The Encourager

The Encourager

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The Decision to Believe

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Decision to Believe

by Jeff Curtis

Throughout the book of Daniel, we see his faith put to the test. He was required to make choices that were contrary to the prevailing wisdom. He had to act against the standards imposed upon him by ungodly people. Other captives were submitting, however reluctantly, to the Babylonians’ commands.

The name “Daniel” means “God is my judge.” Daniel is surely referred to in Hebrews 11:33, among the great examples of faith. The concepts of faith and judgement are inseparably linked. Daniel trusted (believed) in God. He believed in God’s providence, and he trusted in God’s power. We will see these manifestations of his faith again, specifically in chapter 6.

How did Daniel know that God would give him and his friends a better appearance and better physical and mental health (Daniel 1:15-20) than the other young people under the same tests? Daniel didn’t know, based what he new from life, but he had assurance (Hebrews 11:1) because he did know his God. Therefore, Daniel consistently made the right choices. This is what our faith should cause us to do.

Every day we are confronted with choices. Some require mundane, routine decisions, and some are more significant. The Bible is full of stories of people who made choices – some bad (like Cain, Lot and Judas) and some good (like Moses, Daniel and Paul). God has a way of letting us experience consequences of our choices, even in this life. Of course, the ultimate consequences of our decisions will be seen in the life to come. God rewarded Daniel on this occasion and the following years.

The importance of one right choice cannot be overemphasized. Thousands of lives, over many years, are affected. Only God knows the power of a right decision.

Even bad choices, though unfortunate, can be amended if we act in time. While we have no example in the Book of Daniel of the main character making a bad choice, we know of many others who made poor choices. Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son shows the possibility of our coming to our senses and correcting a bad decision (Luke 15:17). As God gave Daniel favor because of his faith, so God will give us favor if we repent of bad choices.

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Jesus, the Master Teacher

by Joe R. Price

“And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples” (Mark 4:33-34).

Jesus was the Master Teacher. He used parables to teach the gospel of the kingdom to the multitudes that gathered to Him in Galilee (Mark 4:1-2). Then, away from the crowds, He explained the parables to His disciples (Mark 4:10-12).

Jesus knew His audience. He spoke the word “as they were able to hear it” to the crowd (v. 33). He did not impress them with scholarship or eloquence (a healthy reminder to preachers and teachers today, 1 Cor. 2:1). He was not condescending toward His audience. His goal was to teach them by planting the seed of God’s word into their hearts (Matt. 13:34-35). A godly woman once told young preachers, “Put the hay down where the calves can reach it, and the cows will have no trouble getting their fill.” Good advice.

The parables challenged the crowd to ponder and prioritize God’s will. How people responded to Christ’s teachings exposed their hearts, and it still does (Mark 4:11-12, 13-20). Away from the crowd, Jesus also took the time to explain the parables to His disciples (v. 34). He unraveled the parables’ meanings to them as He prepared them to take the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15-16).

We benefit from Jesus’ teaching style as we listen to His words and the explanations of truth His apostles, in turn, gave to the world (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:8-13).

Living in God's Peace

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Living in God’s Peace

by Jeff Curtis

 

One can be right with God when he doubts his faith, and one can be wrong with God when he feels that everything is right. The longing God is that we would both be saved and be assured of the reality of our salvation. Many of the believers John was writing to had doubts about their relationship with God and their eternal life. John, led by the Holy Spirit, didn’t reprimand them for their doubts, but did everything he could to convince them they should not have such doubts.

 

A confidence alongside my knowing I have eternal life (1John 5:13-15). John said they should live in confidence (5:13,14). What a difference we would all see in our lives if we lived in such confidence all the time! If we approach God asking for anything that is according to His will, He hears us. We don’t ever have to be concerned that God is too busy for us. If we know He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we ask of Him. That is a powerful statement. Our asking needs to be about what we know God wants. When we make our requests, there should be no doubt in our minds that God will grant them. We should live our lives as though they have already been granted to us (5:15).

 

We are to look after our brothers and sisters (5:16,17). John has talked about acts of sin that we commit when we are trying to walk in God’s light and about how the blood cleanses us in such situations. We have talked about confessing our sins to God when we know of them so that God, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, may take them away. We’ve talked about being people who continue to live in sin once we have been born of God – because He remains in us so that we cannot keep on sinning.

 

John emphasized that acts of sin are cleansed by the blood. He also stressed that if we continue in sin after we have been born of God and do not change our lives after becoming Christians, then we really have not been born of God or had our sins atoned for. The sinner must repent.

We are to stay in God’s keeping (5:18-20). As John reached the end of the book, he reminded us of several important truths: “We know that no one who is born of God sins; by He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him” (5:18). He spoke first of followers of Christ who don’t go on living the same way they did before they were born of God. We must be growing away from the influence of the wicked one. At the same time, John wanted us to know that the One who was born of God keeps us safe, and the evil one cannot harm us. Who is the One who was born of God? That is Jesus, who was born of God as the Holy Spirit came upon Mary to make her pregnant and give birth to Him. His the One who keeps us safe from the evil one when we are living a life of faith in God and striving to be like Him in all we do.

 

John said, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (5:19). He put a huge divide between those who are living for God and those who are living for the devil. If we are God’s children, He is our Father; and we are always striving to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. We want to obey His teaching and imitate the life of Jesus. We may see just how evil we can become in this world. On the other hand, we may try hard to be the best person we know how to be; but without the help or cleansing of Jesus, we will fail.

 

The real question is “Who is leading us in life?” Our answer can’t be based on how well we are living morally. Satan may be convincing us that we are doing so well in the way we are living that we don’t need God, forgiveness, or a submission to God’s will to be cleansed from sin.

 

People’s lives were changed when they began to finally recognize that He was more than a great prophet. When He was raised from the dead and walked among them, breathing on them the Holy Spirit, their entire being changed. The apostles changed from a band of fearful men to a band of men preaching a saving Gospel to change the world.

 

Conclusion. Do you know that you have eternal life because you are in Christ, as one who, through faith, was baptized into Him? Are you living the life that means you know you have eternal life in His Son? The opportunity is there for all of us, but the choice is yours.

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