In today’s Bible reading, Peter reminds us that God’s promise is sure: Jesus will return. He says that scoffers will come, trying to discourage God’s children by pointing out that Jesus has yet to return. “Where is the promise of His coming He predicted?” (2 Peter 3:4)
There will always be nay-sayers. There will always be scoffers. There will always be haters. But Peter reminds us to be vigilant and to actively wait for Jesus’ return. “Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace.” 2 Peter 3:14 (CSB)
In Peter’s mind, there’s no such thing as expressing a belief in Christ and then living an unchanged life. Coming to faith in Christ will cause life change. Those who repent of their sin and turn to Jesus (in other words, actually becoming a Christian) have a job to do: stay close and stay clean. (2 Peter 3:14)
OK, so how do you stay close and stay clean? Maintain a close relationship with God. And one of the best ways to do this is to practice the Spiritual Disciplines: Bible reading, Bible study, Bible verse memory, prayer, worship, evangelism, fasting, giving thanks, giving, and fellowshiping with other Believers. (These are a few and they are in no particular order)
One great book on the Spiritual Disciplines is Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Please take a couple of minutes to listen to John Piper talk about Dave Mathis’ book Habits of Grace. I think it really catches the idea behind practicing the Spiritual Disciplines. Spoiler alert: It isn’t about doing the disciplines. It’s about loving Jesus more.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?
I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.
But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)
Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.
Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.
In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.
Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!
Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.
Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.
In today’s Bible reading, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. It was an abnormal meeting because Jews never went through Samaria and women generally didn’t draw water from wells in the middle of the day. But here they are: a young rabbi and a woman with a troubled past. And they’re talking about God.
After telling her that He is the source of living water and that some day both the Samaritans and Jews will worship the Father together in Spirit and in Truth, she runs off to tell her friends and family about a man who knew everything about her. (John 4:29)
Next, the Disciples engage Jesus about his lunch plans. He dodges their questions and tells them to look up; the fields are ready for the harvest. John tells us that many Samaritans believed Jesus because of the woman’s testimony about Him. Still others believe, not just because of her testimony, but because they experience Him for themselves.
So what did Jesus mean by “the fields are ready for harvest”?
Jesus had “primed the pump” so to speak with the woman and the Samaritan people came, interested to find out more. Meanwhile, God was priming the pump of the people’s hearts, making them ready to hear what Jesus would say to them.
We think the people came, seeking Jesus, when in reality, God was already seeking them! (John 4:23) Now, after heartily endorsing the Christian Standard Bible’s treatment of John 3:16 in yesterday’s devotional, I need to point out that the CSB’s weakness on John 4:23 (CSB). It isn’t that the Father wants (CSB) people to worship Him. It’s that the Father seeks (ESV) people to worship Him. We’ll read in 6:44 that unless the Father draws someone, they won’t seek on their own. Paul confirms this in Romans 3:11 as he quotes Psalm 14:1-3.
Our efforts to tell people about Jesus will be completely ineffective if we haven’t bathed those efforts in prayer. If God hasn’t prepared their hearts, they simply won’t hear the Gospel message. And I think that partially explains why there are so many false conversions: people are pressed to make a decision for Jesus when their hearts aren’t in it. They politely pray a prayer and are told that they are forever saved and eternally secure. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
The best witnesses are those who simply tell their experience with Jesus and invite others to know Him, too.
That was true two thousand years ago. And it’s true now. You don’t have to burden yourself learning lots of apologetics arguments. They may help, but unless God has prepared their hearts, no argument under heaven will save them.
Talking about God with people must be preceded by prayer, bathed in prayer, and supported by prayer. There simply is no substitute for prayer in evangelism. And that’s something that any Believer can do!
Pray that God would give you boldness. Pray that God would give you the right words to say. Pray that God would prepare their hearts to receive the Gospel message. And pray that the Gospel message lands on “good soil” (Matthew 13:23)
Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.
I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.
Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.
The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
And that requires that we use words.
What does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians to “come out and be separate” and to not be “unequally yoked” in today’s Bible reading? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17) Does he mean that Believers are supposed to only deal with Christian businesses? In light of recent Social Media posts, maybe this means Believers should eat at Chic fil-A instead of Popeye’s. Maybe Believers should live in communes to avoid contamination from the world. Maybe Believers should make their clothes rather than wearing “tainted” branded clothes made and advertized by companies that support liberal, godless agendas. Maybe Believers should only date and marry believers. Maybe Believers should boycott businesses that are supported by groups that support liberal, godless agendas. I remember a boycott against a cruise line or an entertainment resort because they had a “Gay Pride” week. There are Christians who have taken any or all of these applications from Paul’s instructions.
Let me just say that if Believers spend all their time trying to avoid contact with the world, we won’t be able to establish relationships and win people to Christ and disciple them in the faith… which is one of the things Jesus commanded us to do! Jesus prayed in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17 that God would protect Believers as they lived in the world, but not of it. (John 17:14–18)
If Jesus really wanted us to come out and be separate — completely — He would rapture Believers immediately after becoming Christians. But who would tell the lost people then?
One of my favorite Christian artists, Lauren Daigle came under fire a few months ago for appearing on the Ellen TV show and for not clearly denouncing homosexuality. Thirty-some odd years ago, Christian artist Amy Grant came under fire for singing and shooting a music video “The Next Time I Fall in Love” with Chicago’s Peter Cetera.
Let me just say that not everyone has the same platform and not everyone can reach every audience. I will never be asked to be on the Ellen TV show. Probably no one else who reads this devo will either. What many critics don’t know is that the day she appeared on Ellen, every studio audience member went home with a copy of Lauren Daigle’s CD. Daigle’s music has been featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars. Some secular radio stations have played some of her music. No, Lauren Daigle’s music doesn’t preach the Gospel in the traditional sense, though it is clearly aimed at praising God.
Lauren Daigle is reaching people I never will be able to. And as she reaches out to them, maybe they’ll hear a little about Jesus that they’ll never hear me be able to tell them. We need to pray for people like Lauren Daigle. Pray she stays close to Jesus. And pray that she stays clean in her walk with Him so that when she tells people about Jesus, they will listen to a person of integrity.
There is more to preaching the Gospel than presenting a Four Spiritual Laws message with an invitation. And let me just say that a church doesn’t have to do a gospel presentation complete with an altar call every time it does an outreach event. For several years, our church has hosted a Fall “Trunk-or-Treat” Outreach around October 31. We also host an Egg Hunt Outreach during the Resurrection Day weekend. I clearly present the Gospel at the Egg Hunt, but because of the come-and-go nature of our “Trunk-or-Treat”, I don’t give a presentation for that outreach. Sometimes, we just need to make ourselves available to be friends. Even with people whose lives are very different from ours.
People don’t always need to know what we’re against. Many times — most times — they need to know what we’re for. Though oftentimes, we do the exact opposite of this.
Paul’s point in saying Believers should come out and be separate is that we should be different. But I don’t think Paul was telling us to be weird.
And God hasn’t left us up to our own devices to be different. He gave His Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy lives. Not weird lives.
Perhaps Paul’s emphasis of “come out and be separate” has more to do with what (Who) we are coming out to and being separated for rather than than what we are coming out and being separated from.