Over the weekend, I have been sharing this short series on the rich man and Lazarus. Here is the final instalment, and I hope you find it challenging and encouraging.
I hope to return tomorrow with some new material so watch out for that!￼￼￼
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/09/07/the-rich-man-and-lazarus-pt-3/
I used to go fishing with my dad as a boy, but it has been many years since I last tried my hand at catching the aquatic kind! Hopefully not so long since I tried to be a fisher of men.
I enjoyed this post from last week, so I thought I would share it with you this morning.
When fishing, we cast our lines into the water. We may try different techniques and experience can help us improve our catching rate. but we have little control about which fish actually take the bait.
Likewise, in evangelism, some techniques are more effective than others, and yet it is not us who brings the person to salvation. Only the guidance and conviction of the holy spirit can bring a person to saving faith.
I hope you enjoy the post, and it gives you pause for thought. God bless
Earlier this week, my husband and I went fishing. As we were enjoying our time on the lake, and catching a few fish, I was reminded of the old song I…
Last week I wrote a post called – Precious Faith – which looked at the opening words of Peter’s second letter. Having reminded his readers of his slavery and apostleship, and the like precious faith they share, Peter continues.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)
Living A Godly Life
In his opening, Peter tells us that we share a faith given to us by God. Likewise here, we see another example of what God has given to us. Namely, everything!
Well, not strictly true… although I once heard a preacher say that this verse does mean just that. That God has given us everything we might want, need or desire. If we were not fallen, sinful creatures, then that might not be so bad.
Peter, however, does not mean literally everything but rather qualifies his words. God, by His power, has given us everything we need for “living a godly life.” God has indeed blessed us richly, and gives us what we need that we might live godly lives. He does not empower us to commit sin, nor to swallow up all we want in selfish greed.
It can be very difficult to be a Christian in today’s world. Some days it feels like we live on a different planet to the rest of the population. We are criticised, laughed at and persecuted, and at times it can feel almost impossible to live in a godly way.
Yet, Peter would encourage us by reminding us of what we have been given – everything! We can do it, because we have what we need. This is not to depend on ourselves to live righteously, but instead to draw on that “divine power” that the Holy Spirit brings. We live godly because we follow Christ, and want to be like Him. We have courage to stand out from the world even if it costs us something.
Verse 3 continues by saying we have received all of thins by coming to know Him – that is, the One who has called us by His marvellous glory and excellence. So, this means that we receive this as we come to know Jesus Christ. It is not received in church attendance, daily devotionals, doing good works (as profitable as those things are), but it is also about knowing Christ.
I am reminded of Paul’s words from Philippians:
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ
Philippians 3:8 (NLT)
I have been challenged lately by asking myself how Christlike I am. I often do not feel a whole lot like Him, and as I examine what it means to be like Him, I have to first truly know Him. I challenge you in the same way today; are you Christlike? How well do you know Jesus?
Last time, we thought about the precious faith we share, and now Peter points to precious promises.
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)
Because of His glory, because of how excellent Christ is, He has bestowed upon us promises as precious as our faith.
These promises allow us to share in Christ’s nature, and that is also what allows us to become Christlike. I hasten to point out that these promises are not given to us because we are good, have earned them or are superior to anyone else; no, they are given to us simply because we know the Lord.
The corruption of the world is what I touched on earlier. We are surrounded by sinfulness, and temptation seems to appear from every direction. How can we Christians escape such wickedness and not be overwhelmed by it? By receiving these very valuable promises, by drawing on Christ and all His strength and abiding in Him (as a branch linked to a vine) we can deny human (sinful) desire and seek the Spirit’s lead.
Practically, what does this all mean?
Put simply, I believe these verses point us back to God’s Word. We find these precious promises in the Bible. We come to know Christ fully as we see Him revealed in Scripture. As we study the Word, it changes us from the inside out and, over time, we become more like the Lord we serve.
Seek out those promises today. Read the Gospels and learn about who Jesus is. As you do so, you will be eternally blessed.
We are often discouraged from using sharp words when talking to others. It is usually meant by this that we Christians should talk to people with gentleness and humility, and not to be rude, hard or harsh. This is all quite true, but not the point of my post today.
I instead want to think about another form of sharp words:
For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 There is no creature that is hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.
Hebrews 4:12-13 WEB
The Bible, here called the Word of God, is a sharp word. While it is never intended to be harsh, it can be a difficult pill to swallow at times.
These verses tell us that the Word is both living and active. To be “living and active” means that the Bible is not some ancient, dead or irrelevant work with no bearing on life today. The culture may have changed, but the Word has not, yet this does not make it outdated. God does not change, and neither does His Word. Our design and purpose as humans has remained the same, even if the world around us is different from what it once was.
If you want to know your purpose, and if you want to know how to live well on this Earth, then you will need to engage with this living Word. It teaches us who God is. It tells us how we ought to live. It instructs us in how to please our Creator. It sets out how we can be saved from our sin, and be united with Christ for all eternity. There is nothing more relevant; nothing more necessary.
The Word of God is sharp, indeed sharper than a two-edged sword. It can pierce. It can divide.
When we venture into sin, the Bible can pierce our hearts. That stab of guilt and shame we feel as we face our sinfulness is found only in knowing we have fallen short of God’s standards. The Word does not condemn us, but it does convict, prompting us to change. Condemnation leads only to death, but conviction through the Word and the Spirit leads to life. Practically, if your feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin lead you away from God, then that is condemnation. If they spur you on to live better and follow Him more deeply, then that is conviction.
The Word of God can divide. It separates flesh from spirit, showing us when our desires are selfish or selfless. It discerns, as it says above, between the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. This is a key point. Too many of us do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. We pray loudly and earnestly in front of others, hoping they will think us saintly. We sing loudly and robustly in church, while at the same time wondering what we will eat for lunch. We bless our brother or sister in Christ, then tear them down with gossip over coffee the next day.
The Bible reveals all such things to us. It is a mirror that we can gaze deeply into, and as we do, it will show us not just where our actions fall short, but where our heart does as well. The wonderful thing about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (from Matthew 5-7) is that He shows us that the thoughts of our heart are every bit as important as our actions.
If you look lustfully on someone who is not your spouse, then you commit adultery. Even if you do not physically go near them, your heart betrays you as you have gone there in your mind. To hate your brother is the same as killing them, as surely to hate is to wish someone dead. Such thoughts are every bit as bad as their corresponding actions.
Verse 13, quoted above, tells us that we are naked before Him to whom we must give an account. This means there is no place to hide. We cannot push our sins under the rug and hope He does not notice them. All will be uncovered; the good we did with wrong motives, and the good we did not do for similar reasons.
That is why the Bible is a sharp word. It forces us to face ourselves and a level of honesty most of us do not dare enter.
If you find this difficult, then that is exactly right. If the thought of exposing your heart makes you uncomfortable, then you are feeling precisely the correct emotion. If our sinfulness does not make us squirm, then we have not fully understood it, nor our need for a Saviour.
If our sinfulness does not make us squirm, then we have not fully understood it, nor our need for a #Saviour. #Jesus #Bible #Christianity #sin
The poisonous feelings of guilt and shame must lead us to the antidote – and His name is Jesus. As we gaze into the Bible, it shows us of our need of rescue and points us to the One who indeed saves.
The sharp words ought to make us turn more fully to God. We cannot approach Him in our own merit, but instead come to Him cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.
As you study Scripture, try not to stick with your favourite passages or books. Look at the parts of the Bible that challenge you. If you notice you are falling short in some way, rejoice that God has shown you and then work with Him to come up higher. Instead of feeling guilty about your failures, turn them into reasons to praise God for sending His Son to save you.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 WEB
Praise God that He has given us His precious Son that we might be freed from all guilt and shame. Thank God for His Word, sharp as it may be at times, that shows us the way of salvation.
While the phrase is weeping and gnashing of teeth are not entirely encouraging, they are important biblical concepts. this blog post offers some interesting insights into their meaning, and some more general thoughts on this particular parable which I will encourage you to read.
I do not like to share posts too often, as I do not want to weary my readership! But there are some truly amazing writers on WordPress, so do explore for yourselves and find them!
Weddings are awesome, but sometimes full of tension and surprises. To plan a wedding is one of the more complex projects I have been involved with. …
As I prepared for today’s post, I realised that I probably should have included Proverbs 2:9 in with the article called – When Wisdom. It fits better with the earlier parts of chapter two, but one of the keys to Proverbs is to review, review and review again! Some parts are repetitive for good reason, helping us to remember what we have learned.
So let’s use verse 9-10 as a refresher from our earlier studies on chapter two.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
equity and every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter into your heart.
Knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Proverbs 2:9-10 (WEB)
The “Then” kicking off verse 9 reminds us that this is part of a continuing thought. The first part of chapter two presents us with a series of “if” statements directing us to choose wisdom or not.
Verses 5-8, and now 9 also, tell us the “then” – i.e. if we choose wisdom, then what?
Verse 9 summarises that we if we choose wisdom, we will understand righteousness and justice. We understood from previous texts that righteousness is not merely doing right, but being in right standing with God. Proverbs 1:3 rings familiar, speaking also of justice and equity, as verse 9 above does.
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
Proverbs 1:3 (WEB)
In some ways, Solomon is continuing to build his case for wisdom, making these points time and again, hoping they will, as verse 10 says, enter into our hearts. Our hearts can be hard at times, and it may take many thrusts of wisdom’s piercing to break through. When it does though, finally we may take pleasure in the knowledge of these things in our inner man or soul.
11 Discretion will watch over you.
Understanding will keep you,
12 to deliver you from the way of evil,
from the men who speak perverse things,
Proverbs 2:11-12 (WEB)
Verses 11-15 can be summed up in two phrases: 1) Discretion and understanding will keep and protect you, from what? From… 2) Men of evil who speak perversity.
The author piles word upon word about the depths of such men’s depravity, speaking of:
Their evil ways – v12
Their perverse speech – v12
Their ways of darkness – v13
Their rejoicing in evil – v14
And so on…
We might describe them simply as “bad men!”
Such descriptions might make you feel somewhat uneasy. In my mind, I picture a very dark alley in a not so nice part of town where such men might lurk in wait for me. The imagery is powerful, and is intended to send a shiver down our spine!
You may live in relative safety. A nice home, a friendly neighbourhood, and little if any crime to speak of. Yet we ought not to be fooled by the depths of sinfulness in the human heart. Very few of us would consider ourselves as “evil” but equally few would volunteer their inmost thoughts or secret sins. We have all fallen short, and ultimately anything that is not holy is evil to some extent.
Wisdom guards us though. Good judgement tells me not to walk down a dark alley at night, nor to drink heavily or take drugs before driving. Good sense, derived by wisdom, helps me to make sensible choices that do not risk my own life or that of others.
While wisdom cannot prevent all and every eventuality, it can drastically reduce the likelihood of falling prey to evil (be it others’ or our own).
While #wisdom cannot prevent all and every eventuality, it can drastically reduce the likelihood of falling prey to #evil (be it others’ or our own). #Bible #Christianity
even from the foreigner who flatters with her words,
Proverbs 2:16 (WEB)
Having warned us of the dangers of evil men, the chapter turns to warnings about a “strange woman.” This word “strange” is translated as “forbidden,” “immoral,” and “adulterous” in other versions of the Bible, and are perhaps more helpful adjectives.
We find ourselves, for the first time in Proverbs, dealing with a subject which will come up again and again in this book – adultery.
The strange woman here depicted in these verses is an image of temptation. She flatters and seduces, exploiting our fleshly desires. We may think adultery risks our marriage and family, and of course it does, but to start down this path leads to destruction (see verses 18 and 19).
To dabble in adultery, and even to indulge any form of sin, risks our very lives. That is how serious we should treat it. Proverbs 6:27 asks if a man can embrace fire and not have his clothes burned? The obvious answer is no!
I cannot emphasise enough the dangers of sin. We may think it’s just a little lie, or I’m only stealing a pen, or we’re just going out for coffee… and before you know it, you are trapped in sin’s clutches.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James 1:15 (ESV)
It all starts with desire. As that desire grows, it leads to sin. And sin, once fully developed brings forth death! We think we can “play” with desires, but one thing leads to another and before long, we are drowning in iniquity.
Don’t let that be you dear reader! Don’t dabble with desire, don’t go near the strange woman nor the evil men. Let wisdom guard your ways, and employ common sense! In the heat of the moment you may want to give in to temptation, but wisdom asks if you will want to live with the consequences later.
Let wisdom enter your heart today, and steer well clear of any wrongdoing!