continued from Part 7…
Jesus’s teaching about absolute ideals and absolute grace seem contradictory.
Jesus never lowered God’s perfect ideal. In His response to the rich young ruler, He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). He told an expert in the law who inquired as to the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (22:37). No one has completely fulfilled those commands.
Yet the same Jesus tenderly offered absolute grace. He forgave an adulteress, a thief on the cross, a disciple who had denied ever knowing Him, and a man named Saul, who had made his mark persecuting Christians. Grace is absolute and all-encompassing, extending even to those who nailed Jesus to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” were among the last words He spoke on earth (Luke 23:34).
For years I felt so unworthy when considering Jesus’s absolute ideals that I missed any notion of His grace. Once I understood this dual message, however, I went back and found that the message of grace gusts through Jesus’s life and teachings.
Grace is for the desperate, the needy, the broken, those who cannot make it on their own. Grace is for all of us.
Father, Your all-encompassing grace washes over us and astonishes us. May we live today as people who enjoy Your complete forgiveness and a restored relationship with You.
Jesus fulfilled the perfect requirements of the law so that we may enjoy the perfect peace of His grace.
INSIGHT: The life of the apostle Paul is another example of God’s grace. Because of Paul’s past, he considered himself the most undeserving recipient of God’s mercy and grace (1 Tim. 1:13–14). Although he was chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul also gave another reason he was chosen: “God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (v. 16 nlt). God had you and me in mind when He saved Paul—an awesome thought. If Paul, the worst of sinners, could be saved, then there is hope for everyone else. No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace.
“Their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:17-18)
Many Christians decry the citing of actual names of those Christian leaders who teach heretical doctrines, saying that such an act is “unloving.” Paul, however, considered it an important evidence of true love to warn against those who would “overthrow the faith of some,” realizing that generalities would be useless.
Not only did Hymenaeus and Philetus make Paul’s list, but so did Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), the Cretians (Titus 1:12), another Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20), and even Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) when he began to teach legalism. Likewise, John warned against Diotrephes (3 John 1:9) and the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6).
On the other hand, Paul was much more generous with name recognition when he was giving out commendations (e.g., Romans 16:1-15; Colossians 4:7-17). We undoubtedly need to follow his example in appreciating by name those who are faithful in teaching and living the truth.
Likewise, we need to be ready and willing to name those individuals, churches, schools, and other organizations that are denying biblical inerrant authority, compromising the doctrine of special creation, requiring humanistic works for salvation, or bringing in other heretical doctrines. We obviously need to be sure of our facts when we do this and also to bring such charges only if motivated by genuine concern for those apt to be led astray if we don’t speak out. But then we must, indeed, “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). HMM
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)
In this verse and the verses to follow, we find Christ using a marvelous teaching technique. Several times He makes a general, generic statement but quickly advances from the general and impersonal to the particular and personal.
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. . . . and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” (John 13:4-5)
“That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.” (Psalm 78:6)
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Pastor Steve <><
August 2, 2016
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7
Joop Zoetemelk is known as the Netherlands’ most successful cyclist. But that’s because he never gave up. He started and finished the Tour de France 16 times—placing second five times before winning in 1980. That’s perseverance!
Many winners have reached success by climbing a special ladder called “never give up.” However, there are also many who have lost the opportunity to achieve success because they gave up too soon. This can happen in every area of life: family, education, friends, work, service. Perseverance is a key to victory.
The apostle Paul persevered despite persecution and affliction (2 Tim. 3:10-11). He viewed life with realism, recognizing that as followers of Christ we will suffer persecution (vv. 12-13), but he instructed Timothy to place his faith in God and the encouragement of the Scriptures (vv. 14-15). Doing so would help him face discouragement and endure with hope. At the end of his life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7).
We too can allow the Scriptures to strengthen us to press on in the race marked out for us. For our God is both a promise-making and promise-keeping God and will reward those who faithfully finish the race (v. 8). —Jaime Fernández Garrido
Heavenly Father, give me strength of character and perseverance to serve you better. Help me not to get discouraged when things get tough but to rely on You to see me through.
INSIGHT: Paul experienced great persecution in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. In Antioch, he faced aggressive opposition from the religious leaders (Acts 13:45; 15:1-2). In Iconium, Gentile and Jewish leaders conspired to have him killed (14:4-5). And in Lystra, he was stoned and left for dead (v. 19). Yet in his final letter to Timothy, Paul uses these three cities as examples of perseverance. He recounts these terribly painful events not to garner pity but to remind Timothy of God’s faithfulness during times of hardship and pain. Dennis Moles
The graduate from this agricultural flight school is the son of the writer of this Christian blog site. Paul “mortgaged the farm” in order to achieve this goal, as he spent his retirement savings in order to obtain his initial flying license, and took out a loan to enroll in this class and the AG Pilot program. I am thankful for his tenacity and for winning over adversity. Eagle Vistas has a strong Christian impetus and Paul was very blessed to be able to attend this school. I covet your prayers for Paul’s safety. That is him in the first picture, skimming the orange trees. I am praying that he will be able to use this gift on the mission field as well. In His Service, Pastor Steve <><
Talk about flying under the radar…
We departed from Stafford Baptist Church (Stafford, Virginia) at 9:30 A.M. for New York. We passed the Washington monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, and the World Trade Building on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. At the airport I encountered a security official at Israel Airlines and he said no one could enter their waiting area due to “tight security.” The security is mainly because of bomb threats, etc. from Arab, Third World countries. No other airlines had such a policy and a security guard as did Israel. The “Zionists” have many enemies.
We met Jo Anne and Steve Abbott at the airport. They just flew in from Oregon, and were joined by their son Mark, in the Air Force, and on leave from the Philippines. Their other son, Paul, is a missionary from Africa and will join us in Amman, Jordan. What a place and what a time for a family reunion!
I was quickly exposed to the culture of the Middle East on the airplane. The gentleman seated next to me was born and raised in Damascus, Syria; he moved to the United States and raised a family of five children. He told me he was returning to Damascus, and then he gave me some history of the city. He said it is the world’s oldest capital city, and the world’s oldest inhabited city. He claimed the tomb of John the Baptist is there, and there is a castle left by the Crusaders from about 1100 A.D. As a Christian, I know Damascus was once part of the Hasmonean Dynasty. Even of more significance, the Bible (Acts, Chapter 9) reveals that it is the place where Paul went to persecute Christians. However, due to his conversion along the way to the city, he ended up preaching the gospel message of Jesus Christ there. Paul now ended up as the one being persecuted, and his friends had to lower Paul in a basket outside the walls of Damascus so he could escape with his life. No one promised that it would be easy to follow Jesus.
We lost seven hours of time as we flew towards the sun. We will gain the seven hours back when we are going home.
While still on the airplane, we saw some very scenic, desolate, hilly and craggy terrain about one hour and one quarter prior to our arrival in Jordan. We guessed that it was probably Turkey that we saw. I saw another sign of the tension in the Middle East while still on the airplane. While glancing at a map of the various flight routes which Royal Jordanian makes, I noticed that Israel was not even listed on the map in the airplane! On the plane I tried to speak with a Jordanian to ask him about this, but he could only speak Arabic. We ate several meals on the airplane, and I had trouble figuring out if it was day or night- jet lag. After thirteen hours of flying time we finally set down in Jordan, and after a very scrutinizing passport/visa/luggage check and frisk, we were carried away to our hotel.
I did not care for the Jordanian food at the hotel. I also noticed that Arabs engage in close body contact, and do not observe the “space” that Americans are use to having. They elbow, poke and push. Arabs commonly have body odor. I was glad that we were going to spend only one night in Jordan. I already found that some things in other countries make me appreciate the United States of America all the more. How many things we just take for granted.