2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
I’ve been a bit remiss these past couple of weeks in writing these devotionals. It’s been really busy at the church I serve, and lately I’ve had difficulty in prioritizing my time. It makes me feel ashamed because I’m always advising people to make time for God. It seems as though the pastor hasn’t been practicing what he preaches, so I need to get back on the right track.
I’ve also been more aware of what constitutes correctly handling the word of truth. At a big meeting the other day, which was full of pastors and elders, someone preached a really good sermon on chapter three of John’s Gospel. It was a great message of hope and full of the Spirit, but the preacher only preached from John 3: 1-17. She opted to omit verses 18-21, which actually ends the conversation between Christ and Nicodemus in this chapter. It made me wonder why. Here are the verses:
John 3:18-21 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
You see those last four verses reveal how serious it is to reject believing in God through Jesus. Up until that point in the chapter, Jesus is attempting to teach Nicodemus about the love, grace, and mercy of God. But He ends His conversation with dire warnings, and so when we preach from that chapter, we need to be prepared to correctly handle the word of truth. It may be a lot easier to ignore the bad bits and just preach the good, but when we do that, we end up rewriting the Gospel and making Christ’s words suit ourselves.
Do I wish that Jesus had never spoken verses 18-21? Sometimes, but then I remember that God’s grace is never given cheaply or just casually placed before us. We are given an invitation to believe in Jesus, along with an opportunity to receive salvation. It is never thrust upon us and each person must accept or reject it. The consequences of our decision are plainly expressed by Christ; we can never complain to Him that we didn’t understand our options. Grace and judgment go hand in hand. How we finally experience them depends upon the choice each one of us makes.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Gospel gives us the greatest opportunity of a lifetime for each one of us. You offer us the hope of being forgiven for all of our mistakes, and restored to God’s favor for all of eternity. This is the greatest blessing that we can receive in our lives. But You do not force this upon us; instead You allow us to use our free will to determine whether or not we will accept Your invitation. Grant us the wisdom to respond lovingly to this everlasting gift. Remind us of the consequences which will follow our final choices. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and gratefully pray. Amen.