Can You Do Better?

Sorry to be late today.

Doing Good Things Better

Phil. 3:12-14

Warren E. Berkley

 

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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,” (Phil. 3:12-14, ESV).

This article is not about exposing sin, demanding you renounce some wickedness, quit lying or stealing. While those guilty of these misbehaviors need to repent and be forgiven, this kind of thing is not the subject of this article. This article is about pressing on and straining forward to start doing good things better.

Can you pray better? Not just longer prayers, though that might be part of the progress you need to make. Consider giving more thought in framing your prayers or expanding who and what you pray for. Initiate petitions that honor Christ, praise God, and advance the proclamation of the gospel. But also, pray for people you don’t agree with and don’t like. You’ve been engaged in prayer for many years. Now find ways to do that better. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Can your prayers become more effective and fervent?

Can your attendance be improved? Can you give up some of the weak excuses, gain better control of your schedule, re-think your priorities and improve your attendance? By attending every service you enjoy the advantages of edification and the encouragement you lend to others and receive from them. Christians in the early church were together and that unity was critical to their survival and their capacity to share the gospel with others. “All who believed were together,” (Acts 2:44).

Can you reach out to people in a better way? Are there people you know who need you to move closer to them, get to know them and help them? For most of us, I believe, there are people we are acquainted with who need something we can give. But we have not taken the time. We have been too busy with so many of “our things.” I speak not of money primarily, but of encouragement, listening, praying with, studying with and befriending.

Can you help someone begin reading the Bible? Make a list of 5 people you know. Are all five of those people reading the Bible? Pick out one and ask if they read the Bible daily? If not, offer to show them and help them get started (do that without being critical). Periodically review or re-make your list. There is no better endeavor you can invite someone to begin. All many people need is a little encouragement.

Again, this article was not written to the idolater, the liars or false teachers (I’ll do that another time). Rather, to Christians who are doing good things already. I believe we can do these things better. Let’s press on toward the goal.

 

How Do You See Yourself?

How Do You See Yourself?

Warren E. Berkley

 

A.W. Tozer was precise and scripturally correct when he said: “Self-knowledge is so critically important to us in our pursuit of God and His righteousness that we lie under heavy obligation to do immediately whatever is necessary to remove the disguise and permit our real selves to be known.”

Central to all your character and conduct is your self-concept. This simply means how you see yourself, knowing who you are. You must avoid an unhealthy preoccupation or obsession with self. Subjective distortions can be detrimental. But there is an awareness of yourself and perception of who you are that is central to your potential. It is important to be strong and clear about who you are. Perhaps these inquiries will find a place in forming and maintaining clarity in your knowledge of who you are.

Do you see yourself as a giver or taker? Actually each of us are takers (receivers), for we are the unworthy recipients of the generosity of God evident in our very existence (Acts 17:28). Christians are recipients of the grace of God and Christ, “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” (Titus 3:5b-7). Each of us, therefore, are takers (receivers, partakers). But in another sense the question ought to be weighed: Do you have greater interests in taking than giving? That goes to character. The teaching of Acts 20:35 is germane to this. “…And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”  The generosity of Jesus’ character & teaching ought to become our purpose, so that we are focused on giving not taking.  (See also Rom. 12:8; Isa. 32:8; 2 Cor. 8:2).

Do you see yourself as a victim or perpetrator? There is a bothersome grumbling seen in people, always blaming others, pointing to circumstances and claiming to be victims. The cry (spoken or implied) is: “Everybody else is wrong. Everybody else is incorrect. Everybody else should take responsibility. Everybody should see and acknowledge my purity and know how unfairly I’m treated!” This is childish. It will help us – when things happen and generally in life – to prayerfully and cautiously evaluate if we were victimized or did we perpetrate the event or events. If you fall into the habit of dogmatically claiming to be the victim, this reflects an absence of humility. Assuming you never do anything wrong is a wrong approach. We are not always victims! We must not always and immediately come to our defense. Sometimes we are perpetrators! In fact, we are all perpetrators in this sense: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). There is great value in humble self-examination.

Do you see yourself as a servant or a master? The Lord’s disciples, in their early days of coming to grips with the truth, sought greatness and vanity. Jesus responded by using a child to teach these grown men the humility they hadn’t yet embraced (Matt. 18:1-5). A few days later, the same ambition showed itself. Jesus responded again: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,” (Matt. 20:27,28).

Oswald Chambers has said: “If you are going to live for the service of your fellowmen, you will certainly be pierced through with many sorrows, for you will meet with more base ingratitude from your fellowmen than you would from a dog. You will meet with unkindness and two-facedness, and if your motive is love for your fellowmen, you will be exhausted in the battle of life. But if the mainspring of your service is love for God, no ingratitude, no sin, no devil, no angel, can hinder you from serving your fellowmen, no matter how they treat you. You can love your neighbor as yourself, not from pity, but from the true centering of yourself in God.”

Ultimately, all our inquires into self need to answer the question: Am I a child of God, or a child of the devil? Because of what Jesus Christ did, you can become a child of God; you can use the Word of God to know yourself, improve yourself and give of yourself to the Creator, to the Savior, to your family, your brethren and your fellowman.

God Cannot Lie, Heb. 6:13-20

God Cannot Lie

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV)

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The lead sentence into this is verse 12, where the writer called upon his readers to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Abraham is an example.

God made promises to Abraham, which were not immediately fulfilled. Abraham had to wait, trusting God’s timing. His wife wasn’t so good about the patience part of that. But Abraham waited patiently and obtained the promises.

Now, what was it about God – that caused Abraham to have such patience? Simply stated, GOD CANNOT LIE. Abraham had sufficient knowledge of God and confidence in God, he was willing to wait. The point is made in this section, “It is impossible for God to lie.” That was Abraham’s conviction.

After developing that argument from the Abraham narrative, the writer makes his application: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

This shows the writer coming back full circle to his affirmation that Christ is High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. One product of this is – believers have this anchor to hold us steady and keep us from drifting. The knowledge that God cannot lie, and our confidence in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. He is there for us and will eventually welcome His people into heaven.

All of my Hebrews Podcasts Are Here, Click.

Read Your Bible – there is time.

TEN WAYS TO FIND TIME TO READ THE BIBLE

 Johnny Felker

  1. Wake up ten minutes earlier each morning and read. 2.
  2. Keep a Bible close to your bed to read each night before
    you go to sleep.
  3. Talk less and you will have a few more minutes to read.
  4. Keep a copy of the Bible on hand in the kitchen or at the
    telephone to read while you “hold.”
  5. Turn the TV off and read to your children.
  6.  Carry a copy of the Bible, at least the New Testament, in
    your pocket or purse to read while waiting for doctors, or
    un-punctional people, etc.
  7. Never go on a trip without your Bible in your suitcase.
  8. Keep a copy of the Bible in the glove compartment of your
    car.
  9. Remember, a Bible in your hand is worth two on the coffee
    table.
  10. Read several verses before each meal when all the family
    is together.

–borrowed from Johnny Felker, Family Report.

“Yes, just what we are looking for!”

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Robbed, Broke But Thankful

Warren E. Berkley

During my tour of duty in the United States Army I was occupied as a musician. I was a member of the 158th Army Band at Fort Knox, Kentucky in the 1960’s, and some of my work involved stage band performances on base and in nearby Louisville. On a few occasions we played at events in The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. It was an elegant place with southern charm right in downtown Louisville.

We would begin around 9 pm and finish after midnight. We played 50’s style jazz and big band music while military officers visited with local political leaders, celebrities and Kentucky Colonels.

After the job, we would load up our equipment in an Army truck parked in the alley about a block away, then board an Army bus for the trip back to the base. This meant, walking through the alley behind The Brown in the early dark hours of morning. Our Sergeant always told us to walk with a buddy or in groups, due to the danger of late night criminal activity in downtown Louisville.

One morning, around 2 am, I was walking through that alley with my buddy, “Stick,” (we all had nicknames; I was “Berk.”) As we walked toward the bus, a huge man stepped out in front of us and stopped. He was holding (and tapping in his hand) a foot long lead pipe, that had electrical tape wrapped around one end for better grip.

We stopped. I closed my eyes as tight as I could, my body shook and I waited for the blow while praying. Stick was cool. Then the giant said, “Do you guys want this pipe?” Stick said, “that’s just exactly what I’ve been looking for.” Quickly, we pooled our resources and bought that pipe for less than $20 (all we had). The “pipe salesman” carefully gave Stick the pipe, said “thank you” and we walked on to the bus without harm. (As we walked away, we said “thank you!”)

We told the story and the other soldiers on the bus reacted. They considered us to be victims of extortion. We lost our money to a thief and only had pipe to show for it. We didn’t care that our peers believed we had been ill-treated. We were thankful to be safe and have our lives. (I was thankful I was with a friend who was so quick of thought and tongue!)

Many years ago, Matthew Henry, a well-known Bible scholar, was once robbed of his wallet. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded in his diary the following:

Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.  

Honesty – The Highest Example

The Highest Example of Honesty

Warren E. Berkley

The case can be stated in simple terms: “Lying lips are an abomination” to God {Prov. 12:22}. And there is no evidence that Jesus ever did anything that was displeasing to God. Jesus never told a lie. He said: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no,’ no!” (Matt. 5:37). Jesus illustrated perfect honesty.

It is commonly argued today that lying is usually wrong, but that in certain situations of pressure it would be all right. Nobody has ever been under the kind of intense pressure Jesus was under while He was on the earth. He was hated, treated with rudeness and open hostility. Men plotted and conspired to find some fault in Him (though He was perfect), and He was killed by men on charges absent evidence. Through all of this, Jesus remained pure, sinless and perfectly honest. He never found any occasion to state anything expect the truth.

              “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was guile found in His mouth,’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Now what did Jesus do under this kind of pressure and pain? He “committed Himself” to God, the only righteous Judge! And we are called by the gospel to follow His example. When we are under pressure, falsely accused, treated with contempt and reviled or simply in an awkward position – we will tell the truth and commit ourselves into the just hand of God – if we are real followers of Christ. We will steadfastly refuse temptations to lie.

              What did the apostles of Christ say about this? “…all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” and outside the heavenly city are “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie,” (Rev. 21:8, 22:15).

Christians are instructed plainly in Ephesians 4:25 to put away falsehood, and speak the truth. No exemptions, no special circumstances, no excuses – JUST TELL THE TRUTH. Jesus did.

One of the prophets who pointed the way to the Christ described the kind of integrity we should have, in Isa. 33:15,16 …

He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure.

Let every follower of Christ strive to be blameless and pure. May our attitude be based on His example of integrity. Jesus was a man who would not tell a lie. This is something Jesus would not do.

1 Jno. 4:7-12

John’s First Epistle

1 Jno. 4:7-12

We love because of His love!

 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 Jno. 4:7-12

The reason for loving one another could not be higher or stronger: “…love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the reason, punctuated by God’s love for us.

This must have such emphasis in our minds, we are aware that “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The foremost expression of divine love is, God “sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him” and “to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Here comes the OUGHT: “…we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

If I want God to abide in me, I must abide in Him and His Word – and that will mean the attitude and behavior of love (as defined by God’s actions toward us).

 

Men-pleasers

What Men-pleasers do (see Gal. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:4)

Warren E. Berkley

They seek the approval of men above the approval of God. The rule is, human beings have a propensity that welcomes the praise of their fellows. While there may be exceptions, the rule is we enjoy being complimented or honored. The danger is, we can easily become intoxicated and consumed by this need, then crave the praise of men. The next step in this moral digression is, to seek human approval as a personal priority. Those exposed by the Lord in Matthew 6 were guilty of this. They did their “charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.” The same motive prompted their ostentatious praying and fasting. Among some of the leading Pharisees, there was at least intellectual confidence in the claims of Christ, but “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (Jno. 12:41). Again the problem was described by our Lord when He said: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their father to the false prophets,” (Lk. 6:26). Men-pleasers seek the approval of men above the approval of God. Let us aim higher. The personal priority of every child of God must be, to seek the approval of God, regardless of how men respond to our preaching and practice. Our Father is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” (Heb. 11:6).

They adapt their message to their audiences. Men-pleasers deliver to their audiences that which will elicit their approval. They have made this their priority. In every time of controversy since Pentecost, there have been men catering to the crowd; even changing and adapting their message from audience to audience, not out of conviction, but to please and to become known as crowd pleasers. Paul and Timothy are examples of men who were not willing to do this. Paul told the Corinthians: “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church,” (1 Cor. 4:17). When people (baptized or not) “will not endure sound doctrine,” they should hear it anyway, regardless of response or consequence. When sound doctrine is not the desire of heart, audiences will “heap up for themselves teachers,” and men-pleasers will heap up for themselves a following. (See 2 Tim. 4:1-5) This craving to please your audience can quickly lead to language so concerned with diplomacy, it conveys nothing substantial or scriptural, only sentiment.

They carefully avoid negative pronouncements. Though God requires preachers to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching,” this duty is neglected by men-pleasers in situations where such wouldn’t be welcomed. It is one thing to “speak the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15), but to speak without truth is not loving, even if praised and applauded by men. There is the exhibition of this, when preachers step so delicately, they trample over truth to keep people happy. An honest reading of 1, 2 Timothy and Titus can bring us to a better understanding of real preaching, and supply both motive and method to avoid the immature, frenzied work to gain the good esteem of men, leaving truth unspoken and sinners lost. Preachers who are “running for office,” seeking trophies from men, building an image, leading a movement, proving their soundness by campaign, or otherwise ill-motivated will wind up withholding needed truth or twisting scripture. The response by faithful brethren should be to use every legitimate means to stop the mouths of vain talkers (Titus 1:9-13, Jude 3, ).

They will use association to generate favor (politics). When preaching and practice is aimed to please a group, gain the favor of well-known brother or gain access to a circle or cliché, the point has been missed altogether. When a “brotherhood writer” pens an article to lobby for entrance or acceptance of men, he should not be published if the motive is known. Men-pleasers eventually fall into the sin of undisciplined fellowship, endorsement of anyone baptized and this means – giving no heed to God’s instructions as to one’s association (Rom. 16:17; Eph. 5:11, etc.). Do we not know that “friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4). And what a contrast, that some preachers seek reputation when Jesus “made Himself of no reputation,” (Phil. 2:7)!

Every preacher needs to ask himself the question stated in Galatians 1:10. “Do I seek to please men?” Paul responded: “For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Get the point? The men-pleaser in Gal. 1:10 is not a servant of Christ.

About those “best places”

What Does Luke 14:12-14 Mean?

Warren E. Berkley

“Then He also said to him who invited Him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14

Like any other passage in the Bible, this one cannot be understood or applied if contextual information is ignored. The scene is Jesus in the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and challenged the religious experts regarding their enforcement of the Sabbath (based on human tradition). Jesus observed how the guests “chose the best places,” and in response to this practice He “told a parable” to them. The point of the parable was: “For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” (see all of this in Luke 14:1-11).

Beginning with verse 12, be sure you don’t miss who Jesus was speaking to! “Then He also said to him who invited Him.” This took place in “the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees.” Jesus observed the guests and their motives (see verse 7). He also witnessed the host and his motives. Luke gives us this information. It is apparently useful and necessary in understanding the teaching and making any application. When we read the opening of the paragraph, “when you give a dinner or a supper,” we ought to understand that as Jesus speaking to the Pharisee who hosted the feast. This is what Jesus said “to him who invited Him.”

Jesus admonished the host: “Do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors.” If we had only this prohibition, we might be tempted to conclude that nobody should ever entertain or feed their friends or relatives, nor share their table with someone classified as “rich neighbors” (economic discrimination). This conclusion would come in conflict with other teachings we know to require that we afford care and hospitality toward others, without discrimination (Rom. 12:20; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 2:17, etc.).

Hence, this is not just a stand-alone prohibition! It has context. Remember, Jesus has observed the motives of both host and guests; the teaching springs from this scene! Apparently, the host invited guests to this feast with selfish expectation of his own future social advantage. That’s the meaning of the phrase, “lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.”

I believe Jesus spoke this saying to an audience who needed to be admonished about their motives (both in hosting and attending a feast). The guests were guilty of choosing the best places to exalt themselves (read vss. 7-11). The host was guilty of inviting people, with selfish expectation of his own future social advantage. He invited people expecting future favor (“lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid”).

To stress the lesson this host needed to learn, Jesus stating the opposite; the greater motive: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Jesus is not forbidding us to feed or entertain our relatives, friends or neighbors; nor is He recommending social/economic discrimination. He is stating the case against the practice of hospitality which finds its purpose in expectation of personal favor (hoping your guests will return the favor; reciprocating).

Clarkson well states the matter in Pulpit Commentary: “THE CORRECTION OF A COMMON FAULT. Jesus Christ did not, indeed, intend to condemn outright all family or social gatherings of a festive character. He had already sanctioned these by his own presence. The idiomatic language, ‘do not, but,’ signifies, not a positive interdiction of the one thing, but the superiority of the other.”

But may the lesson not be lost on us! To seek the best places; to exalt ourselves; to offer hospitality and blessing to others, with the motive and anticipation of our own social or financial gain is short-sighted and misses the purity of the generosity of the Lord. Our good works should, every one, be motivated by the greater, eternal reward. There is recompense far higher than the earthly benefits of throwing a party for our own temporal advantage.

Better Things, Heb. 6:9-12

“Better Things”

Hebrews 6:9-12 (ESV)

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Heb. 6:9-12, ESV

In the sixth chapter of Hebrews, the inspired writer is urging his readers to grow up in their knowledge; to go on to maturity. There is a tone of rebuke, coming out of chapter five and into chapter six. But now, in the section that begins with verse 6, there is encouragement. That is captured in one phrase, “we feel sure of better things.” The original readers had the capacity to go on to maturity and embrace better things. Things that belong to salvation.

Now, in the rebuke, there is no implication that the people had done it all wrong. There was legitimate love that promoted them to serve the saints. What was needed was, to apply that same diligence to the whole spectrum of relationship with God through Christ.

They are assured that God knows their good work. “For God is not unjust … to overlook your work and the love you have shown for his name.”

At the end of this paragraph, there is a lead in to the next section. The writer calls upon his readers to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” This is the transitional sentence into the next section about Abraham. That will be the subject of the next podcast: Heb. 6:13-20.

Remember this from what we’ve read – “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”