WHO DO YOU TRUST?

It is much easier to carry a coin saying “In God we trust” than to really trust God in all aspects of life.  It is much easier to talk about someone being a trusted friend or companion than to really put full trust in that person even when what they say or do doesn’t sound right.  Is it just me or does it seem that trust is in short supply in our world? Think of how many times you have heard someone say, “I wouldn’t trust him or her as far as I could throw them.”  I saw a survey a couple of days ago on who or what people trusted in the United States.  Some of the things they questioned people about were: News media, Congress, the President, the internet and churches or ministers.  Now I’m sure you could find all kinds of surveys that would have different results but this one was telling in many ways.  The lowest on the trust scale was the new media.  Their trust level was so low that one has to wonder why anyone pays any attention to what they say?  The next lowest on the list was Congress.  It was obvious the different respondents represented different parties by the comments made, but no matter what party they were part of their trust of Congress and what they said was pathetically low.  The next was the President.  More people trusted what he said than either the news media or Congress but it was still far below 50% of the people who felt that what the President said was trustworthy.  What was put on the internet ranked right alongside the news media so I suppose the people saw them as much the same thing.  Churches and preachers had the highest trust factor in the survey but it was a far cry from being something to brag about.  Even with the church and preachers the trust factor was only a little above the 50% mark.

Obviously we have a trust problem in this country.  By the way a few days earlier I read another such survey that asked two different groups of people how trustworthy they felt the professors were in the college they were most loyal to.  They asked students who were in the college and had the particular professors and they asked their parents how much they trusted the things that the professors were telling their children.  The students had a far better trust level for the professors than their parents did.  Interestingly the parents tended to offer very different comments on the whole trust thing.  Many said they felt the professors were undergirding the principles they had tried to instill in their children in growing up.  But about the same number felt the professors were destroying the foundations they had tried to lay in their children’s lives.  Sadly, the trust level wasn’t really very high from either the children or their parents.

Why is trust suffering in our time?  What has happened that led to people not trusting others?  Are people less truthful and trustworthy today than in previous times?  I suspect that we become jaded by all the efforts that are made to sell us something that we really don’t want all the time.  How much trust to you have in a telemarketer who calls to get you to purchase an extended warranty on your car or to offer you a vacation in Florida?  If you are like me it is somewhere below zero.  I suspect the trust level has decreased as people are quoted on some issue they obviously don’t know any more about than you do or perhaps even less.  The fact that our media seems to think that anyone who is famous in any area of life should be seen as an authority in all kinds of matters lessens our trust for what anyone says.

What difference does it make?  If we don’t trust anyone we tend to see everyone we meet as a crook who is trying to take advantage of us in some way.  It makes life miserable.  Certainly we can go too far in trusting everyone about everything and become gullible.  But don’t become a cynic that thinks everyone is trying to take advantage of you in some way.  Most people are trying to be honest in life.  It is far better to have the attitude “I will trust a person until I have solid evidence that they aren’t trustworthy” than to have the attitude “I won’t trust anyone until they prove to me that they are trustworthy.”  Remember the Golden Rule to treat others the way you want to be treated and in doing so we will trust and be trustworthy.

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SHOWING LOVE

It’s a day when expressions of love are far more natural than at other times.  Frankly, I think it is worthwhile to take advantage of any opportunity to express the love we have for each other, whether in marriage, in the family, among friends or in the spiritual family.  The whole human race is in desperate need of love.  The one consistent expression of overwhelming love for all people comes from God.  “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life, for God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).  That is the Scripture that we tend to hear more often about God’s love for us.  But let me share a couple of others that give a different angle and may help us to see somethings that aren’t so obvious.  In Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The other one is in I John 3:1-3  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Lay these three Scriptures alongside each other and notice some powerful truths about God’s love for us.  First, God’s love is unlimited.  He loves the world, meaning everyone in the world.  His love isn’t limited to those who are already trying to do what he wishes.  Even while we were in rebellion to him he demonstrated his love in giving Jesus his unique son to die on our behalf.  Second, his love is active.  It is easy to express love.  It takes more to demonstrate it.  I have no idea how many times I’ve sat with a couple and heard a husband say, “I tell her I love her regularly” only to have the wife respond, “yes, you tell me you love me but your actions and your eyes make it seem like empty words.”  God demonstrates his love for us by the death of Jesus.  “Greater love has no one that this to lay down his life for his friends.”  Third, God’s love for us has a clear goal in mind.  It isn’t to get something from us or give bragging rights to the Lord.  His love is for the purpose of salvation.  Sin has invaded every life.  Sin pays very high wages since Paul will later say in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death.  God doesn’t want anyone to perish or be lost but longs for all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  His love strives to move us in the direction of what is the very best for us.  Think of how much you love your children.  Because of that love you long for the best things to happen in their lives.  God loves us even more that we can even imagine and has better desires for us than we can possibly have for those we love.  Fourth God’s love is deeply relational.  He shows that love by making us family.  He calls us his children and wants us to call him “Father”.  He adopts us into his family.  Because of the family relationship that he initiates in us he tells us that while we are his children now, the day will come when we are raised from the dead and we take on the same kind of resurrected body that Jesus has since he was raised from the dead.  When we are raised we will see him as he is.

Such love from God should have a huge effect in our lives.  If we really believe that God loves us so much and that he paid such a high price in order for us to be saved from sin and to have hope for eternal life in him, that hope should cause us to purify ourselves even as he is pure.  God is the great lover.  But he love is intended to have a response from us.  His love makes the way for us, but our love, faith and hope lead us to react to his love by turning to him in faith, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and even loving our neighbor as ourselves.  When we have that kind of love for the Lord it naturally leads to our living obedient lives to him.  The hope we have in him leads to a purified life where our lives have a single goal or purpose.  Think of the fact that purity means unmixed just as when you purchase a product that is pure honey or pure sugar or pure olive oil.  The label is declaring that it is unmixed with other products or ingredients.  When God calls on us to have a pure heart it is to have an unmixed heart.  Paul was expressing this purified heart in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  When our hearts are pure they are set on God’s call and God’s purpose for our lives.  When our hearts are mixed we have all kinds of goals and dreams that lead to us trying to go in all directions at the same time and never really getting anywhere that matters.

The more we understand the amazing love of God the more we imbibe the spirit of love in our relationship with Him and with other people all around us.  Speak love then show it in all you do.

 

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WHO YOU KNOW

You’ve heard it a thousand times, I’m sure.  “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.”  The point that is being made is that if you have the right contacts you can get the job or the opportunity that others who are just as qualified or perhaps even more qualified won’t ever get.  I would add that who you know gets one opportunities but what you know makes the difference in whether one can take advantage of the opportunity.

But how does the whole “Who you know instead of what you know” work when we are talking about spiritual things?  It is certainly important for us to know the word of God and be able to apply it to our daily lives.  One of the reasons Jesus gave for sending the Holy Spirit when he ascended back to heaven was so that he could guide the apostles into all truth.  The result of the Spirit’s word was laid out by Paul in Ephesians 3:2-5  “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”  The inspiration of the Spirit that brought revelations to inspired men resulted in the word of God and when we read that revealed message we can understand God’s will just as those who were directed by the Spirit in inspiration and revelation did.  In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul laid out how God had given the New Covenant and it was unlike the Old Testament God had given through Moses.  He called that Old Law a ministry of death written and engraved on stones.  Now he has given to us the ministry of life in the New Covenant.  When we with unveiled faces read that New Testament we are able to see Jesus clearly and the Holy Spirits works in us through that study to transform or transfigure us into the image of Jesus Christ.  Our knowledge of the word should then result in a Christ like life on our part.

But it is vital to see that God doesn’t just want us to know his word.  In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 it is said that those who do not know God and don’t obey the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. In Galatians 4:8 he said “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.”  In I John 2:3-4 we are told how to test ourselves to see if we really do know God.  “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.  Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in that person.”  In Philippians 3:8-10 Paul described the huge transition that took place in his life when he really came to know Christ.  Before he had emphasized the importance of his birth, family heritage and his religious heritage.  But he had come to count all of that as refuge in order that he might know Christ.  He moved from that declaration to say, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, to share in his suffering and to be conformed to his death if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  He told Timothy, “I know him in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which he has committed to me against that day.”

So here is the huge point.  It is vital that  we know the word of God because through that word we come to know God, Christ and the Holy Spirit of God.  If we read and study the Bible continually but miss coming to know God then we have abused the whole knowledge of Scripture.  When Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day he said, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have life, but they are they that testify of me.”  What was wrong with them?  They know tons of the Old Testament Scriptures but had missed the primary point of those Scriptures.  They had the laws, the regulations and the commands down pat.  They could tell anyone what was required of them in obedience.  But in all their study they had failed to see Jesus in the Scripture and had failed to really come to know God.  They knew lots of things about God, but didn’t know God.  The truth is we can do the same thing in any age.  We can learn the commands and know all the trivia of Scripture and never really get to know God or Christ to follow to life.

But the reality is that if I miss getting to know God, Christ and the Holy Spirit of God, I’ve missed the very things that matter.  We will have revelations from the Bible but never have the real change in our lives that result from knowing Him and following His will in my regular life.  So, while what you know is vital, who you know makes all the difference in the world.  It is only as I develop that personal love and relationship with God that I begin

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LOOK INSIDE

Have you noticed how easy it is to figure out another person?  We can look into their eyes and know what they are thinking.  We can hear their words and know what they meant even though their words didn’t say anything close to it.  A few days ago I was privileged to be in a place and situation where I could witness two very young girls in conversation with each other.  They may have been aware that I was around but didn’t seem to really consider that anyone else might be listening in.  They were talking about some boys that they went to school with.  One said to the other, “Did you hear what he said about me?”  The other one looked somewhat puzzled and said, “No, I don’t remember him saying anything about you.”  Then the first one responded, “Oh, he didn’t mention my name but I know he was talking about me.”  Then she proceeded to talk about what the boy had said but then moved beyond what he had said to what she knew that he meant by what he said. I was smiling to myself as I walked away and thinking about how young this mentality had developed.  She knew for sure he was talking about her even though her name wasn’t mentioned and she knew what he meant by what he said even though what she knew he meant wasn’t anything close to what he had actually said.  Now if such things only happened with young girls we could just laugh about it and think how they would learn better as they grew up.

But let’s face the fact that attitude goes on with us through life.  It is very common to hear someone say about another person, “This is what they said, but this is what they meant by it.”  We often look at a person’s expression or even their lack of expression to determine what they are thinking on a topic.  Here is a fact that is very hard for us to believe.  “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” ( I Corinthians 2:11) Paul was discussing the subject of inspiration and declaring that we can’t know the mind of God unless the Spirit of God reveals to us through inspiration what God thinks.  In that discussion he pointed out that we can’t even know the thoughts of another person unless they tell us.  We don’t have the ability to read another person’s mind.  Not long ago I was in a group of people in a classroom at church and to be perfectly honest my mind was off somewhere else and I wasn’t tuned in at all to the conversation going on around me.  Suddenly, one of the people in the group grabbed my attention by saying, “I know what you are thinking, but you are dead wrong on it.”  He was looking directly at me when he said it and for the life of me I had no idea what he was talking about.  I tried for a moment to figure out what was going on and what they had been discussing so that I wouldn’t let it out that I hadn’t been paying any attention but it was futile since I was just guessing what it was all about.  But the funny part to me was that when I said, “I’m sorry, I guess my mind had wandered away from here and I don’t have a clue what you are talking about” the one who was certain he knew what I was thinking said, “Oh yes you do know what we were talking about.  You aren’t going to get off that easy.”  He was obviously frustrated with what he was sure I was thinking and I never did know what I was supposed to be thinking.  You can’t know what is in another person’s mind unless they tell you.  Even then, all you know is what they tell.  If they choose to hold back some information then you will be left in the dark.  So, I need to be very careful about jumping to conclusions on what another person is thinking or what they meant on some occasion because I may be wrong.

Remember Jesus statement in Matthew 7:1-5 about judging others.  He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  This passage is one of the most well known and most misquoted of any text of Scripture.  Notice it doesn’t tell us we are never to judge another person.  It says instead that before judging another we must look closely into our own eyes and remove the things that are wrong in our life so that we can see clearly to help the other person get the speck from their eyes.  Too often we read the passage as though we are simply to ignore the sawdust in the other person’s eyes.  The point is to look into our own heart and find our sins and remove them before telling another person how to live.  In I Corinthians 11:17ff. Paul described the taking of the Lord’s Supper.  In doing so he said everyone should examine themselves and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  One thing he didn’t ever tell us to do in taking of the supper was to examine our neighbors or friends before they could eat.  He said look closely into your own life and correct your problems before communing with the Lord.

But let me suggest another look that is vital for each person to take.  We need to look inside to correct our life before trying to correct another person’s life.  But it is vital always that we look up and remember the hand of God working in us all the time.  I love Romans 8:26-30 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  Notice the Spirit of God helps us in our our weaknesses.  And God causes all things to work together for our good if we love him and are called according to his purpose.  It is vital to remember that good doesn’t mean just what we want.  Good is defined by God as anything that causes us to be conformed to the image of Jesus.  God uses our troubles, trials, difficult situations and our blessings to mold us into the image of his Son.  So, when you look around and look inside never forget to look up and see the hand of God working in you for your very best.

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BRIDGES OR WALLS

We live in a strange and interesting time.  Having lived for 70 years in the South I’ve been blessed to see some massive changes in society, most of which has been good.  Many of the walls between people groups that were a normal part of life when I was younger are now seen as totally odd and ridiculous.  Linda and I went along with one of our daughters and son-in-laws to see the movie “Hidden Figures” a few days ago.  It is a tremendous movie and a time and situation that most everyone who was alive at the time thought they knew all about.  But the hidden figures involved were people that I had never heard of at all, yet were deeply involved in the whole space movement.  To watch the separate restroom and water fountains for the different races brought back memories that I had buried along the way.  I was thinking during the movie that sitting there together watching the movie were all different races of people, sitting next to each other and applauding the movie when it was over.  Just that reality would have been impossible at the time the movie was telling about.

Lots of bridges have been built along the way that demanded many walls had to come down.  Thank God we no longer face the situation of separate schools, separate people and separate lives.  Thank God that many of the things that people like Martin Luther King fought for have now become a reality and are seen as the norm.  I have no doubt that 50 years from now people will look back and think that some of the things that are normal in human relationships today are just as odd and ridiculous as what we now see from 50 years ago in our own time.  I know there are still distances to travel and improvements to be made.

But something that makes no sense to me is that many seem intent on rebuilding the very walls that many have worked so hard to tear down.  When our mindset is to demonize everyone that doesn’t see things the same way we do then there is something dreadfully wrong inside us.  Sincere and honest people reach different conclusions and see things in different ways.  Seldom is it the case that either side of any issue, whether political or religious or whatever else it may be, has all the truth or correct thinking on their side.  But when our attitude is that we are not going to listen to anyone that doesn’t see things the same way we do, it not only demonstrates prejudice and arrogance but it means that we can never learn better or see anything different from what we already see.  There is a reason God had James to write, “Let every person we swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.”  But we seem to have put the passage in reverse.  We have far too many who are swift to speak, slow to listen and quick to get mad.

How can churches, families, cities, states, areas and even countries learn to get along and work together for the good of all?  There really is only one way and it is certain many will reject it because it doesn’t fit their mindset.  Listen to God’s answer as he led Paul to write the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 beginning in verse 14.  “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

I can’t do much to bring any kind of unity or healing to the nation except to pray that God will change the hearts of people.  But I can make a difference in my family, friends and people I’m around by being one who is ready to listen, love and share with people so see things very differently from me.  Closed minds never learn better and never change for the better.  Everything they read or hear is only to substantiate what they already believe.  What if we all opened the door to talk honestly and listen intently to someone very different from us trying to understand where they are coming from?  I suspect that we would soon see that many of the conclusions we had about those who feel differently from us would change drastically.  I don’t mean that we would come to agree with them on everything.  I just mean that if both listened respectfully, we would see that the carraciture  we have developed of those who are different from us was a figment of our imagination rather than anything real.

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RUNNING FROM GOD

Remember Jonah, the runaway prophet of God.  He was given a huge mission from God.  Assyria was widely known as one of the most wicked and brutal nations ever to exist.  The message was out in Israel that the worst thing that could happen would to be to fall into the hands of the Assyrians.  The stories of their brutality to their prisoners had spread all over.  Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria and the center of the cruelty and immorality in the nation.  So, when the word came to Jonah a prophet in Israel to go down to Nineveh and preach to them that God was going to destroy their city in 40 days because of the wickedness that had become so prevalent he ran.  Jonah, like most of the Jews, saw himself and his people as the chosen of God and nations like Assyria only fit to be destroyed.  His reaction to God’s call was to head in the other direction as fast as he could to get away from the presence of the Lord.  Evidently he thought God stayed inside the borders of Israel.  How he reconciled that idea with God’s concern for Nineveh I don’t know.  He went to Joppa and boarded a ship headed to Tarshish.  But he couldn’t get away from God.  God sent a massive storm on the sea that caused the sailors to fear for their lives.  Jonah had gone below and fell sound asleep.  They sent someone to wake him up and plead with him to pray to his God for deliverance.  When they cast lots to find out who was at fault for the storm the lot fell on Jonah.  They asked what he did and where he was from and he told them he was God’s prophet and was trying to escape from God’s call.  When the asked him what to do to save them and the ship he told them to throw him overboard.  When they did the storm settled and the waters became calm.

Jonah may have thought that he was finally escaping God but not like he had planned.  It didn’t take long to learn that you can’t get away from God or his call.  God sent a huge fish or sea creature to swallow Jonah, to save his life.  In the belly of the creature Jonah began to cry out to God who heard his pleas.  After three days in the fish God had the creature to vomit him out on the shore.  He had promised God that he would go and do whatever he commanded if he would spare his life.  I’ve heard people argue whether or not a man could live for three days inside a whale.  It is a foolish argument because this wasn’t just some whale called to come.  It was a sea creature prepared by God for the purpose of swallowing Jonah.  The God who made the world and everything in it had no problem creating a sea creature that could contain a man and keep him alive for 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 years if he wanted.  God renewed the commission of Jonah and now the runaway prophet was ready to go and do what God told him to do.

 

For three days he walked through Nineveh preaching that in 40 days God would destroy the city because of the wickedness that was overwhelming them.  As the people heard Jonah from the king on his throne to the lowest citizens in town they believed the prophet and began a massive revival of repentance, wearing sackcloth and ashes.  The king sent out a decree to the people that they should all repent of their sinful lives and plead with God for mercy if perhaps God might have mercy on them and not follow through on the destruction of the city.  When the revival started in Nineveh, Jonah wasn’t a happy prophet thrilled to see so many turning from sin to God.  He didn’t send out news releases to tell the world what a great revival they were having in Nineveh.  Instead he went out on the edge of the city where he could look over the place and sat there sulking wanting to see God destroy them.  When God relented of his plan to destroy the city since they were penitent for their sin, Jonah became angry and began pouting.  He even said that was the reason he didn’t want to come.  He knew God was a merciful God and if they repented he would forgive them and he wanted them destroyed.  As Jonah sat there in the heat of the day with the sun beating down on his head God had mercy on him and had a vine to grow up and give him shade from the sun.  He was thrilled with the plant to give him shade.  So God sent a worm to eat the vine and for it to wither and die.  When it died Jonah was all the more angry.  When God asked him if he was doing right by being angry about the plant he responded, “Yes, I do well to be angry.”  He even pleaded for God to take his life during this time.  God tried to help him see the contrast between him and Jonah.  Jonah was concerned about a plant that he didn’t plant but came up on one day and withered the next and God was concerned about a city of 120,000 people who didn’t know their right from their left.  Besides all the people there were all the animals in the place as well.

What should we learn from the story of the runaway prophet?  First that you can’t run away from God.  He isn’t limited to any one area or place.  Second, that God’s mercy and love are overwhelming.  When people repent of their sins he is always ready to relent and give them a new beginning.  Third that God will change his mind when people change their lives.  When he told Jonah to go tell them he was going to destroy the city in 40 days that was his plan.  But when they repented, God relented and changed his mind.  Fourth, that God can use horrible people to accomplish his work.  Jonah didn’t have much about him to admire.  Yet God used him to carry His message to the lost and to turn them around.  One doesn’t have to be some perfect person for God to use them to do his work.  Finally, it is often easier to get the rank, immoral and brutal sinner to see their sin and repent than it is one who is doing the right things with a wrong attitude.

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THE AIM OF GOD’S COMMANDS

Imagine a parent telling their child what they are required to do on a particular occasion.  It could be what time they are to be home that evening or instructions on mowing the grass or cleaning the gutters.  Imagine as the parent lays our the demand, the child looks up with a quizzical look to ask, why you are telling me to do these things.  What would you give as your reasons?  We might say because I’m interested in your safety or in your learning responsibility.  We might even say, it is because I have responsibility for your training in life and your growing up to be a good citizen so I’m giving you some things to do that move toward that goal.  One thing stands out and that is we do have a reason or goal in mind for our instructions.

God is like us in that regard that every time he gives us a charge, instruction or command there is a goal or aim involved in what it will produce in us.  When the apostle Paul wrote his young friend, Timothy to give him clear guidance on how he can be a good minister of Christ and how he could solve the problems facing the church in Ephesus, he laid out for him the goal or aim for his commands.  In I Timothy 1:3-5 he said, “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Most likely there were many teachers in the church in Ephesus who were heading in a very different direction than the one Paul had taught them.  We don’t know all the kinds of things that were being taught in the church there.  Many are described in the book but overall he declared that these wrong teachings and different doctrines had to do with myths and endless genealogies, “which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”  Some of these strange teaches were tied to making laws where God had made any laws such as forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from particular kinds of foods.  Some of the teachings were tied to emphasis on the body and exercise to the degree that it became too important.  Some were tied to money, covetousness and love of things.  There must have been some wrong teaching and ideas around the whole leadership in the church.  Paul responded by laying out the qualities that one should have to serve as either an elder or deacon in the church.

But it is worth keeping in view that the aim of any teaching is vitally important.  The goal of the teachings of these false teachers was speculation rather than a stewardship from God that is by faith.  When the goal is speculation about what I think, I feel or I believe the church becomes centered on itself and its own will rather than on God and being true and faithful to him.  When we see ourselves as stewards of God and our work for him as a stewardship then the real question becomes what does God want me to do and to teach instead of what do I think or feel.

Paul said the goal or aim of God’s command was love issuing from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith.  In reality this should serve as a good test for everyone who is a teacher.  What are you trying to produce in the students you are teaching?  What is your aim or goal?  Wouldn’t it great if we kept clearly before us at all times that our efforts to teach aren’t just about presenting a lesson or covering some material.  It is to change the lives of those who are part of the study in a powerful way for good.  If our teaching doesn’t have the right aim or goal then it can’t possibly produce the benefits God is looking for.

Look closely at the aim of God’s commands and instruction for us in the world.  It is love from a pure heart.  The word for love here is “Agape” which is “An unconditional good will or good actions” toward another person or thing.  So God’s commands are to lead us to that kind of unconditional love for others.  Look back even on the Ten Commandments and think of how many of them relate to our actions toward God and how many toward each other.  We are to have God in awe and have no other gods before him.  We aren’t to misuse his name and to keep his sabbath.  When it comes to other people we are to honor parents, not kill, steal, commit adultery, covet or lie.  What is amazing is that Jesus would look at all such commands and say that they were fulfilled in the two commands to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  For one to read God’s word and come away from it with hatred, revenge and meanness is obviously to miss what God is trying to produce in us.

Notice the things he tied with the love from a pure heart or unmixed heart.  A good conscience was part of the mix.  Our conscience is the sense of right and wrong that God placed in each of us.  But if we misuse the conscience it can become too sensitive so that everything feels wrong to us or we can abuse it by not paying any attention when we are bothered by some action in our life to the degree it becomes hardened or even becomes an evil conscience that makes us feel good when we do absolutely wrong.  A good conscience is one that is sensitive to God’s will and feels bad when we violate it and feels good when we are doing what we believe to be right.  Every conscience must be adjusted all along to make certain that it is set right.  Just as a clock that is set wrong always gives the wrong time a conscience that is set wrong is always leading us in the wrong way.  The one standard to use in setting the conscience is the word of God.

Finally, he said the love is to be tied to a sincere faith.  In that time for a thing to be sincere was that it didn’t have any hidden parts.  When a vendor was selling a piece of cloth he called it sincere when he would hold it up to the light to demonstrate that it had no spots or blemishes and the dye was even and matched.  So a sincere faith is one that you can hold up to the light.  It is the real thing through and through.  It is a faith that not only believes in God but believes God and trust him in everything.

So we can rightly judge any teaching to see if it is the kind God longs for us to have by the standard of its aim or goal.  If the goal of the command isn’t right the teaching can’t be right.

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