Spiritual Growth

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"Earnestly Contend For The Faith."

Thursday, August 27, 2020

            Jude wrote to the Christians to tell them that though he intended to write a letter focusing on the common salvation that they have, he saw it necessary to write a letter that exhorts them to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (v. 3). In the letter, Jude lists several who refused the truth and disobeyed the faith delivered by faithful preachers and prophets (v. 4-19). In other words, these folks had no regard for the faith. Jude’s letter is an attempt to keep the brethren on the right track!

            Mr. Strong says that “earnestly contend” has to do with struggling. Thus, Jude’s point (through the Holy Spirit) is that it is the Christian’s responsibility to struggle for the faith. It was inspired by God (II Pet. 1:20-21), but we do not keep it with us by mere will. We must work to read and apply, as a “workman” (Eph. 3:4; II Tim. 2:15). Furthermore, we must be active in spreading this truth (II Tim. 2:2, 4:2). The seed (Lk. 8:11) will not sow itself! This word is twisted by many (Gal. 1:6-9; II Pet. 3:16), and denied by a majority (Jn. 18:38). Yet, it has outlived kingdoms for millennia (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25)! 

When Jude spoke of “the faith,” this is contrasted with one’s personal faith. “The faith” is God’s objective truth (“one faith,” Eph. 4:5) that was “once” or “once and for all” (ASV, CEV, ESV, ISV, NET) delivered to the saints. Since God’s word was given “once and for all,” it is unique. This word is complete or “perfect” (I Cor. 13:8-10). This “complete” word makes us complete (II Tim. 3:17; II Pet. 1:3). It feeds us (Heb. 5:12-14; I Pet. 2:2). It is our armor (Eph. 6:14-18). It is our guide (Ps. 119:105). It saves (Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 15:1-2). How can we not struggle to spread and defend this truth when it does so much for us? 

            Let us take heed to Jude’s exhortation and make sure we are contending earnestly for the faith. This is all the revelation we have! We’re not getting any more! Therefore, let us believe the word, obey the commands, trust the promises, and look forward to Heaven when this life is over! 

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“The Christian’s Retirement”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

            Something that impresses me when I read II John and III John is that John had not “retired” from being a Christian (II Jn. 12; III Jn. 13-14)! In both letters, John called himself an “elder” (II Jn. 1; III Jn. 1). In this case, he refers to his advanced age, not that he had oversight over a particular congregation. Therefore, we read about a man, an apostle, someone who has seen Jesus, who has performed miracles, who has endured suffering, and someone who has enjoyed many victories and experienced defeats. He had a life similar to Paul’s (II Cor. 11:23-28), and John was not ready to quit yet!

John is an old man, an old Christian, when he writes these letters. Though advanced in years, he is not sitting in an easy chair! He is not grumbling about the young people! Conversely, he is not complaining about his advanced years and saying, “let the young people do it.” He has not stopped serving God. Before this man dies, he will have written five books of the New Testament. In addition this, he was consistently and continually preaching the truth. In two of his letters, he promises to visit the recipients and talk with them “face-to-face.” I do not know the miles between them, but I read of a man who writes in concern for souls and then says, “I am ready to do more. I’ll be there soon.” John did not “retire” from the Lord’s service when he reached a certain age!

            Since our society considers 65 the “retirement age,” I am concerned at how much this mentality has spilled over into the Lord’s body. How much work are we letting slip by because those 65 and above might see themselves as retiring, not only from an occupation but also from our work as Christians? I know there are exceptions to what I just wrote. I am thankful for such people and I wish that there were more like them.

            More often than not, though, I hear older folks say that they think the “younger ones” ought to “step up” and take on more responsibilities. If this is said with the mindset of furthering the Lord’s work, I agree. If this is said because the older ones wish to do less, then I think this is the wrong motivation!

Don’t forget that the older men are here for our instruction, and we need to be influenced by them while they are around (Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31; I Tim. 5:1; I Pet. 5:5)! John knew he had work to do to the end of his life. May we remember the same thing! Yes, the work of older people will look different than younger folks’ work, but I beg the older folks to please not deprive us of your wisdom and experience by “retiring” too soon! It has been said, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” How true! I pray older Christians will give us the benefit of their wisdom and experience while they are still here (Jn. 9:4). All of us need to be faithful to God until we leave this world (I Cor. 15:58)! Then, we can “retire” (Heb. 4:9-11)! I am thankful John didn’t retire too soon, aren’t you?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"No Greater Joy"

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

            John told Gaius, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III Jn. 4). This statement, though short, teaches us several things. Let us break this verse down, see what John was saying, and make some applications to our lives.

“I Have No Greater Joy” - Nothing gave John greater joy than to know that Gaius, Demetrius (v. 12), and other Christians (i.e., “friends,” v. 14) were holding fast to the Lord. He had his joy set on things eternal and not temporal (II Cor. 4:18). In other words, John’s joy didn’t rest in men’s opinion of him or some physical pursuit. John’s joy was in knowing that faithful Christians were doing their duty for the Lord! (See: II John 4)

            Friend, what gives you joy? Is it vacations? Physical pursuits? Work? Children? Cars? Hobbies? These things might bring momentary happiness, but what brings joy? Is our true joy found in spiritual things? If we truly love the brethren as we ought (I Pet. 2:17), we will be able to speak as John concerning the well-doing of brethren all over this country and world!

“Than To Hear” - Though he wasn’t there in body, John was concerned for the brethren. He wanted “to hear” about Gaius, and others and learn about their welfare. I know brethren who look down on such concern for others, but John (and the other apostles) showed us the proper example (I Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Eph. 5:1-2). Please understand, John wasn’t interested in gossip, etc., but genuinely concerned for their souls. This needs to be our attitude as well (Prov. 25:25).

            Other apostles showed concern for the brethren as well. We see Paul’s care for brethren through all of his epistles (II Cor. 11:28; Rom. 16:1-15; I Cor. 1:11; Phil. 4:21; Col. 4:15, 17). The same goes for Peter (I Pet. 1:1, 2:17; II Pet. 1:1).

            How concerned are we for our brethren? Do we show it through prayers? Through financial support or other means? Are we so caught up in ourselves that we don’t have time to “hear” about the welfare of other Christians?

“My Children” - This does not have reference to his physical lineage, but to those he had been instrumental in bringing to the Lord. The apostle Paul used the same language for those he taught (I Cor. 4:15, 17; I Tim. 1:1-2; II Tim. 1:1-2; Titus 1:4).

I think it is interesting to note that we are never told about the apostles’ physical children. (For example, we know the apostle Peter had children, I Pet. 5:1!) I wonder if this was done so we would keep our eyes on the apostles who pointed us to Christ, rather than on their descendants that we might treat as “royalty,” or give them some special position in the church that God never intended?

            Brethren, what is our attitude toward fellow Christians? Do we strive for closeness? Do we treat one another as brethren? Let’s ask this another way: How many can we consider “children” in the sense the John and Paul used the word (II Tim. 2:2)?

“Walk In Truth” - The word “walk” describes one’s manner of life or behavior. This was seen as Gaius showed hospitality toward others, and showed the right example to fellow Christians not traveling (III Jn. 5-8). In other words, Gaius was faithfully following God despite the difficulties that surrounded him. He didn’t merely give lip-service to the truth, but was walking in it! John said those, like Gaius, who were walking in the truth brought him great joy. Why did he have joy? It is because he knew that what they were doing pleased the Father (II Jn 4; III Jn. 4). Let us examine ourselves so that when the Lord returns, He will find us walking in truth.

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Even As Thy Soul Prospers."

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

            When John wrote his third epistle, he addressed it to “the well-beloved Gaius” (v. 1). This man stood out for reasons that become apparent in the first eight verses of the book. Evidently, he also served as a contact for John to write to the brethren since a direct approach had not worked (v. 9)! Can you imagine what happened when Gaius presented John’s letter, and the brethren were made aware that John knew what Diotrephes had been doing (v. 9-10)?

            In this study, let’s focus on the blessing John states in verse 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” What is John saying? He is saying I pray that your physical health and prosperity might match your spiritual health and well-being. Evidently, from observing his health and physical surroundings, one might not think Gaius was blessed, but on the spiritual side, he was blessed more than most (see: I Sam. 16:7).

            This statement hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it. John wished that Gaius could have a healthy body as he has a healthy soul (III Jn. 2). On how many people today could we wish what John did? Is not the opposite true in our country? We have healthy bodies, and we financially prosper while we have emaciated souls! As I thought specifically about the Lord’s church in this nation, it is evident that some focus on physical health and prosperity to their spiritual detriment. Some have become like Laodicea, thinking that physical health means spiritual health. They have become like the friends of Job who equated physical health with God’s blessing. “If you are suffering, you have done something bad, but if you are not, then you are OK” is too many people’s mantra. We have forgotten II Timothy 3:12. We have forgotten I Peter 4:16. We have forgotten John 15:18-20.

Too many equate bodies in the seats of the church house with spiritual strength. Please don’t misunderstand. While it is true that a body in the pew equals a soul hearing the truth, we also must understand that many of the things men do to get bodies in the seats (including compromising the truth) are not conducive to spiritual health!

            It is time for some vigorous examination (II Cor. 13:5)!

  • How strong is your soul?
  • How often does it get fed (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14)?
  • How often does your soul get exercise (Heb. 5:14; Phil. 1:9-10; I Thess. 5:21)?
  • How often has your faith been tried (Jas. 1:3, 12)?

Here is a question we do not hear mentioned often: How many enemies do you have and why? “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you” is Jesus’ warning (Lk. 6:26)! Through the years, several have noted that we can often tell as much about a man by the enemies he has as by his friends! I think that is true. A man needs some enemies, but he needs the right kind of enemies (I Pet. 5:8). He doesn’t want God for an enemy (Jas. 4:4)!

            Friend, reread III John 2 and consider your spiritual health. It is time to look into God’s mirror (Jas. 1:25) and make the necessary changes. Take the time to read III John 3-8 and be another Gaius! Get your soul right, and the material things will fall into place (Matt. 6:25-33). If John wrote his letter to you, would he say, “I pray your soul would prosper and be in health even as your body”?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"You Must Take A Stand"

Monday, August 10, 2020

            In the context of II John 11, we learn that whoever teaches false doctrine does not have fellowship with God (II Jn. 9). At the same time, it is not right for those who hear the false doctrine to accept the person and act as if nothing is wrong (II John 10). If someone bids “Godspeed” (KJV) or “Greets” (ASV, Darby, ESV, NET, RV, etc.) the false teacher, this person is just as guilty in the eyes of God. Other Bible versions use the terms, “participates,” or “sharing” for “partaker” in II John 11. I think this helps us understand what John was teaching. Not only is it wrong to teach false doctrine, but it is also wrong for those hearing false doctrine to stand by and allow it to be taught without opposition (II Jn. 10-11)!

            The apostle Paul showed us the right response when he said that when Judaizers came in to “spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,” they gave place “no, not for an hour” (Gal. 2:4-5)! Later, Paul would withstand Peter “to the face, because he was to be blamed” for the hypocrisy he perpetuated (Gal. 2:11). Paul would also write (by inspiration) a warning similar to John’s to the Romans. After listing the sins the Gentiles had committed through the years, he ends chapter one by saying, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32). In other words, not only did the people committing the sins deserve death (Jas. 1:15), but those who approve of what is done (applaud, ISV; consent, ASV; delight, Darby) deserve the same punishment! This sounds like John’s warning in II John 11.

            The stand taken by Paul and John while they lived, and encouraged in their epistles (Rom. 1:32; II Jn. 9-11), serves at least two purposes. One purpose is obvious, and that is to save those who are affected by false doctrine, including myself! Remember, to bid “Godspeed” means I am also partaking (II Jn. 11)! If I do not take a stand, or if I bid “Godspeed” to a deceiver, then many more will be deceived. The second purpose is closely linked to the first. This is that by standing, we are also trying to win the soul of the false teacher. When we stand opposed to someone because of his false teaching, we need to make sure and check our attitude. Is our response motivated by hatred of the person or the doctrine? There is a difference! If I am trying to win an argument, I very well may lose the soul. If I am trying to win someone’s soul, I will win the argument by default. What John shows me is that I not allow what some call “love” to silence my tongue! I must speak! I must warn!

            Sadly, we live in a time when men are afraid of confrontation. We have a society that recoils at the thought of standing for the truth, but ironically is quick to criticize and belittle anyone who does! We are told that retreat is courageous. This is wrong. Christians in our time who claim to wear the armor of Christ (Eph. 6:11-19), tend to forget about the sword. Yet, the sword is a part of our armor! The sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:18) is not a defensive but an offensive weapon. With it, we take the fight to the enemy (II Cor. 10:3-5; I Tim. 6:12)! The sword is not for cleaning your fingernails, or picking your teeth! With the sword of the Spirit, we stand against “the wiles of the devil” and do not give submission, “no, not for an hour”!

When we read II John, we learn that we do not give “Godspeed” (greet, participate, or share) with false teachers as if to “go along and get along.” Remember, souls are at stake, and they are too precious to leave to the “wolves” (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-31)! At the same time, standing against the wolves who teach false doctrines may open their eyes to the truth. This is our goal -- to bring lost souls to the Father (Jas. 5:19-20). When we do not partake or share with false teachers, we will cause them to stop and consider what they are doing. No, not everyone repents at this, but folks need to know where we stand. Let them be warned in love and truth (Eph. 4:15, 5:11). Let us stand with a pure conscious, knowing that false teachers will face God in judgment, having at least been warned. Who knows, but you are in the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and your warning might save a soul from death? One thing is certain: silence in the face of false teaching and pretending nothing is wrong will do nothing to remedy the situation, nor will it save a soul. It only makes things worse!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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