Friday, February 23, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 25, 2018

Over 152,000 readers worldwide

(True life is in GOD, not in the world)
(1 Timothy 6)

   In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “godliness” is “eusebeia” (you-seb-i-ah), and it can only be found in the “pastoral letters” of the Apostle Paul, and, in 2 Peter. It is a term that describes “a reverent faith that expresses an awe of GOD”, that is coupled with “a desire to be obedient to GOD at all times”.
    Here in First Timothy 6, after reminding Christian servants that they should always show respect for their superiors in the workplace (whether their superiors are believers or non-believers), and always work hard and put forth their best effort on the job (Vs.1-3), Paul moves on to give young pastor Timothy a final warning concerning the ever-present threat and reality of false doctrine, that had indeed, already infiltrated the newly founded Christian network of believers.
    The Greeks of the first century, just as we are here in the twenty-first century, were fascinated by fancy speech from entertaining preachers and speakers. They loved to hear expertly trained motivational speakers, who, could deliver on a good topic, or word that could make them feel good about the sinful life that they were living, and not put pressure on them to change. And it was against this backdrop of selfishness that false teachers came preaching their own religious ideology to the Church in Ephesus, where Timothy was now residing as pastor.
    The Christian Church, both wittingly and unwittingly, gave these savvy speakers a new forum in which they could work their magic charm, while, at one and the same time, making themselves rich and famous. They cared nothing about, and knew nothing or very little, about the sound doctrine of CHRIST JESUS that Paul had birthed the Church with. They were simply there to promote and glorify themselves, while under the guise of being “Holy men GOD”.
    Paul warned Timothy that, anybody who taught anything different than what he had already been taught by him, was both, conceited, and, ignorant. Such people possess an unhealthy desire to argue over words that would lead to jealousy, slander, and evil suspicions. Their minds were corrupt, and they were only looking for power and prestige in the Christian Church. To them, religion is just another way to get rich, and, to increase their selfish evil influence.
    Paul tells us in verse 6 that true religion with contentment is great wealth. We didn’t bring anything into this world, and it is a certainty that we can’t take anything of a material nature out of this world when we die. We have to allow ourselves to be content with having enough for our daily needs. This must be the attitude of the true Christian, as having any other mindset puts us at a greater risk of being tempted by satan into abandoning GOD’s plan. And if we move away from GOD’s plan, we can be sure that we will be pierced with many sorrows as a result (Vs.6-10).
    The Christian who is willing to leave material things behind, in their pursuit of an experiential relationship with GOD, stands to gain far greater treasures than the earthly perishables that he or she has long become accustomed to valuing and desiring. When we choose to go the way of CHRIST JESUS, we obtain insurmountable spiritual gains, such as the following;

·         We gain a personality that begins to exhibit GOD’s transforming works in our lives to others.
·         We begin to share the mind of CHRIST in our thinking, as we are, more and more, attuned to the things of GOD.
·         We gain a heart that beats more and more in sync with GOD’s OWN heart.
·         We gain a will that shapes all of our choices, so that we may glorify GOD more, and glorify ourselves less.
·         We store up spiritual gains that are waiting for us, when we are forced to part from this world of material lures, and the evil influences from the people of this world.

    In verses 11-16, Paul urges young Timothy to shun, or, turn his back to the evil influences of the world because he belongs to GOD. People who truly belong to GOD are interested only in pursuing GODly lifestyles that include love, faith, perseverance, and gentleness. We have to “fight the good fight“, for what we believe in, and begin to defend the Gospel of CHRIST with our whole life. Then, at the right time, CHRIST will be revealed to us by GOD the FATHER, as being the KING of all kings, and, the LORD of all lords.       
    In verses 17-21, Paul closes this pastoral letter with a warning to the rich people of this world. Here he instructs Timothy to tell all who are rich, not to be proud, and not to trust in their wealth, which might soon enough be gone. The rich should instead, put their trust in the LIVING GOD, WHO, is richly willing to give to, even the poorest of men, everything that he daily needs.
    The apostle goes on to say that, the rich should use their money to do good works, and to always show a willingness to give generously to those in need. That way, they will not only be “storing up treasures in Heaven”, but they will also be establishing a solid foundation for themselves and their children’s children, here on earth.  
    And finally, Paul urges Timothy to guard what GOD has entrusted to him, and to avoid GOD-less, foolish discussions with people who oppose the LORD with their so-called knowledge. For some people have actually wandered away from the faith, and instead, chose to follow their own foolishness, all the way to the grave.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, February 16, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 18, 2018

Over 151,000 readers worldwide

(GOD takes care of HIS faithful disciples)
(Acts 9:32-43)

   Acts chapter 9 closes with Luke’s account of when the Apostle Peter traveled to the town of Lydda, one of his many stops on his itinerant missions around Judea. Today this city is called Lod, and it is located just south of Israel’s international airport. It was there that Peter encounters a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed, and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter’s miraculous healing of this man, in the name of CHRIST JESUS, caused many Jews in Lydda, and, in the nearby plains of Sharon, to convert to the Christian faith, and accept CHRIST as their LORD and SAVIOR.    
    While Peter was in Lydda, an endeared Christian woman by the name of Tabitha (“Dorcas” in the Greek ), who lived in the nearby city of Joppa, became ill and died. Dorcas was widely known for her ministry in working with the poor. After hearing of Peter’s miraculous healing of Aeneas in Lydda, two men were sent there to try and persuade Peter to take the eleven-mile trip to Joppa, and perhaps perform another miracle by restoring the beloved Dorcas back to life. They had faith that, through Peter, GOD, could and would, raise this beloved woman from the dead, just as CHRIST had done a few years earlier with HIS resurrection of Lazarus.
    Upon his arrival in Joppa, Peter was taken to an upper room where Dorcas’ body laid in state awaiting burial. The room was filled with weeping widows whose lives had been touched by Dorcas’ charity, caring, and compassion over the years. After entering the room, in the tradition of Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 4:33), and our LORD JESUS CHRIST (Luke 8:51), Peter sent everyone out of the room.
    He then knelt down and began to pray before turning to the deceased and commanding her to get up. Dorcas opened her eyes and Peter took her by the hand and helped her up, and then, called the others back into the room to see that she was indeed alive.
    Because of these miraculous events, news spread throughout the land of the goodness of GOD, and how HE can work in the lives of those who believe on CHRIST JESUS. It was events like these that Luke tells us, catapulted Christianity from being a tiny little-known Jewish sect, in those days, into a major religious movement by the end of the first century. And it all began with the real-life examples of charitable, caring people like Peter, Dorcas, and originally, CHRIST JESUS, HIMSELF. 
   When we show others that we care for them, we are exercising the same form of evangelism that was used to springboard and spur the growth of the Christian Church into prominence in the first century. And it is that same formidable mechanism of love and care, that we can help us to regain that kind of momentum in today’s Christian Church.
    Miracles have never been solely for those believers who benefited from them personally, and in fact, they are most often used by GOD to help non-believers make the decision to come to CHRIST. By showing others that we care for them, we are really showing our love for JESUS, and in fact, we don’t really even prove our love for JESUS unless we are willing to take on HIS task, and, take up our own cross.
    In other words, we must begin to pull our own weight as responsible Christians in the “spiritual battle” that is already upon us. And perhaps the biggest part of performing that task lies in us learning to love and care for one another in the traditions and examples of “agape love” that has already been exhibited to us by CHRIST JESUS, and the CHRIST-like people of Scripture who preceded us in time.  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, February 9, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 11, 2018

Over 150,000 readers worldwide

(Let your words reflect and honor GOD)
(James 3)

   When JESUS becomes the LORD of our heart (kardia), HE also automatically becomes the LORD of our thoughts, and our thoughts control our tongues. Not many people should become teachers in the Christian Church, because those who teach will be judged by GOD with greater strictness (James 3:1).
    After explaining the Christian characteristics of “patience” in chapter 1, and of “truth”, in chapter 2, James, the brother of JESUS, now moves on to the subject of “Christian maturity” here in chapter 3. Here he endeavors to explain the all-important characteristic of a Christian being able to “control his or her thoughts and tongues”.
    Here James begins by discouraging the efforts, or ideas of too many people seeking to be teachers in the Church. He reminds us that teachers are evaluated by GOD in a much stricter manner than everyone else. To teach GOD’s Word is the most serious of undertakings, and must by no means be taken lightly. And while it is a great privilege to teach, such a calling comes with an even greater responsibility and dedication. And perhaps the greatest responsibility of all is controlling the tongue with which we teach. In fact, James says that, if we are successful in doing so, we should also be able to control ourselves in every other area of our lives (v.2).
    The mature Christian must “be patient in troubled times”, “practice the truth”, and, “exercise power over his or her own tongue” constantly. Our words must always reflect GOD’s wisdom, and not, the wisdom of the world. Thereby, James is saying that, “controlled talk”, and “cultivated thought” are both necessary at all times.
    As Christians, we must not be prone to gossip, sarcasm, or trying to hurt or destroy one another with the words that we speak. The tongue is a small, but powerful instrument, and with it, we have the power to direct (Vs.1-4), destroy (Vs.5-8), or delight one another (Vs.9-12). We can use our tongue, to praise GOD, and, to curse. Or, with our use of foul language, we can even cuss those who are made in the image of GOD.
    In verses 3-5a, James uses the examples of “a horses bit”, which is used to control the horse’s direction, and “a rudder”, which is used to pilot, or steer a ship in any direction, even in a storm. As small as these two items are, they are very effective in controlling the powerful horse on land, and the massive ship in the storm. The human tongue can be likened to that in its size-to-power ratio. It can be a great director of GOD’s wisdom as it is taught to others, or, it can be a great destroyer, and do tremendous damage to mankind if its teachings are false.
    In verses 5b-6, James likens the tongue to a tiny spark that can set off a great forest fire. He tells us that the tongue can be a flaming fire full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the course of a person’s life into a blazing flame of destruction that seems to have been set off by hell itself.
    Even a person, who possesses a faith that produces many works, will still have to meet many challenges along their Christian walk. Among the first of those challenges is to learn to deal with the very tongue that has always been with them. The tongue can be uncontrollable, and it exerts a tremendous amount of influence into the lives of all people.
    The term “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a statement that is a classic example of worldly wisdom, and is in fact, a lie. Words can sometimes cut to the bone, even more deeply than sticks and stones, and can indeed, be very painful, and can hurt for a lifetime.
    The words of our tongue changes only when our “thought process” changes. As Christians our thought process must be more reflective of GOD, and more fixed on the will of GOD, and thereby, our goal must be to be able to share the mind of CHRIST. Until our hearts, or, thought processes changes, we won’t ever be able to tame our tongues, or replace “worldly wisdom” with “the wisdom and knowledge of GOD”.
    Another problem that we as humans face in life, rather Christian or non-Christian, is that of our own “sin nature”, which causes us to harbor bitterness and ambition in our hearts. Through the influence of sin nature, we become moved by a worldly wisdom that aids us in achieving worldly selfish ends, that leaves others in ruin in our wake.    
    Wisdom from GOD, on the other hand, directs us into a pure, peace-loving, and submissive way of life and thinking under GOD, that, we will not, and cannot, find through our dealings in world wisdom. We need to become accustomed to living by the GODly wisdom that will ultimately bring us a harvest of righteousness through CHRIST JESUS. We must learn to speak with thoughtful speech, and always let our words reflect the wisdom that comes from GOD HIMSELF.
    However, this does not mean that we won’t ever offend others while we are defending the Word of GOD (the Gospel), with our speech, in the world. For, the Word of GOD will often offend those who are anti-CHRIST in their thinking. And hopefully, we ourselves, as Christians, won’t be offended on those occasions when we too need to be “rebuked” by others for intentionally, or, unintentionally straying from the Word of “the GOD we say we serve and represent”, in this world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 

Friday, February 2, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 4, 2018

Over 150,000 readers worldwide

(Faith leads to action)
(James 2:14-26)

   Faith that doesn’t manifest itself through good deeds is equivalent to “no faith at all”, and indeed, is dead and worthless in the eyes of GOD (James 2:17). GOD gauges our faith directly by our actions, and what we say means very little to GOD, if our words come from an unrighteous mind (evil impure thoughts).
    Man continues to prove, over time, that he seldom does what he says he will do. On the contrary, man always, 100% of the time, does that which is in his “heart” (“kardia”-the way man thinks). And so “man’s heart” (“thoughts”) remains the barometer by which GOD measures our faith, for HE seldom takes into account what a man might say, if his mind is not fixed on right “right living”.
    It is the duty of the Christian to build his or her foundation on the “Most High Faith” of the “Most High GOD”. We have the charge from CHRIST to demonstrate our love by readily and willingly showing love to others, and, by our volition to serve and aid our fellowman whenever, and wherever, the need exists. True faith always manifests itself through good deeds, and serves as evidence of who we really are “on the inside”.
    This section of James’ letter to the Jewish Christians begins with two probing questions;

·         What’s the use of saying you have faith, if you don’t prove it by your actions? (v.14)
·         What good does it do to believe that there is only one GOD, if you don’t act accordingly, by obeying only HIS commandment to show love to one another, through our acts of good deeds towards one another? (Vs.19-20)

    Both of these questions help us to focus squarely on “the relationship” between “Faith and Works”. In his first question James asks, “What good is it?”, or “Of what advantage can it be if our faith in GOD doesn’t manifest itself in our good deeds? Here James wants us to envision a man who “says he is a Christian” simply because “he thinks he has faith”. However, this same man “hasn’t exhibited any good or GODly works”, as a result of that professed faith.
    This particular man, for instance, hasn’t endured many trials or temptations, doesn’t have the right attitude towards wealth, doesn’t eagerly receive GOD’s Word into his heart, and doesn’t care for orphans or widows. In addition, this man often shows favoritism toward certain people, and exhibits all of the “bad fruit” that James had previously mentioned in this letter.
    Intellectual acceptance of GOD is not, in itself, a “Saving Faith”, because, even demons know that GOD exists (v.19). A “Saving Faith” will always have a discernible positive impact on a person’s attitude and behavior. Faith that does not produce “good fruit” in our life, and, in the lives of others, is NOT a Saving Faith, and cannot save anyone from the penalty that GOD imposes on our sin.
    In verses 20-26, James uses the examples of Abraham (Genesis 22:16-18) and Rahab (Joshua 2:1-7) to help us distinguish between “Professed Faith” and “Saving Faith”. In Genesis 22, Abraham, who was declared “righteous” by GOD, had to show his faith through his actions by offering up his own son as a living sacrifice to GOD, simply because GOD asked him to, and without even understanding why.
    In Joshua 2, Rahab, a Gentile woman, “acted on her faith in GOD” by risking her life, and the lives of her family to protect the men of GOD, who had come to spy out her homeland. And so here, it becomes increasingly clear that, we are made right with GOD by our righteous deeds, and not just, by “saying we have faith” (James 2:21-25). And just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also, faith is dead without good deeds (v.26).
    “Saving Faith” is a faith that is manifested through good works before and under GOD, even while under pressure and duress from our emotions. Any so-called faith that is not accompanied by good works is not a faith that can save a person from eternal damnation. People like Abraham and Rahab show a dynamic obedience to GOD under pressure and duress that can only be considered as “Saving Faith” by GOD in Heaven, our ETERNAL JUDGE.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander    

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