Ephesians 1: Predestined Relationship with God

 PREDESTINED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD 

Ephesians 1:1-12   

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–  6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment– to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, tells us God in Christ sorts out all things by the wisdom of His will.  If I understand correctly, the Apostle Paul in this passage tells us that it is through the God-given image-bearing capacity to give of ourselves that enables us to have a relationship with God as well as the means to share His wisdom with humanity.  The pure of heart see Him as He is. 

If this were not so, the relationship God has with humanity would be as is ours with the animal kingdom.  God would be relating to us as we do domesticated animals and or those more unruly… wild animals.  Such a relationship is not what humans have with God because we are created in His image. 

Jesus and His Apostles teach us this in the Scriptures… 

…. do to others as you have them do to you  

… don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought 

… think of yourself with sober judgment with the faith God has given to each of you 

The life of Jesus is the primary example of such teaching.  Jesus treated people as equals when He lived on Earth.  However, this doesn’t mean He neglected His divine status.  He was willing to receive worship, as in Luke 7:38 when a woman was at His feet weeping.  She wet His feet with her tears, perfumed them, and wiped them off with her hair. 

Friends, God made a way in Christ despite sin for us to be in that reflective relationship with Him.  When we acknowledge God under the stipulation that He is the Source-Authority, we find that He treats us as equals.  Now I did not say we are equal… rather… He treats us as equal. 

This happens relationally when we acknowledge Jesus as Lord.  If we do not acknowledge Him, we cannot reflect God properly in a giving and receive relationship.  God must be acknowledged as the Source-Authority. 

Therefore, I hope you can see that God arranged the created order with ‘relationship’ at the core of His design.  He does this in such a way that He inserts Himself (the Incarnation) in humanity’s reality so that all those who acknowledge Him as Lord can be holy and blameless.  We can respond to His giving nature because we are created in His image. 

God cannot deny Himself and because the Son (God Himself) became human.  God reveals he predestined all (who through their image-bearing capacity will acknowledge Him as Lord) to find Him through His redemptive offer of life and to have a relationship with Him. Predestination is about God’s relational life-giving pattern of sharing His nature with humanity. All things are possible within the unchanging nature of God for those who acknowledge Jesus has God’s Messiah. The God who makes all things work together for those who love Him. 

BMD 

A Christmas Story: Sam the Sheep

Sam the sheep was minding his own business when all of a sudden the sky lit up with angels.  It was so bright.  He couldn’t see because of the shining glory and that was “Baaahd.”  There were lots of voices and lots of singing.  It was so loud he could hear nothing else but angelic singing.  Once his eyes adjusted to the light, the glory of the angels lit up the grass around him… oooh… there was a good patch of grass to eat.  Grass is good.  Sam the sheep was happy the angels were there because now in the middle of the night he could see where the good grass was.  Awesome!  Grass is good. 

After a little while, the night again grew dark because the angels left.  Everything still had a little glow to it though.  It had been dark for a few minutes and he heard the command that they were on the move.  On the move in the middle of the night?  Was the shepherd drunk again?  Did the bright light of the angels fry his brain?  Traveling at night is not good.  He could walk off a cliff like his Uncle Ovine.  Whatever the reason, they were on the move.  He felt sheepish about traveling at night, but then he always did.

Sam was in shear panic as he didn’t know where they were going, but he followed his shepherd anyway.  Somebody mentioned heading to Bethlehem which was okay with him.  The water in Bethlehem was good.  Water is good.  Maybe there would be more food.  Mmmmm… food is good.

Sam asked Suzie next to him if she knew why they were going to Bethlehem.  Admittedly he had been distracted by grass.  Grass is good.  “Ewe don’t know why?” she laughed, “We are going because The Good Shepherd was born and the shepherds are flocking to check Him out.”

“What?” Sam asked Suzie, “You mean I missed out on the announcement about The Good Shepherd because I was eating grass?”

“Yes,” Suzie said as she trotted along.

“That’s baaahd,” Sam said sheepishly. 

He and the shepherds and the rest of the sheep arrived on the outskirts of Bethlehem and went to a stable.  Oh yeah, they were going to stay in a great place tonight.  No sleeping out in the open, oh no, they were sleeping in a barn with a proper feeding trough.  No one was going to pull the wool over his eyes, being in Bethlehem was a great thing!

The shepherds went into the stable and the sheep just kind of stood around outside.  That’s what they did.  Stood around.  Sam the sheep got curious.  The last time he got curious he ended up getting his head stuck in a hole for half a day, but he figured if the shepherd was in there it couldn’t be too bad.  Sam rammed himself past some other sheep and looked inside the barn.

What he saw absolutely shocked him to the wool.

The proper feeding trough in this barn was being used!  They put a human baby in there.  That’s no place for a baby!  Babies belong in a knapsack or in a drawer or something, not in a trough where food goes!  A trough is a place for food!  Mmmmm… food is good.  Then, Sam the sheep heard his shepherd’s voice and he listened because he always listened to the voice of his shepherd.

“The angels told us He is our Savior.  The angels told us He is the Christ.  The angels told us He is God.  Is that true?”  Both the man and the very tired looking woman said yes.  Sam the sheep was looking at The Good Shepherd in the flesh. 

The Good Shepherd is the Savior.

The Good Shepherd is the Christ.

The Good Shepherd is God.

Well, Sam already knew that last one.  God was everyone and everything’s Good Shepherd.  The shepherds starting praying.  Then the shepherds were singing.  The parents just held their kid and took it all in.  Sam understood what he was looking at.  The Almighty God had entered creation and became flesh and made His dwelling among His creation.  That wasn’t just good, but the bestest.

Seeing The Good Shepherd in the flesh was a little underwhelming to tell the truth.  He was a baby.  In a barn.  Taking up space meant for food.  The shepherds seemed overjoyed and were sharing the news with everyone they passed on the way out of town.

Sam told a dog he passed, “Hey The Good Shepherd is here and He will bring people salvation.”

Sam told a cat he passed, “Hey The Good Shepherd is here and He will forgive people of sins.”

Sam told a rabbit he passed, “Hey The Good Shepherd is here and He will lead lost people to God.”

Sam the sheep was never the same after that night.  Would ewe be?

Philemon 1-25

CONNECTING THE NEED TO FORGIVE

I want you to put into your mind perhaps 4 people that you might be dealing with in your life. 

Person 1: The first person we may need to forgive is someone in our extended family.  You have decided to invite all your family over for Thanksgiving.  You have a stack of invitations to send in the mail for all your various family members.  You are going through your family and writing out invitations for them.  Imagine yourself doing that.  Who did you skip?  Who do you not want to invite?

Person 2: The second person we may need to forgive is what I would consider an influencer.  Think of your mother.  Think of your father.  Think of your spouse.  Perhaps that spouse is now an ex-spouse.  Has one of these primary influencers in your life done something or said something or hurt you in a way that is stuck in your heart?

Person 3: The third person we may need to forgive is someone at your job.  Many of us spend 30-50 hours a week with people at a job and there are bound to be conflicts.  Is there someone at your work that you absolutely have issues with and there is bitterness in your heart for them? 

Person 4: Person who has harmed you emotionally.  This is a person, it might be one of your children, a dear friend, a person at work, or maybe even someone who fired off a facebook or twitter post about you.  There are people who have hurt our feelings on accident.  There are people who have hurt our feelings on purpose.

PHILEMON 1-25

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker,  2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:  3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,  5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.  8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,  9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul– an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–  10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.  11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.  12 I am sending him– who is my very heart– back to you.  13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.  14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.  15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good–  16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.  18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.  19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back– not to mention that you owe me your very self.  20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.  21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.  22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.  23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.  24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.  25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

The theme of this little book is forgiveness.  The point of this book is forgiveness.  Interestingly enough the word is never mentioned here in any of the verses.  It is almost as if the Holy Spirit made this a “fill in the blank” epistle of one of the Apostles.  Forgiveness is all over every verse, but yet never stated. 

The appeal for forgiveness is not based on law or principle or theology or biblical texts, but the appeal is on the basis of love.  The Apostle Paul takes the high ground.  Paul knows that Philemon is a godly man.  He knows he is a spiritual man.  He knows he is a man whose heart toward God is right.  Paul loved Philemon.  In fact, in verse 1 he calls him “agapetos,” which means “beloved” or “dear friend.”  In verse 7 he says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement.”  There was a bond of love and connection between these two men.  There was no need to command because of their connection and friendship.

FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness means to pardon someone because of what they have done or said.

Forgiveness means to release from bondage or imprisonment.

Forgiveness means letting go of an action or word as though it had never been committed.

Forgiveness means giving up the right and ability to exact payment for something.

THREE KEYS OF FORGIVENESS IN PHILEMON

RECEPTION

The first element in forgiveness is taking the person back.  Let them into your life.  Depending on the situation, that is most likely a tall order.  Verse 10, “I appeal to you for my child whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, Onesimus, who formerly was useless to you but now is useful both to you and to me.” Just take him back.  Paul asks Philemon to take him back for three reasons.  He is repentant. He is transformed. And he is proven faithful.  These three unfold in the very simple verses as Paul talks about the runaway.  Close the gap.  Cross the rift.  Heal the wound.  Let Onesimus back into your life.

RESTORATION

Second, Paul is asking for restoration.  Paul suggests that not only should Philemon open arms and take Onesimus back, but he also needs to put him back into service.  Verse 15 is very fascinating, “For perhaps Onesimus was for this reason parted from you for a while that you should have him back forever no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother.

RESTITUTION

Third, Paul also speaks about restitution.  There has been wrong done and that wrong needs to be dealt with.  How will it be dealt with?  Obviously when Onesimus bolted he caused Philemon great distress.  If the price of a good servant was 500 denarii and the normal wage was 1 denarii a day, he would have to work for 500 days to make up for the loss.  Not only that, it seems apparent that when Onesimus left he took some of the possessions and money of Philemon in order to fund his fugitive life. How is the Apostle Paul going to deal with this?  Onesimus has nothing to pay with.  He probably has come back with empty pockets.  So how is he going to deal with restitution?  In verses 17, Paul says, “If then you regard me a partner, a fellow partaker of spiritual life, if you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me.”  He says just treat him the way you’d treat me.  Welcome him as you would welcome me. Forgive him as you would forgive me.  Just take him back just the way you’d take me.  Then in verse 18 Paul adds. “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”  Restitution is always an essential component of forgiveness. It would have been right for Philemon to say you’ll pay me back what it cost me to replace you. 

GOSPEL MESSAGE

Perhaps you are reading this and you do not understand God, Jesus, or much about forgiveness.  I would like to share with you that the Apostle Paul is playing a very very familiar part in the life of Philemon and Onesimus.  It is the same part that Jesus Christ plays in the relationship between the sinner (us) and God. Philemon is like God in that he has been violated.  He has been cheated.  Onesimus is like the sinner who ran from God, who defrauded God, and in doing so has wasted his life. 

If the sinner is to be reconciled to God, somebody must pay the price, right? 

This is what Jesus Christ did for us! 

We who are believers are never more like God than when we forgive.  Never are we more like Christ than when we carry a debt so that forgiveness can take place in a relationship.  The Apostle Paul is acting like Christ in this situation and following His example.  He says I’ll take the consequence of his sin, you just take him back.

TMB

SEEMS TO ME: It began with Adam

When does life begin? How should it end? 

Life began with Adam.  Adam was crafted on Day 6 of creation’s story in the Bible.  God began human life and made him in His image (Genesis 1:26-17; 3:21-23).  Now, when I say Adam, I don’t just mean males.  Yes, the male gender came first, but from that male God created female.  Male and female are of the very same flesh.  God created ADAM (humankind) and Adam and Eve (human male and human female).    

Human life started with Adam.  Everyone born after Adam shares in the same breath of life and image-bearing status.  In this Adam (human), life is passed forward with the breath of God.  The breath of God is the animating force for living creatures.  A living being is dependent on this breath. The visible-created is dependent on the invisible-Creator. 

So, seems to me human life multiplies into new personhood at the point of conception.  We might more modernly say, DNA shared to form a new person.  In addition, the new person also bears God’s image because the breath of the Creator is passed forward.  

This was so when God brought forth Eve out of Adam.  Her new personhood was brought forth with the purpose fulfill the command to multiply and rule over earthly life by more human persons from the same human-life (Adam). The status of “image bearer” is present within all human life due to the fact it has nothing to do with ability, but everything to do with God’s design to rule through love. It is also true that ability can be used by humans to reveal the depths of God’s person and character. As important as that is, my point is that all human beings are equal in status as created in God’s image and have that status at conception.  

Life started with Adam, but “life” is more than consuming the necessities of bodily viability.  As Jesus once said, “life is more than food the body more than clothes” (see Luke 12:23 and Matthew 6:25).  “Life” is more than worry for physical survival or having the pleasures of earthly life. Instead, it is the giving and supporting of what lives. It is not holding on to what you have in fear, but the giving away in the hope of God’s glory. The more is about being in right loving relationships knowing and reflecting the One within whom life rests… namely Jesus.   

To thwart the multiplication of human life, is selfishness.   

To dismiss innocent human life, is neglectful.    

To ignore God’s command, is rebellion.  

Those who worry foremost about their quality of lifestyle, even the needed things of daily life, should heed Jesus words “life is more” (from the above quoted passage).  He is saying life is in Him and continuance is found in consuming His character.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. 

Finally, human life began with Adam (here I mean the first man by name) and in Adam, all humans. The breath of life first given to Adam is present with all necessary information for physical development at inception and is passed to a new individual just as it was shared from Adam to Eve.  Therefore, the status of bearing God’s image is not an issue of partial or full physical development, but in fact, all humans are image bearers. So God’s image, I think, should be recognized as present at conception.  What follows is the developmental potential.  It seems to me to thwart God’s command to multiply and co-rule over earthly creation is a bad idea. 

BMD 

A Serious Charge

2 Timothy 4:1-22

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction.  3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.  6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.  7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  9 Do your best to come to me quickly,  10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.  11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.  12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.  13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.  14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.  15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.  16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.  17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.  18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  19 Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.  20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.  21 Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers.  22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

Chapter four Paul states “I solemnly charge you.” Those are heavy words meaning “take this seriously.”

Timothy is to take serious that he will be judged by his preaching the message… even if it is troublesome to do so. A time would come when people caught up in the world wold not listen to God truth. I take it Paul thinks it will be in Timothy’s life (or perhaps for those Timothy teaches) when people will not listen to the true word of God.

Paul knows his days are numbered. He knows with his death others will move in to fill the void of his earthly presence. Nevertheless, Paul tells Timothy his authority is in the Word of God. He is to abide in nothing other than the Word. He is to tell others to do the same.

Therefore, those who seek a pleasure filled lifestyle will follow false teachings. Those that long for the appearing of Jesus will follow God’s Word as passed on to all through the apostles such as Paul.

What about you?

BMD

Just Say No to Straying Away

2 Timothy 3:1 – 17

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–  5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.  6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,  7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.  8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth– men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.  9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.  10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance,  11 persecutions, sufferings– what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.  12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,  13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Apostle Paul begins by referencing “the last days.”  This begs the question… Does Paul expect Timothy to be someone living under the opposition spoke of in Scripture?  It is quite possible.  Paul was always expecting Christ to return even though he counseled wisdom in such matters (1 and 2 Thessalonians). 

Paul is speaking to Timothy and telling him what to look for in the world while he is waiting for Jesus to return (“the last days”).  The list of characteristics in verses 2-7 is quite a list!  He is to watch for those who claim to follow God, but live differently than he was shown.  He will be mixing with these folks and he should be aware.  Paul wants Timothy to know what is true and teach it.  More importantly… Paul wants Timothy to live his faith and to endure whatever opposition comes because of his faith in Christ.

Timothy in these verses is given details by how to structure his way of life and what to look for of those that will stray.  Others may not “stray” so much as they are simply evil and will have influence with people around them.

Paul emphasizes leaning into godly living during persecution.

The Apostle Paul seems to lump together evil folks, charlatans (those who appear as believers but are not), and deceivers (those who appear as believers, but are not on purpose).  In the face of these types of folks, Paul tells Timothy to stick to the Word.  If Timothy sticks to the Word and what he has learned thus far, then in the midst of hard persecution he will endure.

Deceivers, Paul states, want to be deceived themselves in order to hold on to their pleasures.  Thus, their hearts and minds are dangerous. Though they appear religious, they in fact want pleasures and seek to fill their desires.  They are no different than Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What was good in their eye is what they were after… same with these folks.  They want to be blessed, yet they don’t listen to God.

So, such people find teachers that say what they want to hear.  Those deceiving teachers say they can have what their eye desires rather than what God says is good.  I might add God, says He is good.  We reflect God through good works as we acknowledge Him in our daily action.  Paul tells us to aim our actions based on Scripture.

In the end, he tells Timothy to hold fast to the word of God.  Holding fast to the Scriptures is the one trustworthy means of living life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  By way of the word, Timothy can guide and direct himself and others.  He can be rebuked by God and honor God and the same goes for people around him.  He can help others and himself conform to the living way of King Jesus.

BMD

Farmers for Christ

2 Timothy 2:1-7 

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.  3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs– he wants to please his commanding officer.  5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.  6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.  7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

There are two applications for this particular verse about farmers and crops.  The first is an application about disciples of Jesus and the expectations of being a good disciple.  The other application has to do with people who are working full-time for the Gospel and how they should be paid.  As a full-time evangelist, this makes sense for Paul and Timothy to talk about.  It is the first application that we are focusing on today.

The key word in this verse is the word “hardworking.”  I hope it makes sense that only a farmer who works the land, toils the field, keeps equipment working is a farmer that has a crop to harvest.  The principle is that hard work in the ground produces a harvest.  We see this principle not just here, but in other passages as well. 

Genesis 3:17-19 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  Since sin entered into the world, farming is a hard task.  The ground does not always cooperate.  The weather is not always conducive to growing.  Most of the time hard work brings harvest.

Proverbs 20:4 says, “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.”  Again, the Bible tells us that planning, working the ground, and planting seeds produces a crop.  In Proverbs, King Solomon points out that if you do nothing, you get nothing.  That principle is true in many aspects of life:

Finance: A person that invests nothing gets a goose egg and not a nest egg.

Family: A family that ignores each other ends up being strangers.

Work: A person who does not work diligently will be fired and have no job.

Sports: A person who does not practice will lose every game or be cut from the team.

Diet: A person who eats what they want and does not exercise will lose no weight.

Farming: A farmer who does nothing with the land will go out at harvest time and find empty fields.

Being a Christian is not just floating through life with God working for us. Rather, it is us working for God.  It is possible to have the attitude, “I’ve become a Christian in order to get God to bless me, and work for me. If he doesn’t do it the way I want, I’m out.”  That is the very attitude the Apostle Paul is warning against.  Being a Christian takes a lifetime of faithfulness.  A Christian is called upon to reprogram the computers of our mind to think differently than the world. That is not accomplished easily. It takes hours of reading the Bible and studying the Bible, until you see life the way God sees it.

TMB

Athletes for Christ

2 Timothy 2:1-7 

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.  3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs– he wants to please his commanding officer.  5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.  6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.  7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

CHRISTIANS ARE COMMITTED TO SELF-DISCIPLINE

            In the Apostle Paul’s day, athletes were highly respected.  In fact, in the writings of Paul in the New Testament, he makes references to athletes or sports more than twenty times.  In Paul’s writings overall, he uses the athlete to highlight self-control and determination.  When he thinks of perseverance, he thinks of an athlete.

            In verse 5, Paul says that an athlete cannot receive victory unless they follow the rules.  What is he talking about?  In Paul’s day, before athletic games, there were many rules and oaths athletes would adhere to.  Not following rules means no competing.  That is why in 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul says, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  An athlete had to be self-disciplined or they could not even compete for the prize.

            The Apostle Paul knows that the Christian life is one that requires faith, but also requires us to be self-disciplined and self-controlled.  Self can definitely get in the way of being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  Self can get in the way of us faithfully living for Jesus Christ.

Paul says elsewhere in 2 Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (1:7).

Paul tells the Thessalonians: “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

Paul tells Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (Titus 2:11-12).

In verse 5 of this chapter and in many of his other letters, the Apostle Paul set’s up the truth that being a disciple of Jesus Christ takes self-discipline, self-control, and determination to be successful and deeply faithful.

TMB

Soldiers for Christ

2 Timothy 2:1-7 

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.  3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs– he wants to please his commanding officer.  5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.  6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.  7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

2 Timothy 2:1-7 is a powerful passage about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul wants to impress on Timothy how important following Jesus Christ really is.  Paul wants to give Timothy words to anchor his soul when Paul is gone from this life.  In this passage, we are given three pictures of what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus.  The Apostle Paul pictures for us the solider, the athlete, and the farmer. 

Paul mentions two things about soldiers that relate very well to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. 

SOLDIERS ENDURE HARDSHIP

Paul tells Timothy that part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is enduring hardship.  For the Apostle Paul, he assumes that following Jesus will include hardship.  He thinks and believes that this is a “given” for hardship to come spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  How do I know that?  Paul writes about it elsewhere.

Romans 8:35-37 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

1 Thessalonians 2:8-9 says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.  9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.”

Over and over again Paul links spiritual struggle, emotional attack, struggles mentally, various woes, and physical hardship with being a real follower of Jesus.  Keep in mind Paul is only echoing what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:44, Luke 21:12, and John 15:18-20.

Why is hardship assumed when it comes to faith in Jesus Christ? 

Following Jesus is the narrow road and most people take the wide road.

Following Jesus is walking in the light in the midst of a world that wants to be dark and stay dark.

Following Jesus is stepping holy steps forward in an unholy world that only goes backwards.

Following Jesus is submission to God-rule instead of self-rule.

SOLDIERS PLEASE THE COMMANDER

Paul tells Timothy that part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is pleasing the commander.  What pleases the commanding officer?  Following orders.  Taking initiative.  Upholding the values of a soldier.  Achieving victory.  I can summarize all of that in my own mind by saying what pleases the commander in an army is the soldier being the best soldier they can possibly be.

As I was thinking about this, I wondered… what pleases my commander?  What pleases God?  What pleases my King of King and Lord of Lords?  I looked up the word “pleases” “pleased” and “pleasing” in the Bible and found verses that directly relate to what pleases God.  There are some verses that say “do what pleases God,” but those verses do not answer my question exactly because I want to know directly what pleases God!  Are there verses in the Bible that say what direct thing, actions, or attitudes God is pleased with?  I am sure you and I can agree that God is pleased with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control when it comes from His people… but is there something specific?  Is there something specific the Bible says pleases God our Commander? 

There are four things actually that the Bible states directly that God is pleased with.  May I submit to you this morning that if God is pleased with these actions and attitudes, you and I as soldiers under His command need to be all over these things.  This is what should mark a disciple.

First, God is pleased when children obey their parents.  Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”  Children that obey parents and honor them are people who are doing what the Bible directly states pleases God.  God has set up an order in the family in terms of obedience in the family: God, Parents, then Children.  When God’s plan for the family is followed, God is pleased.

Second, God is pleased with integrity.  1 Chronicles 29:17 King David says, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”  Integrity is doing what is right when it hurts and when no one is looking.  Integrity is   God is pleased when truthfulness permeates all parts of our being.  When we are people of integrity, God is pleased.

Third, God is pleased when we pray to Him.  Proverbs 15:8 says, “The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him” and 1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior.”  Prayer from His people pleases Him.  Communication about our hearts, our lives, and our desires pleases Him.  Praying for our country and leaders pleases Him.  Praying so that we live in peace, godliness, and holiness pleases Him. 

Fourth, God is pleased when we do good and share with others.  I know that sounds a little bit like a kindergarten lesson, but you know what they say, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.”  Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  God is pleased when we do good and put others first in our lives.  It pleases Him when we sacrifice and put others first.  When we are people who sacrificially love others, God is pleased.