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Christ, Our Shepherd

Thursday, June 09, 2022

We live in a fearful time. Most other people in most other times would think it strange that Americans today are as afraid as they are. After all, we live in the heart of the territory controlled by the greatest military power of all time. There has not been war here for more than 150 years. Far from being worried about famine, we have so much to eat that we are more concerned about gaining too much weight. We have access to such good medical care that most of us can expect to live to ages far beyond what our brethren in the 1st century would have expected.

Nonetheless, we are afraid. We are afraid of COVID, afraid of politicians that we think are hostile to us, afraid of societal change that we think is for the worst, and probably afraid even of things that we can't put a name to. Optimism about the future is sadly out of fashion.

When we wrestle with fear, we should remember all the reasons that God gives us not to be afraid. It may be that not everything in our earthly lives goes our way, but through His son Jesus, He will take care of what is most important. This morning, then, let's see what we can learn from John 10 about Christ our Shepherd.

The first section of our reading this morning concerns Jesus as the gate of the sheep. Let's look at John 10:1-10. There are a couple of different elements to Jesus’ words here that are well worth our attention. Of course, in this text we are the sheep, and Jesus tells us that we can expect to encounter two categories of people. One is made up of thieves and robbers. The other is only occupied by Jesus. The sheep don't listen to the thieves and robbers; They only listen to Him.

For us, this underscores the importance of listening only to the words of our Lord and identifying all the other religious voices that are not His. In this world, there is an abundance of false teachers. They occupy pulpits all across our country and the world, and every one of them teaches something that according to the Scriptures is not the word of Jesus.

Make no mistake, brethren! These are not good people who have made a mistake but have useful things to say to us. They are thieves and robbers. If we listen to them, they will lead us away from Jesus for their own benefit. Instead, we must be careful to listen only to the word of Christ and reject anything and everything that does not come from it.

So too, notice what Jesus says about Himself as the gate. If we enter by Him, we will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. This language should remind us, as Jesus intended for it to do, of Psalm 23 and its beautiful depiction of what it means to have the Lord as our shepherd. When God takes care of you, He makes sure that you have everything you need.

By contrast, the devil wants us to believe that Jesus will not provide for us if we follow Him. He wants us to think that the grass is better where Jesus does not lead us, that the best life is lived apart from Christ. This is one hundred percent a lie! He intends our harm, not our good. By contrast, if we stick close to Jesus, we will find that we lack for nothing.

Second, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. Let's continue our reading with John 10:11-21. Here, our Lord shows us how he is different from a hireling. The hireling flees from the wolf, allowing the wolf to destroy the sheep. By contrast, the good shepherd, even though he is not equipped to defend himself from the wolf, will die in order to keep the sheep safe.

Of course, this is exactly what Jesus did. The wolf that He had to face down was none other than the devil, who came to devour all our souls. Even Jesus could not save us from Satan by living. Instead, He had to die. He willingly laid down his life for our sakes.

We need to remember this anytime we get to feeling down on ourselves. The devil loves to try to convince us that we're worthless, that nobody places any value on us. Jesus did. He loved and still loves you, me, and every Christian enough to suffer, bleed, and die for us. He is good, and His goodness is revealed in the greatness of His love.

Let's pay attention also to His words in verse 16. Here, we learn that one of Jesus’ great goals as the Good Shepherd is to bring all of His sheep from different pens together into one. Since the beginning, His church has had a sad history of division, but His desire is for all of us to be united.

We can't do anything about the contentiousness and pride of other people in other places, but we can make sure that in this congregation we stay united. Indeed, one of the things that I most love about this church is the willingness of so many not to press their views and judgments on others, rather choosing to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

We can't compromise on the truth, of course, but it is vital for us to be able to tell the difference between what the Bible says and what we think. Believe me; I know just how tempting it is to get on one of my hobby horses and take a lap around the auditorium! However, such self-righteous behavior does not glorify God. When we instead humbly, patiently pursue the things that make for peace while remaining focused on the Scriptures, He is pleased.

Finally, let's ponder Jesus’ words about the safety of the sheep. We'll conclude our reading with John 10:22-30. Here, we find a verse that Calvinists love to take out of context. They love to seize on verse 28 and insist that it teaches that it is impossible for a Christian to fall away.

This is a strange thing to believe, especially given that in Matthew 24, Jesus prophesies about a time in which He says many will fall away. Of course, there is no contradiction between His teaching in Matthew 24 and His teaching in John 10. Instead, we need to look at the way that Jesus describes His sheep just a verse earlier, in verse 27.

According to him, His sheep are those who hear His voice, present tense, and who follow Him, again present tense. This promise isn't about those who followed Jesus at some point in the past and aren't following Him anymore. Instead, it is about those who are following Him right now.

If we are striving to follow Him, His promise does apply to us, and it should give us great assurance and hope. Our salvation is not dependent on how good we are. Instead, it depends on how strong He is. No matter how hard the devil pulls, he will not be able to pull us out of the hands of Jesus, and if that's not enough, the Father Himself will exert his strength to keep us safe.

Here too, the devil loves to prey on our minds and try to make us afraid. Fear is one of his favorite tools. Because of Jesus, though, we don't have to be afraid. We can be confident of our salvation, but our confidence is not in ourselves. It is in Him.

God's Creations

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

As those of you who have been following our Bible-reading program know, as of this Sunday, we have run out of New Testament. If you have made it from the beginning to the end, I congratulate you! However, even though the reading plan has ended, the year has not. For the rest of 2022, we are going to be looking at some of the great themes of the Bible, events and stories from the Old Testament that have significant implications in the New Testament.

Our theme for this week is the creation. The significance of Genesis 1:1 can hardly be overstated. It defines the nature of existence, and the fundamental truth that we are the creations of a divine Creator appears throughout the rest of Scripture.

Though there are dozens of passages I could use to explore this concept, it probably will surprise none of you that I have chosen a psalm. Even though it is familiar to us, taken as a whole, it makes an argument from the creation that is easy to overlook. This evening, then, let's see what Psalm 19 has to say about God's creations.

The first section of this psalm is about the heavens. Let's read here from Psalm 19:1-6. These words contain one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. When we look up at the skies, whether by day or by night, they proclaim they are the handiwork of a Being so awesome in power that we can only describe Him as God. None of the celestial bodies make any noise as they hurtle through space, but their message is plain anyway.

As you might expect, at this point in my life I am interested in testing the evidence for my faith, and this is one of the most significant reasons why I am not an atheist. We may not realize it, but when scientists concluded that the universe had a beginning, that was a tremendous blow to unbelievers. Before that time, most skeptics had believed in a steady-state universe that had no beginning and therefore did not imply a Creator.

We're so used to hearing physicists talk about the Big Bang that we don't realize what a problem it is for a naturalistic explanation of the universe. Naturalists believe that everything can be explained by the operation of physical laws. However, something that created the universe with all of its natural laws must necessarily be outside of those laws.

In recent years, I have heard some doubters hypothesize that somewhere out there, there is a mother universe that goes along spawning daughter universes, and we happen to reside in one of those. The flaws with these claims are obvious. There is and can be no evidence for other universes. In making such assertions, scientists show that they are as much believers in the supernatural as we are. The only difference between us is that they are bending over backwards to refuse to acknowledge the existence of God.

After this, the psalmist turns his attention to another one of God's great creations, His word. This discussion appears in Psalm 19:7-10. In the previous section, the psalmist showed that there is a God. Now, he is proving that the Scriptures come from God. This proof consists of their perfect nature. The Bible in its wisdom, truth, and beauty shows that it is the product of an intellect that is more than human.

Let's start with beauty. This is an argument that is particularly important to me. I am a writer. It is one of the most precious of my gifts from God, and I have rejoiced in words and language all of my life.

I have read widely, everything from fantasy novels to medieval Chinese poetry. However, nowhere have I found anything as magnificent as the Bible. Many of the greatest wordsmiths of history learned their craft from studying it. Truly, it is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey!

The Bible's divine origin also is evident in its timeless wisdom. The world today loves to dismiss the Scriptures as outmoded. Nonetheless, when we test them, they prove to be as valid a guide to right living as they were thousands of years ago. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun! When I have done what the word of God told me to do, I have never found cause for regret. I only have regretted the times when I failed to follow it.

The Scriptures also are true. Certainly, we can bring in outside evidence that confirms their validity, but mostly, they authenticate themselves. The stories of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus offer us compelling reason to believe that He is the Son of God. Additionally, the Bible's web of fulfilled prophecy, which stretches for thousands of years, shows that it is the product of a mind that knows the end from the beginning. In every respect, the Bible is perfect, just as we would expect from a creation of God.

The final section of the psalm contemplates another of God's creations, we ourselves. Let's wrap up our reading with Psalm 19:11-14. The psalmist’s words, though, point out a significant difference between us and the creations discussed in the first two sections. Both the heavens and the Bible are perfect as they are, and they cannot be improved.

The same is not true of us. Instead, if we are to be perfect, we must be perfected. The first source of perfection that the psalmist mentions is God's word. When we are devoted to the Scriptures, they warn us of possible trouble ahead and set our feet on the path to eternal glory.

However, the Bible by itself is not enough to ensure that we will inherit eternal life. It is perfect, but our obedience to it is not. Thus, the psalmist must call on God directly. The first problem that he identifies is unintentional sin. As he notes, we don't even know what our unintentional sins are! Nonetheless, we can appeal to God to cleanse us from the sins that we didn't even notice, and His mercy is so great that He will.

Second, we need God's help in keeping us from rebellion. We know that if we go on sinning willfully, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Thus, if we allow willful sin to rule us, we are doomed.

Here too, the solution is God. Only with His aid can we fight off the devil who wants to lead us astray. However, the good news is that if we are cleansed of unintentional sin and free from rebellion, we are blameless in His sight.

Indeed, the psalmist concludes the psalm by expressing his desire to be blameless in everything, utterly perfect just as the heavens and the Scriptures are. Like him, we should seek holiness not only in what we do but even in what we say and think. We will never achieve this goal on our own, but with the help of our rock and Redeemer, we can be acceptable to Him.

The Fellowship of Suffering

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

When we hear the word “fellowship”, we recognize it as having a positive connotation. At its most basic level, it makes us think of good time shared with others. As we grow in our biblical understanding of the concept, we might add things like worshiping together or being generous with our money to the list.

However, not all that the Bible says about fellowship is pleasant. This is apparent to us when we read about the unfruitful works of darkness in 2 Corinthians 6. Another, even more challenging, use appears in Philippians 3:10. Here, Paul expresses his desire to know the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.

This would strike the world as an utterly strange goal. Suffering is bad; who wants to seek it out? Nonetheless, if we want to be conformed to the image of our Master, we also must be conformed to the suffering that was such an important part of His earthly life. This morning, then, as part of our quarterly study of fellowship, let's explore the fellowship of suffering.

Today, I'd like us to consider three primary ways in which we ought to have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. The first of these is fellowship in self-denial. Let's read together from Matthew 5:38-42. This is a text that we often like to break apart. In particular, we like to focus on v. 39.

However, if we want to appreciate the Lord's meaning, we need to read vs. 39-42 as his response to v. 38. “An eye for an eye” was originally a judicial precept of the Law of Moses, but by the time of Christ, it had evolved into a justification for self-willed retaliation. As Jesus commonly does, He addresses not only the practice of retaliation but also the self-will that underlies the desire to retaliate.

Thus, we should read all of the scenarios Jesus proposes as a critique of worldly selfishness. The worldly want to hit back, counter- sue, give only what is required, and give nothing if not required. All of us can appreciate the feeling of satisfaction that comes with these things. We are standing up for ourselves!

By contrast, it's hard to stand there and take it, let the jerk win his lawsuit, carry the soldier’s burden farther, and see our money go to someone who didn't work for it. There is suffering involved! All the same, we see this behavior modeled by our Lord, who didn't look out for His interests but for ours. When He was required to give us nothing, He gave us His own life, and His self-denial gives us our example.

Second, we have fellowship in the sufferings of Christ through submission. This is not a popular topic! I've been maintaining my blog online since early 2014, and in that time, I have learned what things will lead to hundreds of people in the comments yelling at me. First, I create controversy when I illustrate a post using a picture of a woman. Second, though, I make a bunch of Christians really mad when I write about submission. We do not live in a submissive society, so it is hard for us to submit to God, to human authorities, to elders, or to our spouses.

Even so, we must pay attention to the word of God in 1 Peter 2:13-25. This is a long reading, but I think we need to read the whole thing to appreciate Peter's argument. He is discussing an ugly truth about the Roman Empire. Under Roman law, slaves were legally the property of their masters, and those masters could do whatever they wanted with the slaves, beating them or even worse.

To modern-day Americans, the solution is obvious. These slaves who are being abused should run away! However, that's not what Peter says. He urges first of all submission to the government, and as part of submission to the government, slaves must submit to their masters even when those masters are beating them.

This is a hard saying, and I think Peter knew that it was a hard saying when he wrote it. He was commanding innocent Christians to stay in a situation where they were suffering even though they were innocent. In doing so, they entered into fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, who Himself suffered unjustly just like they were doing. Ironically, the last part of v. 21 often is quoted as generic justification for imitating Jesus. However, the text explicitly is about following in the steps of Jesus in enduring suffering.

Thankfully, we do not have masters and slaves in the United States today, so none of us are required to stick around even though our legal owner beats us. However, the Biblical principle here is so strongly stated that it should lead us to reconsider our attitude towards submission. Too often, Christians disobey the law they don't agree with, ignore the elders they think are wrong, and walk out on the jerk spouse.

That is not the truth that Peter taught, and it is not the example that Christ gave. The counsel of both is to submit, even when it's painful, and even when it's hard. When we bear up despite suffering unjustly, we participate in the holy suffering of Christ.

Finally, we share in His sufferings when we accept ostracism. let's read here from Hebrews 13:10-14. I know Clay preached a sermon on this a few months back, but it fits so neatly into this topic that I couldn't help myself!

The Hebrews writer here is addressing a problem commonly faced by Jewish Christians in the first century. 2000 years ago, Jews were not “worship at the church of your choice” kind of folks. If you were a Jew, and you claimed Jesus as your Lord, your friends and family would cut you off. They wouldn't protect you from persecution, and they might even persecute you themselves. Not surprisingly, a lot of converts found this pressure unbearable and returned to the synagogues, which is why the book of Hebrews was written.

Here, the writer urges Jewish Christians to embrace the social stigma and shame. He notes that on the Jewish day of atonement, the bodies of the sacrifices were to be burned outside the camp, signifying that sin had left the camp. Like that, Jesus himself literally suffered outside the gates of Jerusalem. It also was a sign that He had been cut off.

In the same way, the writer tells his audience to go outside the camp, even though it meant not being associated with their people anymore. After all, outside the camp was the only place they could find Jesus.

The same is true for us. Even though we are not necessarily ostracized because of our faith in Christ, we constantly face pressure to conform to the world. Life is much easier for us if we hold our peace on certain issues, booze it up at the office Christmas party, watch the same trashy stuff on TV, and generally live lives that are indistinguishable from the lives of those around us. The more we stick out, the more we will be ostracized.

We must remember, though, that Christ is not in the camp with the world. He is outside the camp, and if we want to go to Him, we must show the world that we are not like they are. We don't have to manufacture issues by dressing funny or refusing to celebrate certain holidays. Instead, obeying the will of God is all that is required. When the world sees us fearlessly living for Him, they won't like it one little bit, but He will, and that's all that matters.

God's Great Love

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Sometimes, I run into people online who want to separate the grace of God from the good works that we are called to do.  We are saved by grace, they say, so the things we do don’t matter much either way.  We don’t get to judge anybody as being outside of grace.

These convictions simply don’t square with the both-and nature of the gospel.  Yes, we are saved by God’s love and grace.  No, we can’t save ourselves. 

However, our encounter with God is supposed to transform us.  We aren’t supposed to love wickedness anymore.  We are supposed to love righteousness and spend the rest of our lives showing gratitude for our salvation.  If, on the other hand, we are more drawn to the pleasures of sin than to our Savior, something has gone terribly wrong.

This is the distinction that John draws in 1 John 2:28-3:10.  We’re children of God, but if we don’t make our parentage evident in several different ways, we prove that our true father is somebody else.  Let’s see how this works out as we consider the implications of God’s great love.

First, John discusses ABIDING IN HIM.  Let’s read from John 2:28-29.  The idea here is simple.  As God is supposed to dwell in us, we are supposed to abide in Him.  If we do, we can confidently welcome Him at His return.  If we don’t, we will have to cringe back in shame.  In other words, the way we live has eternal consequences.

Abiding in God is vital, and we can know what we need to do by considering His nature.  God is righteous.  He loves even those who hate Him.  He sends His mercy on the just and the unjust.  However, He Himself never does evil.  He is perfectly holy.

If we abide in God, or, to use John’s alternate formulation, we have been born of God, that same behavior ought to show up in us.  The people who knew me when I was 10 would have no trouble recognizing Marky as my son.  He looks like I did, and he has the same smart mouth that I had!  Likewise, people can tell that we are God’s children when we look and act like Him.  They see the resemblance when we practice righteousness.

This doesn’t mean that we live perfectly and never sin.  Instead, it means that we habitually do good instead of evil.  Sin is the exception in our lives, not the rule.  If sin is the rule rather than the exception, we need to mend our ways before we become ashamed on the day of judgment.

From here, John explores the meaning of being CHILDREN OF GOD.  Look at 1 John 3:1-3.  Notice that we don’t become children of God by working really hard or being really good.  Instead, we are His children because His love has made us His children.  We had no part in His family, but He adopted us into it. 

Now, we are children of God, but when He appears, we will become something else.  When we see Him, we will be made like Him.  To use Paul’s language in Philippians 3, He will bring our bodies into conformity with the body of His glory. 

This is deeply meaningful to me.  Every day, I encounter the limitations of my body and feel the ways that it is failing.  Many of you are in the same position.  However, in the resurrection, we will have a body that is literally like Christ’s:  perfect, indestructible, and magnificent.  Oh, what a hope we have!

As John observes, this hope should lead us now to imitate His purity.  Wanting to be like God means wanting to be like God in everything.  We can’t seek conformity with His eternal, glorious body while rejecting conformity with His holy spirit.  It’s an all-or-nothing deal.

This means, then, that the resurrection should shape every spiritual decision we make.  Do we want to become like God, or are we catering to the desires of our flesh, which is frail, corruptible, and doomed?  In either case, whatever we are seeking is what we will end up with.

Next, John exposes the ugliness of PRACTICING SIN.  This appears in 1 John 3:4-6.  Notice the ways that he describes people like this.  They practice lawlessness.  They defeat the purpose of Him who came to take away sin.  They do not abide in Him.  They have not seen Him.  They do not know Him.

These are horrible things to say about anyone who claims to be a Christian, but we must soberly ask ourselves if they apply to us.  Most people who assemble on Sundays aren’t openly practicing sin, but the secret practice of sin is another matter altogether.  I’ve known Christians who showed up for services three times a week while they were cheating on their spouses.  I hope that nobody here this morning is doing that, but I also know that appearances can be deceiving and somebody here might be. 

Of course, adultery is not the only possible sin to practice, and in the Bible, there’s no such thing as a venial sin.  Even the sins that seem smallest and least to us will cost us our souls if we make a habit of them.  They will show that we don’t belong to God.

Now, if I were here in the crowd today, and I were practicing sin, all this would leave me feeling pretty low!  If that’s you, though, I’m not here to shame you.  I’m here to plead with you. 

Don’t be the person we finished reading about.  Nobody wants that for you, least of all God.  Recognize where you are, recognize how much is at stake, and make the change you need to make.

Finally, John calls us to ask, “WHOSE CHILDREN ARE WE?”  Let’s conclude our reading with 1 John 3:7-10.  Our analysis of this must begin with John’s first words.  He is warning us not to be deceived in these matters because it is so easy to be deceived.

Indeed, this is Satan’s goal for all of us.  He wants us to believe we’re good enough to inherit eternal life when really we’ve been serving ourselves for years.  To this end, he loves to get us focused on the things we’re doing right.  He wants us to say, “Yeah, I know this thing I keep doing is wrong, but look at all that I do for God!  Surely my good works will outweigh my sin in His eyes!” 

This argument is powerfully deceptive.  Two of those adulterers I mentioned above were deacons of the church, and I’m sure they minimized their sin to themselves in light of all they did for the kingdom.  The problem is, though, that when we think like this, we are treating our good works like something extra we’re doing for God when He already is entitled to our perfect obedience.

John’s words are unambiguous.  If we practice righteousness, we are righteous and children of God.  If we practice sin, we are wicked and the children of the devil.  The lives we live determine whether our initial salvation is of any account at all.

A First-Century Memory Verse

Friday, February 25, 2022

One of the interesting features of modern translations is the formatting they use for the text.  The King James Bibles of 100 years ago set every portion of Scripture in verse-by-verse mini-paragraphs.  By contrast, more recent translations often employ poetic formatting, even in cases where most of the book is prose.

We find an example of this practice in 2 Timothy 2:11-13.  When we see this, our antennae should go up because the translators are telling us that something different is happening.  In this case, I think the translators are right.  This three-verse chunk uses a rigid parallel structure, which makes it extremely easy to memorize. 

My guess is that this snippet is not original to 2 Timothy.  Instead, I think it is an example of Christian oral teaching that predates the New Testament.  Early converts were taught this so they could carry around the essentials of the faith even though they didn’t have Bibles. 

Today, this is valuable to us for the same reason.  We may have Bibles in our pockets everywhere we go nowadays, but more important still is the word in our hearts.  This passage still is easy to memorize, and it offers four priceless spiritual reminders.  Tonight, then, let’s examine this first-century memory verse.

All four of these statements are in if-then form, and the first begins with “IF WE DIED WITH HIM”.  The best Biblical explanation of this appears in Romans 6:3-5.  There are other passages that talk about dying daily with Jesus, but 2 Timothy 2:11 refers to an event from the past.  The only death-and-life event like that in Scripture is baptism.

Notice, in fact, that Paul says that baptism is a death that leads to two different kinds of life.  The first is rising from the burial of baptism to walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:5, though, is talking about something different.  We already have been raised to walk in newness of life, but we will be raised in the likeness of His resurrection.

Thus, even though it never uses the word, 2 Timothy 2:11 affirms the necessity of baptism.  Unless we have died with Christ, we will not live with Christ.  Apart from baptism, we cannot enter eternal life. 

If you find yourself talking to someone who doesn’t believe that baptism is essential to salvation, ask them when they died with Christ.  The sinner’s prayer isn’t a death.  Neither is infant baptism.  Only the baptism of the Bible, the burial in water of the believer, makes the metaphor work.

Our second if is “IF WE ENDURE”.  We get a deeper appreciation of what this means from James 1:12.  James makes explicit an element that is implied in 2 Timothy—the endurance under discussion is endurance through trial.  This doesn’t mean merely that we keep showing up for services for 50 years.  It means that we remain faithful even when faithfulness is difficult.

In the first century, this particularly was about persecution, but for us today, this can be anything that humbles us, anytime when life isn’t going our way.  We’re suffering like the folks on the bottom instead of riding high like the folks on the top.  However, if we keep going, our circumstances will be profoundly reversed.  We will receive the crown of life, and we will spend eternity living like kings with Jesus. 

When I read this passage, I can’t help but be reminded of the hymnal Sacred Selections.  The editor of Sacred Selections, Ellis Crum, was death on premillennialism.  In his hymnal, he deleted every reference to reigning with Jesus because he thought it was premillennial.  However, as we see, the concept of reigning with Jesus is explicitly Scriptural, and it gives us hope in the darkest moments of our lives.

With our third if-then, we move from positive to negative with “IF WE DENY HIM”.  Here, of course, we must go to Matthew 10:32-33.  Sometimes, we use this passage to affirm the importance of confessing Christ as Lord as part of our initial salvation, but that’s not really what it’s about.  Jesus here isn’t talking about acknowledging that He is the Messiah before a friendly audience.  He’s talking about claiming Him as Lord before an audience that isn’t.

Again, this particularly is about reacting to persecution.  It was hard to make the good confession when imprisonment or death would result!  However, Paul offers a stern warning.  Those who deny Christ will be denied by Christ.

In fact, this was a burning issue in the second and third centuries.  What happened to Christians who denied Jesus to the Roman authorities and later repented?  Because of this verse, many argued that they could not be received back into fellowship and were doomed no matter what they did.

Today, we usually aren’t threatened with persecution, but there are times when we are tempted not to acknowledge Christ because of social awkwardness.  However, we must remember that our salvation depends on our willingness to lift up our Lord.  Only if we will share in His shame will we share in His glory.

Finally, this statement explores the consequences “IF WE ARE FAITHLESS”.  This statement reminds me of the warning in Hebrews 12:25.  In both of these verses, notice the “we”.  In 2 Timothy, the “we” has died with Christ.  In Hebrews 12, the “we” has come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, and all the blessings it contains. 

This warning is not for outsiders nor for sham Christians.  It is for those who genuinely have been saved and just as genuinely can fall away.  In the face of such faithlessness, God will be faithful, just as He was faithful in the time of the Old Testament.  He set before His people life and death, blessing and cursing.  When they rejected Him, they received death and cursing, just as He had warned them they would.

This has two applications.  The first is for our discussions with those who believe in eternal security, otherwise known as once-saved-always-saved.  It is entirely possible for Christians to be faithless, and as soon as we deny that, we open the door for the devil.

Second, we must acknowledge its application to us.  Every one of us, no matter how wise or mature, still can fall away.  Bit by bit, we can drift from serving the Lord to serving ourselves, and the consequences of doing so are disastrous!  Always, we must resolve to be faithful and cling ever more closely to Him.

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