The Encourager

The Encourager

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Making Choices

Saturday, March 13, 2021

 

Making Choices

by Jeff Curtis

 

We are confronted with choices daily. Sometimes we choose between good and better. Other times we may choose between the lesser of two evils. In the text of Matthew 7:13-27, the choices are clearly between good and evil. We must choose between the following: (1) Walking on the narrow way or the broad way (vv.13,14); (2) Producing good or bad fruit (vv.15-20); (3) Being obedient or disobedient (vv.21-23); or (4) Building on rock or sand (vv.24-27).

 

In these verses, Jesus used the figure of a path to describe the choice between two ways of life leading to two very different destinies. Which of the two paths we choose is completely up to us. From the beginning of creation – starting with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – God has allowed people to make their own choices.

 

The Christian life is often described as a “way.” In fact, that is one of the names by which the early church was known (Acts 9:2; 24:14). The psalmist described the choice between “the way of the righteous” and “the way of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1-6). In a prophecy that point to the coming of the Christian era, Isaiah wrote; “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it (Isaiah 35:8).

 

In writing to encourage his readers to overcome spiritual exhaustion, the author of Hebrews said to “strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees of the feeble, and make straight paths for your feet” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

 

As the Israelites were preparing to enter Canaan, Moses assembled the people together to give them a parting message and to inform them that he would not be going with them into the promised land (Deut. 31:12). In his last address, he made an impassioned plea for them to be faithful to God (Deut. 30:19).

 

Just before his death, Joshua also challenged Israel, saying; “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with faithfulness. Throw away the gods of your forefathers worshiped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of your forefathers beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Josh. 24:14, 15).

 

When the northern kingdom was almost completely carried away into the worship of Baal, Elijah met the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. He refuted the combining of religious beliefs among the Israelites and asked, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1Kings 18:21).

 

Jeremiah reminded the people of Judah of the choice before them: either to remain in Jerusalem and be destroyed along with it or be destroyed along with it or flee from it as the judgment of God was approaching. He wrote, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death” (Jer. 31:8).

 

From the beginning, God has made it plain that people really have two options. We can choose to obey God or to disobey Him. There are not many ways to God; there is only one (John 14:6). There are not many roads leading to heaven; there is only one (Matt. 7:14). We must choose between true religion and false religion (Matt. 15:9). The Sermon on the Mount is a contrast between the righteousness of God that will lead to eternal life and the hypocrisy of scribes and Pharisees that will lead to eternal death (Matt. 5:20).

Don't Judge

Saturday, March 06, 2021

“Don’t Judge”

by Jeff Curtis

 

In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus condemned hypocritical judging where one might condemn another while engaging in some similar or more serious sin. Mounce explains it this way: “Human nature encourages us to pay far more attention to the shortcomings of others that to our own faults. We tend to evaluate others on the basis of a lofty standard of righteousness that somehow is not applicable to our own performance.” In order to be fair in our assessments of others, we should follow several guidelines.

 

We should evaluate our own lives. We must ask ourselves if we are doing the very things that we find offensive in others. A person should change himself before he attempts to change the world.

 

We should listen when others criticize us. They may be some truth to what they are saying that could help us become better people. Iron has the potential of sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

 

We should not jump to conclusions. We must try to gather all the facts and make sure our conclusions about others are not based on hearsay.

 

We should not stereotype people. It is unfair to judge a person based on his or her race, gender, social, or economic status.

 

We should consider other people’s situations before being overly critical. It could be that the person is dealing with some difficult issues in his or her life. We might behave in a similar way if we were walking in their shoes.

 

When we confront others, we need to evaluate our motives. Are we concerned about the other people’s spiritual situations (Galatians 6:1-4), or are we simply trying to make ourselves look better than them?

 

Conclusion. Jesus’ illustration of the hypocrite trying to judge another needs to serve as a warning to us.

 

Security of the Sheep

by Joe R. Price

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one. (John 10:27-30)

This passage is easily understood and gives great assurance to the followers of Jesus. People have distorted this teaching of Christ to assure souls that they can never so sin as to be lost once saved from sin. This passage does not teach this error. A brief review of the text shows Jesus comforts the faithful but does not secure sinners. First, see what Christ’s sheep do: They hear His voice and follow Him. Next, see what Jesus does: He knows them and gives them eternal life. Now, who “shall never perish” and not be snatched from Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand? It is the sheep who hear and follow Jesus (v. 27). What if the sheep stops following the shepherd? Christ’s sheep are exposed to life-threatening dangers when they leave the sheepfold of safety, wander on the hillside of sin, and forage in the thicket of evil. When Christians stop listening to Jesus and refuse to follow Him, their souls are in jeopardy! Christians who return to sin bring on their eternal demise, not an eternal reward (2 Pet. 2:20-22). This truth does not diminish the power of the Father and Son to save. It acknowledges what Scripture confirms: Christians can fall away (Gal. 5:4; Luke 8:13). God protects sheep who hear Him and follow Him. So, hear the word of Jesus and follow Him every day

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