Joshua 7: The Weight of Sin

Read: Joshua 7

Achan went down in history has the man that disobeyed the ban that God had given Israel concerning the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:17-21). He kept for himself some of the things that he was not supposed to keep, and this ended up costing the life of him, his family, and all he owned. Among the things were gold, silver, and the “mantle of Shinar” – perhaps an elaborate robe of Babylonian origin. The significance of the robe is not explained, but it was perhaps a mantle used by priests during the occult worship of the Canaanite gods. Achan’s misdeeds caused the death of some of the men who went up to take Ai as well. When the spies went out from the Israelite camp, they came back confident that it would only take part of the men to take Ai. They apparently assumed that God was working in their favor when they took the city of Jericho, but he was not with them when they sent men to Ai. Instead of a complete route like they had seen at Jericho, the men were sent high-tailing it back to the Israelite camp. That, and God did not hold just one person accountable for the sins of Achan, rather the whole nation. The gravity of the ban was made apparent by how God dealt with Jericho, but Achan for some reason did not take it seriously and fell to the temptation God had warned them against in light of the ban. In response to this, Israel destroyed Achan in the Valley of Achor which was named after Achan and Achan’s name came to synonymous with the word “trouble” in the Hebrew language.

It is difficult for modern readers of Joshua to fully understand why God would “burn” against an entire nation because of one man’s sins. Achan’s sin seems rather private, but the effects of sin are hardly ever contained to an individual. Sin has a ripple effect that touches all areas of a person’s life and community. God wanted Israel to understand this, and even more so consider what would happen if even a little sin were allowed to germinate and take root among the people of Israel. James 1:13-15 describes sin in these terms – temptation gives rise to lust, lust gives birth to sin, and sin leads to death. Romans 5:12 describes how sin entered the world through one man and spread to every other man. Sin is like a disease: a small infection usually is harmless, but unless the infection is treated immediately, it can grow and become untreatable or even fatal. Jesus talks about maiming one’s self when something causes one to stumble in Matthew 18:7-8 and Matthew 5:29-30. The point here is that a small part can drag down the whole of an individual or even a corporate body.

Sin is as serious an issue today as it was for the Israelites. Christians can learn many things from the Israelites concerning sin and its implications. God was doing mighty works among them – so much so it seems they were getting pretentious about how God was going to act. But the sins of a one man brought God’s action to a screeching halt and instead Israel was humiliated and Joshua was grieved by this. God told Joshua to act decisively and deliberately concerning sin and he purged sin from Israel. Rather than assume that God will work mightily, Christians ought to be humble and seek God’s face at every turn. And in this humility, Christians should also remember to constantly confess sin and purge sin from their own lives to that it does not have a chance to germinate and spread like a ravenous disease. God is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse one from unrighteousness!

Lord, I am a sinner! Please forgive me and cleanse me from unrighteousness!

Joshua 2:1-24: Difficult Decisions

Read: Joshua 2:1-24

Rahab was a prostitute that lived on the walls of Jericho that allowed the men from Israel to “lodge” at her home. She somehow found out that they were from Israel, and apparently this fact leaked and reached the ears of the king. Rahab was faced with a difficult decision: expose the spies that had come into Jericho and face certain retribution from God or hide the spies from her own king and face possible retribution from her own king. She chose the latter, but in doing so had to make a decision to deceive her king. Rahab and all that were in Jericho and the surrounding area had heard about the awesomeness of God and what God had done for the Israelites in the desert and at the Red Sea. After lying about their presence, she strikes a deal with the spies asking for favor when Israel attacks the city in exchange for hiding them. She honors her side as the Israelites honor theirs (Joshua 6:17,23,25).

Some, however, may question whether or not Rahab was right in lying about the spies or not. The Bible does command the people of God 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 (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). Rahab, like the disciples, recognized the authority of God over the authority of man and acted. What is even more interesting is the redemption of Rahab. James 2:25 and Hebrews 11:31 cite her actions as evidence for her faith in God. By all counts, Rahab would not be considered a “good” person because of her occupation and the fact that she lied, but when Rahab is remembered in the scriptures, she is remembered as a woman of faith. And if that wasn’t enough, Rahab is also mentioned in Matthew 1:5 as one of the ancestors of Jesus himself. Rehab is not the only person in the Bible who was faced with difficult decisions. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel all had to consider the consequences of worshipping God. They chose to continue to worship God and were thrown into a fiery furnace because of it (Daniel 2-3). The Egyptian midwives lied about having babies and were blessed by God because they protected the babies (Exodous 1:15-21). The Pharisees attempted to corner Jesus about healing on the Sabbath in John 7, and Jesus said it was better to do good on the Sabbath than be legalistic about it.

In any case, Rahab’s actions do not make lying right — the Bible is clear that lying is a sin. But there are certainly occasions when one has to make a difficult choice, and in some cases the choice is not clear, as it may require one to seemingly commit sin in order to maintain faith and have obedience in God. In any case, the acts of Rahab were courageous and did maintain her faith in God because of her deeds. When faced with difficult decisions, Christians have to consider the circumstances and act, and sometimes there is not a whole lot of time to mull over and weigh the options. In such circumstances it is certainly best to side with God and seek him above all else!

Lord, help to make tough decisions when they come!

Ecclesiastes 10:1-4: The Weight of Sin and Folly

Read: Ecclesiastes 10:1-4

There are many sayings that would agree with the Preacher’s words in Ecclesiastes concerning the weight of folly to wisdom and sin in the midst of rightness. The Preacher here starts by talking about how a single fly can cause ointment to stink, then proceeds to describe fools. What seems apparent is that everyone knows a fool when they see one. The fool is constantly making a fool out of himself by choosing the “left” (in Hebrew thought the left was associated with weaker and wrong things), he demonstrates the fact that he is a fool by having a lack of direction, and the fool is hot tempered and speaks readily when a rulers temper flares. There are probably hundreds of other comparisons made between fools and wise men in the Bible. The Preacher is just illustrating a couple of ways fools broadcast their foolishness, and in each case even the smallest bit of foolishness can outweigh wisdom and honor.

The motif of a small thing ruining the whole is also found in the New Testament too. In Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus talks about one’s eyes and hands that participate in sin. He says in metaphorical terms that one should cut off that which causes them to sin rather than let the whole of the body be ruined by it and face punishment in hell. Jesus’ words seem harsh as he is talking about maiming one’s self, but Jesus does this to get the attention of his hearers. Just a little bit of sin and folly in one’s life can lead to a world of harm. James 1:15 talks about how lust leads to sin and then how sin when birth brings death. Because of the dire consequences of sin and how just a little sin can corrupt, sin needs to be dealt with harshly and not glossed over.

Christians are not perfect people as they still struggle with sin even after they receive salvation by grace through faith. But knowing the price Jesus paid for sin and just how destructive sin can be, Christians should be wary and alert of sin and also be humble. 1 John 1:8-9 says that the one who says he is without sin a liar. On the other hand, one should be humble and confess sin and deal with it. Likewise, God is faithful and cleanse one for all unrighteousness. God wants humble people with whom he can work!

Lord, help to rid myself of sin and folly so it does not ruin me!

Ecclesiastes 8:1-15: The Problem of Evil

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:1-15

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 8 addresses what has become known to in modern philosophy as the “problem of evil”.  The Preacher asks a number of questions concerning the nature of bad things happening to good people and the flip side of that, good things happening to bad people. He begins by speaking of the certainty of one thing that is the common fate of all people, and that is death. He says that no one can know the future. Death as he sees it comes to all and there is nothing that saves one from it and even more so to the ones who practice wickedness, because it will not save them either. The certainty of death then prompts the preacher to look at other matters concerning wicked: First he sees the wicked being praised in the cities in which they did much wickedness and they are being buried with honor. Second, he sees the wicked doing much wrong to the point they are not afraid to do it anymore. Third, he sees good people being treated as if they were wicked, and wicked people being treated as if they were good. All these things he says are meaningless.

The problem of evil has perplexed thinkers for ages as it did the Preacher. The reason why is because of a discrepancy in many the states of affairs that people are in and a purported inaction by God to resolve the state of affairs for good rather than evil. The argument may look something like this:

  1. If God exists, God is all loving and all powerful
  2. An all loving and all powerful God should remove evil.
  3. Evil exists.
  4. Therefore either:
    1. God does not  exist.
    2. God exists and is all loving but cannot remove evil.
    3. God exists and is all powerful but not all loving therefore does not want to remove evil.
    4. God exists but is neither all loving nor all powerful.

In any case, the conclusion purports a contradictory state of affairs in spite of what many believe about God. The problem with this is that the argument in most all forms obligates God to something that God is not necessarily obligated too. In the example above, premise 2 supposes that God “should” do something about evil by virtue of his that he is all loving and able. The only way the contradiction exists is if one supplies the extra premise that God “should” or “ought to” do something about evil. If premise two does not exist, then the contradiction does not exist.

On the other hand, one can supply another premise that says so long as there is a possible reason for evil to exist, there is no reason to doubt God’s existence, his goodness, or his ability to remove evil. A reason that attempts to explain evil is called a theodicy. There are many possible theodicies that are found in the Bible.

  • The Freewill Defense: The Bible is replete with verses that talk about the sinfulness of man, and how it pervades everyone who exists (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Proverbs 20:9, Ecclesiastes 7:20). This freewill defense says evil is a result of man choosing sin.
  • The Greater-Good Theodicy – This reason says that sometimes evil occurs to bring about a net gain of good for the many. This is most clearly seen in Genesis when Joseph was sold into slavery and he endured much evil as a result. But in the end, Joseph says that what his brother intended for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).
  • The Soul-Making or Soul-Building Theodicy: This theodicy suggests that people endure evil to help build their character and faith. The motif of God disciplining children can be found in Hebrews 12:4-13. Hardship can produce a strong, more mature believer.
  • The Eschatological Theodicy: This one is uniquely Christian; in that all is made right in the cross by Jesus’ sacrifice and that there will come a time when evil is removed. There will be a new heaven and new earth with no crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:1-4).

What one needs to realize though is these are only possible reasons for what God does. Usually when one is enduring evil, it is difficult if not impossible to know why bad things are happening. Even after sufferings have passed, sometimes the reason is not apparent. This was the case with Job. The readers of Job get to see the full picture of the matter, but Job never ascertains why he endured so much suffering. At the end of the book, he basically concedes that God’s reasons are too wonderful to know (Job 42:1-6). In all of his pondering on the problem of evil, the Preacher never questions the goodness of God, rather sees it better that one should do good in their lives because this is right in the sight of God and he sees the blessings that come from work as a gift from God. The Preacher was correct in noting that death is inescapable, but for Christians, there is the prospect of eternal life in a place where there is no evil. For the reasons the Preacher mentioned and the escape from evil when God creates a new heaven and new earth, it is most certainly more wise to side with God. Furthermore, there is no reason to doubt his goodness and power so long as God has a good reason for allowing evil to persist – even if the reason cannot be ascertained.

Lord, you are good! Help me to trust you even when I cannot understand why bad things are happening!

Ecclesiastes 7:20: Righteousness

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:20

Righteousness, simply defined in a scriptural context, is being without sin. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes notes that no one is righteous, and this fact is reiterated over and over in the scriptures (Romans 3:23, 2 Corinthians 6:36, 1 Kings 8:46, 1 John 1:8, Psalm 130:3-4, Proverbs 20:9). The Preacher qualifies this, saying that no one continually does good and without sinning. There are those who do indeed live lives that are well enumerated with good deeds, but the Preacher is saying that even such people still sin and are not righteous for this reason. When Paul declares in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, he is making the same sort of observation. Even those who live according to the ways of God still have a sin problem. Paul infers this from by citing several verses from the Old Testament (Romans 3:10-18). He says that no one is made righteous by observing the law, rather that the law is in place to make one aware of their sin (Romans 3:19-20).

But there is hope that comes from faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus is what “justifies” a person. When one is “justified”, he or she is declared righteous in God’s sight. God sees those who are justified as he would look upon one who has never sinned before. Paul explains that the law demands a price for sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). The law requires that every person that has ever sinned pay the penalty of death for his or her sin. What Jesus provides for sinners though is a way out, a way to be made righteous. Jesus, on behalf of sinners, died on the cross in their place. This death satisfied the requirement of the law that demands death (Romans 4:25). Sinners are then presented with two options: trust in Jesus who is able to make one righteous, or trust in one’s own righteousness when one stands before God

If all have fallen short of God’s standard, then there is really only one option that makes any sense, and that is to trust in Jesus. . Note, that when one “trusts” one is not merely accenting to some facts about Jesus. One is relying on Jesus to make them righteous, and this is what the Bible is talking about when it says “faith”. Faith is not believing something without evidence or reason to believe it as many think it is. It is rather trusting in a person to do something he or she has promised to do. God does indeed love people and he does not delight in the demise of the wicked. He would rather people repent and believe that condemn them to die because of their sin (Ezekiel 18:23). But those who choose not to believe in Jesus are nevertheless subject to God’s judgment and will be dealt with according to their sins. As for the Christian though, they will be judged according to their faith in Jesus because Jesus has made them righteous. But being declared righteous before God does not mean that one is able to do as he or she pleases. Rather one is made a “slave to righteousness” (Romans 6:14-19). One should go about the work of telling others how they too can be made righteous before God by trusting in Jesus!

Lord, I am made righteous by you! Help me live in a manner worthy of your righteousness!

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9: The End In Mind

Read: Ecclesiastes  7:8-9: The End In Mind

“Begin with the end in mind” has been a popular quote in recent years because of the best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. The idea put forth in the book resonates with what the Preacher wrote some over two thousand years ago.  The Preacher, now seemingly advanced in years has reflected back in Ecclesiastes all that he had done. At the end of the day, the Preacher says that the end is better than the beginning and it is better to be patient than haughty — that is proud.  The comparison talks about what one puts into a task and likewise the results of the task. He’s saying that generally speaking, when one sets out to do something, he or she invests much time working towards a goal, and for this reason the goal, when obtained is most certainly a better state of affairs than when one started towards that goal (Psalms 126:5-6). But at the same time, the Preacher is offering a warning too: patience is better than pride. This is a warning against looking for quick results to build up one’s self. Rather than taking shortcuts, one should invest the proper time and energy into a task and be patient so that the results are robust rather than shoddy.   The Preacher also gives warning  against being hot tempered too, because anger of this fool makes one a fool. Coming off the previous proverb, the Preacher is probably speaking to about those that get ahead quickly. Those who use dubious schemes to advance themselves quickly frustrate another who is trying to do things the right way. Rather than become hot headed, one should keep his or her cool in the matter, for this is best (Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 16:32).

Hebrews 12:1-3, describes a race. Hebrews says that one should put off things that entangle and run with perseverance the race that is marked out. Hebrews is teaching that the courses has been laid out already. Christians follow the commands of Christ for this is their course. The picture of Jesus standing at the finish encouraging one on is here too. The runner in the race Hebrews is describing that the runner is fixing his eyes on Jesus. Jesus himself had already persevered, having bore the cross and despised its shame, but through this he received glory. For Jesus, the beginning of the task was not easy, but the end result was glory. For the Christian, life is full of challenges, but the Christian is called to run with perseverance — that is not take shortcuts — and enduring hardship. At the end of the race, one will be rewarded for his or her faithfulness. The reward comes at the end of the race, not during or before. Christians should heed the words of the Preacher, know the end is better than the beginning, but patience is better than pride.

Lord, help me run the race with the end in mind!

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 3:1-9: Folly Exposed

Rread: 2 Timothy 3:1-9

After giving Timothy instruction on how to maintain himself in light of heresies, Paul lists 19 vices that Timothy should avoid. Paul says that such things will come in “the last days” – some undetermined time in the future from when Paul was writing the letter to Timothy.  This list seems to be more general list, alluding to no one person in particular. Rather Paul is rattling off all sorts of things to give Timothy the notion that there will be persons abounding in sin, and that he should avoid them. Paul then describes the sort of people, perhaps alluding to two particular individuals: one who lures “weak willed” women, and the woman herself that is loaded down with sin and driven by evil desires. Such people are seeking the “truth” but do not acknowledge it. If they did they would certainly have to turn from their sin. Paul compares them to Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses. Jannes and Jambres are the names traditionally associated with the magicians who opposed Moses when Moses went before Pharaoh in Exodus 7. They replicated the power of God by their “secrets”. The word in the Hebrew indicates things done in private, rather than out in the open. In other words, they were performing cheap parlor tricks and Pharaoh was using this in an attempt to discredit Aaron and Moses, even though it was plain to everyone else that they were indeed fakes. Paul is using their “folly” as a warning to Timothy – the ones who are apparently seeking the “truth” do so with as if they were incredulous, but the reality of the matter is they simply refusing to acknowledge the truth because of what it might mean concerning their lifestyles. It will become obvious that this is what they are doing. There were probably people of this sort attempting to lure away people from the church at Ephesus, just as those who taught heresies had messed up the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:18).

Knowing genuine people from fake people is not always easy to do at first. Jesus, however, taught that words and deeds reveal true character. He uses the analogy of a tree and its fruit to explain this: A good tree bears good fruit in the same manner a good heart will produce good words and good deeds. The converse is true too: a bad tree bears bad fruit in the same way evil words and deeds flow from an evil heart (Matthew 7:15-23 , Matthew 12:33-37) Sometimes this is not obvious at first, but time usually will tell. Paul teaches the same sort of thing in Galatians 5:19-26. The fruits of the carnal nature are sins, but the fruit of the Spirit, which comes when one believes in Jesus, is good fruit. Those who are redeemed by Jesus have “crucified the flesh” and walk according to the Spirit. Good fruit in words and deeds is not the means to salvation because one is saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but they are the evidence of faith (James 2:14-26). Paul and Jesus making the argument that those of depraved minds and hearts will have evil words and deeds and those who are Spirit filled will have good words and deeds.

Christians should make an effort to ensure that they are living authentically according to their salvation so they will not be exposed in folly. Likewise, Christians should be wary of people who are of a depraved nature. This does not mean that everyone who sins is beyond help, as Christians still sin even after they are saved. Paul is talking about those who refuse to acknowledge the truth even when it made plain to them. They refuse to acknowledge it for some reason or another, most probably because it will force them to change their behavior. Given time though, their false incredulity will be exposed and their folly will be obvious. These are the sort of people Paul is encouraging Timothy to avoid and Christians today would do well to heed these words too.

Lord, help my heart to be pure so my words and deeds will be pure too!

2 Timothy 2:14-26: Vessels of Honor

Read: 2 Timothy 2:14-26

After admonishing Timothy to remember what it means to be one of God concerning how one should live his life according to the salvation promised through Jesus, Paul commands Timothy to avoid the emptiness that comes from idle chatter. What is apparently going on is that there was some strife being stirred up by Hymenaeus and Philetus in the church at Ephesus concerning to heretical teaching. Hymenaeus is listed with Alexander as a blasphemer. In 2 Timothy, Hymenaeus and Philetus are described as living in sin although they had believed in Jesus. This is what Paul is encouraging Timothy not to do. Also, they taught that the resurrection during the last days had already happened, which had “shipwrecked” or destroyed the faith of many (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Their reasoning was perhaps because the resurrection had happened that what had been set to accomplish by God was done, so they were no longer required to live righteously, so they lived lawlessly instead. Paul says there teachings are like gangrene. When a wound becomes infected, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. If the part of the body is not removed, it will ultimately kill the one with the wound.

In opposition to this though, Paul encourages Timothy to properly handle the word of truth and avoid godless chatter and ignorant speculations. These sort of things spark debate and quarrels among the church. Also, as mentioned, Paul encourages Timothy to live rightly. He says that the ones who call on the name of the Lord should abstain from wickedness and flee the lusts of youth. He illustrates this with an analogy concerning common vessels and vessels of a special purpose. The vessels of honor are used by the master for good works. Rather than being quarrelsome, Timothy is encouraged to be patient when wronged and correct with gentleness. He is to be filled with faith, love, and peace that come from a pure heart. These things are the antithesis of people looking to lead others astray through idle chatter and ignorant speculations that start fights. The sort of patients Paul is encouraging Timothy to have is so that Timothy can help people escape the snare of the devil – that is the devil’s attempt to sow dissention among believers to keep them from accomplishing the task of making disciples (2 Timothy 2:2).

Advocates of doctrines different from those taught by Jesus and that do not conform to godliness are those that are to be rejected. Paul calls such doctrines conceited and without understanding (1 Timothy 6:4). Some common heresies today are things such as:

  • Prosperity theology that suggests that if one does pious deeds, one will receive material blessings and/or good health as a result. Paul corrected this theology 2000 years ago because it apparently cropped up then too (1 Timothy 6:4-12). Right living is an act of obedience on the part of the Christian in response to Jesus love. He says that those who love him will obey his commandments (John 14:15).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus was God. The gospel of John makes the deity of Jesus abundantly clears in the opening verse (John 1:1) Jesus also claims oneness with the Father They wanted to stone him because they understood him to be claiming equality by God (John 10:30-33). He also claims to be present at Abrahams birth and to be the great “I AM” of the Old Testament for which they wanted to stone him too (John 8:57-59).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, and rather than think of Jesus is the sacrifice for sin, think of him as an example of how to live one’s life. Paul says that without the resurrection, people are still in sin and without hope (1 Corinthians 15:1-19).
  • Theologies that teach there is some other way to God other than by faith in Jesus. Jesus himself said that he is the only way to God (John 14:6, John 3:36) and Peter affirms this (Acts 4:12). Paul also feels a sense of urgency to spread the gospel to the Gentile world because of this (Romans 15:20).
  • Theologies that teach works can save someone. These claims are patently false according to scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it by faith that one is saved, not by works. Works, as mentioned, are an act of obedience in response to Jesus’ love, not the means to salvation.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as these are just a few. Paul gives Timothy a number of little reminders because of the plethora of heresies that even he was dealing with. Christians today are broad spoken to by different media that want them to think a certain way about religions, the person of Jesus, how deeds relate to salvation, among many other things. For this reason, Christians should be as Paul encourages Timothy to be: grounded in the word of truth. This requires one to know what the Bible teaches, which comes through careful study of the Bible, not looking to prove theology from the Bible by selecting verses, but trying to understand the Bible and rightly apply the Bible to one’s life. Only through this can one recognize a heresy when one sees it. At the same time, Christians are not to be jerks for Jesus. Going on witch-hunts to root out heresy is the improper way. Rather Paul encourages patience, love, and gentleness for the purpose of restoration rather than looking to pick a fight. Like Timothy, Christians should be vessels of honor useful for the master’s purpose!

Lord, help me to be a vessel of honor by knowing your truth and living according to it!

John 21:15-23: Second Chances

Read: John 21:15-23

Peter denied Jesus three times, even after saying that he would never do such a thing. And when Peter did deny Jesus, he remembered what Jesus had spoken to him concerning this and wept bitterly. Without a doubt, Peter felt like an athlete who had been ejected from the game and felt like his career was over (John 18:25-27, Luke 22:62). But quite the contrary was true. Even though Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus was not finished with Peter. In fact, this gave Jesus and opportunity to model one of the things he had taught Peter: love and forgiveness. Jesus when he washed Peter’s feet said that Peter was not in need of a whole bath, rather just a small cleansing (John 13:10). Jesus, after Peter denied him three times, asks Peter if he loved him three times. Peter in all cases answers that he does indeed love Jesus. Jesus in response to these answers commands Peter then to “Tend his lambs”, “Feed his sheep”, and “Tend his sheep”. Jesus was metaphorically telling Peter to not feel down in the dumps, but get back in the game and do what he had been commissioned to do. Jesus follows this up with a parabolic saying concerning the sort of death that Peter would die. Peter, according to the historian Eusebius was crucified upside down on a cross in Rome. This sort of violent death was akin to one jerking Peter around where he did not want to go similar to an older person who he told what to do.  Peter would get back in the game and dedicate himself to the task of Preaching Jesus to the nations.

Jesus then says a peculiar statement: “Follow me!” This is certainly a throwback to when Jesus first met Peter and Phillip and said “follow me” in John 1:43. The command to follow Jesus was coming to them again at the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Many thought that the preceding statement was an indication that one of the disciples would live forever until Jesus’ return. The reality of the matter was that Jesus was just stating a fact concerning his ability to do so, not necessarily implying that one of them would actually do that. In any case, the concern was not to worry who was betraying who or anything of the like, rather to focus on the main thing: Jesus.

The command to follow Jesus went out to the original disciples at the beginning of his ministry and at the end of his ministry on earth. Like Peter though, faltering in one’s walk with God does not cast him or her out of God’s presence forever. What Jesus wanted from Peter was not a prideful heart that denied what he did or tried to rationalize what he did, rather a contrite heart and a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17), and Peter had this. Jesus took this broken man and was able to restore him so that Peter would be a leader as the gospel went out from Jerusalem. God does not give up on people; rather people give up on God. But when one does falter, one need only confess it to God and God is faithful to restore (1 John 1:9) and give someone a second chance. And one can continue to walk in the ways of God all the more.

Lord, help me to continue to follow you, even after I mess up!

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