Psalm 37:16 NKJV - "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked."
This is a good verse to remind us to be grateful for what we have because of hard work and God's blessing. We can go to bed at night with a grateful heart without regret. We earned what we have because of our labor and we're also aware that much of what is in our possession is there because God gave it to us. What a quiet and glad spirit we can have with that.
But, for those who achieve their wealth through underhanded means, who get what they have by cheating others out of their wealth, or who just outright rob people, these will always be looking over their shoulders. They'll either have regret when they seek to sleep, or God will fill their hearts with guilt and shame because of the ill-gotten gains. All their "wealth" will never be a good substitute for inner peace and joy that the righteous can have.
Hard work may not achieve great monetary wealth, but it will achieve something far more valuable: peace knowing that your heart is right with God and with the people in your life.
Proverbs 29:1 NKJV - "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
I remember this was one of Jack Wyrtzen's favorite texts to preach on back in the 1960's and 1970's. I heard this message often as I attended many of his rallies in various places in the northeast. This passage goes along with another verse in Genesis 6:3 where we read, "...My Spirit shall not strive with man forever..." God's call to turn to Him is a temporary call. It will only happen in anyone's lifetime and they never know when God will "stop striving."
Stubbornness is a sin! 1 Samuel 15:23. When God calls someone to turn away from sin and turn to Him, He means it! And understand, He doesn't have to call at all! It's because of His mercy and love for us that He chooses to do so. But when He calls we must yield our spirit to His and "come, when we're called!"
I remember as a child of 5 that after several morning services in my home church that my pastor gave an invitation for anyone to trust Christ as Savior. I could really feel the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in my heart! I resisted for those weeks but finally in March of 1953 I responded and the JOY and the tears were immediate! I spoke with my pastor afterward and he took John 3:16 and personalized it for me. I realized God loved me and sent His Son for me, and if I believed on Him I would never perish but have everlasting life.
This call isn't always for salvation. It can also be a call to surrender your life to serve the Lord, or it can be a call to do something you know you should do. Whatever the call, don't be stubborn! For the unbeliever, that can be eternally disastrous! There's no "2nd Chance" in hell!
1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 NLT - "But we don't need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God Himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more."
This passage of Scripture gives an excellent three point study for any preacher or Bible teacher to present to their congregation or study group. I noticed this some time ago and wish to share what I saw.
First, Paul says, "...God Himself has taught you to love one another." Simply put, they knew they should love other believers. This is the hallmark of a true believer.
Second, Paul goes on to say, "...Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers..." Again, simply put, they were already practicing that love for each other. The "proof of the pudding" is the practice of what one says they believe. Paul was really encouraging these believers with this point.
Third, Paul then concludes, "...we urge you to love them even more." They were being urged to keep at this with even more intensity. When you begin to really love someone you don't want your love to stagnate. You want it to grow even stronger.
These same steps could be applied to many instructions in Scripture: Know the Instruction; Practice What You Know; Improve on Your Practice. Don't settle for just knowledge. That's like saying you believe something but don't show it in your works. Don't settle for just following the instruction once. God expects a continuation of obedience. And, don't be mediocre in your obedience. Improve your skills at obeying God's Word.
Colossians 3:14 NKJV - "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection."
More important than anything else Paul described in the last three verses is the quality of Christ-like love. That is what stands out in all that Paul wants us to "add" to our lives. The words, "...bond of perfection" are translated in the NLT as "...binds us all together in perfect harmony" and in the NIV as "...binds them all together in perfect unity." The implication is that love binds. "Blest be the tie that binds" is a great hymn we used to sing years ago. Christ's love binds or "sews" our hearts together.
I'm thinking of using the circular looms in knitting hats. You can take two or three different colors of yarn and knit them together to produce a rather colorful hat! The strands used are colorful on their own, but when joined together, they become beautiful!! (All depends on the colors, but that's in hats!) When God puts believers together the end product is a stunning representation of Jesus Himself! That's a wonderful sight to behold.
Our responsibility is to not to show off our beauty, but, more importantly, enhance the beauty of those around us! God put His Church together. He KNIT us together. We'll have to wait until Heaven before we see the end product!
Colossians 3:13 NKJV - "Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do."
Love "bears all things..." 1 Corinthians 13:7. This speaks of "putting up with" a struggling Christian even when their actions, attitudes, or words seem to try your patience. This is where remembering where you were when you went through a hard time will help you endure, or "bear" with someone else.
Forgiveness implies "bestowing favor unconditionally" and not holding a grudge towards the one who is receiving forgiveness. In other words, forgive as you were forgiven by Christ.
If someone "has a complaint against another" is the sad description of the behavior of many in our churches today. We thought we got past that stage in our childhood. But all too often churches are plagued with believers making accusations against their church family. What does Paul teach? Forgive! And what else is implied? Drop it! When Christ forgave us He moved that sin into the "Won't Remember Bin" and He doesn't bring that up again. Only the devil, the accuser of the brethren" will bring an accusation against a believer. What does Jesus do? 1 John 2:2, He stands up as our Advocate and pleads our case to His Father. He basically says of that believer, "Their sins are under My blood." Father says, "Penalty already paid. Charges dismissed!"
Colossians 3:12 NKJV - "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering."
Yesterday we spoke about compassion for the lost. Today I want to encourage showing mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering for the saved. So often we are instructed how to reach out to the unsaved and do what we can to bring them to Christ. But even the saved need "to be reached." Every Christian goes through struggles and difficulties that seem overwhelming. Sometimes their behavior falls into the snare of the "way of the world" and they seem to lose their own way. How can we help them back on the right track?
Remember Who You Are - You're saved by God's elective grace and He showed all these qualities in your life to bring you to Him, and after you got saved, He continued to show these graces to help restore you to a godly walk with Him. Don't forget how tender and compassionate He was with you.
Show Mercy - Mercy is sometimes described as holding back judgment! In other words, don't judge a fallen Christian. Show them mercy in your understanding (remembering how you stumbled too), and show them that you are there to help them renew their love for Christ.
Be Kind - Simple acts of kindness have won so many people to the Lord and have helped countless Christians know that they are not forgotten by God when they mess things up. Kind deeds show God's love!
Be Humble - Show a fallen believer that they are still part of God's family and give them respect and honor as a fellow-Christian. Approach them as you would want them to approach you.
Be Meek (Gentle) - A gentle approach opens up opportunities to communicate God's love and guidance. Approaching someone in harshness can quickly close doors to further help.
Be Patient (Longsuffering) - This also means "endurance." In other words, don't give up so easily if a fallen Christian doesn't immediately respond to your appeals. God is constantly at work in us. He knows that sooner or later we are going to yield to His will. As you and I help those believers who are struggling we need to be patient with them.
Matthew 9:36 NKJV - "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd."
If sheep go astray even with a shepherd, what should we expect of sheep if they have "no shepherd"? When people turn away from God and "go their own way" (Isaiah 53:6) its like what it says in Judges 21:25, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." "No king" can be the same idea as having "no shepherd". That is, no one to set things in order and to lead people in the right way. And the outcome of doing "what was right in his own eyes" is what is made clear in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
So, what do people in this world need today when they have no Shepherd: COMPASSION! Jesus was "moved with compassion" for this crowd of people moving through life without a clue as to where they were going. God calls us to be compassionate with people. Part of compassion is showing people mercy and understanding. They need to know that we will listen to their cry and we will show them the One who can turn their lives completely around. Note what Jude said in verse 22 (NKJV), "And on some have compassion, making a distinction." That last phrase in the NLT is, "...those whose faith is wavering." A lot of people try hard to have faith, but they just don't know where to place it! We can show them the Faithful God who provided a perfect Savior/Shepherd in Jesus!
There's so much more to be said. For the moment may I encourage you to avoid condemnation of unbelievers. They need to have someone who will be understanding and patient with them. They need compassion.
Matthew 8:3 NKJV - "Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' Immediately his leprosy was cleansed."
Jesus was willing! The leper recognized Jesus had the right to make whatever decision He knew was best, and He was willing to say "Yes!" What an impact that must have had on that leper, let alone all those who observed. It has had a wonderful impact on me, too! Watching this leper and Jesus has made me so appreciative of the leper's attitude and the compassion, mercy, and power of Jesus in response.
Did you also note something else in this Daily Verse that was amazing?! Jesus TOUCHED the leper! Now, if you go through the Old Testament you knew that anyone with leprosy was supposed to be quarantined from society. No one was to touch a leper or allow a leper to touch them! That was simply taboo! And yet Jesus touched this man! How long had it been since this man felt a human touch? How many times had his relatives wished they could hold him, hug him, and let him know that he was loved? I don't know. Most lepers at that time were outcasts and even their relatives may have been afraid to even get close to them. But Jesus showed this man that he was "touchable"!
Sometimes, there are people in our lives we dare not get too close to. Not just because of some contagious disease. For some, it's not their germs as much as it might be their reputation. We sometimes avoid the person who has a "name of shame" attached to them. We don't want to be associated with someone like that.
Praise God for those who got close enough to "touch us" with God's love and compassion. May we be willing to allow the Lord to lead us to those who need just such a touch to bring them to Christ.
Matthew 8:2 NKJV - "And behold a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.'"
I've always appreciated the way this leper spoke to Jesus. He didn't doubt Jesus' capability. He believed that Jesus could heal him if He wanted to! Not only did this leper recognize Jesus' power but he also was willing to submit to Jesus' pleasure. This leper was willing to let Jesus make the call. I like that!
How about me? Am I willing to take my suffering, my pain, my troubles to Jesus and recognize that He is more than able to meet whatever need I present to Him? Am I also willing to submit to His will and leave the decision up to Him?
I've taught before that we should pray with anticipation of a positive answer, but we should also pray with a submissive spirit for a "delayed" answer or a "no" answer if that is God's will. Who knows best how to answer our prayers? Us? Or God? Hopefully you won't have to take too long to answer that.
Matthew 8:13 NKJV - "Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.' And his servant was healed that same hour."
"...as you have believed, so let it be done for you." When the centurion heard this he fully expected that what he requested Jesus to do is exactly what Jesus would do! He believed Jesus would heal his servant and that's what happened.
God wants to be believed! When we pray we're told by James, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting..." James 1:6. The centurion didn't doubt. He received what he believed Jesus would do.
When the Bible tells us what God is willing to do for us, such as James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him", then God means what He said! We should pray in faith and expect God to answer.
He said it. He means it. He will do it! Believe Him.
Daily commentary and insight from Pastor Eckardt.
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Mt Ephraim Baptist Church | 25 S. Black Horse Pike | Mt Ephraim, NJ 08059
Senior Pastor, Stephen A. Eckardt | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 856.981.7288