that call themselves “Christian” but don’t believe in hell.

vv. 4-5. Paul, Silas and Timothy tell other churches about the Thessalonians “patience and faith” in all of the trials and tribulations they go through. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2-5 (Devotional # 179) we talked about how Paul and the others had “sent Timothy” to check in with the Thessalonians since they were going through such difficult persecution. There, as he does here, Paul contrasts the difficulties with the “faith” they have in the Lord. Make no mistake, most of us do not go through the kind of persecution that the early Church went through but that doesn’t mean God won’t take care of us in our spiritual difficulties. Is it possible that God is helping us grow our faith through these trials?

One of the most important things Paul draws our attention to here is that enduring “persecutions and tribulations” is “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God.” So often people ask, ‘God, if you’re real, why are You letting me go through this?’ They become so focused on themselves that they don’t see His bigger plan and the positive affect it can have on others. Paul tells us in Romans that we will be considered brothers and sisters with Jesus, “if indeed we suffer with Him…” (Romans 8:17). So our longsuffering through trials is actually preparing us for heaven and is ultimately “evidence” for God’s righteous judgment. But how? Let’s keep reading to find out…

vv. 6-10. We often think of God’s judgment as scary wrath (which is true, as we’ll see in a minute) but it is more importantly “justice”. God’s justice is unquestionably fair and impartial. What Paul is talking about here is the Final Judgment. So the evil people who are persecuting the Thessalonians will be dealt with justly by God. God will give the Christians “rest” (v. 7) but also pay back the evil persecutors (v. 6). This gives us the right mindset that we shouldn’t seek or expect justice while we’re alive on earth, instead God alone is righteous and He will “repay” on His own timeline.

What does His timeline look like? Well, after the Millennium of peace Satan must be briefly released (Revelation 20:7), then he mounts a final assault (20:8) but then “fire [will come] down from God out of heaven and [devour] them” (20:9). This is followed by Satan’s final imprisonment in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10) and God’s White Thrown Judgment (20:11-15). Here in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 when it says, “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” as if they are a “flaming fire”, I believe that this “fire” is His glory coming down from heaven in Revelation 20:9*. We’ve seen God appear this way in the bush with Moses (Exodus 3:2) giving of the Law (Exodus 19:18) which is “symbolizing His own bright glory and His consuming vengeance against His foes (Hbr 10:27, 12:29; 2Pe 3:7, 10)” (Source 1).

In verse 9 we move into what that punishment will look like: “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” You’ve probably heard it said that the worst thing about hell is being separated from God, and I would agree. Remember in 1 Thessalonians when we realized that the “coming” of Jesus at the Rapture could be translated the “presence” of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:13, Devotional # 179)? For how incredible it will be to be in the presence of our Lord it will be equally awful to be excluded from that presence. So, yes, the separation from God will probably be the worst thing about hell, but the rest doesn’t sound like a picnic either! Did you notice it says, “everlasting destruction”? I’ve never really thought about it but this is unimaginable to our finite minds. By definition when something is “destroyed” it’s gone. It’s finished and ended. But somehow in hell non-believers will be “destroyed” over and over and over forever. That sounds absolutely horrifying to me.

Paul finishes up this section by bringing this to its logical end: Jesus bringing right justice and judgment will drive us Christians to glorify and admire Him (v. 10). Not only that but Paul masterfully ties this all back to the Thessalonians (and our) present afflictions.

*Fire from heaven: I believe Revelation 20:9 is Jesus and His angels coming down from heaven. However, since the word for “fire” (pyr, Source 2) can translated as literal and/or figurative I can certainly see where it could be both literal fire AND a description of Jesus coming down (2 Thessalonians 1:8). I don’t think it’s ONLY literal fire because it says that it “devoured them” and since the “them” here is Satan and his armies we know they are not truly “devoured” (as in “dead”) but more properly “defeated.”(Greek katesthio, Source 3). As far as I can tell it’s impossible to be dogmatic.

A Special Application for 2016

Did you know that there are people who call themselves Christians but don’t believer in hell or that God will judge with wrath? Places in the Bible like Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25) and Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16:31-35) are not conclusive enough for them. It’s important to note that as Christians who believe that hell is real and that God is just it is not because we want to see people go to hell or because we’re cruel but because it justice is simply who God is and because the Bible tells us it’s true. How God defines justice is up to him not us. Brian Broderson says there are two main reasons that people reject the idea of the wrath of God: 1. Because we don’t fully grasp the holiness of God and 2. Because we don’t understand how sinful we are (Source 4).

In his chapter asking how can a loving God could torture people in hell, former atheist and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel, quotes renowned atheist Bertrand Russell. Russell says, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that he believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment” (Source 5). Isn’t it interesting that an atheist like Russell can clearly see that Jesus believed in hell and yet, regardless of whether Russell’s conclusion is true or not, these supposedly Christian groups deny that Jesus believed in hell.

Pray for the people who do not trust God at His word or have been misled into believing that what we humans think is right should somehow govern what God determines as right. In essence, although these groups will not acknowledge it, that is what they are doing. They are allowing thinkers like Bertrand Russell and cultural ideas and opinion outweigh God’s truth. Pray that they would not allow culture and emotion to trump God, but that instead they would look deeper at why God said what He said then whether they think a loving God couldn’t create hell. I have taken pains to be ambiguous and not specifically call out the different groups that think they are Christians but don’t believe in hell or “eternal destruction.” You can look up that information on your own and I encourage you to have conversations with your friends and family that may believe this way. Just know that I’ve tried to debate and persuade them with the Bible and I personally haven’t seen that work. What I have seen work is praying for them and allowing Jesus’ love overcome them.

Conclusion. Paul started off talking about “faith”, “love” and persecution and ended up talking about persecutions. Did you miss it? While giving us prophetic descriptions of the future Paul also builds our faith in telling us God will take care of perfect justice at the Great White Thrown Judgment! I pray that you start praying for your friends and family who don’t know or are unwilling to admit that hell is a real place and God’s judgment is final and just. The next time you feel called to share Jesus with someone consider the “eternal destruction” that they are facing if they don’t hear the gospel.

 

References.

Source 1: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown (https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/2Th/2Th_001.cfm?a=1117001

Source 2: pyr, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4442&t=KJV

Source 3: katesthiohttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2719&t=KJV

Source 4: Brian Broderson in a message given 4/17/16.

Source 5: Bertrand Russel quoted by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for Faith, Zondervan, p. 235.

Devotional # 185. 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Devotional # 185. 4/11/16. 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3.

Intro. Last week we finished up 1st Thessalonians talking about how each person has a body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and how the order Paul put them in is important (Devotional # 184). Before we become a Christian our body is first, next our mind (“soul”) and then our spirit; but when we become a Christian Jesus transforms us and our spirit is first, next our mind and then our body takes a backseat. This week we’re starting the book of 2nd Thessalonians and there is plenty more to learn. We’ll talk again about “grace” and “peace” as a unifying factor but also look into our growth in “faith” and “love.”

vv. 1-2. Paul is going to start with a very similar salutation as he did in 1 Thessalonians. In fact the first two verses here are identical to the first verse of 1 Thessalonians. Just like in 1st Thessalonians, this letter comes from “Paul, Silvanus [Silas], and Timothy” although it was Paul who wrote the letter. My first question is, how much time passed between the two letters? “Because of its similarity to 1 Thessalonians, it must have been written not long after the first letter—perhaps about six months. The situation in the church seems to have been much the same. Paul probably penned it (see 1:1; 3:17) circa A.D. 51 or 52 in Corinth, after Silas and Timothy had returned from delivering 1 Thessalonians” (Source 1). 

So the greeting is from these men but also from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul has full authority to write this since it is God who is inspiring him to write this letter. When he says, “grace to you and peace” (again, from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ“) it’s the same as we’ve talked about before, “grace” was a common greeting among Gentiles and “peace” was common among Hebrews so there is recognition of the diversity of the Church while at the same time bringing unity!

v. 3. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians the first time it was because he had gotten a good report from Timothy’s visit (Acts 18:5) and wanted to encourage them. It appears that he had gotten another good report and wanted to encourage them again. I mentioned that the first two verses here are the same as 1 Thessalonians but the theme of this verse is very similar to the last letter also: thankfulness. Here Paul says, “we are bound to thank God always for you.” There is such appreciation from Paul, Silas and Timothy that the Thessalonians are doing as God has instructed them. I know first-hand how rewarding it is to see other Christians remaining steadfast in the things of God. You must understand that the way you live doesn’t just affect you, and not just affect non-Christians who are watching your testimony but also other Christians. And when our brothers and sisters (“brethren”) are faithful in this, it is “fitting” for us to thank God also.

Notice that the way they are being faithful is that their “faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.” These are valuable lessons to learn: 1. Our “faith” can continue to grow and 2. Our “love” for other Christians can continue to grow. Let’s look into this more deeply:

  1. Our “faith” can grow: Never think that your current “level” of faith is enough. Never become comfortable in this. Always allow the Holy Spirit to increase your faith. This sounds great on paper but are you really willing to allow God to stretch you beyond your comfort zone? Be used by God so that the increase of your faith produces a furthering of God’s will in the world. We need it!
  1. Our “love” can grow: Don’t be discouraged if you feel like it’s too hard to love other Christians. I get it – people are hard to love. But what did Jesus do when one of His friends sold Him out for a couple of bucks and the rest of His friends deserted Him? He loved them. He loved He didn’t wait for their apology, He didn’t beat them over the head with a lesson; He loved them. In the same way when we love our brothers and sisters, regardless of what they’ve done, it produces, among many other things, a thankfulness on the part of other Christians.

Conclusion. If you read ahead then you noticed Paul’s first sentence is 8 verses long! I split up the sentence since there is plenty just in the first half. Next week we’ll look at verse 4 and following to see how the “faith” and “love” that has grown affects other churches (verse 4) and is evidence of “the righteous judgment of God” (verse 5). For now, here in verses 1-3, it is good that we meditate on how we as a Church in 2016 can be like the Thessalonians. How can we do this, you ask? By celebrating our diversity in unity (“grace” and “peace” – verse 2). By recognizing that these come from both “our Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” – verse 2). By thanking God for our brothers and sisters (verse 3). By recognizing that it is “fitting” to have that thankfulness (verse 3). By demonstrating our growth in “faith” (verse 3). And finally, by demonstrating our growth in “love” for each other (verse 3). These are great things for us to aspire to! I pray that you have the patience and determination to be encouraged by the Church and to encourage the Church. Remember, the Church is not four walls, it is the people that have admitted they are sinners who need Jesus as their Savior. If Jesus can forgive them so should you! Have patience with your brothers and sisters in the Lord! God bless!

 

References.

Source 1: http://www.biblica.com/es-us/la-biblia/biblia-en-linea/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-2-thessalonians

 

Devotional # 174. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5

Devotional # 174. 2/1/16. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.

Intro. Two weeks ago (Devotional #172) we started the book of 1 Thessalonians (pronounced “thess-uh-lone-ee-ans”) and we talked about how Paul wrote this letter to encourage the church there. In verse 1 we saw Paul’s multi-layered greeting and the significance between God being both “the Father” and “our Father.” And we saw the multi-layed title/name of “Lord Jesus Christ” as being very important.

Today we’ll have a lesson in two huge tenants of the faith: “thankfulness” and “prayer”. And we’ll also see the three attitudes of the Christian: faith, hope and love. Lastly, we’ll see four things that the gospel came “in.”

v. 2. Just in this one verse Paul gives us possibly the two most important rules to live by in the Christian faith: thankfulness and prayer. As was Paul’s custom, and we should make it our own also, the first thing that he does is to give “thanks to God“. By being thankful he puts his heart and mind in the right place. He knows that whatever he’s about to say, whatever he’s going to do and however he’s going to exhort them or correct them it is with thankfulness to God for providing the wisdom to do these things. If Paul recognizes how blessed he is and the church recognizes how blessed they are, their thankfulness will pour over onto non-Christians and they will have to seriously consider who God truly is. And so Paul is thankful to God “always for you all” which tells us that Paul is never not thankful for them (“always“). No matter how lackadaisical or frustrating or seemingly perfect our sisters and brothers in the faith are we should “always” be thankful for every single one of them (“all“).

And then Paul says that he, Silas, Timothy and others make “mention of you in our prayers.” What an encouragement to know that men like Paul and Silas and Timothy were praying for you! That they remembered you and your needs and brought them before God. This doesn’t just have to be a thing that we fantasize about, this should be something that we do in our own lives. For us to go out of our way and get to know little churches all over this country and all over the world will take some time but we have more than enough resources. When we start to recognize the names and families of people that we may have never met it starts to change her heart and that’s when God can use us. It may seem trivial but it will put a little more weight behind your prayers of “and God take care of the church around the world.”

From “thankfulness” and “prayer” will come everything that we need to know to do in the Christian faith. Think about it, if we’re not thankful for what God has done, is doing, and will do, why would we be willing to serve Him or help others or share Jesus with others? And if we’re not praying about it how will we know what is God’s will for us to do, who we should speak to and how we should love? It all comes down to “thankfulness” and “prayer”.

vv. 3-4. I like lists, or at least lists from the Bible, because it helps me clearly see what I’m supposed to do. Here Paul shows us three things the Thessalonians were doing: 1. “work of faith”, 2. “labor of love” and 3. “patience of hope.” The “work of faith” can be simply being used by God for anything He asks you to do. He’ll never leave you to do it alone, He’ll always have prepared you (even if you don’t know it) and He’ll have given you the spiritual gift(s) to accomplish it. We’re used to hearing the expression “it was a labor of love.” It generally means something was a lot of work but it wasn’t that bad because you enjoyed doing it. That’s exactly what God is saying here. He will give you a passion that you never had, to do work you never knew, to impact others you never cared for. This passion you have is not something you came up with on your own, often it’s the furthest thing from your mind, but once you’re saved His thoughts become your thoughts, His passion becomes your passion and His love becomes your love. Lastly, the “patience of hope” is an attitude only available to a Christian. Really, without Jesus no one has “hope” and so the believer has a comfort and “patience” in knowing that this world is not the end and there is always “hope” in Jesus. Each of these (the work, the love and the hope) were done “in Jesus” and with God the Father watching (“in the sight of“).

Next we see the Thessalonians “election” was evident to Paul by their unceasing “work of faith” their “labor of love” and “patience of hope.” God had “elected” them to salvation and to do these things while still on earth. This is a great thing and still applies to us to this day! But I must make a warning: if you’re like me you like lists because they clearly tell you the expectation of what’s due. In other words I don’t like “to do” lists but if I have to do stuff I like it clearly stated and separated. The mistake we can make here is to look at this as a “to do” list and think that we’re working ourselves into getting “elected” to go to heaven. But that’s wrong. All signs here (and elsewhere in the Bible) point to the opposite. Let’s look at it again. Their “work of faith” was in who? Faith in themselves and their abilities or Jesus’? Their “love” came from themselves or Jesus? Their “patience of hope” was a hope in themselves and how great they were, or in Jesus? It clearly states here it was “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” So it is only after we have been saved by Jesus that we have the power to do any of the things that God works into us. Let’s look into that power in the next verse…

v. 5. When Paul says “our gospel” he’s not saying that it’s his and Silas and Timothy’s. He’s saying “our” as in it is something shared by all Christians, including the Thessalonians. They should be proud of their spiritual heritage and the blessing of being “elected” and hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here we see four things that the gospel came in 1. “word” (not in word only, implies that it did come in “word”), 2. “power“, 3. “the Holy Spirit“, and 4. “much assurance“:

It would be amazing in and of itself that the good news of Jesus came in “word” only but if that word didn’t include “power” then at best it would be just another religious writing. But it did come with “power” – the power to heal people’s physical bodies, to heal their minds and to heal their spirits. The gospel also comes with the power of the “Holy Spirit”, one member of the Trinity, God Himself! And the power of the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of it sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8). Amazingly it is both the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin and comes to live in our heart when we accept this gospel of Jesus. And lastly the gospel came “in much assurance” which just means that the people prior to this were assured by God that this good news was true and for them.

Conclusion. We have received much today. Keep in mind the reminder to be “pray” and be “thankful.” Practice the three attitudes of the believer: faith, hope and love. Treasure how the gospel came: in “word”, in “power“, in “the Holy Spirit“, and in “much assurance“. Have a blessed day!

Devotional # 89. Galatians 3:1-14

Devotional # 89. 6/2/14. Galatians 3:1-14.

Galatians: Since we started Galatians we’ve seen the theme of not adding anything to faith in Jesus. Last week chapter 2:14-21 was Paul’s recollection of what he said to Peter about his hypocrisy, but really more about the reality of a Christian’s freedom and true salvation. Chapter 3 starts Paul’s address to the people of the Church in Galatia, wanting them to keep in mind what he just said in chapter 2.

vv. 1-4. Paul takes the Galatians back to truth. What had they been convinced of when they became Christians? The Holy Spirit worked in them, not through the law but through faith in Jesus.

vv. 5-9. Paul refers to “He who supplies the Spirit to you”. Now from our study in Acts we remember this to be Jesus (see Acts 1:8, Devotional 43, specifically “vv. 1-8”; also John 14:16; 16:7). Paul doesn’t beg them to go back to the truth because of him or something he has done. He tells them to go to Jesus who is Truth! We can learn a lot from Paul directing them back to Jesus who gave them the Holy Spirit and has been working miracles around and through them. Sometimes we need proof that God is working in our lives or is even there. A great idea is to keep a journal of “miracles” that are from God. Then when you doubt you can read through it and God’s actions will comfort you. I’ll give you an example: On the morning of 8/25/2010 I was trying to find one particular DVD from something called The Truth Project (see http://www.thetruthproject.org for more). I had looked on Netflix but had no idea how I was going to get that 1 specific DVD. Later that day I really wanted to review my notes before our work Bible study but I felt led to encourage one of the guys from that group instead. When I encouraged him that he was doing well in the faith he said that he had been going through The Truth Project and it really helped him! Then one of the other people from the study said that he had the whole series on DVD! I asked if I could borrow the specific DVD and he got it to me the next day. God was so good! I would never remember that story if I hadn’t write it down! Another idea is when you’re reading through the Bible mark the promises God gives. Then memorize them. God’s words will never come back to empty (Isaiah 55:11).

Paul backs up his point by stating that true descendants of Abraham are not by blood but by exercising the same faith that he did. Hebrews or Gentiles are given equal opportunity to believe and accept Jesus.

vv. 10-12. Paul is giving the Hebrews the correct perspective on the law, from Deuteronomy 27:26. The law was never meant to save but to point towards Jesus who does save. So we see that if anyone breaks one little part of the law then they have broken all of it and will not be accepted. Jesus, however, kept the entire law and sacrificed Himself for our sins, all we have to do is accept that. So why would the Galatians try to add the bondage of law, which no one can keep, to the salvation and freedom that Jesus offers, which everyone can accept?

Paul is stressing “by faith” here. “the just shall live by faith” is a really neat topic to look into. The phrase is first used in Habakkuk 2:4 then used three times in the New Testament. Each time emphasizes something different. I did an entire sermon on this phrase and used Mark Mayberry’s article, which was very helpful (you can read it here: http://www.bible.ca/ef/expository-habakkuk-2-4.htm ).

vv. 13-14. Paul continues by directing our attention to the fact that Jesus didn’t just deal with our problems without getting dirty. Jesus had always been God, and if it wasn’t weird enough to come to earth as a Man, He then became “cursed” to the Father. What does that mean? Yesterday Pastor Troy preached on Matthew 27:35-56 which is about Jesus’ crucifixion. He gives great insight for “hanging on a tree” (i.e. the cross). Go to sermonaudio.com: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=6214131252 to listen. Even if you’re not interested in that specifically you should still listen to the sermon because there is so much good stuff! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Conclusion: So nothing should be added or taken away from the good news of Jesus. Least of all the law which was given by the Father as a sign pointing towards the Son. Think of it like being trapped in a tunnel with a flashlight. If you are content just turning the flashlight on and watching it until the battery dies then you will die. But if you use it to find a way out then you will have life. Once you break out of that tunnel and feel the warm touch of the sun and breathe the fresh air why would you go bury your head in a hole with your flashlight? In the same way once you have felt the warm touch of the Son and breathed in the Spirit’s life why would you go back to the law? Keep this in mind: Paul says the gospel is three things: 1. Jesus died, 2. He was buried, 3. He rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4). If anything is added, we reject it.

Devotional #15. Mark 5:21-43

Devotional #15 (1/7/13).  Jesus talks about superstition and faith.

Intro: Last week was New Year’s Eve and we talked about Jesus traveling all the way across a Sea to visit and heal one man. That man had tried to help himself before, he had tried to change but couldn’t do it without the help of God. This week Jesus deals with superstition which is when people believe in supernatural things with no real proof. A superstitious person might think they have to rub a rabbit’s foot for good luck or they wear silver to keep away werewolves. The people that we talked about last week who kicked Jesus out of town when He healed the demon possessed man were superstitious. Today we’ll see another person who is superstitious and someone else who has faith.

This Week’s Reading: Mark 5:21-43.

vv. 21-24. Now that Jesus has been kicked out of town He goes back across the Sea of Galilee and a huge number of people meet Him there. They were asking questions and wanting to be healed but one of them, Jairus, bowed to the ground and asked Jesus to heal his daughter. Here Jairus has faith that if Jesus goes to see his daughter she won’t die. But notice he is superstitious that Jesus has to go to her when he says, “To heal my daughter You have to come and lay Your hands on her.’” Jesus agrees and the entire mob (big group of people) goes with them.

vv. 25-28. Now we read about a woman with a medical problem where she had a period that never ended (“flow of blood for twelve years”). She had been to every doctor, spent all her money and no one could help her. In this culture she wouldn’t have been able to marry because they considered a woman with a period unclean. She was probably very lonely, ashamed, poor and hopeless. But she had faith. We’ll talk more about it but notice here the author (Mark) interrupts the story of Jairus to tell this story. This story is also in Matthew 9 and Luke 8.

vv. 29-30. The women didn’t want to make a big deal, she tried to sneak in. But because she had faith that Jesus could heal her she was healed! Jesus knew power had left Him so He stopped walking and asked who touched Him. Can you imagine what Jairus was thinking? He was probably frustrated that this big group of people was taking so long to get to his house and now this women was making the trip take even longer. But Jesus was allowing the trip to take longer so he could get rid of Jairus’ superstition.

vv. 31-34. Of course Jesus’ disciples think it’s crazy that He says “who touched My clothes?” There were people everywhere pushed in all around Him! But Jesus was asking who had touched Him with faith that they would be healed. Many times when can go to Jesus hoping to get some wishes answered or just to be with the crowd but the difference is faith. She was scared and comes and tells Him “the truth.” She wanted to sneak in and out but now everyone is staring at her. But Jesus loves her and comforts her.

Notice in verse 34 Jesus says “be healed of your affliction.” Interestingly the way Jesus phrases this (since He’s already healed her) is that she will continue to be healed, the infirmity will not come back. He uses the past tense speaking about the future; when Jesus says something we can be confident that the future can be spoken of in the past tense.

vv. 35-36. Now we go back to Jairus who was anxiously waiting for all this to be done with but the news he was most scared to hear came. His daughter was dead, he should just give up. But Jesus hears it and immediately tells Jairus to not lose faith. It was like Jairus had just seen a perfect example of faith from this woman and now he needed to do the same.

vv. 37-39. Jesus continues to Jairus’ house with Peter, James and John (although we don’t know why Jesus picked them here and several other times to be with Him). The people who were outside the house would have been family members who were sad about the little girl dying but there also were people who were paid to mourn. In the Hebrew culture, if a family could afford it, they would pay people to cry loudly to show that they had lost a family member.

vv. 40-42. The people who were getting paid to cry loudly made fun of Jesus saying the little girl was asleep because everyone had already seen that she was dead and because they didn’t want to lose their job of mourning. So when Jesus asked why they were crying and that the little girl was sleeping He was making sure they all recognized that she really was dead so there would be no question when He brought her back to life. So He takes a small group in (including the parents) to witness His miracle. Then the little girl rose from the dead! Jesus knew what He was doing when He took a long time to come to Jairus’ house. It was only something God could do to raise someone from the dead. He proved that He had power over death, not just that he could take away a fever or heal blind eyes but that He conquered over death!

v. 43. He tells them give her something to eat since she had been dead she must be hungry! Actually since she had been sick she probably had not had a lot of food so she needed to get back her strength. And He also tells them not to tell anyone right away. Jesus knew that everyone would be talking about this healing but for right now He didn’t want all the crowds to come rushing into the house to see. He gave the family time to spend together.

Summary: All of Mark 5 shows us the difference between superstition and supernatural. The difference between fear and faith. In Exodus 33 Moses was only able to see God’s backside but when this women touched Jesus he turned around and looked her in the face. He turned His backside and faced her, because of her faith, showing His grace. From there He went and healed Jairus’ daughter, raising her from the dead. Today, if we have faith, we can see God face to face, experience His grace, and be resurrected from the dead!

Devotional #13. Mark 4:21-41

Devotional #13 (12/25/12).  More parables and Jesus calms the Sea.

Intro: Last week Jesus taught with a parable commonly known as “the sower” (someone who plants seeds). Remember a parable is using things that are seen all the time to teach a point. Jesus said the parable of “the sower” was the key to understanding all other parables. In this section he will give us more parables.

This Week’s Reading: Mark 4:21-41.

vv. 21-23. Jesus asks why someone would put a light under a bed. You have a lamp to shine light so you can see. In the same way Jesus says everything spiritual that needs to be known is made known and not hidden. He is giving a warning, if you have ears then use them.

vv. 24-25. This goes back to what we said last week under Mark 4:12. Remember how MacArthur said Jesus was giving both judgment and mercy? He is saying we are responsible for what we know. If a person hears only a little bit about Jesus and tells others that is what God will hold them accountable for. If someone hears a lot about Jesus but doesn’t tell anyone they will have to answer God why they didn’t tell anyone. Then in verse 25 Jesus says more blessing will be added to the person who does what Jesus says and tells others. But for the person who has been told a little and does nothing with it even that will be taken away. If they don’t want to hear it God won’t force it on them. The person who searches for food will find it, the person who doesn’t care will starve.

vv. 26-29. Jesus uses another farming example (probably because everyone listening was familiar with crops and planting). This time He says it’s about God’s kingdom. God plants seeds in men’s hearts but we can’t explain how it works, all we know is that the Holy Spirit speaks to all people. Some people want to grow and understand what God says and others don’t. But no one knows when the harvest will come. A harvest is when plants are ready to have their fruit picked. In this case Jesus is saying He will come back for those who have chosen Him, although no one knows when that is so people need to listen to Him right now!

vv. 30-32. A mustard seed is “usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter” (Source 1). But, as Jesus says, it grows larger than other plants of its type: you can see a picture by clicking on Source 2 below. Jesus’ point was that the amount of people going to heaven started small but it will grow very large. Interestingly mustard seeds grow well in Hungary! (Source 1)

vv. 33-34. Jesus tells the crowds parables but later he takes the time to explain everything to His disciples. He was giving them much so as time went by they would be able to explain to others.

vv. 35-36. Jesus and his disciples go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Source 3) and Jesus is very tired so they bring Him along “as He was.” Also notice the mention of other boats which means that there were other eye-witnesses, not just the disciples, who see what is about to happen.

vv. 37-38. A storm came up on the Sea and it filled up the boat with water. Some of the disciples were fishermen so they had been on the Sea all their lives but they were really scared, so it was a bad storm. And where is Jesus? He’s asleep in the back of the boat (“the stern”: Source 4) which is interesting because that’s where the captain would be. So the disciples freak out, wake Him up and ask Him why He doesn’t care that they’re all going to die.

vv. 39-40. So Jesus wakes up and tells nature to be calm and it automatically obeys Him. Who has power over a storm, over waves and wind? Only God, the Creator of everything that exists. In Hebrews 2:1 it says Jesus made everything and since there are no contradictions in the Bible when Genesis 1:1 says that God made everything it must mean that Jesus is God.

And Jesus asks why they were scared since they had seen His power healing people and casting out demons. Jesus shows there is a connection between faith and fear. He says, “‘how is it that you have no faith?’” But what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words Faith is belief in something you can’t see. The important word here is “something”. There must be an object to believe in. For example if I put my faith in a chair that is something that I believe will hold me. In order to have faith in something I need to know about it. The disciples knew Jesus well, they had seen Him do amazing things but they got scared and lost their faith in him. So here Jesus is calling them out on it. A friend of mine heard me preach on this and brought up the point that there is no fear when there is faith. We see this again on the sea in Mt. 14:30-31. Peter is walking on water, then “afraid” (v. 30) then Jesus equates this with having “little faith” (v. 31).

v. 41. The disciples ask, ‘who has this kind of power and authority?’ It is the same question we should ask ourselves. Jesus is showing He is God so we should listen to Him. This is not a fairy tale—remember the boats? There were eyewitnesses who saw this.

 

Summary: Jesus will keep us safe no matter what storms threaten to kill us in this life. He is in the captain’s position and all we have to do is have faith that He will do what He has promised. My prayer for all of you is that you would lean your full weight on Jesus. That you would give Him your burdens. That you would tell Him you’re not perfect but you recognize He is. And that you know if you accept Him into your heart although everything will not immediately become easy and wonderful He will take care of you. He will protect you and love you like only God can!

References:

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustard_seed

Source 2: http://www.phytolith.net/projects_collaborations/nogap_archaeobotany/salvadora_persica.html

Source 3:  http://bible.org/seriespage/meaning-miracles-mark-435-41

Source 4: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stern