Thursday, August 22, 2019

NTDS (71): One Way

1 Tim 2:5-7 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time.  NIV

The expression “one way,” was at one time a popular sign, used by Christians to give glory to God at the end of a song performed by Christian bands. Pointing one’s first finger up to God indicated this and it was done instead of applauding. That way both the performers and audience would give recognition to the Lord instead of the performers. It really meant that there was only one who is worthy of praise and only one way to heaven.

Though this tradition has since passed, the reality of its’ meaning is still true today. There is only one who is worthy of our praise and there is only one way to heaven. This verse makes that clear. Yet, many people struggle with that concept. Even some believers in Christ have a hard time thinking that their friends, who may be sincere in their belief of a “different’ way, will not go to heaven. The most prevalent question people ask concerning this doctrine is, “if one is a ‘good person,’ how could God not accept them?”

These are legitimate questions but this verse can help answer them. “There is one God (v5).” If that is true, then any other entities, philosophies or religions cannot be accepted as true. If there is only one God and He is truly God, then He sets the rules. What He says goes. You may think that is unfair, but did you create the universe and all living things? Rom 9:20
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"

More importantly, it is critical to see that the true and living God, the God of the Bible, is fair and just and kind and loving. This passage makes that clear. This God, who does set the rules, made a way for rebellious mankind to have eternal life and a personal relationship with Him. That way was to come to earth, humbly living as a man among His creation and giving up His life as a ransom for us.

How could anyone complain that God’s way of salvation is not fair? He gives it as a free gift for all who would put their faith in Him. Rom 6:23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Is there any other “god” you know of that offer you this? Is there any other religion that has a god who lays down his life
so that man can live eternally with Him?

Moreover, this same God has proven Himself to be existent, by revealing Himself in written word. He has given us the sure word of prophecy, telling us of His plan of salvation before it happened. When you read Isaiah 53, you see the depiction of the suffering and death of Jesus, written hundreds of years before it happened. Mathematicians have calculated that the odds of one person fulfilling all the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the promised Messiah, were almost impossible, yet it happened in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He gave His life, dying on a Roman cross, to give anyone who desires to spend eternity with Him, that privilege. What could possibly be more loving and fair than that?

There is only one way, but it is a good way and we should be thankful for it! Early church believers were often called followers of  “The Way.” If you have not yet chosen this way, I encourage you to choose today the only way to eternal life with God. Surrender your life to Jesus Christ today and become a follower of “The Way.”

God bless you


Monday, August 12, 2019

NTDS (70): Faith and Love

2 Thess 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. NIV

As Paul addresses the Thessalonians in his second letter, he immediately commends them for growing in two areas, faith and love. If I had only two opportunities left in my life to teach biblical truths, these are the two I would pick. I cannot think of any two doctrines that are more critical to our relationship with Christ than these. They are linked together in eternal significance.

Whenever we see the word faith (you can substitute trust), we must remember that it means faith in Jesus Christ. Faith must have an object. Whenever we say things like, “my faith got me through this difficult situation,” we are really saying it is our trust in Jesus that got us through. Otherwise we are just commending ourselves. I did it because I have faith. Without an object, faith is worthless. With the wrong object, it is just as worthless.

If I put my faith in the wrong God, I am going to be sorely disappointed. The only God who can be trusted is the true and living God, manifest in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the God of the Bible. It is our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation that begins our relationship with Him and it is our faith in His continued work in our lives that deepens our relationship with Him. This is what Paul is commending these believers for. Their trust in Christ is growing stronger and stronger.

The evidence of this growing faith is seen by their increasing love for one another. Growing in faith will always bring about more love. More love for Him and more love for others. There is no greater evidence of our growing relationship with Christ than the law of love working in us.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of God was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt 22:37-40)

Paul said in 1 Cor 13:1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Did you read that closely? Even if you gave up your life, if it was not out of love for Christ, it gains nothing! Now you can see why this is so important. It is also important to know what type of love Paul is speaking of. We use the term love so loosely today that it hardly has any meaning. When I say, “I love my wife,” it does not mean the same thing as, “I love ice cream.” I may love them both, but certainly in a different sense.

In 1st Corinthinans 13, Paul is describing what love is and what it is not. Many teachers have well said, that since the Bible teaches that God is love, this passage describes God. The Greek word for love here is agape. It is benevolent, unconditional love. I like to say it is “love without expectation of anything in return.” Did you know that it is the same word that Jesus uses in the Matthew passage? In other words, we are to love God and our neighbor unconditionally.

Jesus told His followers that the world would know that they truly were His disciples by their love for one another. The apostle John sums it up this way, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12)

Do you want to know if you are truly growing in your faith in Jesus? Read 1 Corinthians 13. Does that describe you and your relationships with those around you, especially your brothers and sisters in the Lord? If not, confess that to Him and ask Him, by the power of the Spirit, to increase your agape more and more. Then you must choose to follow His leading. It is not about how you feel; it is about surrendering to the one who you have put your trust in for salvation, justification and sanctification.

God bless you

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

NTDS (46): The God of Comfort

2 Cor 1:3-4  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…NIV

This is a bold statement made by the apostle Paul. God comforts us in all our troubles? Some of you may be thinking right now that this statement isn’t really true. You may have gone through or are now going through troubles and you say “I am not experiencing this comfort!” We may all go through times where we do not feel comforted and yet we know that God’s word is always true. If that is the case, then why do we not always experience His comfort?

I think there are two reasons that we may not always experience the comfort of God. You can remember them in two R’s, Recognize and Receive. What does that mean?

First, we need to recognize how God comforts us. I believe that God comforts us in three ways: the truth of His word, communication with Him in prayer and from the fellowship with other believers.

When trouble surrounds us, we should look to the Word, especially the promises that He has given us. We see in the Bible that everyone goes through tough times, so we know that we are not alone. John 16:33
 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

We also learn from the Word that our hardships often have great purpose. 2 Cor1: 8 "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."

God also promises us that our troubles will not last forever, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter 1:6

The word tells us that there are benefits that come from enduring trials, James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

These promises and the promises of salvation, eternal life with Him and the knowledge that He will never leave us or forsake us should always bring comfort to our hearts.

Secondly, when we are in the midst of difficulty, we gain comfort in prayer. Just knowing that we have an all-powerful God, who will actually listen to us, should bring comfort. Ps 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.”
Ps 118:5 "In my anguish I cried to the Lord,and he answered by setting me free." 

Many times in prayer, the Lord will speak to you with words of comfort. He will bring to you and overwhelming sense of peace, that you cannot explain, John 14:27“ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The third way that He brings comfort is from other believers. 2 Cor 1:6-7 “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

As you pray, God will often bring others into your life that can bring comfort to you. Paul shares two examples of this 1Thess 3:6-8, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.”

2 Cor 7:6-8 “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.”

Now, the second R. Sometimes the reason we are not experiencing God’s comfort is that we refuse to receive it. If we really thought about it, I think we would have to admit that sometimes we would rather just wallow in our circumstance, rather than receive God’s comfort. We look at the promises of God in his word and choose to doubt them. We do not go to him in prayer and ask for his help and comfort. We don’t want to allow the Holy Spirit (the comforter) to render His comfort to us. Sometimes we even refuse to receive the comfort of a person God sends to us to help us through our time of grief.

Just as we had to make a free will choice to accept Christ into our life, just as we had to choose to surrender control of our life to Him, we must choose to receive the comfort he wants to bring to us. God has promised us comfort, He has promised us peace. We must learn to recognize how and when He is bringing it to us and then receive it from Him.

So, next time you are going through a difficult time, I pray that you will look for God’s comfort, so that you can recognize it when it comes and then choose to receive it gratefully.

God bless you

Thursday, July 25, 2019

NTDS (69): KISS: Keep It Simple, Saints

1 Thess 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. NIV

It seems to me that we sometimes make our lives with the Lord overcomplicated. After all, we read the Bible and don’t always understand it. We don’t always know what God wants us to do in situations. We struggle with obedience to His commands and sometimes, may even be confused about what His commands actually are.

When you start feeling this way, it is good to get back to basics. In chapter 5 of 1st Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul summarized how we should live as Christians. It really isn’t as complicated as we often make it. Paul starts off with a motivational statement, as to why these believers should live their lives in the manner he will present. In verses 1-9 He tells them that the day of the Lord, as predicted many times in the Bible, will certainly come and that they should live their lives as people who will not be surprised by that fact.

1 Thess 5:4-6 "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled."

Then, in typical Pauline fashion, he gives them simple instructions on how to live their lives accordingly. These instructions apply to us as well and can certainly help simplify life for us. You might think of these as, keeping our priorities straight. Let’s look at his list of instructions for simple Christian living.

Be self controlled (v8)
Encourage one another (v11)
Respect those who work hard at leading you in Christ (v12)
Live in peace with each other (v13)
Warn those who are idle (not working, wasting time) (v14)
Encourage those who are timid (v14)
Help the weak (most likely in the spiritual sense) (v14)
Be patient with all (v14)
Don’t pay back wrong (or evil) with wrong (v15)
Be kind to all (v15)
Be joyful (v16)
Always be praying (v17)
Give thanks to God in all circumstances (v18)
Don’t resist the work of the Spirit in your life (v19)
Don’t despise prophecy but test it by scripture (v21)
Hold on to that which is good and avoid things that are evil (v21, 22)

What Paul is teaching us here, is that our decisions on how we live should not be that complicated. If you are confused about how to live, just review this list. Just because it is simple does not mean that it is easy to do.  We must choose to do what is right in God’s eyes, as represented here. The Holy Spirit will help us to make those choices but we still have to choose.

Paul then says that God himself will keep you blameless at he coming again of our Lord Jesus. He is faithful and we can trust Him to completely sanctify us (make us holy). As it says in verse 18, … “for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”  So let’s keep it simple, saints!

God bless you