God uses nature to teach spiritual lessons. “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee.” (Job 12:7).
In Proverbs 30 there are several lessons being taught using nature. This article and the next 3 will look at “four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise.”
The first little creature in the text are the ANTS (25; cf. Prov 6:6-11).
“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;”
The ANTS are among 4 little creatures that are called exceedingly wise. What makes that so? Here are at least 4 lessons from the ANTS.
ANTS are ALL in ALL the time. Not only do they gather enough for their current needs, they also gather for the coming winter. “Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” (Prov 6:8)
What are the lessons for us? There are two types of lessons, physical and spiritual. First the physical lesson; We ought to be working while we can and while we’re able more than our present needs. The scriptures point out a few physical needs. 1) Needs of others. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Eph 4:28; cf. Ac 20:35; 1Th 4:11) and 2) Needs of our family when we can no longer work, the winter of life. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1Tim 5:8-16). The spiritual lesson is in the third point.
The second lesson from the ANTS is that they NEVER give up. If you try to block the way of a line of ants, they will climb over, go around, he’ll go under, or move whatever is blocking them. They NEVER quit. That’s a great lesson for us. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,” (Eph 5:15). They press on, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14). They fight the good fight, they run and they strive for their purpose.
A third lesson from the ANTS is they THINK ahead in the summer. (I don’t know what an ant thinks, but the proverb tells us what they do) “…they prepare their meat in the summer;” “Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” (Prov 30:25; 6:8)
The spiritual application is what’s important. Man doesn’t live forever on the earth and must make arrangements for eternal life. We can’t be so naïve as to believe that summer lasts forever, neither does our physical life. The Hebrew writer wrote, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Heb 9:27). Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;” (2Cor 5:10-11). The wisdom from the ANTS instructs us to be reconciled to God through obeying the gospel of Christ before it’s too late. (cf. Heb 5:9; 2Thess 1:8-9).
The fourth lesson from the ANTS is they START immediately. On the first warm day of spring, they’re out working. At the first opportunity, the ANTS go marching on to find their food. The proverb writers contrasts those that slumber too much with the diligent effort of the ANTS. “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?” (Prov 6:9). In the NT, sleep is a metaphor for those that are dead spiritually (1Cor 11:30) and for those that aren’t watching (1Th 5:6). “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Rom 13:11).
You can easily tell which denominations believe that baptism is not necessary for salvation; THEY SCHEDULE BAPTISMS. That is completely opposite to what the scriptures teach. “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” (Acts 16:33). The Eunuch, upon hearing about Jesus asked, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” When your ‘pastor’ teaches about salvation, will his hearers have the same response as the Eunuch? The lesson of the ANTS is that they START immediately. When is the best time to obey the gospel? TODAY! “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Cor 6:2).
Paul calls love, “a more excellent way” [1Cor 12:31; 13:13].
“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-31]
The best commentary on Love is found in the Scriptures. Let’s see love from four perspectives.
God’s Love for us
God is Love – 1Jo 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Titus 3:4-6
God Gave His son – 1Jo 4:9, 10 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, John 3:16, 17; Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4,5
God blesses His children – 1Jo 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: Eph 1:3 every spiritual blessings
Every good thing – James 1:17 – comes from above; Acts 17:28
God sends sun & rain – Mt 5:45 for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Christ’s Love for us
Passes knowledge– Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
As Father loved Him – Joh 15:9, 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
He gave Himself – Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.; Eph 5:2; 1Joh 3:16; Rev 1:5
His own– Joh 13:1, 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Those who obey – Joh 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Man’s love for God & Christ
Great command– 1Jo 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us. Mark 12:28-30; Mt 22:36-40
Good thing for those that do – Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, 1Corinthians 2:9 ings which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Crown of life / Kingdom – Jas 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? [1:12]
Love displayed through obedience – 1Jo 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:
2Joh 6; John 14:15, 21, 23
Love for truth – 2Th 2:10-12 because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Man’s love for others
Brethren – 1Th 4:9; 1Th 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
John 13:34; 15:12; 1Pe 1:22; 2:17;
1Jo 2:10, 3:11, 14, 23; 4:11, 12
2Pe 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
After the resurrection of Jesus, He spoke with Peter while having breakfast by the sea (John 21:15-22). There are a few lessons from this text, but I’d like to focus on Peter’s response to the knowledge that he will die for Christ & His Cause.
After Jesus describes the type of love sacrifice that Peter will face, Peter turns toward John and asks, “what shall this man do?”
Jesus, ever succinct and direct, answers, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
It is this powerful lesson that will be the focus of this article. Before we can learn the lesson, we must understand the root of Peter’s question.
Peter had heard that he will live the remainder of his life in sacrificial service to Christ, the end of which will be a martyr’s death. “This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.”
This would be very serious news to receive. The closest example I could give you is one from my own experience. After two years of cancer treatment for my mom, we were in her doctor’s office when we heard something to the effect, “There’s nothing more we can do. Go home, we’ll try to make you comfortable, and enjoy your family in whatever time you have left.” How devastating that must have sounded to her.
Perhaps this gives us just a glimpse at how this might have sounded to Peter at this point in his life. Peter would learn more from Jesus after this, but this stands as a reminder to every Christian, we who love Christ will face persecution, and trouble in this life. [2Tim 3:12].
So, what are we to do with this information, knowing that life as a Christian won’t always be easy? Can we still be happy? Can we find any joy? The answer is yes, we can be HAPPY & JOYFUL, the question then becomes HOW? For that answer we turn to the words of our Lord, FOLLOW ME.
The beginning of following anyone is to have FAITH. Nobody will follow anyone if they can’t trust that they are worthy to be followed, and able to fulfill what they have promised. Christ is both worthy and able. Just one text of many will prove this point; Christ is spoken of as the Creator [John 1:1-4; Col 1:17-18]. Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” [John 14:1-3]. Another powerful verse to help with our FAITH in Christ is, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” [Heb 2:18]
Second, we can only follow Him if we OBEY Him. Jesus is the Captain of our Salvation, but too many treat Him like they’re the captain and He a buck Private. [cf. Heb 2:10] Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” [John 14:15; 1John 5:3]
Next, we notice that in that breakfast by the sea, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” We should ask ourselves this same question. The word for love is ‘agape’ which is the all-in sacrificial love. To follow Jesus is to LOVE whom He loves. We must LOVE God [Mat 22:37], Christ [John 14:15], The Holy Spirit [Rom 15:30], the brethren [1Peter 1:22], yourself & your family [Eph 5:28-29], and also your Enemies [Luke 6:27].
Fourth, Christ told us to come to Him and, “Take my yoke upon you, and LEARN of me;” [Matt 11:29]. It is amazing to me how much people say that want to follow Jesus, but spend so little time trying to LEARN of Him. He expects us to be the LIGHT of the world, but how can we without LEARNING of Him, without reading His word? [Mat 5:14; cf. Psalm 119:105; Pro 6:23]
Fifth, whether young or Old, as we have OPPORTUNITY let us do good to all men, especially the household of faith [Gal 6:10]. Sometimes folks don’t want us to do good toward them. That’s ok. Paul wrote, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” [Rom 12:18; cf. Mat 15:14; 1Cor 14:38; 1Tim 6:18]
Lastly, and just as importantly, Following Christ involves WALKING. John was present at the breakfast by the sea and he wrote, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to WALK, even as he walked.” [1John 2:6]. Peter wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” [1Peter 2:21; cf. 1Pet 3:13; 2Peter 1:16].
Putting all this together, we know that life is full of disappointments, trouble, and trials. Much of this will come through the hands of people. However, the scriptures teach us that we can have JOY & HAPPINESS despite this world’s troubles. [James 1:2; Mt 5:12; Ac 5:41]. Peter wrote, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” [1Pet 4:13; 1:6; 4:16]
Peter was told at the beginning that he would give his life to Christ. Peter wanted to know, if I’m going to suffer, what going to happen to the others? Christ told him that whatever happens to others has no bearing on what Peter does, “YOU FOLLOW ME.” He understood the lesson.
Whatever it is that others are doing, or not doing, what they’re getting, or not getting, how much fun they’re having, or how much they suffer, these have nothing to do with what YOU & I are to do.
As I read again John 21:22, when Jesus commands Peter, I also hear…
Do the words SHOULD or OUGHT mean God is giving us a Hall Pass for sin?
Someone recently asked me about the word “SHOULD” in the Bible. It’s being claimed that if there are commands we SHOULD do, then God is giving a recommendation, and that we have liberty NOT to do it and suffer no penalty. Is that the proper understanding of this word? Nope, you SHOULDN’T view it this way.
I can see where the confusion lies. In our culture of free love & do whatever feels right, we can see how some might think God is just recommending we do stuff, if we want to do them. If it’s convenient.
Additionally, in the error riddled world of denominations, and the false doctrine of “once saved always saved,” it’s easy to think that God is making recommendations because we’re all going to heaven anyway.
Both of these views are completely out of sorts with the biblical use of the word and a complete misunderstanding of free will.
“How that they told you there SHOULD be mockers in the last time, who SHOULD walk after their own ungodly lusts.” [Jude 1:18]
First, let’s define terms. As you can see in the above verse, SHOULD is usually replaced today with the word WOULD. The word means, “SHALL Come to pass.” It’s usually used in front of a verb to express ideas such as necessity, possibility, intention, and ability. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death;” [Heb 11:5] Enoch DID NOT die. [Gen 5:22,24], it came to pass that Enoch did not see death. In Galatians 1:10, Paul wrote, “…for if I yet pleased men, I should not (WOULD NOT NKJV) be the servant of Christ.” SHOULD is a modal auxiliary verb, as are can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should, will, and would. If you seek to please men over God, they you WOULD NOT be a servant of Christ. The use of SHOULD is not giving you a hall pass of disobedience.
Next, HAVING a choice in no way means you will be rewarded for choosing not to do what you SHOULD do. Free Will is not freedom from consequences. God has always given us the choice to do good or to do evil [Deut 11:26,28]. Just because we HAVE a choice, doesn’t mean God approves when we choose what we SHOULDN’T. “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” [Rom 2:21,22] Would you say that God will give us a pass for theft just because He said we SHOULD not? In another passage, Christ gives a command to the Apostles: “…commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem,” [Acts 1:4]. Are you suggesting they could wait elsewhere and have the same results found in Acts 2?
Third, OUGHT is another word confused by rebels. They will focus on this word in much the same way as they do the word SHOULD. In Acts 5:28-29, we see both words being used. Read these carefully and see if we’re being given liberty to go against what we SHOULD do and OUGHT to do. “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” OUGHT we and SHOULD we obey God? (cf. 40)
We need to remember that UNITY with God comes from doing the things we “SHOULD” & “OUGHT” to do. “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” [2John 6] Are you suggesting we can be UNIFIED with God and NOT do what we SHOULD do?
LANGUAGE may have evolved over time, but God’s word endures forever (cf. 1Peter 1:25). This is nothing more than a LAME attempt at wresting the scriptures to their own destruction [cf. 2Peter 3:16b]. An example of the evolution of a word is found in Genesis 1:28. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” Replenish today means: “to fill again or anew. to make full or complete again, as by supplying what is lacking, used up.” In 1611, the meaning of Replenish meant to fill, accomplish, furnish. Biblical context clearly shows it means to fill something that is empty. SHOULD might appear today as having been given a recommendation or a choice, but that’s not how God uses the word. To fail to understand correct original LANGUAGE usage is to be in jeopardy of wresting the scriptures to your own destruction.
If you DON’T do that which you SHOULD do, you’ll get what you DIDN’T want. The Hebrews writer uses the word SHOULD to show who DIDN’T do what they OUGHT to have done; “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?” They DID NOT enter His rest. [Heb 3:18; cf. Num 13 & 14] Do you suppose that they had a choice about entering God’s rest? Sure, and they SHOULD have crossed the Jordan, but they DID NOT do what they OUGHT to have done and they SHOULD NOT (DID NOT) enter His rest.
In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” They WEREN’T obeying the truth, obeying the truth had come to pass [Gal 5:7, 3:1]. Are you suggesting that the Galatians or we SHOULD NOT obey the truth and get away with it? Are you saying that we have a choice to not DO what God has commanded us to DO, to obey the truth? Are you implying that those who refuse to do what they SHOULD do, like obeying the truth, will enter heaven? I wouldn’t put my trust in that line of reasoning. Consider what Jesus will say on the judgment day…
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]
If obey we SHOULD, then obey we COULD, and obey we OUGHT.
If obey the Gospel we DON’T, when obey the Gospel we OUGHT, then entering heaven we SHOULD NOT. (cf. 2Thess 1:8-9)
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Nobody likes trouble. However, God tells us in His Word to find joy in our trials…
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” [James 1:2]
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [Mat 5:12]
“And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” [Acts 5:41]
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” [2Cor 12:10]
How are we to handle these verses? A solid biblical principle is this; When God gives a command, it’s within our ability to do it. If we SHOULD, the it is something we COULD.
Let’s examine 1Corinthinas 10:13 and see some very comforting truths…
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:”
First, we must recognize is that trouble comes to everyone, it’s WIDESPREAD. Any trouble, temptation or trial you will face will have been faced by others before. “…and there is no new thing under the sun.” [Ecc 1:9b]. There is comfort in the realization that no trouble is truly exotic. You’re not the first person to face trouble, nor the last. The main take away is this, we’re all in this together. The person that struggles with struggles often believes that they’re struggles are special. This mindset will only make things more miserable. We’ll never be able to “rejoice” if we believe we’re the only ones with trouble.
“but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;”
Next, Paul writes that no trouble is able to OVERWHELM us beyond our ability to endure. God won’t allow it. That’s what the verse says. There’s comfort in these words. God doesn’t remove the trouble, but He does limit it to your capacity. Some might say, “I wish God wouldn’t trust me so much.” I get it, nobody likes trouble. However, we need to remember that nothing worthwhile ever comes without effort. James writes, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” [Jas 1:3-4]. This, along with the teaching from Hebrews 12 shows us that enduring trials makes one stronger, more experienced and more capable. This growth then puts us into the position to help others in their time of crisis. It’s through this understanding where we can begin to find Joy in suffering.
“but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Third, God will also provide the way of ESCAPE. Comforting words to be sure. There will always be a means of ESCAPE to all of life’s temptations. Here’s the key that is often overlooked; YOU MUST SEEK IT AND TAKE IT!!! We have to participate in our own rescue. God provides the way of ESCAPE, but it’s up to each of us to take it. This key principle helps us to understand the true nature of Grace. God provides the means, that’s Grace, we must take it and utilize it. God provides the ultimate way of ESCAPE from the penalty of death for our sins; Salvation through obedience to the Gospel. That is Grace. We must act upon this Grace by doing what is commanded in the way of ESCAPE.
“Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love.” [2Peter 1:5-7]
Implied in 1Cor 10:13, and directly stated elsewhere, is the command for us to apply SELF-CONTROL. The reality is that SELF is the only control we have. We cannot often control what happens to us, but we can ALWAYS control how we respond to what happens. Our response to the troubles, trials & tribulations of life are within our ability. Is it any wonder that the word ‘RESPONSIBILITY’ has within it the word ‘RESPONSE?’ Taking Responsibility for what happens to us is vital to our finding joy. This is not to say that all trouble is our fault. Often times it is not. However, acting & responding to whatever happens to us is ALWAYS our responsibility. If God says we SHOULD, we must know that we COULD.
Being challenged in life is inevitable. Being defeated is a choice. As shown through our verse, we can see that we have the means and the choice to endure temptations, trials, tribulations, and troubles. When we take responsibility, when we take action, we will instantly begin to discover JOY.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.5 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home. Source: U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). Living arrangements of children under 18 years old: 1960 to present.
Those are troubling numbers. FATHERS are vital to any society, but what can the church do about it. We can do what we have been appointed to do, train the brethren who are, or hope to be FATHERS. Let’s look at 7 things the Bible Teaches about FATHERS.
Fathers, and all Christians, are to be FEARLESS & FAITHFUL. An example of both is found in the Parents of Moses when they hid him from Pharoah [Heb 11:23; Ex 2:1-4; cf. Rev 21:8]. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”
The second thing, as is seen in the stats above, Fathers are to ABIDE with their children’s mother. Marriage is honorable (Heb 13:4), and it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). Peter wrote, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (1Peter 3:7)
With these first two in place, then the third becomes easier. Fathers are to TRAIN their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4; cf. Heb 12:12:3-11). Numerous Proverbs & other Old Testament passages say the same. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” (Prov 29:17)
The fourth thing is somewhat unpopular at the moment, but is still the Truth. Fathers are to be the HEAD of the Household. He is to lead his house both for their physical needs, but especially for their spiritual needs. (1Tim 3:4; Eph 5:23; 1Cor 11:3) Leading the home is a qualification of Elders in the church.
The fifth thing is a warning to fathers not to ENABLE their children. He is to care for them, but that doesn’t mean he is to enable their sin. An example of this is found in Eli of 1Samual 2:27-36 & 3:13-14. “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”
RESPECT is to be given to fathers by his family, this is the sixth thing (Heb 12:9; Eph 5:33). But respect must be earned, it cannot be forced. Therefore, this is within his ability to do. Earning RESPECT from anyone requires the person desiring it to be worthy of respect. A good starting place might be 2Peter 1:5-10. “…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
Lastly, Fathers are to provide for the SECURITY of their family. This means that he is to work to provide for the physical needs of his house; “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1Tim 5:8) Looking again at the stats at the beginning of this article, one can easily see what happens when a father fails in his duty to provide for his house. Their may be special circumstances that hinder his ability to work, but these do not negate any of his responsibilities. There are many examples of godly men providing for the security of their families, but Job stands out among them all. “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” While we don’t offer burnt offerings today, we fathers must continually pray for our whole family, especially for our children.
Years ago, I was taught how to pray for my children. I pray 5 things for my boys still today.
I pray for their Physical health (3John 2).
I pray for their Emotional Protection. (Pr 4:23)
I pray that they have positive Associates to influence them. (1Cor 15:33)
I pray that they may be Coupled in marriage to Godly women. (1Cor 7:39)
I pray that they be faithful to God and have an Eternal home in Heaven. (2John 4)
Fathers, we have a vital role to play in the lives of our children, let us do it with purpose & joy.
15And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
18And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
20And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. [Mark 4:14-20]
All of us are barraged daily with things that distract. The CHALLENGES of life feel like trying to take a SIP of water from a FIREHOSE. Does your life feel like that? Mine too. Everyone seems to want / need your attention. Some of them are not sinful in themselves, but when we allow them to take away from more important things, then they become sin.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” [James 4:17]
Paul tells us, “And be not conformed to this world” [Rom 12:2]; John says we must “not love the world or the things in the world” [1John 2:15-17]; James wrote “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” [James 4:4] and to remain “unspotted from the world” [James 1:27]. While much can be said about all 4 soils, this article will focus on the Thorny Ground, “the CARES of this world.”
First, we all face the physical (the bible calls them CARNAL) needs of life. Food, Clothing & Shelter are necessities and not sinful. For most of us it feels like we work just to pay our bills, or that we’re in a rat race. This is telling us that the Carnal needs of life are surpassing the “weightier matters.” Another way of saying this is with one word, WORRY. Jesus gives us the remedy; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” [Mat 6:19-34]
A second thing that is not necessarily sinful are the AMUSEMENTS we have. The scriptures teach us that God, “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” It’s ok to relax, rest and enjoy the fruits of our labor. However, when they push out the “weightier matters” they have become sin.“There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” [Prov 21:20] When we take time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, do we forsake the assembling of ourselves together when we go on vacation? We’re not speaking of sinful things like adultery, fornication, stealing, drunkenness, lying, etc. Often, it’s the lawful things that we’ve placed ahead of our service to the Lord.
The third thing that can become a distraction, and I say this with all humility knowing that this one hits our heart, is our RELATIONSHIPS. Family & Friends are important, commanded, and necessary to our existence. [cf. Gen 2:18; 1Cor 7:2; 1Tim 5:16 et al] However, even these can lead to distraction if we allow relationships to take us away from that which is right. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” [Mat 10:37; cf. 1Cor 7:32-33] We must care for our families, AND we must serve the Lord. God is not telling us to stop loving our family, friends, or neighbors. We ought to do these things without leaving the others undone. Here’s something to remember; our family, who have gone on before us, would give this exact advice! [Luke 16:19-31:]
Fourthly, mixed in with all of the above is our need for money. Our household ECONOMICS can elevate to a point where we begin to trust it above our trust in God. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God,” [1Tim 6:10,17; cf. James 5:3; Mat 6:19] One must love and trust the Lord PREEMINENTLY [Col 1:18].
A fifth distraction can be the SOCIAL Ills of the world. Some of us have placed our concern for Societal ills ABOVE the spreading of the Gospel. This concern creeps into our practices in the church. We must be constantly reminded that the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” [Rom 1:16]. We must help our neighbors, and the best way to do that is by teaching them the way of the Lord and by doing things His way [Mat 22:21; 2Thess 3:12; 1Tim 5:16; Eph 4:28].
Be on your guard, be watching and let’s not grow weary doing good while waiting for the Lord’s return. May we be found well doing when He returns. “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” [Luke 12:37]
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and CARES of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” [Luke 21:34; emp mine seb]
“When it’s lightening, that’s God taking pictures.”
“When it’s raining, that’s God crying.”
Perhaps many of us have heard these as children from our parents trying to comfort us. While their intentions were good, the doors were opened for more errors.
I remember hearing a little girl refer to spirits, witches, demons, devils & ghosts to explain sickness, troubles and strange events in her young life. She said, “that’s what my mom told me.”
And this mom is a church goer!!
This little person continued to describe other things she was taught from her parents. “The devil has horns, a red face and a long tale.” Truly sad.
You think that these lies will leave the heart of an imaginative child and not follow them into adulthood? Nay, Nay. An acquaintance of mine spoke about the loss of an adult son; “he had demons.” They weren’t speaking figuratively. Truly sad.
These lies continue to be taught through movies, songs, and YouTube videos. All of which our children are given unfettered and unsupervised access without giving them access to the truth, God’s word.
These stories illustrate a problem we have, people know more that isn’t so than they know about the comfort from the truth. They don’t know the truth, because they are too busy to read it.
A LITTLE MAID.
In second Kings, we hear of a little maid who offers comforting hope to the man that had stolen her from her home in Israel [2King 5:1-4]. What can we learn from a little girl, a little MAID?
Rather than withhold from her enemy the hope of a cure, she ADVISED her mistress, Naaman’s wife, who then told Naaman. Naaman believed and was willing to go to the land from which he stole, and went to the land for help! This all began because of the faith of a little maid. This speaks volumes about her more than it does of the others.
What was it about her that she was willing to tell of a cure to her enemy? Perhaps it was the teaching about love for an enemy… “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” [Lev 19:18; cf. Mat 22:35-39] This command is connected to Loving God Himself! When a person has love for their enemy, the desire for vengeance will evaporate. Love changes our actions toward another, even toward an enemy.
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” [Luke 6:27-28]
What Advice did she give her captor?
“IF ONLY my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” She told of a cure, not half-truths or falsehoods. She told of actual hope, not the mythological fairy tales we tell children to give them false hope. AND THEY BELIEVED HER.
We have to turn to hear Jesus to complete the story…
“And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” [Luke 4:27] Did you catch it? She told them of a cure that She DID NOT HERSELF SEE!! She knew it because of her faith in God, her trust in the Almighty. She had more faith than the king of Israel [2King 5:7]. Jesus uses her example to illustrate Himself being rejected by his own people.
What’s the moral to the story? Children can learn the truth and be comforted by it during their time of need. They don’t need to be told myths. They can handle the truth. The truth will make them free from fear [John 8:32]. And not only that, they can grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and share their faith with others in their time of need.
Some will argue against the preaching of obedience to the gospel by crying, “PREACH THE MAN, NOT THE PLAN.” They may also say, “THE NEW TESTAMENT IS A LOVE LETTER NOT A LAW BOOK.”
How does one answer such charges? Are they correct in their assertions? Is preaching about baptism, the one church, and against the errors of liberalism & denominationalism opposed to preaching the Cross of Christ?
What does the Bible say? If our speech and preaching needs any revision, let us hear it from the revealed word of Jesus the Christ. Philosophies of preaching from liberal professors will not suffice. We shall appeal to the word of God for all things in word or deed [Col 3:17].
As this article begins, we are reminded to ‘season our words with salt’ [Col 4:6]. We are not mad any anyone. Our desire is that everyone come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. It’s to that end that we “Preach the Cross of Christ.”
To preach the CROSS is to preach “CHRIST CRUCIFIED” [1Cor 1:23]. Preaching the cross is to preach the gospel [1Cor 1:17,18]. It is not “with enticing words of man’s wisdom,” “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,” which has been revealed by the Spirit of God in the book of God, the Bible [1Cor 2:1-13].
Those that heard the preaching of the Cross RECEIVED the gospel [Acts 2:41; 8:14; 1Cor 15:1]. To receive the gospel, through the word, is to receive the ‘grace of God’ [2Cor 6:1; Titus 2:11-12]. To preach the cross is to ‘testify the gospel of the grace of God’ [Act 20:24].
Until one is OBEDIENT to the word of his grace, he has not been saved by the preaching of the Cross [1Pet 1:22; 1Cor 1:18]. Whenever and wherever one is obedient to the gospel he is saved by grace [Acts 10:48; 15:11]. When Paul preached the cross to the Corinthians, they were obedient in baptism in the name of Jesus the Christ [Acts 18:8; 1Cor 1:13]. This is how they were “washed” [1Cor 6:11]. Baptism is “in the name of the Lord Jesus” [Mat 28:19; Acts 10:48; 19:5], and baptism “in the name of the Lord” is “for the remission of sins” [Acts 2:38; 10:48; 19:5].
Then, as Paul rebuked SIN found in the church at Corinth, was he not ‘preaching the cross?’ When he spoke against division, immorality, marriage, and the perversions of the Lord’s Supper, was he not ‘preaching the cross?’ [1Cor 14:37]. The entire letter is the command of the Lord, the wisdom of God, the Gospel.
When the elitist tells us to ‘preach the man, not the plan,’ without condemning the antichrist teachings of denominations, they have missed the mark regarding the connection of Jesus to His plan. To preach the Man without His plan is to miss the SYNONYMOUS terms spoken of salvation.
“Baptized into Christ” [Rom 6:3,4; Gal 3:27]. “Baptized into one body,” the church [1Cor 12:13, 20; Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18, 24].
Reconciled unto God “in Christ” [2Cor 5:18-20]. Reconciled unto God “in one body by the cross,” the church [Eph 1:22,23; 2:16].
Saved, redeemed by the blood of Christ [1Peter 1:18-19; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14]. Church purchased with the blood of Christ [Act 20:28].
Christ “gave himself for me” and tasted “death for every man” [Gal 2:20; Heb 2:9]. Christ “gave himself for it,” the church [Eph 5:25].
“In Christ” – “made nigh” – “by the blood” [Eph 2:13]. “In one body” – “reconciled” – “by the cross” [Eph 2:16].
It is not off balance, nor out of focus, to speak about baptism into the body or church of Christ, to speak of reconciliation in one body, the church, to speak of Christ having purchased the church with His own blood. To speak of one, Christ, is to speak of the other, the church. Paul once “persecuted the church” [Act 8:3; Gal 1:13; 1Cor 15:9], but when the Lord appeared to him, He said, “why persecutest thou me?” [Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14]. To preach Christ, to preach the Cross, is to preach the church. If to persecute Christ is to persecute the church, then to preach Christ is to preach the church. It stands to reason, anyone against the doctrine of Christ, is against Christ [2John 9].
Let us therefore, speaking the truth in love, Preach the Cross.