Posts tagged “paul”    (page 3)

How to Study the Scriptures

October 17, 2007

This week, we’ll look at 2 Timothy 3:16 (and verse 17, to complete the sentence).

16All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

We know we should study the Bible. But why? When I was growing up, one of the questions they asked every Sunday, right at the start of Sunday School, was “who read their Bible every day last week?” We all wanted to be able to raise our hands; I remember, on the few occasions when I could not, I felt really bad. Back then, it wasn’t for the right reason (it was more that a lot of the other kids had their hands up), but it was the right feeling. Today’s Scripture gives us several great reasons why we should study the Bible.

First, we should study the Bible because It is Inspired by God. (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”) Inspiration literally means “God-breathed”, and is the basis of the Bible’s inerrancy (perfection). God moved through the authors to provide exactly what He wanted to. Revelation 22:18-19, while speaking directly about Revelations, speak a warning that applies to all Bible readers even today…

18I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 (HCSB)

Second, we should study the Bible because It teaches us. (“and profitable for teaching…”) Teaching is the act of imparting knowledge. Studying the Bible can increase our knowledge, and help us develop a proper Biblical world view. Being knowledgeable about Biblical principles can help us when we encounter new situations that may not be directly addressed in Scripture.

Third, we should study the Bible because It reproves us. ("…for reproof…") Reproof is “an act or expression of criticism and censure.” (WordNet) The Bible can call us out when we fail to live us to the standards within It.

Fourth, we should study the Bible because It corrects us. ("…for correction…") Correction is “the act of offering an improvement to replace a mistake; setting right.” (WordNet) This flows naturally after reproof, and is really one of the great things about the Bible that a lot of Christians miss. It not only tells us when we do wrong (and what we do wrong), It tells us how to make it right!

Fifth, we should study the Bible because It shows us God’s righteousness. ("…for training in righteousness;") Righteousness is not something we can do on our own; rather, it is given to us (imputed) based on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We are declared to have kept the law (something we cannot do on our own) because of Jesus’ ability to keep the law. Training in righteousness helps us live up to the gift we have been given.

Sixth, we should study the Bible because It equips us. (“so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”) A soldier wouldn’t go to war without the proper equipment. The Bible is our main weapon in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:17 expresses it this way.

17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word.

Ephesians 6:17 (HCSB)

That covers the “why”, but the title of this devotional starts with the word “how.” Paul covered that too, but he did it in a different order than we did. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes…

15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (HCSB)

The answer is diligence. Reading the Bible every day, as asked by my Sunday School teachers many years ago, is an important part of Bible study. It will also help us interpret It accurately - by acquainting ourselves with the Bible, we will have no reason to be ashamed. This is important, as certain verses can be taken out of context and twisted to support an argument that is not Biblical. For example, a church used Luke 4:7 as it’s theme verse…

7If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

Luke 4:7 (KJV)

This sounds like an excellent promise, doesn’t it? There’s only one teensy-weensy problem with this. Let’s read the verse in its context, Luke 4:5-7 (back to the HCSB, although the capitalization gives it away)…

5So he took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6The Devil said to Him, “I will give You their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. 7If You, then, will worship me, all will be Yours.”

Luke 4:5-7 (HCSB)

That doesn’t sound quite so good now, does it?

I pray that we will have the diligence to study God’s Word as we should, and that we can use what we learn to improve our relationship with Him, and our discernment in spiritual things.

How to Become Pure

October 10, 2007

When Paul wrote to Titus, he stopped one verse short of us having a 3:16. Instead, we’ll look at Titus 1:16 (with verse 15 included for context).

15To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.

Titus 1:15-16 (HCSB)

Paul had been to the island of Crete, and when he left, he left Titus there to continue the work of building the church on Crete. It was a tough mission field for Titus – there were people who wanted to overthrow the church, and were financially profiting from teaching what was wrong. (Titus 1:10-11) In fact, here’s how one of their own described them.

12One of their very own prophets said,

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.

Titus 1:12 (HCSB)

Titus certainly had his work cut out for him! But, Paul’s advice to him on selecting leaders of this young church can help us today, even though most of us probably attend well-established churches (or could if we wanted to). Paul starts verse 15 by saying “To the pure, everything is pure…” Paul hasn’t been talking about those who are pure, but he is reminding Titus that there are people who have accepted the Word of God in their hearts, and have been made pure. This is the type of person we should strive to be. Paul mentioned purity when he told the Philippian church where they should focus their thoughts.

8Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable - if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise - dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8 (HCSB)

Even Jesus mentioned those who are pure in His Sermon on the Mount.

8Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God.

Matthew 5:8 (HCSB)

Paul follows this short description with a contrast. The “defiled” are different; they claim to know God, but their words and their works are at odds with one another. They may know about God in their heads, but they do not know Him in their hearts. Paul describes these people as “detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.” (v. 16)

Rather than focus on what these folks (or us today) have done wrong, think about this. If Paul had thought that the detestable, disobedient, vile beasts of Crete were beyond hope, would he have gone and started a church, and left Titus there to continue it? I doubt it. No matter how far gone we may think we are, it is God’s grace that can bring us out of that, and purify our hearts. The purity that Paul spoke of in verse 15 is not something we can manufacture ourselves; rather, it is the outcome of us allowing God to come into our hearts and lives, and Him getting rid of the things that are keeping us from the purity He desires.

I pray that we will allow the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts, and make us willing, strong vessels for His work.

How to Change from Useless to Useful

September 26, 2007

This week’s book, Philemon, does not have three chapters; additionally, verse 16 of the only chapter is in the middle of the sentence. So, let’s start out by looking at the entire context - Philemon 8-16.

8For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, 9I appeal, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10appeal to you for my child, whom I fathered while in chains - Onesimus. 11Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me. 12I am sending him - a part of myself - back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15For perhaps this is why he was separated [from you] for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16no longer as a slave, but more than a slave - as a dearly loved brother. This is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Philemon 8-16 (HCSB)

Onesimus had been a slave of Philemon, and had run away after stealing from him. Philemon had several reasons to have Onesimus killed on sight; accepting him as a brother was likely the last thing on his mind. But Paul had witnessed a change in Onesimus that Philemon could have never imagined! In verse 10, Paul says that he has “fathered” Onesimus; while together, Paul shared the gospel with him, converted him, and trained him in the things of the Lord.

In verse 12, Paul goes on to say that Onesimus is a part of himself; and, in verses 13-14, although Paul would rather keep Onesimus there with him, that would be stealing from Philemon - taking Onesimus without Philemon’s consent. Paul also tells Philemon that Onesimus is now much more than a slave - he is a brother in Christ, and especially valuable.

This is the context of this short epistle - it is an object lesson illustrating 2 Corinthians 5:17.

17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (HCSB)

Have you experienced this life-changing power? If not, take a look at God’s Simple Plan of Salvation; Christ died for you, and all that He requires is that you believe in Him to cleanse your sins and make you into that new creation about which Paul wrote - it really is that simple. If you have, are you living in that power? The new creation is not just about saving grace, but a living, day-to-day grace, and the power to continually triumph over sin. Don’t waste the gift you have received.

How to Learn from the Past

August 15, 2007

This week, we’ll look at Hebrews 3:16.

16For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses?

Hebrews 3:16 (HCSB)

We’ve all heard certain phrases throughout our lives. “History repeats itself.” “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (This seems to also be a warning to high school students everywhere.) “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” These phrases all point to the phenomenon of people doing the same thing over and over, regardless of the outcome.

In today’s Scripture, the author of Hebrews reminds us that it was the people who knew the truth and even experienced it - the Jews - who rebelled against God. And rebel they did! In three straight chapters in Exodus, the children of Israel complained and rebelled against Moses.

23They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter - that is why it was named Marah. 24The people grumbled to Moses, “What are we going to drink?” 25So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable.

He made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah and He tested them there.

Exodus 15:23-25 (HCSB)

2The entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”

4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow My instructions.”

Exodus 16:2-4 (HCSB)

2So the people complained to Moses: “Give us water to drink.”

“Why are you complaining to me?” Moses replied to them. “Why are you testing the Lord

3But the people thirsted there for water, and grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you ever bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

4Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? In a little while they will stone me!”

5The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the rod you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. 6I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Exodus 17:2-6 (HCSB)

But, surely, once they get to the promised land, the Israelites will remember God’s provision, right? Well…

1Then the whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. 2All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and little children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”

5Then Moses and Aaron fell down with their faces [to the ground] in front of the whole assembly of the Israelite community. 6Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes 7and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. 8If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us.”

Numbers 14:1-8 (HCSB)

It’s easy to look back at the failings of the Israelites, and point fingers at them. But, aren’t we the same? Don’t we do the same foolish things over and over again? It’s easy to see how other people don’t learn from their mistakes, but it’s often more difficult to see our own. Even if we are aware of our failings, though, we still have the inner conflict between the old, selfish nature and our new holy one. Paul expressed this sentiment in Romans 7…

14For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. 15For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. 21So I discover this principle: when I want to do good, evil is with me. 22For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. 23But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.

Romans 7:14-23 (HCSB)

So what is the solution? Later in Romans, Paul gives us the answer.

1Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB)

As gold is refined, it is heated to the melting point, and its flaws are literally burned out. I’m pretty sure that if the gold could talk, it would tell us that it doesn’t particularly enjoy this process. However, the result is a more pure precious metal. This is how God works in a Christian’s life; He brings challenges into our lives to mold us into His image. Some of these challenges are external, but some are internal. We must give this to God, and trust Him to work His will in our lives. Will we fail at times? Of course. Does that mean would shouldn’t try? Not at all!

We have been entrusted with the truth. May we surrender our lives to it, and trust God to use the circumstances in our lives to mold us into His image. May we learn through each of our mistakes, and may God give us the power not to repeat them.

How to Interpret the Scriptures

July 18, 2007

Today, we take a look at 2 Peter 3:16.

16He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:16 (HCSB)

The “he” in the beginning of the verse is Paul, who wrote many of the letters that are now books in the New Testament. This is a good recommendation from a fellow minister, but it comes with a couple of warnings.

First, Peter warns the church that some of the things which Paul has written to them are difficult to understand. This is certainly true - even today, there is often spirited debate over the meaning of some of the things Paul wrote. Of course, rather than just listening to debate, and deciding which side is more convincing, it is important to search the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal its interpretation. And, knowledge without application is useless - once you have determined what the Scripture says, that knowledge needs to be put into action.

The second warning Peter has for the church is that the “untaught and unstable” will try to twist what the Bible says. Man has been doing this since, quite literally, just after Creation. Let’s look at the first recorded twisting of God’s Word. God gave Adam and Eve specific instructions regarding the Garden of Eden.

16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:16-17 (HCSB)

But when Eve is talking to the serpent a few verses later, she gets it… well, not quite right.

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”

Genesis 3:2-3 (HCSB)

Now, we don’t know whether it was Eve who got it wrong here, or if it was Adam who amplified God’s warning when he was telling Eve what God had said. But either way, what God said is not faithfully represented in Eve’s answer to the serpent. And, just as the Bible begins with this story illustrating (among other things) twisting God’s words, it ends with a warning as well.

18I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 (HCSB)

I don’t know if you’ve read the book of Revelation all the way through or not; if you have, you know that you certainly don’t want all the plagues of that book added to you!

Another application of these warnings applies to selecting a version of the Bible to use for study. Before making assumptions, research the translation philosophy, and whether the version is a literal translation or a paraphrase. Using more than one version can help you understand a tough passage.

The key in interpreting the Scripture is to be sure that you know what It says. Don’t rely on what other people say about It - what does It say? I pray that we will all study the Scriptures, and allow God to reveal His interpretation of it to us.

(Note - we’ll discuss more on Bible study when we get to 2 Timothy 3:16.)