Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Studying God's Word: 1 Timothy Chapter 1:12-17

Reading through 1 Timothy, I was really encouraged with what Paul wrote to Timothy. Paul shares his life as an example of what the true Gospel looks like. I hope you take the time to read! It is an awesome passage.

1 Timothy 1:12-17
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The message Paul is trying to stress to Timothy is that Jesus came to save sinners:

Vs. 12 - Paul takes the opportunity to thank Christ for giving him the strength to be faithful to Him and because of that Christ has appointed Paul to work for his kingdom. He is an awe that God has given the opportunity to serve him despite his dark past, where he formerly slandered the name of Christ and was in unbelief. Paul is delighted in the fact he gets to share the love of Jesus.

Vs. 13 – I think a lot of have similar stories to Paul. Before our conversion to Christianity, we mocked the faith, and persecuted those who were in the faith. We knew who Jesus was but we could care less about the details. We took the Father lightly and found him as weak opposition
----BUT--- we received mercy BECAUSE of our ignorant belief..
That is CRAZY. Chew on that last sentence. The reason why God gave us mercy and brought us out of our ignorant unbelief is because we were idiots. There was NOTHING valuable about me and you for God to be like, “Wow, this guy is great, if I don’t have him then there is no hope for humanity.” That is the furthest thing from his mind! He found mercy with us because we were hopeless rejects. And because our God is infinitely great, he uses humbled rejects to show his redemptive mercy.
Paul shows that God uses us as an example that you can never do too much to outrun God’s mercy and grace.

Vs. 14 – And we received that mercy for the first time, the love of Christ overflowed us, and there was nothing left to say but, “I am yours.”
Paul describes this passage in more depth in Galatians 2:20. Once he had received the mercy and grace of Christ, he no longer lived for himself, but devoted his life to Christ.

Vs. 15 – If Paul was alive today he would probably say, “Hey, you know that cliché statement that Jesus came to save sinners? Well, it is true. Just look at me, I have done everything you could possibly do wrong. I murdered, slandered and persecuted the Church. If anybody deserved Hell, It would be me. And yet he loved me!”

Vs. 16 – And because of vs. 15, Paul is certain that this is the reason he received salvation. So that Jesus could show his perfect patience to those who call on His name, no matter what they have done.

Vs. 17 – We give thanks to God for giving us the Law of Christ. He truly is the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Does Jesus Really Matter?

What about Jesus? Is he still relevant? We are still going to church. Sometimes Jesus is hanging on the walls there, but we go for the social event and to punch a hole in our get to heaven cards for the most part. Is it just me, or does everyone get uncomfortable when Jesus gets brought up in a casual conversation?

Maybe there was a time in your life you were on fire for Jesus. You went to a youth revival and the guy speaking to you said God is only love and wants you to be happy and have nice things. After the event, you were on a spiritual high for about two weeks, and then you were quickly back to where you started, not caring.

Growing up in a small town in Alabama, you are immediately submerged in religion. At a young age, you probably saw a really bad reenactment of what Hell is going to be like, so that scared you to “salvation”. You said the sinner's prayer and learned to not curse, smoke, drink, or chew, and you were set for the rest of your life. We treat Jesus like a pal or a good teacher, but not a Savior.

For a place called the Bible Belt, I have never seem so many people who are indifferent about the guy who claimed to be God and claimed to die for our imperfections. This leads me to think that those who are indifferent have never heard the Gospel fully and truthfully. I believe if someone hears the Gospel in all of its glory and the repercussions of it, then that someone would totally oppose it or copiously commit to Christ.

CS Lewis wrote many books including the series The Chronicles of Narnia.

I think former atheist and great theologian C.S. Lewis describes the state of indifference to Jesus best in his book Mere Christianity. “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus): I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” Lewis said. “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Summarizing his statement Lewis makes it pretty clear. Jesus was either Lord, liar, or lunatic. If anyone would make the claim the he was something else would be foolish.

There is an argument Jesus could have been a lunatic, but usually lunatics do not have the following Jesus had. Mad cap people usually do not keep their following for 2,000 plus years either.

Jesus could not just be a great moral teacher the way he taught. In Scripture, there were multiple accounts of Jesus claiming and agreeing to be God (Mark 14:60-62, Matt. 26: 63-65, Luke 22:67-70). If he claimed to be God, but was not the Christ, He would have mislead billions to Hell. Does that sound like a great moral teacher to you?

Could it be that it is true who Jesus said he was? God came down to earth to save the ones he loved, and how could we ever remain indifferent about that? We must choose a side, and to be indifferent is senseless.

Dr. Timothy Keller, pastor of New York's Redeemer Presbyterian Church said, “The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. God is not indifferent to his people.” God is not indifferent to his people, so why would we ever be indifferent to our Creator?

Jesus matters.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why Can't I Stay Happy?

You are having the perfect day. Everything seems to be going your way. Class is cancelled. You were able to catch up on your rest. You actually enjoyed going to the gym.  Someone was kind and bought your lunch, and "Fancy" did not come on the radio once. You have not been this happy in a while, and then it happened.

Someone says something negative to you, and your day is ruined. You are mad, and there is no turning back. How did this happen? The simple answer would be that your attitude changed, but the root of the problem is internal.

Our hearts are designed for extreme satisfaction, but even happiness is too fickle of an emotion to fulfill us. As my example in the previous paragraph, our happiness can be ruined in a split second.

Is there anything out there that can gratify us ceaselessly?

Let's take a glance at the Apostle Paul, as he was writing a letter to the church of Philippi (This letter later became a book in the Bible known as Philippians).

 Now, if there was anybody who had the right to complain to his friends about how unhappy he was, it would be Paul.

While writing the letter to the church, Paul was beaten, thrown into prison, and was in chains for casting a demon out of a woman. Riots with murderous intent were formed against him in the cities he visited because he liked to talk about a guy named Jesus. I think Paul would be the winner of the worst day stories amongst your friends.

So what does Paul write to his friends? He writes of how encouraged he is from them, and how he longs to see them again. That is exactly what you thought he would say right? He then talks about how much joy he has, and how he considers everyone better then himself. It makes me question my response if I was in Paul's situation

As I read the book of Philippians, I can not help but notice how many times Paul uses the words "joy" and "rejoice" in this small book. Paul was probably not happy about his unlucky circumstances, but this guy was rejoicing in the midst of all this persecution because he knew there was some greater purpose than himself.

The reason why Paul was able to be content in every situation was because he had found the only thing that satisfies eternally, Jesus. Paul realized that happiness comes and goes, but the joy of Christ lasts forever

There is hope in the cross, and there is satisfaction in Christ. Do not think that Jesus only works for Paul and a few other people.

There is a reason you are not happy with your appearance. There is a reason you are always wanting to buy the next big thing, and you become bored with it. The girlfriend or boyfriend that you thought would complete you has not come close. Pornography and parties have become monotonous, and no matter how much your favorite sports team wins, it is never enough.

We keep trying to fill the gap in our hearts with hollow things, but Jesus is the only person or thing that can make us whole. Christ satisfies and desires your affections.

As for me, I long for you to experience the joy and hope Paul had in the One who satisfies

Friday, September 6, 2013

The American Dream Misleads Many

In 1931, James Truslow Adams wrote a book, The Epic of America, that would forever change the perception of American culture.

In his book, Adams says, "That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." This was Adam's American dream, and his concept spread rapidly among the states.

The American Dream
The thought of prosperity, material things, and the ideal job has enticed the hearts of Americans, and through the generations, we have developed a sense of entitlement. A man consumes his life with what he desire the most, and for Americans, it is the American dream.

Most of us have aspirations to get a great job, get married, buy a nice house, have two kids, go to church on Sundays, get a dog, and live happily ever after, but will this really make us happy? Is 401K plans and retiring with a surplus amount of money the pinnacle of satisfaction?

If I took a survey of people who saw the American dream as a positive thing, I would assume that many of those people would claim to be Christians, but it leads me to wonder what would Jesus think of the American dream.

The more I read the Bible, the more I see that pursuing this innocent dream has actually become a huge distraction to the most important thing in the world.

When I read about the young rich man in the book of Matthew, I shutter. This man had done everything right. He then asked Jesus what else he could do, and Jesus replied,“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This man had everything and yet had nothing because he did not have the affections of the Christ. Today, this rich young man would have been your average American. An avid church goer, who probably would have had a great job, and lived out the American dream to perfection, but when Christ told him to give up everything and follow Him, he was stopped dead in his tracks.

The man was so consumed with his material possessions, he was blinded to the glory that Jesus was offering him and he walked away sad. Why would a man who had everything this world could offer, walk away sad?

Some of us read this passage and gladly thank Jesus that he has not called us to give up everything, but in reality, He has. When Jesus says,"Follow me." He never wanted your half-hearted attention, but a life long devotion. 

The American dream will never satisfy our hearts. C.S. Lewis puts it best when he says,“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

I long for a generation that sees past the superficiality of the American dream and will go to whatever lengths to follow Jesus and spread the Gospel. This is the most important thing in the world. I pray that many would come to the realization that Lewis did. There is something worth so much more than living for worldly desires.

As for the American dream, it can go to hell, where it is leading so many.