God has…

Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan,  and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’” – Genesis 45:9-20 ESV

The brothers are shocked to discover that the governor of Egypt is actually their own brother, Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery years earlier. And while this revelation initially left them dumbfounded and fearful, they were surprised yet again when Joseph reacted to them with love and mercy, not anger and revenge. But the most mind-blowing, unexpected and difficult-to-digest news they heard that day was the fact that their sin against Joseph had been used by God to accomplish His will and their salvation. Joseph informed them that the famine, which had already lasted two years, had five more to go. And his arrival in Egypt and rise to prominence in Pharaoh’s court had been the sovereign, providential work of God. What they had intended for evil, God had intended for good. So Joseph tells his brothers to return home, gather their father and families and bring them back to Egypt so that they might enjoy the salvation that God has prepared for them.

Joseph instructs his brothers to give their father the following news: “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:9 ESV). Once again, Joseph reveals his strong conviction that all of this has been the work of God. Rather than dwell on the evil that had been done to him, Joseph has chosen to focus on the good God has done for him and intends to do through him. Joseph has not spent his days having a pity party. He has been watching the hand of God orchestrate the events of his life and influence everything from the weather to the whims of men to accomplish His divine will. God had sent Joseph to Egypt. God had placed him in Potiphar’s house. God had used the immoral advances of Potiphar’s wife to have Joseph thrown in prison, where he would meet the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. God was the one who caused those two men to have dreams and gave Joseph the ability to interpret them. It was God who divinely ordained the two-year delay, that left Joseph in prison, until the time at which the Pharaoh himself had a dream for which he needed an interpreter. God caused the cupbearer to remember Joseph and recommend him to Pharaoh. And the rest, as they say, is history. Joseph was rewarded by Pharaoh with a place in his court and given the responsibility of preparing the nation for the upcoming famine that Pharaoh’s dream had foretold. It had all been the will and work of God Almighty. 

So Joseph sent his brothers home with good news. He was alive and they had a new home in Egypt, where they would be saved from the famine and provided with all the land they needed to care for their flocks and all the food they would need to feed their families. But once again, God stepped in and revealed His sovereign control over the affairs of the day. God gave Pharaoh a soft heart toward the brothers of Joseph, causing him to offer them the use of wagons to carry their families and goods, and the best land in Egypt as their home when they returned. This was all God’s doing. Joseph knew it and his brothers were discovering it. And the most amazing thing was that God was providing for them in spite of them. He was blessing them, even though they did not deserve it. He was pouring out His undeserved favor on them and revealing His unwavering faithfulness and unconditional love.

Earlier in his conversation with his brothers, Joseph had told them, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:7 ESV). That term, “remnant” is significant. It will be a word used throughout the Old Testament to refer to those of the house of Israel whom God preserves and protects in order to fulfill His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.– Isaiah 10:21-22 ESV

For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem, a group of survivors from Mount Zion. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! – 2 Kings 19:31 NLT

But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. – Zechariah 8:11-12 ESV

Then at last the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will himself be Israel’s glorious crown. He will be the pride and joy of the remnant of his people. – Isaiah 28:5 NLT

Years later, the apostle Paul would use this same word to speak of those who make up the church, those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. – Romans 11:1-6 ESV

God was preserving and protecting the family of Jacob so that he might fulfill His promise to Abraham and create a mighty nation. It would be through that nation, the Jewish people, that God would bring His Son, the Messiah, to bring salvation to the world, preserving a remnant of those who believe in His name and receive the gift of eternal life. Joseph’s brothers and their families would receive life, physical capacity to live and survive while others died as a result of the famine. They would thrive and increase in number, all as a result of the grace and goodness of God. But all of this was a foreshadowing of a greater grace to come. The good news regarding Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation and eternal, never-ending life.

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirstyAnd this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:35, 39-40 ESV

Advertisements

2 Timothy 4

A Final Word of Warning.

2 Timothy 4

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2 NLT

This was all serious business for Paul. He wasn’t mincing words or beating around the bush. The proclamation of the Gospel and the desire to one day present those under his care as mature in Christ drove Paul’s efforts. He lived and worked as if God was watching his every move. Paul answered to a higher authority, namely God Himself, who was relentless in His desire to have His Son’s saving work proclaimed to the world and His Word carefully and accurately taught to the church. So Paul viewed his work with a certain soberness and seriousness, and he attempted to pass that attitude on to his young disciple, Timothy. As he wrapped up his second letter to this young man, he warned him to remember that God was watching. The righteous Judge of the universe was observing his every move and would one day pass judgment on all that he had done. So Paul encourages him to “preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 NLT). In other words, he was to stay the course, do his job, maintain his focus and not lose sight of his primary responsibility as a shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ.

These words of warning were necessary because Paul knew the truth about the world in which he and Timothy both lived. Paul was neither a pessimist or a wide-eyed optimist. He was a realist. He knew that mankind, apart from Christ, was on a downward trajectory and that any efforts to spread the Gospel were going to be met with apathy and even antagonism. One of the primary problems Timothy would face would be resistance to the Gospel message – not so much in the form of outright defiance as in the more subtle, but no-less-insidious form of apathy. In every generation, those who attempt to proclaim the truth will be faced with the constant temptation to twist its content in order to make it more sensational, palatable, and successful. The desire for larger audiences and a greater impact has always been the siren call of ministry. The danger comes when, in an effort to attract more people, we begin to alter the truth to make it more appealing. Paul warned Timothy, “a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-3 NLT).

Packed pews, popular Podcasts and best-selling books are not the litmus tests for successful ministry. The temptation will always exist to judge our effectiveness based on numbers rather than transformed lives. The key for Paul was the faithful proclamation of the Word of God, regardless of whether people wanted to hear it or not. The truth is not always popular. Our job is not to tell people what they want to hear; providing them with false hope and ourselves with a false sense of accomplishment. Timothy was to preach the Word, patiently correcting, rebuking and encouraging. Telling people what they want to hear will never help them get where they need to go.

This entire letter has been filled with admonitions regarding faithfulness. Paul wanted Timothy to remain faithful to his calling, faithful to the Word, faithful to his flock, faithful to Christ and faithful to the end – just as Paul himself had been. “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 5:6-7 NLT). Paul wasn’t bragging. He was simply encouraging Timothy to consider his life as an example of faithful service. Paul didn’t measure his success based on numbers, but on his own determination to remain faithful to his calling. He was willing to leave the results up to God. Because he had proclaimed the Gospel, preached the truth and prepared the people of God by faithfully and accurately teaching them the Word of God – he could face the future with confidence. He could eagerly look forward to the return of Christ and fearlessly face God knowing he had faithfully fulfilled his calling to the best of his ability.

Paul’s life had not been an easy one. It had been filled with trials and difficulties of all kinds. But he was content and confident that he had lived his life well. He knew that God had been a constant part of his life over the years. “But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death.Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen” (2 Timothy 4:17-18 NLT). His life had been a joint effort between himself and God. He had faithfully played his part and he knew that God had been beside him every step of the way – even in his darkest moments. But his greatest confidence was that God was going to faithfully take him home. His hope was in the future, not the present. His motivation was eternal, not temporal. His ultimate reward was in heaven, not on earth. As believers, we will not be held accountable for the results of our efforts on behalf of God. God will not measure our effectiveness based on our own human achievements, but on our faithfulness to Him. Faithfulness requires dependence on God. The Old Testament prophets were rarely successful – if we judge their efforts based on numbers of converts or the popularity of their message. But they were successful in God’s eyes, because they were faithful to their calling. They did what they had been called to do. They remained faithful regardless of the circumstances or the apparent failure of their message. Their reward was of a heavenly nature, not an earthly one. They had to remain faithful to their calling and trust God for the outcome. That is one of the hardest things for us to do as believers. We are results-oriented. We are trained to judge success based on visible results. Too often in the church, nickles, noses, and numbers are the criteria we use to measure success. And in our efforts to produce those results we can find ourselves tickling ears, twisting the truth, and compromising our faithfulness. Oh that we might hear and heed the call of Paul today. “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.”

Father, may we be a people of faith and faithfulness. It is easy to come to faith in Christ, because it is completely provided for us by Him. We simply have to believe. But to live in faithfulness is difficult. To keep our eyes focused on the future reality of our faith is hard for us to do. We get distracted by the cares of this world and we measure our success by the wrong standards. You have called us to live faithful lives based on a reliance on Your Word and a dependence upon Your power. Don’t let us compromise Your message in an attempt to get better results. Don’t let us rely on our own efforts in the hopes of producing greater success. Keep us faithful to You.  Amen.

Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Timothy 3:10-17

Practical and Profitable.

2 Timothy 3:10-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

As far as Paul was concerned, the Word of God was a non-negotiable necessity for the people of God. An understanding of God’s Word was essential for anyone who wanted to live the life Christ died to make possible. Our salvation was accomplished solely through the efforts of Christ on the cross, with nothing done on our part to earn or deserve it. But our sanctification, or continued transformation into the likeness of Christ is ongoing and dependent upon the wisdom and guidance found in the Word of God, as well as the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God.

Paul reminded his young disciple, “But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra — but the Lord rescued me from all of it” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NLT). Timothy was well-acquainted with Paul’s life and had watched his mentor model the Christian life integrity, faith and purpose. He knew that Paul was a student of the Scriptures and applied them daily to his own life and ministry. Paul was intimately familiar with the character of God as revealed in the Word of God. The Gospel message was not something new or novel, but simply an extension of the redemptive plan that God had revealed all throughout the writings of Moses and the prophets. It was Paul’s familiarity with the Old Testament Scriptures that gave him such a remarkable understanding of just who Jesus really was and the significance of what His death, burial and resurrection had accomplished. It was the Scriptures that kept Paul from misinterpreting Christ’s mission or giving it his own spin, as many of the false teachers had been doing. It was Paul’s faithfulness to the Word of God that resulted in much of the persecution he endured on behalf of God. And Paul made it clear that persecution and suffering were not just reserved for him alone. He told Timothy, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 NLT). Persecution and sanctification are inseparable in the life of the believer. The life of true godliness will always attract the attention of the enemy and result in spiritual attack. If there is one thing that Satan hates more than salvation, it is sanctification. An individual who surrenders his or her life to Christ, but then lives as if nothing has really happened, is no threat to the enemy. But should that individual begin to spend time in God’s Word and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their life, Satan will sit up and take notice. He will turn up the heat. He will do everything in his power to derail their efforts and distract their attention to other things. Satan’s desire is to keep believers ignorant of God’s Word and so distracted by the things of this world, that we become ignorant and impotent. Our knowledge of the truth as revealed in the Word of God, is the greatest threat to the father of lies. As long as he can keep us out of the Word, he can mislead us with tantalizing and plausible-sounding half-truths.

But Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures are the inspired words of God, designed to teach us what is really true. It is the Word of God that tells us the truth about who God is and why the world is in the sorry state it’s in. The Word of God tells us the truth about sin and the reason we need a Savior. It paints a painfully clear picture of our condition and shows us the only remedy. It is through the Scriptures that we learn right and wrong, truth from falsehood, and fact from fiction. The Scriptures comfort, convict, and correct. They guide and enlighten, inspire and encourage. They equip and instruct us how to live godly lives. As the people of God, we are dependent upon the Word of God for our spiritual well-being. The Scriptures are to be non-optional in the life of the believer. But Bible knowledge is not to be our ultimate goal. Knowledge of the Scriptures is a means to an end. “God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17 NLT). The Word of God is intended to reveal the will of God so that we might accomplish the work of God. Satan doesn’t fear our knowledge of Scripture. He fears when we apply it to our lives and allow it to transform us into the likeness of Christ.

Father, Your Word is essential to living the Christian life. But it can be so easy to treat it as an optional part of day. Too often we leave it out and then wonder why we don’t sense Your power and feel a nagging need to know Your will. Make us a people of the Word. Draw us into to it daily. But don’t just let us study it to increase our own knowledge and impress others. Help us to apply its truths to our daily lives and live in obedience to its commands.  Amen.

Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Timothy 3:1-9

Pseudo-Godliness.

2 Timothy 3:1-9

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:5 NLT

These nine verses pack a powerful punch to the stomach. In them, Paul provides Timothy with a prophetic glimpse into the future state of the world. He refers to this time as the “last days.” By this, Paul meant the days preceding the return of Christ for His bride, the Church. It is a reference to the final days that will lead up to the rapture of the Church. In a sense, the last days are not relegated to a specific length of time, but refer to an era or epoch of time. Paul believed he was living in the last days. He had warned the believers living in Ephesus, “So be careful how you
live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had written, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons” (1 Timothy 4:1 NLT). In essence, the last days began with the resurrection of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church age. But there is an ever-increasing degree of apostasy and spiritual apathy taking place. Things are not getting better. They are getting worse. And this period of time will climax with the return of Christ for the Church, commonly referred to as the Rapture. In the meantime, the society in which we live will continue to exhibit an increasing apathy toward spiritual things and an ever-growing antagonism toward God. Paul gives Timothy 19 specific characteristics of this age, and it isn’t hard to see that they are alive and well in our day. People will be narcissistic and this self-absorption will be accompanied by an unhealthy love of money, something Paul had
warned Timothy about repeatedly. But not only will people love themselves, they will boast about their own accomplishments, exhibiting a pride and arrogance based on their own self-importance. In reality, they will worship themselves rather than God. They will be abusive to others. Children will reject parental authority. A spirit of dissatisfaction will lead to a growing ungratefulness. Nothing will be considered holy anymore. People will be heartless and callous. They will be unforgiving and quick to slander others with their words. A lack of self-control will permeate society, resulting in brutality and a hatred for what is good and right. People will be quick to betray one another, headstrong, swollen with conceit, and love pleasure more than they love God. But the most damning characteristic of this age will be the pseudo-spirituality that permeates society. Paul says, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT). The last days will be marked by
spirituality, but it will be a sham and a show. There will be all kinds of talk about spiritual things, but those who claim to be religious will reject the one thing that can truly transform their lives and make them godly: The saving work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God. People will express belief in Christ, but refuse His deity. They will claim to be Christians, but deny the resurrection. They will say they believe in God, but live as if He doesn’t exist; worshiping pleasure and self instead of Him. Paul warns Timothy to “Stay away from people like that!” (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT).

Evidently, Paul believed that these kinds of people existed even in Ephesus and were part of the local body of believers there. These kinds of people prey on the spiritually weak and needy. They show up as teachers, but what they teach denies the truth of God and offers a counterfeit faith. They infiltrate the church, offering up their own opinions as the truth of God. They sound great, but their words are counterfeit and contradictory to Scripture. They present half-truths. They mix a little bit of Scripture with a lot of conjecture, producing a deadly cocktail of
deceptive lies that lead to godlessness, not godliness. These nine verses are a dead-on description of the age in which we live. They describe a world in which self-love is rampant and pseudo-spirituality is ubiquitous. But true godliness is impossible apart from God. Spirituality is the by-product of the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be manufactured by man or replicated apart from a relationship with the Spirit of God who indwells those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Fake faith is not saving faith. Religious activity will never make anyone right with God. Going to church will not help anyone get to heaven. Paul wanted Timothy to know that the truth of the Gospel message was going to be increasingly more important as time wore on. Love of money, pleasure and self were going to make it more and more difficult for people to love God. Apart from a recognition of their own sin and their need for a Savior, people would never escape the dead-end trajectory marked by the last days. The truth of God’s Word is the antidote to the difficult days ahead. As bad as things may get, the Good News is still the answer to what ails mankind.

Father, there is no doubt that we are living in the last days. We are surrounded by all the things that Paul lists. And some of us struggle with them in our own lives. Open our eyes and help us to see that the Good News is the answer. Give us courage to teach it, preach it and live it out in our own lives so that the world can see that true spirituality is available only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Help us live out what we say we believe. May we be a refreshing alternative to the characteristics listed in these verses. Amen.

Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Timothy 2:15-26

Ready, Willing and Faithful.

2 Timothy 2:15-26

If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. – 2 Timothy 2:21 NLT

As stated earlier, a big part of Paul’s letter to Timothy focused on the topic of faithfulness – God’s faithfulness to man and man’s faithfulness to God. Here Paul reminded Timothy to be a “good worker” – someone who could be depended upon to do the right thing and to do it well. Rather than seek the approval of men, Timothy was to work diligently and faithfully, so that one day he might stand before God and receive His approval, having no cause for shame or regret. That meant that Timothy had to live his life from an eternal perspective, recognizing that his future reward was far more significant than any earthly praise or promotion he might receive.

Paul put a high priority on Timothy’s ability to accurately handle the teaching of the truth of God’s Word. Like a dedicated and diligent worker, he must take painstaking precautions in teaching and defending the truth. He could not afford to give it his own spin or place on it his own perspective. The Word of God was not to be subjective and open to interpretation. God had an intended meaning and purpose behind it, and a faithful worker would take the time to understand what God was saying and teach accordingly. This was essential for Timothy to know because he found himself surrounded by false teachers who were twisting the truth of God and, unwittingly, leading people into ungodliness. Paul mentioned two of these people by name, and clearly articulated their crime: They had been teaching that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. They had misunderstood the truth regarding the future reality of the bodily resurrection of the dead and spiritualized it to mean that believers were already resurrected with Christ and that all of the blessings that come with salvation were to be experienced in this life. Rather than focus of a future of the resurrection and the reality of heaven, they were teaching that you could have “Your Best Life Now.” It would seem that this was the first incarnation of the prosperity gospel. These two men, through a misunderstanding of the truth of God, were wrongly encouraging believers to see the Gospel as nothing more than a quick fix to all of life’s problems. This kind of talk was worthless and foolish, leading only to godless behavior. But a faithful worker would remain faithful to God’s truth, teaching only what He intended, regardless of what others might want to hear.

Paul quotes from two Old Testament passages in order to assure Timothy that God knows His own. He recognizes His own children and one of the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God is godly, not godless, behavior. If we belong to Him, our lives should reflect that reality. Paul used the metaphor of household vessels to further convey the idea that within the church there are faithful and unfaithful Christians. Paul stated that in a wealthy home there could be found vessels of all kinds, some made of gold and silver, and some made of wood and clay. The more expensive vessels were reserved for special occasions, while the more common vessels were for everyday use. But in either case, purity and cleanliness were prerequisites for usefulness. A dirty gold pitcher was of no more use than a contaminated clay pot. The key to usefulness was cleanliness. “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 NLT). The specialness of the utensil was not based on the material from which it was made, but on its purity. Those within the church who saw themselves as gold vessels because of their position as teachers, but who falsely proclaimed the word of truth, were actually defiled and unusable by God.

Purity meant everything, so Paul warned Timothy, “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT). Timothy was to pursue a life of righteousness, faithfulness, love and peace, and surround himself with those who shared the same desire. Paul was not telling Timothy to avoid the false teachers like a plague or read them the riot act, but to “gently instruct those who oppose the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25 NLT). As Timothy pursued a life of godliness and remained faithful to the truth of God, he would be equipped to handle all those, both inside and outside of the church, who stood in the way of the Gospel and its message. Timothy’s faithfulness would equip him to deal with the unfaithful and the faithless in a loving and Christlike way.

Father, if there was ever a time when faithfulness to the truth of Your Word was needed, it is now. There is so much falsehood and subjective information being taught as truth. Even within the church, there are those who misunderstand and misapply Your Word so that it ends up leading Your people astray. The Gospel has been altered to such a degree that it no longer looks like the same message that Paul preached. Call Your people back to the truth of Your Word. May we learn to be faithful to Your truth and not some version of our own. May we be pure vessels, ready for You to use to pour out Your message of hope, love and mercy to the world around us. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Timothy 2:1-14

Passing the Mantle.

2 Timothy 2:1-14

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.. – 2 Timothy 2:3-4 NLT

Paul was a man who was passionate about his calling and totally realistic about his situation. He was in prison in Jerusalem yet again, facing trial and the distinct possibility of losing his life. And while Paul felt like he had much work yet to accomplish for the Kingdom of God, he had to recognize that his days on this earth were numbered. So he began to focus his attention on men like Timothy, attempting to prepare and train them to carry on the work of spreading the Gospel and caring for the growing family of God. Paul encouraged Timothy to take all that he had him teach and pass it on to others. He wanted Timothy to find other “trustworthy people” with whom he could share the Gospel message and the truths regarding life as a Christ-follower.

The ministry to which Timothy had been called was not going to be easy. He had to have the mindset of a soldier, complete with a sense of dedication and a determination to persevere under trial, seeing his work as a form of spiritual warfare. Like a soldier, Timothy’s life was going to require focus and a freedom from distraction, even from the good things of life. “Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them” (2 Timothy 2:4 NLT). Like Paul, Timothy answered to a higher authority, the Sovereign God of the universe. He was enlisted into Kingdom service by God Himself and was to remain faithful to his King and his calling at all times. Paul reminded Timothy that a runner in a race must compete according to the rules if he wants to win. He can’t bend the rules or shorten the course in an attempt to gain victory unfairly or unethically. Winning is impossible without obedience, just as fruitfulness is impossible with diligent, faithful work. It is the farmer who works hard all year long who gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor at harvest time.

At this point in his letter, Paul made an interesting shift from Timothy and his responsibilities, to the life of Jesus. He refers to the Lord as Jesus Christ, the only place in all of his letters where he arranged His names in that order. It would seem that he was attempting to emphasize the humanity of Christ. He was Jesus the man and the Messiah. Paul tells Timothy, “Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach” (2 Timothy 2:8 NLT). Jesus was a descendant of David and heir to the throne of Israel. He was also the Messiah of Israel. And yet He had to suffer and die. In order for Jesus to be raised from the dead, He first had to go through the agony and pain of the crucifixion. He had to endure separation from His Heavenly Father. And it was the reality of Jesus’ suffering, death, and ultimate resurrection that formed the basis for the Good News that Paul preached. It was the reason for which he suffered and for which he was willing to endure anything in order for its message to “bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen” (2 Timothy 2:10 NLT). In referring to “those God has chosen,” the “elect” in other translations, it would seem that Paul is calling Timothy to endure hardship in order that those who have come to faith in Christ might grow in Christ. In other words, Paul is charging Timothy to see to it that the body of Christ is cared for and that he sees to its spiritual growth.

Paul included what appears to be a poem or song that may have been part of a hymn in the early church. It carried a message that called believers in Christ to live lives of faithfulness.

If we die with him,
    we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
    we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
    he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 NLT)

It is a reminder to live our lives in light of the reality of the resurrection. In salvation, our old nature was crucified with Christ. But one day, we will also experience resurrection and eternal life with Him. This is the same point Paul made in his letter to the Romans. “And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.” (Romans 6:8-9 NLT). Paul includes a sobering warning to remain faithful. Christ’s faithfulness is unwavering and is not based on our own faithfulness. He is unchanging and His faithfulness is part of His character as God. So, in light of Christ’s consistent and constant faithfulness to man, Paul challenged Timothy to live his life faithfully in return. Not only that, he was to call the people of God to faithfulness as well. Denial or rejection of Christ was unacceptable. Unfaithfulness was unthinkable. In view of all that Christ had done – His coming to earth as a man, His suffering at the hands of man, His death on behalf of man, and His resurrection to make possible the restoration of man – Paul saw no other response than a life of faithful, loving, grateful service to God in return.

Father, this life is not easy. It sometimes requires difficulty and suffering. But Your Son suffered on my behalf. He died so that I might live. He was raised again so that I might know that there is life beyond the one I experience on this earth. Help me keep my focus on eternity. Help me remember the unfailing faithfulness of Christ so that I might live faithfully in this life. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Timothy 1

The Faithfulness of God.

2 Timothy 1

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 1:9 NLT

Nero was on the throne in Rome. Paul was in prison yet again, after having enjoyed a brief time of freedom. Every Christian was persona non grata having been falsely accused by Nero for the burning of Rome in 62 A.D. Timothy, Paul’s young disciples was more than likely still ministering in Ephesus when this letter arrived. Unlike many of Paul’s other letters, this one is deeply personal rather than theological. Paul’s intent was to encourage Timothy in his work as a minister of the Gospel, but also to persuade his young friend to come visit him in Rome. He greatly desired to see Timothy again, referring to him as “his beloved child (1:2). “I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again” (2 Timothy 1:4 NLT). There is an intimacy to this letter that makes it like no other that Paul wrote.

The basic theme of Paul’s letter to Timothy was faithfulness, beginning with the faithfulness of God. This was what kept Paul going, in spite of his less-than-pleasant circumstances. “And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to himuntil the day of his return” (2 Timothy 1:11-12 NLT). Paul was confident in his calling, but he was also confident in the promise of Christ’s return. God would be faithful to fulfill His promise by sending back His Son to gather His people and take them to be with Him. But this letter was also a reminder to Timothy of Paul’s own faithfulness and a call to Timothy to remain faithful as well. Paul would also stress the need for all followers of Christ to remain faithful in whatever circumstance of situation they encountered.

Paul started out by commending Timothy’s faith which had been passed on to him by his mother and grandmother. He encouraged Timothy to “fan the flame” of the spiritual gift given to him at his ordination. Paul wanted Timothy to actively use and perfect his God-given ability. There was no time to relax or to grow complacent. Timothy’s gift had not left him, but a gift unused becomes wasted and ineffective. He was not to be timid or fearful, but bold in his efforts for the Gospel, living a life marked by power, love, and self-discipline. Under the current circumstances, it would have been easy for Timothy to grow weary, give up and throw in the towel. His faith was under test, and Paul wanted him to pass with flying colors. But to do so, he would have to remember his faith, recall and rely on his Spiritual gift, refuse to be ashamed of the Gospel message, and be ready and willing to suffer for its sake. Paul reminded Timothy, “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to himuntil the day of his return” (2 Timothy 1:12 NLT). Paul’s faith was in God. He fully trusted his Heavenly Father to accomplish His will through him, regardless of the seemingly negative circumstances in which Paul found himself. Paul would not recant his faith in God because God remained faithful to him. He wanted Timothy to stay the course and remain strong, keeping his faith focused on the faithfulness of God.

Paul called Timothy to carefully guard the truth that had been entrusted to him. He had been given the privilege of being a minister and messenger of the Gospel. Finding himself in difficult circumstances and under constant pressure to give up, it would have been easy for Timothy to throw in the towel and compromise his faith and convictions. He was a young man facing extreme conditions and under tremendous pressure to keep the church pure, while modeling a life of faithfulness and moral integrity. Living as a Christian in a hostile world was never intended to be easy. It requires that we remain focused on the faithfulness of God, never forgetting that He has not yet completely His plan of redemption. Our salvation, while completely paid for by Christ, is not yet completed. This world is not our final destination. Yet, if we’re not careful, we will tend to think that this is all there is, and expect all of God’s blessings to show up in this life. Paul was in prison. His circumstances were far from perfect, but his faith was unwavering. He knew that his suffering was all part of God’s divine plan, and that there was a rhyme and reason to it all. Faith in the faithfulness of God is what will give us the strength and endurance to weather the storms of life. He is not done yet. We can fully trust Him to finish what He has begun. Our salvation will one day be completed with our glorification. We will be fully and completely transformed into the likeness of Christ, experiencing for the first time what it means to be fully sinless and totally righteous. That future promise should motivate us to endure the difficulties of this life. The Good News of Jesus Christ reminds us of the reality of new life now, and eternal life to come. “And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News” (2 Timothy 1:10 NLT).

Father, You are faithful. You can be trusted to complete what You have begun. And while things around me may appear difficult and formidable, You are in no way limited by my circumstances. Your plan is perfect and Your power to bring it about is limitless. Help me to live a life of faith based on Your unwavering faithfulness. Keep me focused on You and not my circumstances. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Titus 3

Good Works In Light of God’s Grace.

Titus 3

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. – Titus 3:8 ESV

This entire letter to Titus has been focused on the behavior of believers. Paul wanted Titus to understand the vital importance of Christian conduct both inside and outside the local church fellowship. In the final chapter section of his letter, he told Titus to “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone” (Titus 3:1-2 NLT). Paul believed that Christians should make the best citizens. Our internal heart transformation, made possible by Christ’s death and the Holy Spirit’s presence, should result in external behavior modification. Believers should be willfully submissive and focused on doing good works. They should be courteous, gentle and humble in their interactions with others – both inside and outside of the church.

So much of what should motivate us is the grace and mercy we received from God. A believer should never assume an air of superiority or spiritual arrogance. The thought, “but for the grace of God, go I” should constantly be on the mind of the Christ-follower. Paul reminds Titus, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other” (Titus 3:3 NLT). While we should fully appreciate out status as sons and daughters of God, we should never forget the reality of our condition prior to coming to Christ. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave a long list of all those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God: “those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT). But before the Corinthian believers could smugly smile and look down their noses at those kinds of people, he reminded them, “some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT). Our pre-conversion condition should be easy for us to remember, because we see it all around us, in the lives of those with whom we live and interact. The lost world is a constant reminder of our former lost state. At one time, we were no better than them. In fact, Paul reminds us that God “saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 NLT). Mercy, not merit, was the basis for our salvation. So God’s grace should motivate us to live graciously among those who have yet to hear and accept the Good News of God’s love. We enjoy a right standing with God because of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We also stand to inherit eternal life, rather than eternal condemnation. The reality of those two statements should motivate us live godly lives among the ungodly. Our behavior should be radically different than that of the lost among whom we live. God’s good grace should motivate good works among His people that will prove beneficial to all – both saved and lost alike.

Our presence on this earth is intended to be effectual and infecting. We are to be difference makers. God has called us to be salt and light, agents of change in a world of decay and darkness. And our greatest influence will not be through words, but actions. Jesus Himself told us, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT). The Gospel professed and proven is far more powerful than the Gospel merely proclaimed. Changed lives are the greatest proof of the Gospel’s life-changing power. Christ-like conduct among Christ-followers will always be the strongest evidence for our conversion. Our Spirit-empowered transformation should result is a transfiguration of our conduct and character, resulting in a radically different relationship with the world in which we live.

Father, sometimes it is far easier to talk about our salvation than it is to live it out. We can brag about our life change, but fail to model it for those with whom we live. Make our salvation real. Make our conversion tangible, resulting in true behavior change. May our lives be marked by good works that are motivated by Your good grace revealed in our lives through the gift of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Titus 2

Totally Committed.

Titus 2

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. – Titus 2:14 NLT

The real point of Paul’s letter to Titus is to stress and promote changed behavior in the lives of believers. This is not a treatise on behavior modification. In other words, Paul is not condoning that the believers on the island of Crete simply start trying to act differently and modify their actions through self-effort. That would be pointless and futile. No one can truly change themselves by themselves. But what Paul was encouraging Titus to look for and expect was a gradual change in the character and conduct of the people under his care. The inner presence of the Spirit of God combined with a steady diet of the Word of God should produce measurable change in the people of God.

Paul emphasizes that Titus must “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 NLT). Paul always made a direct correlation between what someone professed to believe and how they behaved. There was to be no disconnect or disagreement between the two. Orthopraxy – correct practice – was to flow from orthodoxy – correct beliefs. As far as Paul was concerned, the two were inseparable. And so he encouraged Titus to teach and promote the kind of behavior that was in keeping with sound doctrine. “No condition and no period of life is to remain unaffected by the sanctifying influence of the gospel” (J. J. Van Oosterzee, “The Epistle of Paul to Titus,” in Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, 11:15). The Gospel was to be life-altering. It was to affect and infect every area of an individual’s life. The Good News isn’t just that we get to go to heaven when we die, but that we can be radically reformed in this life. We can live differently in the here-and-now, not just in the hereafter.

Paul wastes no time in getting specific. He tells Titus to “teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience” (Titus 2:2 NLT). Their faith must be practical and visible. They are to “act their age,” and to reflect a measure of spiritual maturity that should come with age. All the characteristics Paul lists are marks of maturity.

Titus was to instruct older women “to live in a way that honors God” and expect them to “teach others what is good” (Titus 2:3 NLT). These women were to be mentors to the younger women in the church, teaching them how to live and love well. They were to model godly behavior and encourage younger women through example and exhortation. Godliness should be contagious. Godly conduct is not to be some subjective, arbitrary decision left up to the individual, but is to be based on the Word of God and modeled by those who have a strong faith in God.

Paul went on to instruct Titus regarding young men and even slaves. Everyone was expected to life differently. Godly conduct was not something reserved for the spiritual elite or the professional pastor. It was to be the aspiration and expectation of everyone who called themselves a Christ-follower. Every believer has been “instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures” and to “live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God” (Titus 2:12 NLT). We have been given the capacity to change. God doesn’t leave it all up to us. He has placed His Spirit within us and provided His Word to guide us. But we must listen to what the Spirit says and obey what the Word commands. We must seek the wisdom of God in the Word of God. We must desire righteousness over unrighteousness. We must devote ourselves to God rather than to the things of this world. What makes this all possible is a proper perspective. Paul tells Titus to teach those under his care that right living here on this earth is best accomplished when “we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus 2:13 NLT). In other words, an eternal focus will allow us to view life on this earth in the proper perspective. Godless living and sinful pleasures will lose their appeal when considered against the reality of our future hope. The more we learn to see ourselves as eternal, rather than temporal, creatures, the easier it will be to focus our attention on pursuing the kind of behavior that reflect who we really are.

The bottom line for Paul was that Jesus Christ “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds” (Titus 2:14 NLT). He didn’t just give His life to take us to heaven. He gave His life to transform us into His own likeness. And while that process will some day be completed in heaven, it is to be an ongoing part of our lives as we live on this planet. Becoming increasingly more like Christ is to be the goal of every individual who claims to be a follow of Christ. Our salvation is to result in our ongoing transformation and sanctification. What we believe about Christ should result in behavior that reflects Christ.

Father, we desperately need for our behavior to accurately reflect our beliefs. Too often, there is a disconnect between the two, which is why so many people refuse to have anything to do with Christianity or Christ. As Your own people, we can be the worst form of advertising when it comes to the Christian faith. We ask that You continue your transformative work in our lives, calling us to live differently and distinctively in this world. Give us an eternal perspective and a passion for godliness. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Titus 1

Character Counts.

Titus 1

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. – Titus 1:9 NLT

Like Timothy, Titus was one of Paul’s protégés. He was a Greek Gentile whom Paul had evidently led to Christ. This young man had actually accompanied Paul on several of his missionary journeys and had gained the great apostle’s trust, so that Paul was confident in sending him out on his own on numerous occasions as his representative. In fact, Paul had sent him to the island of Crete in order to help establish some sense of order within the churches there, including appointing elders to help him lead. “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5 NLT). As in the case of Timothy, Paul had to instruct Titus how to deal with false teachers who had become a real problem within the fledgling churches on Crete.

Titus found himself ministering in a place where the reputation of the inhabitants was far from stellar. Paul even quoted Epimenides, a 6th Century BC philosopher and religious prophet who happened to be a Cretan himself. He said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12 NLT). Paul went out of his way to paint a less-than-flattering picture of the people of Crete. He described them as  “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (Titus 1:10 NLT). Evidently, not only were the false teachers men of poor repute, so were some of the members of the local churches in Crete. So Paul spent a great deal of time in his letter talking about good works. He wanted Titus to understand just how important good character and moral behavior should be to the life of every believer. Paul commanded Titus to deal harshly and firmly with those whose lives were marked by laziness and lying. He didn’t want his young disciple to tolerate the disorder and chaos these kinds of people were bringing into the church. He told Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13 NLT). Rebuking and restoration were both to be a part of Titus’ ministry on Crete.

One of the first things Titus was to concentrate on was the appointment of elders for the local churches on Crete. Part of the problem of disorder was based on a lack of qualified leadership. So Paul told Titus what to look for in the kind of men needed to help lead the churches there. Notice that Paul’s description has much to do with character and says little about Scripture knowledge, academic requirements, business success, or even leadership skills. Instead, Paul mentions qualities and characteristics that would have been visible to all those who knew these men. Titus was to look for the outward evidence of an inward transformation that had taken place in the lives of these men due to their relationship with Christ and their knowledge of the Word of God. Each of them were to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9 NLT). In other words, they had to know the truth of the Gospel and the realities regarding God and His redemptive plan for man if they were going to be able to refute falsehood and defend the Good News from attack.

But the real point Paul seems to be making is the contrast of character between these future leaders and those who were doing harm to the church. Those who would lead the church had to be men who were above reproach or blameless. This didn’t mean that they had to be perfect or sinless. The Greek word Paul used referred to the fact that these men were to have no glaring character flaws and they didn’t live their lives in such a way that it would cause people to point their fingers in criticism, resulting in harm to the reputation of the church. They were to be loving husbands who didn’t have reputations for unfaithfulness. They were to be fathers who had proven themselves capable leaders at home, having seen their children come to faith in Christ and who were modeling lives of moral integrity and obedience. Paul went on to say that an elder candidate “must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7 NLT). Instead, he was to be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8 NLT).

Titus was going to need help in dealing with the disorder and negative moral influences within the churches on Crete. He couldn’t handle it on his own. So Paul emphasized the need for him to find the right kind of men to lovingly lead the flock of God, providing much-needed discipline and modeling the character of Christ to all those around them.

Father, the church needs men of character today. We desperately need those whose lives are marked by moral integrity and faithfulness to help lead and protect Your flock. We are surrounded by those who would love to destroy and distract Your people, and far too often those within the church lack the spiritual maturity to care for themselves. So we ask that You would raise up men and women who are filled with Your Spirit and firmly founded on Your Word to lead Your church. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org