Monday, June 30, 2014

Finishing strong - 2nd Timothy 4:6-8

"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul can sense that the time is near. The latter period of his life has been spent in service to God and to Christ's church. It has been a continual pouring out of his life and the cup is almost empty. He soon will be leaving this world and the son he loves, Timothy. However, Paul is not afraid, nor does he carry regrets. His life has prepared him for this moment and he is ready to end this life and continue into eternity with his God in heaven.

In life, many begin strong, but far too many fail to finish strong. They begin their lives with promise and hope only to squander the grace given to them by God and, in the end, come up short of the full purpose of God for their lives. A life is judged, not by how it begins, but by how it ends. Consider what was said of King David, "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers." (Acts 13:36) A fitting tribute to a godly man.

How does one live their life that they may secure for themselves an end that is both good and worthy of God? Paul, reflecting on his life, mentions three specific things. First, we must fight the good fight. This is not a fight with people nor is it a fight against doctrine. Paul himself taught is that, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) Our fight is not against one another but, internally, against our flesh, our desires, and our impure passions, and externally, against the hidden forces of this age that wage war against our soul. Paul, speaking of his internal fight, says, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV) We too must take up the fight to achieve mastery over our bodies and the flesh that presses its desires against the soul. Of our external fight, Paul encourages us, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:10-11) We must not be ignorant of the forces of this world that wage war against our soul. We must resit them firm in our faith and not yield to their temptation or seduction.

Furthermore, Paul says that he finished the course. This Greek word could mean a race or even a carrier. Many people start out serving God with much gusto and eagerness only to grow weary along the way. Paul encourages us to, "not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6:9) and reminds us to, "consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:3) We loose heart when we loose sight. Over and over the scriptures exhort us to look to Jesus; to remember Jesus. When our eyes are on our task it is easy to loose heart, but when our eyes are on Jesus, our strength is renewed. Even Jesus, being the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form, "In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there." (Mark 1:35) The Son of God regularly spent time with His Father and so should we that we too might be renewed in our strength, vision, and purpose. Just as our bodies will grow weak from lack of food so does our soul from a lack of communion with God.

Finally, Paul testifies that he kept the faith. Most of us live where "keeping the faith" does not put us at risk for our lives or our possessions for confiscation. However, in Paul's day and time, confessing Christ could earn you a death sentence. Today, we may face ridicule or mockery, but Paul and our early brothers and sisters faced death, and often a horrible death. It is easy to serve Christ when all is well, but we must continue in our confession when times get tough. Jesus warns of those who's faith is shallow and does not go deep. "And they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away." (Mark 4:17) Faith is not something we profess and then go about our lives as normal. It is something that is cultivated, chosen for, and allowed to become the guiding force in our lives. Faith becomes rooted when we choose to pattern our life after its message rather than continuing to live after our own will, plan, and purpose. We must continually choose to live our faith, even in the face of difficulties and persecution.

For those who live such a life and, in doing so, end strong, there is for them a reward waiting for them in Heaven which Jesus Himself will give them. Let us finish well that we too might rejoice with Paul on that day.

David Robison

Friday, June 27, 2014

Out of season - 2nd Timothy 4:1-5

"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
When it comes to the Kingdom of God, each of us has a job to do. For Timothy, at Ephesus, his job was to preach and teach; to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to instruct people in how the aught to live. This may not be our calling, for we are not all called to preach and teach, nor are we all called to reprove and rebuke, but we are all called to do something. Paul's exhortation to Timothy was to be busy about the work he was called to do whether it was convenient or not. The idea of "in season" has with it the concept of being "well-timed." Not every opportunity that comes our way is "well-timed." Sometimes our service to God requires us to serve even when the timing is less than opportune. We cannot serve God according to our own plans, desires, and sensitivities, we must serve God as bond slaves, always ready to respond in obedience to His ever wish and call.

Jesus never refrained from his service to God even when it came as an apparent interruption to normal life. There was the time Jesus was hungry and tiered. So He sent His disciples ahead to buy food and, "being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." (John 4:6) It was at this time, while hungry and tired, that a Samaritan Woman arrived at the well to draw water. Jesus engages her in conversation and introduces her to the hope of all nations. There was another time when Jesus was sleeping in a boat while a storm raged all around Him. The disciples were terrified, "and they woke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?'" (Mark 4:38) Once again, tired, he rose up and stilled the wind and waves and brought the boat to safety. Finally, there were always people who wanted to see Him, even little children. The disciples, trying to not bother the master, rebuked the parents, but Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14) Jesus never let His human needs stand in the way of God's calling of service on His life.

Paul's urgency to Timothy was because he understood that opportunities do not last forever. Jesus warned us, "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest." (John 4:35) God was offering to Timothy, right now and in that very moment, an opportunity to shape the future of the Ephesian church, but tomorrow might be too late. Ephesus was ripe for Timothy's ministry, but times would come when their eagerness to hear would be seduced away by desires for a more "comfortable" message. Now was the time for Timothy's ministry, now was the opportunity.

We may not be changing the destiny of a church, but the opportunities that God brings to us do have a shelf-life. That person God has brought into your life may be open to the love of God now, but that same openness may wax cold tomorrow. We must learn to cease each and every opportunity God brings our way. As Paul put it, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." (Colossians 4:5) In such a way we not only serve to advance the Kingdom of God but we bring to fullness the ministry God has appointed to us.

David Robison

Thursday, June 26, 2014

All scripture - 2nd Timothy 3:16-17

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The term "scripture" here simply means something written down or drawn. It is the Greek word "graphe" from which we get our words for "graph" and "graphite." However, its usage in the New Testament is always in reference to the divine scriptures, specifically the scriptures of the Old Testament. It would be several hundred years before the New Testament writings would be called "scripture."

Paul tells us that all scripture is "God breathed," given by the inspiration, or more accurately, by the outward breath, of God to mankind. The scriptures differ from other philosophical writings in that those writings represent the best of the understanding and contemplation of man, where as the scriptures represent the best of the revelation of God. God has taken an active approach in communicating His thought and revealing His personage to mankind. These documents do not reflect man's highest achievement in holy thought, but God's gracious revelation of Himself and His purpose and will for mankind. When we read scripture, we are not reading human thought, but the revelations of God.

Paul tells us that the scriptures are able to equip us in many ways that we might be fully equipped and ready to face all necessary circumstances in life. It is through our interaction with God's Word that we become adequate as servants of God, fully prepared to accomplish His will and purpose in our lives. However, as we shall see, it not thought our knowledge of the word alone that we are equipped, but through our obedience and our experiential living of its truth that we are changed and made adequate. The scriptures work in our lives in four significant ways.

Teaching: Solomon tells us that, "The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7) Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are critical to any son or daughter of God. So often we walk in darkness and confusion because we view our life and the world around us through wrong lenses. We think and view things from a worldly perspective which leads only to worldly assumptions and conclusions. We need to learn to understand ourselves and the world around us through a Godly perspective with true knowledge and understanding as to how we were created, for what purpose, and how life was truly meant to be lived. Knowledge leads to understanding, understanding to wisdom, and wisdom to light. It is the scriptures that can teach us and give us such knowledge and understanding.

Reproof: It is through reproof that our souls are convicted of our sin. Sin has many definitions, but one is to miss the mark. Paul tells us that, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We have all fallen short of becoming the people God created us to be. However, without such a revelation, without such reproof, we would not know about our sin or about our need to change. Acknowledging our problems is the first step in fixing them. Acknowledging our sins is the first step in repenting of them and learning to live free of them. The scriptures have a way of reflecting our lives back to us, to show us who we really are, and to compare that to who we were created to be. Without this revelation, we would all, "die in your sins." (John 8:24)

Correction: This Greek word means to "straighten up" or to "stand up again." It speaks of a reformation of one's character; a change; a restoration to a pure and holy disposition. The scriptures not only speak to our sins but they also show us how to overcome; how to live a life in opposition to our sins. For example, Paul writes, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another... He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good." (Ephesians 4:25, 28) The scriptures instructing us to replace one behavior with another; replacing lying with the truth and replacing stealing with giving. Reproof shows us we are wrong, correction shows us a better way.

Training: Paul tells Titus that the grace of God has come, "instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:12) The scriptures constantly call us to a life of righteousness and godliness. It calls us to discipline our bodies, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and to flea youthful lusts. Correction is reactive while training is proactive. We need not wait till we sin, to be reproved, and to find the correction of the scriptures. Rather, the grace of God has come to instruct us to live differently; to reject the world and its ways in favor of God's world and His ways. Those who obey the scriptures as part of a daily disciplined life, find themselves being trained for righteousness. Righteousness and godliness do not just happen, they are developed through the constant training and discipline of the scriptures. It all begins by an obedience that is the outgrowth of faith; faith in God, His Word, and His power.

David Robison

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Be not planets - 2nd Timothy 3:13-15

"But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:13-15)
Paul contrasts two lives: those who continue in the truth of the gospel and those who continue in error. The Greek word translated here for "deceive" is the same word from which we get our word for "planets." In ancient days astronomers used to stare at the sky and noticed that all heavenly bodies cut regular arcs across the skies. All, that is, except for seven. They were call "Planets" or "wanderers" for they wandered from the right way of the other stars as they traveled the skies. The Planets were those who "erred" and left the "right" path for another. Similarly Paul contrasts those who continue to walk in the truth of God from those who seek after innovation or new ideas that lead them down a diverging path towards error.

Most often, those who end up in error, do not do so through great departures from truth. Most of the time it is the result of numerous tinny deviations from the truth experienced over great periods of time. A ship sailing across the ocean can make the smallest of errors in its navigation and end up completely missing its mark (which, by the way, is one definition of sin: to miss the mark). To be honest, none of us have perfect possession of the truth. However, if we refuse to allow the truth to correct us, to cause us to change our coarse, then we too, in time, will find ourselves in error. We must allow truth to refine our own truth least through stubbornness and pride we end up where we did not intend to go.

Paul encourages Timothy in two things that would help him stay true to the truth. First he was to remember from whom he learned the truth. Paul as his teacher had significance in that Paul was an apostle. The apostles were those who had been either personally disciple by Jesus or had been taught the gospel directly from Jesus. Paul was very clear about how he came to know the gospel. Like the other apostles, he learned it from Jesus. "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12) Furthermore, Timothy had the witness of the character of Paul testifying that those things which he preached were true for Timothy saw the reality of them shine forth in the life of Paul his teacher. We must give careful consideration to the memoirs and letters of the apostles as to those who personally received the message and the commission to teach it to us.

Secondly, Paul reminds Timothy of the scriptures he knew prior to being saved. The scriptures Paul is referring to are the Old Testament scriptures. Paul tells us that these scriptures can make us wise for salvation for they foreshadow and prophesy of the grace and forgiveness we have now received through Jesus Christ. We must not neglect the written history of God's interaction with mankind nor His revelations in days gone by. The Old Testament scriptures, as is true with all scriptures, all lead us to Jesus and the truth of His message which He came to reveal to us. By holding firm to the writings of old and the writings of the apostles we will ensure that we do not end up in error. By continuing in these things, we will find truth and the power of the truth to change our lives.

David Robison

Saturday, June 21, 2014

We're all Imitators - 2nd Timothy 3:10-13

"Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:10-13)
Sometimes we forget that we are reading a private letter between a father and his "son". It is unclear how this letter came to be "church property/", but we know that, at first, it was the private property of Timothy. Here, Paul is not writing to a church as a whole but to Timothy as an individual, "Now you...". The church is large and universal, but we all need people in our lives who know us as individuals; who can speak to us as Paul did to Timothy, "Now you..." For me, it started with my natural father who was a believer from his youth, but there were also others; older men in Christ who taught me the things of the Kingdom and watched over my growth in Christ, to help me and guide me on my way. Their influence in my life helped be become the man I am today. New believers need older mothers and fathers in the faith to love and nurture them in the things of God. Older believers need new believers to remind them to be the representatives of the Kingdom that God has called them to be. Both need each other. Unfortunately, such relationships can be rare in the Body of Christ today.

Paul challenges Timothy to follow him and to imitate his life. I always find it amusing that teenagers want to be different, so they find a group of other teenagers where they can all be alike. They may not want to be like their parents, but they don't want to be different either. We are all imitators, the question is, "Who are we going to imitate?" Will we imitative those following the path of the world or will we imitate those following the path of righteousness?

The two paths are very different and you cannot follow both at the same time. One path is a path that is focused on self-love: lovers of self, boastful, arrogant, and unloving just to name a few. The other is a path that is focused on the love of God: faith, patience, love, godliness to name a few. One is seeks for the easy life, looking for pleasure without having to exert too much effort, thought, or concern. The other is a life that endures hardship for a purpose; even suffering persecution if it be required to fulfill their purpose in life. One life is being swept away by the currents of the world, while the other life is spent swimming "up-stream," against the prevailing current, swimming for a different purpose and calling, and because of this, enduring persecution from those drifting in the opposite direction. When you swim against the current, you will at time be buffeted by the opposing stream.

The choice is ours. Those of the world always seem to find a way to "go with the crowds," to "fit in," to find a life that doesn't require them to be different; often being willing to sacrifice their purpose in life for ease and momentary pleasures. However, God has called us to a higher life; to a life lived for a purpose, to a life that accepts hardship if it serves to help them achieve their upward calling in God. It's a life that doesn't mind being different, knowing that only different can save a world lost in sameness. It's a life that flows up and not down, a life that ends in life rather than death. It's life as it was meant to be lived. Is this the life you want? It's a live that is available to all who dare to choose it.

David Robison

Friday, June 20, 2014

Evolving to immorality - 2nd Timothy

"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes's and Jambres's folly was also." (2 Timothy 3:1-9)
The theory of evolution predicts the grand progression of life from lower forms to higher forms. With each new life form, full of new adaptions and abilities, their heightened ability to survive and thrive in the world makes them the "king of the heap", at least until the next round of evolution. Evolution is taught as the unrelenting progress to "perfection," at least as it pertains to survivability. However, regardless of how dubious such a theory is, the same cannot be said for the souls of mankind. The moral and ethical composure of man's souls is not ever rising higher, rather it is a picture of one spiraling downward with each passing day. Certainly, there have been times when man was at his best, or at least better than his worst. However, the history of the world is the history of the degrading and lowering of man's souls. There is no great enlightenment, no great progress to perfection, just the slow and steep march of corruption. The truth is, apart from the grace of God, this is the destiny of all of us; we are all in a moral downward spiral, some quicker than others, but it is the natural progress of a life being consumed by a sinful nature.

No where will this prove to be more true then at the end of the age. Paul describes in detail the moral character of mankind as the end draws near. Jesus, Himself, also warned us of this very thing. "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12) Relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and morally the end times will be a "cold" time. Such debauchery is not reserved for the secular but shall also be present in the religious; those who hold to religion but deny the power of Christ to change them. They hold to religion while letting go of God. The truth is that no soul can be improved without the influence and presence of God acting upon it. We cannot will ourselves better or discipline ourselves better though the use of religion, we must yield in obedience to God and allow His Holy Spirit to work His sanctifying work in our lives. It is only through the love of the Father, the truth of the Son, and the cleansing of the Holy Spirit that we can reverse the decay in our souls and find them lifted up into the image of Christ.

While Paul draws our attention to the end times, he also reminds us of the present. There are those who, while claiming freedom and enlightenment, seek to draw people away in to bondage and darkness. Paul warns us about them just as Jesus did. Jesus said we would know them by their fruit. "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:17-20) We must not be drawn away by the smooth talk and imagined intelligence of others, we must examine their fruit. Even if one appears to be religious, if their lives show the fruit of ungodliness, then they have no truth within them. Such men are following the downward spiral of life not the upward path of salvation. However, even in the end, their follow will be known and all will be seen for what it truly is. Words matter little, what really matters is fruit!

David Robison

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Contentious - 2nd Timothy 2:23-26

"But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
There is something very seductive to a teacher about showing the depths of his or her understanding in expounding upon deep and hidden mysteries of the scriptures known only to a few truly enlightened individuals. We love to have something new to share; to wow the crowds with our intellectual insight and understanding. Especially where the word of God is unclear, we like to shine with our own personal speculations surrounding it; expounding on our own personal interpretation of the uncertainties to the pleasure of others. This is a temptation that all servants of God, and teachers especially, which we must firmly avoid.

There may be a lot in the word of God that seems uncertain to us, and a lot we don't understand, but the majority of the scriptures are direct and easy enough for anyone to understand and follow. It doesn't take a seminary degree to read and understand the message of God expressed through His word. In fact, it was often the religious elite, who claimed understanding into the scriptures, who were the first to reject Jesus, and it was the lowly and simple who received Him gladly. The religious leaders remarked that Jesus' disciples, "were uneducated." (Acts 4:13) Meaning literately to be "with out letters," such as BS, MS, or Ph.D. Simple uneducated men were able to understand and teach the message of God then and so it is still today.

When we are given to our own speculation, insight, and interpretations, we are easily drawn into quarrels with other people of differing opinions. I have know people who, while loving the Lord, loved the quarrel even more. They delight in nothing more than arguing with others. They delight in the challenge of proving themselves right. Every new encounter, each new person the meet, is another opportunity for victory in discourse and opinion. Such people can't talk about anything else other than their favorite doctrine or how you or someone else you know is wrong and they themselves are right. In proving themselves right, it matters little to them if they must first assault and tear down your own faith; your acquiescence to their position is all that matters.

The goal of teaching is not to be right. Rather, Paul tells us that, "the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5) The goal of our instruction should be the benefit of our hearers. We should teach, not for our own aggrandizement, but for the useful profit of those who choose to listen. People do not need our "deep insight." They do not need to understand the "hidden mysteries" of the scriptures. Rather, they need to know, understand, and obey what the scriptures plainly speak to us and to the world around us. Paul wrote that, "we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand." (2 Corinthians 1:13) Simple truths that are easy to understand and apply to our lives. Peter wrote, "I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them." (2 Peter 1:12) No new "truth" or revelation but just a reminder of what we already know; to bring it to our remembrance and to exhort us to its obedience. This is the true character and nature of a teacher in God's household.

David Robison

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vessels of honor - 2nd Timothy 2:20-22

"Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:20-22)
When we get "saved" was become alive in the spirit, loved by the Father, translated into the Kingdom of Light, and filled with His gifts and callings according to His own purpose and selection. So why do some Christians prove themselves to be more fruitful in their new life in Christ while others seem to resemble the fruitless fig tree which Jesus happened upon as he was entering Jerusalem that one fateful day? Why do some people seem to grow in their faith unto maturity while others remain in perpetual childhood, never growing up?

Paul likens the Kingdom of God to a large house. Just as there are many different kinds of vessels, each for their own use, and many different kinds of domestics, each with their own job to perform, so there are many differing members in the Kingdom of God, each fit for their own use. However, while the purpose of a vessel is often determined by its making and design, our usefulness in the household of God is greatly determined by our own participation in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Paul tells us to, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13) Which tells us that there is still yet a part of our salvation that has yet to be completed, a part that requires our participation.. As believers, we have a salvation that is past. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) There is also a salvation that is yet to come. "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:23) However, there is a present salvation of which we are an active part. "Obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:9) Our salvation is in three parts: the past salvation of our spirit, the future salvation of our bodies, and the present salvation of our souls.

It is into this present salvation of our souls that Peter says we must grow and mature. "Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord." (1 Peter 2:1-3) However, this is not a salvation of knowledge but rather a salvation of obedience and imitation. "Flee youthful lusts" is our charge and the way of salvation for our souls. "Pursue righteousness" is to be the new course of our life; the positive result of our repentance from our sin and our old way of living. And finally, "Therefore" is our promise; the promise of Christlikeness.

Some, content with their former salvation, will remain idle while they await the final salvation of their bodies. However, others will take to heart Peter's admonition to "grow in respect to salvation." that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit might have full reign in their souls and that they may be conformed to the image of the one who saved them. Now is the time for action, now is the time for obedience, and now is the time to partner with God in the salvation our souls.

David Robison

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Profane and vain babbling - 2nd Timothy

"But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.'" (2 Timothy 2:16-19)
To "avoid" here means to stand off, like a bystander, seeing, but not participating in the activity. It is interesting to me that people can become so engrossed in debating over the meaning of the Word that it leads to their unfaithfulness and, ultimately, their destruction. How odd it is that those who look into the eternal truth of God, seeking for some new revelation or some hidden meaning, often come away further from God and His righteousness then when they first started. I believe that it is because the Word of God was never meant to be our guide, such as a map, for this life, but rather a shining light beckoning us to Christ. To the degree that it does prove to be a map in our lives is in correspondence to the degree that it has lead us to Christ. If we devour the Word in a way that does not lead us to Christ then we are embarking on a journey into error and, as for our faith, shipwreck.

Anyone who wishes to preach heresy can find it in the scriptures, such as did Hymenaeus and Philetus. Finding "evidence" in the Word that the resurrection has already occurred, their commitment to their own personal revelation lead them, not only to their own destruction, but to the destruction of those who heard and followed them. They found "truth" but did not know the one who is eternally "true." If they had known Christ, they would have known better, but not knowing Christ, their pride and arrogance lead them in the way of error and ungodliness. Their teaching was more a commitment to themselves than to Christ, His people, and His work on the earth.

How can we avoid worldly and empty chatter, or as Darby calls it, "Profane and vain babbling"? Paul reminds us of two pillars of God's foundation in our lives. First, "The Lord knows those who are His." This means that we must first become His. Many will attempt to make use of the scriptures without first becoming His. Without a relationship with God it is impossible to understand His word and, without understanding His word, it is easy to end up in error. Also, in being His, God watches over His own, but those who know Him not are left to their own devices. Our first line of defense against error and degeneracy is to know Jesus.

Secondly, "Everyone who knows God should abstain from wickedness." If we claim to know God but continue to live our lives unaffected, then we lie and do know know the truth. If we know God then we, by the power and grace of God, aught to live like His Son in holiness and righteousness. Those who pursue ungodliness show they do not really know God and that they are void of the truth of God inside themselves. Those who desire ungodliness will find it, but those who desire righteousness will be transformed into the image of God's Son. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6) Pursuing holiness and righteousness will never lead us astray as long as we hold fast to the One who has made us both holy and righteous.

David Robison

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rightly dividing - 2nd Timothy 2:15

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
This is a colorful verse that has many varying translations, all in an attempt to bring out the richness of what Paul wrote to Timothy. On whole, Paul is writing about how we should approach the word of truth, especially by those whose aim it is to teach the word of truth and to instruct others out of its wisdom.

First, Paul tells Timothy to be diligent in his work. Some translations use the term "Study" however, while this particular Greek word may in fact imply study as a part of our diligence, its root word simply means "speed" with the implication of earnestness, endeavoring, and a readiness for the task. There is a wonderful English word, that is also fun to say, it is "Serendipity." Serendipity is when you find something quite by accident and without looking or searching for it. All-of-a-sudden it's there. All-of-a-sudden you understand. Unfortunately, most things in the Kingdom of God do not come through serendipity; they take work, effort, and diligence. Jesus told us, "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened." (Luke 11:10) However, the tense of these verbs is in the continuous form: whoever asks and keeps asking, whoever seeks and keeps seeking, and whoever knocks and keeps knocking. If we desire to be teachers of the word then we must apply ourselves to the task. This may mean reading, studying, learning, an praying. But in whatever form our task takes us, we must do it with readiness and diligence.

Secondly, Paul tells us that the approval we seek for our work of diligence should not be sought from men but from God. The problem in seeking approval from men is that they often value the things that are detestable to God and find detestable those things that are of high value to God. Jesus Himself told us, "that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God." (Luke 16:15) Seeking the approval of men is a pathway to destruction. Jesus told the story of the master who was going away and divided his fortune among his servants. On his return, one of his servants had doubled what was given him. His master said, "Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities." (Luke 19:17) However, one servant hid the money and, upon his return, the master had no increase from his money. The master said to that servant, "By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave." (Luke 19:22) For one, there was reward for his endeavors, for the other, only shame. God has given us His promises and His gifts and He is looking for an increase from His investment. Let us be diligent with what God has given us so we too will not find ourselves put to shame at His return.

Finally, Paul tells those who wish to be teachers of the word that the goal of their diligence should be to "accurately handle" the word of truth. This particular Greek word means to make a right cut, or to cut straight. Any fool can butcher the word of God but it takes a properly prepared teacher to divide it rightly. There were those in Paul's day who liked to take a knife to the word of God; to cut out the parts they didn't like and to paste in new texts that were more in keeping with their ideals. Even today there are those who like to use an exacto knife to cut a single verse out of its context from which to build their own special brand of theology. Neither of these approaches are worthy of the word of truth. The word of truth is not a mystery but it is a message that has unfolded throughout time. To understand a part of the word you must understand the entirety of the word. To do otherwise would be like coming into the middle of a move and trying to understand what is going on. Without having knowledge of the beginning of the movie you would most likely be lost. To understand a verse you often need to understand it in a greater context and you most certainly need to understand it in the context of the one who spoke it. However, this level of understanding takes effort and time and few there are willing to devote themselves to such an undertaking, but for those who do, their work, study, and diligence will win them approval before God and maybe even men.

David Robison

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Misusing the Scriptures - 2nd Timothy 2:14

"Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. " (2 Timothy 2:14)
Almost thirty years ago my new wife and I hosted our first small group in our home. The pattern of the church we belonged to was that the group leader lead a teaching every week. At first, this was a great stress on me, as a heavy weight upon my shoulders, feeling like each week I had to have a fresh word, the "new" word of the Lord, something new and revelatory to teach those in our group. It almost became unbearable until I realized that the entire Word of God was divine and inspired. At any point I could open it up and teach its words and the message would be both inspired and divine. Timothy's ministry in Ephesus was not to have a "new and exciting" word for the people each week, but rather to remind them of what they had already learned; to keep the word they had believed fresh and active in their soul.

I have meat many people who have had a similar experience to mine. Part of the problem lies with how we train "preachers." We teach hermeneutics, we teach them Greek and Latin so they can find hidden truth, and we train them how to speak and prepare sermons; everything they need to deliver a fresh new word every week. Their training teaches them that they need to preach and preach something new and interesting each week. Also, in part, the congregants are also partly to blame. Each week they come and sit dutifully, almost demandingly, expecting something new and fresh and, if what is delivered is not to their liking, they grumble, complain, and criticize the "preacher" for not living up to their expectations. We want something new when what we really need is simply to be reminded. Most of us we already know what we need to know, we just need to be reminded to live what we know.

Similarly, there are two grave mistakes want-to-be teachers make when they approach the Word of God. Some delve into the Word in an attempt to understand God. While the scriptures reveal much about God, His Son, and His Holy Spirit, it is not the Word that sheds light on God but God that sheds light upon the Word. Jesus told us, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13) It is God who leads us into truth, even the truth of the scriptures. Also, Jesus chided those whose dependency was upon the Word yet, int the end, they rejected Him. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:39-40) These were those who searched the scriptures for truth, but truth came and went and they missed Him. With all their scriptural knowledge they failed to recognize God when He came. To properly understand the scriptures we must first properly understand God.

Secondly, some view the scriptures as almost a magic book, full of spells and hidden mystical messages. To them it is a book of secrets for them to discover and explain. They view the scriptures not as a message from God, nor as a history of His involvement with mankind, but as a secret encoded message which only the truly wise, that being them, can properly decipher and understand. These are those who argue over words, syntax, and hidden truths. For example, there are those today who argue over what John said regarding Jesus. When John said, "The Word was God." (John 1:1) they say it should be "the word was a god." Yet in their arguing over words they miss the totality of the message of the scriptures which clearly portrays Jesus as both God and the Son of God. They argue over words and miss the truth. Along with these are those who look to colors, numbers, and patterns of letters to find hidden meaning, yet Paul simply says, "For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand." (2 Corinthians 1:13) The Word of God is not difficult and it means what it says. If we focus on what is evident in its meaning, then we will have no occasion for error and the truth of God's word will continue to strengthen and mature us in our walk with God.

David Robison

Friday, June 06, 2014

Remember Christ - 2nd Timothy 2:8-13

"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;  if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us;  if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:8-13)
At first it seems odd that Paul has to remind Timothy to remember Jesus, after all, Paul's letter is in the bible and anything in the bible aught to automatically remind us of Jesus. However, it is a common hazard of all who are workers in the Kingdom to become so engaged in their work that they forget the one whom they are working for. The teacher can become so consumed with the word he is teaching that he forgets the author of the word. The evangelist can become driven in his saving of souls that he forgets about the one who who is the savior of soul. And the counselor can be so motivated by his desire to help people in need that he can forget the one who helps him in his need. We all live busy and engaged lives and it is our nature to push to the back of our minds everything that does not contribute to our immediate tasks and the current demands of our lives. We all need to be reminded from time to time to remember Jesus for, without Jesus, nothing else in life really matters.

Paul also reminds us that we are all part of something greater than our individual lives. We are part of God's work upon the earth. A work that started thousand of years ago and continues even unto today. Jesus told his disciples that the work of the kingdom did not begin with them but rather they were entering into a work that began a long time ago and they merely taking their place in history in this great work of God. "For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.'  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor." (John 4:37-38) Paul understood that his life might have its ups and downs, freedoms and imprisonments, but the greater work of God, the work of the Gospel he served, was always ever increasing. He may be in chains but the word of God was not. He was part of something greater and eternal and he could rejoice in his participation in it, even from jail.

Finally, Paul speaks of his own suffering. Sometimes we suffer at the hands of others. This suffering God has promised to turn around for our good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) Sometimes we suffer because of our own sins and bad choices. This suffering is meant to correct us and change us through repentance. "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler." (1 Peter 4:15) Sometimes we suffer for unknown reasons, yet we know that our suffering is for our own benefit. This suffering is meant to grow us up and perfect us in our new life with God. "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10) But here Paul says he suffers, not because of something he has done or something others have done, and not for the sake of his own benefit, but he suffers for the benefit of others. No one likes to suffer. However, the knowledge that our suffering will, in the end, make us better people may help us endure our present suffering, but have we ever considered being willing to suffer for the sake of others? Wisdom accepts suffering that is meant to make us better but love accepts suffering that is meant for the benefit of others. Paul suffered so that others might be blessed, encouraged, and reconciled in their life with God and it is for this same purpose that God has called us to join with Him in this suffering. It is through the suffering for others that we complete the work of Christ's suffering on this earth. "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church." (Colossians 1:24 NKJV)

David Robison

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

An oral tradition - 2nd Timothy 2:1-7

"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." (2 Timothy 2:1-7)
Jesus established an oral tradition of communicating the Gospel. He taught it to his disciples (his apostles), they taught it to their disciples, and, here, Paul is commanding Timothy to teach it to others as well; specifically to the elders whom he was raising up and establishing in the church that they might, in turn, teach others. Sure, there could be a more efficient and error prone way, but Jesus chose a method that relied upon relationships. The message Jesus, and his apostles, taught was was not a secret message know only to the truly initiated. In fact Paul says that he taught it among many witnesses. It was a message for everyone and it was easy to understand and follow. An apostle is a messenger, send forth with a message to deliver to all who will hear. Paul had been entrusted with and a message that he was meant to teach and, entrust to others that they might teach as well, so that the whole world might here the message of Christ.

There is nothing new with discipleship. It has been going on since long before Jesus' advent here on the earth. But we must ask ourselves, "into what are we discipline people?" What are we teaching those whom we are disciplining? Our discipleship aught to be apostolic in that the things we are teaching and imparting are the same things that the apostles taught and imparted. The very same things that Paul taught in the presence of many witnesses, those things he heard from Jesus, and those things that Timothy taught the elders in the church, those things he heard from Paul, are the same things that we should seek to teach and impart to others.

Paul encourages Timothy to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ. The Greek word for suffer means to suffer hardships in the company of others. It speaks of those who have joined together, to endure what may, form the sake of a common purpose. God has not intended us to walk this journey alone. There will be difficult times and times when it will seem that we are fighting for our lives, but it will be easier if we realize that we are not alone and that we are all fighting together for ourselves, each other, and the expansion of the Kingdom of God upon the world. Can you hear the holy invitation? Others have gone forth to fight the good fight of faith and Jesus is inviting us to join them, to fight with them, to endure with them, to become a mighty army together to the glory of God.

God is calling us to leave behind the ordinary and to invest our lives into the Kingdom of God. Those who are invested in everyday life will only produce everyday results, but those who are invested in the Kingdom of God will reap eternal rewards. Paul uses three metaphors to get this point across. First, the solderer who cares more about pleasing his captain than engaging the world. In those days, people fought for glory and valor and considered them greater treasures than anything the world had to offer. Secondly, the athlete who constrains his life according to the rules of the game. It is not a life that is haphazard or reckless but one that knows that winning takes a disciplined and constrained lifestyle, Finally, the hardworking farmer who understand that increase does not happen apart from hard work. Many people want better things in their lives but do not want to work for them. However, somethings take effort. God is calling us to make a choice, to live for this world or to live for the world yet to come; to live a life of ordinary existence or to enlist in His army that they might accomplish eternal things even while they live here on this earth.

Finally, Paul encourages Timothy to consider what he is writing. This Greek word here for "consider" means to "exerciser the mind." As the increase does not come through idleness, neither does understanding come by serendipity; it takes thought, consideration, and mediation. However, if we apply our minds to the words of Jesus, and the words of His apostles, then Jesus will give us enlightenment and understanding. If we commit ourselves to the work then God will reward us with our wages.

David Robison

Monday, June 02, 2014

An invitation to hazards -2nd Timothy 1:8-18

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me —  the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day — and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus." (2 Timothy 1:8-18)
A life of service to God is a life fraught with many hazards. While there are many dangers from those who are enemies of the cross, there are also hazards from other believers that we must also endure. Here Paul mentions two such hazards: the hazard of personal rejection and the hazard of the rejection of our message and our service. When Paul was sentenced to prison, there were some believers who turned away from him, ashamed of his chains, afraid of his association. However, before we declare our innocence in stating that we would never do such a thing, let us remember those who also have been wrongly slandered and even wrongfully imprisoned for their faith. We can often be quick to turn away and "kick them to the curb" as we distance ourselves from them lets we too reap some of their pain by our association with them. King Solomon said, "Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend." (Proverbs 19:4) When your ministry is going well, everyone wants to be your friend, but when it is going badly, a true friend is hard to find.

Paul also faced the pain of those to whom he brought the Gospel yet were so quick to turn away and reject him and his message for another "gospel." Paul loved the people he served and it pained him to see them turn away and reject him so thoroughly. It is unclear exactly why Asia turned away from Paul, certainly his chains had something to do with it, but it seem likely to me that also Phygelus and Hermogenes, and their teachings, had something to do with it. It wasn't just the loss of his reputation that pained Paul, but the loss of friends. We can see this in his appreciation for Onesiphorus who remained a true friend and brother even when Paul was "in chains." John faced a similar situation when he wrote, "Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church." (3 John 9-10)

A life of service to God is a life that is full of dangers but it is this very life that God is calling us to. The Greek word translated here for "calling" can more accurately be translated "invitation." Today, we think of a calling as an assignment, while in God's eyes it is an invitation to a new journey. God is not assigning us a position in the church but rather inviting us to a new life with Him. And this is the life that we must now choose. Will we accept his invitation to a life full of hazards or will we withdraw and seek a life of ease and assurance? The choice is ours. However, if we choose to accept the challenge then we can be assured that Christ will be on our side for He is able to keep us safely until the very end. Ours is to hold fast to what we have been given, not to surrender it through cowardness, idleness, or giving up. The journey may be difficult but the reward is worthy and the holy aid along the way is sufficient.  

David Robison