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Tag Archives: Paul

At The Gate of Hell

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 12 through 14, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:12-14)

One interesting thing to note about this passage, is that God isn’t criticizing them when He says that they dwell where Satan’s throne is. To the contrary, it’s only after He mentions it that He says what it is He has against them. What the church in Pergamum was doing, was setting up a camp right next to Hell, if you will. Most Christians today aren’t even willing to go near the “bad side” of town, much less live in a city that hated Christians; they deserved some form of recognition. However, living so near to sin lead to some of them to return to it.

There is always danger when we are near to sin. Paul put it rather well in his epistle to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (see: Galatians 6:1) Though we might not fall for the teaching of Balaam, we may be tempted by other things. Everyone has something that, if they were not clinging to Christ, they would turn to–some type of modern-day idol. Which is why it is so important that we do evangelize and help others who have fallen to sin, but we do so while keeping our-self pure from the sin which they are caught in. And, as only Christ is pure in this World full of impurity, that means making sure that our focus is on Him. Of course, our focus should always be on Him, but even more so when we’re trying to help a fallen brother or sister.

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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Athletic Soldier-Farmers for Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:3-6)

Share in Christ’s sufferings first, then in all you do aim to please God, then in all you do make sure to “compete according to the rules”. Once you’ve done all that, you can expect your reward… This is how the passage might apply to our lives. It has some obvious applications for pastors as well (it was, after all, written for a pastor: Timothy), but for now let’s focus on the impact it can have on our own lives.

Paul always make sure that the most important point comes first in his letters, and here is no different. He reminds Timothy to, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus ought, to share in Christ’s sufferings. Back then this could have been meant quite literally that Timothy was to be willing to share in Christ’s physical suffering. Even today, in certain parts of the World, this can have a physical meaning. However, for those who have been blessed with a life which isn’t currently being threatened, I believe it can also have a Spiritual meaning: i.e., that we should be willing to see and, in some small part, “feel” what Christ suffered on the cross, when He took our sin and guilt and shame upon Himself..

The next part of what Paul tells Timothy, says to not get involved with “civilian pursuits”, but aim to please God. This has rather obvious application to our own life: We should not allow anything to become more important in our life than doing all that we can to please God.

Paul’s next point, is that an athlete is only crowned when he competes according to the rules. This point perhaps applies a bit more to pastors than to others, as I believe Paul intended this to mean that pastors are to preach “according to the rules”; i.e. according to the “rules” the Bible sets out for pastors. That being said, it’s also quite important for us to obey the doctrines the Bible lays out for us.

Paul’s final point is that the “hard-working farmer” should get the first share from the crops. I believe this point was also intended rather more for pastors, as Paul is stating that a preacher that plants the seeds of the Gospel in his congregation, ought to be paid. However, it should also tell us non-pastoring people that we should indeed give at least something to our pastor. Most work quite hard to write and to preach sermons, and so long as those sermons include the power of God, they ought to be rewarded with money for their hard work.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Following Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul tells here that we are to train in Godliness, yet, he doesn’t seem to actually tell us how to go about this. Perhaps it’s assumed we should already know how to go about doing this, or perhaps he wants us to infer how to train our-self in Godliness from context. – Either way, we can know that, whatever training our-self in Godliness looks like, it’s the opposite of studying “irreverent, silly myths.”  From this, we can draw the conclusion that training our-self in Godliness involves being reverent, and we go about it by studying some kind of solid, provable material.

In other words, Paul wants us to train our-self in Godliness, by reading and studying Scripture. He does not want us to study irreverent myths, such as what the Pope may tell us, or such as Ellen G. White may tell us. He wants us to search out the Scripture for our-self, and find the truth. More specifically, he wants us to search out the Scriptures, and find the only truth, the only way into Heaven, and the source of our new life: Jesus Christ! I believe that training in Godliness can only really be accomplished when we look to the one who was God incarnate, and follow the example that He has given to us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Does God Get What God Wants

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

Now, this is one of the favorite passages of Universalists, because of the simple logic that B must follow A. i.e. God wants all people to be saved, God is all-powerful and therefore can get whatever He wants, therefore all people will be saved (come to the knowledge of truth). Now, I personally won’t say one way or the other as to what I believe on this, as I just know somewhere out there, there is someone on both sides who will claim they’ve figured out all the passages on the matter fifteen years ago, after their parents and uncle just died, and using only a spoon, and I just don’t want to have that conversation as of right now. However, I will say that there are passages on both sides of the matter. Some people would say that Matthew 25:31-46 (where Jesus separates the goats from the sheep), for example, teaches that not all people will be saved.

Regardless of your personal belief on universal salvation though, there is one thing that we should never forget, and that is context. So many people read “God wants all people to come to the knowledge of truth,” and then ignore the very next couple of verses! Regardless of whether or not all people will be saved, we can know for a fact that the only way they will be saved, is through Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (sorry Pope), because He is the only one that can be mediator between God and man. I believe the main point of the passage is that God has provided a way whereby all people can be saved. Does that mean all people will be saved? Maybe, maybe not. We won’t know until we are in Heaven, but we can always be confident that if someone puts their faith in Jesus, He will cleanse them, save them, and make them a new creation in Him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Prayer: A Conversation with God

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

People have a tendency, both in and outside of their prayer life, to shut them-self up into their comfort zone. – To only pray for them-self, and possibly a select group of others. This, however, is not what God wants. If Jesus had stayed within his comfort zone, he would’ve stayed on the Mount of Olives (where he prayed that God would take “this cup” away from Him), and then look where we’d be. Likewise, God wants us to not just say a quick couple of words to Him, but to have a conversation: He wants us to ask for everything we need, He wants us to rely on Him.

So we should pray for, along with our-self and our little group, all people. God is powerful, He can handle big requests. It’s only our flesh that keeps us from asking; that makes us think that God might not be powerful enough to accomplish something.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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From Depraved to Saved

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Now, this passage can seem a little foreboding at first. After all, if Paul was the foremost among sinners, what can we call ourselves? Now, it is true that Paul persecuted that Church (and so has some reason to try to call himself chief of sinners) it’s also true that none of us wrote a healthy portion of the New Testament. Nor, for that matter, have any of us in all likelihood been stoned, beaten, or imprisoned for the Gospel.

Yet, something we need to realize, is that Paul’s doing all those things (or having them done to him) didn’t have any impact on his actual salvation. It probably had a very significant impact on his faith, but did nothing towards saving him. – Paul was someone who recognized that no good deed he could do could ever compensate for even a single sin in God’s eyes. It’s only by Jesus’ death and Resurrection that both his and our sins could ever be wiped away. In fact, he essentially reminds us of his this fact here in 1 Timothy:

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

Paul has a sense of his own depravity. He realized that Jesus’ saving him was really a miracle in patience. We all should, at least to some extent, think on how bad we really were. We should realize our own depravity, as Paul did. But we should also never stop there. Rather, we should do what Paul does in the very next verse:

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1: 17)

Yes we were wicked, but God is good, and he forgave us our wickedness! We need to constantly remember this; to constantly remember that though we were lost in our sin, Jesus chose to come and die so that we can live forever. It’s only by Him and Him alone that we can live a life to God.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Contradiction

Hello again!

This is what god gave me today in His word:

“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. (Luke 16:16-17)

It appears that Jesus has just contradicted Himself, and in the time it takes to draw a breath too.-The Law and the Prophets were valid until John came, but it’d be easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away before one dot of the Law becomes invalid? Come again? Not only that, but as Paul tells us that all Scripture, including the Law and the Prophets, is God breathed, and useful for numerous tasks [2 Timothy 3:16], he seems to support Jesus’ second assertion… But, is there perhaps some way to tell for certain what Jesus meant?

He meant exactly what He said, and Paul meant exactly what He said. We no longer have to obey the ten commandments because Jesus’ death and Resurrection has made us poor and spotless in God’s sight. However, the Prophet’s and the law aren’t meaningless. This is because of two reasons:

  1. Because if you were to live a perfect life, you would indeed be saved apart from Jesus. The problem with this being that this is a physical impossibility. No matter how you look at it, even someone in the most ideal of circumstances will sin at least once in their life time. Just look at Adam and Eve.
  2. We can still learn from them. By “learn from them,” I mean we can receive all the things which Paul said that we can learn from them, namely: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

The point being this: first and foremost, the Bible doesn’t have any contradictions in it. Numerous people say that it does, but it simply does not; it’s all how you look at it. Secondly, though we can learn from the law and the prophets, they cannot save us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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