Do Not Keep Focusing On Christ’s Suffering, But On His Attitude!

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For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
(Hebrews 12:3-6 )

The author was well aware of the disheartened condition of his readers. He was concerned that they might abandon their faith in the face of their struggles against evil and injustice. Their weariness and hopelessness was attributed to their attitude towards God’s discipline. By understanding God’s purposes in their predicament, they can turn their weariness into strength and hope. The cross gives us an objective view of Christ’s suffering, but our focus should not be on the extent of His suffering but on His attitude. By adopting Christ’s attitude into our mindset, we have reason to face the challenges of life and to overcome them.

~ Sharing by City Revival Church’s Pastor Gabriel Chong Yew Chan sharing on Hebrews 12:3-6

Hebrews 12:3-6 Do not keep focusing on Christ’s suffering, but on His attitude

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2 Timothy 2:1-6 Believers who are faithful to the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward.

2 Timothy 2:1-6 Believers who are faithful to the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward

1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Background

Paul instructs Timothy to invest his resources into discipling worthy and faithful men. And He provides three virtues towards an enduring and effective ministry: The minister must be focused on kingdom’s agenda while denying his own. He must build on the fundamentals and not attempt to fast track the growth of the ministry. If he maintains vigilance and diligence, he will be first to enjoy the reward. Today’s devotion teaches: Believers who are faithful to the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward.

Observation

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Drawing upon Paul’s unashamed resolve to stand for the truth and God’s mercy displayed through the likes of Onesiphorus, He urges Timothy to be strong in the grace of God. This mission requires divine strength which only God can provide. Thus, Timothy has to discipline himself to draw from the reservoir of divine grace and never to venture beyond the limits of God’s will.

Entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul instructs Timothy in matters that concern discipleship and church growth. First, he has to identify faithful men, and not just any men. But those who are faithful to the truth, so that the treasure of the gospel may be passed on unaltered to future generations. Regrettably, many are faithful to the task of evangelism, but not to the integrity of the gospel message. Nevertheless, the propagation of the true gospel hangs entirely on the faithfulness of the disciples.

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Paul teaches the importance of maintaining focus on the kingdom’s agenda while denying his own. He uses the analogy of a soldier; the soldier lives to obey the instructions of his commander, while a civilian lives to fulfil his personal aspirations. As the soldier gives his life for the kingdom’s sake, he calls Timothy to do the same. Thus, he must not mix kingdom and personal agenda, or entangle himself in relationships or in financial commitments that distract, and prevent him from fully committing to his work.

Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.

Next, Paul employs the athlete and emphasises the importance of discharging his mission according to the rules. In the process of establishing the church, he must never deviate from the principles lest he be disqualified. The principles that Paul mentioned are:

  • Retain the standard of sound words, which is to maintain the integrity of the gospel by studying the word diligently and teaching it accurately.
  • Be loyal to one’s leadership and standby them.
  • Identify men who are loyal and principled. Disciple them and train them adequately so that they are qualified to be teachers.
  • Do not be tainted by the darkness of the world. Maintain personal purity in private and in public.

The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.

The farmer, in looking to a bountiful harvest must keep up the hard-work regardless of dire circumstances. Here, by using the analogy of a farmer, Paul encourages Timothy to be focused on the fundamentals of kingdom building. Timothy must be vigilant to operate not by his human instincts but by the Spirit. Especially in the face of toil and stress, one tends to listen to his human senses rather than to the Spirit. In the same token, Paul also incentivises Timothy with the promise of reward. Indeed, as the diligent farmer gets to be the first to enjoy a bountiful harvest, and so will the hard-working minister.

Truth

Those who are loyal and who serve out of goodwill make fitting disciples

Paul instructs Timothy to disciple faithful men who will be able to teach others also. This applies not only to Christian ministries but also to all organisations. Many churches and organisations today are populated by disciples who should not be made disciples. As a result, when these errant disciples rise to leadership they contribute to many of the organisations’ problems. Thus, Paul expressly instructs Timothy to entrust the work of the gospel to faithful men who are qualified to take on the leadership role: able to teach others also. And before they are given a place of prominence, they have to be proven over a period of time as worthy of the call. Faithful men must be proven of the following:

a. To be faithful is to be loyal to the leadership. Jesus chided the crowd who followed Him because they saw His popularity and the power that He possessed. Then He drew attention to the cost of following Him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Luke 9:58. Jesus foresaw that many would leave Him when they realised the true rigours of discipleship. For many had come with selfish ambitions and misplaced expectations. Their chief intent is not to contribute to the organisation but to benefit themselves.

b. To be faithful is to be true to scripture in conviction and actions. Paul describes the world as it approaches the last days, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money,… holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1,2,5). But faithful men will stay true to the principles of the gospel despite tribulations and temptations. Before they ascend to leadership, they must be proven as salt and light first to their family, to their community and then to the world.

Therefore, believers must evaluate themselves if they are fitting disciples for their church or organisation. Leaders must not be impatient in wanting to grow the numbers but wait for faithful men to arise. Membership size do not contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom, but faithful men do. Unfortunately, today’s churches are filled with people looking for blessings, and an acceptable Christian culture. However, the world cannot be changed by the lure of blessing or by Christian culture.

Fearing God and pleasing Him are the distinctive of a true disciple.

Paul instructs Timothy not to allow his private affairs to distract or hinder the gospel work so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And the one who enlisted him is none other than God Himself. The agenda of God’s kingdom ranks above all agendas. Paul cites the desire to please God as the motivation for all his endeavours. Why is the virtue of pleasing God of utmost importance to Paul? The reason being that God is the supreme Creator, infinitely wise, loving and powerful. And man as mere creatures must fear Him, and love Him with all his heart, soul, mind and strength (see Luke 10:27).

Here, Paul does not attempt to remind Timothy to please God; he assumes the fear of God is inherent within him. As the desire to please God is the foundation to eternal life, without it, one’s life’s work will come to nothing. That is why it is extremely important for disciple makers to select candidates who fear God, who desire to please Him in all their endeavours. Lest our efforts (in discipling them) come to nothing because they act out of their selfish ambitions. Therefore, let us be discerning and choose our disciples carefully.

The church must not be hasty in growing numbers, but build strong fundamentals

Athletes who do not follow the rules are those who take short cuts, cut corners, and have no respect for the sport. And such will be disqualified from the competition. Here, Paul warns church leaders who are not led by the principles of the word, for such are selfishly ambitious no matter how noble their causes may be. For their ministries will not endure even though they may seem to thrive for a moment. Jesus and Paul showed us the rules to a fruitful and enduring ministry:

Salvation only by faith – Both Jesus and Paul preached faith: righteousness and reconciliation with God, as the entrance to God’s kingdom. Paul said, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (see Romans 1:17). Without continual repentance by turning from self-centred living to god-centred living, the work of the cross yields no forgiveness for them. Unfortunately, the church has made material blessing and escape from hell the motivation to convert to Christianity. As a result, many remained outside God’s kingdom. Such are “saved” by works; they supposed by reciting the sinner’s prayer and going through water baptism they are saved regardless of their behaviour. Regrettably, the church is populated by such people who are no different from idol worshipers looking for blessings and a cheap means of exoneration for their crimes.

Personal growth – Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. Paul was given divine revelations through which he grew and taught the churches. Many of today’s pastors do not pay attention to their personal growth. They are busy shoring up their personal profile by building and naming ministries after themselves. As a result, they are shallow and are no different from owners of private businesses. Many cannot hear God, they see and discern with their eyes but not by the Spirit. Because they are not used to sanctifying their hearts, they have no knowledge or discernment. Because they lack discernment, authority over the angels and the elements are not entrusted to them.

Discipleship – Jesus and Paul chose their disciples and taught them by the very testimony of their lives. The pastors of today’s churches are too busy running programmes and attending meetings, they neglect the ministry of discipleship. On one hand, they lack conviction of the word, for they merely regurgitate what has been passed down to them. On the other hand, they lack discernment and recruited into leadership many who are not adequately discipled. Their discipleship programmes are built on training manuals as opposed to regular devotion to the word. Hence, they produce leaders that teach and disciple from their minds rather than convictions from their hearts. As a result, they produce disciples with man-made visions of church growth using evangelistic tactics but devoid of kingdom vision, divine wisdom and power.

Believers who are faithful to the values of the gospel will be first to enjoy the reward.

Jeremiah was instructed by God to purchase land ahead of the restoration of Israel (Jeremiah 32:6,14-15). Jesus promised the disciples as well as those who followed Him a place of prominence when He returns (Matthew 19:28). Lazarus, being a faithful follower of Jesus was rewarded by a resurrection (John 11:38-44). A barren Shunammite woman who served Elisha by setting aside a private room for him every time he passed by was healed of her barrenness (2 Kings 4:8-17). Indeed, God rewards those who are faithful to His cause ahead of the others. To be faithful to the gospel is to be kind and generous through good works, to be diligent and responsible in our work. Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35). What are the rewards that this material world cannot give? The reward that God gives enables believers to reflect the attributes of Christ and to rule creation with Him. With these rewards, we may prosper and be a blessing to the world. I will describe a few:

a. Eternal beauty and glory – Very much like a flower that blooms in the abundance of water and minerals, our hearts become enriched with many colours giving off fragrances in the spirit when we do the works of the gospel. This is apparent when we interact with God-fearing people… they have a certain glow around them which makes us feel safe, accepted and welcomed. On the other hand, there are those whose auras fan out like walls shutting themselves in, their eyes flaming with envy, anger and suspicion.

b. Wisdom and knowledge – This is represented by the spiritual gift: word of wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). There is a difference between the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. The gift of the word of knowledge allows the believer to know things within his sphere of authority, from intimate details of people around him to the economic and moral conditions of the nation. Wisdom, on the other hand is divine guidance (pertaining to a situation) based on knowledge of future events that are unknown to the public. With divine wisdom, he counsels his flock in the way that they should go.

c. Authority over the element and the angels – God’s divine design is to subject all creation (including the angels) under the charge of man of which Jesus is the first. Hebrews 2:8 says concerning man,

“You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” Hebrews 2:8

God will in time delegate a measure of authority not to all, but to those who are worthy. Such believers will become exceedingly effective in their prayers. Just like Elijah, whose prayers move the rain clouds and Moses, in parting the sea, they will become the channel through which God discharge His rule and blessing over humanity.

Application

Do you consider yourself a disciple who is loyal to the leadership and true to the word? Be loyal to the leadership by supporting your leaders in your church and organisation. Pray for them and be sensitive to their needs. In so doing, you enable them to disciple you effectively and cause you to grow in wisdom and authority.

Are you being pressured to fast-track the growth of God’s kingdom or your organisation by short-circuiting the fundamentals? Whether as parent, manager or church leader, it is important to look first at your personal growth. Indeed, one cannot give what he has not received. And at the same time build discipline and character into your children, trainees and disciples. A healthy family, department or church will eventually bear fruit.

Are you focused on gifts and rewards as opposed to character and spirituality? Spiritual gifts and rewards cannot be acquired by human means or by training but by an anointing from heaven. Nevertheless, as we are found loyal to leadership and faithful to the tasks given to us, God will in His time reward us appropriately.

Dear Lord, make me a disciple who is worthy of your call. Cause me to be loyal to my church and true to your word. Cause me to grow in your likeness and reward me in your perfect time. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Holy Spirit – Power to Change the World

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Imagine a world without conflict, without borders, without sorrow and without poverty or disease. Imagine every man and woman being able to visualize their future and having the confidence to fulfill their dreams and people of different nationalities and cultures living in harmony, and prospering in the fruits of their labor. This is the Kingdom of God where no plagues, or diseases can fester.

Many great men have tried changing the world using physical might and economic power, but their efforts are short-lived. Conflicts in the Middle East and African continue to cost much suffering. The law of Moses did not bring lasting peace to Israel and the surrounding nations. But in the New Covenant, however God changes the world by first putting His Spirit inside man and transforming his heart through love.

Since the coming of the Holy Spirit, every believer is now given the divine ability to live according to God’s laws – the law of love. Jesus said,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

text extracted from Pastor Gabriel Chong Yew Chan’s sharing on Holy Spirit – Power to Change the World

Holy Spirit – Power to Change the World

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John 3:16-18 Assurance of salvation comes naturally to one who entrusts his life to Jesus

John 3:16-18 Assurance of salvation comes naturally to one who entrusts his life to Jesus

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Background

In a conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus explains His mission by drawing on an Old Testament incident. Moses’s generation of Israelites had continually tested God by committing heinous sins that led to a divine discipline. The snakes that came out of the ground threatened to wipe out the people unless they repent by looking at the bronze serpent. Jesus comes for this very same purpose; unless the people look to Him in repentance, they will likewise perish. Today’s devotion teaches: Assurance of salvation comes naturally to one who entrusts his life to Jesus.

Observation

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…

For God so loved the “world”, kosmos in Greek denotes the universe and its inhabitants. The entire kosmos is heading towards irreparable destruction and it is only through the giving of God’s only begotten Son can the kosmos be saved. The word “gave” connotes God’s resolve to save the world by sacrificing His only begotten Son. Begotten (monogene in Greek) connotes the first and unique One in the eyes of God. In a fuller sense, the only begotten Son is the image through which the entire universe is fashioned. And it is only through the only begotten Son that the kosmos is saved from destruction.

…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Within the kosmos lies humanity; the crown jewel, the very image of God. Humanity’s rebellion has sent the kosmos sliding down the slippery slope of eternal destruction. For this reason, the salvation of the kosmos necessitates humanity’s commitment to believe in the only begotten Son for God has appointed Him as the Saviour of the world. The word believe (pisteuo in Greek) means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. In other words, to believe in Him is to entrust one’s life unreservedly to the Son’s will, trusting that He is ever faithful to save. That said, it is important to recognise that the vision is first to believe in Him, and the fruit of believing is eternal life. Without first entrusting one’s life unreservedly to Him in faith, there is no eternal life; eternal life is never the vision, only the result.

The word “eternal” (Olam in Hebrew) means forever, perpetual, and ancient. The term “eternal” is attributed to God as existing in the infinite future and past. It is also used to describe the attributes of God. The prophet Isaiah said,

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting (eternal) God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:28-31

Eternal life, in essence is the God-kind of life. The crowd in Jesus’s days were impressed with His straight talk and display of power and authority. Now, the manifestations of eternal life are dignity, divine wisdom, peaceability and power. Eternal death, being the opposite of eternal life is slavery, falsehood, fear and timidity. Those who believe in Him will inherit “eternal life” and exhibit the divine traits of dignity, wisdom, peaceability and power. As we can observe, many people though alive are living a deathly existence (see Colossians 2:13).

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world.

Herein describes the disposition of God that led to the giving of His Son. Indeed, God does not look forward to the world’s destruction and has every intent on saving it. Therefore, it is important to know that God is not angry but is actively reaching out to reconcile humanity to Himself. Through Jesus, man’s destruction is no longer inexorable and salvation of the world is within reach. The Son is incarnated to save, not to judge or to penalise. This explains Jesus’s infinite capacity to endure evil brought on by His opposers, accusers and murderers. While at the cross, Jesus’s plea to the Father to forgive His oppressors explains all,

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. Luke 23:34

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already.

Here, Jesus establishes the condition of eternal life: He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already. Jesus purports that the fate of every person lies entirely in the decisions he makes. To believe in Him is to repent from evil, and commit to the ways of Jesus. While God endeavours to give eternal life to all, it remains for each person to believe in Him; to continually live by the truth that Jesus taught despite challenges and temptations. That said, the ones who suppose they can obtain eternal life without making a conscientious shift in life direction and lifestyle will continue on their path of destruction: he who does not believe has been judged already. Jesus spoke about the day of judgment in Matthew 25:31-6 where the Son will separate those who believe in Him (the sheep) from those who do not (the goats). Those who do not believe, who are self-centred, who practise falsehood will go into eternal punishment. But those who believe in Him; who live a life of truth and kindness will enter into eternal life.

Truth

Assurance of salvation comes naturally to one who entrusts his life to Jesus

Assurance of salvation is keenly felt in one who walks in tandem with Jesus. By virtue of the fact that Jesus is the source of salvation, no one can obtain this blessed assurance if he does not possess the same convictions as Jesus’s. Concerning assurance of God’s mercy and favour, the apostle John taught,

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him. 1 John 3:17-19

And one who loves in deed and in truth will be assured of their prayers being answer in times of need.

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. 1 John 3:21-22

Even so, many seek to obtain this assurance by being singularly focused on the cleansing power of Jesus’s sacrifice. They are led by some misguided teachings that one’s sins can be forgiven by simply reciting the sinner’s prayer, by memorising scripture or by water baptism. To them, Jesus is much like the dean of a school, who has a penchant for exalting lazy and irresponsible students to a place of honour. Only an unsound mind, steep in deception can conjure an image of a fictitious god who is infinitely forgiving and yet devoid of justice and righteousness. Regrettably, many in today’s churches harbour a false sense of peace and assurance. They erroneously suppose this assurance can be obtain through an intellectual presentation of the gospel. The apostle Paul warned of impending disaster for those who are foolish and naive,

While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3

That said, righteousness and purity in the eyes of God is first and foremost a matter of the heart. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). But, how can a man tell what is hidden in his heart? By paying close attention to what he says and does. Jesus said, “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” (Matthew 12:35).

Application

1. Do you lack the blessed assurance of God’s mercy and forgiveness? Are you assured of God’s favour to answer your prayers at the time of need? We experience divine assurance of God’s forgiveness and favour when we acknowledge our sinfulness and commit our ways to Him. The apostle John said,

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

If we humble ourselves in repentance, God promises to sanctify us of our sinfulness and to reconcile us to Himself. Self-reflection is necessary in that it reveals our true character. It also allows the Spirit to heal us and to sanctify our hearts towards righteousness. Thereafter, we must reject all notions of guilt being fully aware of the devil’s devices to hinder us from moving on.

2. How do we live the eternal life?

  • We must learn to live in divine dignity. When people despise us, we must carry ourselves with humility, gentleness, and patience. In so doing, God counts us worthy of our calling as sons of God (see Ephesians 4:1-2).
  • We must be slow to speak and quick to listen, slow to making promises and quick to deliver. In so doing, we are able to employ divine wisdom through the Spirit and succeed in all our endeavours.
  • We must be at peace with God by leaving no sins unconfessed. And be at peace with others as far as it depends on us. And do not be vindictive but rather be gracious and tolerant towards others. Be at peace with our circumstances being fully assured that God is in control of our situations.
  • We must be bold in divine power when facing challenges bigger than ourselves. Start by casting out the spirit of fear and anxiety. Determine the boundaries of your responsibility and do your best. Leave the uncontrollable to God by sending out the angels to do your bidding.

Dear Lord, I thank you for giving me an opportunity to attain eternal life. Empower me with your Spirit and sanctify me from all unrighteousness. Cause me to live in divine dignity, wisdom, peace and power. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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A Life Of Truth Speaks Louder Than Any Miracle

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Honor comes from knowing one’s calling and fulfilling it with utmost dedication.

Some people never thought they could amount to anything. Hence, they spent their whole life trying to be someone they are not.

we must not aspire to be CEO’s just because being a CEO make one glamorous and powerful. We must never force our children to be someone that we never got to be. Instead, we must help our children discover their calling based on their gifting and passion.

The greatest success is in fulfilling the call and purpose that God has ordained for us in our ministry, career and family. On the Day of Judgment, many who are perceived of as obscure and insignificant will be honored among all. Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matthew 19:30).

Text extracted from Pastor Gabriel Chong Yew Chan’s sharing on John 1:19-28 A life of truth speaks louder than any miracle – http://thesolidfood.org/en/john-119-28-a-life-of-truth-speaks-louder-than-any-miracle-2/

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2 Timothy 1:13-18 Only in times of conflict and distress can a man’s faith be authenticated

2 Timothy 1:13-18 Only in times of conflict and distress can a man’s faith be authenticated

13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

15 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; 17 but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me— 18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.

Background

Paul charges Timothy to keep the gospel message pure and unchanged even in the face of oppositions. The gospel of godliness is the treasure that will give eternal life to all who believe. However, being a preacher of the true gospel has subject him to persecutions, imprisonment and abandonment. Paul makes known his distress as all in Asia have deserted him. However, he finds comfort in Onesiphorus who is an unfailing fixture of God’s providence. Indeed, Onesiphorus’s faithfulness and kindness has made him a worthy recipient of divine glory on that day. Today’s devotion teaches: Only in times of conflict and distress can a man’s faith be authenticated.

Observation

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me.

Paul’s beckoning for Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel necessitates retaining the standard of sound words. Apparently, there is great opposition against the standard of sound words that has caused much suffering for Paul that perhaps leads to his imprisonments. And again Paul urges Timothy to guard… the treasure which has been entrusted.

What is the “standard of sound words” and the “treasure”? It is clear that it concerns the integrity of the gospel message. Should the standard of sound words be distorted, the gospel becomes ineffective, and the treasure of eternal life will be lost.

The gospel purposes to regenerate and empower man to walk on the path of godliness. But the world gravitates towards worldly and empty chatter… leading to further ungodliness (see 2:16). An unsound gospel is ineffective against the tide of worldliness and ungodliness. Elsewhere, Paul battles against Jewish traditions which falsely assure impenitent men of salvation through observance of the law.

The perennial threat to the gospel goes beyond the simplistic denial of Jesus as the Son of God. The world seeks co-existence with the gospel by maintaining that salvation comes from observance of religious rituals and knowledge, not by repentance. In asserting that “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (see 2:19b), Paul draws a redline against the gospel that needs no repentance.

Paul charges Timothy to preserve the spirit of sound words from being corrupted through distortion, dilution, deletion, and addition. And Timothy must depend on the indwelling Spirit who will keep him in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me.

There has been a mass desertion of close associates and leaders in Paul’s ministry of which Phygelus and Hermogenes are the most prominent and unexpected. Apparently, the hardship and the stigma associated with Paul’s ministry is not what they would expect. Although they are not numbered with Alexander the copper smith which did Paul much harm (see 4:14), they are not cast in a good light. For what is unequivocally heinous about them is their act of abandoning an apostle who for the gospel’s sake sits rotting in prison while awaiting a death sentence.

The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.

Paul’s words bare the deep emotional wounds that are inflicted by the unexpected desertions. But in the cold, dark prison cell forlorned, he finds the remnant of Christian decency in Onesiphorus. For he not only supported Paul in Ephesus but also in Rome. He repeatedly goes out of his way to help Paul to the extent of following him to Rome painstakingly seeking out his whereabouts. Here, Paul implicitly infers the spirit of the gospel as being faithful to another in need. When all have moved on in search of better prospects, Onesiphorus has chosen to remain with the apostle despite the stigma (was not ashamed of my chains). Paul deems it appropriate to call on God to reward Onesiphorus and his family for his godly kindness. Indeed, one should be faithful to a friend in need and even more so to a man who gives his life for the gospel.

Truth

The true gospel targets the sinful nature, the root of eternal destruction.

A large part of Paul’s ministry involves retaining the standard of sound words, which is the treasure of eternal life. Throughout the history of the church, the devil is seen distorting and diluting the gospel message in a bid to rob humanity of the treasure. He achieves his goal by insidiously preying on man’s tendency towards superficiality. Jesus said concerning the Jews,

“So that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” Mark 4:12

The Jews supposed that by their sacrifices and their rites of circumcision they may find divine favour and have their punishment removed. But God said their offerings have become a burden to Him (see Isaiah 1:11,14), and He has grown to abhor their prayers (see Isaiah 1:15). Instead, He calls them to:

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil. Isaiah 1:16

Indeed, God will only accept sacrifices of those who honour Him. And save those who order their ways aright.

“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright
I shall show the salvation of God.” Psalms 50:23

The Old Covenant has failed to provide a way of salvation for man, failing to destroy the power of sin and regenerate man’s heart towards righteousness. In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ was sent to die in order to destroy the power behind the sinful passions; the root of death. Paul said,

Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3.

Christ in the flesh, is susceptible to the passions of sin. The destruction of His body nullified the power of sin in the flesh (He condemned sin in the flesh). It is through Jesus’s sacrifice of his fleshly body (offering for sin), that the power of sin over Him is destroyed. And the new life of the spirit and of righteousness becomes a reality for all humanity.

The church, during Paul’s time has taken on the Jewish mentality supposing that by verbally acknowledging Christ’s sacrifice will forever remove all punishment. As a result, many had a form of godliness but devoid of power of the new life (see 2:5). They professed to have biblical knowledge but continued to be lovers of self and lovers of money (see 2:2), and such men, Paul advised Timothy to avoid.

The church today must retain the standard of sound words, which is the very gospel that Jesus and Paul preached. The devil works within the church by insinuating that the cross has taken away all punishment unconditionally when one recites the sinner’s prayer and be baptised in Jesus’s name. And divine grace has allowed impenitent men to get pass the gates of heaven. As result, many do not grow in Christ-likeness because they do not understand the workings of Christ’s sacrifice, which is to condemn sin (the power of sin) in the flesh. And many will miss out on eternal life. But as long as men keep their covenant with Christ to order their ways aright, He will save them from eternal destruction.

Only in times of conflict and distress can a man’s faith be authenticated.

Paul’s prayer to recompense Onesiphorus’s household speaks of God’s reward system. The reward is most likely a glorious resurrection. Onesiphorus’s reward is justified because he is the fruit of sound words; the true gospel. For he painstakingly sought out Paul and supported him despite inconveniences and the stigma associated with him. When all who are in Asia jumped ship thinking Paul is doomed, Onesiphorus remained because it is inhumane to abandon anyone in their time of dire need, let alone a man of God.

Indeed, a true believer will selflessly and sacrificially stay true to the gospel’s call. And preaching the gospel is about living the gospel. However, there are many in the church who will worship God and obey Him only when it’s convenient. And their true colours will become apparent in times of conflict and distress; when their personal ego and welfare are being threatened. A chinese idiom says: A long journey proves the stamina of a horse, the passage of time reveals a person’s heart (路遥知马力, 日久见人心). God sees and rewards those who have proven themselves through their journey of faith. It is true that only in times of conflict and distress can a man’s faith be authenticated.

Application

1. Do you frequently get distracted by the desire for worldly things, supposing the cross has unconditionally removed all punishment from you? The death and resurrection of Christ destroys the power of sin in the flesh causing believers to come alive in righteousness. Believers must do their part in keeping their heart free from worldliness and body holy. And the grace of God actively strengthens believers to battle the sin of the flesh. Paul said,

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14

Therefore, having this grace at hand, we are no longer slaves to sin. We possess divine power to reject sin’s allure and cast them into hell.

2. Do you have a tendency to bail out on those who appear to have no hope of turning around; those who are terminally ill, or those who are in serious debt? The fruit of the gospel is manifested through acts of mercy and faithfulness towards those in need. Are there anyone in your workplace or neighbourhood who seem to be weighed down by sickness, debt or family problems? Reach out to them with the gospel. If they have faith, they will respond by seeking God’s help. Do your part to support charity organisations that reach out to the marginalised and participate in their work.

Dear Lord, help me stand firm in the true gospel of Christ: that Jesus came to break the power of sin and to regenerate man’s heart towards godliness. And there is no salvation without continual repentance. Use me to bring comfort and hope to those who are abandoned by the community. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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The Two Distinctive Of A New Covenant Believer

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Leaders will be judged not by the numbers they drew, but by the number of repentant sinners they brought into the kingdom.

Many leaders and church pastors hold sizable congregations but lack the power to disciple and transform lives towards godly living. Although they preach the gospel to the masses, they could not disciple members towards fulfilling their calling. 

Their messages are directed at keeping members feeling blessed instead of pointing them towards the truth that is necessary for abundant living. Hence, such leaders draw people to the church, but could not bring them into the kingdom.

They speak of common grace, which is the willingness of God to bless sinners. But they omit salvific grace, which requires sinners to repent in order to enter the kingdom.

Such leaders are flawed in their conscience and motivations. And they will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for not preaching the true gospel of Christ. Ultimately, leaders will be judged not by the numbers they drew, but by the number of repentant sinners they brought into the kingdom.

text extracted from Pastor Gabriel Chong Yew Chan’s sharing on Hebrews 13:15-19 The two distinctive of a new covenant believer – http://thesolidfood.org/en/hebrews-1315-19-the-two-evidences-of-a-new-covenant-believer/

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