Matthew 10:32-39: Priorities and the Gospel

Read: Matthew 10:32-39

Everyone has seen the emails “Forward this to 10 people, or else…” or the social media posts that say “share” then these emails proceed to (mis)quote Matthew 10:32-33. Taken out of context, one might get the impression that Jesus will deny anyone who denies him before the Father, such that that person would be condemned to hell for doing so. This, however, stands in contrast to what Jesus says concerning salvation: those who are saved can’t be snatched away (John 10:27-29, Romans 8:33-39). In the context, Jesus is talking about the process of disciple making and the persecution one endures while proclaiming the gospel, not justification. Jesus had just reminded the disciples of the value that each one of them had to the Father. The “denial” before the Father here is concerned with the rewards for faithfulness that one receives for being obedient to the call of God.

Verses 32-33 come right before another difficult passage where Jesus uses some rather harsh language. Jesus proclaims that he didn’t come to bring peace, rather to bring a sword. This is another text that, if read out of context, could be construed to imply that Jesus wants people to hate their mother and father.  He quotes from Micah 7:6, which is set in the middle of a prophesy concerning a tumultuous time when several long-established institutions will be turned on their head. One’s family will be his or her enemy and one’s former foes will be his family.  This proverbial sword, which is the gospel, will cause dissention in families. Those living in places with intense persecution of Christians understand this: families will reject the one who chooses to follow Christ. When one chooses to follow Christ – his or her allegiance is to Christ in spite of everything. The division isn’t because a Christian doesn’t want to love his or her mother or father, rather it’s the other way around. Jesus includes many other paradoxical statements here as well: one who doesn’t carry a cross –the despicable act of a criminal — isn’t “worthy” of Christ and one who loses his life will find it.

Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus command his followers to hate people for his sake, but he does give ample warning that those who do follow Christ will be hated on his account. The call to live for Christ comes at a cost, and sometimes that cost is high – including family. The promise here is that those that find Christ will find a new family in other believers and a new life in Christ. For this reason, it is important to be meaningfully connected to a body of believers so that when persecution does come – and it will – one can endure it with others rather than try to go through it alone and be encouraged (Hebrews 10:24-26).

Lord, help me to be faithful!

 

Matthew 10:24-31: Do Not Fear!

Three times Jesus says “Do not fear”:

  • The first time in verse 26 is looking in response to those who will call malign a Christian falsely, as they did with Jesus when they said he was the prince of demons, Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). In a manner of speaking, Jesus says there is no need to fear because their falsity will be brought into the light – that is it will be revealed.
  • The second is found in verse 28, where Jesus says they ought not fear those who will kill them either. He justifies this, saying that they can really only kill the body, not the soul. But God who is the judge of all call kill the body and soul.
  • The third time comes after and admonition concerning the value of a person. Jesus here makes an argument to the greater saying that if a sparrow worth only a penny is worth something to God, how much more is the person worth to God – it’s really beyond measure and nothing misses his view.

In the context of Christianity, there are two kinds of a “fear”. The first is the “fear of the Lord”. This sort of fear is a “good” fear, and really can be equated with faith. Jesus speaks to this fear whenever he says that one shouldn’t fear the one who can destroy only the body. Proverbs 1:7 starts with this idea: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The second sort of fear is of circumstances that is actually the antithesis of faith. One who fears circumstances, especially when circumstances present themselves as a challenge to faith is actually lacking faith.

The context in which Jesus is speaking about this fear is in light of persecution. The persecution that Christians endure can cause them to want to shrink back. The writer of Hebrews wrote to a persecuted group of believers who were being tempted to abandon their faith. To them, he reminds them to hold fast because of the blessing that come as a result of faith – a rich reward (Hebrews 10:32-39). When persecution does come, Christians should think about the future glory, not about the temporal circumstances and be encouraged to keep on.

Lord, help me to not fear, but have faith in you!

Matthew 10:16-23: Persecution

Read: Matthew 10:16-23

Persecution for Jesus’ name sake is given in the Scriptures. Timothy says that anyone wanting to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus gives a lot of practical advice to his disciples after he sends them out. He tells them to expect persecution, to not worry about what to say because the Holy Spirit would provide what was needed, and to flee when persecution arises.

Indeed, much of this happened in the New Testament times:

  • The apostles were flogged for speaking about Jesus (Acts 5:49, Acts 22:19, Acts 26:11, 2 Corinthians 11:24-25).
  • The apostles were put on trial before councils, kings, and governors (Acts 12:1-4, Acts 22:33-34, Acts 24-26).
  • When the apostles were on trial, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke boldly about Jesus (Acts 4:8-14, Acts 5:29-34, Acts 7:55-56, Acts 26:1-11)
  • When persecution arose, the disciples scattered (Acts 8:1, Acts 9:24-25, Acts 13:50-51, Acts 14:6-7, Acts 14:19-20, Acts 17:10-14, Acts 20:1)

Persecution has existed in the church since the earliest days of Christianity and has been a constant theme throughout all of Christian history, even until today. Western Christianity has for the most part a long period of peace, free from hostility towards Christians, but the hostility is beginning to grow. Globally, research shows even now that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, and as the Day draws near, this trend will only get worse for Christians everywhere.

There are several appropriate ways Christians can respond to persecution.

  • When it does arise, when possible flee from it. Christians aren’t called to have a martyr complex where they are looking to get themselves killed for the sake of Christ, rather they should have a heart to want to share the gospel with as many people as possible for the sake of Christ.
  • Pray for those who are persecuted and pray for those who do the persecuting (Matthew 5:44). This can be hard at times, especially when one is receiving the persecution. But God has called every Christian to love his or her enemy and pray for them when they revile the believer.
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit and be joyful (Matthew 5:10-12) Jesus says that those who are persecuted are actually blessed. This is paradoxical, but knowing that there is a God who is in control and blesses those who remain faithful gives reason to be joyful

Enduring persecution takes great faith. All the apostles except John died a martyr’s death. Paul spent much of his later years writing letters from a jail cell. Even today, Christians all over globe are persecuted for the sake of Christ. The call though is to be faithful see it through, knowing that God will reward those who do!

Lord, help me to endure persecution!

 

Matthew 5:2-12: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2

  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Looking on God meant one thing to the hearers of this beatitude: death. Nevertheless, here Jesus says that the ones who are pure in heart will be able to see God. Moses asked God to see his glory, but God tells him that no one can look on God and live (Exodus 33:18-23). The ability to be pure in heart is not something at man can do on his own accord, rather requires the forgiveness of God. Isaiah recognized this when he encountered God (Isaiah 6:1-8). He recognized his sin and repented, and it was at this point that the angel touched his lips with a coal that symbolically purged him. In the same way, when one comes to God in a repentant heart, he or she can also see God because God makes the heart pure. This idea is like a hand in glove along with meekness before God, because both require one to be humble and pure for God to exalt them (James 4:7-10).
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. If there ever was an ultimate peacemaker, it is God himself. Psalm 46 describe God as being the one who will put an end to wars and conflicts on the earth even though they are in uproar. In a manner of speaking, those that do the same on a less cosmic scale are like God in that respect when they make help broker peace. James describes selfishness as the cause of strife, yet righteousness begets peace (James 3:16-18). Righteousness comes when one comes to the end of oneself and find God there waiting with arms wide open to with forgiveness to those that will receive it by faith, and peace is made with God (Romans 5:1). When one becomes a Christian, he or she becomes Christlike, who is the Son of God, and help broker peace among men and peace between God and men.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The psalmist in Psalm 140 though feels the expresses great angst because of the wickedness that is being inflicted upon. Yet while he feels this angst, he also understands that God is his strength and refuge. There are a few things in the Bible that are assured, and persecution is one of them. Paul summarily says that all that desire to live a godly life will be persecuted, plain and simple (2 Timothy 3:12). While persecution isn’t easy, there is a reward, and Jesus promises this. James 1:2-5 opens his epistle with a supplication to encourage his readers to press on, because persecution does bring about perfection. While persecution is guaranteed for Christians, it is far better to know Christ and endure for his sake it than to not know Christ. The rewards for it may not be seen this side of heaven, but the benefits can be when one is strengthened in his or her character and ultimately can praise God for it.

Lord, help me to pursue you so I can find happiness!

Luke 6:20-28: Blessings and Woes

Read: Luke 6:20-28

Luke’s account of the “Beatitudes” includes only four of the 8 that are included in Matthew 5:1-12. But unlike Matthew, Luke includes four parallel “woes” that accompany each of the 4 beatitudes that he lists. Luke’s list seems supportive of one of his overarching themes, which is a gospel for the marginalized people in society, which in his days would include woman, the poor, lepers, and Gentiles.

  • Wealth and Poverty (verses 20 and 24): Jesus says those that are poor are blessed because they will have the kingdom of heaven, but pronounces a woe on the rich because they have their “consolation”. Interesting, the New Testament uses the same root word in the Greek, “paráklēsis” which is translated “consolation” to describe the Holy Spirit and his role with believers. He is called the “helper” (John 14:26, John 16:7, John 16:14). The woe here is not against being wealthy, rather trusting in one’s wealth for security. Likewise, one who finds pride in being poor is no better. The admonishment of the New Testament is to use wealth for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6) with one’s wealth and to be content in ones circumstances (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11).
  • Plenty and Hunger (verses 21a and 25a): Jesus says those that hunger will be filled but those that are full will be hungry. Matthew 5:10 account adds “for righteousness”. The same inheritance is given to these as is to the poor, namely the kingdom of heaven. Here again, the admonition isn’t to go about being hungry or be prideful in one’s hunger, rather find contentment in one’s circumstances, and as for those that have food he or she should be willing to share it with those who do not have food (Psalm 146:5-7, Matthew 5:42-43, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:15-17, Matthew 25:35-40).
  • Rejoicing and Mourning (verses 21b and 25b): Inevitably, there will be time for laughter and a time for mourning. For the Christian though, contentment again is great gain, and the call to rejoice in all circumstances goes out (1 Thessalonians 5:16) . The Christian condition is ultimately victorious even though temporal circumstances may be tough. In almost ever instance the command “rejoice” is found in the New Testament, it is done in the context of adversity A few references include 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10, John 16:22, Acts 5:41, Acts 16:25, Romans 5:2-3, Hebrews 10:34, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 4:13. The theme of great joy in the midst of grave circumstances is one of the marks of great faith in the one who does bring comforter.
  • Persecution (verses 22 and 26): There were not a lot of things that Jesus said would be certain for the disciples, but persecutions for his name sake was one of them (John 15:18-26. 2 Timothy 3:12-13). The disciples came to understand this to the point where there considered it a joy to be counted worthy to suffer (Acts 5:41). 1 Peter 4:12-19 says that one should not consider suffering to be something that is “strange”. The implication was that it would be “strange” to not have such persecution coming down on people. God is not calling people to seek out martyrdom (Matthew 10:23), but when persecution does come one is called to rejoice in spite of it. But to those who reject the message of Christ, they will be judged.

There is no guarantee that Christian life is an easy life and whoever says otherwise is selling a false gospel. Jesus did not call Christians to a life of comfort, but rather to expect a life of affliction for his name sake. For most American Christians, this isn’t the case, but for Christians around the world, persecution is real and intense, and those that do follow Christ suffer poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution of all types. In the event that one doesn’t suffer like this though, he or she should be about the work of comforting the poor, needy, mourning, and persecuted and praying that through their faith a harvest will come!

Lord, in spite of all the evil in this world, help me to rejoice and praise you!

Hebrews 13:1-18: “Outside the Gate”

Read: Hebrews 13:1-18

If one could produce a list of similar to the 10 Commandments in the New Testament, Hebrews 13 could probably suffice. In this chapter, the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers with a number of commands to follow that are in line with Christian principles:

  1. Love one another (v1).
  2. Be hospitable to strangers (v2). You very well may be entertaining angels!
  3. Remember those in prison (v3). This is probably talking about those who had been imprisoned for the same of the gospel such as Paul and Timothy.
  4. Honor marriage (v4).
  5. Be free from the love of money (v5).
  6. Remember, obey and imitate your leaders (v7, v17).
  7. Stay true to the teachings of Jesus (v8-9)
  8. Pray for the author (18-19). Apparently, he had been sent away or taken away for some reason, perhaps imprisoned.
  9. Praise God with worship and service to others (v15-16)

In the midst of these commands, the author of Hebrews makes one final doctrinal point concerning the sacrifice of bulls that are made in the tabernacle. Part of the blood and parts of the bull were used as a sin sacrifice, but the rest of the body was taken outside the camp and burned. When Jesus made his sacrifice though, the entire sacrifice was made outside the camp – his blood along with his entire body. The location is key here, because Jesus was ultimately rejected by the religious establishment of his day. Nevertheless, it was through his sacrifice that people are sanctified. In light of this sacrifice, the author encourages his readers to offer “sacrifices” of praise to God and good deeds to others. These are the sorts of sacrifices pleasing to God anyways (Micah 6:7-8).

Christian ideas and principles aren’t always accepted in every culture in every time. Nevertheless, in the same manner Jesus suffered “outside the gate”, Christians ought to suffer scorn even when their ideas aren’t popular. But what awaits Christians when they meet Jesus face to face is of much greater value than anything that being accepted by the world can offer. Knowing this can help encourage Christians as they walk through life, keeping Christ’s commands and holding fast to the promises he has given.

Lord, you weren’t popular when you came, but you endured for my sake!
Help me to do no less for your sake!

Hebrews 11:31-38: Faith in the Good Times and the Bad Times

Read: Hebrews 11:31-38

“Time will fail” if the author of Hebrews took the time to recount all the deeds of the faithful throughout the generations. Rather than list their deeds, he hastily records half a dozen names then makes some generalized remarks concerning these deeds. It appears though that the deeds he lists are exclusive to the names and summaries that he gave, rather some of the deeds were probably the deeds of his contemporaries such as Stephen, Peter, John, and Paul who all experienced intense persecution and some even martyred because of their faith.

Interestingly, the author divides these verses into two types of faith. The first type of faith is the the victorious faith of those who conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, and received back their dead among a host of others victorious deeds. The second type of faith is seemingly not-so-victorious faith of those who received intense persecution through beatings, imprisonments, and even martyrdom. The author of Hebrews is intentional for his inclusion of both to encourage his readers that faith is not contingent upon the outcome in the world. The recipients of the letter were being pressured because of their faith, and some had abandoned it (Hebrews 10:25-26) and were perhaps looking for some sort of miraculous deliverance. But even so, author reminds his readers that they haven’t suffered to the point of death yet (Hebrews 12:4). Regardless of what happens, their faith is in something better – more eternal and lasting than what the world has to offer. The author even goes as far to say that those who received the intense persecution were men “of whom the world was not worthy”. Their faith was of far greater value than anything the world could offer.

Whether one is celebrating victories in the faith or one is facing troubled times where there seems to be no end in sight, one can be faithful. Job, in spite of his affliction, makes one of the greatest statements of faith in the whole of Scripture when he acknowledges, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) Regardless of what he was experience, he remained faithful to God. In the same manner, Christians too can bless God!

Lord, help my faith be steadfast in the good times and the bad!

Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

The Preacher’s admonition to obey the king comes sandwiched between the accolade to wisdom and the warning on the limitation of wisdom. The Preacher gives a number of observations concerning one’s relationships to the king when one is on the presence of the king:

  • Do not be in a hurry to leave the presence of the king. Being in the presence of the king, so it seems, is a matter of importance. One should not be hasty to leave, as this could show disrespect for the one in authority.
  • Do not stand up for bad cause. This almost goes without saying, but the Preacher qualifies it saying that the King will do as he pleases concerning matters. In matters of procedure, one should exercise wisdom on choosing the causes one wants to advocate and not advocate.
  • The one who obeys the king avoids harm. The text here is talking about matters of proper times and procedure – that is, in a matter of court. Related to being hasty, one should do what is necessary in terms of procedure so that there can be no mistake made concerning the issues at hand or the importance of a matter being addressed by the procedures.

The Bible commands Christians to submit to governments. Governments that exist are established by God and the ones in authority are God’s servants for good. One that rebels against them brings judgment on themselves. The ones who do what is right are really the ones who are free from the government because governments exercise the most authority over those that break the laws rather than follow them (Romans 13:1-7). But one has to realize though that the ultimate authority for government is God – that is even those one authority are still subject God’s authority. Sometimes, men in positions of authority make commands that run contrary to the commands of God. In these cases, one has to ask, does one obey man or does one obey God? On two occasions the disciples were brought before the authorities and told not to preach about Jesus. On both occasions, the disciples said that they must obey God rather than man, and they did so (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:27-32).

When Ecclesiastes was written, perhaps the most common form of government was an absolute monarchy. The world has shifted away from absolute monarchies to more democratic forms of government. Even though the forms of government have changed, the principles taught concerning matters of procedure and due respect are no different. Democracy in many respects provides procedures for the people under authority to express their concerns and descent through petition, peaceful gatherings, and voting among other things. For this matter, Christians should exercise these civil liberties to help bring about change for the better and help empower people who represent the ways of God in government and ultimately in laws. But at the same time, some places do not have such liberties, and Christians who live under these circumstances have to ask the same sort of questions as the early disciples: does one obey men or God. Many choose God, and suffer greatly for it. Christians in places of religious freedom ought to pray for those who are persecuted. In all things whether one is living free or under persecution, people under authority should pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4, Matthew 5:44). God, who is the ultimate authority, will judge everyone who is under him.

Lord, I am under authority. Help me to recognize this and act in the appropriate manner!

 

2 Timothy 3:10-16: “Equipped for Every Good Work”

Read: 2 Timothy 3:10-16

After a strong warning of the sort of people to avoid, Paul shows Timothy the sort of person he should follow – none other than Paul himself. Paul was up in years by the this time, and had endured many hardships for the sake of the gospel. He endured persecution at Antioch, Lystra, and Iconium (Acts 13, 14). Nevertheless, Paul affirms that in all these places the Lord delivered him from the Persecution. Paul had gone to these places to spread the gospel and start churches, by he was met with fierce opposition. This basic pattern followed him pretty much everywhere he went, so much so that Paul makes a general statement concerning persecution: that those want to live lives of godliness in Jesus will endure persecution. And Paul is thinking that even the bad ones that he had finished describing will go from bad to worse. For Timothy, the worst was yet to come, even in the thick of things as they were for him in Ephesus.

Paul then encourages Timothy basically to stick to his guns. He says that Timothy had been taught the scripture sense his infancy which makes one “wise for salvation” in Jesus Christ. Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father (Acts 16:1). Not much is known concerning Timothy’s father, but in any case, the faith that he had been given came from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). The scriptures for them were what the Old Testament is in the Christian Bible, and this is what Timothy had been taught before he ever met Paul. These scriptures were what made one wise for Salvation in Jesus Christ, as the Old Testament spoke about Jesus (Luke 24:27). Paul then affirms the totality of scripture is “God-breathed”. The Greek word “θεοπνευστος” is as combination of the word for God and word for breath, and Paul uses this to describe the nature of scripture. In the manner in which breath comes from a person, so the scriptures come from God. For this reason, scripture is useful for a number of things: teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. Paul says that this is so the “man of God is equipped for every good work”. The good works stand in stark contrast to the evil that Paul had described earlier in the chapter (2 Timothy 3:1-9) and the importance of doing the word is reiterated by James 1:23. A person who merely studies the scripture and does not apply it to his or her life and live accordingly to it is like a person who looks in the mirror then forgets what he looks like.

For Christians, scriptures consist of the 27 books if the New Testament and the 39 books of the Old Testament. This is called the “canon” which means “measure”. What was included in the Bible as scripture was not something that was decided by an ad hoc council as many skeptics like to suggest. Exactly why the books of the New Testament were chosen is unknown, but there was surprising agreement among the early Christians what books were to be included when the New Testament was decided. Some scholars have proposed 4 criterion and on these criterion the council established the New Testament:

  • Apostolic Origin – that is the material was associated with one of the original apostles associated with Jesus.
  • Universal Acceptance – that is the book in question was widely accepted by a broad spectrum of early churches rather than a few.
  • Liturgical Use – the book was useful for worship and all matters, as Paul suggests, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
  • Consistent Message – the theology communicated in a book is consistent with other books.

For Christians today, there is also the question of closure to the Bible: is it complete? Any new material under the aforementioned criterion would not have Apostolic Origin if all the apostles have died. For this reason, it is reasonable to think that the New Testament was completed before the passing of the apostle. Any other “new inspiration” then is not possible.

The scriptures through the ages have proved themselves to stand up to scrutiny and have proven themselves to be effective standards by which to live by. Christians can therefore apply what Paul said concerning the scriptures of his day, the Old Testament, to the Christian New Testament and use it for training in righteousness. But Christians should also be about the work of applying scripture to one’s life all the time every day. This way one will not be like the one, as James describes, who forgets what he or she looks like after looking in the mirror. The study and application of scripture is how one avoids sin and lives according to the teachings of Jesus, “equipped for every good work”. Inevitably, the ones who live according to the scriptures will come under fire. Following the commands and using scripture to rebuke and reprove some will make them lash out because the scriptures speak truth into the lives of many. Paul’s pattern of persecution should be expected, so when it does come, one should not be surprised. In all things though, Christians know that there reward is great in heaven with God because of persecution!

Lord, equip me by your word so I can be ready to do good work!

2 Timothy 1:7-18: Not Ashamed

Read: 2 Timothy 1:7-18

Paul called for Timothy to rekindle the gifts that had been bestowed upon because God did not give him a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-control. This reminder to rekindle the gifts prompts Paul to write about the implications of this rekindling: to be unashamed. Paul encourages Timothy to be “not ashamed” of the testimony of Jesus or Paul. Paul before he went to Rome declares to the Romans that he is not ashamed of the gospel because power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Paul wants Timothy to join him in the suffering for the sake of the gospel – that is, as Paul describes the bringing of immortality by conquering death. John calls it “eternal life” (John 3:15-16, John 17:3, John 12:50, etc.) Paul calls it eternal life elsewhere (1 Timothy 1:16, Titus 1:2) Paul was appointed an apostle, preacher, and teacher of this gospel, and Timothy, his protégé, is also like him in this respect in that he is a preacher and teacher of the gospel. Paul’s unashamed because of the certainty of what he believes and who he believes in, namely Jesus Christ. Paul later recalls some of those who abandoned him because they were ashamed that Paul was imprisoned: Phygelus and Hermogenes. Paul yet recalls Onesiphorus, who went to Paul and Rome while Onesiphorus was visiting there. Paul recalls what services Onesiphorus rendered in Ephesus and later salutes Onesiphorus’ house because of this.

Sandwiched between his recalls of abandonment and his encouragement to Timothy, Paul gives Timothy two commands. First, he says that retain the standard of “sound words”, that is the sound doctrines that Timothy had received from Paul. Paul qualifies this command with faith and love in Jesus Christ. These sound words are not only right doctrine, but right action on the part of Timothy. These doctrines were not only taught, but lived out accordingly by Paul such that Paul was an example of the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus. Second, Paul commands Timothy to guard the “treasure” through the Holy Spirit which was entrusted to him. Paul does not specify what these treasures are, but that which is entrusted to a person, is generally speaking, not owned by that person. Timothy had been sent to Ephesus to the pastor the church there. Paul had advised the elders in Ephesus to shepherd the “flock” (that is the church at Ephesus) there in the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). Paul in Acts notes that Jesus bought these with his own blood. They belong to him, but are entrusted to the elders there. Timothy is likely receiving the same sort of commission here to be on guard against threats from within and from without. Timothy, with a spirit of power, can exercise his gifts in love to hold fast to sound doctrine and guard the flock entrusted to him.

Paul is convinced of Timothy’s faith that he received, and he encourages Timothy to join in his suffering for the sake of gospel of Jesus. Paul notes that he is in chains because of the gospel and adds two names to the hall of shame and one to the hall of fame of faith. Persecution for the sake of the gospel did not stop with Paul and Timothy – it continues all over the world today: Many nameless believers die every day because they, like Paul, are not ashamed of the gospel and have taken stock in the promises of Jesus to bring immortality. This sort of hope makes death rather moot, so one has a spirit of power and can stay faithful to the truth of the gospel and guard those who they shepherd, whoever they may be. But even when persecution is not prevalent, other things, such as busyness, apathy, comfort, inclusivism, materialism, among many other things can seep into the church and lives of believers and cause people to become ashamed of the gospel. Christians who are not experiencing persecution should still obey the commands Paul gave Timothy: to hold fast to sound doctrine and guard what is entrusted to them whether this be family, a church, a class, a small group, friends, even one’s own self. Christians should be alert and unashamed in a spirit of power, love, and self-control, on the watch for danger.

Lord, help me not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is what brings life!

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