Lucia's Blog: January 2017
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

CORRECTION

The one who follows instruction is on the path to life,
but the one who rejects correction goes astray. 
Proverbs 10:17


I try to be meek because Jesus said that they shall be blessed, but it is still upsetting when someone tells me that I am wrong about something. I might ignore the counsel thinking that it is just being picky or extreme. I might even get defensive. They threw Jeremiah into a pit because of his unpopular message. Paul was stoned and left for dead. However, I want to go to heaven, and even if the brother's manner was harsh and unloving, he might be right, and his counsel might save my soul from serious error. No matter how many years we have been serving the Lord and studying His Word, we can still be deceived by our own ignorance of certain truths. The problem is that in time we think we already know it all or at least all that matters and in our pride resent the charge that we are wrong about something. Let's hear that word again, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."  I need this as much as anybody. Let's think together about the challenge of receiving and giving correction. So much of our future depends on our attitudes toward, "reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long-suffering."

No one enjoys receiving correction.  To receive correction is no "piece of cake."  No one wants to be wrong.  Do you?  You probably don't. It does not matter who we are (rich, poor, educated, a mature Christian or a babe in Christ), we all need to be corrected sometimes.  Who doesn’t?  We all do! Why?  Because often we find ourselves committing sin and falling short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23).  Sometimes, wisdom comes in the form of correction.  Sadly, many never seek it and when someone offers “friendly correction,” they don't receive it well.  However, it is vital for us to accept correction when we find ourselves doing wrong.  We cannot grow without it!  As Christians, we are compelled both to receive and offer correction.  Of course, we must be cautious as to how we approach it.  The Bible (especially in the book of Proverbs) stresses the importance of receiving correction.  The Proverbs call it wisdom.  One who is wise will accept correction to discern or gain knowledge, understanding and honor, (Proverbs 19:25; 15:32; 15:31; 13:18).  On the other hand, one who hates correction and rejects it, “is stupid,” "brutish" (12:1), “goes astray” (10:17), “despises himself” (15:32), will have “poverty and shame” (13:18) and “will die” (15:10).  What a contrast!

Humility plays a vital role in correction.  It is the key ingredient to growing in wisdom, (Proverbs 11:2).  “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”  (Proverbs 9:8-9).  Pride (arrogance, insolence) is the opposite of humility. And when one lacks humility, pride reigns, making it difficult to receive and learn wisdom and understanding.  Because of pride, many shield themselves and are not approachable, (Proverbs 13:10).  It renders them weak and hard of heart, and thus slow to listen to wise counsel.  They quickly give in to their defensive thoughts, emotions, and words.  They allow their emotions (anger, resentment, bitterness) to control them, making it hard for them to respond positively to advice or correction.  For the most part, the way one responds to correction is usually an indicator of how proud he is. It is a good barometer for the pride he has in his life.

So, if a prideful “red flag” goes up when someone corrects you, then it is time to go in prayer to God Almighty for humility.  To receive correction well is a genuine test of our faith and love for Christ and His church.  Of course, we prefer words of approval, praise, or even flattery.  The Word of God gives us much warning about such words, (Proverbs 28:23; 29:5; Acts 12:21-22; 1 Thess. 2:5-6).

We need to keep in mind that it is no “piece of cake” for the one who has to correct his brother either.  So instead of getting defensive, allowing your emotions to cause you to stumble, why not listen carefully and humbly accept it and change your ways?  Why not realize that those who are correcting you are just doing it to help you keep on the right path?  Why not consider it a blessing that you have someone who cares enough for you to show the courage necessary to point out your flaws, shortcomings or the sins in your life that you might walk in righteousness and holiness? We all need correction!  We must accept it and embrace it.  It will help us stay strong and sound. There is no other way to heaven.  Heaven is worth it all!! 


I.    THE BLESSINGS OF CORRECTION:
  • For Change, Growth, and Maturity:
To grow, we must bear the word of exhortation, (Heb. 13:22).  We must amend all our flaws, faults, and shortcomings.  We must make up what is deficient in ourselves.  The process of regeneration is merely the correction of ideas, evil practices, and habits, while also accepting the practice of that which is correct and righteous.  Indeed, it is a constant and exhausting battle to rule the flesh completely.  It is a fight that will last until we lay down our burdens at Jesus’ feet.

The Word of God exhorts us repeatedly that we should grow by constant effort so that we might not fall away, (Heb. 5:12-14; 6:4).  We must grow in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord and Savior, that we may bear the fruits of righteousness, (2 Peter 1:5-9; 3:18).

Other Scriptures stress that we must grow to perfection (maturity).  The source of all correction is the Word of God that dictates how we ought to live to be found faithful and righteous before Him. That is why Paul instructed Timothy:
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  (2 Timothy 4:2).
In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul wrote, 
“2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  
Are you diligently seeking to be transformed by the renewing of your mind?  It will require learning, knowledge, and change.  In 2 Peter 3:18, the apostle Peter admonishes us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”  Are you eagerly seeking this kind of spiritual growth in your life?  Well, this inner change will demand considerable involvement from us.  It will demand obedience, holiness, effort, fear, trembling and sanctification through God's Word. (Phil. 2:12-13).  God's Word helps us to grow into the likeness of Christ.  Without feeding on God's Word, we cannot grow spiritually.  (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Matt. 4:4), Eph. 4:15; Matt. 5:6).  God has equipped us with every good thing, so that we may do His will and be pleasing in His sight, through our Lord and Savior, (Hebrews 13:21).  

However, personal growth is not just through personal effort, but also through the personal giving and receiving of truth with others.  We cannot afford to neglect this because if we do, our souls will be in danger.  Why do I say that?  Because God has commanded us to share His Truth with others that they may grow.  Consider Paul's admonitions:  “14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another."   (Romans 15:14).  The word “admonish” here is from the Greek "noutheto," meaning “to put in mind (from “nouthethes” and this from nous (mind) and “tithemi” (to place).”  It could be translated as admonish, warn, instruct or train.  Thus, giving admonishment to others is vital to their spiritual growth and maturity.  Moreover, receiving admonishment is essential to our own spiritual growth and maturity. 


II.    HOW TO GIVE AND RECEIVE CORRECTION, ADMONISHMENT:
  • Giving Correction to Others:  
The Word of God must be the measure or standard for teaching another what is right or wrong.  It must be used to admonish the one who is not behaving according to the will of God.  It must also be used to restore the one who is not walking upright, that he may walk the right way according to God's Word.  Finally, the Word of God must train everyone in the way of righteousness that they may be equipped for every good work.  We must accept correction, admonition that we might repent and correct what is wrong.  Likewise, it is crucial that we welcome the admonisher openly lest we be deceived and remain in sin.

We must correct others in a thoughtful manner, tell the Truth in love and concern for the soul of the other person.  The goal is to help them change, encouraging them that they might repent or correct their belief and behavior.  In Hebrews 3:13 we are told to "encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."  The word “encourage” is from the Greek "parakaleite,"  meaning “to call on, entreat and also to admonish, exhort, to urge one to pursue some course of conduct (always prospective, looking to the future, in contrast to the meaning to comfort, which retrospective, having to do with trial experienced).” 

Paul often admonished others and even rebuked them if necessary.  “14 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all.”  (1 Thess. 5:14).  Our admonishing, correcting and encouraging must be done with a patient and kind attitude.  However, sometimes the disobedient and false teachers are obstinate. Paul says they need to be confronted with severity.  He states, “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers... They must be silenced since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach... Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”  (Titus 1:10,11,13).  And while it is true that some who are not stubborn are to be confronted with gentleness, there are some like these men that cannot be reached without rebuke or sharp reproof.

Destructive criticism is the kind of correction that we must avoid.  Why?  Because it is not edifying, but rather it is destructive to one's soul.  The one that gives that sort of correction can never see good in anything or anyone.  They are the fault finders. They have an evil and sinful habit that causes many to dread being around them!  They cause division among brethren and provoke them to fight against each other.  That is why Paul warned the church at Rome about divisive brethren. Notice what he said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them.”  (Romans 16:17).  Not only can destructive criticism divide a church, but it can ruin relationships and the respect they have for each other.  This kind of destructive correction must be avoided at all cost!

On the other hand, constructive criticism is good.  It grows out of love and seeks the well-being of the other.  It is the type of correction we want others to offer us if we are at fault.  In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  When we approach and correct others with the right attitude, they might respect us.  Sadly, they don’t most of the time. Many times, the one who is wrong “bites us,” when we bring up their wrongdoing or sin.  Indeed, correcting one another is very uncomfortable, but it can also be very rewarding if they listen. 
  • The Value of Receiving Correction From Others:
Not only are we to share the Truth with others, but we must value it as well.  One of the greatest ways to express your love for me is to point out my sin, my need for repentance and the importance of change.  The Word of God counsels us saying, Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”  (Prov. 27:5-6).  How often do we ignore this fundamental truth?  It is one thing for someone to say he's my friend and that he loves me.  It is another thing for that person to show me his love by correcting me when he finds some fault or wrongdoing in my life! According to this passage, such a friend might wound us indeed, but he is faithful as he is showing his love by doing this deed!  You see, open rebuke allows us the chance to reflect on our faith and the course we are walking. On the other hand, hidden love sees or perceives but fails to communicate the need for correction.  The wounds of a genuine friend are meant to cut to the heart for the good of that person.  It is wise to highly value a friend's willingness to point out our errors and failings. “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”  (Prov. 28:23).  If we indeed value Truth and genuinely desire to change in holiness and godliness, then we will certainly crave this correction more than false friendship that flatters us with hypocrisy.

From Genesis to Revelation, God specifically emphasizes the importance of receiving admonishment and correction from others.  Moreover, He stresses the need of giving correction for their good.  In the Garden of Eden, God confronted Adam and Even with their sin (Genesis 3:88ff). He was using correction here because it was needed.  After Cain killed Abel, his brother, God likewise confronted Cain and made him accountable for killing his brother.  And though God rebuked him for his crime, Cain did not repent (4:5ff).  In the New Testament, John the Baptizer rebuked Herod saying, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”  (Mark 6:18).  Herod refused to repent and had John killed (verses 26-29).  Jesus rebuked Peter because he had become an offense to Jesus since he was tempting Him not to fulfill the purpose which He came to accomplish here on earth ("For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost").  (Luke 19:10).  Peter did not comprehend God's will entirely because he was being misguided by his own judgment and carnal emotions.  After Jesus' resurrection, He walked with two disciples to Emmaus and said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  (Luke 24:25).  You see Jesus needed to rebuke, reprove and correct them about God's plan.  

Ecclesiastes 7:5 is another passage that instructs us about receiving admonition.  “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.”  So, do you think we should welcome rebuke from a brother or sister when we really need it?  Yes!  It is the only way to correct wrong behavior, grow spiritually and do God's will.  It is the only way to grow in the wisdom of God, (Prov. 15:31).  It is vital that we have an open heart to welcome reproof and correction, so that we may grow in the knowledge of Christ as faithful followers of His. (Prov. 12:1).  On the other hand, it is foolish to refuse correction or rebuke.  It expresses ignorance and pride!
  • The Right Attitudes in Giving and Receiving Correction or Admonishment:
Inner attitude is crucial here.  The Lord wants us to admonish one another with pure motives and a sincere heart.  Notice what the Scriptures have to say about the way we are to admonish one another.
    • Spirituality and Gentleness: 
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  (Gal. 6:1).
    • Kindness, Patience, and Gentleness:
“24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”  (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
    • Sincerity and Without Hypocrisy:
“5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”  (Matt. 7:5).
    • Love:
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”  (Prov. 27:5).
    • Spirit of Love and Gentleness:
“21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”  (1 Cor. 4:21).
    • Brotherliness:
“15And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”  (2 Thess. 3:15).
    • Righteousness:
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.  (Psalm 141:5).

Undoubtedly, according to the Scriptures mentioned above, it is vital that we admonish and correct one another with the right spirit or attitude to please God.
  • Being Open to Correction and Change:
Since God often uses others to show us our faults and shortcomings, let us from an open heart, welcome it for our good and never refuse correction; never reject someone's correction or reproof. Let us take it well with a humble and meek heart even when it seems to be harsh or unkind criticism. It may surprise you what you can learn of value even from a rebuke that appears to be unjust and unfair.  It requires a humble heart that is open, to receive correction!  Correction helps to improve our walk with the Lord, and it makes us much better persons to the glory of God.  Why not learn to accept correction from those who have better knowledge of the Truth and want to share it with us for our own good?   Therefore, let us learn to be wise and welcome counsel and admonition! “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”  (Psalm 141:5).  If correction is going to make me a better Christian and help me grow, then let the righteous strike or smite me and reprove me!!  The blows and rebukes of the righteous are real kindness!!   “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”  (Prov. 17:10).  May our Lord give us the understanding to receive rebuke so that our souls may prosper and grow.  
    • Responding to Rebuke or Admonition:
We have the choice of responding to rebuke or admonition in two ways:
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.”  (Prov. 15:32).  
According to this Scripture, there are two kinds of listeners:  one who ignores correction and one who listens to it. There is a great blessing in being open to instruction and correction.  Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.”  (Prov. 19:25).  You see, the simple learns by listening to instruction thus becoming wiser while the scoffer refuses to heed and learn at all.  The Christian who sincerely values God's Word will find opportunities to learn and change from other sources.  The key to wisdom is to always be open to God's will that comes to us through the counsel of the righteous, the wise.  Notice what James says about godly wisdom, 
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  (James 3:17).  
There must be a will to yield, being open to reason; being teachable, compliant, easily persuaded, and willing to submit to soldierly discipline and moral standards.  God's wisdom leads us to a teachable spirit.  On the other hand, when one has worldly wisdom, one quickly resists reproof and correction, refusing to be persuaded to change when he is wrong.  When one values Truth, then both the corrector and the one corrected will benefit and allow the Truth to prevail.  Only those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness will accept every opportunity or open the door to counsel and instruction, (Matt. 5:6).  When one values God's righteousness, he is willing to endure whatever reproof, rebuke, admonishment or correction that's needed.  It is vital that we respond to God's Truth the same way that the noble-minded Bereans did.  When Paul proclaimed the message of salvation to them, they received it with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see whether these things were so, (Acts 17:11).  And though this Scripture is speaking of salvation itself, it is true that the same principle must be applied to any Bible Truth that someone may present to us.  So, do you receive the Word of Truth with great eagerness when someone presents it to you?  Are you open to the Truth?  Do you examine the Truth to determine whether the truth they bring to you is actually true?  In Proverbs 9:7-10, there are two likely responses to correction.  
Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.  10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Now, notice that the scoffers choose to insult the one who corrects him. They dishonor the reprover as well as hate him.  Instead of being grateful for being admonished and not have to suffer harm.  Have you noticed how many react to correction with insults and hatred (about any sin, compromising behavior, attitudes, wrong view) even when it is offered in the spirit of love and kindness?  Some even have the audacity to silence us harshly, refusing to speak at all.  Some choose to withdraw from us, refusing all contact with us.  Others are unwilling to admit their errors or faults, that they're wrong and claim to be deeply hurt.  Instead of strengthening the relationship, the one offended chooses to reject us at all cost, remaining stubbornly in his error and sin.  On the contrary, the godly and righteous person values knowledge and is open to change.  He will love us when he is corrected!  He acknowledges God's will and ways.  So instead of hating the admonisher (as the scoffer did), the wise and righteous will love the admonisher for he can learn, grow, change and understand God's will better.  (Prov. 9:9).  The righteous and wise craves for more knowledge and understanding.  He is open to reproof and correction.

Giving and receiving godly advice is one of the most important tests of our faith and love for the Lord.  It is crucial.  How we respond to counsel will reveal who we are!  We must remove pride to accept instruction and counsel.  If pride is your problem, you must pray to God for wisdom that you might not allow it to master you.  Remember pride can hurt you and can lead you to death.  The foolish is always stubborn and is always right in his own eyes.  On the other hand, the wise listens to advice or rebuke and gains knowledge or wisdom.  Likewise, the wise seeks advice and succeeds, (Proverbs 15:22).  Those who refuse correction are stubborn and fail to see their shortcomings.  They often resent or even hate the one who is correcting them.  They refuse to acknowledge that someone cares enough about them to help them out of their sins or failures.  We must choose to be thankful for them, knowing that they care enough to help us go to heaven.  Be receptive to their words that can save us.  Don't despise correction for that is God's will for us that we may grow and be better than we are today.  God wants us to be transformed into His image from glory to glory.  But this transformation requires knowledge and change.  Are you willing to welcome that transformation?  If you are, then you must be willing to receive correction, advice, and rebuke.  
  • Why We Should Value Correction:
As those who have the desire to do God's will, we must earnestly desire the sincere correction of others (especially the righteous) toward us.  It is seldom given and received.  Often, we prefer to gossip and slander one another instead of privately approaching him with a loving and kind attitude to point out his errors and failings.  If you have a friend who is willing to do this from a sincere heart, then you are rich indeed.  Consider some of the blessings that come through sincere correction.
  1. We discover our blind spots or failings. 
  2. We gain wisdom and understanding from the righteous who love Truth.
  3. We awaken from our apathy and carelessness.
  4. We are encouraged to look at our circumstances in life from a different and more righteous perspective.
  5. We see and change those faults that we so often overlook.
  6. We are encouraged to greater love and good works.
  7. We are encouraged to examine our heart more carefully.
  8. We are encouraged to be more Christ-like.
  9. We are encouraged not to be deceived and hardened by sin, (Heb. 3:12-14). 

Not only do we benefit from the correction that others offer us, but the correction that we offer to others may be life giving, (Jer. 17:9; Prov. 28:26).

    • The Consequences of Rejecting Correction:
  1. "And you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!  13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.  14 I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (Proverbs 5:12-14).
  2. "Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored."  (Proverbs13:18).
  3. "The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.  32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.  33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor."  (Proverbs 15:31-33).
  4. "Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.  28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.  29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.  32 For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:24-33).
  5. "He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing."  (Proverbs 29:1).

III.    EXAMPLES OF REPROOF AND CORRECTION IN THE BIBLE:
  1. Samuel the prophet rebuked Saul, the king, (1 Samuel 13:13).
  2. Nathan, the prophet rebuked David, the king when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, (2 Samuel 12:7-9).
  3. Elijah rebuked Ahab the king, (1 Kings 21:20).
  4. Elisha rebuked Gehazi his servant, (2 Kings 5:26-27).
  5. Hanani, the seer, rebuked Asa the king, (2 Chronicles 16:7-9).
  6. Zechariah rebuked the people of Israel, (2 Chronicles 24:20).
  7. John the Baptizer rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees, (Matthew 3:7).
  8. John the Baptizer rebuked Herod the king, (Mark 6:18).
  9. Jesus rebuked the rich young ruler, (Mark 10:17-22).
  10. Jesus rebuked Peter, (Matt. 16:21-23).
  11. The repentant crucified robber rebuked the other sinful thief, (Luke 23:40).
  12. Peter rebuked Ananias, (Acts 5:3ff).
  13. Peter rebuked Simon the magician, (Acts 8:20-23).
  14. Paul rebuked Elymas the magician, (Acts 13:10).
  15. Paul and Barnabas rebuked the Jews of Antioch, (Acts 13:46).
  16. Paul rebuked Peter, (Galatians 2:11-14).
  17. Jesus rebuked all the apostles, (Mark 16:14).
These are just a few examples of those who needed reproof and correction in the Bible.  God expects us to correct others when there is sin, and they are not walking in righteousness.  Likewise, God expects others to correct us when we are not walking upright.   Since God loves us, He points out the faults, shortcomings, and sins in our walk with Him through His Word.


IV.     QUESTIONS ABOUT REPROOF AND CORRECTION:

The following are a few things to consider when applying Bible principles to reproof and correction.
  • How can I correct another person since I'm not perfect?
God does not expect us to be sinless before we consider sharing the Truth with another person.  He wants us to be upright.  Christ commanded us not to use unrighteous judgment when we, ourselves, are guilty of wrongdoings.  Jesus said, “5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Matt. 7:5; cf. vv. 1-4).  They key here is to remove our obvious sins, so that we can freely correct another.
  • How can I know enough to point out another person's sins when I know so little about the Bible?
Though many are not mature Bible students, that does not justify not knowing what the Bible says. For example, one may not know all there is to know about the teachings of Christ, but we may certainly know what Jesus said about divorce, remarriage, and adultery, (Matt. 19:9).  We indeed know enough to share this Truth with someone who is considering such a step of divorcing his wife, except for fornication and marries another person, committing adultery.  Of course, this must be dealt with care and wisdom.
  • How can I reprove or correct a person who I'm not sure has actually sinned?
Well, this must be done with caution and careful examination.  Ask the person about a particular moral area in his life in which he is failing.  Kindly, gently and lovingly approach him with an open mind, believing the best that you can, until you find out the truth of the matter.
  • How do I correct an unbeliever?
Though the unbeliever may not have much motivation to repent and change, there are many times when we must reprove or correct him especially if they're family members, friends, or co-workers. There's no guarantee they will listen.  Yet love ought to motivate us to do our best under such circumstances and limitations.
  • What is the difference between correcting a Christian and an unbeliever?
Within the body of Christ, we have the duty to correct according to the Scriptures.  Jesus said that we should approach a brother who sins and tell him his faults in private.  If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”  (Matt. 18:15). The Lord has told us plainly what to do if a brother refuses to repent, (verses 16-20).  It is impossible to implement this type of procedure when an unbeliever is the offender.
  • What is the righteous attitude of forgiveness when we rebuke a Christian?
Jesus commanded us to forgive others.  “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  (Luke 17:3-4).  It is vital that we have a sincere attitude of forgiveness when approaching such a brother since God has forgiven us in Christ, (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).
  • How can I prevent the other person from reacting to my correction rather than responding with an open and positive heart?
Now, this is one of the hardest issues.  That's why we must make sure our motives and attitudes are pure, with love, gentleness, and kindness, so that the one who is rebuked will respond in humility and repentance which is our goal.  It is sometimes good to admit to him our faults or failures that we had to correct, so as to humbly establish common ground.
  • What basic principles can I keep in mind when offering a sincere correction to one whom we've caught in sin?
When one lives his life in the fear of God, his whole life will be lived in reverence before God.  When we live our lives to walk in righteousness to please our God, confrontation is more likely possible and desirable.  When the righteous acknowledges that he's guilty of sin, he longs to do the will of God and will receive and heed correction with a humble heart.  We will see a need to correct others as well. Notice what Paul declared, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. (2 Cor. 5:11l cf. Heb. 10:31).
  • What can I do when my attempts to correct another fail?
When a child of God tries to share the Truth with someone who has little interest in hearing and changing, he feels helpless and hopeless.  It is a dilemma that all saints have to face.  If for some reason, we feel that Matthew 18:15-20 is applicable, then we must express our sincere concern about that person's sin, attitude, sinful words, or sinful behavior, trying to plead with him to open his heart to the Truth and to forsake (abandon, leave, quit, yield) his sin, (Proverbs 28:13).  When we have done our duty, we can commit the matter to our Father in heaven in prayer, asking Him to open his heart so that he can see his sin and the need to change that he might save his soul.
  • How can I practice correction with family members and friends?
If all the parties involved are true Christians, this simplifies the matter considerably.  The corrector can appeal to God's Word to solve the offense.  He may present the case to a trusted and mature elder of the church to mediate a settlement.  Now, if the offender is a fallen child of God, the problem can be more difficult.  Some may respond to the Word of God if they still revere it, others may not.  It all depends on whether they want to heed the correction and do the will of God.
  • What's the right approach in matters of opinion and doctrine?
When it comes to matters of opinion, we can respect a person's opinion and be willing to hear them out.  It does not mean that we have to change what we are doing.  Now when it comes to worship service, one might say we should sing 5 songs, have 3 prayers, and have the Lord's Supper last. Though we might do these acts in exactly that order, again they're simply matters of opinions.  It does not matter what order as long as we sing, pray and partake of the Lord's Supper.  Matters of opinion are not something we need to conform to.  However, when it comes to matters of doctrine (that is the teachings of Christ in the New Testament, His Law), it is vital that we take heed to changes.  We must humbly change our ways if they're not in accord with the will of God.  We cannot afford to be stiff-necked like the Pharisees of Jesus' day.  Instead, we must follow the example of Apollos when Aquila and Priscilla approached him in Acts 18:24-28.

When Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos preaching the message of John's baptism but not that of Jesus, they didn't try to harshly interrupt his preaching, or ridicule and humiliate him before his audience.  They instead took him aside and explained to him what he was missing and not teaching. Nowhere do we hear him arguing with Aquila and Priscilla or saying, “Who do you think you are, trying to teach me something else?  Instead, Apollos humbly accepted the correction and even welcomed it.  After he was taught more accurately, we see him refuting the Jews publicly about Jesus from the Scriptures.  That's why it is vital to show others who are in error what the Bible says about any particular sin.  It crucial that we teach the Truth so that the other person can heed God's Word to make the necessary changes.  Like Apollos, some are not aware that they're doing wrong or that they are teaching error, but like Priscilla and Aquila, we must correct them gently with love, that they be willing to change their ways and grow in the knowledge of Christ.

Though Apollos' correction was done privately, there are times when correction must be done publicly with confrontation.  Many times, the person who is sinning knows better and yet is causing others to stumble.  One example of this is found in Galatians 2:11-14 when Paul had to confront Peter publicly because he was causing others to stumble and sin.  
“11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 
Peter should've known better not to play favorites and compromise, but he did it anyway.  Paul confronted him in public. His sin was public, so he needed to be rebuked publicly.  Peter was not only an apostle but also an elder in the church who was causing other Christians to sin as well, so he needed to be corrected in public.  In 1 Timothy 5:19, Paul says, 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

So Paul declares that if an elder is guilty of any sinful behavior that has been confirmed by 2 or 3 witnesses, then he is to be rebuked in the presence of all so that everyone will fear.  Why?  Because it is necessary that the brethren see that even an elder, a leader in the church, must receive discipline and that no one is excluded from it.  So often when a leader in the church is sinning, he is causing others to sin (stumbling block) as they follow his poor leadership.  Therefore, discipline and public correction are vital to saving his soul and the souls of the other brethren.  Take heed!!

One thing that caught my attention about Peter is that he did not pull Paul aside and rebuke him for correcting him.  There's no indication at all that Peter denied or argued with Paul about the matter. Peter knew he was wrong and should've known better.  He humbly accepted the rebuke or correction that Paul gave him.  Peter did not regard Paul as hostile, rude or a mean man.  Instead, he was thankful to be corrected.  This is the righteous attitude we must have when a brother or sister in Christ corrects us!  Their correction is coming from the Word of God!  In fact, in 2 Peter 3:15, Peter spoke affectionately of Paul, “15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.”

Another example of correction in a unique way is when Nathan corrected King David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, (2 Samuel 12:1-14).  Nathan confronted David with the ugliness of his sin.  He pointed out that David was guilty and that he needed to repent.  David responded with a humble attitude, admitting his sin and thus repenting of it.  That is exactly what we must do. David's example must be the motivator to do our best to keep from sinning.  Though we can be forgiven when we repent, just like David, there are still severe consequences that may remain.  In David's case, his actions gave his enemies enough reason to blaspheme God. Beyond that, he still lost his child.

Therefore, let us be the kind of people who love and welcome correction with a humble heart.  Likewise, let us love others enough to correct them with kindness, gentleness, and love that they may make the necessary changes for the well-being of their souls.  Of course, the best and the wisest thing would be to abstain from sin at all that we might not need to be corrected.  But when we indeed need to be corrected, let us be thirsty and hungry for righteousness that we may grow spiritually from our mistakes and push forward toward our goal which is heaven.
  • Give Me the Truth!
(I adapted this from an unknown author to reflect the way that I feel about receiving correction).

If you're indeed my friend and are concerned about my soul, give me the Truth!
Do not flatter me.  Do not praise my virtues while remaining silent about my vices.
Do not fear the Truth will offend me.  Do not treasure our friendship, our friendly relations,
above my salvation!  Do not think that by ignoring my sins, you can help me.
Do not think that being blind to my sins will prove you loving.
However, I may react to it, whatever may be my attitude toward you after you have done it,
GIVE ME THE TRUTH and nothing else!

The Truth and only the Truth can make me free from the shackles of sin,
strengthen me in the pathway of righteousness and lead me to the joys of heaven.
If I am wavering, weak, lukewarm, indifferent, neglectful.
If I have been overtaken in a trespass.  If I have been drawn into the pleasures of this world.
If I have left my “first love.”  If I have been led astray by error.
If I have done none of these things, but simply need to grow more in knowledge and then be edified, GIVE ME THE TRUTH!

If I can do God's will better, please correct me!
If I ever need to apply God's Word to any area of my life where I'm weak, please correct me!
If I can remove even one sin from my life, please correct me!
If I can add even one more virtue to my life, please correct me!
If I can change anything that is negative in my life for something positive, please correct me!
If God can use you in some way to help me change, please correct me!
Even if your attitude is inferior or has some faulty reasoning in your reproof, please correct me!
And please correct me in love!

It is vital that we have this kind of earnest longing or yearning for God's Truth.  If we sincerely want to know and do the will of God from a genuine and honest heart, we will be open to His Truth wherever it is and whoever may present it.  There is so much to learn!!  There are so many ways to grow if only we will keep an open, humble and receptive heart to God's Truth.  Even if it is partial truth, we can still benefit.  


CONCLUSION:

A closed-minded person cannot learn anything.  A closed mind causes one to reject the Truth.  It inhibits our ability to be corrected.  It fails to acknowledge the value of correction in our salvation. The Jews of Jesus' day bragged about having a zeal for God, but their zeal was not according to knowledge, (Romans 10:1-4).  They failed to receive correction from all the prophets and teachers (preachers) that taught them, (Romans 10:17-21).  When man refuses to accept correction and learn from those who have greater wisdom, they are vulnerable to sin, and it can even cost them their salvation.  Those who reject correction are mere fools, (Prov. 1:7; 1:22; 12:1; 23:9). Bible discipline and correction are an act of love, (Prov. 27:6; 23:13; 29:15; Hebrews 12:7-11).

Offering reproof or correction to others as well as to receiving correction from others can be sensitive and challenging.  It is vital that we approach both of these revering God's will, God's Truth, God's righteousness and God's glory.  The purpose of correction is to save the soul, (Gal. 6:1; James 5:19). Therefore, let us keep in mind not to neglect our duty to correct our brethren when it is necessary. The Word of God explicitly teaches that we are to watch out for one another and what better way to do it than correcting each other when we sin or are in error.  Remember that before we correct someone, we must make sure that we have all the facts straight.  We cannot afford to base our correction on hearsay.  Assume the best of your brother or sister in Christ.  Have always the correct attitude (gentleness, love, and kindness) when correcting someone.  Make sure you are doing it because you love them and want them to go to heaven.  Don't do it with the intent of ridiculing, making them feel bad or to get back at them.  Remember always the golden rule:  treat other as you would want others to treat you!  Don't forget to choose your words wisely to point out what's wrong.  Never compromise God's Truth no matter how much the other person tries to justify their sin.  Don't make any excuses for the sinner under any circumstances.  Sadly, we often tend to justify the actions of our parents, children, and loved ones when we wouldn't even dare to justify others.  The truth is, it does not matter if they are close to you because if they are guilty of sin, there is no room to justify or defend them, making excuses for their sinful behavior.  You still have to correct them without any exceptions whatsoever.  God demands that of you!

On the other hand, when we are the ones receiving correction, keep in mind that it is not easy for anyone to approach us and correct us.  So instead of getting upset and too defensive, why not be humble and listen carefully to see if what they're trying to correct in us is true?!  If it is, be humble enough to admit your failings, wrongdoings or shortcomings admitting them and being willing to change your ways that you may not lose your soul.  Also, it is crucial that we assume the best about our brothers and sisters when they correct us realizing that they are doing it with best intentions to help us stay on the right path, the path of righteousness.  Consider it as a blessing to be able to have someone that cares enough for us to point out our sins or wrongdoings.  Have an open heart to know the Truth when you're doing wrong.  Realize that you can and do make mistakes! Never forget that even the apostle Peter had to be corrected, so don't assume that you will never need to be corrected.  Even when the correction is presented in an offensive manner, don't use that as an excuse to ignore sin.  Yes, it is true that correction needs to be done in a more tactful way but remember that our sin or wrongdoings still need to be corrected and that we need to repent.  And while we may not always like to be wrong, when we are indeed wrong, let us take care of the problem at once.  No sin is worth missing out on heaven and be lost forever!!

Jesus, our Lord, calls us to stay in the course and finish well.  God has given us all that we need to live a life of godliness and holiness.  We must hear God's warning and heed His Word with fear and trembling to remain faithful and finish well.  Those who finish well, heed the dangers of sin and the folly of falling away, (1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:1-8; 4:1-4).

The entire book of Hebrews in the New Testament is filled with warnings and exhortations about remaining faithful and not turning away from the living God.  It is vital that we listen to God's warnings about the dangers of turning from grace and embracing sin in our lives.  Remember that Jesus spoke to the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation and exhorted each one of them to stay in the course.  Many of them Jesus rebuked and called to repent.

One of the greatest dangers we face today is that our culture and even the church despises correction and rebuke.  There is within our society a sense of entitlement that says you have no right to correct me or tell me I am wrong.  They willfully ignore that a significant part of God's plan for His people is correction and rebuke or reproof.  That, along with instruction, knowledge, and encouragement are all over the Scriptures.

To finish well, we must be open to correction and rebuke as well as training and encouragement from God's Truth and those whom He has placed in leadership in the church.  So, are you willing to allow them to correct you?  If we indeed follow Jesus and want to do His Father's will, then we must be ready to receive correction and be rebuked along the way.  There is no other way to make it to heaven! And Heaven is worth it all!  Remember that those whom Jesus loves, He rebukes and chastens.  He said so!  That should be enough encouragement to us.  The One who has the power to reprimand us and chastens us loves us more than His own life!

In Mark 10:17-23, we read of a rich man who came to Jesus and did not finish well.  In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus tells us the parable of the rich fool who did not finish well either.  Remember that our Lord and Savior gave everything up to redeem us.  He who was rich became poor for us so that we might become rich.  He gave Himself, His own body and blood to finish well.  And when He died, He said, "It is finished."

Therefore, let us finish well this battle as we fight the good fight of faith.  Let us finish well this race with our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Let us finish well this walk of faith trusting Him and keeping His commandments above our own desires and pleasures.  Finally, let us receive correction with an open and humble heart and apply it to our life, so that we may receive the crown of life.  Likewise, let us correct others, teaching them with compassion and self-control; in harmony with the Scriptures and in accord with wisdom that we may contribute to their return to God.  This is how we can help them overcome sin.

May the Lord help us to give and receive correction according to His Word and wisdom.  May we correct and teach those in sin and error with longsuffering and forbearance, (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12-13). May we never retaliate over the personal slights from those who we are teaching and correcting. May we keep teaching God's Truth to them even if they turn on us and find fault.  May we have a humble heart to keep on doing good despite hardship.  May we submit to God with meekness and humility and correct our sins in our life as well as help others overcome their sins and stay strong in the Lord. May the Lord grant us the grace to finish well and receive a glorious welcome into eternal life in Jesus and His Father.


Luci

Thursday, January 5, 2017

REDEEM THE NEW YEAR!


"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." 
Colossians 3:1-4  


The phrase "Happy New Year" has the sound of hope and second chances. We feel that no matter how badly we may have failed this year, maybe we can do better in the new year. The reality of walking with Jesus is that every day that our Lord pardons our faults, He gives us the hope that tomorrow will be better and more fruitful.  And yet, maybe we don't aim high enough.  

Yes, our New Year’s resolutions are often shallow.  They are quickly forgotten or broken within the first few days or weeks.  For whatever reason, we don’t stick to them.  Maybe we never committed to them. Maybe we needed more motivation or encouragement.  Perhaps, it was too difficult, and we gave up quickly.  Sometimes it is the pressure from others that makes us quit too soon.  When the apostle Paul made his resolution to obey Christ and seek to know the power of His resurrection, he did it once and stuck with it.  What a powerful resolution!  It carried him throughout his life and motivated him to sacrifice himself unto the very end for the glory of Christ.  


But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."  
Philippians 3:7-11


As far as New Year's resolutions go, there is no better way to start the New Year than with Paul's own words as found in Philippians 3:7-11.   His resolution was to know Christ more and better.  Did not Paul know Jesus already?  Indeed, he did!  And yet, Paul yearned to know Christ and by faith to finish the work that the Lord had entrusted to him.  Paul always stressed the importance of holding fast to the Gospel of Christ.  My great desire for this new year and the rest of my life is to come to know my Savior better and walk in His footsteps that others may see the Light and give glory to Him.  My resolution for this year and the rest of my life is to become a better Christian and bear much fruit for His glory.

As I look back, I am reminded that another year has passed and I am drawing closer to the day of reckoning, whether it be the day of death or the day that our Lord returns, that day when we all shall stand before the Judge of ALL and give account for all our deeds here on earth, (2 Corinthians 5:10).  That day when He will either say, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."  (Matthew 25:34).  Or sadly He will say, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."  (Matthew 25:41). 

Let us reflect on how we have used the past year. May I suggest some resolutions that we may discuss for this new year?  My challenge is to make better and wiser use of the time the Lord has granted us.  Let us use this new year to dress for spiritual success (putting on the whole armor of God), so that our souls might prosper in all Truth and love.  Indeed, there is only one resolution that all Christians must hold fast, and that is to walk in righteousness, obeying the Gospel of Christ faithfully, (1 Cor. 15:1-2).  So why should we hold fast to our resolution of obeying Christ?  Because holding fast to His Gospel makes us part of His divine nature; because He is our great and perfect High Priest; because He is faithful and keeps all His promises; because it is through the Gospel that we are saved, (Hebrews 3:5-6; 4:14; 10:23).  The reward will truly be worth it!  Are you resolved to hold fast to the Gospel of Christ and live for the Lord not only this year but for the rest of your life?  Let us consider some useful resolutions:


I.   PUT GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS:
  1. By seeking Him first and His kingdom of righteousness, (Matt. 6:33).
  2. By putting Him first before all other relationships, (Luke 14:26; Matt. 10:37).
  3. By taking up our cross and following Him over all our wants and desires, (Luke 14:26; Matt. 10:39; Ph. 3:18-19).
  4. By surrendering our will to the will of God, following Jesus’ example of submission, (John 6:37-38; John 4:34; 5:30).
II.   TEACH OTHERS ABOUT CHRIST AND THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO SAVE       SOULS:

Jesus, our Lord, has given us a great work to do:  to teach His glorious Gospel of redemption that "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16).  How can the unbeliever know of the power there is in the Gospel to save their souls from condemnation unless we teach its message to them? 
(Rom. 1:15-19;10:14-17). Therefore, it is our duty to be God’s watchmen,
(Ezek. 33:1-6).

III.    DO NOT FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLING

That is, I will regularly attend all church services, (Heb. 10:23-37).  Remember we are to attend all services, so as to encourage one another to good works, (Heb. 10:24;13:1; Phil. 1:9;1 Thess. 3:12-13; 1 John 3:14-18).  This means that we need to look out for the interests of each other, and not look out for own interests only, (Phil 2:4). Indeed, the law of Christ that we need to fulfill is that of “bearing one another’s burden,” (Gal 6:2) and we are to serve one another through love, (Gal 5:13). Loving one another as Christ loved us, is what distinguishes us as disciples of Christ, (John 13:34-35).  Having each other’s interests in mind (that’s what "consider one another" means), we are then to stir up one another; not to anger and wrath which unfortunately some are inclined to do, but to stimulate love and good works. This glorifies God, (Matt 5:16). This requires connectedness with each other rather than “disconnected lives,” (Eph. 4:16).

We live in an increasingly technologically connected world today, and, as a consequence, we are more “disconnected” from each other than ever before! But God requires that we stay personally connected with each other so that we may not have hypocritical love but “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another.” (Rom 12:9-16).

Our mutual exhortation has to be an ongoing relationship, and not just during mid-week classes and Sunday meetings. The Bible warns us in Hebrews 3:12-13: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  It is vital that we stay connected, on an ongoing basis, so that we might be able to exhort and encourage one another, helping each other not to give in to sin and to stay on our course.  Remember that sin can harden our hearts and that we need each other to stimulate us to good works.

IV.    GIVE AS WE HAVE PROSPERED:

This is one of our financial goals, (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:12-14).  It must be purposely planned ahead of time and carefully.  We must do it with the right attitude of heart, and proper manner, (2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).  God loves a cheerful giver, (2 Cor. 9:8).

 V.    PRAY WITHOUT CEASING:  (1 Thess. 5:17-18).  
  • By rejoicing always.  Our joy must be based on what God has done, not on our circumstances. 
  • Talking to God continually through prayer not just for intercession, but for confession, thanksgiving, praise.
So, examine your life and ask yourself:  What part does prayer play in my everyday life? Remember, Jesus is our great example.  He would pray for hours on end.  He would pray so intensely that He would sweat as drops of blood falling, (Luke 22:41-44).  Jesus stressed to His disciples the importance of prayer.  So why not try harder to pray properly without ceasing?  "You do not have, because you do not ask."  (James 4:2-3).

VI.    CULTIVATE GODLINESS:   (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 Tim. 4:8)
  • Pursuing Purity in Our Lives:  
Purifying our life of all improper entertainment, Internet smut, bad company, TV, books.  Walking with understanding, discerning between right and wrong; in newness of life, as those who have a new heart which is pure.  This inward purity of heart does not conform to the standards of the world.  The Word of God can help us purify our hearts.  God demands that we be pure in heart and mind.  As those who once mourned our past sins and repented, let us cease to practice lawlessness.  Let us walk in righteousness filled with what is right.  Let us also hunger and thirst for righteousness, and be filled with what is good and pure. And let us not grieve the Holy Spirit but rather let the Word of God purify our heart into righteousness and holiness.  

God wants us to exercise ourselves toward godliness, (1 Tim. 4:7).  He demands that we continually train our minds and hearts with His Word; striving toward the goal of holy, righteous and devoted living.  So, let us strive to effectively exercise toward godliness, using discipline to learn and apply God’s Word in our life.  Without consistent and rigorous spiritual exercise, there is no room to develop ourselves to our maximum potential.  We will either grow and increase spiritually or begin to weaken and die slowly.  Take heed!

Godly exercise promotes inner peace, hope, and joy.  So, are you getting your exercise, or are you willing to start exercising vigorously toward godliness?

VII.   BRIDLE THE TONGUE:  (James 1:26; 1:19-20; Ps. 39:1)
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
(Proverbs 18:21)
As Christians, our speech must be characterized by grace, edification, praising, softness and tenderness.  It is not always easy to bridle our tongue, (James 3:2-8).  But we must train it to edify and give life to our soul and the souls of others.  Remember that the more goodness there is in our heart, the more will come out of it, (James 3:9-11; Luke 6:45).

Let us learn not just this year but for the rest of our life, to season our words with meekness and fear that we might reach out to others and teach them the good news (the Gospel).  Instead of using our words to tear others down, let us use them to build them up. Let us use the words of our mouths to encourage others and to teach the lost. Let us use our tongues wisely and not foolishly.  Moreover, let our words be few and let us be careful with them.  Remember that the message of Christ and His church can get lost, if we are unwise with our words.

VIII.   GROW IN GOD'S WORD AND WISDOM:

To accomplish this, we must be committed to studying God’s Word daily.  There is a big difference between reading and studying.  The Word of God is not hard to understand.  There is great potential if one has an open heart that yearns to learn, (Eph. 3:3-4; 2 Peter 3:15-18).  So, why not grow in grace by feeding on the everlasting Word of God, that you may walk in righteousness and glorify our Father in heaven?  Those who are faithful disciples of Christ ought to be growing through daily Bible reading, reflecting on the same Word that they might be able to share the Gospel of Christ with others verbally and by their good works.  Devotion to the Word of God is profitable for all things.

Many Scriptures stress the need to grow and mature spiritually:
  1. "Be no longer children, but grow in Christ."  (Ephesians 4:14-15).
  2. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  (2 Peter 3:18).
  3. "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing."  (2 Thess. 1:3).  The Thessalonians grew exceedingly in their faith.
  4. "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment."  (Phil. 1:9).  Paul prayed for their love to abound more and more.
When Christians fail to grow, many problems result.  Some go back to the world, the kingdom of darkness. Others start causing strife because of their ignorance of the Scriptures.  Others become stumbling blocks because of their irregular attendance, worldliness, ungodliness, and indifference.

To grow in God's Word and in wisdom, there must be a desire to grow.  We will never grow unless we want to grow.  That simple!  There must be a desire for pure spiritual milk, the Word of God, that by it one may grow up into salvation, (1 Peter 2:2).  Sadly, some seem to stay spiritual babies. They refuse to grow up.  It is easy to stay a baby without any responsibilities whatsoever.  And just as a baby needs to be fed, dressed and his diaper changed.  It is the same in the church when members don't want to teach, rebuke sin or simply do the Lord's work.  It is a free ride!  God demands that His children, Christians, be productive, useful, mature, and actively serving in the Lord's cause.  It is vital that Christians turn from sin, repent, and go to work in His vineyard; bringing forth the fruits of repentance.  This will indeed lead us to spiritual growth thus improving God's work.  Otherwise, we are wasting our time and accomplishing nothing as children of God.  Ask yourself, do I want to grow into the likeness of Jesus?

It is crucial that we feed on the Word of God to grow spiritually.  A child cannot grow up without proper food.  Children need nourishment.  To grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, there must be a desire to study the Bible and attend church meetings.  He needs the regular nourishment of the Word of God for wisdom.  In Hebrews 5:11-14, Christians were rebuked for not growing as they should.  Why didn't they grow?  Because they did not study the Scriptures for regular nourishment. Alas, how many Christians remain spiritual midgets or fall away because they fail to search the Scriptures daily!

Psalm 1:1-2 exhorts us to meditate on God's Word day and night.  So, why is it that we get very upset when we go for days without food or nourishment but are content to go for days at a time without feeding on the Word of God?  (Psalm 119:47;48, 95-99; Josh. 1:8).

So, how much time have you spent watching TV, on Facebook and other social media instead of feeding on the Word of God that you may grow in wisdom?  How much time have you spent watching sports, reading the paper, magazines, etc. as entertainment?  How much time have you devoted to a particular hobby that is not necessarily immoral but is not necessary?  How many hours have you spent studying the Word of God this week, the week before and so on?  How many church services have you missed that you could have attended?  Are you nourishing your spirit or your body?  Are you feeding your mind on God's Word or worldly pleasures?  Be honest and answer those questions.  If you need to change, then repent and start exercising godliness that you may grow spiritually.  Exercise and practice are vital for spiritual growth and discernment.  Where do you get that from?  From the Bible!  Therefore, study it over and over again.  Talk to others about the Word.  Drill yourself and memorize it!  Get in and dig in! Don't expect spiritual maturity without Bible nourishment.  We all need to grow as Christians and everyone can indeed grow if we earnestly study the Bible and start applying the Bible principles of growth.

IX.   LEARN TO BE CONTENT AND BE GRATEFUL:
(Phil. 4:11-12; Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6-8)

Let us make an inventory of all of God’s blessings.  It is sometimes helpful to look at other people’s lives.  You might be surprised how blessed you have been.  Where do you think the apostle Paul wrote the words of Phil. 4:11-12?  Yes, in prison!  So, let’s imitate Paul’s attitude of heart and learn to be content in all circumstances of life.

Being grateful is the key to spiritual victory.  Joy is the result of a grateful heart. A thankful heart is the product of a person who always chooses to give thanks and be content no matter what the circumstances.  It is the person who never compares himself to other people but always to Christ.  It is the heart that realizes he is rich beyond measure because he is a child of God and that in Him he finds His portion. It is the heart that is always looking for reasons to be content and give thanks.

X.  HELP THOSE IN NEED:  
“35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me..’”  (Matt. 25:35-40).

The chief sin of the rich man was that he refused to help those in need.  He lacked mercy and compassion, (Luke 10:30-37).  We see this same sin in the parable of the good Samaritan, (Luke 10:30-37).  So, let us not follow their bad example but rather Jesus’ example of mercy toward others.

XI.    TRUST THE LORD MORE AND STOP WORRYING:

Look around and see how faithful God has been to you and others.  Consider all of God’s promises to us, (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 5:7; Matt. 6:31-33; Phil. 4:6-7).  Learn to trust Him for the little things; then you will trust Him more efficiently for the bigger things. 

Let us learn and then choose to trust in God, depending on Him to help us through His Word and prayer, (Psalm 34:4). It is our responsibility to choose to trust God in all circumstances.  Trusting in God is a powerful weapon that helps us to lay hold on His promises and cling to them despite our adversities that so often overwhelm us. Trust is the mark of a Christian's maturity. “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

XII.   PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD:  (Eph. 6:10-18)

God’s spiritual armor provides protection against Satan.  Our battle is real, personal, defensive and not meant to be fought alone.  We must learn to dress for spiritual success.  The spoils of victory are our own souls and the souls of others.  So, let us keep on going and find strength in God through His Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and prayer.  

We are to withstand and resist steadfastly.  The enemy will not attack us once or twice but rather with multiple assaults, and often with a stealth approach, (2 Pet. 2:1ff, 2 Cor. 11: 3-4,11-15). It may be a direct attack strategy, (Eph. 6:16, James 1:2-4, 1 Pet 1: 6-7). We are warned to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore, having been warned and prepared, we are to resist until the devil flees from us or is repelled, (James 4:7). The word withstand/resist is the same word used in Ephesians 6:13, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

We are to put on the whole armor of God, both defensive and offensive.  Therefore, to withstand is both to defend strongly and to resist as being on the offensive. Jesus used the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit to resist Satan.  We must use the Word of God as a weapon to resist the devil.  Though we may resist the devil successfully, we are to continue to be sober and vigilant, putting on the whole armor of God.  Why?  Because Satan is going to attack us again, when he finds an opportune time as he did to Christ, (Luke 4:13). 

XIII.    REAP IN WELL DOING, DOING WHAT IS RIGHT:
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."  (Galatians 6:9).
So, if you haven’t started yet, to sow to the Spirit to reap everlasting life, now is time for you to start doing it!  Therefore, stop sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption.  Do good! (6:10).  It is not an easy road to travel, but we must do it if we want to inherit eternal life.  Satan throws many obstacles in our way, making it difficult to persevere. It is easier to quit than to persevere. Thus, God has instructed us to “not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (6:9).

The Word of God stresses that our reaping (that is, our desired reaping) is conditioned on our not fainting or losing heart. We have chosen to enter the race, so we must continue to “run well” (Galatians 5:7). We have decided to enlist in His army, so now we must keep on being “a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).  Since we have been born into God’s family, we must continue to be “obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14). We have entered the Lord’s workforce, so now we must keep on being “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Indeed, the minute that we obeyed the Gospel, (Romans 6:3-4) we made the wisest decision of our life.  Therefore, we must set our hearts to “keep the faith” and “finish the race” well, (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Book of Hebrews gives strong exhortations to all Christians to hold fast our commitment. To do that, we must not faint or lose heart.
  1. “But Christ as a son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” (3:6).
  2. “For we who have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” (3:14).
  3. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession."  (4:14).
  4. “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” (6:11).
  5. “Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (10:23).
Brothers and sisters, whatever bumps, rocks or valleys you may encounter on your road to heaven, do not lose heart in doing what is right!!  Satan will tempt us to throw in the towel, but we must keep pressing on, always looking to Jesus and our ultimate prize, which is heaven with Him forever, (Hebrews 12:2).  I am so grateful that He did not lose heart and give up on me and you when He endured such undeserved, merciless treatment at the hands of wicked men. Words fail me to express my gratitude to Him!!!

So, let us choose this year and the rest of our life never to lose heart but to persevere and finish well.   Remember that though we might not see the fruit of our work, the faithful do appreciate it. Our leaders need to keep at it, ever watching out for the well-being of the souls of others, (Hebrews 13:17). Do not grow weary in serving; the faithful are grateful for you. Teachers, you have an influence on those whom you teach. And though you may not see it, remember you are doing a great work for the Lord. Thank God for those few who appreciate and acknowledge your efforts!  Parents, children are a great blessing from the Lord; and though at times they can be a hair-pulling challenge, do not lose heart, but hang in there, teaching them the Truth, living that Truth before them, being patient with them.  Remember, that our reward is far greater if we do not quit.

XIV.    REDEEM THE TIME:  
"15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."  (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Let us purpose in our heart to stop wasting God’s time and start being wise by making proper use of His time.  God has no use for us when we waste His time, and He will judge us for it on that final day.  Time is limited, and once it is gone, it can never be recovered!  Are you making the best use of the short life God has given you here on earth?  Think about it!

The Lord requires that we be good stewards that we might be found faithful, (1 Corinthians 4:2). That implies being wise users of the time which He has placed in our hands. It is easy to understand this concept, and yet it is so hard to apply it in our daily lives.

It is vital that we understand and grasp the idea of redeeming the time.  Why?  Because so often doors are open for only a limited period of time. So, if we do not take advantage of the opportunities with which we are blessed, they might disappear and never return to us.  Remember that life is both fragile and uncertain. It is like a vapor, a shadow, or a flower – gone “before you know it.”  Hence, it is crucial that we understand and learn to appreciate the short time that we have been given to live.

May the Lord help us to be grateful for each day, each hour, each moment and never waste time but rather redeem it.  Be honest and ask yourself, “What is taking way too much of my time?”  Prioritize! As a follower of Christ, God must come first.  Family comes second, and everything else last.  So, if there’s anything that is eating up and taking away time from the Lord, His kingdom of righteousness and from your family, now is the time to start doing what is right before it is too late!!  Now is the time to start making an inventory of how you’re using your time and choose to take control of how you’re using it!  “Redeeming the time” is a serious duty.  Let us get our priorities straight and start working on self-discipline!!

XV.    LEARN TO BE MORE OF A SERVANT:
"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28)
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."  (1 Peter 4:10-11)

We could not have a better example of a servant than our Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul presents Christ's model of servanthood for all Christians.  He points us to the humility that is needed to live as servants of God and others.  Jesus, our Lord, existing in the form of God with all the sovereign rights of deity, emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave, becoming man (truly human).  He voluntarily laid aside His royal rights in submission to His Father.  In doing this, He humbled Himself that He might die even the death on the cross.  Jesus our Lord and Christ deliberately chose to become a servant for us, but at a significant cost.  God demands all Christians to live as servants, serving others with the Lord Jesus as our perfect example.

Since Christ was the Servant and left us a great example to follow, we His followers are to be servants like Him, (Matt. 10:25).  We are to decrease, (John 3:30).  What this means is that we must empty ourselves of all arrogance, selfish ambition, and prominence.  We must learn to serve others in the Spirit of Christ.  The Spirit will affect how we interact with other non-Christians and, in particular, with those of the same precious faith, (Gal. 6:10).  Serving one another in the army of committed volunteers is what must motivate us.  It is our faithfulness and devotion to Christ that compels us to be sacrificial servants.  Understand that the only way we are going to decrease is by increasing in our servanthood.  Of course, this requires humility that so often is hard for Christians to maintain. Our goal is to get to know one another better to find out how we can serve each other better and help each one carry his loads, cares, and burdens that he may not have disclosed.  

To be good servants of our LORD, we must learn to submit!  (Luke 17:7-10).  We are required to do whatever our Master asks, whenever He asks and however He asks whether we like it or not.  Our Master wants us, as servants, to submit to His will alone.  The servant/slave must be in complete subjection to his Master!  We are God's bond-servants, (Phil 1:1).  Let us purpose in our heart to learn the principle of servanthood toward our brethren and die to self, putting the needs of others above ours.  Of course, this will require that we dispose of all pride and the elevating of self, expecting nothing in return for our service.  It is not easy to learn or develop the heart of a servant and to live for others but we must if we want to serve God and enter the kingdom of heaven.  It will demand our everything!  Let us start being more of a servant to our God, to the church, to our family and all men.

XVI.  FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH:
"6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth 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 Tim. 4:6-8)
Many think they’re ready to fight, but are they really ready?  Fighting the good fight of our faith is like going over a cliff side without knowing until we get there.  Once we get there, because our faith is tested with perhaps error in the church or sin in our family and friends, we find ourselves falling and compromising our faith.  When we allow everything or anyone to interfere with our faith and service to the Lord, we have made a terrible mistake.  God demands that we fight and put Him first; putting all selfishness to death, taking up our crosses and following Him.  

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, the apostle Paul acknowledges the certainty of his death as he expressed his feelings, '"6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness... "  Knowing this, are we fighting the good fight of faith?  According to Ephesians 6:12, our fight is not “against flesh and blood.”  It is a spiritual battle!  In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we read, “we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

The fight requires us to use God’s weapon which is His Word, the sword of the Spirit, (Ephesians 6:17).  It means that we use the Scriptures to cast down arguments that are contrary to the Word of God.  This was how Apollos helped the church at Achaia in Acts 18: 27-28: “when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”

In Titus 1:9-14, the elders are commanded to be the ones who are "9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain... Therefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.”

The fight requires us to hold fast the faithful Word as we have been taught that we may be able to by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who CONTRADICT.  Our fight is against those who CONTRADICT the faithful Word of God that we have been taught and the weapon for the fight is SOUND DOCTRINE.

Sadly, many are not involved in heart and mind in this fight.  They choose to be mere spectators in the battle of their soul, heart, and mind and of course of others as well.  They refuse to be involved in the fight. They are merely observers. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said: “he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  We cannot be just critics and observers; we must be in the battle itself! Some may have become battle shy.  They prefer not to preach or teach the whole counsel of God lest they upset and offend some people.  Others become battle-weary; they have grown tired of preaching and teaching the Word of God. Whatever may be the circumstances, let us make a renewed effort not just this year but always to rise and fight the good fight of faith as is required of us by our Lord (I Tim 6:12).  Remember that our spiritual battle compels us to preach and teach the Word so that souls may be set free from the slavery of sin, as they hear the Word of God and obey the Truth for salvation.(John 8:31-34).  In Romans 1:16 the apostle Paul declared,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” 

We must continue to preach the Gospel so that souls may be saved from their sins. This fight requires that we teach and preach the Word so that our brethren might remain sound in the faith and not drift away into sin and error (false doctrines that are man-made and have the appearance of human wisdom, Col 2:23; Titus 1:13-14.  Therefore, let us take the opportunity in this New Year to realign our lives with God’s Word and to renew our commitment to God’s Word, to search the Scriptures daily with all diligence, knowing and understanding God’s will, handling it accurately, (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim 2:15; Rom 12:1,2; 2 Pet 3:16-18) so that we may walk in the light of His Word to please Him in all things, and win souls to the obedience to the Truth that they may be saved, (2 Tim 2:23-26).


CONCLUSION:

As Christians, it is vital that we set goals in our life.  Without goals, life will be lacking challenge. When we lack challenges in life, we start lacking motivation and remain stagnant.  All of us need to set goals and be diligent to achieve them.  Goals help us to use our abilities and talents to our maximum potential.  When we put all this into practice, it will help us to grow spiritually unto maturity.  On the other hand, when one lives without goals, he is living life aimlessly, without meaning and dull. Those who are without goals are described as:
“Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud. And like the early dew that passes away, Like chaff blown off from a threshing floor. And like smoke from a chimney.” (Hos. 13:3)
Jesus was very sure of His goal while He was on earth.
  1. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk. 10:45).
  2. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."  (Lk. 19:10)
  3. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  (Jn. 10:10)
So, what are your goals this year and for life?  What sort of goals are you setting? We often hear people say, “I want to be a millionaire by the time I reach 30,” “I want to retire by the time I reach 40.”  As Christians, do we include God in our goals in life?
"13 Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.'"  (Jas. 4:13-16)
What is your goal in life? What did Jesus ask us to consider before we set our goals?
Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10:22).
Paul said, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well-pleasing to Him.” (2 Cor. 5:9).  Paul reminds us that the goals we set will determine our aims in life which we need to carry out conscientiously.

Study Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7. The sermon starts with a series of statements, each of which begins with the word “blessed” or “happy.”
I am sure all of us want to be happy in life.  So, what do you think will bring happiness to your life? Jesus begins with those who are humble in spirit and those who mourn with others, mainly because of sins, those who are gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who through persecution learn to live peaceably with others. These are the ones who desire to live righteously before God and men.  Jesus set goals for us that we might please God:
  • Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify our Father in heaven.
  • Keep your heart pure. 
  • Remove obstacles which may hinder you from serving God faithfully. 
  • Love your neighbor, and also, love your enemies. 
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 
  • Pray fervently in your life. 
  • Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 
  • We should not only hear His words but be doers of the same.  
Indeed, all these goals set by Jesus are not easy to attain. Therefore, it is crucial that we read and study His Word and make every effort to practice it.  If we don’t put it into practice, we cannot be pleasing to God. We must make it our aim!

The apostle Paul set a clear goal, and that was to gain Christ, (Phil. 3:8).  He wanted to go to heaven, (Phil 3:14). He said, “one thing I do”  (Phil. 3:13).  Paul said, “reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:13).  “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I also laid hold of by Christ Jesus." (v.12b). Two words in verses 12 and 13 describe Paul’s intensity in achieving his purpose, “press on” (v. 12) and “reaching forward” (v. 13) which means Paul was pursuing his goal with the same singleness of purpose and stretching forward to achieve this aim. What goal?  “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (v. 14), which is heaven.

God challenges us to set His goals.  They are not only challenging but also practical. God will not demand of us something which is beyond our capabilities. On the other hand, He will not underestimate our talents. He knows our abilities and knows what we are capable of doing. All of us have talents that we must not waste.
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2).
“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord…” (2 Cor. 4:5).
All of us must set goals such as bringing others to Christ and growing into spiritual maturity. These goals must be steadfast.  Don’t wait for opportunities, but rather make it your aim to please Christ, (2 Cor. 5:9).  Those who are wise will set spiritual goals, reflect upon them and plan them.  They ask themselves:
  • Have I been faithful to the Lord, using my time, resources and abilities, according to the will of God?
  • Can I correct my sinful habits that I may start growing spiritually?
  • Are there any hidden sins in my life that need to be purged out to please God?
  • Am I seeking the kingdom of God first and His righteousness, or my own well-being?
  • Who have I tried to bring to Christ and save from the slavery of sin?
  • Whose souls will I try to save this year?
  • Have I allowed trivial matters to consume my time and distract me from the real issues that give me eternal salvation?
  • Have I set a godly example in the past in my daily walk with Christ to others?
  • Will I set spiritual goals and achieve them this year?
  • Am I too busy and distracted by the things of this world?
Let us ponder these questions.  Consider the following poem and meditate on it:

Too busy to read the Bible;
Too busy to wait and pray;
Too busy to speak out kindly 
To someone along the way.
Too busy with cares and struggles 
To think of life to come;
Too busy building a mansion here 
To plan for the heavenly home.
Too busy to help a brother 
Who faces the winter’s blast;
Too busy to share the burdens 
When self in the balance is cast.
Too busy for all that is holy
On earth beneath the sky;
Too busy to serve the Master
But too busy to die.


Let us use our time well and not allow anything or anyone to distract us from serving our Lord.  God demands that we put Him first and put self to death, take up our cross and follow Him and His example.  We must strive to live for Christ and not self!  (Gal. 2:20).

The truth is that this will be the last year for many people.  Will you be one of them or will you live to see many more years?  Only God knows!  Therefore, let us love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength as if each day was our last.

May we as Christians live up to our God-given potential.  Let us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses so that we may fulfill our purpose on this earth. May we carefully consider what is really our best for the Lord.  May we work diligently to acquire new skills and talents to the glory of God.  May we further our service in God’s kingdom not only this year but each day of our walk with Him.  May we reflect upon all these things as we begin a new year aiming to achieve an A+ in all that we do!
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  (Col. 3:23).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY BRETHREN AND FRIENDS!

"The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace."  
Numbers 6:24-26


Luci