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Sanctification & Growth

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campfire

Paul gives Timothy some very practical advise in today’s Bible reading. All Believers can relate to the occasional waning of passion for God and for practicing the spiritual disciplines. He tells Timothy to, “rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:6–7)

I spent about ten years as a Scout, beginning as a Cub Scout and progressing through the Ranks of Boy Scouts until I earned the rank of Eagle. I spent another ten years as a Scout leader, mentoring my son and other growing young men. One of the important skills Boy Scouts is how to safely work with fire for warmth, cooking, for sterilizing dishes after meals. Again, working safely with fire, we had to let our campfire die down before hitting the sack at night. In the morning, we often wouldn’t have to start a new fire. Instead, we would use a shovel to turn over the ashes to reveal the glowing embers. We’d kneel down and slowly and gently blow into the embers until a flame erupted. From there we would begin adding small sticks and graduate to larger sticks to logs through the day and early evening.

Paul tells Timothy to turn over the apparent dead ashes, reveal the hidden embers, and fan into flame the gift that God gave him years ago. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. The verb tense that Paul uses is not to fan into flame one time, but to keep on fanning into flame his spiritual gift. We don’t know what Timothy’s spiritual gift was; it doesn’t matter anyway because Paul’s point is that he intends that we do the same when our passions wane.

Application

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul tells the Ephesians — the people in Timothy’s church — to not be controlled with wine, but to keep on being filled with the Spirit. Why? Because we leak! One day — or one moment — we may be walking in a spiritual high and the next we may be fighting those indwelling sins that our enemy uses to condemn us and rob us of our joy. Why? Because we leak!

I don’t know a single Believer who constantly walks in a spiritual high. Seasons come and seasons go. Each of us needs to be reminded that we need to keep on fanning the flame of what God has given to us in Jesus.

Practicing the spiritual disciplines can help us to keep on rekindling the embers of passion for God and the things of God. If you’re interested in learning more about the spiritual disciplines, check out these resources by clicking the affiliate links.

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights several solid marks of godly people.

Godly people are known by what they flee from: False doctrine, the love of money, disputes and arguments over words, envy, quarreling, slander, and evil suspicions. Paul argued against these things throughout his letters.

Godly people are also know by what they pursue and fight for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We dont’ have to agree on everything. Actually, it’s helpful if we don’t agree on everything! But the essentials of the faith are worth fighting for. Unfortunately, too often people don’t know what the essentials are. But godly people are careful and pick their battles. They know which hills are worth dying on.

Application

It’s important to note that Paul didn’t give us a list of dos and don’ts as distinguishing marks of godly people. Otherwise — as is our nature — we would use them as checklists to compare ourselves with others. That’s exactly what the Jewish leaders did in the First Century. They thought they were better than others because of the things they did and the things they didn’t do. Many Christians use checklists in the Twenty-First Century, too.

Instead, Paul gives us character qualities, qualities that we find in Jesus Christ, qualities that frankly we can’t manufacture on our own. As we grow to be more like Jesus, our lives manifest His character qualities.

One mark that Paul didn’t bring out here is love. He spends an entire chapter on the mark of love that distinguishes godly people. (1 Corinthians 13) And Jesus pointed out that people would know His disciples by their love for one another. (John 3:35)

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy to guard against people looking down on him because of his youth. We don’t know how old Timothy is. There may have been some concern that this young pastor may not have enough experience or maturity to fulfill his ministry.

There’s a lot to be said about someone with experience in ministry. Years ago as we began our family, we heard someone teach about raising godly children. He had drawn some practical applications from Scripture. But as we pondered what he said, it dawned on us that this man doesn’t have any children. This man isn’t married either. We decided to take what he said with a proverbial grain of salt. Yes, there are truths which any Believer can mine out of God’s Word. Yes, single men can teach a lot from the Bible about raising godly children. But given the choice of a single man with no children and a man with grown, godly children, I’d take the advice of the older man. Most of us probably would.

Obviously, Timothy wasn’t the most experienced pastor, so Paul told him to show himself to be an example of Christian maturity. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 CSB) Timothy can’t do anything about his age. But he can be an example of how a Believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.

Application

There is an application for all of us here. Yes, Timothy was a church “elder”. But don’t think that there’s a different moral calling for the “ordained” than for the “ordinary”.

All of us are called to live a life of integrity and obedience to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. There will always be people younger in the faith than you. Ordained or not, you can show yourself as an example of how a believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.

I’m not talking about putting on a “holier than thou” front. I’m talking about living a genuine life of growing obedience and dependence on the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And everyone is called to that.

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exam

I’ve had my share of tests. I’ve done well on many. I’ve done poorly on some. In today’s Bible reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Actually, Paul asks the Corinthians two question: 1) Are you in the faith? and 2) Do you see Christ in you? Paul implies that if the answer is no, then you don’t pass the test.

Paul uses two different Greek verbs when he asks the questions. The first verb means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing.” [1] The second verb means to “try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use.”[2]

Another way to ask the questions might be, “Examine yourself to see if you’re you a Believer” and “Test yourself as to how genuine your faith is.” In other words, Paul asks the Corinthians quantitative (yes/no?) and qualitative (how well?) elements of the tests. It isn’t enough to say, “Yes I’m a believer.” or “Yes, I adhere to certain religious beliefs.” Paul digs deeper.

Christianity is unlike every religion. Religions are based on believing certain teachings and seeking to appease a deity and/or to rid oneself of deficiencies. Some religions add an element of eternity, others do not.

But Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is completely different when seriously compared to every religion out there.

Application

I believe we need to ask these questions on a regular basis. It keeps us on our toes. It adds a present-day application of our faith test.

I mentioned to our church last Sunday that if you were married several decades ago and you have not had an ongoing and growing relationship with your spouse, something is seriously wrong!” If you claim to have been saved for several decades, but don’t have an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus, something is seriously wrong!

Christians often rattle off that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But let me ask with Paul, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “If so, then how personal is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
[2] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.

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Stronghold, castle

If you’ve been around church very long and you’ve heard about “spiritual warfare”, you’ll find one of the key passages on the subject in today’s Bible reading.

Paul says, “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:3–6 (CSB)

Oftentimes when we run into rough times in our walk with God, prayer is our last resort. Prayer should be our first resort! Why? Because prayer is a very powerful weapon in the battle for our hearts that’s fought mostly in our minds. Unfortunately, we often use prayer as a domestic intercom (“Butler, please adjust the thermostat.”) when prayer is actually a wartime walkie-talkie (“Commander, send reinforcements!”).

Prayer and the other spiritual weapons in our arsenal (Ephesians 6:10-20) are Weapons of Mass Destruction. When Paul says that our weapons are powerful for demolishing strongholds, he isn’t kidding! The word translated demolishing means absolute obliteration. Jesus uses the word to describe the coming destruction of the Temple in Luke 21:6 when “not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down.”

Our weapons tear down strongholds, defined as “1. a castle, stronghold, fortress, fastness. 2. anything on which one relies. 2A. of the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavours to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent.”[1]

Our WMDs attack the false arguments and thoughts that exalt themselves against knowing God. And do you remember what eternal life is? It is knowing God. (John 17:3) Proper use of our spiritual arsenal can affect people’s eternal destinies!

We often think of “spiritual warfare” as fighting demonic forces. But did you notice that Paul doesn’t say anything about using our spiritual arsenal against demonic forces? Of course, I believe in the influence of demonic forces in the life of Believers. But perhaps instead of fighting demons, most of our spiritual warfare has more to do with reclaiming the “thought territory” that we previously surrendered to demonic forces.

Application

A good friend wisely said, “You will never win a spiritual battle with a fleshly weapon.” If that’s true, why do we tend to resort to using fleshly weapons? Because those are the ones we are most familiar with, despite the fact that our spiritual weapons are infinitely more powerful. But we need to grow accustomed to using our spiritual arsenal so we are able to deal most effectively with spiritual warfare.

Using our spiritual weapons to win a battle isn’t the end of their use. We also use our spiritual WMDs to take every thought captive that we would obey Jesus.

[1] Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.

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