Obey My Teaching…

John 14:23-24 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Our verse has prompted me to revisit the theme of teaching and discipling. Discipling is the process, through teaching and training, of making disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our verse today, we see Jesus equating our love for Him with the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him.  It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for God.  This is what Jesus has emphasized to us: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people.  We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law.  We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord,  teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

But another aspect of keeping the teachings of Christ in our hearts is sharing them with others.  Knowing and understanding the Word of God, and its application to the obedience that comes from faith, is something that we have been commanded to share and teach as well.  We studied this last week: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:18-20) And, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (Cf. John 15:20)

So, as we observe what has been happening in our world over the past several months, the call the teach, train, and disciple unbelievers is just as critical as it was in the apostolic period of early Christianity. We are seeing and experiencing a great spiritual awakening in this present generation … looking for a new apostolic age to emerge from the remnant Church that has been called forth in these latter days to reach the lost. Yes, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9) Stepping up and taking our place in His Body and exercising the spiritual gifts we have been given for the building of the Church is what the Spirit is leading and guiding us to do!

Paul, in his epistles, was quite adamant on the necessity of teaching and discipling those who come to faith in Jesus:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NIV)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Titus 2:1-15 (NIV)

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves (employees) to be subject to their masters (employers) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So what is the application for us? I think the message is straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of God is how we demonstrate our love for Him.  To obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) And we are to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:24) The emphasis is on truth … to be genuine, honest, and sincere.  Not only should we be transparent before God in our obedience to Him, the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) And we should be able to teach these things as well. As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do…. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Master Teacher…

Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

I love this verse and the wisdom it imparts to us … the reminder we need each day of who God is and how He engages with us – His people:

Isaiah 48:16-19 (NIV)

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. 17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.”

Our Father declares He is the Lord our God … our Redeemer and the Holy One!  The Lord declares: “I AM HE; I AM the first and I AM the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:12-13) We need to keep this perspective that God is indeed our Creator and our lives were created for HIS glory. As we come to understand that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we see our lives are in desperate need of redemption. We realize our lives are in full need of correction … a great salvation that we cannot provide for ourselves. It requires a sovereign act of forgiveness that can only come from the One who created us … through whom we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to indwell us.

And here is the message: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you … who directs you in the way you should go.”  Do we heed His instructions?  Do we walk in the direction He shows us?  The Lord pleads with us – Keep My Commandments and your peace will be like a river … your well-being like the waves of the sea!  What more could He say?  What more should He say? The Covenant of Love … the New Covenant … are forged in the obedience of faith. So how does the relationship of discipleship with Christ work?  Consider this one pivotal lesson Jesus taught through humble, personal demonstration:

John 13:12-14 (NIV) – At the Last Supper

12 When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Oh, that every person would look to Jesus … the Master Teacher … the Light of the World … the living, everlasting Word of God … to teach us what is best for us and to direct us in the Way we should go!  What would be the outcome?  Peace and well-being flowing like a river within us!  What did Jesus say? “Whoever believe in me, as Scripture has said, river of living water will flow from within them.”  The Master Teacher said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the Rock.” (Cf. Matthew 7:24-25) And, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Cf. John 14:26) Even now, I am reminded of what the Apostle John affirmed in this regard:

1 John 2:18-29 (NKJV)

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1 John 3:24 (NIV)

The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

1 John 4:13 (NIV)

This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

Yes, God has assured us that we can KNOW what is best for us and the direction we should go! We can know these things because He Himself teaches us these things through His Word by the Holy Spirit He has given us in Christ Jesus.  Peter spoke to this when he affirmed: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews asserted: “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) And Paul addressed discernment of spiritual knowledge as well:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV)

10 These are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Quoting Isaiah 64:4) But we have the mind of Christ.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Your Children Well…

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

This is a favorite verse for many reasons.  First, I have found it to be true in my own life.  I was raised in a Christian home like many of us.  But in my teenage years and early adulthood, I went through a period of apathy and unconcern for the things of God.  I knew He was there, and I prayed on occasion, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him.  To be honest, I did not know how to have that kind of abiding relationship.  Yet, God in His kindness, led me to repentance and granted me salvation at the age of 29.  And my life has never been the same since that night I knelt at an altar and gave my life to Christ….  He redeemed my life and directed my steps to the path of life … the path taught to me as a child before I ever understood it.

I also like the King James translation of this verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  To me the key word here is “train”.  We must be diligent to teach our children the Word of God.  We spend hours reading to our children when they are toddlers and pre-school … giving them a head start in life and education.  How many of those books are bible stories … planting seeds of faith in their hearts from the earliest age? As adults we know and understand that learning is life-long.  It is so important to start our children with the knowledge of God while their minds are sponges and their hearts receptive.  Even Jesus exhorted His disciples regarding children coming to Him:

Matthew 10:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark 9:36-37 (NKJV)

36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Luke 18:15-16 (NKJV)

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

There is a great connection between how we raise our children to be drawn to Jesus and how their lives will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … regardless of the bends and turns they experience along the Way. It requires great patience. It requires intentionality. What does the text say? “Then little children were brought to Him….”  We need to bring our children to the Lord Jesus.  We need Him to put His hands on them and pray over them. And Jesus wants us to receive children in His name. There is nothing more precious than a child … and children are greatly treasured by our Heavenly Father.  So, I pray we will consider this lesson that Jesus taught: “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Cf. Matthew 18:2-4)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Responsible Fatherhood….

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

The role of a father with his children an serves an integral part of their development and well-being throughout their lives as they grow and mature.  For those of us who have become fathers, the Scriptures afford us with points of wisdom to guide us in this role.  And I believe, fathers, we need to spend time in the Word of God to see what our Heavenly Father has to say about the role He ordained for men to fulfill in His creation.  Sure, we have our own fathers as examples … and the fathers of other people as examples.  And as hard as they might endeavor to be the “best” father, we realize that each one will miss the mark at times because we are fallen creatures.  Still, that is the most tangible resource men becoming fathers will have to work with as we hone and prepare our hearts for this service to God … often learning what “not to do” as well as “what to do” from the role models we had in our lives.  So, again, when all else fails (I hear my wife now), men need to read the directions that our perfect Father has provided to guide us on this journey into fatherhood.  I believe the more we attempt to implement what God has revealed to us, the better fathers we will ultimately be in service to His Kingdom and for the children He has called to salvation through our roles as earthly fathers….  With this preface in mind, we will look at our Verse of the Day and put it into the relational contexts in which Paul shares this admonition:

Ephesians 6:1-4 (NRSV)

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Notice how Paul begins the discourse with a covenant context – the fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12,  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”  I will mention that this is the first commandment that is not focused in reference to our relationship with God; rather, it initiates the remaining six commandments which deal with our relationships with other people. Is it not awesome that the first commandment for human relationships is connected to the first relationships we have after birth … with our fathers and mothers? In other words, I believe the context and order of the commandments indicates the importance of this human relationship above all others … the one we are born into as we enter the world.

So, to me, Paul’s commentary points out a concern that greatly impacts the ability and willingness of us to observe this particular commandment; namely, the leadership role of fathers in the development of a covenant relationship with their children.  We are to bring our children up (raise them) in the discipline (teaching) and instruction of the Lord.  This is an imperative upon us to do so, along with our wives, as the spiritual leaders of our homes!  If we are not actively, intentionally pouring the Word of God into our children’s hearts, then we are not fulfilling a key function of our roles as fathers.  I might even refer to this as the “office” of fathers.  For it is clear from the Scripture that we have been given the “authority” and “responsibility” to fulfill what God has commanded us to do as fathers.  How do you think children will honor their fathers and mothers if they do not take the lead in creating the bonds that foster honor and instill the concept of obedience?

Another observation of this verse, it that the text implies that our children will be “provoked to anger.”  Some translations render the phrase “do not exacerbate or frustrate” your children.  So what does this mean?  Well, to me, it means that children desire and need “boundaries” for their lives.  There is something innate within each of us that “knows” good and evil … right and wrong … pleasing and displeasing.  Is it not very frustrating and exacerbating to have a relationship with someone but to not know the expectations for that relationship?  For example, employers hire (enter relationship with) people to accomplish a greater good that can only be achieved through the pooling of talents and teamwork. Yet, how difficult is it to be an effective employee if you are not told what to do or given a clear assignment within the team? Yes, it is responsibility of fathers to teach and train their children the “parameters” for functioning not only within the family but within the human community as well. So God instructs us as fathers to be actively, spiritually engaged with our children because the failure to do so will leave them exacerbated, frustrated, in confusion, and eventually abandoning the guidance of moral conduct God has given us in His commandments.  Indeed, if fathers do not commit to take the lead role in the assimilation of their children into the family of God, they will become quite frustrated and angry over time.

This leads me to an often-quoted verse – because its truth is timeless and proven:

Proverbs 22:5:6 (Self-Amplified)

Train up a child … yes train up all of your children … in the way they should go … the right way … in the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Cf. John 14:6); because even when they become old, they will not depart from their training … they will not stray beyond reach from the instruction you instill in them while children.  It will continue to resonate within their hearts.  It will continue bring conviction to their inner beings.  They will be restless when they do not live according to the Truth.  They will come to see the Light of God and His wisdom.  Yes, do not neglect to teach your children … be diligent to disciple them and to instruct them in the Word of God.  For God has declared that His Word that goes forth shall not return to Him void; rather, it shall accomplish what He desires … what pleases Him.  It shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it. (Cf. Isaiah 55:11)

To you who are fathers (and to men who will become fathers), your role and mine … a distinct assignment given to us by Father God … is to be spiritual priests over our homes! Yes, we are to be providers.  Yes, we are to be protectors.  And, yes, we are to be priests over our children.  We are given this charge to bring them up in the training, admonition, and instruction of the Lord as revealed through His Word.  To neglect this role, to be disobedient to this charge, will leave your children frustrated and exacerbated with trying to understand who they are … not only in relation to you but with their Heavenly Father as well.  So I urge you to take these Scriptures to heart … to put them into practice.  As Jesus taught, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the Rock. (Cf. Matthew 7:24) So, I pray we will all be wise men … and do what the Lord has commissioned us to do in our roles as fathers….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!