“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
One can make such an affirmation of faith as we find in this passage any time, but it seems especially appropriate for us to consider at the beginning of a new year. Perilous times evidently exist as Paul pens these words of concern and encouragement to this young preacher.
An aging apostle and a prisoner of Rome, Paul wants Timothy not to be distressed by the situation in which Paul finds himself nor about the persecution that continues to be executed against followers of Jesus.
Paul is not ashamed of his imprisonment, and his faith has not waivered: he has a firm conviction about Jesus and His Cause. With complete trust, Paul knows Jesus will sustain him, even until that final day.
Admonition for this new year is that we have the same kind of conviction Paul expresses: Our faith is firmly planted in our Savior Jesus Christ. Regardless of the turbulent and uncertain circumstances that surround us, we can focus on Him and know that He will be with us until that Day.
“So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me’ ” (Hebrews 13:6)
After admonishing his fellow Christians to live upright lives and to treat others honorably in the first few verses of this chapter, the writer of Hebrews quotes this passage given by David in Psalm 118:6.
“Boldly” means with confidence, not with arrogance. David had a special relationship with God; but, then, we do, too, even though our relationship with Him is not exactly the same as David’s.
Through God’s word and through His divine providence, we know He is with us if we remain faithful. Thus, having developed such an abiding faith in Him, we know Him and we build our lives around Him.
With such a structure, we go forward with confidence, not being held back by fear of what others may say or do to us.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You
Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
On this day of praise and thanksgiving, Isaiah speaks for God’s people as they prepare this song to be sung to their Protector and Heavenly Father when He accomplishes the victory promised in the previous chapter.
Isaiah here restricts the promise, limiting it to those who focus on God and who place their trust in Him. The promise is so idyllic that it’s like a dream: perfect peace.
The Israelites wanted that peace from those enemies who continued to trouble them. We today want this kind of peace from different kinds of enemies: we want relief from the stress of a world filled with violence, chaos, corruption, and disease.
The truth is, this kind of peace can come from only one source: God. Even more important than peace from the stress of this world is spiritual peace. It’s only when we focus on God and place our trust in Him that we can find such lasting peace.
“When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15).
The prophet Isaiah has already issued a scathing rebuke against Israel in this chapter because of her rejection of God and His instruction. Even in her rebellion, Israel has kept up a pretense of religion and a cold, formal exercise of religious rituals.
The problem was there was no depth— no real substance in her worship. Evidently, she didn’t even believe in the things she was doing. God, through Isaiah, went so far as to say that He had no more delight in sacrifices, incense, new moons, Sabbaths, or the assembling of the people. Why?
The reason was the people had evil dispositions and bad attitudes. Justice, mercy, and love were unknown among them. These were The Missing Elements. We learn from Isaiah and many other writers that it is not enough to have the right form of worship and practice the right acts in our worship. As well, we must have the right attitude toward God and toward our fellow Christians.
Worship, then, is more than the outward observance of forms and ceremonies. For sure, we must comply with God’s pattern for worship but also we must have the right attitude in our hearts because if the heart is wrong, the worship is wrong—our worship is, then, vain and profitless as far as God is concerned.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).
Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminds the Jews of their deliverance from Babylonia captivity and of their release from that situation. God reminds them of their lack of loyalty to Him in spite of the fact that He had taken care of them throughout their years as captives.
It’s as if He is saying, “Remember Me? I’m the One Who took care of you and forgave the sins of your past—I blotted them out. And, furthermore, I will not bring those sins up again.” God’s implied plea is for them to repent and be loyal to Him.
This verse is reminiscent of the great and precious promises of the New Covenant in which we are assured of forgiveness. Those promises include the assurance of a home in Heaven if we will only abandon our inclination to disregard God’s direction and submit to His will.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
In this last chapter of Hebrews, the writer gives a catalogue of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and attitudes for those who are followers of Jesus. This verse deals with contentment.
“Covetousness” means “loving money” or “being greedy” of the material blessings of others. Rather loving money and craving to have what others have, Christians should look internally and be content with the material blessings they have. This verse doesn’t condemn initiative, but it condemns envy because of the blessings of others.
God’s people are to be satisfied and have an inner peace with their station in life because material blessings are not priorities—rather it is the spiritual blessings that bring contentment and provide a lasting peace.
Third in a series on Romans 15:1-3
“For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me’ ” (Romans 15:3).
Bringing Jesus into the equation seems especially strong as Paul tries to convince His fellow Christians that giving up some liberties for the benefit of others is a small price to pay in comparison to what Jesus both gave up by leaving Heaven and suffered for all mankind by coming to the earth. He bore the burden of the reproaches of all of our sins.
The quotation is from Psalm 69:9 and is intended to allow the supreme sacrifice of Jesus to stand tall in convincing His fellows to get over themselves and be willing to follow this principle of sacrificing relatively minor inconveniences for the spiritual good of others
No example could have been given that would have been any more dramatic or convincing than this one. Pondering Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself in contrast to what Paul is teaching us to do should bring us to our knees in shame: the two are not even comparable.
Second in a series on Romans 15:1-3
“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Romans 15:2).
Paul here sets up a contrast with what he has already taught. Instead of pleasing ourselves by exercising our liberties as a child of God, we should rather yield to our neighbor’s understanding in order not to lead him into sin.
And this behavior is exhibited for the long-term spiritual good of our neighbor. The “edification” mentioned is, of course, for the benefit of the neighbor himself but also for the edification of all those who observe such caring behavior.
Paul is teaching not only a method of behaving but also a method of thinking. When any person shapes his thinking to the point that he can set aside his personal desire for the benefit of a fellow, he or she has reached a degree of spiritual maturity.
First in a series on Romans 15:1-3
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).
Adding to his discussion of being a positive influence on those whose faith is weak, the Apostle Paul here takes the situation a step further: he teaches we must forego participating in matters of liberty that the weak have scruples against.
Those who are strong are those who know better than to confuse liberty with law—specifically, in this context, they know that eating meat is not a sin. The weak are those who don’t have this knowledge—they are unnecessarily scrupulous when it comes to such matters of liberty.
Rather than pleasing ourselves by indulging in a matter of liberty, we must give it up if it will lead our fellow Christians to sin. We must understand this teaching is only about matters of liberty: we can never violate law because of the objection of another
“To do evil is like sport to a fool,
But a man of understanding has wisdom” (Proverbs 10:23)
Contextually, this proverb is talking about religion—it is a discussion of the difference between a person who delights in living his life in sinful ways and one who realizes the value and pleasure of living a godly life.
The foolish person not only thrives on indulging in evil activities but also boasts about it and makes light of those who try to correct him, actually making a laughing matter out of sin.
A person of wisdom, on the other hand, makes life decisions in accordance with God’s word. He realizes the lasting value of those decisions in eternity as well as the wholesome quality they bring to the present life.