Devotionals

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One of the things I have found extreme joy in is writing devotionals. I hope that as you read these, they can be beneficial to your walk with the Lord and increase your affection for Him.

Pleasure

We find our pleasure in many things. For me, I tend to find pleasure in coffee, fall weather, a good book, and time spent with family and friends. Maybe you have something similar that you find pleasure in. These things are all good things that God has graciously blessed us with. We are to cherish these things but they are not take the place of God as our ultimate pleasure. Unfortunately, as another theologian notes, the throne on our hearts that was once designated for God has been taken by many different things in our lives. He, for the most part, is no longer our treasure.

Where Does Our Pleasure Come From?

But why is this the case? As many have claimed, we do not love God and see Him as we ought. We do not desire God like the psalmist does in Psalm 42: 1-2. Take a moment and read these verses. Does your soul thirst for God? Can you go a day without hearing from Him? Can you go a day without talking to Him? If so, we do not see God as we should. If so, we do not see ourselves as dependent. If so, we have failed to realize He is most precious. Remember that it is only by the Gospel of Christ that we are saved. It is in this truth, a truth that has been made known to us by God that we should be satisfied in. May we learn with the psalmist in Psalm 34 to taste and see that the Lord is good. Think hard about this. What does this mean in your own life? How do you find yourself satisfied in the Lord? Furthermore, spend time in prayer asking for Him to reveal to you the ultimate satisfaction that is found in Him and Him alone.

For additional reading: Read Psalm 34

A Right Perspective of Sin


Right perspective leads to right action. If we understand the truth about something, we are more likely to respond correctly to whatever that something is. I believe there are several things that Christians do not have a proper or complete understanding of and therefore their response is often inappropriate. One of these things is our sin. Perhaps nothing in the Christian’s life is more misrepresented and misunderstood than sin. If we truly understood it, we would fight to resist its clutches. We would fight to keep far from it. We would put up more of a fight when we are tempted. We would work to kill the sin that is already at work within us.
Sin is a poison. It is a disease. Worse. It is a disease that spreads. Remember what it did to our first parents? It forced them out of the presence of God. This is what sin does. It breaks our fellowship with God. It twists our mind. It tricks us into thinking that it can satisfy rather than God. It takes our faculties: our eyes, our tongues, our bodies, our thoughts and it twists them to do its will. Like the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy in John 10, so does sin. Yes, it even affects those around us. When we should desire to serve God, sin convinces us to do what would bring us pleasure and poison us. When we are supposed to glorify the Lord, sin convinces us to glorify ourselves. We may find ourselves like Paul in Romans 7 saying that because of sin, I do what I do not want to do. Sin manipulates even our best endeavors.
So what is the solution? Look at the words of Paul in Romans 7:24.  Our solution is Christ. In the words of Romans 8, we have hope! Nothing separates us from God’s love. Yet that does not mean we should not fight. It does not mean we should not resist our sin. Rather we must see it rightly and find our victory over sin in Christ. Do you view your sin correctly? Are you fighting your sin? Are you fully dependent on Christ to continue in your battle of sin?

A Right Perspective on Sin pt. 2 


As we saw previously, sin deludes our senses. It twists and molds our faculties to be bent and enslaved towards its will rather than the Lord’s. Yet this still does not give us a complete and holistic perspective of sin. For although we have focused on what sin does to us, we have not spent time focusing on how God views our sin. If we are to have a correct perspective on sin, we must strive to see it as God does.
To God, sin is a heinous act. It is an act of treason against the Almighty. It is choosing something else to sit at the center and on the throne of our hearts other than Him. As Creator, He is deserving of all glory and Honor and praise yet sin, all too often, takes His rightful place. Sin, in fact, is so vile to the Lord and His holiness that He must rid of it. It must be vanquished. It must be expunged from creation and all whom it has affected. Sin must be payed for, by blood. This is the price that God accepted as payment for sin. Take some time at some point to read the first seven chapters of Leviticus. It’s bloody for a reason. It required all that blood to appease the Lord for the nation of Israel’s sin for a short period of time. Yet God would not be satisfied by the blood of sacrifices. Romans 3:25 tell us that “God put Christ forward as a propitiation by His blood…” This word propitiation is an act of pleasing God. Christ’s perfect life and death was so satisfying that God no longer needed a sacrifice. But do not forget why Christ has to die. Christ had to die because our sins were so wretched to Him that only His Son’s death could satisfy Him. Only God Himself could make a way to defeat sin. Only God Himself could be a great enough payment for sin.
So if this is how God sees sin, how should we view it? Does your view of sin reflect God’s? Are you reminded that when you sin, it is for this reason that Christ died?
Additional Reading: Romans 3 and Hebrews 10

Daily Dependence 

We are fragile. We would like to think of ourselves as strong individuals, but we are, in all actuality, very weak. Culture would have us believe otherwise. To culture, we are strong. We make our own decisions. We are the masters of our lives and no one can tell us otherwise. We are independent. Or at least that is the narrative that our culture has fed us. But is it really true? Are we really as independent as it seems. Granted, if I wanted to go and grab a coffee right now even though it is 11pm at night, I surely could. I am independent in that sense. I can choose to do what I want, but does that really make me completely independent? In reality, we are very dependent.We are dependent upon a lot of little things that we don’t even consider. We are dependent upon the air that we breath to give us life. We are dependent upon the food that we eat to give us energy. We are dependent upon vehicles to get us from place to place. We are dependent upon our parents, at least for some period of life, to raise and nature us. We are very dependent! We are dependent upon God. We are dependent upon God for all these things. He is Creator of all these things after all. Yet, could I simply ask: Are we recognizing this? Are we recognizing how much we need God? Yes, for breath and food and all these things He created, but there is so much more we need God for. Even Jesus recognized this. As the disciples asked Christ “teach us to pray,” Jesus notably mentions in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” This is an allusion for sure. The disciples growing up in a Jewish heritage, would have heard of the manna that fell daily in order to provide the Israelites with food as they were traveling through the wilderness and would have made the connection with what Jesus was praying for. He was praying for daily supplication. He was saying that as disciples of Christ, we must be daily praying for our daily needs. Like the Israelites in the wilderness who needed the manna in order to eat and keep themselves from starving, so we need Christ on a daily basis to keep ourselves from spiritually starving. We need Christ to free us from the bondage of sin on a daily basis through the work and message of His Gospel. If you do not understand yet that we daily need the Gospel, then I feel as if the church has failed you. I feel as if I have failed you. We need the Gospel more than the air that we breath. We need the Gospel as more than the food that we eat or the water that we drink. We need the Gospel as more than anything we could possibly imagine. For it is only the Gospel of Christ Jesus by which we are saved. And so, once again we find ourselves back to the beginning. We are fragile. Not just physically, but spiritually. But thanks be to God for His Son and His Gospel. In this, we are daily dependent.

The God Who Pursues

Desire often leads to pursuit. Perhaps you have seen this in your own life. Has there ever been something in your life that you wanted so bad that you went after it until you got what you wanted? Maybe it was something you wanted to buy so you worked for extra money until you could buy it. Maybe it was excelling at some sport and you practiced until you could perform at the ability you wanted to be able to. Maybe is was a relationship that you pursued until you got to know them. Whatever the reason, you pursued because you desired something so much that you were willing to work to get it. But have you ever pursued something that you didn’t think was worth much? Likely the answer is no. In fact, this question seems somewhat ridiculous to ask. Why would anyone pursue something that they didn’t think was worth much of anything? Yet, this is what God did. In fact, God pursued something that He knew would not ever give anything of worth or value back to Him. He pursued us.
Here is what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that you and I are worthless. I’m not saying that we have no value. What I am saying is that in all reality, what did God really have to gain in His pursuit of us? Glory? No, He already was sufficient in HIs glory. Praise? No, He has angels that do that without ceasing (See Isa. 6). Did He do it to complete some inner longing within Himself? No, He was already complete in the Trinity. He pursued us out of love. He pursued us because…He simply could. There was nothing to gain. In fact, we had broken our fellowship with Him when we sinned. He could have left us to our sin and to our death and yet, Scripture is full of examples of God pursuing humanity. He pursued Abraham and made a covenant promise that all nations would be blessed through him (Gen. 15, 17). God pursued His people in Egypt. He even dwelt among them in the tent of meeting (Exd. 40:34-38). But we know God’s greatest action of pursuit. It was in His Son. It was in the Emmanuel, “God with us.” John 1:14 says that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” He pursued us. Even when we rejected him, He pursued us. Lest we forget, He pursued us in such a manner that He placed His Spirit inside of us. We, who were unworthy to even be in His Presence, have now received His Spirit as a deposit of our inheritance  of what is to come (Eph. 1:13-14). Although unworthy, He placed value in us. Ask yourself, if God pursued me, is he not worth pursuing in my own life? Are you pursuing Him as He pursued you? If not, why not? His love for us should spur us on to pursue Him!

Lust

Ask a teenager, particularly a teenage boy what sin he struggles with most and most likely you will find that his answer is lust. Ask a teenager what is often the most uncomfortable sin to talk about and the refrain is the same. For many, the belief is that once they are older, out of their teenage years that they will no longer struggle with such an issue. The belief is that once they are married that their struggle with this sin suddenly disappears.  It’s almost as if they have graduated and moved on to the next set of sins, the sins you experience in adulthood. Unfortunately this is never true. Even as the process of sanctification continues, the struggle with lust also continues. Scripture makes it clear that our struggle with any sin will not cease till our death or till the return of Christ. Lust is include in this.
Maybe a definition is in order. Lust can be best defined as a strong desire or affinity toward someone or somethings. We can lust after money, or power or people. Most often it is spoken of in terms of sexual lust, that is lust after another person. Burk Parsons in describing the difference between love and lust writes that lust’s desire is to “take from another.” Our culture is full of lust. See any advertising, any standard television show, or listen to any song on the radio and much of what you hear is fueled by lust.  Yet we must sift through the culture’s mantra that says that lust is not a problem to what the Bible says. The text which most explicitly speaks to this issue is Matthew 5:27-30. Jesus says “If anyone looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The mere looking at a woman in a lustful way is adultery. It is a vile sin against God. So what is Christ’s answer to this problem. He continues and says that if your “eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. For it is better for you to lose one of your member than your whole body be thrown into hell.” We obviously know he does not literally mean tearing out our eye, but what he does call for is extreme measures. I’ve known people to read this text and decide that they will not look at a computer without someone home. I’ve known people who will not go to public place where they know it will be a temptation to lust. I even know individuals who have set up certain programs to prevent themselves from viewing anything that might cause them to lust. We should be working to guard our eyes an our heart from these things. We should be working hard to prevent ourselves from falling into this sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 writes “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality…” Why does Paul say this? Because he knows that lust (part of sexual immorality) keeps us from the will of God, our sanctification. He knows its a common sin. It is an issue. Not just then, but also now. So, what are you doing in the battle of lust? Are you taking extreme measures to fight it? Are you being honest with someone about your struggle with it in your life? And ultimately, are you looking to Christ to fulfill your desires rather than anything lust can give you?
See also Eph. 5:1-3; Col. 3:5

Value of God’s Word

You’ve heard it time and time again; the same command by youth leader after youth leader, pastor after pastor. Read your bible! As a youth leader its a daunting task to get students to open their bibles during a sermon or small group let alone get them to read the bible on their own outside the church. Why is this the case? I firmly believe it is because we have not taught the true value of God’s Word. To many outside of the church it is an antiquated book that contains antiquated stories of people who are not relevant to the modern culture. It is foreign and therefore often counted as unimportant. Even for the church kid, it can often feel like they are simply checking the box when they read their bibles. They do it because it is what they are supposed to do. But what if you found love in your daily time spent in God’s Word? What if you really felt as David did in Psalm 119: 14-16, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statues; I will not forget your word.” Can you say that about the Bible? In order to do that we have to see the value of it. And although there are so many reasons we should value the Word of God (trust me, many books have been written on the subject), I want to look at one.
To see the Bible for its worth we need to be reminded of the God who has orchestrated it and woven it together with over 2000 years of history. Without the Holy Spirit “carrying on” the men who wrote it (2 Pt. 1:21), there would be no infallible Bible. There would be no cohesive story. Yet again, this is not the most astounding truth of the Bible. No. We find this truth in Hebrews 4:12-13which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him whom we must give an account.” So why is the Bible so valuable? It is because it is alive and active. But understand it is not alive and active because it is changing. Rather it is alive and active because of the God who is behind it. Without an alive and active God, the word is powerless. Why can the bible pierce like a sword between soul and spirit? It is because God is still active in the hearts of those who read it in order to do this. Why is it able to discern the hearts of men and why is no man hidden from its sight? It is because of the Spirit who actively discerns our hearts and leaves us bare in naked in front of God. This may seem simple, but it changed the way I looked at the Bible when I was in college: The Bible is filled with God’s Words. Yes, they were written by humans, but God orchestrated it. The Bible has value because the Author of it has infinite value. This should change the way we think about the Bible. It should make its words alive to us. It should force us to actively think through what it is saying. How do you view the Bible now? Do you see it as God’s words, alive and active? Or are they simply dead words on a page? How does looking at the Bible with such value change the way you interact with the text?

Handiwork, Glory and Night Skies

Maybe you remember the last time your were awestruck by the sky above you. Its vastness. The amount of stars. The seemingly subtle feeling that you were apart of something much bigger than yourself. Perhaps it wasn’t a night sky, but a sunset or a sunrise. The plethora of colors which seem to be perfectly blended across the canvas which was the horizon. The sky contains beauty which only with our eyes can we behold. We cannot imagine such a sight for we are not nearly as imaginative and innovative as the Creator of these things. These skies always bring me back to Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  Take a moment to read the entire psalm if you will. When we see in verse 1 that God says that the heavens declare the glory of God, we need to remind ourselves that every time that we see a sky that amazes us, it is calling out to us and reminding us of God’s glory. It reminds us that God is Who He says He is. It proclaims His righteousness (Ps. 50:6) and proclaims His wonders (Ps. 89:5). The sky serves as a display of His majesty. We do not worship the sky, but we worship the Creator of these skies. Furthermore the sky is a proclamation of His handiwork. With God’s hands, He created it. He created the beauty and the vastness and the brilliance that is the night sky. Another verse, Romans 1:20says that “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world in all things that have been made.” When we look at the skies or anything in creation, we are seeing evidence of His power and divine nature. Then think of this, and this is the real head scratcher; He revealed it to us. He revealed it to those who rejected Him. Therefore, we have no excuse for rejection. We have no excuse this rejection of His Being. Remember, what we see in the sky is simply an inkling of the amount of glory that God truly possesses. Are your worshiping Him as He is deserving? Are you seeing God in His creation? Is worship your first reponse when you see something that leaves you in awe?

Value of God’s Word

You’ve heard it time and time again; the same command by youth leader after youth leader, pastor after pastor. Read your bible! As a youth leader its a daunting task to get students to open their bibles during a sermon or small group let alone get them to read the bible on their own outside the church. Why is this the case? I firmly believe it is because we have not taught the true value of God’s Word. To many outside of the church it is an antiquated book that contains antiquated stories of people who are not relevant to the modern culture. It is foreign and therefore often counted as unimportant. Even for the church kid, it can often feel like they are simply checking the box when they read their bibles. They do it because it is what they are supposed to do. But what if you found love in your daily time spent in God’s Word? What if you really felt as David did in Psalm 119: 14-16, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statues; I will not forget your word.” Can you say that about the Bible? In order to do that we have to see the value of it. And although there are so many reasons we should value the Word of God (trust me, many books have been written on the subject), I want to look at one.
To see the Bible for its worth we need to be reminded of the God who has orchestrated it and woven it together with over 2000 years of history. Without the Holy Spirit “carrying on” the men who wrote it (2 Pt. 1:21), there would be no infallible Bible. There would be no cohesive story. Yet again, this is not the most astounding truth of the Bible. No. We find this truth in Hebrews 4:12-13 which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him whom we must give an account.” So why is the Bible so valuable? It is because it is alive and active. But understand it is not alive and active because it is changing. Rather it is alive and active because of the God who is behind it. Without an alive and active God, the word is powerless. Why can the bible pierce like a sword between soul and spirit? It is because God is still active in the hearts of those who read it in order to do this. Why is it able to discern the hearts of men and why is no man hidden from its sight? It is because of the Spirit who actively discerns our hearts and leaves us bare in naked in front of God. This may seem simple, but it changed the way I looked at the Bible when I was in college: The Bible is filled with God’s Words. Yes, they were written by humans, but God orchestrated it. The Bible has value because the Author of it has infinite value. This should change the way we think about the Bible. It should make its words alive to us. It should force us to actively think through what it is saying. How do you view the Bible now? Do you see it as God’s words, alive and active? Or are they simply dead words on a page? How does looking at the Bible with such value change the way you interact with the text?

Purpose of Discipleship

Obi Wan Knobe had a mentor in Qui Gon Gin. Batman had a mentor in Ra’s Al Ghul. Ironically both of these were played by Liam Neeson, but that is besides the point. What is important is that both of these fictional characters had mentors. They had someone teaching them the ropes. They had someone to guide them in their mistakes. They had someone who would guide them and shape them and mold them into the people that they would one day be. We have something similar to this in the Church. As Christians, we are called to make disciples (Mt. 28:18-20). The process of making disciples is called discipleship. All of this you probably were aware of. But what is the purpose of discipleship? Why do we do it? How do we go about it? What is the goal of discipleship? I cannot answer all of these questions in this short prose, but I can attempt to answer one of them.
A vision without a purpose for that vision is worthless. It never gets off the ground. It never gets started. Discipleship without a purpose will never go anywhere. In searching for this purpose, we need to head back to Matthew 28:18-20. Verse 19 and part of verse 20 specifically contains part of our purpose. It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” So according to this text, we are commanded to go and make disciples. But why? Or better, how? The how and why are intermingled in this passage. Why and how do we go and make disciples? We make disciples for the purpose of baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This means that we makes disciples for the purpose of inviting them into the Kingdom of heaven. We invite them into a worldview that is unlike their own. We invite them into a Kingdom that is unlike their own. We invite them into God’s Kingdom through Christ Jesus. Secondly, we make disciples in order to teach them all that Christ has commanded His disciples. To teach them all that Christ has commanded us. We make disciples not in order for them to become like us, but in order to become like that one who gave them their commandments. That is Christ. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that we are to take the Gospel message and “entrusted it to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” So here is the imperative: WE MAKE DISCIPLES IN ORDER TO MAKE DISCIPLES WHO WILL MAKE DISCIPLES! This has to be our goal! This is my goal when I make disciples. My desire is that the disciples I make will be able to go out and to make more disciples. This is our goal. Not the pastors, not the seminary students, not the religious elite, but our goal. It is the average Christian’s goal and purpose. So ask yourself: Am I currently making disciples? Am i being discipled? What do I have to do in order to start making disciples? Remember, God has made you for this. He has called you to Himself so that you would teach others of His great love in mercy He has shown through the Gospel.

Redeeming the Time

More frequently I find that there are not enough hours in the day to do exactly what I want. Maybe you’ve found a similar thing to be true. I just don’t seem to have enough time to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish. Finding time for school, work, friends, sports, family, and church life can prove to be more challenging growing up in today’s culture. Teens are busier than they have ever been, juggling more things than they ever have in the past. Yet something else is also true. Teens are more distracted than they have ever been. With the emergence of cell phones and social media, teens are thrust into a whirlwind of distractions which prevent them from using time to the best of their ability. They are distracted. Rather than using their time for homework, family, friends in church, they can spend hours on Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and YouTube. Although these things in moderation can be positive things, overuse has left teens short of time they once had for other things.
Ephesians 5 gives us a clue as to what we do in regards to this issue using our time well. Verses 15-17 say, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” There are several things we can learn from this passage. First, the passage makes it clear that a wise person makes the most of his time while an unwise person foolishly uses their time. Why is this the case? It is because the days are evil. Yet, we will not clearly understand this until we read further. Paul then commands his readers not to be foolish, but instead to understand what the will of the Lord is. From here we must ask, what is the will of the Lord? For this answer we can look to one of Paul’s previous writings. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul writes, “This is the will of the Lord, your sanctification…” So what then does a wise person do with their time? They spend it understanding God’s will. They spend it on their own sanctification. They spend it on becoming more and more like Christ. This gives us a fuller and more robust reason for why we use the best of our time. Because the days are evil and we are often so manipulated by the culture around us, we wisely use our time to become more like Christ rather than more like the world. What does this mean for us then? It means we spend time in prayer. We spend time in God’s Word. We spend time being obedient to our parents. We spend less time on social media and on our phones and more time “working out our salvation” in Christ Jesus. How are you spending your time? Are you using the best of your time? Or are you wasting it on things that will not enhance your sanctification?

Cultural Narrative

Our culture has a story. It has a narrative. The culture in which we live in now started somewhere and will end up somewhere else. There are people who have influenced it over time and because of this influence by people, culture will continue to change and evolve. American culture which was once dominated at least by moral thought has moved away from these ideologies. It is now a “feel-good” culture which welcomes anything which may promote human autonomy. And as you may have heard it said at some point, we as Christians, are on the wrong side of history. Meaning our way of life and core doctrines/beliefs are now outdated in comparison to the culture around us. As I’ve stated formerly, we can be influenced by this narrative which may also be called worldview. Worldview is in the movies and YouTube vids we watch, music and podcasts we listen to, ads we see,  and books we read. Therefore we must always be asking ourselves, are we being seduced by the worldview of the culture around us.
A verse to keep in mind is Colossians 2:8. It says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”  We are easily trapped in wrong thinking and therefore trapped in wrong practice. We must guard our hearts above all else for it is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23). We must be sure we are not being manipulated by the things of this world. It’s philosophies are everywhere. Its human traditions are everywhere. They are in the movies, the books, the podcast and the music. We are in constant danger of losing sight of Christ and His Gospel. As the verse says, we can be taken captive by the ideas of culture. Ideas such as: humans are simply no more than machines, all love is the same, sexual sin really isn’t that big of a deal, an many others, are daily being presented to you. Therefore we must not be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). How are we transformed? We are transformed by Christ. He renews our mind. Yet, He has provided His Word as a source of renewal. We must fight not be taken captive by the culture’s worldview by looking to the biblical worldview. It is submersion in the Word of God which prevents us from being seduced by the world’s thinking. It is being “rooted and built up in Christ,” being “established in the faith” (Col. 2:7). What worldview are you believing? What are you filling your mind with? Are you filling it with the worldview of the culture? Or are you filling it with the worldview of Scripture?

Who are we? Pt. 1 Image Bearers

The next several entries will spend some time answering the question: Who are we? You may have heard this in terms such as the popular buzz word in Christianity currently, identity. Nevertheless, this is what we are essentially asking these next couple of entries. What is our identity? This may overlap with the question, “Where is our identity?” In a most elementary sense, we are humans. But what does this mean?
If we are to look to understand who we are as humans, we must look at this question through the lens of Scripture rather than the worldview of the culture today. There are drastic differences in the way the Bible and the culture define humanity. To much of the culture today, humans are no more than a composition of machines and moving parts. We live and die as the “machine” that is our body breaks down. Yet Scripture paints a different picture. In Genesis 1 and 2 the Bible says we are made distinct. We read that man was made from the dust of the ground and God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). God intimately orchestrated the creation of man. He gave him value. We were made with this value. Even greater than this, Genesis 1:27 writes that God created man in his own image. Therefore, we were set apart from all creation. We were given the same image that God has. This once again affirms our value. We therefore can reflect God imperfectly in our holiness, joy, faithfulness and love. One more passage, Psalm 8:5-6 reaffirms this truth. It says that “we were made a little lower than the heavenly beings and that we were “crowned with glory and honor. You have given us dominion over the works of your hands…” We were made with such honor that he placed us over his creation. The passage goes on to say that he placed us over the animals. We have dominion over them. But what does this mean for us today? It means we are valued in God’s eyes. Remember that God offered humanity salvation. No one else. Not the angels nor the animals. It also means all people are created in God’s image. This should change the way we treat people. We should see them with the same value God sees in them. So how does this identity change the way you think about yourself? How does it change the way you view other people? How has the world misconstrued the identity humanity has been given by God?
See also Psalm 139

Who are we? Pt.2 Sons of God

We saw previously that we are humans made in God’s image. Therefore we have worth and value beyond all of God’s creation. But if we as humans have repented and believed the Gospel then we are actually more. Scripture actually calls us sons or children of God.  Now let me make this clear. All people are created in God’s image, but not all people are children of God. (See Jn. 8:44). But as Christians, we have received that privilege. This grand idea is found throughout the Bible, but perhaps most notably in Romans 8. Verses 14-16 says this: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” Before we move too far into this passage, is important to ask why Paul says that those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. Why would this be the case. We can turn to the letter to the Ephesians to find our answer. In the opening chapter of the letter Paul writes “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:5). Yet, what is the final result of this predestining us for adoption into Christ? “In him we had obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him…In him you also, when you hard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is our guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it..” (1:11, 13-14). Those who receive the Holy Spirit are those who have an inheritance. Those who have an inheritance are those who have been predestined. Those who have been predestined have been adopted. Those who are adopted have been adopted as sons. Therefore, those who have received the Holy Spirit and are therefore led by it are sons of God. But why is this important? Why is it important that we are sons of God? To be a son of God is to be adopted into a family that you didn’t deserve. You are now able to cry, “Abba, Father!,” which literally means “Daddy!” and know that you are loved. Not only are you loved, but you were so loved that He gave you an inheritance. Like the passage in Ephesians said we were given an inheritance, Romans 8 goes on to say that because we are God’s children, “we are heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:17). What are we to receive? We will receive more than we ever deserved. We will receive the glory that Christ received (See Rom. 8:23,29-30). As children of God we are cherished. WE ARE LOVED! How does this change the way you look at yourself? How does it change the way you see God? How does it change the way you live today?

Who are We? Pt. 3 Changed

We are all humans made in God’s image. If we are in Christ, we have been adopted into his family and are therefore sons of God. Yet, though these make up our identity, they are tags or markers that have been attributed to us. They have been ascribed to us by God in the same way a name is given to us at birth. If these were the only things that were to define us, they would be more than we deserve, but God has done something more. He as exceeded above and beyond anything we could ever ask for. In addition to making us children and image bearers, he has changed us.
If you think about change, it is not very impressive. You and I change on a regular basis. We grow older and our bodies change. We change clothes. We are influenced and changed by those around us. We even try to change ourselves in order to fit in. So change, in itself, is not all that impressive. But there is commonality in all these changes…they are merely outward. What is so miraculous about the change God provides is that it is inward. It is a heart change. Ezekiel 36 says it this way:  “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (25-27). Several things should jump out from this passage. First, God says that we will be made clean from idols. In other words, we will be clean from any sin which we have committed which dishonors God and forsakes him for a lesser love. Second, God says that he will put a new heart within us. This new heart is not like the old heart of stone which cared nothing for obedience to God. Our old heart sinned and was unaffected like a stone is unaffected by changes in weather. Instead, this heart of flesh will find sorrow and guilt when confronted with sin. It will wrestle with the difficulties of obedience. It feels sorrow for its treachery against a holy God. Finally, a new Sprit will be put within us. This Spirit is the God Himself within us. Because of this, we are now capable of walking in obedience to God. It is only the possession of a new heart and the Spirit which even give us the ability to be obedient. And so then, we are made inwardly new. Our minds and lives begin to be sanctified. We begin to become more and more like Christ. Our actions should begin to match that of Jesus. We should see a growing love for the things of Christ and the people of Christ. We should desire to live in obedience to God’s Word. A heart change gives us a new perspective and a new identity. So where are you in this process of inward change? Are you seeing evidence in your own life of a heart change? Rather than having a proclivity towards sin, are you finding love in obedience to Christ? Are you seeing an increase in your life of the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, etc.)?

Restoring Purpose in Accountability

“Can I be vulnerable with you?” This is perhaps a question you have heard before. It is often uttered today between close friends over coffee as they share honest and revealing truths about their lives. We in the Christian subculture call this accountability. Unfortunately, I feel as vulnerability and accountability have become no more than cliches in the past few years. More often than not, accountability has become ineffective. It has become a time for the sharing of our deep and dark sins which we desire no one else to know about. This would be beneficial  if a solution was then addressed, but often times we never get there. It becomes a pity-party focused on the depth of our sin and we never speak to how Christ has already overcome such sin as ours. Once again, it is because we have an incorrect definition and perception of what accountability and vulnerability are that we veer from the blessing that both of these activities can have in our Christian lives.  So then what are these two things, and how can they be used in our lives to become more like Christ?
Let’s start with accountability. Scripture gives mention to several purposes for accountability. First, it is for the confession of sins. James 5:16 says that we are to confess our sins to one another. In doing this, we may not only find great relief and comfort, we also build a sense of comradery. As Galatians 6:2 says, “we are to bear each other’s burdens” which is not only done in the confession of our sins but also in prayer (See Ja. 5:16). Second, by having someone else who knows our struggles, we have made ourselves that much stronger. We have someone who can call us out on our sin and who can catch us when we fall (Ecc. 4:10). Third, it is in the context of accountability that the Bible tells us to restore gently the one caught in sin (Gal. 6:1). Much like calling out the sin in another brother, we must be willing to walk with them through that sin so that they not fall into it again. This leads to the last purpose of accountability which is encouragement. Accountability that only calls out sin is ineffective. It must always lead to encouragement (1 Ths. 5:11) Encouragement in what you might ask? We encourage them in the Lord Jesus Christ. We encourage them to cling to him as their satisfaction rather than their sin. We encourage them that they no longer are in sin but are in Christ and are therefore free from slavery to sin. Remind them of the antidote of Christ rather than the poison of sin. Does accountability look like this in your life? Is anyone in your life holding you accountable? Are you holding anyone accountable? Remember that accountability is a blessing from God used to make us more like His Son, not simply a confession of sin for the purpose of wallowing and remaining in it.

Why be Vulnerable? 

Accountability cannot exist without vulnerability. Perhaps this is part of the reason why accountability does not work. We have adopted the view of culture. I feel as if we believe that vulnerability is weakness. We are not willing to share our sins, our struggles, our desires or even our dreams because to do that would we weakness. It would allow another to see into us. It would allow another to know some of the deepest parts of us. Now granted, there are appropriate times and appropriate people to be vulnerable with. It would not be appropriate to confess our sins to the stranger we just met on the street, but there is a place an time for it: within discipleship and accountability.
A verse we previously looked at when discussing accountability is James 5:16. It says that we are to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another…” This, to many is a scary thing. It is a scary thing to reveal to another their struggles. I think we believe that if we reveal certain things about us that we will no longer be accepted or seen the same way. We believe the lie that confession of our sins actually gives another power over us. But this is not the case. Paul models this for us in several places. In his letter to the Corinthians he writes, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open” (2 Cor. 6:11). This is a picture of Paul’s openness with the Corinthians. I imagine he was willing to share his weaknesses with them. He most likely revealed his struggles to them. He shared his joys and his discouragements. Second Thessalonians shares a similar message. “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves because you had become very dear to us” (2 Ths. 2:8). Notice that in his discipleship of the Thessalonians he shared the Gospel which is primary, but he also shared himself. And why was this? It was because he was desirous of them. The people of Thessalonica had become very dear to him. While there are many other places where Paul was vulnerable with the people he discipled and came in contact with (see 2 Cor. 12:9-10), I want to offer a brief warning about vulnerability. Like I said above, there are right and wrong times for vulnerability as there are right and wrong people to be vulnerable with. While vulnerability is good, be careful with what is shared amongst each other. Galatians 6:1 gives us this warning: Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” In the context of confessing sins and bearing burdens, we must proceed with caution that we do not fall into the same sin. Thus, while vulnerability and accountability are good, we must avoid falling into sin for the sake of vulnerability and openness. Therefore, this person most likely should not be someone of lesser spiritual maturity or of the opposite sex. Each of these restrictions prevents us from falling into further sin. That being said, I’d encourage you to find someone to be vulnerable with. Whether it be in accountability-type relationship or in discipleship, there is something to be gained in practicing this. If you are having difficulty doing this, why is this the case? Is it your pride? Is it a fear of getting hurt? Or is it that you afraid that it will impact the way that person sees you?

Thinking Rightly About God

I have bought many books over the years. I’ve got two bookcases filled to the brim with them as well as several bins full of books in my parents basement. I can’t say that I’ve read all of them, but I have at least tried to read most of them once. With so many books, it is rare that I read one more than once. Yet there are several which I come back to multiple times because their content has enriched my life and continues to do so. The is one particular title in my collection I find myself returning to at least once a year. Knowledge of the Holy written by A. W. Tozer was written in order to give the reader a high view of God. This book has so shaped the way I think about the character of God that I am deeply indebted to his thinking on the subject. Therefore, I cannot claim much of these subsequent writings as my own, but only build upon what he has written and the Word of God.
In the first couple of pages of his work he writes this, which is worth pondering: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Put plainly, our thoughts about Who God is are the most important thoughts we can have. But why is this the case? 1. The way we think about God affects the way we think about Scripture. If we see God as the author of His Word, as Scripture teaches, we must see God correctly. We must see God as faithful, honest, righteous, never erring. If we do not see him as such, what chance can we believe that His Word is correct? How can we believe God’s Word is what we should live by if God is not Who He says He is? We must think rightly about God to believe the words of the Bible. 2. The way we think about God affects the way we think about worship. If we do not have a correct view of God as supreme Creator and Ruler over the earth, how then can we praise him? How are we to cry “holy, holy, holy, “ as the cherubim and seraphim did in Isaiah 6? How are we to stand in awe of the love that He out poured upon us on the Cross? How are we to praise him for his steadfast love (Ps. 118:29)? We cannot worship with a low-view of God. We must rightly think about Him in order to truly worship Him as we ought. 3. The way we think about God affects the way we see the Gospel. Tozer accordingly points out “low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” How are we to see God as the answer to the problem of sin if we do not see him as the holy and separated from sin? How are we understand the reason for Christ’s punishment on a cross if we do not correctly understand God’s wrath and His justice? How are we to understand the reason for His love and grace if we do not understand God? To understand the Gospel we must see God as He truly is. Finally, 4. The way we think about God affects the way we live our lives. Low views of God are idolatrous for they do not show God as He actually is. Like much of creation, when we have a low view of God, we “do not honor I’m as God or give thanks to him, but become futile in our thinking and foolish in our heart…claiming to be wise and becoming fools, we exchange the glory of the immortal God for images” (Rom. 1:21-22). Our lives and hearts become full of idols. Tozer notes that “wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from with the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous.” These idolatrous ideas about God will pour over into our lives if we are not careful. To act rightly, we must first see God rightly. Therefore, analyze the way you think about God. Are your thoughts about Him biblical? How could incorrect thoughts about God be affecting the way you view Scripture? Worship? See the Gospel? Live your life?

God, the Self-sufficient One

What does it mean to be self sufficient? In times long past, it meant that people were able to provide for themselves. It meant that people were able to gather food for themselves, water for themselves, shelter for themselves, and to live without need and want from anyone else. At least, this is how we would define self sufficiency on a human level. But, what does it mean for God to be self sufficient?
First, it may help to define this term. Self sufficiency, may best be defined as “He is What He is in Himself.” Theologians often call this the aseity of God. God is self-sufficient. Tower on this subject writes: “Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God, that is precisely what we see.” And this is certainly true. When we think about God, we often see a God who needs us. We see a God who needs us to praise Him on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night. We all too often see a God who needs us to take care of the evil in the world by fighting His battles for Him. But this is not the case! What sort of God would that be who would need creation for worship him for his self-worth and self-value. He would be just like us. For some of us need this from others to attain value. But God is different. Exodus 3 give us an idea of His self-sufficiency. When Moses asks God what he shall say when the Israelites ask for the name of the God who sent them, God responds in verse 14 “I AM WHO I AM.” While these words are evidence to his infinitude, his eternity and his immutability (unchangeableness), they are also words of His self-sufficiency. Why? Because He is Who/What He is in Himself. He does not need the Israelites to define Him.  He does not need us. He is defined Who/What He is in Himself. Acts 17:24-25 shares a similar message, which says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” How can we ever see Creator, God as anything less than Creator? How can the created really aid the Creator? What can we truly offer the God who has all things? This should change not only the way we view God, but how we live our lives. We should be dependent on the independent. We should pray to the One Who Knows and Has all things. We should recognize His completeness in Himself while we are incomplete. So then, are you seeing God as a being in need of us? Do you think He needs your praise and worship? Or do you see Him as the One who is able to provide all things? Does this give you a greater desire to rely on the One that is complete in Himself?

Devotions from 2 Timothy

Second Timothy: Lessons in Perseverance for the Gospel


Christians in America have enjoyed a rather pleasant two hundred plus years with little struggle to maintain ‘semi-Christian’ values in the culture. Yes, there have been several instances in our nation’s brief history when this was not the case, but a majority of the time, Christians have lived comfortably. But as the culture has become less influenced by the Church and has become more influenced by secular elite, Christians are more likely to engage in conflict with the culture at large. They are more likely to encounter people who do not just disagree with their Christian worldview, but that vehemently hate everything that Christians believe in. As the culture becomes more and more secular, they will need to fall back on the timeless truths of Scripture. They will need to be able to persevere through trial and possibly pain. They will need to find rest among a community of believers who share their love for God and His Word. As we approach the later days, we will find that even many whom we would see as the ‘American churched’ will abandon the Gospel and live Godless lives (3:1-9). They will long for their own fulfillment and their own happiness, finding it outside of God. As Christians have always done, they will need to look towards Scripture which is literally the words breathed out by God to equip the saints for every good work (3: 16-17). We will need to sit under and preach the whole truth of the Gospel rather than listening to those who only look to preach a message which ‘scratches our itching ears (4:3-4).’ We will need to stand strong. We may even have to suffer in order to remain faithful in preaching the same message Paul preached, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2:8-9). Second Timothy shows us that we can no longer hide the message we carry, but when persecution comes, we must persevere for the sake of the Gospel. 


Biblical Affection: A Reflection on Paul’s Affection for Timothy
Read 2 Tim 1:1 – 1:5


We may find it difficult to relate to Paul’s affection to Timothy given that we are nearly two millennia separated from the writing of this letter. For us, this may seem a little strange. In verse 2, Paul writes to Timothy, calling him ‘my beloved child,’ indicating that Paul’s love for Timothy is the same as a father would have to their son. You may have felt something similar between your relationship with your father, but we need to realize that Timothy is not the son of Paul. Rather, Timothy is Paul’s ‘beloved child’ in the sense of the spiritual family of God. Much like a father trains a son to imitate him as he grows to manhood, so Paul has spent many of his years training Timothy to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Much like a father passes a life of experience and wisdom down to his son, Paul, in his affection for Timothy, is passing down his experience and knowledge in teaching and preaching the Gospel as well as his knowledge in godly living. As a father prays for his son, Paul prays for Timothy constantly ‘night and day (1:3).’ Yet, it is obvious that Timothy shares this same affection for Paul. Paul writes that he remembers ‘your [Timothy’s] tears’ which makes Paul long to see him so that he may be filled with joy (1:4). Paul is filled with joy in his remembrance of Timothy’s sincere faith which he writes that Timothy received from his grandmother and mother (another spiritual ancestry; 1:5). Yet, these opening verses may make us feel even more disconnected given our highly individualistic culture. What do these verses mean in our 21st century context? How do we apply them? First, we learn from Paul that biblical affection involves truly loving another similar to a love for one another in a family. Paul’s love was that of a father to a son. Timothy’s love for Paul was that of a son to a father. Christian discipleship leads to this kind of love and affection for each other. The love of a brother for a brother. The love of a mother for a daughter. The love of a father for a son. Second, our desire should be what Paul remembers of Timothy, a ‘sincere faith.’ We can also use use the word genuine or true to define the kind of faith that Timothy had. It is a faith that proves itself to last in spite of persecution and trial. It is faith given to us by God, Himself. 
Reflection Questions: How is Paul’s view of discipleship different than your own ideas about discipleship? How is Paul’s affection different than the affection the world says we are to have for each other? What is genuine faith? What does genuine faith look life in daily life? 


Using Our Spiritual Gifting
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 1:6


It is unfortunate that we are more likely to hear of how Christians have misused the good gifts that the Spirit has given us than to hear how they are effectively being used for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. People who should be teaching the truths of the God’s Word are teaching a pseudo-gospel. Some who have the gift of ‘tongues’ are using that gift to bring themselves glory and have not used this gift in the way prescribed in Scripture. Still there are others who are not abusing this gift that the Spirit has given them, but are instead allowing these gifts to go unused. I believe that many in the Church are in this category. There are several reasons for this, but let me give you the reasons that I see and hear the most. First, Christians who are a part of the church do not use the gifts that they have been given because they are unsure of what these gifts are. This is understandable for the younger believers or individuals who have not been a part of the Church for long periods of time. But this is not an excuse. There are many ‘spiritual gifts’ inventories that can be found online. Most likely your church has one which they would recommend. This leads to the second reason most do not use their spiritual gifts: they do not know where or how to use them. Although we cannot use this reasoning as an excuse, I also understand why some do not serve in an area most aligned with their gifting. Sometimes it is because they have not been trained to do so. In some churches, spiritual gifts are not often taught on and therefore these gifts can be seen as something more mystical than they actually are. This is when it is important to seek out individuals in the church that understand spiritual gifts and may know your gifts through what they have seen in you. Find an elder or leader in the church and ask them how you can serve. Service is not only the best way to use your gifts, but it is also the best way to understand what your gifts are. This is what Paul means when he writes to Timothy urging him to “fan into flame the gift of God.” We ignite the flame of the gifts the Spirit has given to us not only by walking with Him in obedience, but also by finding opportunities to use these gifts.  First Corinthians says that these gifts are for the ‘common good’ of the Church body (1 Cor. 12:7). When we neglect to use these gifts, we are not strengthening the body of Christ.  Like a fire that has not been stoked or fanned, our gifts tend to fade when they are less frequently used. Instead, may we seek to obey the command given to Timothy and pursue opportunities to bless each other as we use the gifts the Spirit has freely given us. Fan the gift into flame. 
Reflection Questions: What do you believe about spiritual gifts? Have you ever thought about what you spiritual gifts are? How can your spiritual gifts be used in the church? If you do not know you spiritual gifts, I encourage you too seek someone out. Serve. Pray for wisdom and discernment for what these gifts are in your life. 


Emboldened Spirit: Love and Self-control
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 1:7


Timothy does not live in a comfy situation in Ephesus. Nor does he dwell in an area that is deeply in love with the message of the Gospel. You will remember back in Acts 19 that there was a riot in Ephesus due to the hostility the Gospel caused for an idol maker. This tension between the secular culture and the Gospel has not changed. It is still there. That being said, Timothy does not lead a church of perfect people. Rather, they are flawed and are capable of following wrong doctrines and giving up the truth in pursuit of their own pleasure. This is the culture Timothy pastors in. I believe that it is for this reason that Paul reminds Timothy that the Spirit which he possess is one of boldness or power. This idea is also seen in Romans 8 where Paul writes, “For you did not receive a Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear…(Rom. 8:15). There it says that we received a Spirit of adoption as sons of God. Therefore, as sons, we have nothing to fear for our heavenly Father is Master over all. The same is true in 2 Timothy also. We have received God (Holy Spirit) who emboldens us to preach the Gospel even when it is dangerous. We are able to teach others the truths of salvation, even when there is potential to lose something, because God is greater than any trial or tribulation we will face. It will be what we will need in the coming days when the culture turns its back on Christ and acts out angrily against those who claim His Name. But this Spirit is not simply one of power. No, there is much more. The Spirit given to us is also One of love and self-control. It seems as if Paul has just given us a contradiction. How can the Spirit be both of power and of love and of self-control? I believe these seem contradictory because it is what we have observed in the world. We see many who have power who generally are incapable of operating the power with love and self-control. For the world, power simply takes what it wants without restraint. The world power is like a dictator, who kills all who stands in his way. But the Spirit gives to us gives us all three of these things.  Jesus who had immense power to control storms, do miracles, raise people from the dead, showed (self) control and love in His power. He showed so much love and control that He went to the Cross and died in our place.. He did not give up His power, but simply controlled it. He was God and man. We too, possess a great power in Christ Jesus. We have a strong Spirit who emboldens us, but we must not use Him or His message to domineer over another. We must instead love like Jesus loved. We must show control like Jesus showed control. We must live and share the Gospel in love through the Spirit that has been given to us. 
Reflection Questions: What does it mean when it says that we have been given a Spirit of boldness? How does power relate to love and self-control in the Christian life? How does Jesus help us to answer the contradiction between power, love and self-control? 


Why Would We Suffer?
Read 2 Tim 1:1 – 1: 12


I stated in my intro to this book that suffering is not common in the American culture.  As the culture become more and more hostile to the Gospel, suffering will occur. This is perhaps why so much teaching has been done on the subject recently.It may not be in the form of physical persecution or death, but it might simply jeering, name-calling and ostracizing Christians for their beliefs. Paul’s words to Timothy in this passage remind us of why we would suffer, even why we should be willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Paul reminds us that we are not to be ‘ashamed’ (See also Rom. 1:16), but are to instead ‘share in the suffering for the Gospel by the power of God.’ But why? This is the question we need to ask ourselves. To say that we simply should suffer for the Gospel is not a good enough reason to suffer nor will it hold up when suffering actually comes. So the question become more than ‘why suffer?’ but is instead, ‘What is our motivation for the suffering that we will endure for the Gospel?’ Luckily, we are not left without an answer in this passage. Paul gives Timothy and in extension, us, several motivations for our suffering. First, the Gospel is worth suffering for because we are saved through this act of God’s grace and mercy.  Paul knew the message of the Gospel was worth the pain he would endure. He saw his suffering as an imitation of Christ’s work in life and on the Cross. Paul know that the salvation he has received is a gift. It is grace. It is not by any work nor by his suffering, but he is willing to suffer because of the grace that was given to him in the saving of his own soul. He recognizes that it is grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus ‘before the ages began.’ This grace through the work of the Gospel of Christ was God’s plan long before the sin of man had even entered the world. God in his foreknowledge, knew that we would need a Savior and grace upon grace. This was through His Son, the Lamb, who took our sins and cast them as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). This is a cause worth suffering for. Secondly, the Gospel is worth suffering for because through Christ Jesus, death has been abolished and life has been given to us. It is because of the Gospel that we no longer have to fear death and feel its eternal sting (1 Cor. 15:55). Rather we have been granted life everlasting (Jn. 3:36). We have been given the righteousness of Christ while He received our punishment (2 Cor. 5:21). And for this, we will spend all eternity with the Godhead, eternally enjoying His Presence. Therefore, death and suffering are nothing in the eternal bliss that we will experience in eternity (Rom. 8:18). Lastly, the Gospel is worth suffering for because God will preserve us. If we are truly His, God allow us to hold fast to the Gospel with His strength. The words used here, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me,” speak of God’s willingness to do just as He said. God, even through pain and suffering, will allow us to bear the attacks against the Gospel. He will preserve us in our perseverance. He will ensure that we will not fall from His grace if we are His for we cannot be snatched out of His hand (Jn. 10:28). In all of our lives, He will ensure we do not suffer in vain. We do not suffer without cause or reason. We suffer because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. We suffer because we will one day forget it in the light of an eternity spent with Him
Reflection Questions: When you think of suffering, what do you think of? Have you ever experienced suffering for your Christian beliefs or worldview? What reasons is the Gospel worth suffering for? How does God ‘walk with us’ in our suffering? How does He provide for us in our suffering in the past, now ,and in the future? 


Follow Sound Words//Guard the Deposit 
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 1:14


The two phrases above are not at odds with each other, but are two sides of the same coin. The first set of words are a call for imitation. Timothy is to imitate the words which he has heard Paul preach a many number of times. Timothy is now being called to follow the same message that Paul preached to the Gentiles and lived out in his own life. Paul writes that these are ‘sound words.’ We may not initially understand what Paul is referring to here, but the context of the passage helps us understand. The words which Paul writes to Timothy about are the ‘sound words’ of the Gospel message. They are the words which Paul preaches and desires to suffer for. They are words which Paul feels it necessary that others will understand and live out in their own lives. In case of confusion, Paul further clarifies how the Gospel message is to be lived out in our own lives. It is a message which we live out ‘in the faith and love in Christ Jesus.’ Faith and love are two central keys of the Gospel message. We know that it is “by grace through faith” in which we are saved. It is “belief in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead” by which we are saved. But most importantly, it is faith in Christ Jesus by which we are able to live out the Gospel message. Paul understands that our faith means nothing if it is not first in Christ Jesus. But we must also not forget love. The two greatest commandments are the love of the Father and the love of the others. But again, our capacity to love is only as great as the love we have received from Christ Jesus. We love because Christ first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). Therefore, we cannot live out the Gospel message and follow the example of sound words without faith and love in Christ Jesus. The second set of words call for perseverance and protection. The message which Paul gave to Timothy and that we also have received is a message that is to be guarded and protected. Thankfully, God had not left us on our own to protect it. He has protected it through His Spirit. Throughout history,  many have tried to destroy the message of the Gospel and none have prevailed. So what is our role in protecting the “deposit” which has been given to us? We must fight to ensure that the message is not being perverted by others. We must ensure that what we are teaching and even living out is in line with the Gospel message that we have heard. If the message happens to be perverted in some way, we will no longer be preaching and teaching a message of salvation but a pseudo-Gospel which can only corrupt its hearers. If we are not living out the fullness of the message given to us, those who imitate us will not imitate The One who is transformed by the Gospel, living in faith in love, but one who is ‘at best’ living a moral life which cannot save. We must urgently persevere in this message given to us. These two messages, following sound words and guarding the deposit, serve as reminders to us as followers of Christ. They serve as reminders to us of the importance of the Gospel. We are called to live out the Gospel message so that many may see and be encouraged to do the same. We are called to protect the message so that lives may be changed through its Power in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Reflection Questions: How are following sound words and guarding the deposit two sides of the same coin (a similar message)? What does it mean to follow the sound words which were given to Timothy (and us)? How do we guard the deposit given to us? Why is Christ necessary in order to do all of these things? In what ways does God help us to do these things? 


Examples, Positive and Negative
Read all of 2 Tim. 1


I’ve wrote before that 2 Timothy is a lesson of perseverance for the sake of the Gospel. We have seen this already in the first chapter. Thus far in this letter, Paul has urged Timothy to not be ashamed of the Gospel for which Paul is in chains. Instead, Timothy is to hold fast to the message of the Gospel for it is the message of salvation for all those who believe. Because Timothy has received a spirit of power and of love and of self-control, he is capable of suffering for the Gospel. Paul reminds Timothy that God has saved him through His grace in Christ Jesus, Who abolished death and gives eternal life and which greatly outshines any pain or suffering Timothy might experience. Furthermore, he has been instructed to follow the sound teachings he has heard from Paul in faith and love in Christ Jesus and to guard the Gospel message, which has been given to him, with much vigilance.  If you look at this list of commands which Paul gives and you find obedience of all these things difficult, you are not alone. But God has not left Timothy or any of us alone. He has given us His Spirit to guide and aid us in obedience.   But not all will continue in obedience, guarding the Gospel in order that it may be preached. Paul writes in verse 15 that “all who are in Asia have turned away from me.” These people have not only abandoned Paul, but have abandoned the Gospel. Whether they were ashamed of Paul and the Gospel message or abandoned Paul out of fear of persecution, they placed their own well-being before the message of salvation. They were tried and could not outlast their desire to flee and abandon Christ. May we pray that we never find ourselves tempted to abandon Christ in difficulty! But may we be like Onesiphorus, who searched for Paul. He was not ashamed of the Gospel nor what may happen to him. But instead, he was willing to fight for the Gospel message. He was willing to persevere through hardship and toil. He was willing to endure any persecution he may face. Like Onesiphorus, I pray that we stand strong in the faith. I pray that we count the cost of living a life for Christ and still find that a life lived serving and honoring Him is far more satisfying than a life lived pleasing ourselves. I pray that our faith may only be strengthened as we look upon the One who died in our place and conquered death so that we may have new life in Him.
Reflection Questions: What have you learned from reading this first chapter of 2 Timothy? Have you found the message of the Gospel to be something worth fighting for? Have you counted the cost or have you thought deeply about what living a life of obedience to Christ may cost you? Do you believe that living for Christ is far more satisfying than gratifying your own flesh/desires? How can we make the Gospel look more glorious and more satisfying than other things in our lives? 


A Command for Gospel Discipleship
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:2


If the first chapter taught us one thing, it would have taught us that the Gospel message is worth protecting and persevering for in spite of any persecution or trial we may face. Paul was not ashamed to be in chains for the Gospel message and we should never feel ashamed that we may also have to persevere in our lives for the sake of the Gospel. But Paul also understands another great Truth found in the first chapter. There is no way that he could ever persevere without the grace of Christ working through Him (see 1:8-12, 14). In the opening words of chapter 2, Paul reminds Timothy to be “strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Timothy must rely upon Christ and His grace in order to make it through. It is an act of God that any of us would ever be able to persevere through trial and still hold fast to the Gospel because it is not us who chose God, but God Who chose us and enables us to have faith in Him (Jn. 6: 44, 63-65). But as we see in verse 2, it is not enough to simply be strengthened by the grace of Christ Jesus in order that he can ‘guard the good deposit,’ but Timothy must also “entrust the message that he has heard to faithful men.” Paul wants Timothy and I believe us also to take the message of the Gospel and share with others (faithful men), who then will be able to teach more people this message. This process is what we call discipleship and what I have more specifically named ‘Gospel Discipleship.’ Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written on this topic, but Paul gives us the purpose of discipleship in one verse. The purpose of Gospel discipleship is to share the Gospel with those who will faithfully guard its message and then share it with others who will do the same. Paul understands that he is nearing death and knows that one day Timothy will share this fate. Therefore, in order for the message of the Gospel to continue to spread throughout the nations, it must be shared with others who will do the same as Timothy has. Now, let me make this clear: Discipleship is not optional. As Paul commands Timothy here, so also are we commanded to do the same. We are to take the Gospel message and disciple others so they may also take this message and disciple others. We must sit under those who can teach us the Gospel in word and deed and then allow others to learn from us by doing the same. We must “make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20). This is not the responsibility of the “Christian elite.” This is a command for all followers of Christ. We need not fear, for “behold, I [Christ] am with you always, till the end of the age.”
Reflection Questions: What is Gospel discipleship? What does Gospel discipleship look like? Or How how have you personally experienced Gospel discipleship? What is the goal of discipleship? How do we disciple others? 


Three Analogies, One Goal
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:7


War is foreign to me. It is not as if I am unaware of what happens during war. There has been enough coverage of the War on Terrorism or any of the World Wars for me to figure out what has happened and what the soldiers who fought in these wars experienced. What is foreign to me is the personal experience of being a soldier and enduring the hardships they face. And yet, Paul calls us “soldiers” in this passage. He more specifically calls us “soldiers of Christ Jesus.” So we must ask, “What do soldiers of Jesus Christ do?” Or maybe a better question, “How can I be a soldier of Jesus Christ? When Paul relates the Christian to a soldier, he obviously points to the fact that we will face battles of our own. Like a soldier has to endure the physical battles he may face, Christians will have to endure the spiritual battles of life and “share in suffering” for the sake of Christ Jesus. Paul does not leave us without an answer to our questions on how we could live such a life. Instead, he gives us three analogies. The first analogy (vs. 4) is of a soldier. In this analogy, Paul writes that like a soldier who serves only his commander and does not get involved in civilian pursuits, a Christian also should not find himself distracted by that which would distract him from obeying God. We all have many distractions which keep us from being obedient to God. These distractions can be positive or negative. The point is not whether the distractions fit one category or another. The point is that we are not supposed to have anything in our lives which would keep us from following in obedience to our Master. The soldier is not concerned with frivolous pursuits of earthly life. Instead, the good soldier finds it fulfillment and concern with obedience to Christ and His commands. Our concern must be with the mission of God not our own mission. The second analogy (vs. 5) is one of an athlete. Although Paul describes an athlete, he desires to still describe what the life of a committed Christ-followe should look like. Here, Paul points out that a Christian who endures will do so like an athlete who “competes according to the rules.” A Christian must do likewise. God has set a standard for us to follow as well. As we toil for the sake of the Gospel, we must also live lives which are in obedience to the Law-Giver’s standards. Like the marathon runner’s long lasting obedience to the rules, a Christian is to be equally long lasting in his obedience to God. Long lasting obedience sets the nominal Christians (by name only) apart from the True Christians. We must remind ourselves that the Christian life is “a long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson). The final analogy given here (vs. 6) is one a farmer who has earned his wage of crops. He has done hard work to prepare the soil, plant the seed and tend to the crops and therefore deserves his share of the crops. I would imagine the Christian life would be similar. The follower who does all these things above (striving for the Gospel, long lasting obedience, disciple making, etc.) will one day receive his wages. The Christian must not think his work will go unnoticed or unrewarded if it is not praised by men. God sees all and one day, all who have lived for the Gospel will receive their reward. They will share in the glory of Christ. Until then, I pray that we seek to understand the things written for us (vs. 7) and continue to strive as soldiers of Christ Jesus. 
Reflection Questions: What does it mean to be a soldier of/for Christ Jesus? What three analogies does Paul use to describe how a True Christian is to live? Why is the Christian life “long obedience in the same direction?” How else are Christians like soldiers in battle? 


Gospel Primer pt. 1: Unbound
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:9


“Remember Jesus Christ…” This is how verse 8 begins. It is as if Paul believes that Timothy could possibly forget about Jesus. This cannot be the case though. Timothy, thus far, has devoted himself to the work of the Gospel. He has followed Paul in spite of all the trials and dangers they have faced for the sake of the Gospel. So why remind Timothy of this? Why remind us of this? I believe he writes this because in the face of trial we must remember why we are willing to persevere. We must look once again to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must look towards Jesus because if we are honest with ourselves, if the Gospel is not true all that we are doing for the sake of the Gospel is worthless. We must be reminded that what we are living for is worth infinitely more than the suffering we may face. This is what Paul means when he writes about the Gospel, “for which I am suffering, bound with chains of a criminal (2:9).” Paul reminds Timothy that the reason he is bound in chains is for the sake of the Gospel. And what is this message Paul is bound for? The message is this: Jesus Christ has “risen from the dead,” and is “the offspring of David.” Paul chooses two very interesting phrases which are a part of the Gospel message but do not give us its message in entirety. These two phrases were chosen, perhaps, to fight against the false teaching creeping into the church in Ephesus. Even still, these two phrases are necessary for our understanding of the Gospel. “Risen from the dead” obviously speaks of his physical resurrection three days after His death. With his resurrection came the conquering of sin and death (1 Cor. 15:55-57) and the proof that Christ was Who He said He was (Messiah). The second phrase is more challenging to decipher. “Offspring of David” definitely speaks to Christ’s humanity, but I believe more importantly this phrase shows the fulfillment of the prophesy given to David that the Messiah would come through His lineage (2 Sam. 7:16; Jn. 7:42). This proves that the Truth of the Gospel is self-evident because the promise given to David by God came to pass. Therefore Paul sees no reason to doubt the message he is in chains for. God is faithful therefore His message is also faithful. But He also knows that even his chains will not stop the spread of the Gospel, for the “word of God is not bound.” It cannot be. The Gospel will not be held in the prison cell if God wills it elsewhere. Paul is sure that the Gospel will be heard whether or not he is bound up or not. God will ensure that the Gospel still is taken to the ends of the earth. As God was faithful in His promise to David, so will He be faithful to Paul’s claim. As Christ was faithful in HIs promise to go to the Cross, taking the sins of the world and raising three days later, so also will God be faithful to us when we share the Gospel with those who do not know of it. He will ensure the message of the Gospel will save. The Word of God will not be bound because God is not bound. Therefore, let us hope in Christ Jesus…remember Him…for He is not bound by sin and death, but He has overcome!
Reflection Questions: What is the Gospel? Why does Paul tell Timothy to remember Jesus? Why should we do the same? What is the significance of the two phrases Paul uses to speak of the Gospel? What does Paul mean when He writes that the Word of God is not bound? How should this Truth encourage us when we share the Gospel? When trial comes? 


Gospel Primer Pt. 2: In Evangelism
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:10


The Word of God is not bound nor can it ever be. We saw this in the previous two verses (2:8-9). It is because Paul believes in the message he preaches that he is wiling to be in chains for it. He knows that His suffering will not be in vain. Furthermore, Paul knows that the suffering is not solely for his own benefit. He recognizes that the chains which bind him are for the purpose of those who will hear the Gospel message. He knows that he is bound up in order that the Gospel may be taken to the ends of the earth. He writes “Therefore…” This “therefore” looks back to the previous statement, “the Word of God is not bound.” If the Word of God was bound up with Paul, there would be no reason to endure all that He endures, for it would be as shackled as He was. But this message of Christ Jesus is not and cannot be shackled! Instead, Paul “endures everything for the sake of the elect.” There is much deliberation in the church on election and predestination, but we may understand the term “elect” in this passage to mean ‘those individuals who will hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and come to a saving faith in Him.’ Paul is willing to endure for those who will “obtain the salvation that is in Jesus Christ with eternal glory.” Paul’s goal here is evangelism. He desires that the Gospel message go out into the ends of the earth in order that those who will hear it will be saved. The result of this salvation for those who believe in Christ Jesus will be eternal glory. It will be life lived in the Presence of God sharing in the eternal glory of the Son (Rom. 829-30). We should strive, as Paul does, for the sake of the Gospel. We do this not only because Christ has saved us and we are called to act out in obedience to this call, but also because we should desire others to come to saving faith in Christ. We should desire that others will not face the wrath that is to come, but instead will share with us in eternal glory. A good way to check our hearts as to whether we love people well or not is to ask ourselves whether we desire that they come to salvation in the Lord. We must remember that those who do not profess Jesus as Lord and do not have faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ will not enter the Kingdom of heaven (Rom. 10:9). They will spend eternity separated from God in Hell (Rev. 20:15). We must stop believing that the Gospel is only for us and start living the Great Commission! We must take Paul’s words to heart that the Gospel is not bound! We must understand that God has placed us here on this Earth so that His glory may be spread. We should, relying on the work of the Spirit within us, strive to share the Gospel message with our friends and family. God has not left us alone. We do not change hearts. The Spirit does this through the Gospel message. But we still have a responsibility. We know the Truth. May we must ask ourselves what Paul asks, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching (Rom. 10:14)? I pray we feel the urgency of this call! I pray we are burdened by it! I pray that we would share the Gospel in order that the elect may hear and come to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 
Reflection Questions: What does it mean when Paul writes that the “Word of God is not bound?” How is this important to evangelism? Do you feel burdened for those who do not possess a saving faith in Christ? What can we do to instill within us a desire to share the Gospel with those who do not know Him? 


Gospel Primer pt. 3: A Faithful Saying
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:13


Taking part in sharing the message of the Gospel dos not come easy as we have seen, evidenced in this letter to Timothy. In his life, Paul has been beaten, ostracized, and chained among a long list of other things for the sake of the Gospel. All of the disciples, with the exception of John, were martyred for the work of sharing the Gospel. Why should we expect anything different? I’ve written before that it is unlikely that we will be killed for our faith, even in our lifetime, but we should not expect to find lives of comfort if we are sharing/living out the Gospel. Evangelism and making disciples is risky business and not for half-hearted Christians. The Christian life is a life devoted to the Missio Dei, the Mission of God. We were never called to live in comfort, but as sojourners. We have a message which is hostile to our culture and our world. It is a message that will cause us to lose friends and family. Jesus says that it is a message that will turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Mt. 10:34-36). In these situations, we need encouragement. When all the world is against us, we need something to keep us strong. I believe these are the words that Paul speaks to Timothy and by extension to us in verses 11-13. These sayings are “trustworthy,” meaning that they will not fail. They are a promise from God. We should first be encouraged because Paul writes, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.” In this promise, we are told that those who are in Christ Jesus will not face eternal death. Even if they are killed, they will live on in eternity with God. True Christians have been “crucified with Christ, so that it is no longer they who live, but Christ who lives in them” (Gal. 2:20). Their hope is secure in Christ whether it leads to life or death. Secondly, Paul encourages us by writing, “if we endure, we will reign with Him.”  I can not stress this enough: Those who endure in Christ for the sake of the Gospel their entire lives are those who will see glory. Thankfully, we do not rely on our own effort to do this. The Spirit of God aids us so that we may ‘work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13).’ In doing this, God will still work to preserve those who are His children. It is through this perseverance partnered with God’s preservation that we are able to suffer as Christ did and eventually share in His glory (Rom. 8:17). Before Paul’s final encouragement, he offers a warning, “if we deny him, He will deny us.” This denial does not seem to speak of the day to day sin in our lives. Instead it seems to imply rejection of the Gospel message. It is willingly choosing to reject the Gospel message. It is denial of the work of Christ and the Spirit (Mt. 12:31), from which we will also be denied if we choose to do so (Mt. 7:21-23). The final encouragement Paul writes is “if we are faithless, he will be faithful.” This message is different from the previous in that it speaks of moments in which we lapse in our faith through sin. What is more important is the reason God remains faithful. He does so because “He cannot deny Himself.” God will always be faithful because that is Who He Is! In our failed efforts to share the Gospel, when others criticize us and hate us, when it seems like we are alone in this fight, God is faithful! We possess HIs love. We hold His affections. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39)! Take heart dear brother! We are not alone. He is always faithful!
Reflection Questions: What three encouraging sayings does Paul give Timothy (us) in our effort to preach the Gospel? How do these sayings encourage us? Why is it important that God is faithful even when we are not? Why is important that God is faithful in His Gospel message? When we share the Gospel? 


Set Yourself Apart
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:19


If I took two people, one who was a professing Christian and one who was an atheist, and I asked you to observe their lives, would you be able to tell me which one was the Christian. I know, it’s not a fair question given you haven’t had time to observe them, but based on the world we live in today…do you think you would be able to tell? Maybe a better question is “Should you be able to tell the two individuals apart?” The answer according to God’s Word is a resounding “Yes,” but this brings me back to my original question. I fear the answer you would give me is a wholehearted “no.” I fear that if we were to observe the lives of any average person who attends church and any atheist who does not, we would find their lives really look no different from standpoint of how they live their lives. This haunts me. It haunts me because Christians are supposed to live their lives distinctly different from the rest of the world. Distinct, set apart, living is not simply the role of the pastor/preacher or the religious elite, it is a job for all of us. We should take the words written to Timothy as a standard by which we live by as well. Paul begins by telling Timothy to remind the faithful Christians of the trustworthy statements he wrote in the verses previously and then he begins by writing that Timothy is “to charge them before God” to do several things which will distinguish Timothy from the false teachers who have crept in. The first command he gives him is to avoid quarreling over words. Quarreling comes from a heart of dissension. The words which they were quarreling about is unknown, but it likely dealt with the church. This quarreling was clearly not about Gospel truths, but rather meaningless arguments. Such arguments only “ruin the hearers” either through confusion or producing partiality for one view point over another. Rather, Paul writes, “present yourself to God as one approved, rightly handling the Word of God.” Our goal in life should be living a life which God would approve. This, more than anything, sets us apart from those who do not know Christ. Paul mentions that we do this by rightly handling the Word of God. Whether we are a pastor or laity, if we have a correct view of Scripture, desiring to handle it correctly, we will aspire to live for God’s glory. We also do this by doing as verse 19 says, “by avoiding iniquity.” Those who the Lord knows are His should not simply be known by their hearts, but also by their actions. The final way we live lives that are set apart is by avoiding “irrelevant babble and heresy” which leads to ungodliness. Paul gives us an example of two individuals who had done this, Hymenaeus and Philetus. It is clear by the way Paul writes that these two had been preaching a false message. It was a message which spread “like gangrene,” or very fast. The message they preached was a false Gospel.  It was one that only caused distress. We must be careful we never become as they were. Our message is one of hope, not of distress. It is a message of love, not of hate. It is a message of righteousness, not of depravity. It is the only message which offers life and offers more than anything the world can give. Preach and live it faithfully. 
Reflection Questions: If you claim to be a Christian, do you look any different than the rest of the world? How? Do others see this to be true? What ways does Paul give Timothy that will set him apart from the false teachers? How do we live a life which God will approve? 


A Worker Approved by God
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:21


I preface this section of Scripture by saying that we ought to take care not to believe that God’s love for us is dependent upon how useful we are to Him. God is not in the business of using us while we are useful to Him and then tossing us away. He does not practice the same business ethic many in this world practice, He is not the unloving Father who casts us out when we fail and when He cannot gain from us. He is a Father who loves us in spite of our sin and failure. He seeks to use us, not for selfish gain, but for our sanctification and His glory. If anyone is in the business of creating a ‘more godly you,’ it’s God! At the same time, we must not be naive enough to think that God does not desire us to be as useful as possible for His Kingdom and His glory. As the first question of the Westminster Catechism asks: “What is the chief end of man?” Its answer: “The chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The worker approved by God will glorify Him in word in deed. Whether we are a worker approved by God, whether we are more or less useful to God is based on obedience to God. It is based on whether or not the Gospel truly captures our hearts. The illustration used here in 2 Tim. 2:20-21 speaks of a house which contains “vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.” And what distinguishes the honorable from the dishonorable? Paul gives us the answer in verse 21 when he writes, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use…” The dishonorable vessel is one who is blemished. It is a vessel that needs to be cleansed. At this point, we should logically be asking ourselves, ‘Is there anything is making me dishonorable and unusable by God?’ Is there any sin in you are harboring in your heart which would keep you from being ‘most useful’ for God’s work? If there is, we are called to “cleanse ourselves.” We do this by following as it says in verse 19 by “departing from iniquity.” We flee from our sin. We repent of it and cast ourselves at the feet of the Savior who can cleanse us. We beg for God’s mercy and grace. Only then will we be completely honoring God with our words and deeds. Only then will we find ourselves approved by God for every good work. Although it is assured that we will sin, those who make a habit of cleansing themselves through repentance, will “be holy, ready for every good work.” 
Reflection Questions: How can both these statements be true: ‘I am loved by God in spite of my sins’ and ‘I am made more useful to God by fleeing sin and choosing obedience to Him’? Aren’t these two contradictory statements? How does Paul’s illustration of honorable and dishonorable vessels in this passage apply to us? 


Setting Apart the True from the False
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 2:26


While the verses found in this next section of 2 Timothy (2:22-26) are primarily a repeat of what has already been written to Timothy, there is a reason that Paul writes them again. Regardless of every sermon we have ever heard, Bible passage we have ever read or reread, the Bible always has a message for us…even if we have heard it before. I has a message for us because we are very forgetful creatures. We may hear something, practice it for a while and then forget it and forget to practice it. The Word of God is no different. We have seasons in which we are faithfully living what we have heard and learned and seasons in which we forget. Therefore, we must be reminded. Therefore Paul’s words to Timothy bear repeating to our own hearts and mind…even if we have just heard them. So again, we see Paul write, “Flee from youthful passions (vs. 22),” and “do not quarrel over silly controversies (vs. 23).” Why do this among a list of six (maybe five) other things? Because Timothy/we are to be set apart. Timothy’s life must look different than those who were preaching a false Gospel. His life must be distinguishably different from the false teachers, as we should be distinguishably different than those who are “false-christians” and unbelievers. So we not only flee youthful passions*, but we “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” We not only “have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies that only breed quarrels,” but we are also called to be “kind to everyone.” Paul mention several other traits which set us apart which are worth noting especially because of the world we live in today. Amongst these are particularly the ability to patiently endure evil and correcting an opponent with gentleness. I’m not sure many of us have been taught to patiently endure anything. We live in a world where gratification is instant. If we want to know something, we just look it up. If we want to buy something, we buy it online and receive in two days. We don’t do anything patiently. If our society is gratified so instantly, how will we patiently endure something which may last days, months or even years? When a friend or family member commits a sin against you, will you be able to endure it and respond in love? If they continue to revile and hate you even though they are wrong, will you be able to forgive them? Secondly, if someone opposes you in your Christian worldview, will you be able to deal with them gently? God is not looking for the man who can spout off all the right answers in a battle in apologetics, but the one offer answers in love and gentleness. The goal is not winning the argument but loving a person in such a way that they are granted repentance by God and see the truth (vs. 25). I’ve said it before, our action and words should look like Christ’s actions and words. Exhibit the marvelous truths of the Gospel so that others may see it and give glory to God!
Reflection Questions: Which of these things in 2 Tim. 2: 22-26 do you think you do very well? Which of these can you improve on? How can you improve on these things? 


*Youthful passions does not primarily speak of lust in this instance although it may be the case. The “passions” listed here primarily speak to sins which would have been committed in youth in respect to dealing with other. i.e.. quarreling in order to be correct or win an argument, jealousy, rage


A Godless Culture 
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 3:9


“But understand this…” This is how Paul chooses to start this next section of his letter to Timothy. It is a transitioning clause. He is choosing to use these words to tell Timothy something very different than what he has been writing thus far. Now we are going to see why Paul has instructed Timothy to live differently from the false teachers who were teaching a false gospel. Now we are going to see why Paul has constantly reminded Timothy that living for the Gospel is a worthy cause. He has written all of these things to Timothy thus far because “in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” If Timothy thought sharing the Gospel with other was difficult now, it was going to become even more difficult. If it was nearly impossible to endure for the Gospel in his current situation, it would be even more impossible to suffer for its sake in the future. You may look at the phrase “last days” and question why Timothy would need to heed these words. It is because Paul believed that Timothy would assuredly live in the last days before Christ came to gather His people back to Him. So what does this mean for us? If Paul believed that he and Timothy were living in the last days, it must also be true that we also are living in the last days. We also are living in times of difficulty. This is a call for us to be on guard. Just observed the list which Paul gives us in verses 2-5. How many of these characteristics describe the world you see around you? If we look at the average American that does not know Christ, we will certainly see that they are “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ugrateful, unholy, heartless, unapeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conseit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” We live in a culture of people whose lives are characterized by all of these things. This should make Christians, especially their teachers and preachers, to stand out and be more distinguishable, correct? This is not what Paul predicts and warns Timothy about. Paul ends his list by wrirting that these people “have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.” This, I fear, is where much of our churches are today. Our culture has crept into the church and therefore many church members and even pastors have this “appearance of godliness.” But it is exactly that…an appearance. There is no power or no effective work being done because the Holy Spirit is not active in their lives. They have seared him and therefore they are Christians by association only. In a actuality, they are no different than the rest of the world, going about as they please. Paul commands that Timothy avoid such people. We also would benefit from following this advice. Avoid these teachers primarily because they only will lead you astray. Avoid these so-called Christians because they will not move you closer to Chrsit, but only further away. Guard yourself! Guard yourself because this is world we live in. This is the world we reside. 
Reflection Questions: Why is it so difficult to live a life that is for the Gospel rather than for our own pleasure? Do any of the characteristics Paul listed describe you sometimes? What does it mean when Paul writes that these men have the appearance of godliness, but there is no power? How do you prevent yourself from simply having the appearance of godliness? 


A Godless Teacher 
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 3:9


While I focused primarily on individuals last time, I want to make sure I fully explain the crux of the passage. While much of this applies to the way every Christian should or should not live there lives, the context of this passage is talking primarily about teachers. Paul knew that he would need to warn Timothy of what was to come. He knew that Timothy would encounter those who taught only for themselves. Just think back to the list that Paul gives us in verses 2-5. Can you imagine if a pastor was distinguished by each of those characteristics? It would be an atrocity! How could anyone living this way possibly preach the Gospel and expect any conversions? Their message and their living would not line up! Yet this is exactly what was happening. The false teachers had crept into the Church and were living anti-Gospel. Some of them were even preaching a pseudo-gospel message. We can only imageine the extortion which was going on when Paul talks about the teachers being lovers of money and self. In having only the appearance of godliness, their hearts were far from God. Instead of devoting themselves to the true Gospel, they were preaching a message which was only suited to “capture weak women, burdened with sin.” This verse does not speak of physically capturing women, but through a pseudo-gospel, luring them away with a message that eased their guilt, but would not save their souls. The message they preached was one in which one could always continue learning but never ariving at the knowledge of the truth. Paul compares these false teachers to two individuals name Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses. These names may seem unfamiliar to you. This is becuase these two individuals do not show up in our biblical canon but were thought to be the names of the magicians in Exodus 7:8-13 because of extrabiblical Jewish writings. It was these magicans which, Paul writes, “opposed the truth, were corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” As these men opposed Moses and the Creator of the world, so also do these false teachers oppose Christ and His message in Timothy’s time. Their minds have been warped, preaching a gospel which only made them disqalified as teachers of the true Gospel message. They were disqalified teachers and pastors because the message they preached was only for the benefit of themselves and not for the benefit of the congregation. They were disqualified from the faith because they had no saving faith. They could not teach the Gospel because they had never expereineced in spite of their claims. Because they do not posess a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul points out that they “will not get very far, for it will be plain to all.” It will be plain to those who truly know and live out the Gospel because they will see the characteristics of the world within them. While this is a warning to Timothy, this is also a warning to us. “Avoid such people,” Paul writes. We are to avoid them because they can lead us astray. We avoid them because they preach to our fleshly desires and not to Christ’s call on our lives. Avoid the Godless teacher for the Godless teacher leads us to a Godless message and to Godless living. 
Reflection Questions: Based on the passage, what message do you believe the false teachers were teaching? Do you think that this message has infiltrated our churches today? How would you be able to distinguish the true Gospel message from a false one? What are the differences? 


Paul’s Example
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 3:13


Paul has been a mentor and discipler of Timothy for quite some time when Paul writes this to Timothy. They have lived and traveled together. Timothy would have seen Paul at his best and as his worst. So also Paul would have seen Timothy at his best and his worst. This would not have been an uncommon experience for those who follow in another’s footsteps. Many who were mentored or discipled by others would have often lived with the person teaching them, learning their trade and learning how they lived their lives. This is no small thing. Timothy learned Paul’s ways by submersion in his life. Therefore, Paul’s plea in this section is not to convince Timothy to follow him, but to urge Timothy to continue living in the same way Paul has. Paul writes that Timothy has seen and followed, “my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my love, my steadfastness and my persecutions.” Notice that much of this is what Paul has already commanded Timothy to live out in 2:22-26. Timothy would have known how to live out the Gospel and to live like Jesus because he would have seen Paul live them out. Paul lived his life in such a way that he was a example to be imitated as they sought out to live and suffer for the Gospel. This, of course, did not mean that living out the Gospel was going to easy, but it did mean that Timothy could emulate the positive example that he saw and be encouraged that he was not alone in his pursuit. It meant that when Timothy met persecution for preaching and teaching the Gospel, he would simply need to look to Paul’s example. When Timothy faced sufferings, he could simply look to the example of Paul. Paul’s desire for Timothy would be that he would pursue Christ by following the conduct he had learned from him. By doing this, Paul explains that in choosing to live a “godly life in Christ Jesus” he will be persecuted. This is not only reflects the life that Paul has lived, but is in complete contrast to the false teachers who “go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” These teachers were men who were not only deceiving others with their message, but who were deceived by the message they taught. Paul preached the true Gospel, the false teachers taught a false one. Paul’s actions and motives were for the love of God and people, the false teacher’s motives were for the love of themselves. Paul would be persecuted for the message of the Gospel, the false teachers would either be praised or honored for it. We must not cease to see the separation between the false and the True Gospel message. Instead, we must seek to live in Paul’s steps. We must seek to imitate those in our own lives who are living for the Gospel message. Imitate them as they imitate Christ. 
Reflection Questions: How does Paul’s life contrast the false teachers? Who in your life has a life worth following the example of? What are you doing to learn from them as they learn from Christ? Spending time with them? Gleaning from their knowledge of life and Scripture? What aspects of their life would you like to learn from/imitate? How are they living out the Gospel in their lives?


A Life Lived in Scripture  
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 3:17


Christian pastors and preachers must be men of the Word. The Word of God should naturally flow from the heart to their tongue and should affect the way they live their lives. We should be able to distinguish between those who are in the Word of God daily with those who are sporadically in the Word of God as well as those who are rarely reading and digesting God’s Word. We can distinguish the differences because the individual who is in the Word of God is daily feeding on the “bread of life.” He is daily hearing from the Truth of the Gospel. He is daily allowing the Spirit of God to use the words that he has read to convict the heart and soul. This is why Paul urges Timothy to continue learning from the Scritpure which he “firmly believed” and which “from childhood he was aquainted with.” It is through the faith and discipleship of his mother and grandmother in teaching him God’s Word that “made him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Again, notice that it is is through God’s Word (sacred writing) which made Timothy wise for salvation through Christ Jesus. It was the Scriptures which Paul goes on to write about in the next couple of verses which the Spirit would use to reveal Christ to Timothy. Verses 16 and 17 give us glimpse of how Paul saw Scripture and give us a model for how we should see God’s Word as well. First, he writes that Scripture is “breathed out by God.” The term in the greek is found nowhere else in Greek writing (most people believe Paul invented the term). This phrase reminds us that while there were many writers of Scripture, there was only on Author, the Lord God. It show the supremacy of this Word because it from the Creator HImself. As creatures, therefore, we should see it as the authoritative Truth which guides our lives and directs our paths. Secondly, Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. The goal for pastors and preachers in leading a congregation in the Word of God and for individual believers as they read God’s Word is to apply it to our lives. The Word of God should encourage us when we are faithful. It should correct incorrect doctrinal beliefs that we have. It should lead us to direct our love and affection towards God. It should work in our lives in such a way that we seek to hear from God’s Word on a regular basis. It’s complete affect is fouund at the end of verse 16 and into verse 17, “for the training of righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If you are in God’s Word on a daly basis, it will make you more and more like Christ. If you are spending time being transformed in mind and spirit by God’s Word through the Spirit, it will become evident to those around you. Be encouraged in your effort to digest God’s Word, for it is making you complete, more like God, and prepared for the good work of the life of a Christian. 
Reflection Questions: How do you normally view Scripture reading? As a chore to do? As a requirement? As God’s Word? How does  your view of Scrpitpure change when you realize it is from God Himself? Profitable for teaching, correction, reproof, and training in rigtheousness? Completion and being equipped for every good work? If you do not see Scripture like this, how can you change your mindset about it?  


Preach the Gospel
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 4:5


If the Word of God is has the power to make us wise unto for salvation in Christ Jesus…If the Word of God is breathed out by God…If the Word of God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction…If the Word of God is profitable for training in righteousness….If the Word of God leads the man to become complete, ready for every good work…it is no wonder why Paul follows up with the words he does. “Preach the Word,” writes Paul. Why? Because of all the things listed above. If the Word of God has the power to do all the things listed above, the best thing that Timothy could do for his people is to teach them and walk them through it. Timothy should not only preach the Word, but he should do it “in season and out of season,” ready when it is convenient or inconvenient. It’s the Word of God through which he will “reprove, rebuke and exhort with complete patience and teaching.” Furthermore, Paul charges Timothy that this preaching of the Word is  “in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing an his kingdom.” We see from this that not only should Tmothy preach the Word of God because of its benefits to the Church, but also to remind him that the preaching he does is in the actual presence of God and Christ. Timothy, therefore, must preach and act according the position he has been called to. He must be careful to watch his words and actions for Chrsit will one day judge the living and the dead. Timothy’s preaching also has eternal, Kingdom purposes as well. He is preaching a message that has the power of salvation for those who hear it. He is preaching a message which will either usher them into the coming Kingdom of God or which will condemn them to eternal punishment separated from God. But Paul is not finished explaining to Timothy why he must preach the Word. In a somewhat prophetic way, he depicts the cutlure that we live today. Although it is more than likely that the culture he is writing about was present around the time of Timothy, we likely know people, maybe even personally who “do not endure sound teaching.” Instead, they have “itching ears” and “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” This sounds an awful lot like the America we live in today. Rather than listening to the Truth of the Gospel, they wander off into myths. They seek things which sound more appealing to them in order that they can continue living their own way. They find teachers who will support them in their pursuit of pleasure. We must be careful that we do not fall into the same trap. We should rather seek to do as Paul instructs to Timothy: “Be soberminded, endure suffering, and do the work of an evangelist.” While these are instructions which apply to a pastor/elder/teacher, we would do well to follow them also. Seek out strong teaching an preaching which offends the flesh. Find a Gospel-teacher/discipler who desires your spiritual growth and not your personal pleasure in sin. Find a church that preaches the fullness of the Gospel and is not heavily influenced by the secular culture. We should desire the full Gospel and not a message which only serves us. 
Reflection Questions: Why does Paul instruct Timothy to preach the Word? What are you doing to regularly hear the preached Word? What effort can you make to ensure you are hearing the preached Word more often? 


A Faithful Finish
Read 2 Tim. 1:1 – 4:8


In the Christian life, we are required to persevere. In the Christian life, we will be tried and possibly suffer. We will be ridiculed and hated by some. We will find ourselves at odds against the mindset of this world. We have seen this already in our study of 2 Timothy. As Paul begins to close his letter, he does not change his message. He does not diminish the difficulty of the Christian’s life and mission. He affirms it. He affirms what he has been writing to Timothy all throughout this letter. He has already shown us a faithful life. Now, he is about to show us a faithful death. He writes, “I am being poured out like a drink offering.” This language is an allusion back to the Old Testament drink offering which was poured out upon the altar as a pleasing aroma to the Lord (Exd. 29:40-41). Paul describes his life as exactly this…an offering.  His life has become a sacrifice, a pleasing sacrifice to Christ. He has been faithful and it seems that even as he is nearing his ‘sacrificial’ death, he is remaining faithful, suffering in order that God may be glorified through him. Paul is aware that his time on earth is drawing to an end. Whether this is by revelation from God or from his various dealings with his inprisoners, it is uncertain. Either way, Paul is certain that his death is soon coming, yet he will continue to offer himself for the glory of God. From here, Paul gives Timothy two metaphors for keeping the faith: fought the good fight and finished the race. Without going into too much detail, we understand that Paul is comparing his “keeping of the faith” to a fight which has been fought. The Christian life has remained a constant battle for Paul. He has fought not only against flesh and blood (false teachers, Judaizers, etc.), but he has also fought with the spiritual principalities of this world as he shared the truth of the Gospel. In these moments, we should not find it surprising that his faith was tested. Even still, he remained strong. The second illustration is of a finished race. You may have heard teachers/preachers describe the Christian life as a marathon, not a sprint. While this is true, I’m not sure Paul is specifically specifying between the two in this passage. He is simply writing to Timothy that he has persevered in faith as a runner would persevere in a race. He has finished the run of life and still found himself in the faith of Christ Jesus. Therefore, Paul, along with all others who persevere in their faith through the extent of their lives will receive the “crown of righteousness.” While scholar debate what this crown actually is, what is for certain is that those who by grace have persevered in the faith will be rewarded in heaven. Like Paul and the many Christians after him, we will one day be in the presence of God’s glory. We will one day feast at the Lord’s table with the rest of the Saints. We will one day enjoy Him forever, without struggle, without pain, and without sin. Amen
Reflection Question: What does Paul mean when he writes that he is being poured out like a drink offering? What does it look like to remain strong in the faith even when nearing death? Are there any examples you can think of in your life or throughout history who have persevered in the faith, even to their death? How did they do this? What role does God’s grace play in our perseverance in faith? 


Perseverance and Preservation: The Relationship
Read all 2 Timothy 


Our tendency when we approach the end of something that has stretched or something that’s was difficult is to skip anything that seems to lack importance. Nearing the end of a test, we may skip reading the directions because they simply delay the finish. When writing a paper you may avoid going into any not detail in order to finish your point and end the strenuous process of writing an conclusion. When reading, you may skip the minor details of the resolution in order for you be able to finish the book faster than you had originally planned. My hope is that you do not carry over this habit when reading the Bible. To skip what seems like unimportant details may keep you from gaining an important insight that the author wants you to understand. The end of a book or letter may also give us a clue as to how the author originally intended us to read and think about what he has written. Sometimes when reading the end of a book or letter, we will gain little insight, but in 2 Timothy, we are encountered by several thoughts. First, the end of 2 Timothy repeats several themes we have heard throughout this letter to emphatically emphasize their importance. We see in verse 10 that we must continue to persevere in the faith in spite of the attacks the world, for if we do not hold fast, we will fall away as Demas had. The second theme we see repeated in these verses is suffering that we will face for the Gospel. Paul, as he writes, is alone. He is in a prison cell. He writes as one longing companionship. He has suffered already and is continually suffering for the sake of the Gospel. The third theme we see repeated is that of avoiding false teaching/teachers. We see this primarily in verse 14 with Alexander. The last theme is one that Paul has eluded to in this message and what I believe takes us back to the core essence of this letter. I fear that if we miss this, we have done ourselves a bitter disservice and that is the theme pertaining to God’s preservation of our faith. As I wrote earlier  Paul has wrote of this in previous sections of this letter, but it comes to a forefront here at the end. Paul writes a string of sentences which show God’s preservation of his faith. Paul writes in verse 17 that “God strengthened him, so that the message of the Gospel might be proclaimed.” In verse 18, Paul writes that God “rescued him from the lion’s mouth.” And again in verse 19, Paul writes that God “will rescue him from every evil deed and bring him into His [God’s] heavenly Kingdom.” Notice that these are not the work of Paul, but the work of God. God has preserved Paul in his faith. God has ensured that Paul might be capable of proclaiming the Gospel. God has protected Paul from the things which sought to end his life and his mission for God. In this final section we see something important about the character of God and ourselves. First, we, without God enabling us to persevere on in the faith would cease to serve Him and move on to something more personally pleasurable. If this message proves anything, it proves that we are weak and that we need God in order to continue in the faith. We need God to continue in living in obedience. WE NEED GOD! We cannot live this life on our own. There are too many traps, too may pitfalls, too many things which can take us captive. Without God preserving us, our faith is nothing. Secondly, this speaks of God’s unbelievable power and beautiful love to preserve us in our faith. God desire us to find pleasure in Him. He desires us to continue in His Presence. In the midst of difficulty, He desires for us to fall in His arms and know that He will preserve us. He loves us so much that nothing will separate us from His love. He works to preserve us in Him. So what is our response? We persevere in faith. We persevere, knowing that our perseverance will continue because God is preserving us in faith. We persevere for the sake of the message of the Gospel, knowing that it has saved us and that God’s power is working in us and through us so that we may live faithful lives till the Kingdom comes. Amen. 
Reflection Questions: What is the relationship between our perseverance and God’s preservation of our faith? How does God’s preservation change the way you see Him? Do you find this astounding? Troublesome? Difficult? What then is our responsibility in our faith? In preaching the Gospel?
I would encourage you to seek out someone who is more mature in the faith if you are struggling with this concept. It is one that I have wrestled with, yet coming out of my wresting, have found it far more comforting than I could have ever imagined. Knowing that my faith is based on nothing I have done, but by God’s grace has freed me from cycle of behavioral change and has propelled me toward heart change. As Paul closes out this letter to Timothy, “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 
The Lord be with your Spirit. Grace be with you.  

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