Monday, November 17, 2014

Saturday 11/15 Give thanks to the Lord

1 Timothy 1:12 "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service."

I like how Paul begins this section of 1 Timothy with the simple words: "I thank Christ Jesus". Too often we as God's people don't take the time to thank the Lord. Today's post aims to see how major figures in the Bible thanked the Lord. 

1. Jacob gave thanks the Lord. 
Genesis 32:10 "I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all thef aithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies."

Jacob had to flee for his life from his brother Esau for stealing his blessing. Twenty years had passed and Jacob was on the eve of meeting up with his brother again. God had been certainly good to Jacob in a way far more than he deserved. But in reality, cannot the same be said of us as Christians living in the 21st century. It is not until we are forced to slow down and reflect that we can look back and see all the good things God has done, even when circumstances were less than desirable.

2. King Solomon gave thanks the Lord.
1 Kings 8:56 “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel,according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant."

King Solomon is recognizing God's faithfulness to his people, stretching all the way back to 480 years during the days of Moses. God's character and faithfulness are the lenses that enable us to see numerous reasons to thank the Lord. Solomon's statement of "not one Word of the Lord has failed" is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible about the infallibility of scripture. To know that no one word of the Lord can ever fail is great cause for giving thanks to Him.

3. The Psalms gave thanks to the Lord
Psalm 136:1 "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,For His lovingkindness is everlasting."

This Psalm has to be among the most saturated Psalms that deals with the subject of giving thanks to the Lord. The entirety of redemptive history is rehearsed, with near continuous cries of thanksgiving to God for His provision, power and protection of His people. Should you and I not give thanks to the Lord for all those times he has demonstrated his power, protected us and provided?

4. Jesus gave thanks to the Lord. 
Luke 10:21 "At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight."

None give us a finer example of being thankful to the Lord than the Lord Himself - Jesus Christ. Jesus thanked the Lord for the illumination that was being experienced by His audience. We ought to give thanks to the Lord for those moments where clarity is obtained and where we see growth in our lives or in the lives of others. Certainly without the grace of God at work in the human heart, no one could believe nor understand the things of God. We have so much to be thankful for in this day and age. 

5. Paul gave thanks to the Lord
As we saw in the opening verse above in today's post, Paul was thanking the Lord Jesus Christ for calling him to the ministry and for the blessings bestowed upon him in salvation. As Paul wrote to Timothy and the church at Ephesus in this epistle, he was reminding them that our Christian lives and church lives ought to be constantly attended with thanksgiving to God.

Will you and I give thanks to the Lord?
So what about you and me? Are we giving thanks to the Lord? We ought. God has so blessed us in far more ways than we can think or imagine. Thank the Lord for the small things as well as the big things. Thank Him for the people in your lives - including those who rub you the wrong way. Why? They are heavenly sandpaper ordained by God to rid you and me of anything that is not likened unto Jesus Christ. Thank the Lord for His Word, prayer and even the fact we live in a free country. Most of all - thank the Lord for Himself. Give thanks to the Lord!

Sunday 11/16 Be thankful for God's calling

1 Timothy 1:12-14 "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and apersecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with thefaith and love which are found in Christ Jesus."

Yesterday we considered the importance of giving thanks to the Lord. We considered key individuals in the Biblical record, and how they gave thanks to the Lord. Today we consider Paul's statements in 1 Timothy 1:12-14. As he wrote this epistle to the young Pastor at Ephesus, Timothy, Paul wanted to express to Timothy what it would take to excercise oneself properly in the church of God. A key trait of both pastor and church member alike is giving thanks to the Lord. Certainly the theme of God's calling is evident in these verses, being that without God's calling in ministry or even in salvation, no one could serve and no one could experience salvation.

Thank the Lord for the call to ministry
Paul begins by expressing to Timothy how awesome it was that Jesus Christ Himself had called Him to minister as an apostle. One of the motivations for sharing this trip down memory lane is to remind Timothy of the fact that he had been with the Lord from the beginnings of the Christian movement. Some of the false teachers who were confusing the Law and Gospel were "Johnny-Come-Latelys" who only wanted fame and noteriety among men. Paul's Divine encounter with the post-resurrected, post-ascended Jesus on the Damscus road can be reasonably dated to within less than two years of Jesus' ascension. In Acts 9:22 we read of what took place following Paul's dramatic encounter: "But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ."

Paul had been known as "Saul" in those early days, and Acts 9 explicitly states that he was "increasing in strength". The same word used by Luke in Acts 9:22 is the same word used by Paul here in 1 Timothy 1:12. It was Jesus Himself who enabled Paul with the gifts and talent to begin serving him in the ministry. Such an endument or "anointing" from on-high remained with Paul even to the writing of 1 Timothy. God's calling is remarkable in the fact that God's choosing and calling of people stems not from what they do but completely from God's own personal desire to use them. 

Thank the Lord for the call to salvation
It is in 1 Timothy 1:13-14 that Paul expands upon the significant circumstances surrounding His calling to ministry. Paul's call to salvation came first. The point of these verses is to underscore the fact that out of all the people in the world who were least likely to be the greatest spokeman for Jesus Christ the world-over, certainly that person could not had been Saul of Tarsus. As Paul relays in 1 Timothy 1:13a "even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor." I love the phrase "even though". Why? Because whatever will come after that "even though" phrase will totally overule whatever Paul had once done prior to his conversion.

You and I dear friend have done a lot of "even though's" in our lifetimes. We were not worthy to be called by Jesus Christ unto His salvation. We were in the same predicament as all lost sinners. Paul was literally arch-enemy number one to both the early church and to Jesus Christ. 

With that said, the most powerful word in 1 Timothy 1:13 erases Paul's former identity: "yet". "Yets" are awesome words in the scriptures. When I see the word "yet", that is usually a God word. God alone can take a no body and make them a somebody who can tell everybody about The Somebody who can save anybody. This is Paul's whole point in his fountain of thanksgiving in these verses. We read in 1 Timothy 1:14 "and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus."

Think about this: if Jesus had not called Paul in salvation, he would had continued on the road of destruction. Furthermore, if Jesus had not called Paul in salvation and then into ministry, we may not have had 2/3 of our New Testaments or at least we would not have the same Bibles that have survived for two millennia. The call of God makes nothing into something. 

May you and I today be thankful for God's calling. I thank the Lord who called me unto Himself in 1984 and who called me into His service in 1991. Whatever station of life you are serving, whatever you are doing, give thanks to the Lord. To think that the God of Eternity can be this Personal to call us by name to Himself and into His service is indeed cause of much thanksgiving!

5 Statements you can trust from 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus

1 Timothy 1:15 "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all."

Today's post is about the five "trustworthy" statements we find throughout 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. As Paul wrote these letters to Timothy, Titus and their congregations, he wrapped his arms around key truths of scripture and the early apostolic preaching based upon the scriptures and summarized it all in five statements. Being that the Holy Spirit of God was superintending these words, we could say that these 5 statements illustrate for us the truth of the Bible's infallibility - that is to say, the Bible's ability to lead us into all truth and to never fail (hence the term "trustworthy statements). Below I will list the sayings with headings to highlight these 5 statements you can trust, and why it is you can trust them.

1. Gospel to save the sheep. 
1 Timothy 1:15 states - "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." This first "trustworthy statement" deals with the mission of Jesus Christ as spelled out clearly in the Gospel. When I speak of "sheep", I'm referring to believers in Jesus Christ, as called by Jesus for example in John 10. The term "gospel" is found over 100 times in the New Testament. Paul told Timothy to deal with the false teachers that were infiltrating the church at Ephesus, and to be sure to preach the Gospel which can save both he and his hearers. (1 Timothy 4:13-16). Thus the Gospel itself is the first statement we can trust, because it saves the sheep. But notice the second trustworthy statement...

2. Pastors to guard the sheep
1 Timothy 3:1 "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do." We as believers in Jesus Christ need pastors. Even as a pastor writing this post today, I myself look to other fellow pastors and listen to pastors in their preaching to get fed, to attain wisdom and to better understand the scriptures. This statement is trustworthy for the simple fact that it gives us the qualifications for pastors and it reminds us of our need to be under God's Word. Jesus prescribes the pastoral ministry to His church to build up the church to the goal of attaining the unity He prayed for and aims to achieve before His second coming. (John 17; Ephesians 4:11-12). Now lets consider a third statement you can trust regarding doctrine.

3. Doctrine to feed the sheep
1 Timothy 4:9-10 tells us these words - "It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." What is doctrine? Doctrine is the fine pearl necklace that adorns the church and tells us who God is, who we are, how to think Biblically and what to tell others about the Gospel. Doctrine gives us vocabulary with which to describe our glorious Savior. Doctrine is the handmaiden of Biblical preaching and the assistant to the Christian in the practical affairs of everyday life. The reason why I ascribe the value of doctrine to this third trustworthy statement is because it answers for us in the clearest way possible: for whom did Christ die? The accomplishment of Jesus Christ on the cross requires doctrine to explain it and apply it to both believers and non-believers alike. This statement is one that summarizes virtually every scripture that touches upon Jesus' atoning death. He died for all men in a historic sense (Savior of all men) and for His church in the eternal sense (especially of believers). (1 John 2:2; Acts 20:28) 

Jesus died for all men in the sense to give time and room in history for everyone to believe and repent. God's general revelation in creation renders all people without excuse and no one can say they did not know about God and His nature, power and wrath. (Romans 1:18-20; Acts 14:17). If a person so humbles them selves to such general revelation, God by His Spirit will send a Christian with the Gospel of the special revelation of the Bible, drawing that person then to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Unless the Son's work on the cross had been directed toward the whole world, the whole world would had been destroyed due to the fact that the Holy God of eternity cannot tolerate sin in His sight. (Isaiah 6; Habakkuk 1:13). 

In dying for all men, those whom the Father sends His Spirit to Divinely affect by His convicting work, whom He lovingly set His affection upon, who willingly and freely respond to the call of Gospel are those for whom Jesus died for in the ultimate sense. Those truly regenerate persons are those who compose the true church of Jesus Christ, which is what Jesus gave His life for as planned out between He, the Father and The Spirit in eternity. (Acts 20:28) 1 Timothy 4:9-10 is a trustworthy statement that wraps its long arms around the massive doctrine of the atoning achievement of Jesus Christ and thus is a statement we can trust as doctrine that feeds the soul of the sheep. 

4. Truth to liberate the captive sheep and those pretending to be sheep
2 Timothy 2:9-11 tells us - "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; 13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."  I find in this fourth trustworthy statement a word of warning and a word of encouragement. The liberating truth comes in freeing believers from the fear of wondering whether or not they are saved. Likewise, for some who are playing church or make-believers, the jarring truth of 1 Timothy 2:12 awakens them from their little game to believe, repent and be saved. We need this statement to set us free from fear and carelessness. Truly then this statement can liberate people. 

5. Holiness to purify the sheep
Titus 3:8 notes - "This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men." We have considered four statements thus far that you can trust in essential matters of the Christian life. This final statement is important due to the call to live a holy life for the glory of God. Without the scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit, our efforts to live holy lives will be exercises in futility. Paul reminds Titus that the scriptures (including what he is writing) are designed to urge readers to pursue a holy and devout life with God and before men. 

Closing thoughts
Today we have considered the five "trustworthy statements" found in Paul's three letters of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. These are summaries of large and important teachings of scripture that are inspired statements themselves that we can trust. As was mention, such statements highlight the infallibility of scripture or the ability of the Bible to lead us into all truth without fail. In considering these five statements you can trust, we saw...
1. The Gospel that saves the sheep
2. Pastor to guard the sheep
3. Doctrine to feed the sheep
4. Liberation of captive sheep
5. Holiness to purifiy the sheep