2 TIMOTHY 3:12 – Godliness Attracts Persecution

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“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14-17, ESV).

What is Godliness?

Here are some words of the Psalmist David in Psalm 15:1-5.

“(1) O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; (3) who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; (4) in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; (5) who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”

GODLINESS is:

  • the condition of righteousness (Matthew 5:10, 1 Timothy 6:11, Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 10:2, Proverbs 11:18, Psalm 34:15, Matthew 5:6, Psalm 34:19, Romans 1:17, 2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 3:12, Romans 1:17, 5:19, 6:13);
  • an opposition to sin—as God is opposed to sin (Psalm 1:1, Psalm 37:28);
  • a condition in harmony with justice—as God is just (Micah 6:8, Romans 2:1, Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 30:18, Psalm 33:5, Zechariah 7:9-10);
  • generosity and kindness and love—as God is generous and kind and loving (1 Thessalonians 5:15, Psalm 37:21);

There are kind, generous and noble characters in the world who are not Christians. These may have more or less of opposition from others who are evilly disposed—as darkness always opposes light; yet these noble people exercise moderation in their righteousness—they are not righteous overmuch. These fine characters might occasionally get some persecution, politically or otherwise; but even the enemies of such would have respect for them.

Living godly versus living godly in Christ Jesus

Because of their special relationship to Christ Jesus, God’s people:

  • have a special enlightenment.
  • see more clearly the principles of God’s Justice.
  • have a more exacting rule by which their lives are governed.
  • have an intelligent knowledge that they have entered into a Covenant of Sacrifice. 
  • realize that they are not to compromise their religion in any way; not to compromise with sin or with the world.
  • uphold the principles of righteousness, even to the detriment of their own earthly interests.
  • consecrate all of their time, talent, influence, money to the Lord’s service, and in relation to the use of their blessings from God, they ask themselves:

     “What is the Lord’s will, the Lord’s way?”

    How would the Heavenly Father want me to use my time, talents, influence, money etc… in His service, in the cause of Christ?

God’s people would wish to use their money for the preaching of the Gospel and the publishing of it in various ways. They would reason:  There are many opportunities for people to get education along earthly lines, and I believe the Lord would have me as His child to use His money to help people get spiritual education.

The godly who are not in Christ Jesus—those who have a measure of Godlikeness:

  • do not see these deeper things of the Divine Plan and the special arrangement God has made with the Church.
  • may indulge in a great many things that would not be wrong for the world—not sinful, not immoral, not unkind.
  • might feel perfectly free to give of their money for various causes and purposes, that would be reasonable and proper in themselves— such as attending a football match or a theatre production; spend a certain amount each season on the opera; be patrons of art and music and literature—adopting a course that will win the approval of society; or spend a thousand dollars—or ten thousand dollars—on a single painting, because he wants art to flourish. Or he might buy a fine piece of sculpture to adorn his home, but this is not the course for true Christians, who must consider the Lord’s will for them as His servants.

The Christian has limitations which the worldly do not have. 

But we are glad! 

  • Glad for all good men and good women, who can be good and noble even though not in Christ Jesus.
  • Glad to esteem them.

There are noble people in the world. There are some godly ones (to a certain degree) outside the Church, and they are likely to come to see something of the Truth, if they are really noble characters.

The godly of this world will get a blessing in the Restitution time. Every godly thing that they have done, every act of generosity, will get its reward. By cultivating their higher sentiments, they will have fewer steps to retrace.

Specially GODLY are Specially PERSECUTED

The persecutions which come to the godly in Christ Jesus are special persecutions. We are not to expect much of this from the Body of Christ. 

Persecution is not merely one act or one word—it is a succession of unkind words and acts with a view to punishing some one for adhering to an opinion or course of conduct.

Persecution comes from a certain class called by Jesus the world. But the class that Jesus called the world are those who had form of godliness, but did not have the power  thereof. The Apostle speaks of a class who would take the name of the Lord upon them and misuse that name. There are people in the world today who do not know nor want to know the difference between Truth and error—and who keep out of the way of being told. They somehow know that there would come a certain measure of condemnation to themselves if they recognized the real facts and did not act in accordance with them.

They are not all bad people by any means. There are very many good people among the tares; but there is no real wheat among the tares—no real nutriment.

These tares pose as the Church of Christ; the tare systems pose as Christianity. And from this class usually come the persecutions. They try to crowd out the wheat, or to choke it and make it unfruitful. It was so in our Lord’s day. Those to whom the Lord referred as persecutors were not the Gentile world of His day, but the worldly ones of the Jews—those who were not fully consecrated to the Lord, but who thought they were.

Nicodemus was a fine character, and Gamaliel was a fine character—and so were a great many who did not become Christ’s disciples at all but were seeking after righteousness; as, for instance, the young man who came to the Lord and asked Him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The Lord answered, “Thou knowest the commandments.” The young man said, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth up.” He was a noble character, and Jesus looking on him loved him, even though he was not a disciple. And Jesus said to him. “One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up thy cross, and follow Me.” But he went away sorrowful. He did not want to become a member in Christ Jesus.

He did not want to give everything to the Lord.

He was very rich—“had great possessions,” and he preferred to hold on to his wealth.—Mark 10:17-22.

There were others who went through many of the forms and ceremonies, and who kept the various admonitions of the Law, and its feasts and fasts; but they were not the “Israelites indeed in whom was no guile.” And later they became the persecutors of Christ and those who walk in His steps of sacrifice.

Professed Christian Persecutors

And so those who live godly in Christ Jesus have their persecutions, not so much from the worldly class as from professing Christians. There is a class in Churchianity today that has a great deal of pride and self-satisfaction.

Some say respecting those who proclaim Present Truth and who live saintly lives as followers of Jesus Christ:

If we let these people alone and let them teach these things, all that we have been upholding for centuries will crumble.

Did not Luther hand down Truth to us?

Did not Calvin give the Church Truth?

Have we not the teachings of Wesley?

No, no; we will not have these “new doctrines”!

But we see that these people are persecuting the Truth and its representatives because of misunderstanding.

We should have a great deal of sympathy and not feel specially angry with them.

This does not mean that we should be glad of persecution—no persecution “for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous.” (Hebrews 12:11.) But if we know that we are suffering for righteousness’ sake, then we know the Spirit of God rests upon us. It is those who know that they suffer for Christ’s sake, and who take it gladly because it is the will of God, that may rejoice, because the persecution is working out in them blessed effects. Let us then

“Be still beneath His tender care,
For He will make the tempest cease;
And bring from out the anguish here,
The afterward of peace.”

“The Lord Your God Doth Prove You”

WHY does God permit His people to suffer?

WHY does God not shield those who are His from suffering, just as a loving parent would shield a child?

The Scriptures reply that it is because God is working out a great Plan that will eventually bring blessings to all who will do righteously. God wishes to show the evil effects of sin and the deteriorating effects of Adamic disobedience. God’s purpose is that after the Six Days of Sin and Death are ended, in the Seventh Day there shall be a blessing for the whole groaning creation. “Jehovah God will wipe away tears from off all faces.”Isaiah 25:8.

And there is a particular reason why God should permit persecution to come upon His consecrated ones. “The Lord your God doth prove you,” test you. Why? What is He proving? 

We profess to be His loyal children. We profess to be laying down all that we have. And now “the Lord your God doth prove you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul.Deuteronomy 8:213:3.

How much will you endure? 

How patiently will you endure? 

To what extent will you endure? 

Those who will endure most, and endure most patiently, will give evidence of the best character.  And those who demonstrate the best character will have the highest positions in the Kingdom. Each will get a position according to his faithfulness. But as star differeth from star in glory, so it will be in the Kingdom.

 

He who fights

the greatest fight against his own nature

and demonstrates most the love and zeal of his heart,

such is the one who will have a high place.

 

The Solitary Way

Alas! How few may know the grace it takes
To tread the solitary way. Alone!
Ah, yes, alone! No other human heart
Can understand the nameless sorrows there—
The nights in weeping spent, and yet, when dawns
The day, to greet the world with radiant smile,
And scatter sunshine while you whisper low
To your poor heart, “Canst bear a little more?”

Alone! Poor heart, and dost thou question, Why?
Dost think it strange that thou must walk this way?
Ah, no! Thou dost but follow in His steps
Who went before, and of the people there
Was none with Him! Alone? Yet not alone
Hath not thy blessed Lord and Master said,
“My presence shall go with thee”? Ah, my soul,
No longer, then a solitary way!

G. W. Seibert

Acknowledgment

Br. Charles Taze Russell. The content of this post is based on Reprint 5394-5 from the Reprints of the Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

Br. Allen Springer—for the Harvest Truth Data Base website from which all the Reprints of the Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence can be accessed electronically.

 

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The Agony In Gethsemane

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As we consider the solemn scenes of this lesson, let it be with reverence and deep gratitude, remembering it was our load the Master bore, that it was the chastisement of our peace that was upon him, and that with his stripes we are healed.

The narrative, so familiar to every Christian, is one full of precious lessons, especially to those who, by his grace, are endeavoring to follow in the Lord’s footsteps.

We observe:

(1) that when the Master realized that his hour of betrayal and fierce temptation was close at hand, having first comforted, counselled, and prayed for and with his disciples, his next strong impulse was to seek a solitary place for prayer and communion with God, that he might find grace to help in time of need.

(2) We note also his love for his disciples, and his desire for their love and sympathy in return. “Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” And because he loved them, and knew that they loved him, he permitted them to accompany him to the place of prayer, that they might watch and pray with him.

Leaving all but Peter and James and John at the entrance of the garden, as a sort of outer guard against the sudden intrusion of his betrayer upon his last hour of prayer, he advanced with the three—the three in whose ardent natures he seemed to find the most active and consoling sympathy—and, with an earnest appeal to them to watch and pray, he left them and went about a stone’s throw beyond.

Three times did he rise from prayer and return to them in anguish of soul to feel the touch of human sympathy, saying, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” It was a sorrow, an agony, which, of itself, would have worn him out shortly—an intense mental and nervous strain which caused him to sweat great drops of blood.

It was no sign of weakness in the Master that he thus craved human sympathy. His was no coarse, stoical nature, insensible to pain and shame and loss; nor was it a proud, self-centered nature which stood aloof from human fellowship, although those with whom he associated were so far beneath his glorious perfection. Gracefully he condescended to men of low estate, and esteemed them brethren beloved, of whom he was not ashamed.  His was a refined nature, keenly appreciative of all that is lovely and pure and good, and correspondingly sensitive to pain from everything to the contrary of these.

Human degradation and human woe must continually have borne heavily upon him during all his earthly life. 

But in this awful hour all the griefs and burdens of the whole world were rolled upon his shoulders, and he was to suffer as though he himself were the sinner—to suffer death, extinction of being, trusting alone in the Father’s grace for a resurrection. 

Into this one hour were crowded, not only the mental realization of death and the physical agony and shame, the cruelty and torture of a horrible death, but also the sense of desolation to be experienced when even his beloved disciples, overcome by fear and dismay, should forsake him; and the sorrowful reflections upon the irretrievable loss of Judas, and upon the course of the Jewish nation—”his own” people, who despised him and were about to call down upon their own heads the vengeance of his blood, saying, “His blood be upon us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). He foresaw the terrible calamities that in consequence must soon overwhelm them. Then the degradation of a whole guilty world, which must continue to groan and travail in pain until by his sacrifice he should gain deliverance for them from sin and death, caused him to feel the burden of responsibility to an extent which we can only approximate, but cannot fully comprehend.

And in addition to all this was his knowledge of the fact that every jot and tittle of the law with reference to the sacrifice must be perfectly fulfilled according to the pattern in the typical sacrifice of the day of atonement.

If he should fail in any part of the work, all would be lost, both for himself and for men.

And yet, though a perfect man, he realized that the flesh, however perfect, was unequal to the task.

How much depended upon our Lord’s fortitude in that awful hour, alone and defenceless in the darkness of overwhelming night, awaiting the certain arrival of his betrayer and the will of his persecutors maddened with hate and full of the energy of Satan!

Oh, how the destinies of the world and of himself seemed to tremble in the balances!

Even the perfect human nature was not equal to such an emergency without divine aid, therefore it was that he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him who was able to save him from death, by a resurrection.

The necessary comfort was provided through the Prophet Isaiah (42:1,6), by whom Jehovah said,

“Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth: …I, the Lord, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee [from falling or failure], and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles… He shall not fail nor be discouraged.

When the fearful ordeal in Gethsemane strained the powers of endurance almost to their utmost tension his prayer was only, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” Then, though the cup might not pass from him, an angel came and ministered to him.  Just how, we know not, but probably by refreshing his mind with the precious promises and prophetic pictures of the coming glory, which none of his disciples had sufficiently comprehended to thus comfort him in this hour when the gloom of thick darkness settled down upon his soul, crowding out hope and bringing a sorrow exceeding great, “even unto death.”  Ah, it was Jehovah’s hand upholding him, blessed by his holy name! according to his promise, that he might not fail nor be discouraged.

 The result of that blessed ministry was a reinforced courage which commands the deepest admiration.  It was not a courage born of stoical indifference to pain and shame and loss, but a courage born of that faith which is anchored fast within the vail of the divine promises and power. With his eye of faith upon the glorious victory of truth and righteousness, when he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied—satisfied with:

  • the eternal joy and blessedness of a redeemed world,
  • with the welcome and wealth of the Father’s blessing, and
  • the love and gratitude of every loyal creature in heaven and in earth—yes, comforted and encouraged thus with a realizing sense of the rewards of faith and faithful endurance to the end, he could now calmly and even courageously, go forth to meet the foe.

Yes, this was the victory by which he overcame, even his faith, and so we also are to overcome.

Now commenced the realization of the dreadful forebodings of Gethsemane.

Mark his calm, dignified fortitude, as he addresses Judas and the Roman soldiers, and its effect upon them. They were so overpowered with the grandeur and nobility of this wonderful man that they could not have taken him had he not voluntarily placed himself in their hand. Notice, too, his kind consideration for the bewildered and weary disciples, and his loving excuse for them, “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and his request to the Roman soldiers at the time of his arrest that they might be permitted to go their way (John 18:8), that so they might escape sharing in his persecutions.

Through all the trial and mocking, and finally the crucifixion, his courage and solicitude for the welfare of others never failed.

 As we thus view our Lord under a trial so crucial, and mark how the hand of Jehovah upheld him, let it strengthen the faith of all who are endeavoring to walk in his footsteps, to whom he says,

Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world: and this is the victory that overcometh, even your faith (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4).

Has not the Lord, Jehovah, commissioned his angels also to bear up the “feet” of the body of Christ, lest at any time they be dashed against a stone (lest some overwhelming trial should prove too much for them)? (Psalm 91:11,12). Yes, as surely as his hand upheld the Head, our Lord Jesus, so surely will he bear up the feet. “Fear not, little flock: it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom,” though through much tribulation ye shall enter it.

The angels are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.  Though their ministry is unseen by us, it is not therefore unreal, but potent for good. Our fellow-members, too, in the body of Christ, are all the Lord’s active messengers to each other, thus in turn sharing the privilege of bearing up the feet.

But to have this help in time of need we must invoke it. 

Every day and every hour is indeed a time of need; hence our necessity of living in an atmosphere of prayer—to pray without ceasing. 

And if the Lord needed often to seek retirement from the busy scenes of his active life to be alone with God, to keep the close bond of loving sympathy established, surely we need to do so; and in so doing we shall always find grace to help in time of need.

In seasons of heavy trial the darkness may indeed so deepen upon the soul, as in our dear Lord’s case, as almost to shut out the stars of hope; yet if, like the Lord, we hold on to the omnipotent arm of Jehovah and meekly say,

“Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done,”

His grace will always be sufficient; and with the Psalmist we can say, Though my flesh and my heart fail, yet God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26); and, with the Lord, our hearts will respond—“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

Acknowledgment and References:

Br. Charles Taze Russell – “The Agony of Gethsemane” —from Reprints (R.1801) of the Original Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

JUST AS I AM

 

[Note: the same melody of the above song “Just As I Am” (sung by Alan Jackson) is Hymns No. 64 in the Hymns of Dawn hymnal and titled “I Come To Thee.”

I Come To Thee

I come to thee, I come to thee,
Thou precious Lamb who died for me;
I rest confiding in thy Word,
And cast my burden on the Lord.

I come to thee with all my grief,
To find in thee a sweet relief;
Thy blessed name my only plea,
With this, O Lord, I come to thee.

I come to thee, whose sovereign pow’r
Can cheer me in the darkest hour;
I come to thee thru storm and shade,
Since thou hast said, “Be not afraid.”

I come to thee with all my tears,
My pain and sorrow, griefs and fears:
Thou precious Lamb who died for me,
I come to thee, I come to thee.

To thee my trembling spirit flies,
When faith seems weak and comfort dies;
I bow adoring at thy feet,
And hold with thee communion sweet.

O wondrous love! what joy is mine,
To feel that I am truly thine.
Thou precious Lamb who died for me,
I come to thee, I come to thee.

 

Suggested Further Reading:

Gethsemane
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/04/09/gethsemane/

 

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Matthew 28:20 – I am with you always…

Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20
THIS text contains a precious thought—that the Lord has been with his representatives in all their labors of love and self-denial, throughout the entire age, noting their efforts, assisting, encouraging, sustaining them, and surely watering and refreshing all who are making his service their special object in life—ministering his grace to others, watering and feeding them. And if this has been true in the past, all through the age, how specially true we may realize it to be now, in the end of the age, in the time of harvest, in the time of our Lord’s second presence! How we may realize that he is with us, in sympathy, in co-operation, in assistance, in sustaining grace, able and willing to make all of our experiences profitable to us, and to use us abundantly in showing forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light! Z’03-91 R3166:6 (Hymn 226)

Hymn 226   –  Delight In Thy Presence

O thou, in whose presence my soul takes delight,
On whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all!

Where dost thou, at noontide, resort with thy sheep,
To feed in the pasture of love?
For why in the valley of death should I weep,
Or alone in the wilderness rove?

No longer I wander an alien from thee,
Or cry in the desert for bread;
My table is furnished with bounties so free,
My soul on thy Word is well fed.