Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

Living Godly

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12

Paul had just listed some of his own experiences that included persecutions and afflictions and then states the principle quoted above. People who have no desire to live a godly life are already serving the god of this world and the spirit of antichrist that emanates from him. As soon as a person has the desire to live godly in Christ Jesus everything and everyone in Satan’s dominion will be in opposition to them because it is opposed to Jesus Christ.

Christians can avoid Satan’s attention by going along with the world in its ungodly way, as Lot did (Genesis 19), but how will they face Jesus without extreme shame? Peter experienced this in part and we can read of his experience of this in Luke 22:54-62 & John 21:15-19.

The world is becoming more bold in its persecution of Christians. Governments and media are unwilling to report persecution and murder of Christians and by their silence they condone and encourage this behaviour. What those who oppose do not realize is that Jesus Christ will have the last say and His judgments are perfect and just. For the unrepentant sinner He is much more to be feared than any man made religion (Luke 12:5).

Paul wrote a principle that is for the Christians of his day and is applicable to all Christians throughout the church age. It will only end when Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth thus answering a part of the Lord’s model prayer recorded in Matthew 6:10. The manifestation of persecution will vary according to culture, political ideology, the dominant religion and other circumstances, but it will always be present in some form and some degree.

In his letters to Timothy and Titus Paul points his readers to Christ’s appearing five times. This is where our focus of attention should be and it will be supported by sound Biblical teaching which he mentions nine times.

It is tragic that Christians are suffering and will continue to suffer but we must remember that Jesus allows it for His own reasons which can, to some degree at least, be determined from Scripture. One of the things Jesus said while on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Stephen followed this example when he was being stoned; “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). This is the heart attitude that we will also have toward those who persecute desiring that they will also know Christ’s forgiveness and be saved from the wrath to come.

No Chocolate Soldiers, Please!

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.2 Timothy 2:3

It might be easy for us to incorrectly apply this verse if we do not take it in context. The previous two verses set the context and the following verse gives us application.

The context is that we are recipients of God’s grace in Christ Jesus (v 1). We have received the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ but it is not a gift for us only. It is for the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Having received such a gift Paul expects that our reasonable service is to be faithful in telling others that they too may be recipients of the same gift. This will require “hardship.” Jesus expects that we will suffer the hardship of persecution because we go in His name (John 15:20). He has sent us into the world to make disciples of Himself (Matthew 28:19-20) and Paul expresses that in verse two in this passage.

Mature men, faithful to Jesus Christ, will disciple and teach spiritually younger men who demonstrate faithfulness to Christ. In this context Paul writes that such mature faithful men will persevere and endure as a soldier does in the heat of battle. He won’t retreat no matter how great the hardship. Those who retreat in the face of persecution or hardship demonstrate that they are not faithful soldiers of Christ (Luke 14:25-27). They are chocolate soldiers who melt away when the heat comes. That we are chocolate soldiers is perhaps confirmed by the fact that we do not sing songs like “Soldiers of Christ Arise” and Onward, Christian Soldiers” anymore. We are focussed more on self preservation than conquering the enemy.

In verse four Paul gives one reason chocolate soldiers melt away. They have a priority greater than serving Jesus Christ. They are too much in love with this world and seek to please themselves rather than pleasing the Lord Jesus. Paul writes that Christians are “enlisted” in Christ’s army (v 4). When we surrendered to Jesus Christ He enlisted us in His army to serve and please Him. The benefits of citizenship oblige us to protect that citizenship.

We live in a world made up of many spectators and few participants. It is similar on the battle field these days. A few men are fighting but multitudes watch on television and make comments of praise or criticism. This is not how the Lord intended His church to be. All who have received His grace gift of eternal life are enlisted to turn away from the affairs of this life and to serve Him in His affairs; that is, making disciples regardless of the heat of battle. No chocolate soldiers in Christ’s church, please!

Seeking F.A.T. Christians

“… because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words …” 2 Chronicles 34:27

In our part of the world many people have become fat from the pleasures of this world. For the Christian, to be spiritually fat can be a good thing if we utilise the following acronym: F.A.T. God is seeking F.A.T. Christians: Christians who are Faithful, Available and Teachable.

 

Faithful: A key aspect of the Divine Nature is faithfulness. If God is not faithful to His word then we have nothing in which to trust. Those who are His people will also be faithful. Paul writes, “It is required of stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Jesus spoke a lot about faithfulness of His people in Matthew 24 and 25. Instructing Timothy in regard to the fulfilment of the Great Commission Paul writes, “The things you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

A faithful person is one who knows the truth from God’s word and then lives it out and passes it on. To know the truth is not enough as we see in the parable in Matthew 25:14-30. The reward for faithfulness is to be given more responsibility. Jesus said, “Well done good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21).

 

Available: To be available to Jesus means that He is the priority over everything in our lives. In Luke 9:59-62 we read that a man wanted to take care of his father until he died before following Jesus. Another wanted to delay by returning to his family. In both these cases the men had a priority over following Jesus. There delaying tactics may have resulted in them never following Jesus.

Jesus does not need advisors but much of our prayer would seem to be along that line. We ask that He physically heal this person, provide funds for another and relational healing for yet another. While we do pose these as requests outwardly, it is possible that inwardly we are actually advising Him how to run His church. It may be that many of us are available to Jesus but only in an advisory capacity. To be available to Jesus means that when He calls we come, when He sends, we go (James 2:20).

 

Teachable: A person who is teachable is always a humble person. Only the proud are unteachable. To be teachable does not mean that one should be gullible or without discernment. Quite the contrary (Acts 17:11).

Jesus (Matthew 28:20) and Paul (2 Timothy 2:2) both exhort those who are teachers to seek out people who are teachable. The reason is that they will then pass it on to future generations. It is a waste of time and effort to try and teach and disciple a person who is neither humble nor teachable.

A teachable person is also responsive to the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:12; John 14:26). The Holy Spirit resists the proud and unteachable (James 4:6). Let us be humble and teachable students of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful, available and teachable.

Watch out for the Thief

“Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” 2 John 8

John’s letter is a sober reminder that we are in spiritual warfare and if we drop our guard we will suffer loss both now and in eternity. Salvation is the gift of God so that is not what John is writing of here. In his first letter he mentions the spirit of antichrist and in this letter he revisits this subject.

The spirit of antichrist is a deceiver of believers (v 7) and through error deceives people into believing things that are untrue concerning Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “Whatever is only almost true is quite false and among the most dangerous of errors. Because being so near Truth, it is more likely to lead astray.”

If we allow the spirit of antichrist to lead us to believe false teaching concerning Jesus Christ, it will rob us of our present intimacy and fellowship with Jesus Christ and the joy that accompanies it. It will also cause us to be eternally short of where we might have been in intimacy with Jesus.

The spirit of antichrist will also cause defections from truth and love (v 10). Once deceived by false teaching a person will have defected to Satan’s cause. The only protection we have is to continue abiding in the doctrine of Christ. As Paul writes to Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

The spirit of antichrist also necessitates divisions and separations in the church (v 10). Separations are neither desired nor pleasant but because the spirit of antichrist is at work within the church it is sometimes necessary. We should not compromise the Gospel or doctrine of Christ for the sake of staying together. We must be discerning and discriminating. It is a sad thing that some churches, in an attempt to maintain numbers or grow, have sacrificed truth concerning Jesus Christ. The outcome is that people are deceived into defecting from Christ to serving antichrist and they are robbed of present joy and eternal reward. It is this reward that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ in and for eternity.

Teaching concerning Jesus Christ is so vital that it is the difference between heaven and hell; between being with Christ or antichrist. To diminish its importance will have eternal fatal consequences.

Daniel Webster wrote, “If truth is not diffused, error will be. If God and His word are not known and received, the devil and his will gain the ascendancy.” The church must hold fast to sound doctrine or its people will suffer great loss.

Love and truth always go together. To truly love others is to use truth to serve them in order that they might have full joy and receive a full reward.

An Immutable Fact

“… in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, …” Titus 1:2

If we begin reading the Bible from this standpoint, “God, who cannot lie,” we would fare much better in understanding God and accepting His word and promises. As children we found it so easy to trust. As the years went by we found that it was naive to blindly trust everyone. Can God be trusted? That is the question that Adam and Eve had to answer. Satan convinced them that God could not be trusted and so they trusted Satan instead. We must also choose but regardless of what we choose the fact that God cannot lie remains.

The writer of Hebrews writes that it is impossible for God to lie (6:18). Paul writes something similar in 2 Timothy 2:13 when he wrote “He [God] cannot deny Himself.” He cannot think, speak or act contrary to His Divine Nature. We see this characteristic in all creation. All creatures act according to their nature.

If we choose not to believe a person we are saying that they are either ignorant on the matter or that they are a liar. When we do not believe God we prove that we are children of Adam and following his trust in Satan.

Repentance for salvation is that act of choosing to cease not believing God and to believe His word. In doing this we reject our allegiance to Adam and attach our allegiance to Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 5).

Sadly, there are some who claim the name of Jesus Christ who do not accept all His words. Such a claim is a deceit and hypocrisy and infers that Jesus is either ignorant or a deceiver. Unbelief may be masked by mishandling the word of God. We can become very adept at twisting another person’s words to suit our cause. Paul writes that elders in the church should be able to express “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9; 2:1) so that the congregation may become “sound in the faith” (1:13; 2:2) through “sound speech” (2:8). The word of God is the authority that a teacher has. When he speaks the word of God faithfully he has “all authority” (2:15) but the moment he strays he has no authority.

Those who abuse the word of God may “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him” (1:16). Paul’s assessment is that they are, to God, detestable, disobedient and disqualified to serve Christ.

Let us make this an immutable fact in our minds, God does not and cannot lie. That is the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.

Respect for Authority

“Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22

For several decades ungodly people have been telling parents to allow their children freedom to choose their own way and not stifle them with the parent’s views on moral, ethical and social ways. The result is that we now have a generation of parents who have no basis and no knowledge of how to lead their children. The sad thing is that many Christians have bought into this lie. Reversing this trend will only come from within the church because the way back lies within the pages of our Bibles. The world, apart from Christ and God’s Word, can be described as the blind leading the blind.

Some adult victims of a wayward youth are demanding that parents be accountable for their children’s acts of violence and destruction but that misses the point and is at least one generation too late in my view.

Paul wrote of this situation nearly two thousand years ago, “In the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

No doubt all these characteristics were observable in Paul’s day but they were not universal as they have become now.

If children do not learn to respect and take note of their parent’s instruction when young they certainly won’t be inclined to do so in their teen years. If children are rebellious to parents and permitted to remain that way then they will extend that rebellion to all other authorities as they grow: schoolteachers; law enforcement; employers; government; God.

Without repentance they will end up spending many of their earthly days in prison and in hell eternally. Along the way they will make their lives and the lives of their parents and others a misery.

God’s commands, instructions and statutes relating to parenting are not given to make the life of parents and children impossible; exactly the opposite. The parents’ responsibility is to “Train up a child …” (Proverbs 22:6) not let a child find its own path.

Some years ago a young child ran from our church door along the footpath to the road. The speed limit on that road was 80kph. The child gleefully disobeyed the parents’ frantic cries to stop and kept on toward the speeding traffic. Several people set off in pursuit and that just encouraged the child in her game. This could have ended very badly but it shows the importance of training, dare I say disciplining, a child from birth.

If a child does not learn to respond to its parents instructions how will it learn to respond to other authorities and to the Lord? Children are different but observation has shown me that some children can be trained to respond to a parent’s instruction, from a distance, soon after they can walk. But the parents will have to start much earlier than that for that result. Correction is an act of love and it must be done out of love (Proverbs 3:11-12).