Useful To the Master
Useful To the Master
"Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’, and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness’. Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2Timothy 2:19-21).
Resolutions or Rationalizations?
This time of every year, people are usually making some New Year’s resolutions. But many of these are very superficial changes in their lives and many others are short-lived. God has some things to say about our resolutions or promises to change. First, don’t make a promise to God that you are not serious about keeping (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). Secondly, instead of making superficial changes, "rend your heart and not your garments" (Joel 2:13), "bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8), that is, have genuine sorrow over the things that are hindering your relationship with God and determine to remove those sins. God is not impressed with lofty-sounding promises which are short-lived, "For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early" (Hosea 6:4).
- We aren’t getting any younger. Every year is bringing us just that much closer to our final reckoning with God (Romans 13:11).
- If we still haven’t put off various aspects of the old man (Colossians 3:5-9), what have we really gained in the last year? If we don’t change, the coming year will be just like the last year or decade of our life. Do we really want to live another year plagued by some besetting sin or sins?
- If you are not as faithful or as spiritual as you should be, what was your level of happiness last year? What did you accomplish that will stand the test of time? How do you feel about yourself? If you died today, would the things that you have placed before God, would the sins that you have been keeping have been worth it? (Hebrews 11:24-26).
It is healthy now and then to stand back and take a good honest look at ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). From the examples found in the Scriptures we know that it is very easy to allow other things to take precedence over spiritual matters (Matthew 6:31-33; 13:22 "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful"). It is also very easy to rest on past accomplishments (Revelation 3:1), and become apathetic, half-hearted, and uninvolved without even knowing it (3:15-18). Therefore, let us look at ourselves and some responsibilities we have as Christians, and make sure that our resolutions and God’s plans for our lives are one and the same. Instead of thinking, "What do I want to do this year?" We need to ask ourselves, "What does God want me to do?"
God wants His people known for their friendliness, kindness, unselfishness and willingness to share their homes with others (Romans 12:13 "practicing hospitality"; 1 Peter 4:9 "Be hospitable to one another without complaint"; Hebrews 13:1-2). This is one of those areas that we can easily let things slide and then wake up and realize that we haven’t had anyone over, who wasn’t family, for a year or so. One of the best ways to get to know your brethren, and one of the best ways to remove such cynical and feelings of self-pity such as, "Nobody is friendly here", "I don’t feel like I have any friends", "There are too many clichés in the church", and so on, is to have your brethren into your own home. Typically, Christians who have a good attitude about their brethren, and are happy and very involved in the local work, are the same members who are very hospitable.
"He who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7); "On the first day of the week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:2); "And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on" (Luke 21:1-3).
When was the last time we evaluated our giving? Has our giving kept up with our prosperity? When we get a raise, does God get an increase from us? Is our giving still a sacrifice, that is, is our contribution a major item in our budget, or is it an amount that we can easily live without?
One very practical way to maintain the right perspective, to keep our minds on spiritual things (Colossians 3:1-3), resist temptation, and see the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and to have a healthy view of God and our brethren, is to be reading from the Bible every day (Acts 2:42; 17:11; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2:15; Hebrews 5:11-14). Many of us spend a good deal of time reading secular materials. The best way to be able to properly evaluate the usefulness of some novel or biography that we are reading is to have done our Bible reading first. Bible reading plans are in the foyer.
"And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7); "And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).
Men simply need to take the lead in this area, and it isn’t as complicated or hard as it sounds. A family devotion can be nothing more than reading to your children the section of Scripture that they will be studying in Bible class on the following Sunday or Wednesday. As a family you can read through the Old and or New Testament together. One of the best ways for a man to develop confidence in teaching or talking to people about the Bible is to field questions from his children about what he is reading. One of the best ways to remember verses is to be in a situation where someone asks you a question and you are forced either to pull that verse from your memory or go looking for it. In addition, men need to support their wives when their wives want to purchase such things as Bible Concordances, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and other good books for the family library.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19); "Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:4); "For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth" (1 Thessalonians 1:8); "praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned" (Colossians 4:3).
- Motivation: If we really believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World and that people who don’t obey Him will end up suffering for eternity (John 8:24; Matthew 7:21-23), then we will realize that evangelism is simply an essential part of being a godly and virtuous person. If we aren’t motivated to share the gospel with people, such probably means that we really don’t believe what the Bible says.
- Hints: First, look at all the people that God simply drops into our laps. Visitors at services, people who ask us questions at work, relatives, and so on. Start your own home bible class. Either teach it yourself or have someone teach it. Pick some other Christians with whom we want to spend some time and get together and invite some neighbors or friends to this class. Work together as a team in teaching so all the pressure to answer questions doesn’t fall upon one person.
How do we stack up when we compare ourselves in such sections of Scripture as Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 4:26-5:11; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:5-13? Have we been watching movies or television programs that glorify or excuse things which God condemns? Are we becoming friends of the world? Do any of God’s moral standards or teachings cause us embarrassment? Upon what do we allow ourselves to dwell? Right now are we prepared to stand before God and be judged on the things that we have mentally dwelled on this year? (Hebrews 4:12-13; Romans 2:16 "on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus").
Time With Spouse and Children
Everything that I own one day will go to my children. That is just the beginning of many reasons why we need to place them as a very high priority when it comes to my time (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). My spouse and children will all end up either in heaven or hell. How much am I really concerned about them? Spending meaningful time with family now is for the purpose that we can spend an eternity together after this life. Have we lost the proper perspective concerning our employment? Have we forgotten that a job is a means to an end, but was never meant to be the end in itself? (Ephesians 4:28; 6:5-7; 1 Timothy 5:8). Are we aware of what our children need this year? Are we in tune with the particular time or stage in life they are experiencing? Are we prepared for the stages that they will go through in the future? Or, is everything catching us by surprise?
Matthew 25:35-36/James 1:27
How much time this year did I spend visiting the sick, helping those who were in need, spending time with widows, or helping those who are less fortunate? Jesus has already told us that this will be on the final exam.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/ (503) 644-9017