Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking recently about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, and walks away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately. We often think, and maybe even say, afterward that in hindsight there were some tendencies we could see in that person’s life that led to their eventual demise:
Our first and primary obligation is certainly to the local church. The Bible is very clear on the fact that we are to financially support those pastors who minister to us spiritual things, by ministering to their physical needs (1 Corinthians 9:7-11; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). The Scripture is equally plain regarding our obligation to support the poor and needy within the body of Christ (1 Timothy 5:16; 1 John 3:17).
The appointed time has grown very short … For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29,31). God himself has set the bounds of this universe, and it will not last forever. Therefore, every day that passes is God drawing the earth closer to its eventual and inevitable conclusion. And not only is this world finite, but our individual time on it is more limited still. As James reminds us, our life is like “mist,” here and then quickly gone.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other (Genesis 13:10-11). Abraham and Lot now face the opposite temptation from what they faced in chapter 12, when there was a famine in Canaan; now they experience the equally great challenge of prosperity in Canaan.
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). Paul, writing to everyday and average Christians in the church at Rome, insists that every Christian should be “able to instruct.” Paul gives two criteria for our being ready and able to give the right kind of counsel: being full of goodness, and being filled with knowledge. We can’t help others draw closer to God if we are not ourselves walking closely with God.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts… (1 Corinthians 14:1). Christians should desire giftedness. Although any spiritual gift is useless unless it is practiced in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-2), Paul exhorts the saints to desire the spiritual gifts. When was the last time you prayed for spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts can only come from the Spirit, and so prayer is the best way to pursue them.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father… (Ephesians 3:14). In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
Did you know that the command “Fear not” is by far the most repeated command in the Bible, across both Testaments? We can so easily paint an inaccurate, unrealistic picture of biblical heroes in our minds. The fact is they, like we, struggled with fear and anxiety about God’s working in their lives. This is of course the only explanation as to why we see this constant refrain throughout Scripture: “Fear not.”
He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). Have you ever wondered how you can personally participate in world missions, and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, even while you are punching a clock at your 9 to 5 job, or while you are a stay-at-home mom? A recent survey of new Christian converts in America asked how they came to know Christ. Ninety percent of these new believers said they came into contact with the gospel through family or friends!
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me (Matthew 25:35-36). In Jesus’ famous description of the judgment day in Matthew 25, he describes those on his right hand (the children of God) as those who have personally ministered to Jesus in his poverty, in his sickness, and in his imprisonment.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). After Paul fervently prayed for God to remove a particular trial from his life, he received an answer.
My beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Idols have a way of disappointing those who trust them. Because only God is God, everyone and anything that we put before God will fail us. Nothing and no one is as strong and faithful and good as God.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3). It is common, as each year begins, for people to make New Year’s resolutions … which is not a bad practice. As we look back over the past year(s), it is appropriate to wonder if we accomplished what we should have, if our life was as useful and happy as we would like it to be — and then, as a result of that assessment, we resolve to do better in areas in which we feel like we have
You became an example to all the believers … [because] the word of the Lord sounded forth from you (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). What is the church of Jesus Christ supposed to look like? There are many different descriptions given in Scripture, and many different saints and congregations held up as examples to follow.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We have no idea how deeply damaging the unconfessed sin in our life is. But we also cannot imagine how powerful and wise God’s forgiveness and cleansing will be.