God Wants All To Turn To Him

black man praying with eyes closed

Life is extremely fast. Peter writes to his audience that the day of the Lord will come and will be a surprise to everyone. Therefore we should all be prepared. Peter says, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8, 9 ESV).

Peter’s point is that though this day is fast approaching, many are scoffing at it and are living in their own sinfulness. The Christians need to take it seriously, live holy and blameless lives, and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We’ll be talking about God and others this quarter. In order to value others and reach them with the Gospel, we need to understand that God values everyone and wants them to come to repentance. That won’t happen without us teaching them about Christ.

Don’t Be Right, Be Faithful

a close up shot of a woman holding a rosary while praying

We spend much of our life attempting to be “right” as Christians. We want to know that we have the right answers, the right interpretation of the scriptures, and the right arguments to disarm people with wrong information. It’s great to be a student of the scriptures but our lot in life isn’t to be right. It’s to be faithful. When we are faithful God shows up in the most powerful ways.

The entire chapter 11 in Hebrews is about people who walked by faith. Many of them didn’t know what the future held or the troubles they would encounter. They only knew that God made a promise to them, and they were faithful. Abraham lived in tents for years and years, having no idea where he was going: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (vs. 8).

The author of Hebrews says that there were many people like Abraham who endured suffering or who waited for the promise. God delivered every time. Abraham became a father of many nations. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Noah saved his family and began a new world. Even in their faith, they didn’t receive what they were promised, “since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (vs. 39, 40). We were promised something far better than even those giants of faith. Without our faith, those people from the past are not made perfect. Our faith really, really matters.

Straining Toward the Goal

brown and white track field

There is an unusual way to budget that, frankly, ought to be the norm. It’s called PYF (pay yourself first). At first it sounds selfish, right? But the idea is actually the opposite of splurging on yourself. Instead, you budget in a way that pays your retirement, investing, and giving accounts before you even pay for necessities like mortgages, utilities, and food. Those actually come second in the budget. Then follow all the other essentials. Only after investments and necessities are covered should you budget for entertainment (subscriptions, eating out, etc.).

In this way, you plan for the future and don’t have to be wondering how to pay medical and electric bills in your 70s. But the majority of people don’t budget this way. I mention budgets because it’s really about goal setting. Most Christians don’t budget their time and resources with a pay-yourself-first attitude. In other words, we don’t invest in our salvation. Instead we “splurge” on other things that have nothing to do with our salvation.

Paul told the Philippian church, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14 ESV). Does this sound like someone who is wrapped up in himself or more like someone who is laser focused on “budgeting” his time and resources for the grand prize of salvation? Clearly it’s the latter. We too should be disciplined enough to strain toward the goal of salvation. One day it will knock on our door. We shouldn’t be surprised when it happens.

False Scales and Righteousness

a balance scale on a table

Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” In other words, God is not in favor of cheating someone by using scales that aren’t properly balanced. Notably, the word for righteousness in Psalm 89:14 means to have a balanced scale. Proverbs 11 makes a distinction between an unbalanced scale that provides riches versus righteousness: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (vs. 4).

Not only that, but “the righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness” (vs. 5). Clearly righteousness wins the day! Being fair, honest, and treating people well is better than building riches through lying, cheating, and stealing.

Life will throw many curveballs, and it’s righteousness that will help us navigate those many storms. All the wealth in the world doesn’t make someone happy. It doesn’t stop death or disease. But righteousness makes the world a better place. It can bring peace and order, and this is what God calls his people to be!

Lay Your Treasures In Heaven

person putting coin in a piggy bank

Jesus told his followers, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV).

Jesus is describing a work ethic that leads to kingdom growth. Focusing on building wealth alone shows where your heart is. In the end we will be judged on how we used our gifts to benefit others in need, not by how much we bought throughout our lives. Since WWII, consumerism became the metric for how successful people are. The economy’s strength is now measured by how much people buy. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught in Matthew 6.

If we truly want to grow the kingdom we will spend less time buying and more time investing in people. Jesus’ conclusion is very true: “You cannot serve God and money” (vs. 24).

Paul’s Bad Day

person putting palm on face while holding prayer beads

Have we ever had a really bad day? Most of us have had days where we realize we made bad mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes can be bad enough that they lead to loss of life. Paul’s convictions prior to becoming a Christian not only led to a loss of lives, he also intentionally took the lives of innocent people. Paul explains to King Agrippa: “I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:10, 11 ESV).

Paul, in giving his defense to the king, described his “raging fury” against Christians. He retaliated against them, drug them out of their synagogues and humiliated them, forced them to blaspheme, put them in prison, stripped them away from their families by sending them to foreign cities, and cast his vote against them to have them killed. Not only was Paul giving a defense of himself, but he was defending the Gospel and calling people within earshot to repent!

Paul’s defense worked very well, but unfortunately he had already appealed to Caesar so King Agrippa couldn’t release him: “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment. . . This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (vs. 31, 32). Paul’s bad day recounting his past went from bad to worse, but he still managed to use the rest of his life for good by preaching while imprisoned! It goes to show that even on our worst days we can still put God first and celebrate that we are saved and others can be saved too.

The Slothful Servant

close up of sloth

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable of the three individuals who were given the talents. The fist was given five talents. A talent was worth approximately $1,000 US dollars. If, however, Jesus was referring to a Syrian talent, each would be worth approximately $275. Either way, that was a lot of money in those days. The second man was given two talents and the last was given one talent.

When the master returned the first man had doubled the talents to ten, the second doubled them to four, and the third man returned the single talent which he had buried. The master’s responded, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (Matthew 25:26, 27 ESV).

He commanded him to give the talent to the one with ten. The reason? “For to everyone who has more will be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (vs. 29). Jesus commands the people to cast him into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The point is to not be hesitant to use what God has given us. God blesses us with much and we shouldn’t be “slothful” to use it for the benefit of the kingdom.