Elihu’s Rebuke #3: God is Just

Well, after filling Job with hope, Elihu in his second and third speech really starts rebuking Job “for Job has said, ‘I am in the right, and God has taken away my right’” (Job 34:5) and “he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.’” (Job 34:9). Part of Job’s problem is that he sees God as unjust, unfair, and unwilling to explain what is going on.

And, again, don’t we do the same? Don’t we often demand an answer from God about why we suffer? And that we think it’s unfair and unjust of God not to answer us? Don’t we think that if we would just know why we suffer, it would make the suffering bearable? But you know what: explanation is a poor substitute for faith. Are we not commanded to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)?

Let’s hear what Elihu has to say: “Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong. For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. […] In a moment they die; at midnight the people are shaken and pass away, and the mighty are taken away by no human hand. For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves. […] Thus, knowing their works, he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed.” (Job 34:10-15, 20-22, 25)

Elihu defend God’s character saying that God is righteous and just in all His dealings with man. God is the just and sovereign ruler, rewarder and judge. In other words, nothing man does is hidden from the eyes of God, and thus man gets exactly what he deserves according to his works. We are to trust in God in knowing what is best for us.

Elihu continues: “Look at the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? […] Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. […] There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it. How much less when you say that you do not see him, that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him!” (Job 35:5-7, 9, 12-14)

Elihu tells Job that God is not under any obligation to answer man, or to give any reason for His actions. God is greater than man and so far beyond man that there is nothing man could do to God’s benefit. God is infinitely holy. Man is full of pride. God is righteous. Man is unrighteous. Thus since God is not dependent on human beings for anything, a person has no leverage with God. No amount of our good works benefits God or puts Him under obligation to anybody. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” It is only by our dependence on the gift righteousness in the person and work of Jesus Christ that we will ever be acceptable to Him.

Elihu counsels Job to be patient and wait for God’s justice, for Job has been speaking prematurely and foolishly.

Elihu’s Rebuke #1: An Introduction
Elihu’s Rebuke #2: God Is Gracious
Elihu’s Rebuke #3: God is Just
Elihu’s Rebuke #4: God is Great
Elihu’s Rebuke #5: Suffering as a Discipline
Elihu’s Rebuke #6: Conclusion

Pick Up Your Weapons!

The weapons of our warfare are really important in our daily walk with God, especially if we are living in light of being in the world but not of the world. The apostle Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 when he says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Wow! Taking every thought captive. That’s a challenge! So many thoughts throughout the day. In order to do this constantly I think you have to become both very self-aware and very Spirit-aware, as to letting the Holy Spirit work on all of our thoughts. I think I still have lots to learn to really make effective use of these weapons.

The classic text on the weapons of warfare is Ephesians 6:14-18. They can be subdivided in three different sections. It is interesting to see that the order as they are listed is also the order in which the soldier puts on the armor.

The Spiritual Armor To Have
These pieces of the armor are the bare necessities. They are foundational, but they also always should be present. They all three indicate some sort of readiness to move forward.

1. Have Your Loins Girded With Truth (Eph. 6:14)
Technically speaking the belt of truth is not part of the armor, but is put on beforehand. When a man sat down and was relaxed, he took off his belt. Putting on the belt prepares you for action, it frees your movements, and it put him in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth can be described as the whole of what you believe about Christ. It is a foundation you live upon all the time, your understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith. In effect we should never take off the belt of truth. We should always be ready for action. The same idea is conveyed in Luke 12:35 (“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.“) and 1 Peter 1:13 (“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.“)

2. Have The Breastplate of Righteousness Put On (Eph. 6:14)
The breastplate provides protection for the vital organs. Important to here is to understand that it is Jesus’ righteousness (received by faith), not our own, that we have to put on. It is our defense against spiritual depression. It gives us a general sense of confidence, an awareness of our standing and position. Abraham believed in the LORD and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us” (Deu. 6:25). “How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3). We read in Proverbs 2:1-10 all the prerequisites to discern righteousness.

3. Have Your Feet Shod With the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace (Eph. 6:15)
The idea here is a readiness for action, to take the Gospel out to the world. They are combat boots, ready not only for action, but also for longevity it is good to have good shoes. “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Is. 52:7). Although good news is brought, you have to stand firm in your shoes to withstand the opposition. It reminds me of Galatians 1:6-9 and Paul’s call to not let the Gospel get perverted. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” It is “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15)

The Spiritual Armor To Take
The next three pieces of armor, on top of those you always have on (truth, righteousness, gospel), depend on the situation for them to be used.

4. Take the Shield of Faith (Eph. 6:16)
Faith is represented as a shield, protecting us from the arrows of the devil. It makes me think of the movie “300” where the Spartan in close formation completely protect themselves from the enemy. No arrows come through. It is also interesting that Paul specifically talks about arrows. These are not weapons for close combat, and they were often used for surprise attacks from far off. The attacks which are less obvious. It is our faith that protects us here as a shield.

5. Take the Helmet of Salvation (Eph. 6:17)
The helmet of salvation protects us against discouragement, against the desire to give up, giving us hope not only in knowing that we are saved, but that we will be saved. It is the assurance that God will triumph. When we are properly equipped with the helmet of salvation, it’s hard to stay discouraged.

6. Take the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God (Eph. 6:17)
The Word of God is the only piece of armor used for attacking the enemy. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). I think that’s interesting. It reminds me of Jesus in the wilderness and how three times in a row he uses Scripture. It seems like he is defending Himself instead of attacking, but the devil did leave Him, like James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jam. 4:7). Think of a soldier or a gladiator in training, practicing sword thrusts and moves and positions. Now, he must practice them ahead of time, and if he is a superior fighter, and has a great fighting instinct, at the time of battle he will instantly recall which thrust, which position suits the precise moment. He will never be able to use the thrust in the fight if he has not first practiced it, but he still needs to make the move at the moment. Therefore, effectively using the sword takes practice. Lots of practice.

The Spiritual Strength
The whole armor comes together in one thing: prayer.

7. Pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18-20)
The weapons for warfare are spiritual because they are rooted in prayer, which is our most powerful resource. Prayer is to permeate believers’ lives as a universal practice. There are three aspects here: when (at all times), how (with all prayer, alertness and perseverance), and for whom (for all the saints). “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27). And prayer for what? To make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, that in proclaiming it I may be be spoken boldly, as it ought to be spoken!

Breathed Out By God #1 – An Introduction

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra — which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 3:10 – 4:8)

Don’t you think it’s ironic that I that present seven topics that are on my list for possible next series, and then introduce something completely different? I think it is, but such is life. It is full of surprises! Yet don’t think it’s the end of that list… Please comment still on your favorite topic here.

Anyways, the reason for this series may not be so apparent, but I used the “famous” 2 Timothy 3:16 verse this last Saturday during a meeting, and spoke on Sunday with my good friend and participant of that meeting, Patricia about this verse. She wondered about the deeper meaning of this verse and its application. We did not have much time then to go deep into it, but I must admit that I too am intrigued about the depth of it. Hence, this short series.

The verse of 2 Timothy 3:16 is pretty consistent across the different translations. Let me try to summarize it: “All Scripture is [God-breathed (NIV), inspired by God (NASB), breathed out by God (ESV), given by inspiration of God (KJV)] [and is useful for (NIV), and profitable for (NASB, ESV, KJV)], [teaching (NIV, NASB, ESV), doctrine (KJV)], [rebuking (NIV), reproof (NASB, ESV, KJV)], [correcting (NIV), correction (NASB, ESV, KJV)], and [training in righteousness (NIV, NASB, ESV), instruction in righteousness (KJV)]

I prefer a combination of the ESV and KJV, which ends up like this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The apparent consistency in the different translations seems to indicate that it is clear how to translate it, but what does the verse actually mean? And how and where does it apply to our lives? This introductory post will attempt to take a look at the verse as a whole, and the first half of. And then subsequent posts will deal with the four individual aspects it is useful or profitable for.

The Big Picture
As with most, if not all, verses in the Bible, this verse should be looked at within the context it is written. Although the verse itself, apart from the context, holds true and should be adhered to, it is the context which gives insights into the reason why. The verse is pretty much right in the center of a section of Scripture going from 2 Timothy 3:10 through 2 Timothy 4:8, and deals with an exhortation from the apostle Paul to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, in contrast to the false teachers which Paul warns Timothy against in the first nine verses of chapter three. It addresses directly on how Timothy must resist the opponents and remain faithful to the gospel. It is an exhortation based on Timothy’s already established faithfulness (verse 10: “you, however, have followed my teaching…“).

So in order to fully understand this verse we need to take a look at the whole picture it is part of. In 2 Timothy 2:14-26 Paul introduces the false teaching (irreverent babble) and explains how Timothy should respond to it and be different from the false teachers. In 3:1–9 Paul describes the false teachers more extensively. Having exhorted Timothy to steadfast endurance, Paul now begins to address the problem directly. He speaks of “the last days” which according to Acts 2:17 are the days after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and are thus also still the present day, and the false teachers are the people who “will be lovers of self, a lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, b disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” for they will “creep into households” and lead people “astray by various passions“. Paul commands Timothy to avoid such people (verse 5), which most likely most involves excommunication if it pertains to those who remain obstinate. Paul then goes on to explain that Scripture is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

We first need to realize that Paul is writing this letter to Timothy. Paul sent Timothy to the church in Ephesus to deal with false teachers. Both letters from Paul to Timothy deal with this aspect in various form, although the second letter seem to focus more on exhorting Timothy to persevere. False teaching is corrected by correct teaching (next to church discipline and possible excommunication), and so Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is to persevere in teaching. We should in any case combine verse 16 with 17 in order to get the actual full sentence. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” So for who is Scripture profitable? So that the man of God may be competent and equipped. Who is the man of God? This is an Old Testament phrase. For instance, Moses is called a man of God (Deuteronomy 33:1, Joshua 14:6), angels of the LORD are called a man of God (Judges 13:6;8), and prophets like Elijah (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 1) and Elisha (2 Kings 4 – 7) are called a man of God . Overall, we can say that the “man of God” is indicating a messenger of God. Both the background of the Old Testament and the context show that Paul sees Timothy as his delegate and a leader over the church. A shepherd/pastor. A preacher. Paul provides a basic framework for Timothy on how to preach. Sinclair B. Ferguson, distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminister Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas says of 2 Timothy 3:16, “Thus informed, we come to see that preaching to the heart will give expression to four things: instruction in the truth, conviction of conscience, restoration and transformation of life, and equipping for service […] Preaching, therefore, involves teaching – imparting doctrine in order to renew and transform the mind. It implies the inevitable rebuke of sin, and brings with it the healing of divine correction.” If the man of God approached the Scripture with humility, he himself will be instructed, convinced, restored, transformed and equipped in the process of preparing. If that happens, and it should, then in turn he will be able, by the Holy Spirit, to do the same when he is preaching.

Of course this is not the only application of this verse as a whole, for the Holy Spirit does not need a preacher to accomplish His work (although John 14:26 does say that the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all that Jesus said, hence Jesus’ words must be proclaimed first), but Paul, a preacher, is charging Timothy as a preacher, to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2) in order to overcome or correct false teaching.

All Scripture
What is considered all Scripture? First off, it seems evident that the Old Testament books are implied, but there are references in the New Testament which refer to itself as Scripture as well in two occasions. First, in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul says, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” Although the command to not muzzle an ox is a quote from Deuteronomy 25:4, the command that a laborer deserves his wages is a direct quote from Luke 10:7, and Paul refers to it as Scripture. Secondly, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter says, “And count l the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” And so it seems that both Paul and Peter refer to the NT writings to be inspired by God at a very early date, considering that Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy around 64–65 AD, and Peter wrote his second letter around 64-67 AD.

Breathed Out By God
Paul is using a Greek word here (theopneustos) which does not occur anywhere else in the Bible. I actually read that this word did not occur anywhere in Greek texts outside the Bible prior to this letter. That is quite remarkable to say the least! The word is a combination of “theos” (meaning: God) and “pneō” (meaning: to breath). In any case, Paul is clearly pointing to the fact that God breathed out the Scriptures, and does not point to the human authors of Scripture as inspired people.

In the next session I will attempt to unravel the word “teaching,” its implications and its applications.

Psalm #1 – An Important Contrast

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1)

What a beautiful and important way to open the book of Psalms. To contrast the way of the righteous and the unrighteous, and the results of either choice. This first psalm is about two men: the blessed, righteous, godly man who is “in Christ”, and the wicked, scoffing, unrighteous man who is “in Adam”. Two men, two ways, two destinies.

What the Righteous Man Does Not Do
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1)
The word ‘blessed’ in Hebrew is ‘esher,’ and means “to be straight, or right”. The context talks about a man being right with God. The man who is right with God does not do certain things. First of all the righteous man knows how to stay away from bad counsel. I think especially in our world today this is very important. We get input from so many different sources, like colleagues, family, television, Internet, media, etc. How often do we really consider whether the counsel given is godly or ungodly? We often either agree or disagree, but do we really discern? This is also the case when counsel comes from one’s self. Our own conscience, mind or heart can give us ungodly counsel. How do we deal with this? We should discern that for godly counsel we should always go to God’s Word, the Bible, because it’s there where truth is found. One key to spiritual growth is turning to God and turning away from the kind of people who draw us into temptation. When it says that the righteous man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, it also refers to walking in the spiritual sense. The apostle Paul implores us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), and “that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17), but to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Ephesians 5:2), to “walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:8), and to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). When we fail to study and apply God’s Word, we tend to drift through life or follow those who do not follow God. If we are not careful to guide our lives by God’s Word, we will be tossed around by every new fad or philosophy that comes our way.

Secondly, when it says to not stand in the path of sinners, it basically means that the righteous man chooses a different path, opposite of the unrighteous’ path. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). The righteous man walks a certain direction. He knows the direction sinners take and does not take the same way. He takes the road less traveled instead. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 to “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” The righteous man seeks God for the path to take. He says to God: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Thirdly, the righteous man does not sit in the seat of scoffers. Who are the scoffers? Those who reject God, the atheists who are in denial, those who only partly accept the truth (like acceping God, but not Jesus), those who willingly ignorant and blind towards intelligent design, which they ascribe to randomness. The scoffers love to sit and critize the people of God and the things of God. The righteous man should not join them. We have to remember that the righteous man sits in the seat of the scornful, and he should not switch sides. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12), yet “who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

It’s interesting to see the progression here, from walking (towards them), standing (among them), and finally sitting (in their seats). Cut out the walking towards them, eliminates the fear of standing among them or sitting in their seats. What a challenge!

What the Righteous Man Does
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2)
I think this verse is very confronting, because it reveals the heart. To delight in something is to have a high or extreme degree of pleasure or enjoyment in something. What gives you extreme pleasure? What do you make sacrifices for? What do you worship? Is it the Word of God? Or is some false god that you idolize? I would also say that if you delight in something you just want to do it all the time. You make time for it. You hunger for it. And so the righteous man does not only delights in reading the Bible, he also wants to think about it, feel it in his heart, apply it. His mind wants to be filled with the Word of God, so he can meditate on it day and night, even when he is not reading the Bible. That way he always has the sword ready for any circumstance that may come his way. “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16)

The Blessing of the Righteous Man
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)
If I think of a tree by a river, I think of a tree that has been there a long time, with root reaching deep into the ground. A tree by a river always has what it needs: water. And because of that it’s strong and stable. This is exactly what the righteous man is, strong and stable. Because he has firmly planted himself in the Living Water, the Bible, God, his roots reach deep into the ground, and he bears much fruit because of it. Yes, leaves will fall, seasons come and go, but in the end he will prosper because his source is Living Water.

The Way of the Unrighteous
The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4)
The unrighteous basically is the opposite of the righteous. Whereas the tree is strong and stable, Charles H. Spurgeon says of chaff that it is “intrinsically worthless, dead, unserviceable, without substance, and easily carried away”. It may seem at times that the unrighteous has more than the righteous, but it only a temporal thing, it doesn’t carry any weight, and will not hold in judgment. The righteous man should always aim to bear much fruit. When he stops bearing fruit, it is because something happens to the roots (Matthew 11:13,14,20).

Conclusion
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6)
We don’t want to think about judgment, believer and unbeliever alike. Yet this does not changes the truth that there will be judgment nonetheless. For the believer in Christ, the righteous, blessed man there is no judgment of sin, for “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but for the unbeliever, the unrighteous, ungodly, wicked scoffer, there is “a terrifying expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27). It is said in Psalm 37:18 that “the Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever“. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14), “but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him” (2 Corinthians 8:3). It is awesome to be known by God, and it should be our goal in life to live righteous, to not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.

In closing, let’s heed the advice from the apostle Paul, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” (Galatians 4:9).

The Command to Connect

Recently I was contemplating on the effects of not seeing your close friends for a while. I thought about this when our weekly home group didn’t meet for a couple of times, but it’s been brought to my attention as well as good friends of mine recently left for the United Kingdom, and also I started trying to re-ignite my friendship with some guys I used to go to a lot of music concerts with, and concluded this is easier said than done.

I realized that connecting on a heart level with other Christians is not optional. It is a must! It is of practical importance to our spiritual health and growth. For it says in 1 Corinthians 12:21 “And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you“. We all need each other, we need to connect on a heart level with one another on a frequent basis in order to not only maintain our friendship or fellowship, but also to encourage one another.

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). What are youthful lusts? They are sexual temptation, illicit pleasures of the flesh, longing for fame and glory, etc. We need to flee from them. This means don’t entertain thoughts about them, don’t challenge them, don’t try them. The thing is we always pursue something. And so if we flee from (stop pursuing) these things this automatically means that we are running towards (or pursuing) something else. This goes hand in hand.

So what should we pursue? We should pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Let’s zoom in a bit on righteousness. “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17). So if we pursue righteousness we will find peace, quietness and confidence. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul” (Proverbs 2:6-10). We should pursue wisdom (ask God) and walk in integrity, then we will be able to discern righteousness and have knowledge that’s pleasant to the soul.

Now we should pursue righteousness with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. We must be around Christians who will seriously encourage us. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today; lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). To encourage one another daily takes responsibility. “Let us hold fast  the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

How do we pursue righteousness? How seriously do we take up this responsibility? What actions does the Apostle Paul encourage us to take? What will play a critical role in reaching our spiritual goals? What do we need to be mindful of as we encourage and sharpen one another in our faith? How do these verses change our perspective on the purpose and importance of friendships?

We have been given the command to connect. Connect on a level so deep that we can really encourage and stimulate one another to love and good deeds. I feel challenged to seriously examine my friendships and starting seeing them in light of these verses.