This is deep. It just struck a cord with me.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3,4, NKJV).
When I read 2 Timothy 2:3,4 I think of the Children’s song about being in the Lord’s army. We do not often think of ourselves as soldiers but that is one aspect of being a Christian. This earth is a battlefield, not just a physical one but a spiritual one. Many today are worried as they have love ones in military service around the world. In the spiritual war there are souls on the line all around us. Souls are even more precious than lives because should a soul be lost it is lost forever. It is not that lives are not valuable, they are, for to each life a soul is attached. The spiritual war is often overlooked because it takes spiritual discernment to see it.
When Japan surrendered that became the official end of the WWII in the pacific. That however was not the end of fighting in the pacific. There were many Japanese soldiers scattered across islands that did not know that Japan had surrendered. They fought on until they got the word.
Almost two thousand years ago Jesus Christ died and rose again. Jesus won the war but he did not vanquish all of the enemy. Battles still rage for souls. People are still dying and going to hell. Jesus Christ has enlisted all faithful believers into the war effort. Our duty is to rescue souls. We are soldiers in the spiritual war. We do not volunteer for this duty. Jesus has drafted us. It is part of the very essence of salvation.
Paul reminds Timothy that his activities need to be guided by the war effort to rescue lost souls. There are three things that stand out for the Christian soldier in those two verses. First the Christian soldier must endure hardship. The Christian life is not about the easy road. Christ never promised that we will have an easy life in following Him. What He promised is the way to life is difficult (Matthew 7:14), we must take up our own cross (Luke 9:23, 14:27), and be persecuted in His name (Matthew 5:10-12). Hardship is an expectation of the Christian walk.
Second, we must not allow ourselves to be entangled with the affairs of this life. This is probably the enemies greatest weapon against us. An example is how some Christian get so wrapped in sports that they skip church so they can watch the games. They can tell you the full name, and stats of the players on their favorite team, but they can’t name the ten commandments. It is okay for us to participate and enjoy the things of this world like sports. We are not to become entangled by them. That is encumbered by them so that they drag us down.
Third, Our focus should be on pleasing our General. Jesus is the one that purchased us on the cross. It is His army that He enlisted us. We should focus our life around Him. Jesus taught us that no man can serve two master. You are either serving Jesus or you are not. The more you focus you life on Jesus the easier it becomes to endure hardship and avoid entanglement.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that in the last few months I have been pushing the idea that you need to be involved in Sunday school. You know you need to be reading your Bible daily. You know you should be involved in public worship in a church. But do you really understand the importance of small group Bible study? In the early days of the church it is written:
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42, NKJV.
They were involved in public corporate worship in the temple. Our Sunday morning service is a descendant of this worship time. The disciples were also moving from house to house teaching. They didn't have Sunday school class rooms to gather in so they would meet in homes to discuss the Word of God on a more personal level and in more detail. It was small group Bible Study. Some churches today have gone back to that model. No longer do they have Sunday school but meet through out the week in homes. I am not concerned about the location, in homes, in Sunday school class rooms, or in the back corner of a restaurant is okay with me. I am concerned about your involvement in small group Bible study.
Even years later as Paul prepares to return to Jerusalem he says:
“how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,” Acts 20:20, NKJV.
Decades later we still have public (church worship) and from house to house (small group Bible study).
It is in small group that others learn who you are and you learn who others are. You build bonds so that when you need help they are there for you and when necessary you are there for them. Small group Bible study lets you ask questions so that you can grow in knowledge of the Bible. It is the best help for your personal Bible study.
I really want to encourage you to become a regular attender of a small group. Right now at Callaway we have grade separated small group meetings on Sunday morning at 9:45 am and an all age Bible study on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. I hope one day that we will have more small groups meeting through the week.
One final note if any of you wish to start a new Bible study let me know. I will be glad to help you organize a new class.
When studding the Bible there are four basic questions you could ask yourself about a section you read.
The questions are:
1. Is there a lesson to be learned?
2. Is there a promise to be claimed?,
3. Is there a sin to avoid or repent of?
4. Is there a truth to understand?
Before I explain more about the question I feel I need to explain what I mean by a section. A section in the Bible is a complete thought, argument or pericope. Man has divided the Bible into chapters and verses. These divisions are not always in the most ideal location. Sometimes a verse is a complete sentence (John 3:16) and sometimes multiple verses make up a sentence (John 4:1-3). John 3:16 is a complete sentence but it is part of a larger section that runs from John 3:1 through John 3:21. Today many publishers marked sections with italic subtitles. In my main Bible John 3:1-21 is subtitled “The New Birth” and John 3:22-36 is subtitled “John the Baptist Exalts Christ.” In older Bibles publishers marked sections by a paragraph mark.
First question, is there a lesson to be learned? This question often comes to play in narrative text. In 2 Samuel 1:1-16 a young man lies to David about how Saul died. The young man takes credit for killing Saul. However, in 1 Samuel we are told that Saul committed suicide. Apparently the young man felt that David would reward him because he killed David’s enemy. Unfortunately the young man did not know that David had passed up two opportunities to kill Saul. David knew that Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David had the young man executed based on the young man’s testimony. A lesson to learn from this text is that trying to earn other people's respect by lying will backfire.
Second question, is there a promise to be claimed? Sometimes God makes promises to His people. We can claim some of those promises. In James 1:5, NKJV it is written, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Reading the context of that whole section (verse 1:1-8) you will see the promise that we can claim. The promise is if we are bond servants of the Lord Jesus Christ during times of testing our faith we can ask God for wisdom and He will grant it if we ask in faith and without doubting.
This text is a good example on why it is important to read the whole section. If verse 5 was by itself then the promise would appear to be anyone who wants to be wiser just ask God and He will make you wiser. It is the context that establishes the verseеs meaning. Look up James 1:1 in your Bible. In verse 1 James defines himself as bond servant of Jesus and then addresses the letter to the brethren. That is people who like himself are bond servants of Jesus. In verse 2 the context is further set in times of trials. Verse 6 the promise is narrowed to asking in faith and without doubt.
I know that it looks difficult to figure out the promise in James 1:1-8, but it really is not. It is just a matter of practice. The more you read the easier understanding what you read will become. Don’t worry if after a few minutes you canеt find the lesson, promise, sin, or truth of a section. There may be another section you need to read. In the 2 Samuel example you would not know the young man lied unless you read the death of Saul in 1 Samuel.
Third question, is there a sin to avoid or repent of? The Bible contains many sins that we should avoid. These are the easiest applications to look for. These type of applications usually applies to you same way that they apply to the people in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3 we read where Adam sins against God through disobedience. The sin to be avoided here is disobedience. God says don’t do something then we are not to do it. Repentance is an integral part to recognizing the sins. As you read the Bible you will discover sins that you need to avoid. You will also discover that you have already committed them. As you find sin that you have committed you need to repent of them.
Repentance is more than just asking God to forgive you. It is turning from that sin and doing it no more. Pretend your neighbor is angry and backs over your mailbox on purpose. Then suppose he realizes his sin and asks you to forgive him. This is how we should do God, recognize our sins and ask for forgiveness. Now on the next day, your neighbor gets up on the wrong side of bed and backs over your mailbox again on purpose. He then seeks your forgiveness. For the third day in a row your neighbor runs over your mailbox and again seeks your forgiveness. He truly recognizes his sin and truly wants your forgiveness. He has not repented until he stops running over your mailbox on purpose.
The final question, is there a truth to understand? Some parts of the Bible are meant to just be understand and accepted. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, NKJV).” This verse contains many truths that God expects us to just accept and believe. Here are some of them. God existed before the beginning of everything that we know. There is only one God. The one God created everything. Materialism is futile because it is not greater than the Creator. We are not greater that God because He created us. God has to reveal Himself to us for we cannot discover Him.
It is amazing at how much easier it is to trust the rest of the Word of God if you will just accept Genesis 1:1 as fact. Much of the Gospel of John is truth that we need to believe.
You really should develop a habit of reading in the Bible every day. The discussion of the four questions was only meant to help you. I know it is easy to become discouraged if you don’t understand importance of what you read. The greatest help is just read a little every day for the rest of you life. God considers His word so important that Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) is all about His word. Jesus said “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’ (Luke 4:4, NKJV).”
Today’s question is, What is the difference between a believer and a disciple of Jesus?
Christians use the words believer and disciple a great deal. They are often interchanged, but they do not necessarily mean the same thing. According to the AHD (American Heritage Dictionary) a disciple is a person who embraces and helps in spreading the teachings of another. For example a young man in high school who is taking an English class because he believes it is important to know; he is not a disciple of the English teacher. On the other hand, a teacher who inspires a young man to learn as much as possible and to go on and be an English teacher himself is a disciple. The Christian definition of a disciple is a person who understands the teachings of Christ, follows those teachings and helps propagate those teachings.
Again in the AHD a believer is someone who accepts something as truth. For instance I believe that the world is round although I have never personally proved that it is round. Both of the young men in the English class example were believers. A believer in Christian terms is someone who accepts that Jesus Christ was the Son of God along with many other facts.
All disciples are believers but all believers are not disciples. In Matthew 28:19, NKJV it is written, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus command to His disciples was to go and make more disciples. Don’t let these disciples here confuse you. Often people mistakenly call the twelve apostles, the twelve disciples. Jesus had more than twelve disciples. In Luke chapter 10, Jesus appoints seventy to go and teach the word. At the giving of the Great Commission, which includes Matthew 28:19, Jesus had about one hundred and twenty disciples.
In Luke 12:42-47, Jesus teaches that believing is not enough to inherit the Kingdom of God. This means that just believing is not enough to be saved from the wrath of God. Jesus explained that the blessed servant is the one that the master finds doing the things that the servant knows to do. This is a disciple. He believes in what Jesus taught, he does what Jesus taught, and he teaches others to do likewise.
The evil servant is the one who knows the will of his master and does not do it. If a person knows the will of the master then he believes certain facts. Not doing them means the servant is not a disciple. According to Jesus, this servant will have his portion with unbelievers. Unbelievers will suffer the wrath of God for all of eternity. However, there is one difference for this servant from the unbeliever. His punishment will be more severe.
Some would reject this and say that all you have to do is believe. It is true that the Bible teaches that if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved, but the whole counsel of God never stops with just believing the facts. It teaches that a person must strive to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Word says that if you do not pursue holiness you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Or to paraphrase James 2:18, show me your believe without being a disciple and I will show you that I believe by being a disciple. We are called to be disciples. We are not to just hear the Word, but do the Word.
Today in America there is a growing number of cultural Christians. These are people that believe and often voice that they are Christians and yet they have no time for Bible study, church worship or fellowship with believers (three signs of authentic Christianity). Many times they are vocal about what is right or wrong even though they lack understand in even basic Bible teachings. When questioned on why they think they are a Christian they give reasons like “I attended church when I was a child” or “I prayed a special prayer at an evangelism meeting” or “my momma told me I am one.” These reasons along with many others do not make an authentic Christian.
This is not a new problem. History is littered with people who claimed to be Christians and yet at the same time they lived at odds with many of Jesus’ teachings. The reason for such a disconnect is due to a lack of understanding of what a Christian really is.
“... And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26, NKJV).
The disciple were called Christians. They did not call themselves that. They were called that by the rest of Antioch. Just like we label sub groups in our society. Labels like nerd, jock, or emo. The label starts as a way for those outside the group to refer to the group. Sometimes the label is an insult. Sometimes the group embraces the label.
The disciples were called Christians. The people of Antioch saw something different in the disciple and gave them a distinct label. The difference they saw was foretold by Jesus.
- “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. (John 8:31, NKJV).
- “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NKJV).
- “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8, NKJV).
What the people of Antioch saw was a group that was centering their lives around Jesus’ teachings, loving one another, and bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, mercy, & grace. The disciples were joyfully following Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and body. That is an authentic Christian.
It should be that way today. We shouldn’t have to call ourselves Christians. We should live in such a way that the society around us sees that we are true disciple. That we are ready and willing to welcome those outside into our group to share our love of Jesus with them.