godliness

2 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 2

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Chronicles 17 and Zechariah 2.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 17.

The kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were all evil in God’s sight. The kings of Judah were a mixed bag. After the kingdom divided, Judah had twenty kings; eight of them were described as men who were righteous in the sight of God. Today we read about one of the most faithful of the godly kings in Judah; namely, Jehoshaphat. It would be hard to get a better description of your life than: • “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him” (v. 3a). • He “sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.” (v. 4). • “His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” (v. 6a).

So, clearly, Jehoshaphat was an exemplary man.

But this chapter goes beyond these general descriptions of his godliness and gives us some specifics. One specific demonstration of Jehoshaphat’s godliness was his separation from idolatry • Verse 3 said, “He did not consult the Baals....” This shows that he was personally free from idolatry.
• Verse 6 said, “...he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.” He not only abstained from idolatry personally but he did not tolerate the practice of idolatry in his kingdom.

When we read that a king of Judah did right in the eyes of the Lord, it means that king, at the bare minimum, had some kind of separation from idolatry.

Jehoshaphat, though, went so much further than that. Verses 7-9 say that Jehoshaphat sent government leaders “to teach the towns of Judah” (v. 7). With those government officials he sent Levites who “taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people” (v. 9). So he both removed idols from Judah and replaced those idols with the teaching of truth.

Systematic instruction from God’s word is essential to the growth of godliness in a person or group of people’s lives. It is, of course, possible to teach God’s word in a way that is dry and lacking spiritual life. It is also possible to learn God’s word academically without receiving it spiritually.

But people who are growing spiritually are people who want to know God’s word. There is a hunger for truth in a godly person’s heart that can only be filled by the teaching of God’s word. Godly leaders and godly people do what is right but they also desire to know more of God’s truth. The better we know God’s truth, the more clearly and powerfully we encounter God himself.

Jesus created the church, in part, to provide the kind of instruction to us Christians that Jehoshaphat starting giving the people of Judah in this chapter. Are you showing up to receive the teaching our church offers? Do you come hungry, ready to learn what God has spoken?

1 Kings 19, Daniel 1

Today, read 1 Kings 19 and Daniel 1.

This passage begins with a description of Judah’s Babylonian exile (vv. 1-2). God allowed (v. 2) Babylon to overtake Jerusalem in fulfillment of God’s prophecies and because of Judah’s unbelief and idolatry.

As we read these early chapters of Daniel in the next few days, we will see that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon was a proud man. But he wasn’t too proud to believe that he and his Babylonian brethren had all the wisdom available on earth. In verses 3-5 we read that Nebuchadnezzar looked for, found, and cultivated the most outstanding young people he could find in Judah. Verse 4 told us that these young men had to look good but also show “aptitude for every kind of learning, [be] well informed, [and] quick to understand.” Nebuchadnezzar invested in the education and development of these men (vv. 4f-5) and expected them to contribute significantly to his administration when they were done with their training.

Judah was filled with godless idolators; that’s why they were taken captive by the Babylonians. The sons of Judah’s idol-worshiping men and women likewise cared nothing about obedience to God and their exile had not caused them to repent. Consequently, they had no problem falling in line with the worship, culture, and expectations of the Babylonians. I’m sure they mourned the loss of their parents who were killed when the Babylonians invaded. They may have missed Jerusalem and their old friends, too, but many of them were probably excited by this great new opportunity that Nebuchadnezzar had for them. If it meant conforming to Babylonian ways, they were happy to comply.

That was true for everyone except for Daniel and his three friends (vv. 6-7). These men were (likely) raised in homes that were faithful to the Lord. They continued to believe in God and his word despite the defeat of Judah. That defeat simply confirmed their faith because the prophets had been predicting it for years and they knew that God’s people had not repented. Their challenge now was to live obediently to God’s word in a place that was much more hostile to God than even Jerusalem in unbelief had been. Daniel and the guys determined from the very beginning not to compromise their faith. They promised to perform well if they were allowed to live God’s way (vv. 13-14). That was an act of faith and God met their faith with blessing (vv. 15-17).

The world wants to squeeze everyone into its mold but God commands us not to conform but to be transformed by renewing our minds (Rom 12:2). Daniel and his cohorts left an amazing legacy and example for all of us who want to live for God by faith to follow.

Your school, your government, your neighborhood, your friends, your family, the media you consume are all trying to squeeze you into a mold. Most--maybe all--of those influences are squeezing you into a godless form. Jesus wants to transform you into his likeness. His word, His church, His Spirit, and His grace are all operating in your life for that to happen, but it takes some determination on your part, a willingness to be different. Is there some way right now where you’re being squeezed? What would the Lord want you to do to emulate the faith and obedience of Daniel?

1 Samuel 16, Lamentations 1

Today, read 1 Samuel 16 and Lamentations 1.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 16.

The writer of First Samuel has given us very few time references to help us mark the events recorded in this book. Since the author focused on the significant events without telling us how much time passed between them, it seems like Saul’s kingdom rose rapidly and collapsed over night as we read 1 Samuel. But the truth is that Saul reigned over Israel for a long time—forty-two years, according 1 Samuel 13:1. It may have been a long time between when Samuel officially announced to Saul his rejection as king in 1 Samuel 15 and David’s anointing as king in 1 Samuel 16. The Lord’s word to Samuel in 16:1, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?”, suggests that a good amount of time may have passed. Despite that, a long time will transpire between when David was anointed king here in 1 Samuel 16 and when he became king in 2 Samuel 2. During this time, God would prepare David for the role He had chosen David to fill.

God commanded Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons in verse 1 to replace Saul as king. Since Samuel feared for his life while obeying this command (v. 2a), God told him how to use the worship ritual of sacrifice to provide cover for this assignment (vv. 2b-5). Although offering a sacrifice gave Samuel an overt occasion to accomplish his covert mission of choosing Israel’s king, the sacrifice itself was more than just a cover story. As the leader of God’s people, it was appropriate for David’s ministry as king to begin with a sacrifice followed by his anointing because his kingship would be a spiritual thing—an act of obedient worship, of direct service to the Lord his God.

The importance of choosing a godly man to succeed Saul was emphasized in how God revealed to Samuel whom to anoint. Traditionally, the eldest son would have been the natural choice and Jesse’s son Eliab looked like a winner to Samuel (v. 6). But God taught Samuel and us an important lesson about spiritual leadership in verse 7 of our chapter for today: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We humans are wired to be impressed by someone’s physical appearance. We admire those who are tall, “looking up” to them metaphorically as well as literally. Studies show that a good looking job candidate is more likely to be hired than an average (or worse) looking person, even if the good-looking one is less qualified. We are easily impressed by appearances. God, however, is not. Although David was plenty good-looking and athletic (vv. 12, 18), it was his walk with God that qualified him to be a leader for God’s people, not his physical attributes.

This passage should cause us to stop and reflect on our own decision-making. How much of a factor was the character and spiritual life of your spouse when you chose to start dating him or her? How much was it a factor when you chose to get married? Do you choose to read books (or receive other kinds of spiritual input) from pastors and teachers who are popular, lead large ministries, and have impressive sales numbers or are you looking for strong, biblical content? What about choosing a church—is it about how cool and flashy the worship team is or how trendy the pastor’s clothes or how good his message makes you feel? When your kids start to get interested in the opposite sex, are you concerned that they climb the social ladder by dating the best looking, or most popular, or biggest athlete? As long as that person claims to be a Christian, is that good enough for you or are you looking for evidence of a growing Christian life?

David had a lot to learn before he could lead God’s people as king, so in God’s providence he was brought into close contact with Saul in verses 13-23. But the most important qualification in David’s life was that he walked with God. Since he walked with God, God would lead him through the circumstances and events (many of them painful) that would prepare him to be the leader of God’s people. If you aspire to be a leader or to become somebody’s husband or wife, or to see your children grow up and become good, godly adults, the most important thing to do is walk with God yourself. The second most important thing to do is to learn to look beneath appearances for genuine evidence of a growing walk with God in the other person. We can’t see the heart like God does, but we can ask him to lead us and to show us the truth about others. If our desire is to please God, we can trust that he will lead us just as he lead in David’s life.

Judges 11:12-40, Jeremiah 24

Today’s readings are Judges 11:12-40 and Jeremiah 24.

This devotional is about Judges 11:12-40.

Jephthah was born of a sinful union and was horribly mistreated by his half brothers as we read yesterday. Despite this difficult beginning, he had leadership qualities (11:3) so he was ready when his people needed help.

He also knew his Bible (vv. 12-28) and, when the time came, God used him powerfully to deliver Gilead from the Ammonites. Although he had pure motives to honor God for the victory, the vow he made was stupid (vv. 30-31). His reaction (vv. 34-35) shows how little thought he put into the vow he had made and how there was no malice whatsoever in his heart when he made the vow.

I heard a pastor say once that Jephthah did not actually kill his daughter and offer her as a burnt offering; instead, he just sent her off to the tabernacle to serve the priests like Hannah would later do with her son Samuel. I wish that were true, but the evidence to the contrary in the passage is too strong. In verse 31b he said, “I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” and verse 39b says, “...he did to her as he had vowed” so there is every reason to believe that she died as a human sacrifice and no reason to believe that she lived as a religious servant.

So what do we do with this awful text? First, we should understand that the whole book of Judges was given to show us what a moral and spiritual mess Israel was. Even the good guys in Judges do foolish, even ungodly things.

More importantly, we should understand that Jephthah’s vow was outside of the moral will of God. Deuteronomy 12:31 and 18:9-12 clearly prohibit human sacrifice and those passages tell us that Israel would kill the people of these Canaanite nations in war because of this very kind of sinful thing. Promising God that you will do something and then doing it when it is a sin does not bring glory to God in any way.

So what should Jephthah have done? He should have asked the priests to inquire of the Lord for him (see Ex 28:30, Deut 33:8, 1 Sam 14:41, Ezra 2:63, Neh 7:65)*, then done whatever he was told. I am certain the Lord would have commanded him to redeem his daughter in some way rather than put her to death.

We can learn two lessons from this gruesome story. First, being zealous for God’s glory does not automatically protect you from doing foolish, even sinful things. Sometimes Christians make excuses for themselves or others because someone “has a good heart.” They may have a good heart but that doesn’t mean they always make good decisions. Wisdom is just as important as personal godliness; in fact, it IS an important aspect of godliness.

Second, when you put yourself in a moral quandary--intentional or not--you need to seek godly counsel for help. So many problems could have been prevented, solved, or at least had the damage contained if God’s people reached out to godly leaders for help sooner and more often. Consult your elders when you’re in over your head. God gave elders to the church to shepherd his people out of difficult situations. Use us.

*For more on how the Urim & Thummim were used to help discern God’s will, see this article: https://bible.org/question/how-did-urim-and-thummim-function ]

Proverbs 31

Today’s reading is Proverbs 31.

Proverbs 31 is known for “The Proverbs 31 Woman,” aka the “wife of noble character,” who is described in verses 10-31. It is, of course, fair that this chapter is known for the woman described here. After all, 2/3rds of the verses in this chapter are given to describing her.

I would point out that many of the qualities described in this section are applicable to men and women. Both men and women should be:

  • beneficial to family (v. 12: “brings... good not harm”)
  • kind to the poor (v. 20)
  • hardworking (vv. 13, 15, 17, 19, 27)
  • productive (vv. 14, 16, 18)
  • prepared (vv. 21-22, 25)
  • wise (v. 26)
  • God-fearing (v. 30b)

So, when I read this passage, I see more than the description of a great woman. I see the description of what a godly life looks like when lived by a woman. You might call it a feminine portrayal of godliness or, better, a godly life applied specifically to women in daily Old Testament life.

Some of what is described here would have been considered “typical” for women in the time and situation when this was written. For instance, providing “food for her family” (v. 15b), making sure her family has warm clothing (v. 21), and watching “over the affairs of her household” (v. 27) were all considered women’s responsibilities. In many ways, they still are “typical” for women in our times.

But notice that this woman does many things which were not considered “typical” for women, especially in the Old Testament. The women described in this chapter is a first-rate businessperson according to verses 16, 18, 24. Many people who talk about the biblical role of women today don’t seem to notice this particular detail. Also, verse 26 says, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” In a world where women were confined to an outer place in the temple and, later, to the back of the synagogue, one might not expect a woman to be wise and insightful, but she was.

Also notice that this exceptional woman is not forced to be exceptional because she is married to loser. Instead, “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (v. 23) and he “has full confidence in her” (v. 11a). The point is that this couple makes quite a team! The husband is himself faithful, hardworking, and successful but he is even more successful and resourceful because his wife takes care of business at home and even outside the home as well.

Already I have written more about this passage than I intended, but I never read it without (a) giving thanks for my wife Suzanne who fits the description in these verses and (b) thinking about what a slacker I am compared to this remarkable woman. Guys: this passage gives us a lot to think about for ourselves. Look to your own life before you start judging your wife by these words.

But please indulge me as I come to the real point I wanted to make in this devotional. It is Saturday, after all, so you probably have some extra time to read and think today. So, consider this:

The description of this woman was given in a particular context. The author of this chapter, King Lemuel (v. 1) was trying to give good life-advice to his son, presumably the future king. Lemuel prayed (v. 2b) for his son. Having received him, he urged him to be wise about how he lived his life. Lemuel’s concern was that his son would become a lazy, self-indulgent man. Because he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” (as they say), he might live for himself. Because he was a child of wealth, power, and privilege, it would be easy for him to make bad decisions that were pleasurable in the moment. Specifically, he could get involved with women who had loose morals and low character (v. 3) and he could spend his days getting drunk (vv. 4-7).

A prince of a guy like Lemuel’s son would probably find it easy to meet beautiful girls who would do and say anything to get with him. Win the future king’s heart and she would be set for life. Likewise, guys who wanted an easy route in life would show up with booze to share with the future king in hopes that they, his drinking buddies from way back, would get high paying, low stress jobs in his administration.

So the description of the wife of noble character in this chapter, while giving us all much to aspire to, was really designed to sober up (pun kind of intended) a young man destined for leadership. It was designed to get him to be wise about his choice of spouse. Don’t look for a beautiful girl who is easy, Lemuel was saying. Look hard for one of those precious ones (v. 10) who loves the Lord (v. 30), cares about people (v. 20), will nurture her family (vv. 14-15, 21) and will be a supportive, hardworking partner with you to build a successful life (vv. 28-31).

Beauty and godliness are not mutually exclusive. But there are great looking people--both men and women--who have low moral character. If we choose a partner in life based on looks alone or based on looks and personality, we are making a serious decision based on very weak grounds (v. 30a). A well-lived life depends on forming a strong partnership with someone you’re attracted to physically who also walks with God and works with you to make the most of whatever God allows into your life (v. 30b). I think my wife is gorgeous; I always have. I was attracted to her the first time I saw her and that has not changed. But I knew plenty of attractive girls before I met Suzanne who seemed to like me but didn’t care so much for the Lord. I kept looking for a godly, wise, and gifted young woman who was also attractive to me. When I found her, I kept pursuing her until she decided she wanted to be with me. Some of the girls I knew when I was single have made good choices and built admirable lives; Lemuel acknowledged in verse 29 that there are plenty of good women out there. But this entire chapter beckons to us all—men and women--to aspire to much more than a pretty good life. It calls us to be men (vv. 1-9, 23) and women (vv. 10-31) who take life seriously as believers in God and work together as a couple to build a praise-worthy union (vv. 28-29, 31).

Are you working with your spouse on that? Or are your wasting your time in self-indulgent behavior such as mindlessly watching TV for hours, undisciplined consumption of food and/or alcohol, dabbling in sinful pleasures, and making shallow, short-term decisions? The beginning of a new year, which arrives on Monday, gives us a chance to look at our lives and change them based on the wisdom we find in this chapter.

And, don’t forget to give your children a vision of what a well-lived life looks like. Encourage them to think about the long-term consequences of their choices in life and to make wise and godly choices.

May God use this convicting chapter as a means of grace to us, calling us to a higher way of living for his glory.

1 Timothy 4

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 4.

In today’s chapter, Paul turned to address Timothy personally. After warning him about prophesies that some would abandon the faith (vv. 1-4), Paul spoke about the importance of tending to his own spiritual life (vv. 6-10). The key verse in this paragraph is verse 7b: “train yourself to be godly.” The word train is deliberately chosen from athletics. We see this in verse 8 which talks about the limited value of “physical training.” Godliness, therefore, is like working out in that it must be done consistently. You can go to the gym today and work out until you can’t walk but tomorrow you will see no difference in the mirror. If that’s all the training you do for this month, you won’t be any stronger or faster. But, if you work out regularly, you will build muscle. That will start to affect your appearance and you will be able to perform better athletically over all. So it is with godliness. If we become godly by “training ourselves,” we need to work on cultivating godliness regularly.

Some of you told me early on in these devotionals that this format has helped you build a Bible reading habit into your life. That’s great and it is exactly what I was trying to do. If you are going to keep growing stronger in your faith and in godliness, you need to keep reading scripture daily and also cultivate the habits of prayer, worshipping with our church family, and finding a place to serve. If you have established a Bible reading habit this year, keep going! See it through to the end of the year, then continue with another approach next year.

Reading God’s word is only one step in the process. Once we’ve been taught by the word, we need to do what the word commands us to do through obedience. This is how we learn to “be godly” (v. 7) not just aspire to godliness or know what it means to be godly.

1 Samuel 16, Romans 14, Lamentations 1, Psalm 32

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 16, Romans 14, Lamentations 1, Psalm 32. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Samuel 16.

The writer of 1 Samuel has given us very few time references to help us mark the events recorded in this book. Since the author focused on the significant events without telling us how much time passed between them, it seems like Saul’s kingdom rose rapidly and collapsed over night as we read 1 Samuel. But the truth is that Saul reigned over Israel for a long time—forty-two years, according 1 Samuel 13:1. It may have been a long time between when Samuel officially announced to Saul his rejection as king in 1 Samuel 15 and David’s anointing as king in 1 Samuel 16. The Lord’s word to Samuel in 16:1, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?”, suggests that a good amount of time may have passed. Despite that, a long time will transpire between when David was anointed king here in 1 Samuel 16 and when he became king in 2 Samuel 2. During this time, God would prepare David for the role He had chosen David to fill.

God commanded Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons in verse 1 to replace Saul as king. Since Samuel feared for his life while obeying this command (v. 2a), God told him how to use the worship ritual of sacrifice to provide cover for this assignment (vv. 2b-5). Although offering a sacrifice gave Samuel an overt occasion to accomplish his covert mission of choosing Israel’s king, the sacrifice itself was more than just a cover story. As the leader of God’s people, it was appropriate for David’s ministry as king to begin with a sacrifice followed by his anointing because his kingship would be a spiritual thing—an act of obedient worship, of direct service to the Lord his God. 

The importance of choosing a godly man to succeed Saul was emphasized in how God revealed to Samuel whom to anoint. Traditionally, the eldest son would have been the natural choice and Jesse’s son Eliab looked like a winner to Samuel (v. 6). But God taught Samuel and us an important lesson about spiritual leadership in verse 7 of our chapter for today: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We humans are wired to be impressed by someone’s physical appearance. We admire those who are tall, “looking up” to them metaphorically as well as literally. Studies show that a good looking job candidate is more likely to be hired than an average (or worse) looking person, even if the good-looking one is less qualified. We are easily impressed by appearances. God, however, is not. Although David was plenty good-looking and athletic (vv. 12, 18), it was his walk with God that qualified him to be a leader for God’s people, not his physical attributes. 

This passage should cause us to stop and reflect on our own decision-making. How much of a factor was the character and spiritual life of your spouse when you chose to start dating him or her? How much was it a factor when you chose to get married? Do you choose to read books (or receive other kinds of spiritual input) from pastors and teachers who are popular, lead large ministries, and have impressive sales numbers or are you looking for strong, biblical content? What about choosing a church—is it about how cool and flashy the worship team is or how trendy the pastor’s clothes or how good his message makes you feel? When your kids start to get interested in the opposite sex, are you concerned that they climb the social ladder by dating the best looking, or most popular, or biggest athlete? As long as that person claims to be a Christian, is that good enough for you or are you looking for evidence of a growing Christian life?

David had a lot to learn before he could lead God’s people as king, so in God’s providence he was brought into close contact with Saul in verses 13-23. But the most important qualification in David’s life was that he walked with God. Since he walked with God, God would lead him through the circumstances and events (many of them painful) that would prepare him to be the leader of God’s people. If you aspire to be a leader or to become somebody’s husband or wife, or to see your children grow up and become good, godly adults, the most important thing to do is walk with God yourself. The second most important thing to do is to learn to look beneath appearances for genuine evidence of a growing walk with God in the other person. We can’t see the heart like God does, but we can ask him to lead us and to show us the truth about others. If our desire is to please God, we can trust that he will lead us just as he lead in David’s life.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 28, Psalm 72, Isaiah 19–20, 2 Peter 1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 28, Psalm 72, Isaiah 19–20, 2 Peter 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 2 Peter 1.

Second Peter 1:3-4 is a passage I return to again and again in my own life as a Christian and in my attempts to teach and encourage other believers toward godliness. The passage starts with a bold proclamation: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life….” If you believe in Jesus, you can become a godly person; God has provided you with everything you need to become one and nothing you need is missing. The ability and tools to grow in godliness come supernaturally and spiritually from God himself for the passage says, “His divine power has given us…” But how exactly was it given to us? Verse 3 continues, “…through our knowledge of him who called us…” In other words, it is our knowledge of God that enables us to become godly. This is a reference to our salvation, how we came to know God, for the next phrase of verse 4 says, “…who called us by his own glory and goodness.” It was God’s grace in salvation—grace that brings glory to himself—and his goodness that caused us to come to know God and have all that we need for a godly life. Verse 4 expands on this reality by telling us that God’s gracious salvation consists of “great and precious promises” and that the result of these promises is “that through them you may participate in the divine nature…” This is a reference to the new life that God gave us. His promise to us was that, if we believe in Jesus, we will know God, have our sins forgiven, and be given a new nature that desires to become like God in holiness. When we believed in Jesus, these promises were planted into our lives and began to bear fruit that gives us all we need to become godly men and women. 

Note, though, that we don’t just passively and automatically become godly. No, God “has given us” through “his divine power” “everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him.” When we understand this truth, Peter urges us to put it to work in our lives; verse 5 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge….” The phrase “for this reason” takes us back to all that God has done for us. Since knowing him in salvation means receiving everything he given us—everything we need—for a godly life, we should actively build faith and holiness into our lives. God does some of this for us through the conviction of sin in our conscience, through the purging effect of trials/discipline in our lives, and through the teaching of his Word and the sharpening effect of community in the local church. But, as we live out our days as Christians, we must add to our faith all that God commands us to become. Since he has given us everything we need, we can become the people God calls us and commands us to be. So don’t lose hope in your struggles against sin! Don’t give up believing in the power within you to become holy within and without. Keep reading God’s word, talking through it with godly teachers and mentors, and applying it to your life. The seeds of godliness, once planted, will grow if we cultivate them to cause us to be beautiful in holiness in God’s sight. In addition to being declared holy through Christ’s blood, the gospel tells us that we can become holy through faith and obedience. So, keep striving for holiness and reaching to become the kind of man or woman of God that God has called us to be. And, when you feel yourself backsliding or becoming discouraged, remind yourself of this verse; memorize it: "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." Memorize it, remind yourself of it, then believe that it is true as you work on growing in Christ.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Leviticus 18, Psalm 22, Ecclesiastes 1, 1 Timothy 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 18, Psalm 22, Ecclesiastes 1, 1 Timothy 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 1 Timothy 3.

If you were starting an organization and looking for leaders to help it succeed, what kind of person would you look for? You might look for wealthy people who could donate financially to the organization and help manage the money the organization receives. You might look for people who have been successful elsewhere—starting a successful business, becoming a college president, holding a prestigious political office. You might look for someone famous who can draw attention to your organization. These are all reasonable things to look for, humanly speaking, but not one of them is reflected in the list of qualities God tells us to look for in church leaders. Here in 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes out for Timothy a description of the kind of man (or woman, in the case of deacons, see verse 11) that the church in Ephesus should be choosing. He has no interest in finding those who are successful in business or politics; he says nothing about finding someone famous. He also, by the way, doesn’t tell them to look for someone who can speak piously or impress people with their spiritual-sounding words or unique theological insights. Instead, he commends as leaders those who live a life consistent with a heart that has been changed by the grace of God in salvation. This kind of leader is “above reproach” meaning that nobody can bring forth evidence that would call into question his moral character. That phrase “above reproach” in verse 2a, and the similar phrase “worthy of respect” in verses 8a & 11a are blanket statements that summarize a person’s character. The phrases that follow “above reproach” such as “faithful to his wife, temperate,” etc. give more specifics about all the areas Timothy should consider when he judges whether a potential elder or deacon is truly “above reproach.” All the things on this list are outward evidences of godly character within; the only task-oriented qualification is for the overseer (which is an other word for the office of pastor or elder) who must be “able to teach” (v. 2).

Our world cares about people who can perform in the marketplace. If a man can sell, his employer doesn’t care if he is “faithful to his wife” (v.2) or if “his children obey him” (v. 4). Verse 3 details several sins that must not be true of elders in God’s church; these sins—drunkenness, violence, quarrelsome, lover of money—have led leaders of secular organizations into sins and crimes that embarrassed and tarnished the entire organization. That’s bad enough when you’re trying to sell a product; when, like the church, you represent God and claim to have a life-changing message of grace that transforms and liberates sinners from these kinds of sins, an elder or deacon who is known for such things undermines the message of Christ.
In addition to giving us guidance about what kind of leaders to choose for our church, these paragraphs give us some character qualities to evaluate in our own lives. Not every Christian will become an elder or deacon, but all of us should desire and strive for a genuine walk with God that leads us to holiness. As we become holy by the power of God’s grace, these qualities will emerge like fruit in our lives. If you find yourself convicted because you’re lacking one of the godly characteristics elders/deacons should have or if you see in your life one of the sinful qualities that should not be true of godly leaders, ask God for grace and help to grow in that area because you want to be like Jesus.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.