Spiritual Investments

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My Musings – Such is Paul’s description of two of his disciples. People he had invested his life in.  In his early ministry, Barnabas had risked his reputation and took this former persecutor of the Church under his wing and ministered with him.  Paul, in turn, invested in the lives of others.  When He could not go, he sent these two.  They had been mentored, now it was their turn to “pay it forward.”  And it’s been going on just like this for nearly 2,000 years.

In the above passage, Paul described the product of discipleship (genuine, proven, service, fellowship, commitment).  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul described the process of discipleship.  “You then, [Timothy] my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV 1984).

But we should never think that it is only a one-way street.  Near the end of his ministry Paul summoned another of his disciples.  One who stumbled early on and for a time was cast away by Paul.  “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984). One who Paul once considered not helpful at all was now considered helpful.  Once considered a bad investment, now an investment paying dividends.  Investing in others and letting others invest in us.  Iron sharpening iron.

My Advice – Grow in Christ by letting others help you and helping others do the same.  It’s proven pattern.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Nate Miller’s sermon on October 13, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

Sheep’s Clothing

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My Musings – In banking, tellers are taught the best way to spot a counterfeit – you study the genuine article.  By being familiar with the “real deal” you can more readily spot the fake.  This similar principle can be applied to identifying false teachers.  You look to what they are saying and doing, and you place it alongside what is truth – God’s Word.

Feed Only Themselves – We’ve all seen them, enriching themselves while the flock is starving for the truth.

Clouds Without Rain – They look and sound impressive, but in reality lack the substance of the truth.

Autumn Trees Without Fruit – You expect the fruit in the Autumn, and you would expect spiritual leaders to bear real fruit.  Yet the false ones pander to big crowds in this age of “consumer Christianity.”  Give them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

Wild Waves Foaming Up – Stirring the pot, when they should be building up the body in unity of the Spirit.

Wandering Stars – Abandoning the flock that they have been entrusted with, seeking greener pastures for themselves, while their sheep are left shepherd less.

For Whom Blackest Darkness Has Been Reserved Forever – Their just reward.

My Advice – Stay in the Word.  You’ll know who measures up and who does not.  Here are a few pointers.

1. Is the teaching from a well-known and trusted source?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15)

2. Is the teaching consistent with what you have learned from the well-known and trusted sources?

“I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” (Romans 16:17)

3. Is the teaching clear from the texts or is the interpretation strained?

You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)

4. Is the teaching exclusive or nearly exclusive?

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)

5. Is the teaching necessary to support a questionable position or lifestyle?

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

6. Does the teaching direct society to follow God’s moral standards or does the teaching encourage others to follow the world’s social mores?

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

7. Is the teaching’s emphasis on grace and freedom too permissive?

You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:13)

8. Is the teaching’s emphasis on morality and obedience too repressive?

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools!” (Matthew 23:16, 17)

9. Does the teaching deny the power of God to enable His children to overcome sin and temptation?

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

10. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of masquerading as an angel of light?

For such men are false apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (1 Corinthians11:13, 14)

11. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of deceit by calling God’s Word into question?

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1)

12. Does the teaching call right wrong and wrong right?

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.

 

Freely Given, Spiritually Discerned

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My Musings – We should not be surprised that the world in general finds Christianity foolish.  What seems so obvious to followers of Christ is often lost on those who do not.  The understanding that Christians have is not due to a superior (or as some might claim inferior) intellect.  It is discernment enabled by the Spirit of God that dwells within.  We must remember that we were in the same situation as the unsaved at one time.  Unable to comprehend what God freely offered.  And we never would have understood, much less accepted it if He had not pursued us.  People are not badgered, argued or driven into the Kingdom by us. We can only communicate (plant, water and cultivate) the Truth to the lost as best we can.   Then we must let the Holy Spirit do His special work of convicting and convincing (harvesting).

My Advice – Show compassion with a passion.   After all the “Passion of the Christ” was for everyone who believes and receives.

Litmus Test Theology

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My Musings – In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about litmus test – a test in which a single factor (such as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive. If there is a God, then His Word (the Bible) should be decisive in all matters of faith, conduct and morality.  It’s a living (not dead or obsolete), active (not deactivated) document.  It can determine the finest points of contention, penetrating to the heart of the matter, exposing what might not be so evident on the surface (inner thoughts and attitudes behind outward words and actions).

My Advice – When the issue to be considered is important, you want resources that are authoritative.  Opinions are a dime a dozen and there are a multitude of self-appointed “authorities.”  Consult the God’s Word on matters great and small in all questions concerning faith, conduct and morality.  It is the only authoritative source document that is above reproach.

Private Interpretations

2 Peter 1:20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We are being bombarded by new “revelations” and new interpretations at an ever-increasing and alarming rate. But the Scriptures we have had stood the test of time because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let’s stick with them.

My Advice – You will encounter many private interpretations of Scripture. Many will have generated a large following. But always remember, God’s Word does not change, and a large following of another word does not make that word true.

Sound Patterns

2 Timothy 1:13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We need to pass teaching down to others that is solid, to keep the faith going.

My Advice – Hopefully you’ve found that the things of faith that your mother and I taught you over the years, whether by word or deed, were sound. Follow those teachings that were.

Stay Near

Isaiah 55:6 – Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God is as near to us as we allow. He is easily found if we seek him before drifting too far away from Him. We have trouble finding Him because we wander away. Our cry for help need not be too loud if we have not wandered too far away.

My Advice – When you find yourself out of God’s favor, remember that it is you who strayed away, not Him. Seek restoration sooner rather than later, otherwise you will continue to drift further away and the road back will be harder to find.