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2 Timothy 2-3: Those in the World are Prisoners not Enemies

Prisoner by Jennifer Gordon

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:24-26, ESV).

This passage means a lot to me. It represents a paradigm shift. For the longest time, I would look at those outside the body of Christ with a bit of smugness. After all, even though I had done bad things, I had chosen to enter Christ. These people were the enemy who had decided to follow Satan and deserved whatever they got.

This passage has opened my eyes to some things. First, back when I was in the world, I didn’t want people to look down on me with smugness or just leave me in my captivity because I was the enemy. Second, instead of viewing those still in the world as enemy spies, they are POWs. They have been captured by the enemy to do his will.

Have you ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome? It is the psychological response seen in some kidnapped victims where they become loyal to the one who has taken them hostage. On the surface, it sounds ridiculous to us. However, it is a great illustration of what has happened to those in the world. They have been taken captive by Satan and have developed a loyalty to him. They don’t need us firing our salvos at them trying to beat them down. They actually need to be set free, just like we did. 

Therefore, lets look at our friends in the world in the proper way. They are not the enemy. They are captives of the enemy. They have become dazed and confused by their captivity and they need our help. More than that they need God’s help. So let’s get the message of freedom to them.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 19, 2008 Posted by | Evangelism, II Timothy | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Timothy 6-2 Timothy 1: Timothy’s Fears Comfort Me

Ancient Rendering of Paul and Timothy

Ancient Rendering of Paul and Timothy

 

 

II Timothy 1 is actually a great comfort to me. 

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. However, in this chapter it appears to me that Timothy has been having some struggles. He has been dealing with some fears regarding doing his work as an evangelist. Paul is lifting him up and encouraging him to stay on track.

Paul lets Timothy know about how much he has prayed for Timothy. He reminds him of his legacy of faith. More than that, instead of shaming Timothy for any seeking lack of faith, Paul affirms he knows the faith really is there. Timothy just needs to rely on it. He reminds Timothy of the miraculous gift of the Spirit he has through the laying on of Paul’s hands. That is, Timothy is not alone but the Spirit is working through him therefore he does not have a spirit of fear but a Spirit of power, love and self-control. He reminds Timothy that there is no need to be ashamed of the suffering of the Lord or of Paul. This suffering is no reason to think Timothy has ended up on the wrong side. Rather, he is on the winning side and needs to join in the suffering because despite all the suffering, Jesus Christ can be trusted with what Timothy and Paul committed to Him, that is, their souls.

This gets into II Timothy 2, but Paul reminds Timothy of the grace that is in Jesus.

Of course, all this information is really good. However, what comforts me the most is knowing I’m not alone. Even a great evangelist like Timothy had times of struggle. He had times when he needed to be provoked to love and good deeds by the likes of Paul. How easy it is for me to hit moments of despair because I don’t have a 24/7/365 powerful motivation to do what is right and do my work. Sometimes I have fears and struggles with preaching the truth, talking to others about the gospel and just generally doing the work of the Lord.

Don’t misunderstand, this chapter doesn’t give me permission to wallow in that. Rather, it simply lets me know that I’m not a loser because I have struggles. Rather, I’m like every other person who works in God’s kingdom. We all need encouragement at times. We all need to be stimulated, stirred up, spurred on and provoked. I may have struggles, but those struggles don’t mean I’m lost. They just mean I’m still living on earth. 

Therefore, this passage has a twofold help for me. First, I see that Timothy went through what I go through and I don’t have to feel alone. Second, I can also read Paul’s encouragement and be provoked to love and good deeds myself.

Hope this encourages you as well.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Encouragement, Evangelism, II Timothy, perseverance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10-11: Whatever You Do, Glorify God

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). 

I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context. 

From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10:28). 

Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.

Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble. 

Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to yesterday’s theme. What glorifies God the most? The salvation of the lost. 

Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Evangelism, Glorifying God, God, I Corinthians, Sacrifice, Serving | , , , , , | 2 Comments

1 Corinthians 8-9: 5 Keys to Winning More Souls

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel. That I may share with them in its blessings.”

I Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

 

This passage affected me so much, I had to preach on it this week. I need to do better at getting the word out to the loss. I learned five keys from this passage to help.

1. We have to see the gospel as good news.

The word “gospel” has essentially become a specialized word for us. We see that and hear “whatever the Bible says.” However, when our first century counterparts read this letter, they didn’t see a specialized religious word. They saw the word “euaggelion” which literally meant “good message” or “good news.” What do you do with good news? You share it. If we see the gospel as merely a list of requirements and rules that limit us, we’re not likely to share it, because we don’t see it as good news. Only when we recognize the gospel is the good news to set us free from our sins, will we get the message out (cf. Romans 6:16-23).

2. We have to see lost people as lost.

Repeatedly, Paul says he was doing his work in order to “win” and “save” souls. The reason is, he saw lost people as lost. He was like a man walking in a ship of safety, casting out a life preserver because he saw the souls drowning all around him. What would happen if he was walking on the ship looking at the clouds, just chit-chatting with other boat riders and never looking over the edge at the waters? No one would be saved. When we come in contact with people, we shouldn’t just see bank tellers, check-out clerks, co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, we should see lost people drowning in the bad news of their sins. We have the good news that will save them.

3. We have to see ourselves as servants to the lost. 

In I Corinthians 9:19, Paul said he was free from all, but made himself a servant so that he might save some. Being a servant means sacrifice. It means sacrificing our desires, wants and goals in order to accomplish what the lost need. We may have to sacrifice time. We may have to sacrifice money. We may have to sacrifice recreations. We may have to sacrifice our liberties. This is what servants do.

4. We have to get out of our comfort zone.

Think about the first day that Paul went to teach Gentiles in their home and they dropped a greasy piece of pork on his plate. Do you think that was comfortable for him? What about just teaching a Gentile to begin with? Was that comfortable for a Jew raised as a separatist Pharisee? He got out of his comfort zone. We need to have a sign that says–“Comfort Zone: No Parking.”

5. We have to use all means to save others.

“All means,” that was what Paul used to try to save some. That means proclaiming the gospel to the lost is not something we do in addition to everything else we do. That means we are thinking about teaching the lost in everything we do. Little League provides contact with 10 to 15 families who may need the gospel. A trip to Wal-Mart provides countless contacts. Work is not just a place of employment. It is a place in which we can display the fruit of the spirit and pursue spiritual conversations. We need to be thinking evangelism through every part of our life. I’ll give you a practical way to get the spiritual into conversations which someone shared with me and I am starting to use it. While at a restaurant, let your waiter or waitress know you are about to pray and then ask if he/she has something for which you could pray. I tried it for the first time last week and the waiter’s girlfriend’s brother had just died. He wanted us to pray for her. Do you think that made an impact on him? I think it did.

If you would like to read or listen to the sermon I presented based on this passage, click the link below.
Winning More!
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Evangelism, Growth, I Corinthians, Responsibility, Sacrifice, salvation, Serving, Teaching | , , , , | Leave a comment

Jude-I Corinthians 1: Folly and Wisdom

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:18, 21-24, ESV). 

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get discouraged as I walk through the local bookstore and hit the religious or philosophy section only to notice the academics who ridicule and berate anything to do with Jesus Christ and Christianity. Sometimes, I get caught in the trap of thinking I need to become as academic as they are and then try to fight them with their own sword. (Certainly, there are some very scholarly and academic Christians who fight these battles and I’m glad for them, I’m not disparaging them at all.)

However, this passage reminds me that the answers of persuasion will not be found in the halls of academia, philosophy or worldly wisdom. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for studying everything and seeing the whole picture. I’m not talking about putting my head in the sand and ignoring proven facts out there. I’m simply pointing out that Paul says if I move the battle ground into the halls of academia and philosophy of man’s wisdom, I can’t win the battle here. No matter what I say, those who don’t want to believe in Jesus won’t. No matter what I say, those who don’t want to believe the Bible is from God won’t. If I disparage some academic argument, they will only find another. 

Further, I do not have to feel foolish just because some academic thinks he is better and smarter than I am. No doubt, there are more people smarter than I am than I can count. God hasn’t asked me to be the smartest person in the world. He has simply asked me to trust Him that His way is right and, therefore, follow His way. In the end, wisdom will be vindicated by her children. 

Here is the problem, the Jews look for a sign and the Greeks look for wisdom. Though this was in a different age, I have met both of these kinds of people. I’ve met the guy who said if God really wanted him to do something, God would have to give him some kind of sign, like a bolt of lightening from heaven. I’ve met the guy who says the whole Bible and Jesus thing just doesn’t make sense to him. We preach Christ crucified. The one seeking a sign, merely sees this as a stumbling block. The early Jews just couldn’t get their minds around a crucified Messiah. The early Greeks just couldn’t make sense out of God who sacrificed Himself for His people. Modern men looking for signs don’t think a crucifixion and resurrection is enough. They want God to personally attend to them and give them a personal sign. Modern men with earthly wisdom, can hardly get their minds around a real God, let alone one who sacrifices Himself for us. 

What I have to do is simply keep sharing my faith. Instead of being discouraged by those who are so wise in the world they can’t seem to accept the wisdom of God, I need to simply pass on God’s wisdom. It will not return to God void. I don’t have to be embarrassed or discouraged. I know the wisdom of God will eventually be vindicated.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 16, 2008 Posted by | Evangelism, Faith, I Corinthians | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mark 1-2: Cleansed!

 

Leprosy Victim

Leprosy Victim

The leper of Mark 1:40-45 amazes me. Jesus told him to keep his mouth shut and he couldn’t. What saddens me is Jesus has told me to keep my mouth open and I don’t.

 

The thing I need to recognize about this whole scenario is the leper couldn’t keep quiet because of the joy over his cleansing. He knew exactly how defiled and vile he had been. Therefore, he was overjoyed at his newfound cleansing. He had to tell someone.

Who do you think he told first? I imagine he told the only people that had stayed with him, the other lepers he had been relegated to live with outside the city. He probably told his family. He may have told his friends. I bet he told the next person he saw in the street. 

What I need to do is realize just how defiled and vile I was spiritually. Only then can I have the joy of the cleansing Jesus has given. Perhaps, when I remember that and meditate on it, I won’t be able to help telling people about it either.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Evangelism, forgiveness, Mark, Miracles, sin | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Acts 23-24: Christians are Troublemakers

The Rotten Scoundrel

Paul: The Rotten Scoundrel

Just listen to the non-Christian Jews in Acts 23-24 and you will learn the truth. Christians are just troublemakers. Just look at what these guys have to say about Paul to the Roman officials.

We have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He tried to profane the temple, but we seized him” (Acts 24:5-6, ESV)

The only problem is, none of it was true. The fact is, this kind of nonsense has been going on for 2000 years. If we can’t find a good reason to be mad at the Christians, let’s just make something up. Therefore, we should not get too upset when people today get mad at us for trying to force our views on the world when all we are doing is trying to persuade folks with logic, reason and, yes, even faith. Let’s not get too upset when they say we are judgmental because we suggest that folks might be wrong sometimes. Let’s not get too upset when they trump up charges that just aren’t true. And most of all, let’s not back off from getting the only message that will save souls out to the world just because people accuse us of being closed-minded and unloving.

The fact is, everyone who makes those judgments will at some point find out just how loving we are being by passing the message on. They will either learn that when their eyes are opened by God’s word to the truth of Jesus’ message. Or they will learn when it is too late. But all will learn on some day that we tried to bestow love.

Now, having said that. Let me hit the other side. Sadly, too often, those who claim to be Christians have given reason for others to make accusation. No doubt, the biggest one we hear is the Crusades. But if that stands out as the most extreme example that everyone highlights, there have sadly been a thousand seeming trifling examples of Christians living like the world, taking their revenge, seeking their selfish ways, condescending with arrogance.

We should not be upset when folks wrongfully accuse and malign us. It happened to Paul, we should expect it to happen to us. At the same time, we must not give cause to receive truthful accusation. When we have given that cause. We had better make amends quickly.

Keep the faith today and keep reading.
ELC

July 31, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 15-16: 5 Keys to an Evangelistic Lifestyle

With the conversions of the households of both Lydia and the Philippian Jailer, Acts 16 is a great place to learn about how to live an evangelistic lifestyle. Note 5 keys we learn from the chapter.

1. Know the message: In Acts 16:13-14, Paul and Barnabas obviously knew the message they needed to preach to these women. Further, in Acts 16:32, they knew the message to give to the Jailer when he questioned them. No matter what else we do, if we don’t know the message, we can’t be evangelistic.

2. Know where the prospects are: In Acts 16:13, Paul and Barnabas knew where the Jews would meet in the absence of a synagogue. We are probably not looking for a riverside religious meeting. However, we need to be able to tell where the prospects are. They aren’t in our church buildings. They are out in the world. Salt is only useful when it comes in contact with what needs to be salted.

3. Care about people, no matter how they have treated you: I can’t help but think how many of our modern vengeance minded Americans would have acted when the Jailer was about to off himself. Instead of stopping him, many would have thought “good riddance” regarding the man who had placed them in stocks and, no doubt, treated them with disdain. But Paul and Barnabas cared about people. Despite how the jailer had treated them, they wanted him safe. That only comes when we actually care about people.

4. Be a Christian everywhere, displaying your spirituality: Certainly, we are not supposed to shine our lights so people will somehow think we are special. However, we do need to display the light so folks will glorify God. Whether we find ourselves beside the river with a specifically planned time of evangelism or find ourselves in prison, we need to live like Christians displaying our spirituality. No doubt, evangelism is about us going and teaching. But at times, it is also about us just living right so that when people who are not interested right now become interested later, they know where to turn. That is exactly what happened in Acts 16:29-30. The Jailer had not been interested, but suddenly his perspective changed. He knew where to turn for answers not because Paul and Barnabas had already had a Bible study with him. But because they had displayed their spirituality, living as Christians no matter where they were.

5. Don’t stop because of rejection: In Acts 16:16-24, Paul and Barnabas suffered a tremendous rejection. It was so strong, they were thrown in jail. I could see how that would be a tad bit discouraging. However, it didn’t stop them at all. Instead, they just kept right on being Christians. They just kept right on living out evangelism.

I hope and pray we all develop this kind of lifestyle and spread the gospel to all who will hear.

Keep the faith and keep reading

ELC

July 25, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Baptism, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 13-14: Responding to Prejudice against Christians

Acts 14:2-3 jumped out at me today. “The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time...” (ESV). 

Wow!

Is that how I would respond? So often, when people’s minds are poisoned against me as a Christian, I shrink back. When I think folks aren’t going to want to listen, that’s when I decide to keep quiet or decide to move on. If I hear someone say a name or something derogatory, I begin to think there is no point in trying to talk to them about spiritual things.

But that is not what Paul and Barnabas did. When the minds of the Gentiles were poisoned against them, they remained longer. 

They saw the biases, that only made them work harder. They heard the names, that only caused them to shine brighter. 

Yes, I know when their lives were in danger they went to the next city, but let’s face it, when has my life ever been in danger because I’m a Christian. Sure, people have their minds poisoned against me and against us, but here in America our lives aren’t threatened. Instead of backing off when we think people are prejudiced against God’s message, we should stay longer and work harder.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 1-2: Pentecostal Evangelism

No, I don’t mean evangelizing like Pentecostals. I mean evangelism like the apostles did on the day of Pentecost. 

Have you ever stopped to think what caused folks to listen to the Apostles in Acts 2? Why did the people come rushing to the spot where the 12 were gathered? Was it because they liked the 12? Was it because the 12 offered money? Was it because the 12 offered entertainment? Did they advertise a musical? Did they promise comedy?

No. The people came rushing because of the work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:2, the Holy Spirit made a humongous sound like that of a rushing mighty wind. People from all over Jerusalem showed up. But then they stayed and continued to listen because of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit granted the apostles the ability to speak in other languages and everybody could tell these men were just Galileans, yet all could here their native tongues.

When we start thinking about evangelism, we need to do exactly what the apostles did. We need to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit. Granted, I Corinthians 12 teaches that the miraculous working of the Spirit through personal gifts such as speaking in tongues would cease when the Word was fully revealed. Therefore, we can no longer wait for the Holy Spirit to make a rushing mighty wind sound. We can no longer rely on the Spirit to give us utterance in foreign tongues. But we can let the Spirit attract attention by walking in His fruit.

Galatians 5:22-25 says we should let the Spirit lead us. When we do, we will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Let me ask you. Do you think if a whole bunch of us actually started living with these virtues that the world might stand up and take notice? 

Let’s quit relying on our gimmicks. Who needs the power lift team? Who needs comedians? Who needs rock bands? We have the Holy Spirit. The apostles relied on Him to attract the attention of the world. Let’s do the same today.

ELC

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Evangelism, Holy Spirit | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment