Created Sunday, Nov. 21, 2004 - Updated Wed. Jan. 12, 2005
I have two purposes to accomplish in this article. One, to show Christians that they need to be involved in God's work as the primary activity of their lives. This would mean becoming as knowledgeable about God's word and purpose as possible; and where possible, to tell others about it. Yes, preaching is a responsibility of every Christian to some degree. Why will be explored and proven from the Bible.
2nd would be that we must expend energy and effort, a struggle if you will, in pursuing God's things rather than our own. As Christians, we should expect significant persecution. If we have not experienced it yet, we soon will. We must give up expecting a lot out of our lives and out of this world. We must not look for a lot out of this life. It will be a challenge. We need to think primarily about the future 2nd life and promises of how much better life will be on earth after God straightens all things out for us.
To make it more plain, this life, this first life of ours, is a throw away. There is little to gain, have, or enjoy in this present wicked evil world dominated by the devil. But God promises to eventually get rid of the devil and correct all things and "make all things new" again, after He has first proven His point beyond any doubt. His point being that any sort of rebellion and disobedience, even as small as eating a piece of forbidden fruit from a forbidden tree, will ultimately end up in the most unimaginable horrors that will shed unprecedented amounts of blood and bring total destruction. We haven't reached that point yet but we are soon about to.
So we should not worry if life is not that good to us now. How could it be good when mankind is out of control and following path of Satan, in general? But it will be good, beyond nearly anything we can comprehend right now because the world has been a mess since Adam rebelled in the Garden of Eden. We have never known what perfection of our fleshly bodies is like. Many of us have never known peace and prosperity; bliss, if you will. If we are willing to set our minds and hearts to it, we should be able to discern how great things will one day be.
But it is a fact that some of us, a few of us in comparison to the total number of God's people, will have to have our lives cut short by persecution. We will or have been executed before our time was up. But God has promised that we will come back to life again. We will eventually get that good life that we have always wished for, and really, were born expecting. But faith is required of anyone who wants this promise. Perhaps trust is a more appropriate word. We trust that God can deliver and will deliver on His promises.
Let us contrast what I have said so far with how most Christians go about their lives. Most are concerned with nice houses and cars and making a decent living. They might like to get married, even have kids. But Satan is no fool. He knows that we would naturally like these things and has set a high price on them, maybe too high a price. Remember that Satan is a predator who wants to kill us spiritually which will also lead us to physical death and permanent death. So he is going to be nasty and fierce toward us. We can not and should not expect that he will go easy on us. Remember that he killed Adam and Eve with his deception and has killed many millions of millions since with his operations with men here on earth. He will want to kill us, too. He wants to kill everyone. Life means nothing to him.
Neither should we expect that Satan would feel some mercy toward children, either. Satan attacks when it is most advantageous and that is always when children are youngest, most inexperienced, and weakest; in short, their most vulnerable. Satan does not wait until it is fair or nice. He cares nothing at all about any kind of life. That is the nature of a rebellion against God. We must also remember that Satan's followers here on earth are just like Satan in attitude and spirit. they care nothing for any life at any age. There is no love in any oft hem whatsoever. Anything goes. These are the people we face in our lives. Do not be misled about their intentions. They mean business, bad business towards us.
So we can not and should not expect that life will be an easy or pleasant experience. Quite the opposite, really. The Bible has many scriptures that foretell a great persecution. So we have to prepare for a spiritual war in which our lives will be fought for, fought over, and fought against. But we will finally get what we want if we prove faithful at all costs, even if that cost must be execution by the servants of Satan here on earth.
OK, so I have made quite a few shocking statements for many. No doubt about it! The bar is raised high. Can I prove what I say from the Bible? You better believe it! I hope people reading this will have the courage to continue to read. While the message I present is not pleasant or optimistic for the present, certainly it is for the future when everything will be made right.
We humans tend to think in the short term present rather than think long term, looking ahead to the future. Let me put it this way. If you owned and ran a company and knew that you could make 50,000 a year in your current state or drop down to 40,000 a year for 3 years and invest in equipment that would enable you to make 100,000 a year, would you be willing to suffer the loss of 10,000 per year for 3 years in order to double your income every year after those 3 years? That is to says, would you invest $30,000 to get an extra $50,000 every year? Without hesitation, I know that I would. It is not good to lose 10,000 a year, but having lost 30,000 over 3 years, in the next year alone, you would gain 50,000, which is 20,000 more than everything you lost and you will continue to make 100,000 every year after. You sacrifice in the near short term to gain long term advantages. Businesses do it all the time.
Or suppose you had to have an operation to save your life. Going to the hospital and getting cut open is not a pleasant experience. Healing can be painful and take a while. But the prospect of dying is much worse so we accept the surgery and its risk knowing that a much greater risk will be avoided, namely early death.
Likewise, giving up our life for the present in order to get a much better life and one that lasts forever, is surely worth the cost of an early, but temporary death in the present. We sacrifice in the present for the future. Christians need to have that mentality.
You know, there are so many teachings of Jesus that speak of duty, obligation, extending yourself, obeying the commandments, preaching the word of God, pursuing Godly things above all else. And even those who have only read a little of the Bible, perhaps just a few books, or just one or two, have likely read one of the gospels of Jesus as one of those books. Besides that, the teachings of Jesus are so well known and spread about, that many know about a number of his teachings without even reading his gospels. So there really is no excuse for real Christians not to know his teachings and commands and be following them.
So you will note that much of what I have to say on these subjects will be quotes from the gospels of Jesus. But there will be plenty from the rest of scripture as well since it is all inspired of God and for our benefit.
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These two are important, but really, how can one preach or teach if one does not first learn and know, and then obey? Hearing and reading, with a goal of learning and knowing, is absolutely our first obligation. It is only logical and reasonable. But don't believe me, believe what God's word has to say about it. Many of these scriptures are self-explanatory so I do not bother to comment on them. A few I will comment on as they are so good and so important to understand fully.
1 My son, if you will receive My words, and treasure up My commandments with you,
2 so that you attend to wisdom, you shall extend your heart to understanding.
3 For if you cry for discernment, lifting up your voice for understanding;
4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as hidden treasures,
5 then you shall understand the fear of Jehovah and find knowledge of God.
6 For Jehovah gives wisdom; out of His mouth are knowledge and understanding.
7 He lays up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to the ones who walk in integrity,
8 to guard the paths of judgment, and He protects the way of His saints.
9 Then you shall understand righteousness and judgment and honesty, yea, every good path.
10 When wisdom enters into your heart, and knowledge is pleasing to your soul,
11 discretion shall keep you, understanding shall watch over you;
1 My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands,
2 for they shall add length of days and long life and peace to you.
3 Mercy and truth will not forsake you; tie them on your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart;
4 and you shall find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
4 And he taught me and said to me, Let your heart cling to my words; keep my commands and live.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forsake and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the main thing; get wisdom, and with all your getting, get understanding.
1 Aleph. Blessed are the upright in the way, who walk in the law of Jehovah.
2 Blessed are those keeping His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart.
3 They also do not work evil; they walk in His way.
4 You have commanded to carefully keep Your precepts.
5 O that my ways were fixed to keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed, when I look to all Your commands.
7 I will thank You with integrity of heart, in my learning the judgments of Your righteousness.
8 I will keep Your statutes; do not forsake me utterly.
33 He. O Jehovah, teach me the way of Your statutes, and I will keep it to the end.
34 Make me understand and I will keep Your law, and observe it with the whole heart.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have believed Your commands.
John 17:3 And this is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given to us an understanding that we may know the true One, and we are in the true One, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and the life everlasting.
Matthew 4:4 But answering, He said, It has been written: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word going out of the mouth of God." [Deut. 8:3]
Deuteronomy 8:3 And He has humbled you, and caused you to hunger, and caused you to eat the manna, which you had not known, and your fathers had not known, in order to cause you to know that man shall not live by bread alone, but man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Jehovah.
1 Timothy 2:
3 For this is good and acceptable before God our deliverer,
4 who desires all men to be delivered and to come to a full knowledge of truth.
You will note to this point how important knowing God, His son, and having knowledge of Godly things in general, and obeying God's commandments are. The next verses are particularly important to me and I think they should be to you, too.
Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Luke 11:9 And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
These 2 similar verses of the words of Jesus have a lot of deep meaning and significance. Consider that babies learn a language without taking lessons or classes. Their brains deduce and break down patterns of speech and organize them, codify them to the end that they can speak and understand spoken language. Written language comes later. Our brains automatically figure things out for us so that we don't have to do anything for ourselves. God saw to it that we would be well taken care of in the important things to do with learning and communication. He is a good, thoughtful, thorough provider for us all.
And though language abilities are acquired at a special time in our infancy, and come much harder, if at all, if we were deprived of human contact in those critical first years, really, our ability to learn and deduce things continues and in much the same way. Our brains detect patterns and process them so that we come to an understanding of whatever it is that we focus or concentrate on. But Bible describes it as setting your heart upon something. So if we really want to know something, if we are truly sincere and expend any effort at all, then it is a guaranteed sure thing that we will come to know what it is that we seek to understand.
This, I believe, is what Jesus was trying to sort of convey to us. Seeking, knocking, exploring, asking, will all get results. God made sure that would happen by the brains that He gave us. So Jesus tells us to keep doing those things and we will get results. It is a matter of faith but once you do it, it is no longer faith. You will see and experience the results for yourself. This is one promise you don't have to wait for in the future. The future is now if you want it to be. In particular, keep seeking God , His kingdom, His knowledge, and whatever, and you will receive them, without any doubt.
So really, there is not much excuse for not knowing or learning. To the degree that we apply ourselves and put forth effort, to that degree we will likely gain or receive what it is we seek or ask for. If there is any insincerity in our asking or seeking, then we are likely to fail. It is like faith in that respect; if we doubt or are insincere in our worship, then we do not get or receive what we ask for.
25 Answering at that time, Jesus said, I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and of Earth, because You hid these things from the sophisticated and cunning and revealed them to babes.
26 Yes, Father, for so it was pleasing before You.
27 All things were yielded up to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
28 Come to Me, all those laboring and being burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am meek and lowly in heart, "and you will find rest to your souls." [Jer. 6:16]
30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
This previous scripture is important to me for a couple of reasons. First, revelations come from the son, Jesus. Jesus would not choose to reveal himself or the Father to anyone who did not have the right heart condition or attitude; one of sincerity, and a real desire to know and a willingness to apply themselves and give forth effort.
2nd, those accepting the responsibility and duty of learning from Jesus and obeying him will find that his yoke or burden is not really a burden at all. It is uplifting, encouraging and even exciting to realize that our long term future is a great one of eternal life and happiness that we could not possibly obtain in this corrupt, screwed up world. So his message is one of hope and deliverance. In addition, his commandments help us avoid a lot of trouble, heart aches, and head aches if we observe them.
And lastly, Jesus is really a very kind and understanding savior. He is meek and lowly in heart, with lots of warmth and does not lose his temper or go out of control. Were he to appear to one of us unidentified, we might be surprised by how low key and subtle his ways were. We would be amazed that he was really the messiah. He is not unreasonable or unapproachable as many big wigs in politics or business usually are. Just the opposite! I think the account of the blind man in John 9 is a good example of the manner of Jesus. Perhaps the account of Elisha and the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4 is an even better example with Elisha representing Jesus.
9 For this cause also, from the day in which we heard, we do not cease praying on your behalf, and asking that you may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,
10 for you to walk worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work and growing into the full knowledge of God;
9 And this I pray, that your love may yet abound more and more in full knowledge and all perception,
10 for you to distinguish the things that differ, that you may be sincere and without blame for the day of Christ,
11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
14 When you come into the land which Jehovah your God is giving to you, and have possessed it, and settled in it; and you shall say, Let me set a king over me like all the nations around me,
15 then you shall certainly set a king over you. You may not set an alien over you, one who is not your brother.
18 And it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from before the priests, the Levites.
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear Jehovah your God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them;
20 so that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or to the left; so that he may prolong his days over his kingdom, he and his sons in the midst of Israel.
I like this last scripture for it sets out the requirement of a king. And that requirement is that he must know the Bible well by making a copy for himself and reading in it all the time and carry out all that is written in it. Anyone who serves as a leader or teacher should apply themselves with great effort to read and know the Bible thoroughly, observe it himself, and teach others to do the same. And anyone who wants to prosper as a Christian should also apply himself to the Bible every day, considering what it has to say about everything he does in his life. Knowledge is one of those things that we can never have enough of and can never seek enough. The more the better; as much as you can!
This subject is important to me because I once belonged to a group that required that everyone of their members preach. Many were not qualified to preach as they did not know that much, or were not very good examples, or did not have a lot of comfort in trying to explain what they believed. And of course, they had to get their beliefs right or they would be punished for preaching so called apostasy. But they had no real obligation to preach anything other than what they thoroughly understood or thought they did. And they did not have to preach or believe what someone else thought, nor should they have a large part in preaching the word when they could not follow it properly themselves by caring appropriately for their families, and behaving properly.
While we all have an obligation to share what we have learned with those we know or love at the appropriate times, preaching on a higher, broader, more official level is left to those more knowledgeable and comfortable with such a calling. I will get to that soon. But we have to know adequately to preach at a higher level, for sure.
But gaining knowledge is just the beginning and it is for a purpose. We gain knowledge so that we can share it with others and have them come to know and serve God if at all possible. So we will consider the next topic.
Responsibility to Preach
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1 The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on Me, because Jehovah has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the meek. He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and complete opening to the bound ones;
2 to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
Jesus read this scripture in front of a crowd at a synagogue at the beginning of his ministry on earth, applying it to himself and justly so. But really, it would apply well to any of us. We are all to follow Jesus and imitate him in every way possible as we shall see from other scriptures as well. The next scripture also highlights the responsibility that Ezekiel carries, but that we also carry just as much.
16 And it happened at the end of the seven days, even it happened that the word of Jehovah came to me, saying,
17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. And hear the word of My mouth, and warn them from Me.
18 In My saying to the wicked, Surely you
shall die; and you do not warn him, and you do not speak to warn the
wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, he, the wicked, shall
die in his iniquity. But I will require his blood at your hand.
19 And you, because you have warned the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his way, he, the wicked, shall die in his iniquity. But you have delivered your soul.
20 And when the righteous turns from his
righteousness and does injustice, and I lay a stumbling-block before
him, he shall die. Since you have not warned him, he shall die in his
sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered.
But I will require his blood at your hand.
21 But you, because you warned him, the righteous, so that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he is warned. And you have delivered your soul.
Paul emphasizes much the same attitude as was in Ezekiel's instructions. Preaching is nothing to brag about. It is a requirement, a commandment of God, a responsibility we all bear. Woe if we do not do it. We deliver and spare ourselves when we honor our preaching duties. It is not that we earn anything, but we can not expect salvation if we do not obey and fulfill our obligations to God and men.
1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! [RSV]
25 And now, behold, I know that you all will see my face no more, among whom I went about proclaiming the kingdom of God.
26 Because of this I testify to you on this day that I am pure from the blood of all.
27 For I did not keep back from declaring to you all the counsel of God.
And here is the direct obvious assignment from Jesus to make disciples/followers of all nations and races, teaching them to do what we are doing; learning, obeying, preaching. Pretty simple, right?! In addition to offering himself as a sacrifice, Jesus gathered followers who would carry his message to all the world and right up to the end of this age/world/system. Preaching was a major assignment of all followers as should be plain from the scriptures to follow.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." [RSV]
6 Then, indeed, coming together they questioned Him, saying, Lord, do You restore the kingdom to Israel at this time?
7 And He said to them, It is not yours to know times or seasons which the Father placed in His own authority;
8 but you will receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and you will be witnesses of Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
9 And saying these things, as they looked on, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him from their eyes.
17 And Jesus said to them, Come after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
18 And leaving their nets, they immediately followed Him.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the earth for a testimony to all the nations, and then will come the end.
Isaiah 12:4 And in that day you shall say, Praise Jehovah! Call on His name; declare His doings among the peoples; make mention that His name is exalted.
2 Timothy 4:
1 Then I solemnly witness before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, He being about to judge living and dead at His appearance and His kingdom:
2 preach the Word, be urgent in season, out of season, convict, warn, encourage with all long-suffering and teaching.
3 For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own lusts, they will heap up to themselves teachers tickling the ear;
4 and they will turn away the ear from the truth and will be turned aside to myths.
5 But you be clear-minded in all, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully carry out your ministry.
This last one sticks out to me. Paul, referring to that time in the 1st century, told Timothy to be at his assignment and ministry with all urgency and diligence for the time was rapidly approaching when people within the Christian religion would not put up with sound doctrine and teaching but would prefer lies and myths. History has proven that to be true. But likewise in our day and age, many who profess Christianity also are not diligent in their study and application of God's word and Christ and his Apostles have foretold of an impostor, a false messiah, an antichrist, who will mislead many, even many Christians. In addition, the time is coming when Christians will again be persecuted. So we need to have the same urgency in preaching as was the case with Timothy.
But as regards this false christ/ antichrist, and the persecution of Christians near the end, you would need to read my series of articles about Revelation and related topics such as the antichrist. I place links to them at the end of this article under Related Articles that you can check out.
Paul also makes it painfully clear that we must preach and declare the word of God in the next passage.
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we proclaim) [Deut. 9:4; 30:12-14].
9 Because if you confess the Lord Jesus with your mouth, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation.
11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame." [Isa. 28:16]
12 For there is no difference both of Jew
and of Greek, for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones
calling on Him.
13 For everyone, "whoever may call on the name of the Lord will be saved." [Joel 3:5]
14 How then may they call on One in whom they have not believed? And how may they believe One of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching?
15 And how may they preach if they are not sent? Even as it has been written, "How beautiful" "the feet of those announcing the gospel of peace, of those announcing the gospel of good things." [Isa. 52:7]
16 But not all obeyed the gospel, for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" [Isa. 53:1]
17 Then faith is of hearing, and hearing
through the Word of God.
18 But I say, Did they not hear? Yes, rather, "into all the earth their voice went out, and to the ends of the world their words." [LXX-Psa. 18:5; MT-Psa. 19:4]
But What About . .
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But what about those other commands you ask? The ones that seem to contradict the command to preach? Good question! Let's consider those. They definitely need to be reconciled in order for us to proceed with confidence in our faith. Paul next speaks about a goal; that we all come to a unity of faith and completeness with full knowledge and maturity. In order to achieve this, God gave various gifts/abilities to individuals to help others in the faith grow and advance. Let's have a look now.
8 Because of this, He says, "Having gone up on high, He led captivity captive," and gave "gifts to men." [Psa. 68:18]
9 But that He went up, what is it except that He also first came down into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that came down is the same who also went up above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.
11 And indeed He gave some to be
apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors
12 with a view to the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ,
13 until we all may come to the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
14 so that we may no longer be infants, having been blown and carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine, in the underhandedness of men, in craftiness with a view to the trickery of error,
15 but speaking the truth in love, we may grow
up into Him in all things, who is the head, the Christ,
16 from whom all the body, having been fitted and compacted together through every assisting bond, according to the effectual working of one measure in each part, produces the growth of the body to the building up of itself in love.
The Christian church was to be unified and perfected, relatively speaking. It was likened to being a body that had different parts or members such as hands, legs, mouth, ears, etc. A body would not be a body if it were nothing but legs. Not everyone can be the same part. Each has their own role to play in order for the body to be functional and effective. So it is with the Christian body. Some are elders, some teachers, some prophets, some preachers, or whatever.
To be blunt, not everyone is cut out to be an evangelist preacher or apostle. Not everyone is needed to be an apostle or could be. Some will be parents and raise children. Some will be useful for the administrative duties of a church or other religious body. Each member of the Christian faith has their strengths, their gifts. Not all people are won over to Christ by a preacher or evangelist. Some are won to Christ by simple ordinary Christians who happen to be friends, relatives, or someone with something in common, perhaps. Before I discuss this idea more, let's consider a few more scriptures.
27 And God created the man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. He created them male and female.
28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea, and over birds of the heavens, and over all beasts creeping on the earth.
God's first assignment/ command to the first human pair was to marry and have kids. That command has not been revoked. No one sins by marrying or having children. In fact, it is expected that most will marry. And prior to the last century, it was naturally assumed the children would necessarily follow. It would be impossible to avoid them, really. In recent times a number of advances have been made in controlling the reproductive cycles of humans so that pregnancy can often be avoided. But for sure, God never intended that people would stop getting married. Children would likely follow and often still follow today even when they are not intended. Some things are hard to avoid.
So if one marries, there are a lot of options that might cease to exist. If children result, many options will disappear for sure. The next passages will show why.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The first, primary, and most important responsibility, duty, and obligation a father has, is to his family not preaching!!! A man who neglects his family for the sake of preaching actually denies the faith and dishonors, not to mention disobeys, his creator and lawgiver, Jehovah the almighty. So if one becomes a father, one has most of his choices made for him. His family comes first and if there is anything left over without any neglect to his family, then he may preach.
I bring this up because the religion I once belonged to was fanatical about preaching to the point where families were absolutely neglected in favor of so called preaching and "theocratic" duties in the congregation. Of course, the family may have been neglected anyway as the fathers were just plain inattentive, regardless of preaching, I suspect. But until the family is properly cared for, a father has no business preaching. Of what use is it to preach when one can't even live up to God's requirements for a family in a reasonable fashion. Note what Paul points out.
1 Timothy 3:
1 Faithful is the Word: If anyone reaches out to overseership, he desires a good work.
2 Then it behooves the overseer to be blameless, husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, well-ordered, hospitable, apt at teaching;
3 not a drinker, not a contentious one, not greedy of ill gain, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not loving money;
4 ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all respect.
5 But if anyone does not know to rule his own house, how will he care for a church of God?
Though this scripture does apply to overseers, called Bishops in some Bible translations, the rule applies to anyone who seeks to serve God in an outstanding way. It is a standard that any Christian should be striving (attempting) to meet. Paul also made the same requirement for ministerial servants, called deacons by some translation. The point is that if you can't be effective and run a family in such a way as to bring forth a fair amount of happiness and order, then how inspiring or useful could you really be to a congregation or preaching in behalf of Christ, anyway? You still have plenty to do to improve yourself and make yourself more useful to God and His flock. That should be enough until more fruits are put forth that would qualify for a higher level of service to God.
Let me say that if one fully tends to one's family, with lots of love and nurturing, assuming the teaching responsibilities for themselves that most defer to public governmental education; and provides enough financial care for them to get by modestly, one will likely have their hands full with little time left for preaching other than to friends, relatives, or acquaintances. Satan makes it very hard through his worldly system to raise kids adequately and care for a wife adequately as well. If one has a family, they are serving God plenty without worry about the cares of a flock or church or preaching.
I want to point out how important families have been to Christ and his cause. Take the example of the Shakers. The Shakers became a significant movement in the 1800's, founding colonies in a number of places across the USA. But the Shakers did not believe in sex and kept the sexes segregated. As a result, the Shakers died out as a movement. Whether the Shakers were a good movement or not, if they thought their cause a good one, they should have kept it going by reproducing. It died out only because they did not reproduce. Reproduction, not preaching and proselytizing, is how all of Christianity has survived up to now. It will not change, either!
Another example would be Jehovah's Witnesses. Though they discourage couples from having kids, many do so anyway. And if you look at baptisms over a number of years as I did as a former member, you would notice that by far, the majority of their baptismal candidates were those kids raised in the religion. Those who were getting baptized as a result of door to door preaching activity were far less in number. This fact becomes more significant when one realizes that most, to the tune of 8 out of 10 kids, leave the religion without ever having been baptized. So if they would simply concentrate on keeping a few more kids, they would gather a much better harvest than they would be, going door to door all the time.
Just to add insult to that statistical nightmare, many who are raised and baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses also leave eventually. That being the case, hardly a child remains in that religion much past the age of 20 or 25. True, a few return after some time, but many more leave, never to return. My point is that there is a great harvest among their own families, yet these they neglect in favor of a far less productive field. The problem is that God commands they love and care for their families first. Were they to do this to an adequate degree, I am sure they could do better than a 90% loss of kids they currently have and have had for at least 25 years or more.
Having once been a member of that religion, zealously involved in it, and very well read on their written doctrinal material; I can personally testify that given their 90% failure rate with children, and their emphasis being more heavily slanted toward preaching and other activities related to that pursuit; that they are guilty of neglecting their duties toward their families, due in part, to an overemphasis of the preaching work for the average member. I witnessed a great pressure and burden placed on parents to involve their children in preaching, attending meetings 3 times a week, studying on nights they were not in attendance, etc. These are ridiculously heavy and wrong requirements for children and families. That is why they lose most of their kids to the world.
They spend most of their time gleaning a small harvest in the field of preaching activity when there is this huge harvest they are missing. They are not very good or very bright businessmen doing business in behalf of their master, Jesus. In the 1980's, they numbered about 1 member (publisher) to 350-400 citizens of the industrialized countries which they lived in. Now in those same industrial countries, they average 1 in over a 1000. They have lost tremendous numbers of people due to their ignoring God's commands and priorities in their lives.
Also consider that when an army wants to carry on a military campaign, especially one involving guerilla warfare, they need a friendly supporting population that is willing to help in sustaining them, perhaps providing money/donations, food, shelter, weapons and ammunition storage, and/or offering information on enemy activity or similar things. Or if they occupy a country, they will need the cooperation, or at least not have the hosting population hostile to them in order to maintain order and control without casualties. Just ask any Viet Nam veteran or Iraq veteran about that!
Christian activities rely on similar support of church families. These families provide future members to carry on the work in various ways and keep the movement alive. They also provide support, both financial and spiritual as well. They are an indispensable part of the Christian faith. And how would other families not in the faith be attracted to the faith if there were no other families to welcome them. We should be grateful that some still dare to take on the challenge of a family. They are the backbone of the faith. I have more to consider about this in a minute.
But for now, what we can conclude is that there is more than one way to serve God. We all need to preach but some a lot more than others. Families need to worry more about families and let others who have the gifts tend to the flock or the spreading of the gospel in a more broad far-reaching sense. And those who serve in that greater sense are those who often came from such positive nurturing families of the faith. This next passage is rather eye opening.
1 Timothy 5:
9 Let a widow be enrolled having become not less than sixty years, the wife of one man,
10 being witnessed by good works, if she brought up children, if she hosted strangers, if she washed the feet of the saints, if she relieved afflicted ones, if she followed after every good work.
11 But refuse younger widows; for
whenever they grow lustful against Christ, they desire to marry,
12 having guilt because they set aside the first faith;
13 and with it all, they also learn to be idle, going around the houses, and not only idle, but also gossips and busybodies, speaking the things not proper.
Widows of 60 years of age or more were cared for by the church group to which they belonged. But widows under that age were instead encouraged to marry, recognizing the problems and human tendencies that follow among them. In many ways, Paul's counsel almost sounds like he is instructing them to keep younger widows married, barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Keep them busy raising kids. Why didn't he tell them to be busy preaching instead? Jehovah's Witnesses (so called) never answered this one. I assume that Paul naturally assumes that marriage will lead to kids and that is plenty to keep them busy and out of trouble. And he is right there. It will! But preaching is not what he prescribed, for sure.
Again, I bring this up since Jehovah's Witnesses put this tremendous pressure and guilt on people to preach, saying preaching was their primary obligation when in fact it is not. They are lying and twisting the scriptures and making something pure and wholesome in the eyes of God, namely marriage and children, to be something of a cop out from their duty and obligation to preach. We do have an obligation to tell those around us what hopes we entertain in God. But the more formal type preaching belongs to those who have the temperament and circumstances that allow that. Some refer to it as having the calling for higher things. Everyone should be trying to do all that they can for God and godly things, but in the end only a few will progress to much higher levels of service to God. That is how it seems to be ordained.
The next scripture is the only reason we might want to think of a few more options if we do not have kids or are considering having kids. It has to do with the last days and the dangers that would be in those days, which we are likely in or about to be in.
19 But woe to the woman having a child in womb, and to those suckling in those days!
20 And pray that your flight will not be in winter nor on a sabbath.
21 For there will be great affliction, such as has not happened from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will be.
22 And except those days were shortened, not any flesh would be saved. But on account of the elect, those days will be shortened.
This time coming upon us and that is possibly already upon us to some degree, though having yet a few things to be fulfilled, is a time of great challenge to Christians. Jesus said it and we don't want to take his warning lightly. Woe to the women with babies and children. There are going to be troubles for mothers and parents. It is possible that just the state of our crumbling world will begin ample danger. But it is also possible that our persecutors, the authorities, might use our children against us, threatening to take them from us if we do not comply with their God dishonoring wishes. Maybe they will take them from us. Maybe they will not like what we teach the kids. Who knows!
Maybe they will not approve of the way we discipline or care for our children. A harmless thing like allowing your children into your bed to sleep when they are scared and night or maybe they are allowed to sleep there every night as some psychologists even recommend. Human service agencies of state and federal governments do not need any laws to be broken in order to take children from parents. They can simply take them because you represent a supposed danger or merely supposed neglect. It has already happened to more than a few couples or single parents.
Or it could simply be the very unstable economic climate in which we live where jobs are shipped overseas and we may not have a job again that pays much or have a job at all for quite some time. And if jobs continue to leave, we may experience massive welfare, which could collapse our economic system and leave us in poverty due to no fault of our own. Maybe a medical disaster occurs to a member of the family and leaves us owing thousands of dollars we can not afford, leaving us in a bad financial situation. The possibilities are almost endless. We are at the mercy of a wicked system designed by you know who, who is out to get us.
Whatever the possibilities, having kids in our lives could spell lots of uncertainty and suffering. Bankruptcy, homelessness, and many other bad things could happen and be no fault of our own. Having children could become a great burden and heartbreak as we see them suffer at the hands of the system. These could make us think twice about having kids at this point in time.
But if one chooses not to have kids due to the many uncertainties life could threaten us with at this time, then other pursuits have to be taken on so that we do not become idle trouble makers ourselves. If one so chooses, and maybe one should, one could use this time to pursue godly things with great zeal and energy. Maybe this would be an opportune time for those with the desire to pursue a higher calling with God. But if you are married, only do so if both partners agree that it is what they both want to do.
But I will say that if you choose to avoid children, then why avoid a life of Godly devotion and higher calling. Really, we should be serving God with all our heart and soul, as much as we can. We should be storing treasures in heaven, drawing others to God, seeking first the Kingdom and all that goes with it. So if you choose not to have children, I question how you could avoid serving God as the foremost choice in your life.
And remember that one does not sin if they marry or have kids. Both are approved by God and blessed. But if one wants to skip the children in pursuit of something more involved with preaching activities, I am sure you will be richly rewarded. The highest honors from God go to those who serve with the most dedication and zeal.
This next passage is a long one but very important. I will cover it just a few lines at a time. Jesus 1st makes it clear that if one is serving two masters, that is, two different goals, they are going to be in conflict and one of them is going to lose out to the other. Both can not prevail when a conflict occurs and it will occur sooner or later. The contest he speaks of is between God and riches. Not the extravagant extraordinary riches of many millions. It could be any riches that leave you a little better off than the average; riches that leave you comfortable or secure, at least seemingly so.
24 No one is able to serve two lords; for either he will hate the one, and he will love the other; or he will cleave to the one, and he will despise the other. You are not able to serve God and wealth.
25 Because of this, I say to you, Do not be anxious for your soul, what you eat and what you drink, nor for your body, what you put on. Is not the soul more than the food and the body than the clothing?
If one is determined to have these riches, which seem quite reasonable, really, then they will have to slight God sooner or later because Satan and his earthly followers have created a system that will force you to do their will, not God's. And their will/desire will have plenty of evil in it, for sure. So Jesus counsels us against having the anxiety, the insecurity, the fear, that we don't have enough or that we need more to get through something or to be set for life or retirement or whatever. God has seen to it that these will be cared for.
26 Observe the birds of the heaven, that they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Do you not rather excel them?
27 But who of you by being anxious is able to add one cubit onto his stature?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not labor nor do they spin,
29 but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these.
30 If God so enrobes the grass of the field (which is today, and is thrown into a furnace tomorrow) will He not much rather you, little-faiths?
When God created the system, the world we live in, He saw to it that all the creatures would be cared for in an adequate way. He took great care and did a lot of planning so that everything would work out toward His ultimate goal. In fact, He made a lot of things very beautiful that are only around a short time such as the flowers, etc. If He took such care of such small mundane things how much more must He have planned for our care in advance. Even at their worst, there is enough good will in people that we manage to survive even to the very end. God thought about us, gave attention to our needs; He will look out for us, absolutely. Jesus guarantees it. Notice the conclusion.
31 Then do not be anxious, saying, What may we eat? Or, what may we drink? Or, what may clothe us?
32 For after all these things the nations seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 Then do not be anxious for tomorrow. For the morrow will be anxious of itself. Sufficient to each day is its own trouble.
We don't need to be overly concerned about our welfare. It has been promised by Jesus that we will be looked after. The problem we have today is that most people require far more than what they actually need. What we consider necessities today are really luxuries in most cases. Living in the finest neighborhoods is not necessary. It would be nice but the devil knows that so he put a high price on it.
Driving a brand new SUV would be a nice status symbol but we don't need it. A modest practical used car would due. Christians should not be concerned with status symbols and luxuries. They should only care about God and remaining faithful to His commands for as long as they should live in this first life. The luxuries and easy living will come after judgement day. Life will not be a struggle then. Till then, it is nothing but struggle. Get used to it. The Devil is in charge.
To sum it all up, Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And if we do, the necessities will be provided. We will have enough to wear, to eat, to live in. We need to remember that God will make all things right after the world has been judged and corrected. Life was supposed to be easy and effortless for the most part. But man's rebellion changed all that. But God will put it back to what it should have been, but only after He shows us how bad things can get and will get when someone rebels against Him, even if that rebellion is just eating a piece of forbidden fruit. Till then, we put God's matters first and delay our ultimate dreams until God's kingdom takes full control and power over the earth.
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Many people think that preaching is all about miracles, healings, receiving the spirit, and the like. Actually, that is quite wrong. It is about knowledge and information about God and His kingdom and our obeying God so that we can be among those spared/saved into a new world of righteousness, peace, and prosperity. I have a few scriptures to prove my point.
2 And according to Paul's custom, he went in to them and reasoned with them from the Scriptures on three sabbaths,
3 opening and setting forth that the Christ must have suffered, and to have risen from the dead, and that this is the Christ, Jesus, whom I announce to you.
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined themselves to Paul and Silas, both a great multitude of the worshiping Greeks, and not a few of the leading women.
10 But the brothers at once sent both
Paul and Silas to Berea during the night; who having arrived went
into the synagogue of the Jews.
11 And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with all readiness, daily examining the Scriptures if these things are so.
12 Then indeed many from among them believed, and not a few of the honorable Greek women and men.
You will note the words used were "reasoned," "from the Scriptures," "persuaded," "received the Word," "examining the Scriptures." All these indicate words, thoughts, ideas, teachings, doctrines. Healings and gifts of the spirit didn't even get mentioned. They may have received the gifts of the spirit at one time but that was not the point. The reason for the gifts of the spirit was so that people would recognize the words and teachings of these men to be from God. The point, the object, the goal, was to teach and inform, not to heal or give the spirit. People who received the spirit still got sick, had bad things happen to them, and died.
Receiving the spirit did not save them. Obeying God's commands is what saves. Not that we ever obey them perfectly, but within reason, a relative obedience, you might say. It is the commands and teachings of God that make us live and live again after we die. Jesus said it was not by bread alone, but by every word of God. That is the preaching that is so important.
1 Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit, to be tempted by the Devil.
2 And having fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He hungered.
3 And coming near to Him, the Tempter said, If You are the Son of God, speak that these stones may become loaves.
4 But answering, He said, It has been written: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word going out of the mouth of God." [quoted from Deut. 8:3]
27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man will give to you; for God the Father sealed this One.
28 Then they said to Him, What may we do that we may work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe into Him whom that One sent.
32 Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread out of Heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread out of Heaven.
33 For the bread of God is He coming down out of Heaven and giving life to the world.
34 Then they said to Him, Lord, always give us this bread.
35 Jesus said to them, I am the Bread of life; the one coming to Me will not at all hunger, and the one believing into Me will never ever thirst.
Need I say more?!!! I thought it would be interesting to note Paul's preaching activity. He went to synagogues a lot. But also in the market place as well. Life and people were different back then and this was a common thing to do. It was nearly the only form of publicity in existence then. We have so many other means now. But when the translation next says "addressed," I quote Strong's dictionary of Bible terms to show what it really means:
Acts 17:17 Then, indeed, he addressed the Jews in the synagogue, and those worshiping, also in the market every day, to those happening to be there.
Strong's Dictionary - 1256. dialegomai dialegomai dee-al-eg'-om-ahee; middle voice from 1223 and 3004; to say thoroughly, i.e. discuss (in argument or exhortation): dispute, preach (unto), reason (with), speak.
"Addressed" means to discuss, preach, reason, and the like. Again, miracles are not even mentioned. I wonder if Paul even bothered. The point the author sought was that it was the teaching that was important and life giving. That was the focus then and should be now. More of the same to follow.
41 Then they indeed departed from the presence of the sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were deemed worthy to be dishonored on behalf of His name.
42 And every day they did not cease teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus the Christ in the temple, and house to house.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue on every sabbath persuading both Jews and Greeks.
5 And when both Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was pressed by the Spirit, earnestly testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.
19 And he came to Ephesus, and he left those there. But he going into the synagogue, he reasoned with the Jews.
24 But a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus, being powerful in the Scriptures.
25 This one having been taught by mouth in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things about the Lord, having understood only the baptism of John.
26 And this one began to speak boldly in the synagogue. And hearing him Priscilla and Aquila took him and more accurately expounded the way of God to him.
Again, in all these instances, the emphasis is on reasoning and teaching, not miracles. Miracles happened many times with the Apostles, no doubt. But the purpose of them was to highlight the teaching and words of God. It could not be more clear. For those who are obsessed with the spirit of God and miracles, pay special attention to the next account.
1 And it happened, in the time Apollos was in Corinth, Paul was passing through the higher parts to come to Ephesus. And finding some disciples,
2 he said to them, Believing, did you receive the Holy Spirit? And they said to him, We did not even hear whether the Holy Spirit is.
3 And he said to them, Then to what were you baptized? And they said, To the baptism of John.
4 And Paul said, John indeed baptized
with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should
believe into the One coming after him, that is, into the Christ,
5 And hearing, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And Paul laying hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in languages and prophesied.
7 And all the men were about twelve.
8 And going into the synagogue, he spoke boldly over three months, having reasoned with them, and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
Paul ran into some who knew and were baptized to John, but not into Jesus. It was not that they were unfaithful but simply that they had not been further informed, learning of Jesus as the Christ. On hearing of Jesus, they got baptized into him as well. That was 2 baptisms! But only after Paul laid his hands upon them did they receive the spirit. Paul lingered there at that synagogue and reasoned and persuaded. That was the purpose.
Some say we do not need to get baptized to receive the spirit. They would be quite wrong as this example showed. Paul thought it necessary to baptize them. Jesus, by means of the spirit, showed that Paul should be listened to and obeyed as having the authority of God and Christ. So to resist Paul's actions to baptize would be serious mistake that none who want to be saved should make. Get baptized!
Struggle, Our Enemy
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I regret that I have to inform you of the following. But it is true and can not be escaped if we want to have God's approval and be saved by Him. In this life, being a Christian can have and will have plenty of problems with regards to persecution and suffering of every type.
Matthew 10:22 And you will be hated by all on account of My name . . .
19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you.
20 Remember the Word which I said to you, A slave is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted Me, they also will persecute you. If they kept My Word, they also will keep yours.
2 Timothy 3:12 And, indeed, all desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
1 "I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away.
2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'
10 Blessed are they who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they shall reproach you, and persecute you, and shall say every evil word against you, lying, on account of Me.
12 Rejoice and leap for joy, for your reward is great in Heaven; for in this way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
1 Peter 4:
3 Because for long enough, in times past, we have been living after the way of the Gentiles, given up to the desires of the flesh, to drinking and feasting and loose behaviour and unclean worship of images;
4 And they are wondering that you no longer go with them in this violent wasting of life, and are saying evil things of you:
5 But they will have to give an account of themselves to him who is ready to be the judge of the living and the dead. [ BBE ]
What should be painfully clear from these previous scriptures is that all Christians will suffer and be persecuted. If we have not suffered yet, or much, as many in the USA believe, then just wait a little bit longer. Though You have had it easy until now, the time is coming when they will hate and persecute all Christians in this country as well as every other. Satan and his earthly servants control the whole world and will soon come out of hiding and make their moves. You will know the meaning of these scriptures then. Get prepared! Be prepared! Don't be like the foolish virgins who wait till the last minute and are not ready when the bridegroom finally arrives to dish out justice. [Matt. 25]
19 And the chief priests1 and the scribes sought to lay hands on Him in the same hour. And they feared the people, for they knew that He told this parable against them.
20 And watching carefully, they sent spies, pretending themselves to be righteous, in order that they might seize upon a word of His, so as to deliver Him to the power and to the authority of the governor.
What I found interesting about this one is how spies were sent out to be near to Jesus, pretending to be righteous. They were hoping to catch him saying something they could use against him to get him in trouble with the government. The same will be done to us very soon.
Revelation 2:10 Do not at all fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the Devil is about to throw you into prison, so that you may be tried; and you will have affliction ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Notice it says the Devil "is about to." Yes, some have been lucky up till now but that time is about to run out. You need to know that and get ready, be ready.
12 But from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent seize it.
13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.
Luke 16:16 "The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently.
These 2 scriptures are quite similar. The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence. Well, it does here on earth. We who are its followers suffer. And Jesus says that the violent seize it. If it signifies the kingdom, then either it is seized as in attacked by the violent persecutors, or it is seized, that is, obtained, perhaps in a violent sort of way. That seems to be what Luke's account suggests. Every one who enters, suffers great violence.
In words more plain, nobody who is a Christian gets into God's kingdom for free. Satan will test all. He will violently persecute us all, seeing if he can rob some of us of the prize of inheriting God's Kingdom. Remember, there is no love or decency in his heart. I write more about these 2 scriptures elsewhere and provide a link at the end of this article for them under Related Articles. Consider this next account carefully.
25 And great crowds came together to Him. And turning, He said to them,
26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, and besides, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple.
28 For who of you desiring to build a
tower does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has the
things to finish;
29 that having laid a foundation, and not having strength to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him,
30 saying, This man began to build, and did not have strength to finish.
31 Or what king going to attack another king in war does not first sit down and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet those coming upon him with twenty thousands?
32 But if not, he being still far off, sending a delegation, he asks the things for peace.
33 So then every one of you who does not abandon all his possessions is not able to be My disciple.
Jesus essentially tells us to carefully count the cost of following him because the cost is high. I find this very refreshing that Jesus should be so honest, up-front, and blunt, really. How many of us have gotten into some sort of business "free trial offer" or some offer of some type and never told of the hidden costs, tricks, gimmicks, or negative aspects. Ever watched an infomercial? All they ever tell you is how wonderful it is and what great benefits you can get. They never tell you the down side and hidden information and knowledge that might make the product or service a bad investment.
But you must understand, this is not the way with God or His son. They make great promises and they will deliever on those. But they want you to be sure you understand all the costs and involved and not just some, the ones they want you to hear or the ones you only want to hear. They tell you the whole picture so that you can make a fair informed decision about whether this is for you. Some people love the idea of God's kingdom. It is just that they hate the idea of persecution or suffering. It is enough to discourage them from pursuing God's kingdom. It is their right to reject it if they want; as long as they understand the consequences of rejecting that kingdom.
So Jesus makes it quite clear that we will have to suffer and suffer a lot. We might even have to die. We can not follow him if we do not accept this cruel reality. But if we can accept it, then we can follow and we will be saved and live happily ever after in the long term. That is really my purpose in writing this article. God offers many great things but at a cost and you need to know what that is so you can either prepare to suffer or get out and die come judgement day if not sooner.
But since we have to die, anyway, we might as well die so that we can live again. That is how I see it. I think too many people can only see this life, the present. They have no way to really see and understand the future and how things could be so much different. But if their minds are flexible and sensible enough to grasp the possibility of God's kingdom and all it will mean for them, I believe they will put up with the temporary suffering we will all go through in the present 1st life here in hell, I mean earth.
13 Go in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are the ones who go through it.
14 For narrow is the gate, and constricted is the way that leads away into life, and few are the ones who find it.
22 And He went through by cities and villages, teaching and making progress toward Jerusalem.
23 And one said to Him, Lord, are the ones being saved few? But He said to them,
24 Labor to enter in through the narrow gate, for I say to you that many will seek to enter in and will not have strength.
I put these 2 scriptures together because I think they are related. Jesus, in his "sermon on the mount" as it has come to be called, in Matthew 7, tells people that most are going through this broad, spacious, easy to travel road that leads to destruction. On the other hand, the righteous to be saved must go through the narrow gate that is constricted and hard to walk on and very few are finding it.
Someone must have heard about this teaching of Jesus, a pretty shocking teaching at that, and in Luke 13 asked Jesus if this teaching was really so. Jesus, in essence, said to him, fella, you haven't heard the half of it. Why, of the few finding it, even fewer will have the strength to enter once they find it. At the very least, very few will have the strength to enter that narrow gate because it is not a pleasant choice to make or road to travel. That easy broad road is much more appealing.
So know this, my dear readers, choosing to be a Christians has lots of pitfalls. Do not be misled. You will suffer. It will be a difficult walk. If nothing else gets you, sadness and depression will likely affect you at one time or another, and perhaps a little anxiety as well. Ain't life wonderful, kid?!!!
26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so also it will be in the days of the Son of man.
27 They were eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, until the day Noah went into the ark. And the flood came and destroyed all.
28 And likewise, as it was in the days of Lot, they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building;
29 but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from the heaven and destroyed all.
30 Even so it will be in the day the Son of man is revealed.
31 In that day, he who will be on the housetop, let him not come down to take his goods from the house. And likewise, he in the field, let him not return to the things behind.
32 Remember Lot's wife.
33 Whoever seeks to save his life, he will lose it. And whoever will lose it, he will preserve it.
34 I say to you, In that night two will
be on one bed; the one will be taken and the other will be left.
35 Two will be grinding together; one will be taken and the other will be left.
36 Two will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other will be left.
Boy! This one is so important to grasp! Verses 32 & 33 say it all. In 32, Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying God and looking back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, likely with some sadness.
Verse 33 states the ever so important irony of the coming trial and tribulation we must all face. Whoever wants to save his life here in this time will lose it as Satan plans to hold our lives and desire to live against us. But if we lose (give up) our lives in the present, then we actually save and preserve them by the choice we make. We get them back when the resurrection takes place after Judgment Day, called by some, Armageddon, the end, the last day. So be willing to let go of your life and lose it and you will ultimately win. Think long-term, big-picture, patience and longsuffering. Don't be short-sighted about the coming threats and trials. Go for the real deal and live forever as a result. And the next scripture says basically the same thing.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and let him bear his cross, and let him follow Me.
25 For whoever may desire to save his life will lose it. But whoever may lose his life for My sake will find it.
26 For what will a man be benefited if he should gain the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give as an exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of man is about to come with His angels in the glory of His Father. And then "He will give reward to each according to his actions." [LXX-Psa. 61:13; Pro. 24:12; MT-Psa. 62:12]
See that bold face print in 27? That is a promise, my friend. You can take it to the bank. It will absolutely happen if you can endure even dying. I know you can if you want to. It is only temporary.
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
That about sums up this most important part of this most important article. But I will add a comment or 2 anyway. I nearly always do. It has to do with laziness. What I am hoping is clear is that we can't be lazy, dull, slow, apathetic, careless or just coast along. This life will be a fight and struggle and if you are a Christian, you will suffer, maybe even die. You will have to fight yourself and your natural tendencies. You will have to make an effort and not a small one, either. The next section sort of reinforces that idea.
Sacrifice, Our Offering
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I guess what I am aiming at here in this part is an overall way to look at this all, a summary of sorts, a reflection of it all.
1 Timothy 6:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we have brought nothing into the world, and it is plain that neither can we carry anything out.
8 But having food and clothing, we will be satisfied with these.
9 But those having purposed to be rich
fall into temptation, and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful
lusts, which plunge men into destruction and loss.
10 For the love of money is a root of all evils, by means of which some having lusted after it were seduced from the faith, and they themselves pierced through by many pains.
11 But you, O man of God, flee these
things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and confessed the good confession before many witnesses.
17 Charge the rich in the present age
not to be high-minded, nor to set hope on the uncertainty of riches,
but in the living God, He offering to us richly all things for
enjoyment; 18 to do good, to be rich in good works, to be ready to
19 treasuring up for themselves a good foundation for the coming age, that they may lay hold on everlasting life.
This is a great passage. We are satisfied with the basic necessities, I hope! We have something to eat and to wear. That will have to be enough in this life. Paul says to Timothy and to us, to fight the good fight of faith. It is not a literal violent fight, but a symbolic one, a struggle. And it will require energy and determination. No one is going to carry us through that narrow gate or fight our fight for us. We will live or die by our own effort.
In addition, the rich are urged not to be selfish or stingy with their wealth but to share and be generous. By these actions they will secure a place in God's kingdom, phrased here as the coming age and everlasting life. This next part presents our obligation, what we do with our lives while awaiting the better things to come in the new age, the next age, God's kingdom and the resurrection.
1 Therefore, brothers, I call on you through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God.
Yes, we present our bodies to God . . . in a number of ways, even as Jesus did. First, in only allowing ourselves the pleasure of sex in marriage, some of us will deny our bodies these pleasures with others. We might deny some of the luxuries and pleasures of certain lifestyles or recreations in living humble lives. And like Jesus, we might even have to give up our bodies and die for Christ. But death is only temporary so that we might live a much better life later and at this point in time, not much later.
2nd from that scripture is that Paul says we are not to be "conformed to this age." The RSV states it as "Do not be conformed to this world." Most Bibles word it like that. The BBE puts it this way: "And let not your behavior be like that of this world." You get the idea I hope. We don't want be like the world, thinking like it, behaving like it, conforming to its attitudes, ideas, styles, fashion, philosophy, mentality, and the like.
We are Christians! We have a different outlook and mentality than the rest. We think different. We are determined to follow God and do things His way. We know our own inclinations are corrupt and against God so we restrain and discipline ourselves rather than let ourselves run wild. The world does not understand this and thinks badly of us because we choose to be different. We make them feel bad, feel guilty. They don't like that and don't like us for making them feel that way.
But what I notice among many Christians is that they do think a lot like the world and act like many in the world act. They think that man's law, the laws of their government, are better than God's or that, at the very least, they have not considered that man's laws are different from God's and, therefore, not as good or as just. We always want to consider what God wants, not man or our government, or whatever. God rules our minds, not the devil or his followers here on earth. And anyone who does not follow God, follows the devil whether they realize it or not. You need to realize it.
So Paul tells us to be transformed by renewing our minds. Another way of putting it is to change our minds over to be like God's. Conforming our minds is yet another way to phrase it. Our minds have to be reprogrammed the way God wants, not the way the world wants. In order to do that, we must carefully read and search the Bible to see exactly what it is that God truly wants.
2 Timothy 4:
5 But you be clear-minded in all, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully carry out your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out, and the time of my release is here.
7 I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.
8 For the rest, the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me in that Day, and not only to me, but also to all the ones loving His appearance.
I thought it interesting how Paul saw his imminent execution. The time for his release, that is, execution had arrived or was soon to be. He knew his reward was coming and was not concerned. We can also have the same attitude.
Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book and my favorite in the Bible. It is also the least understood book, in my opinion, as well as perhaps the least appreciated as a result. But its author, God, by means of Solomon, highlights the bitterness and misery of life and the irony of life. But what is important is what it all means for us as a result. What do we do, given the vanity and seeming meaninglessness of life?
Ecclesiastes 2:24 Is it not good that he should eat and drink and make his soul see good in his labor? This I also saw, that it was from the hand of God.
Ecclesiastes 5:18 See what I have seen: It is good and beautiful to eat and to drink and to see good in all his labor that he labors under the sun, the number of the days of his life which God gives to him, for it is his portion.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 Then I praised mirth, because nothing is good for man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be glad. For that shall go with him in his labor for the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.
7 Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do.
8 Let your garments be always white; let not oil be lacking on your head.
9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. [RSV]
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days do not come, or the years draw near when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them;
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this applies to every man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with all that is hidden, whether it is good, or whether it is evil.
Enjoy your food, enjoy your drink (alcohol in particular), be happy, enjoy your wife that you love; these are all your portion in this life. It is all summed up in 12:13 where we are to fear God and keep His commandments because we are all to be brought under judgment someday, whether good or bad. Solomon doesn't address the life we are to have after judgment. That was not the purpose of this book. The purpose and focus of this book was on the present life and the bitterness and vanity it can often bring.
We are to be content with the simple humble day to day pleasures of our food, drink, our wives and husbands, and to see some good out of our hard labor, or see it in as good a way as possible until the judgment should arrive and the better reward given. To expect much more out of life is a little ridiculous, given who is in charge; namely Satan.
But it is perfectly natural, and I suspect, installed into our nature by genetics and birth, that life was going to be wonderful and that all our needs and desires were going to be fulfilled. But due to the rebellion of Adam, Eve, and Satan, that did not come to be. We are born, live, and die, never having most of our needs and expectations fulfilled. Many (most, nearly all) will die sad and disappointed by life.
Many people spend and live most of their lives before they finally realize their hopes and dreams are never going to come true in this life. Many will never accept and realize it. Some very fortunate few will get onto it early and find some mild contentment until God should arrive. But for most, they will endure miserable jobs and work conditions, endure marriages and divorces, blaming their mates for their unhappiness with life, blaming those closest to them instead of realizing that they are just disappointed with life in general and its no ones fault in the present.
If we could start out or at least learn early in our lives that life is nothing but crap, maybe we could get married and have the relationship last, and enjoy that relationship as Ecclesiastes tells us we should. But even most Christians are slow to learn or understand what it is really all about. So they experience failed marriages because of failed expectations of life.
Or they end up in some incredible struggle trying to maintain a nice life with a nice house, car, and other things of life, so desperately wanting the good life in this life and time. They can't be blamed for wanting it but . . . anyone who knows the Bible knows how unattainable those things can be. If one can give up or reduce their demands in this life, they can often find a measure of happiness or contentment.
Forgive me for being redundant but if we aim our expectations very high, we are almost certain to be bitterly disappointed. IF we keep them low, we have a much easier chance of fulfilling some of them and actually getting a little something out of this life. Personally, I hate bitter disappointment. Most dissatisfaction with life results from expectations of trust, loyalty, kindness, compassion, mercy, or whatever failing. We become bitter about life. If we expect nothing but crap, we might even be pleasantly surprised.
And then there is always that wonderful reward after it is all over with. And those expectations are surely to be met then, no matter how high they are. Parents do such harm and disservice to their kids when they don't present life as it really is. Disappointment is bound to occur. Tell them the truth. Yes, there will some initial disappointment and depression. It may even linger. But it will be much better than the very bitter disillusion and disappointment that comes if we don't.
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When I say attitude here, I am talking about our attitude toward our persecutors and being persecuted. There is a very important mindset to have so let's talk about it. The 1st and maybe the most shocking account is right from the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5. Jesus offers a radical view of how we should behave in verses 38-48.
38 You have heard that it was said: "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;" [Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21]
39 but I say to you, Do not resist the evil; but whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also.
40 And to him desiring to sue you, and to take your tunic, allow him also to have the coat.
41 And whoever shall compel you to go one mile, go two with him.
42 He asking you to give, and he wishing to borrow from you, do not turn away.
Jesus frequently used a technique known as facetiousness. He would exaggerate the extent of something in order to drive home the point. The Apostle Paul would sometimes sort of do that, too, when he might say that it would be better not to eat at all than to stumble a brother by what you eat. Paul did not mean we should not eat, but certainly we should be careful not to stumble a brother. Jesus here says that if someone, likely an authority in government, should demand something of you, give him more. Should someone be offended and slap you, let him slap the other side as well.
These sound sort of extreme, don't they? If they are satisfied with one slap, why offer another? If only one mile is asked of us, why go two? But to me, what he was saying was try to be as reasonable and willing to accommodate those who have a problem with you as you can. Paul said it this way:
Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. [RSV]
I'll deal more with this scripture and its context coming right up. But getting back to Jesus, he was trying to instill a certain attitude in us. That will become more clear as we read on.
43 You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor" and hate your enemy; [Lev. 19:18]
44 but I say to you, Love your enemies; bless those cursing you, do well to those hating you; and pray for those abusing and persecuting you,
45 so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. Because He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.
Imagine hearing this as a Jew who had always looked at the nations as enemies and looked down upon them. Imagine how the Jews felt about the Romans, who liked to tax people. This really must have hit hard and hit deep. Lover your enemies? Pray for those persecuting and tormenting you? What??? Is he out of his mind? It could seem that way, right? But Jesus was in his right mind. Praying for your enemies might be a bit of a challenge, but there was an intention behind that statement.
First, many persecutors are not really aware of what they are doing, that is, they do not understand the implications of what they are doing. They don't see it as fighting against God. In fact, there is little that they probable do understand. They are probably just going along with the crowd as most do. So they are not all as blamable as they might seem.
2nd, we may not like them too much, but we might pray that they have their eyes opened, their understanding increased, so that they can see their wrong or see some benefit to God's work that we perform. Besides, if they do become enlightened, they might even join themselves to Christ even as we have.
3rd, even if they shall never change, maybe our attitude toward them, one of forgiveness, mercy, compassion, may move them to be more gentle or merciful to us later or to other brothers and sisters in the faith whom they encounter as persecutors. You might say we dampen the fires of blind hate and rage when we act mild and forgiving.
We note that some races who feel they are being treated wrongly get very mad and hateful. It is understandable since they are mistreated to some degree. But they might do better if they acted like Christians are told to act, keeping free of hate and anger and showing only love and forgiveness.
It is very important for so many reasons that we show a mild temperament void of any anger or resentment so that we do not fan the flames of violence, anger, and hate and even make them worse toward us or others in the faith. What we do and how we behave is going to affect the whole group. Jesus understood this and so wanted this mentality, this mindset in us, which he also demonstrated himself, even while suffering and dying on the cross. Jesus took it all and never cursed a soul for it.
There is a phrase I hear to day that kind of sums up how our attitude should be. "Thank you Sir! May I have another?!" That is what Jesus meant by turning your other cheek to them as well. If they were to request it, we would consent. It is not that we would like it but we need to have that attitude to protect us and protect everyone else in the faith. We do not want to give our tormentors any reason at all, even if those reasons are quite unreasonable, to speak badly of us or treat us badly. We want to be found totally innocent, meek, mild, and conciliatory. Who could find fault with anyone like that? Then there is this next point.
46 For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?
47 And if you only greet your brothers, what exceptional thing do you do? Do not the tax-collectors do so?
48 Therefore, you be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
Jesus makes the point here that even non-Christians many times love their own. We are no different from them if that is all we do. But he points out how God loves all and that we must be like God and also do the same as followers of Him. So we must absolutely extend ourselves to those who do not belong to us or are not like us. It is essential if we are to be called Christian. We want to stand out from the crowd in a good way. This is the way to do it.
Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, If your righteousness shall not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, in no way shall you go into the kingdom of Heaven.
This is a good warning to us all. We have to be better than a lot of the religious phonies if we shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. We need to be better than nearly anyone. Mediocrity will never please God. If we do not stand out, then we have likely failed. The next account is from Luke's version of the sermon on the mount. It adds a little something, namely verse 31, which sort of sums up everything from verses 27-38.
27 But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
30 Give to every one who begs from you;
and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.
31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love your enemies, and do good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great,
and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the
ungrateful and the selfish.
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
37 Judge not, and you will not be
judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you
will be forgiven;
38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." [RSV]
Verses 37 & 38 are very important for they also sum up this whole account. When Jesus says judge not, he would be contradicting the Bible if he means all judging whatsoever. For he elsewhere tells us what to do if a brother sins against us and is not repentant/sorry. We judge him. But I believe the judging Jesus speaks of here is the judging as in making judgments about other people, especially harsh or unfair judgments. It is not some formal judging but something that perhaps only takes place in our minds or that we might discuss with other people behind the person's back.
As we judge others, that is how we will be judged. Kind of sobering, no? As we give, so we will get. Jesus knows what goes on in our minds and hearts. He will be as tough on us as we are on others. That could be good if we are soft or deadly if we are severe and harsh. What that should cause us to do is take a very good long hard honest look at ourselves so that we do not find more fault with others when we are as guilty of similar things ourselves. That is a lot of what the sermon on the mount and all of Jesus' ministry was all about; avoiding hypocrisy!
17 Repay no one evil for evil, having provided right things before all men. [Prov. 3:4]
18 If possible, as far as is in you, seeking peace with all men;
19 not avenging yourselves, beloved, but giving place to wrath, for it has been written, "Vengeance is Mine," "I will repay," says the Lord. [Deut. 32:35]
20 Then "if your enemy hungers, feed him;
if he thirsts, give him drink; for doing this you will heap coals of
fire on his head." [Prov. 25:21, 22]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome the evil with good.
Now this account of Paul's is, in many ways, quite similar to the ones of Jesus we have just read. We do not return evil as we received it. We do not retaliate nor seek revenge. We seek peace with all men were that possible. Wherever it is, we do. We show our enemies kindness. Perhaps some will be moved to become Christians themselves. Paul was exactly one such man, who oversaw the stoning of Steven. Who knows, someone who kills us could end up repenting and being saved as we are when resurrected. Can we and will we forgive? Let us hope so.
Over come evil with good, God says through Paul. It is like putting coals on a cast iron head to soften it up. We want to soften up the persecution and maybe even save a few of our persecutors. It is vital that we understand that many were born in ignorance even as many of us were. How grateful we would be if we were forgiven and saved. We all suffer many things and it is hard to really blame people who never knew better. Even harder if they finally do learn how stupid and bad they were and want to change and be forgiven. We must be ready to do as Jesus did. Remember that some of those in the crowd that called for Jesus' crucifixion were later those who asked the Apostles, "what must we do to be saved?"
We must learn to do as Jesus had to. Our love must motivate us to understand the big picture and be willing to suffer unjustly, temporarily, so that we can get this whole mess straightened out so that as many as possible can be saved. Paul (in behalf of God, right?) tells us something else we can do next.
1 Let every soul be subject to higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, but the existing authorities have been ordained by God.
2 So that the one resisting authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and the ones opposing will receive judgment to themselves.
3 For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad. And do you desire not to fear the authority? Do the good, and you will have praise from it;
4 for it is a servant of God to you for the good. But if you practice evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to the one practicing evil.
Paul points out that it is God who allows authorities to rule and God can take them down any time He wants. So when you strike out at an authority, you strike at something that has God's relative approval. That is a rebellion against God. And that is not a good thing, that is a very bad thing. Further, the authorities act as God's agents against crime and lawlessness. True, they may, at times, not do a very good job, but half a loaf is much better than nothing at all when you're starving. And if God did not like the job they were doing, He could replace them at will. That He does not means they have His relative approval. God will eventually judge and destroy all the nations but until that time He does not want us meddling with His affairs and judgments. The nations are accountable to Him, and not us.
So Paul simply points out that their activities do serve us for some good and that we should not be working against them. Paul continues!
5 Because of this, it is necessary to be subject, not only on account of wrath, but also on account of conscience.
6 For on this account you also pay taxes, for they are ministers of God, always giving attention to this very thing.
7 Then give to all their dues: to the one due tax, the tax; to the one due tribute, the tribute; to the one due fear, the fear; to the one due honor, the honor. 8 Do not continue to owe anything, except to love one another. For the one loving the other has fulfilled the law.
As I talked about earlier, we don't want to make trouble for anyone or be trouble for any one. We are told to pay our taxes, show due honor and respect to those whose positions require it. Be model citizens so that no fault of any possible kind can be found with us. This makes the persecution seem all the more unreasonable.
Remember that God is conducting a sort of trial here on earth and He does not want His adversaries here on earth to have any possible reason to find fault with God's people. It makes the conduct of the persecutors seem all the more outrageous and inexcusable. And trust me, the day is coming when God will not excuse their behavior and will judge them all with the greatest of severity. He will be able to do that because we have been relatively innocent and well behaved.
1 Corinthians 4:
11 Until the present hour we also hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and wander homeless,
12 and labor, working with our own hands. Being cursed, we bless; persecuted, we bear;
13 defamed, we entreat. we have become as filth of the world, dirt wiped off by all until now.
Yes, we are often treated like dirt and garbage which is why God will feel perfectly justified in avenging our treatment at their hands. Because when they did bad against us, we blessed them and prayed for them and never repaid their evil with our own evil. It makes God's job much easier. And we will be rewarded for our patience and longsuffering in the end.
1 Peter 2:
19 For this is a grace, if because of conscience toward God anyone bears grief, suffering unjustly.
20 For what glory is it if you patiently endure while sinning and being buffeted? But if you are suffering while doing good, and patiently endure, this is a grace from God.
21 For you were called to this, for even
Christ suffered on our behalf, leaving behind an example for us, that
you should follow His steps;
22 "who did not sin, nor was guile found in His mouth;" [Isa. 53:9]
23 who, having been reviled, did not revile in return; suffering, He did not threaten, but gave Himself up to Him who was judging righteously;
24 who "Himself bore in His body our sins" onto the tree; that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; of whom, "by His wound, you were healed.
Yes, some of us will suffer unjustly. It is guaranteed! The GLT translation says grace but other Bibles say credit or glory. What credit or glory is it if our suffering is because we did something bad? That is no credit at all! But if we are truly innocent, then it is credit and glory. And we are not along since Christ himself also suffered though being perfectly innocent, much more innocent than any of us could ever claim to be. Yet he willingly suffered injustice. So we should be willing to do so as well.
Matthew 10:28 And you should not fear the ones killing the body, but not being able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him being able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
What Jesus points out to us is that men can kill our bodies but they have no control over our long term welfare and living forever. God is in charge of that. So we shouldn't worry about that first temporary death but the long term, everlasting one that God has a "say" over. And Hell is a deliberate mistranslation. The correct word would have been Gehenna, a valley just outside of Jerusalem where many things were burned and destroyed such as criminal's bodies, trash, and the like. Jesus was trying to get us to see the big picture here.
2 Corinthians 6:
3 We are not giving a cause of stumbling, in nothing, that the ministry may not be blamed,
4 but in everything commending ourselves as God's servants, in much patience, in afflictions, in emergencies, in difficulties,
5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchings, in fastings,
6 in pureness, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love,
7 in the word of truth, in the power of God, through the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
8 through glory and dishonor, through evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true;
9 as unknown, and yet well known, as dying, and yet, look, we live; as flogged, and yet not put to death;
10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet enriching many; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.
What a list of contrasts Paul gives us. We are known for both good and bad things. We are not usually guilty of the bad but we are accused just the same. Yet we go on just the same. We don't stop. We take a lick'in and keep on tick'in! We have nothing and yet we have everything. It is all in how you look at it! But we give no legitimate reason for anyone to find fault with us, right? You better believe it!!!
2 Thessalonians 1:
3 Brothers, we are bound to give thanks to God always concerning you, even as it is right, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of each one of you multiplies toward one another,
4 so as for us to boast ourselves in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions, and the afflictions which you endure,
5 a clear token of the just judgment of God, for you to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed suffer;
Notice how Paul points out that when a congregation like the one(s) in Thessalonica endure persecution, they encourage us all since we see that they really believe and are really willing to suffer because they really believe. And if they can do it so can we. That is yet another benefit to enduring persecution. It gives others strength and encouragement to do the same. And note as this account continues in verse 6 how God is going to pay back those harming us. It is just as Paul states because we remained innocent and blameless.
2 Thessalonians 1:
6 since it is a just thing with God to pay back tribulation to the ones troubling you,
7 and to give you, those being troubled, relief with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven with angels of His power,
8 in flaming fire giving full vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, [Isa. 66:15; Jer. 10:25]
9 who will pay the penalty: everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, "and from the glory of His strength," [Isa. 2:20]
10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe in that Day, because our testimony to you was believed.
2 Let it be all joy to you, my brothers, when you undergo tests of every sort;
3 Because you have the knowledge that the testing of your faith gives you the power of going on in hope;
4 But let this power have its full effect, so that you may be made complete, needing nothing. [Bible in Basic English - BBE]
Enduring tests shows what we are made of. If we pass a test, we can continue to have the hope of living and being saved. If we fail the test, we would not have that hope. So passing tests is a good thing! James speaks of being made complete because of passing test. This becomes more clear in the next verse from Paul.
3 And not only so, but we glory also in afflictions, knowing that affliction works out patience,
4 and patience works out proven character; and proven character, hope.
Tests & afflictions work out patience. They teach us to be patient, to think and act with a long-term view to things. This type of patience and attitude or outlook is important for us to develop and have always. Persecution tends to develop this patience, which makes us complete as James said it would. Really, these two scriptures, one from James and one from Paul are nearly identical in what they communicate to us.
Luke 8:15 And those in the good ground, these are the ones who in a right and good heart, hearing the Word, they hold it and bear fruit in patience.
Jesus here was talking about an illustration he gave about various places where seed fell. When it falls on good ground, it symbolizes those who have a good right heart, hear the word and respond, producing fruit/results with patience, no less. Excellent!
Luke 21:19 By your patience you will gain your souls.
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our instruction, that through patience and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up;
Colossians 1:11 being empowered with all power according to the might of His glory, to all patience and longsuffering with joy;
Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of patience, that having done the will of God you may obtain the promise.
Hebrews 12:1 So therefore we also, having so great cloud of witnesses lying around us, having laid aside every weight and the easily surrounding sin, through patience let us also run the race set before us.
Yeah, ah, get the picture? We need to be patient about this salvation thing! The key word here is . . . Patience!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,
23 meekness, self-control. Against such things there is not a law.
24 But the ones belonging to Christ crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Again, here we sacrifice our bodies with their passions and lusts. It is our sacrifice to God. Longsuffering will help.
2 Peter 1:
2 Grace to you, and peace be multiplied by a full knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
3 As His divine power has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the full knowledge of the One calling us through glory and virtue,
4 by which means He has given to us the very great and precious promises, so that through these you might be partakers of the divine nature, escaping from the corruption in the world by lust.
5 But also in this very thing, bringing
in all diligence, filling in your faith with virtue; and virtue with
6 and knowledge with self-control; and self-control with patience; and patience with godliness;
7 and godliness with brotherly love; and brotherly love with love.
8 For these things being in you, and abounding, they will make you not idle, not unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What I take away form this is that we want to be bearing much fruit, getting much results in our devotion. Peter told us how to do that by having those various things in us like diligence, patience, etc.
8 In this My Father is glorified, that you should bear much fruit; and you will be My disciples.
11 Behold, we call those blessed who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you saw the end of the Lord, "that the Lord is full of tender mercy and pity." [Psa. 103:8]
We need to have something to show for ourselves, some fruit to bear. We have to endure to the end. We have excellent examples in Job and Jesus. I thought the next scriptures might encourage us al a little.
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Psalm 37:4 And delight yourself in Jehovah, that He may give you your heart's desire.
15 The eyes of all hope to You; and You give them their food in due time.
16 You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 Jehovah is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His works.
18 Jehovah is near to all who call on Him, to all those who call on Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of the ones who fear Him; and He will hear their cry and save them.
20 Jehovah watches over all who love Him; but He destroys all the wicked.
1 My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands,
2 for they shall add length of days and long life and peace to you.
3 Mercy and truth will not forsake you; tie them on your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart;
4 and you shall find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house. And test Me now with this, says Jehovah of hosts, whether I will not open the windows of the heavens for you and pour out a blessing until there is no sufficiency.
7 Then be subject to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
Here's a rousing couple of scriptures for ya!
26 And likewise the Spirit also joins in to help our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself pleads our case for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.
27 But the One searching the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the saints according to God.
28 But we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to purpose;
29 because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers.
30 But whom He predestinated, these He
also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; but whom He
justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 Truly He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not freely give us all things with Him?
33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect? God is the One justifying!
34 Who is he condemning? It
is Christ who has died, but rather also is raised, who also is at the
right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
36 Even as it has been written, "For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter." [Psa. 44:22]
37 But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death,
nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor
things to come,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
1 And He also spoke a parable to them to teach it is always right to pray, and not to faint,
2 saying, A certain judge was in a certain city, not fearing God and not respecting man.
3 And a widow was in that city, and she came to him, saying, Avenge me from my adversary.
4 And for a time he would not. But after
these things he said to himself, Even if I do not fear God, and do
not respect man,
5 yet because this widow causes me trouble, I will avenge her, that not coming to the end, she subdue me.
[Alternate rendering of 5 from the RSV: "I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming."]
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the
unrighteous judge says;
7 and will God not at all execute the avenging of His elect, those crying to Him day and night, also having been long-suffering over them?
8 I say to you that He will carry out the avenging of them speedily. But the Son of man coming then, will He find faith on the earth?
Here is the big hope we all look forward to and the reason why we are willing to die in this life so as to receive this promise.
3 And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God with men! And He will tabernacle with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And death shall be no longer, nor mourning, nor outcry, nor pain will be any longer; for the first things passed away.
5 And the One sitting on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He says to me, Write, because these words are faithful and true.
We know things will be tough but we have good reason and hope to hang on and endure to the end. Now a few more thoughts on exertion, diligence, and sincerity!
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I covered much about how we have to enter the narrow gate and it would not be easy. We know that getting into the kingdom of the Heavens will be an incredible struggle and we will suffer much violence attempting to do so. We know Satan is at the doors demanding a high price to get through. All these things being so, it should not surprise any of us that we will have to give this fight everything we got in order to get through that narrow gate and travel that cramped road to life. Satan wouldn't have it any other way, unfortunately.
It is like being in a real war or a very competitive athletic game. The game or battle will go to who wants it more. In a lengthy tennis match, the sun might be beating down and its very hot. Your legs are rubber as they are worn out. Any reserve energy is gone. Your will and desire are fading fast. You are not sure you even want to go on. It is at this point, a point each and all players face in such a match, that the winner will be the one who can reach down deep inside himself and find the desire to keep going, keep pushing, keep on trying, even though there is seemingly nothing left to give. He keeps going because of nothing else but the strong desire to win. He is just as spent as his opponent but he wants it more and so will push when the other guy will not push as hard, if much at all.
It is all about desire and wanting it. But one has to know what it is they really want. An athlete has his mind on the title, the prize, the glory. Christians need to know what it is they are fighting for. They need to know and understand the prize they seek. The problem here is that all we have to judge the future on is the present and that is not too pretty. We have never known what perfection was like. We do not know what it feels like, looks like, or anything else. The world we live in is a living hell. We have known nothing else. It was be a serious mistake to judge the future, based on this hell hole.
I deal with the wonderful hope we can look forward to in other articles which I will link to at the end of this one under "Related Articles." So you need to look that up and get the prize in your eyes so you will have the desire to continue when everything is saying give up. But what I want to deal with here is that we will need to exert ourselves vigorously in order to win and get the prize. We must be willing to put forth that effort.
I am going to discuss some of the wonders of the body and mind even though I have discussed them a little already much earlier in this article. When we better understand how the body and mind work, maybe we can better appreciate that effort should be a part of our personality just as it is part of our physiology and physical makeup.
When a brain is confronted with something new, a new idea, new sensory input from the sense of the body, it often can not manage the information at first. For instance, when we are first born, we do not know how to speak any language. But over the days, weeks, and months, our brain puts the pieces together, begins to recognize patterns and process information until language skills begin to form. It does not happen overnight. The brain slowly grows neural pathworks in response to stimuli and over time, specific patterns form in the brain. At first, all sorts of lights go off in the brain. But as the specific pathways are formed, much fewer lights go off as the pathways become more specific and efficient.
Very smart brains expend little energy in getting things done. They are very efficient at what they do. But they only begin to form when stimulated. The stimulation must be beyond anything the brain currently performs to that new paths and roads are required to accomplish the task the brain wants to conquer.
A skill in sports is a good example. Riding a bike requires a certain sense of balance that we don't initially have. At first the attempts are clumsy and miserable failures that last maybe a second or two. We try for a while. Maybe we get discouraged and give up after a while. We stay away until the desire becomes so strong to want to learn that we go back and give it another try. Maybe this time we do a little better, going a little further, a little longer, but still not what we want. Still, eventually, we suddenly get the hang of it. For me, it was sort of magic how it happened.
Having tried a few brief times before without training wheels, (and training wheels never helped but that is another story), I had one day where I gave it the most I ever had but still without success. I was a little disappointed but put away my bike for the day. Went to bed and got up the next morning. It was overcast but dry. But I really wanted to learn to ride that bike. I was fed up with not being able to. But what a shock I was about to have. I got on the bike and was able to ride, perfectly. I could not believe it. It was like a miracle. I rode all over the neighborhood. I could not stop. The joy and pleasure was incredible, the satisfaction indescribable.
What I did not realize then was that the stimulation my brain had received the day before, along with the cumulative experience before that, was enough to get the brain producing enough pathways to get control of that balance problem. They grew and developed overnight while I slept. By morning, I had a new set of pathways in my brain that let me control my body to a degree I have never been able to control before. I received that ability because I tried to do something beyond my ability.
The physical body is the same way. Anyone who has played sports and felt strength grow or lifted weights to increase strength and size has likely experienced increased strength and endurance. I remember several examples where I was pushed beyond my limits though it did not occur to me at the time it was happening.
The 1st example that comes to mind was when I was working at Burger King. I had to unload an 18 wheeler twice a week full of supplies that generally averaged from 25 to 50 lbs. per box. I would load them up on a dolly that the driver was in a hurry to throw at me and get them up over the entrance and into the store. It was a chore but not too bad. But it was definitely work I was not used to. But it had its effects as I would soon find out.
I had never been able to hit a softball all that far in my very young days, say age 21. But after working at Burger King for 6 months, at 23, I got up to the plate and took a swing and I couldn't believe what I saw. The ball just flew way out into the outfield, beyond everyone's reach. In fact, I had the best day of anyone that day. I had never come close to that before. I knew then and there that it had been unloading those trucks that did it.
Another time was cleaning a restaurant, and pulling out these very large heavy rubber bar mats. These really killed me. They were a tremendous strain and always took the life out of me. They really worked my back and arms, for sure. It was perhaps 6 months later when I was throwing these mats around with ease that I realized I had grown in strength a lot, remembering how I use to struggle before with them. I grew in strength but was never aware of it as it was happening. But I grew because I was pushing my body beyond its current abilities.
I got more into sports after this. Working out became quite deliberate. I began to do a lot of reading and research on strength, skill, and endurance training for sports. While previous efforts produced natural results, if one gave specific attention to subtle details, one could absolutely maximize the results they got from a workout. But one certainty remained. If one wants to improve their skills, abilities, strength, or whatever, then they had to start trying to do something that was beyond their ability of the present.
Think about it! When we are born, we have no abilities at all for the most part. But for each ability we acquire, we first have to encounter something we do not understand or posses, and then our brains and bodies go to work to try and adapt to the new circumstance that will enable new abilities. We have the natural God-given ability to acquire new skills and grow additional strength. Overcoming things beyond our ability is quite easy, really. We don't really even have to think about it.
But there is a reason why understanding this ability our brains and bodies is important. It has a large impact on our devotion to God. Learning about God and what He wants is not hard; it is quite easy. It only requires effort and time. It may be somewhat difficult or frustrating at first. Any new subject or skill to learn will not initially be easy at first. But if we give it the time and effort, it will eventually pay off in results. Our knowledge will expand and our wisdom will grow deeper. That is no doubt about it.
The real problem that could present itself is if we do not want to learn or are afraid to learn, knowing there could be some unpleasantness in store for us if we learn. Some might just be lazy and not want to bother with any real effort or time. Some might fear what is going to happen to them if they get serious about religion and God. Laziness, fear, or being busy with other things; none of these are valid excuses for not learning or applying ourselves to God's commands and wisdom. There is no valid excuse for not learning and applying what we learn. We have that built in ability. God saw to that.
It is God's requirement that we make the time to learn about Him and what He requires of us. If we do not do it, it could mean our losing out on eternal life. So take the time, do whatever it takes to make sure you learn and practice what you learn so that you may be found approved by God whether you have to die temporarily or not. You will be rewarded in time. Extend yourself because the devil is going to make sure that you have to, in order to make it. Struggle as much as you need to. Give it everything you got. Then you will be sure to win the prize.
I talk about how life is really upside down and inside out, twisted and distorted so much from what God first intended in another article. Like several other topics mentioned before, they are all linked next in the "Related Articles" section.
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