2 Peter 1:8-9 (HCSB) - For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.
This part of our theme verse, “A Work in Progress,” has a sobering admonition. It warns us about giving God anything less than total commitment. It implies that we develop the habits of godliness, because they will keep us on track with God and growing in our faith. Peter says it will keep us from being useless in the knowledge. The word, useless is highlighted because it is a harsh reference. We usually don’t think about faith in these terms. We say, “all you need is the faith of a mustard seed.” In the way the phrase is used, it appears that we are setting the bar pretty low, but that is not what Jesus is trying to teach. He chooses the mustard seed as a metaphor of faith because it is something that starts small and grows to something significant and useful. This is the same thing that Peter encourages. Your faith may start out the size of a mustard seed, but it shouldn’t stay there.
Oswald Chambers, in writing about this verse highlights the importance of developing the habits of godliness. He states, “When we first begin to form a habit, we are fully aware of it. There are times when we are aware of becoming virtuous and godly, but this awareness should only be a stage we quickly pass through as we grow spiritually. If we stop at this stage, we will develop a sense of spiritual pride. The right thing to do with godly habits is to immerse them in the life of the Lord until they become such a spontaneous expression of our lives that we are no longer aware of them.”
Sinful habits are automatic and spontaneous. We just act, without thinking. That is the same with the habits of godliness. They come from what is planted deep within us. What we plant and water will grow.
We should also think seriously about the words “useless and unfruitful.” What examples would you give of a Christian whose knowledge of Christ results in something that is defined by these words? What do these words mean to you personally? Is it lifestyle choices? Is it never teaching others about Christ? Is it being an ineffective leader in your family? Is it lack of genuine success in your life? Each person has to determine this, because it might help you move past some of the places where you are stuck.
Be determined to be useful and fruitful. Pray for these specific items in your life. We often pray for things we want or need. These are important, to be sure, but do not neglect what God wants.
This week I have spent time in two passages that focus on the importance of being involved in the Kingdom of God on earth. While both passages are addressed to the nation of Israel, the point carries over to present. We are to be active in the fellowship and work of the Church. While many say, “Jesus, yes, but not the church,” that is not a biblical principle. The church is the place for worship, equipping, and practicing. The Hebrews’ writer warns us against developing the habit of not meeting (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is as if the writer knows what was written in the Old Testament to God’s people of old.
Some people have asked, “How did God’s people get so far away from the standard of living?” The basic answer is they neglected the house of God. In Nehemiah’s time, they realized that this was the reason for the loss of home and status as a nation. Before the catastrophe of exile ever took place, they were neglecting the house of God. The worship, learning, and equipping that took place there was not important.
Maybe people had good reason to not be involved, and maybe not. Maybe people today have a good reason, and maybe not. Sometimes it is relational conflict and sometimes it is laziness. Some situations may call for a discussion and some may require you to take a stand and confront the issue. If there are problems, we are to be committed to finding solutions. The foundational belief has to be, I am an active and faithful member of the Church that belongs to Christ.
In Nehemiah’s time, as they were getting back to God’s way of doing things, they made many vows or commitments. It was their statements of faith to keep their part of the covenant. God had done much and will do much. It is for them, (and us), to commit to the things we read in scripture as the way to be faithful to God. After personally committing to a lifestyle of faith, it is important to make a commitment to the community of faith. We should make the same commitment that God’s people made as recorded in Nehemiah 10:39, which says, “For the Israelites and the Levites are to bring the contributions of grain, new wine, and oil to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are kept and where the priests who minister are, along with the gatekeepers and singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”
Information is a good thing to have. We use information to make informed decisions, draw conclusions, and strengthen our positions and points of views. We also use information to strengthen and affirm things we have come to believe. What happens when each daily bombardment of information seems to render the believer discouraged, despondent or even shake our foundations and cause us to question our faith?
About a week ago my wife sent me an article about studies being conducted by some scholars to prove that there is no such thing as free will. The writer of the article hailed these new efforts as scientific efforts to challenge the lie that is the existence of free will. Citing a court where an accused criminal had his charges dismissed because the accused’s lawyer successfully argued that the guilty party’s brain made him commit the offense not out of his free will. Never mind that this writer notes that these studies are not conclusive and many questions raised by the studies have not been adequately addressed or lack sufficient evidence.
How does the Christian of today fend off these attempts to erode and dismantle all that is good and godly? Casting our vote and voicing our opinions, these are all great civil acts to engage in as citizens of our great country. God’s people must show the lost the way to God as well. The ill prepared Christian is like ill prepared teacher or the soldier that is not ready for battle, they cannot provide answers in season. For these and many other challenges that we face in our modern world, we need to immerse ourselves in the word of God. This will enrich us, strengthen and firm up our faith, broaden our knowledge and equip us with the love of God teaching us the good works God has prepared for us to walk in them.
The 30-Day Challenge reading opportunities are a quest to cultivate a lifestyle of readiness to answer when questions about our faith are raised. In this effort, we echo the Psalmist, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple...”
You should be working on the first five books of the Old Testament (The Books of Moses). Reading schedules are available on the 30-Day Challenge Information Board
Christopher Baidoo-Essien, M.S. email@example.com
Justification and sanctification are two processes that must complete their purposes if we are to be mature servants of the Master. Justification can be seen as the process of salvation. We are made right by the gift of God, freely given on the cross. We cannot earn this and do not merit it. Being justified is a legal status, not a moral status. That is why our neighbors mock Christians. We say we are righteous, thinking that is a moral status, but often our actions are not righteous. That is why Paul reminds us that, “no one is righteous.” Becoming a Christian simply means you are on solid ground to build a good life. If you don’t build right, your building will collapse (1 Corinthians 3:15). Sanctification is the building process. Through prayer, study, application, correction all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the follower of Jesus goes through this process. If any of those actions are left out, the building will be weak. Being sanctified means I understand my purpose and I work towards those goals. “Press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you.”
Always keeping an eye on where you came from. Always remembering that you have a place at the table of the King. Always allowing the Spirit to convict you of your areas of weakness.
There is always going to be a battle where justification and sanctification meet. Quoting Jesus, Oswald Chambers says, “There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized— something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts immediately.” (If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…his own life…he cannot be My disciple, Luke 14:26). This is why we struggle. It is good we struggle. Never give up that struggle.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.” In today’s socio-political climate, this is a favorite text of the religious left. Do not judge the attitudes and actions of others so you won’t be judged about your attitudes and actions. We cannot judge another because we don’t know what they have been through. This is not the point Jesus was trying to make. Notice, I referenced only part of the verse. “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3).
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus draws a bold line between the old life and the new. That means we have a new standard for all we do. This does not mean we have the right to exert authority over those who are not citizens of the kingdom. When we judge others, we usually use our own standard for good and evil. Jesus illustrates His point with a comical reference to a beam in the eye of one trying to remove the speck from another. Disciples are not given the role of judge. We are to focus on our own lives and our own failures. When we make judgments and cut others out, we cut off ourselves with the same sword.
The disciple only has righteousness based on the association of faith in Christ. We come to that association based on our acceptance of the work of Christ on the cross and the incorporation of God’s Word into our thinking. We agree to live in community based on these principles in the fellowship known as the church. There may be times when we have to uphold the standards of the Christian community and cut ties of fellowship. That only takes place after a process of spiritual conflict management (Matthew 18:15-20). Our casual relationships are based on the dynamic of unconditional love. The purpose of this type of relationship is it allows the best of who we are to come to the surface. When the church operates from this perspective, all people will know that we are His disciples.
Truitt Adair is with Lakeview this morning, sharing the next chapter in the story of the Solar Player and bringing the sermon during our morning worship time. Being a missionary at heart, the Solar Player caught Truitt’s attention and he immediately saw the benefit of such a device in the hands of a trained missionary. Here is a little of the back story to how the dream of the Solar Player became a reality.
About four years ago, Adair heard about solar players that were battery operated and the battery was recharged by the sun. These players were pretty large and had on them only the audio recording of the Bible. He thought that having players which could be recharged by the sun fit perfectly the many in Africa who are in areas without reliable electricity and for whom an audio Bible would be great because they cannot read. Yet, these were, he thought, too large and no instruction beyond the Bible could be placed on the players. So he asked the technical experts at Sunset to find a smaller and more versatile version and, after about a year, they did. The new players were solar, but were smaller and could have other materials inserted into the player. Sunset gave some trials of this unit and found that it worked very well, so they made a deal with Review Outreach in Atlanta to provide two-thousand Papyrus Solar Players for their use. On them they put the New King James Version of the Bible, 400 hours of audio covering the forty courses in training preachers which the Sunset Institute uses for their program, World Bible School lessons, two hours of hymns, and some additional resources.
The first 2000 Solar Players went to countries in Africa that have English as their official language. Countries including Zimbabwe, Ghana and Liberia. The next 2000 Solar Players went to Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Zambia and Ethiopia. The Solar Players that were distributed in Ethiopia had materials available in Amharic, the language of that land. SIBI is in the middle of a third campaign to distribute Solar Players to Spanish speaking countries.
The cost of the Solar Player is $500.00 per unit. This covers the cost of the unit, the royalty for using the NKJV, putting additional materials on the player, cost of distribution and training. The investment continues to pay great dividends. The results from those who have received the players has been outstanding because they have brought many to Christ. One person alone baptized 113 in the first six months. Adair said it was like having “a missionary in a box, a library in a box, and preacher training school in a box.” And, of course, many of those who were already Christians were strengthened by having these players with the audio material they contained. (Excerpts adopted from an article by Stafford North)
An opposite to sound doctrine is false teaching. While the phrase is not in the bible, there are many warnings against false teachers. 2 Peter 2:1-3 is but one example. The insight we gain is that these individuals want to exert power over others. They are manipulators of words and deceptive with God’s Word. Peter mentions their unrestrained ways, which suggests an immoral lifestyle is at the center of who they are. Immoral acts and lifestyles are actually used to justify and distort the truth of God and the nature of God. False teachers say, “This is what I think so it must be true.” A desire to control others and unchecked moral failures are the way to identify these false teachers.
Peter also suggests that false teachers are opportunists. People are in need of shepherds. They need guidance and readily listen to whoever seems to have convincing words. Jude says of them; “These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. … These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” (Jude 12-13, 16).
False teachers often hold legalistic views. They divide words and concepts, creating new ideas that they believe to be true. Jesus confronted this distortion of the truth of God when He exposed the corrupt side of sectarianism: “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). They often divide their families and the Body of Christ.
The proof of authentic discipleship is love (John 13:34-35). Understanding the message of the cross calls us to change inside. That change inside directs how we treat others…especially those of the household of faith. How can we know if we are authentic followers of Christ, holding the right doctrine and be teachers of truth? One word; love.
We are approaching several deadlines as we get full into the summer months.
DELANO SUMMER CAMPS - First, put on your prayer list all of the different camps that our young people will be attending this summer. The first camp begins this weekend, with STS (Senior Teen Session). Visit the Delano website for future dates. If you are thinking about having your kid(s) attend one of the camps, it is not too late (except for STS and of course, at this point, there may be a late fee for some of the camps). Pray also for our adults who will be supporting the camps as cooks, kitchen staff, counseling staff or leading (Ben, Brandon and Jeff). Several of our young people will also be serving at the camps this summer. Delano is a great place to get involved!
FaithBuilders Northwest – There is still plenty of time to register and attend this Christian growth workshop for churches of Christ in the northwest. It is hosted on the PLU campus and directed by the Puyallup and Springbrook congregations. The dates are July 7-9, 2016. Visit faithbuildersnw.com for registration information and program details.
Just Want Privacy Filing Deadline – This is the last weekend for you to sign the Initiative 1-1515 petition. It deals with common-sense legislation that recognizes the need for gender-segregated public shower and changing room facilities. It also establishes civil liabilities when the current ruling is violated by those who want to hurt woman and children in public shower and changing areas where privacy and safety should be guaranteed. Petitions are in the back of the Auditorium.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16
That's a lot of love. God loves us so much. The sins of this world have lead us to places we should not be going, doing things we should not be doing, and encouraging us to say things we should not be saying. God's love is so great that no matter what the sin, He sent His son to die for us so that we can be forgiven and made whole. Someone had to pay the price; blood had to be given as a sacrifice. God sent Jesus, the only sinless one, to be the payment for our sins. He did this by giving His life as a ransom for our sins.
We have seen great fathers in this world. The story of the father who pushed, pulled, and carried his son through a triathlon is a great example. He swam 2.5 miles, cycled 125 miles through hot lava fields, and concluded by running 26.2 miles with his son. He loved his handicapped son so much. His son's dream was to be in this contest. The father's heart was to meet that need for, and with, his son. No, they were not in first place or even second place, but they did finish just under the deadline. The father ran the race with the son.
God runs with us as we take on the challenges of life; we are not alone. He is there to aid and support. He has made a time commitment and demonstrated the concept of keeping our eyes focused on the goal. Paul edifies these actions when he writes, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14)
God's heart is big for us. He wants only what is best for us. He doesn’t just tell us what to do. He runs to us. He runs with us.
Prayer is the ultimate expression of communication with God. If we want to have strong relationships and significant purpose, meaningful prayer has to be the key to our success. Just like any good relationship, clear communication is essential. The following comments from Oswald Chambers lead us to a deeper understanding to prayer.
“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don't want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of 'good time' is seldom in sync with ours.”
The idea of perseverance in doing what is right has a lot of application to many aspects of faith, but especially when it comes to communication with God.
I value thoughts by Oswald because they help establish that persistent prayer is a priority for the Christian who is growing. Prayer creates the path. This is different from expecting God to get on your path. Prayer helps you view your life challenges through God’s eyes. This is different from expecting God to see where you are coming from.
Many of our challenges stem from doing things our own way. Prayer puts us on the path of God’s way. When this is our first line of defense, we don’t waste time and emotion wondering what could be going wrong. I observe many believers who have this approach to life. They seem like they are ahead of the curve. They are able to see what is ahead. They walk with confidence because their actions are guided by wisdom. They seem to be able to make good decisions because their knowledge base is sound. They are not surprised by the twists and turns of the journey because they have been informed regarding the ways of the world.
Good communication with family, friends and co-workers can follow a pattern established by your communication with God. All of what faith teaches is duplicatable in all areas of life. This gives meaning to the statement, “Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteous and all these things will be added to you.”