The apostle Paul was ever aware of how unworthy he was to preach the gospel. In Ephesians 3:8 he said, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”
His was a world in which half of all people scraped along to make ends meet, and the other half strove for power and great wealth. Some would say things haven’t changed very much today. At one time, Paul was an accomplished Jewish Pharisee, respected for his strength and zeal and his opposition to the early church. He would not have been unfamiliar with wealth and power. But all that changed when he met Jesus.
In Paul’s estimation, he went from greatness to the very least of all saints. His pride of power and place no longer existed. He now lived to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But God gave him the valuable and ironic role of preaching to the Gentiles, no longer the Jews.
But it was the substance of what he taught them that was so stunning: “the unfathomable riches of Christ.” They are riches that are so deep and complex that no man can ever wear them out or fully learn them all. They were mysteries that had been “hidden in God for ages,” but now revealed. Paul was given the work of preaching such marvels about Christ to people who had never heard them before.
Most of us live basic lives without much wealth to enjoy or power to wield. We wonder if society has passed us by. But Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:8 that we have been given unfathomable riches that open up to us more and more every day, and will be fully revealed in the next life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom.8:18).
Like Paul, we are certainly unworthy of such profound things.
– Tim Johnson
I like watching Antiques Roadshow. One episode stands out in my mind, when an old lady brought in a small, fragile-looking table. The appraiser looked it over and became very excited because the table was worth a half-million dollars! Turns out it was genuine Chippendale, the queen of all furniture. It was a great moment for antique lovers.
There’s a moment like that in the Bible. Jesus spoke of a man who found a treasure buried in a field (Matt.13:44). In those days there were no banks, and people hid their wealth in places where thieves couldn’t find it. The man was thrilled to discover this long-lost buried treasure. But he had a problem: it wasn’t his field and the owner would have all the rights to the treasure. So, the man sold everything he had and bought the field, securing the treasure. Obviously, the treasure was of much greater worth than all his possessions.
Jesus explained that the kingdom of heaven is like this man who found the treasure. When somebody looks into the Bible and understands what the kingdom is, and goes out and finds it, he has discovered a treasure. I’ve met people who discovered it by simply encountering the church, not really intending to search for spiritual treasure. People with good hearts are often thrilled to find it – and do everything possible to become part of it. It’s like selling all you have to gain something wonderful.
The New Testament tells us about another man who found the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. His name was Paul. Later, he wrote a letter to some fellow believers and declared, about the Savior, “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Like Paul, have you found the treasure yet? And if you have, do you consider it to be of more value than all you have?
I once knew a senior citizen who said he lived to have a clean car. Sure enough, he was up every morning and out the door to wash and wax it until it gleamed. That car would sparkle even on cloudy days. How silly, we say. Yet if there was anything positive about it, we could say it gave a senior motivation to get moving every day. But surely we can think of something greater than the vanity of a nice-looking car. Nothing injects life with more energy than when we have a purpose that is bigger than we are; an overall reason to live; a great goal that defines what we are trying to do in our all-too-short lives.
When we look into the New Testament we see the early church engaged in expansion, pushing the borders of the Kingdom into new places, smashing right through racial barriers, and dreaming to get into new areas. They endured prejudice, persecution, exhaustion, and stress. What drove them to take the gospel into the whole inhabited world in one generation (Col.1:23)?
The answer lies in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. They realized that God Himself was behind this new enterprise of faith. Jesus gave his earliest followers their marching orders, recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk.16:15-16). Obeying this purpose produced the greatest strides in evangelism that the world has ever seen.
How about us today? Is our purpose simply to make as much money as possible? Should your ultimate future achievement be ownership of a great big house in a nice neighbourhood? Is your goal just to travel and enjoy warm weather somewhere? If we’re just trying to please ourselves, we’re not much different than that man who had to do the daily car wash. When we live for great things Jesus gave us, life gains a driving force that moves us to take on exciting challenges and satisfying works for others.
Are you serving the Master, or just washing the car?
– Tim Johnson
A photographer decided to travel the world and find the oldest living people, recording their wisdom in a book. He interviewed about 50 “supercentenarians,” people 110 years old or more. While he certainly found some wise people – such as a 110-year old Tibetan who earned a university degree at 106, has all his teeth, and has never seen a doctor in his life – many others have been a disappointment.
One would think that the extremely old would have learned some profound things, but great age does not guarantee great wisdom. Genesis 4-5 briefly records the lives of the world’s longest living people, few of which were wise or godly. By Noah’s day, when men still lived at least 300 years, man was so selfish and untrustworthy God said, “I am sorry that I have made them” (Gen. 6:7)
I’ve met many people who’ve lived longer than most, but they made such a mess of their lives they ended up miserable, vengeful, and alone. But it’s a treat to know elderly Christians who’ve spent their days serving Jesus, and then ended their lives with sweet attitudes. What makes some people very wise and happy, yet others become foolish and pitiful?
To put it simply, the godliest people among us have literally given their lives away. They decided early in life to obey the gospel of Christ and spent decades serving Him. They have a sense that their lives could end at any time, and they want to serve as best they can for as long as they have. Didn’t James tell us this in Jas. 4:14? Instead of striving for the longest life possible, which can be rather selfish, it’s better to make the best of the time we do have.
Setting healthy goals is a wise strategy for life. What excellent and noble goals do you have to make this year the best possible? Why not decide to encourage people; be more thankful; urge people to consider Jesus Christ; tell the elders they’re doing a good job; be a giver, even if you don’t have much; pray daily for the church; maybe even prepare for leadership?
You don’t have to be extremely old to be wise. God can help you start right now.
– Tim Johnson
When John wrote his three short New Testament letters, he was an elderly man. It is highly likely that he was the last living apostle of Jesus Christ. He had contributed the Gospel of John, and the great book of victory, Revelation. The shortest of his letters is 2 John; it only has 13 verses. It would have been one of his final letters. As in the case of the book of Revelation, did he write it in exile on the island of Patmos? We can only speculate.
And what did the last apostle have to say in one of his last letters? He reminded us to love one another (v5), uphold the truth (v2), and refuse deceivers (v7-11). THE TRUTH dominates his thoughts. Everything dear to Christians is built upon it. Even love for one another is related to it; “…whom I love in truth” (v1).
It was a violent time in the Roman world and John writes in a discreet way. Rather than identify the congregation of the church that was to receive his letter, he calls them “the chosen lady and her children” (v1). A fellow congregation is mentioned as “the children of your chosen sister” (v13). It is John’s love for these churches that shines through the ages. He speaks of love four times in the letter. They were people in the Lord “whom I love in truth” (v1).
The challenge for us is not just to walk in truth, but to love the church as John did – and to love it in truth. Love without the truth is just sentiment. God calls us to a higher love for His people.
Our care for the church is not because our building is convenient or some of its members may be relatives. We love it for the sake of the truth, because its people know the truth and walk in it, and because the truth abides in them forever.
The last apostle laid down a challenge for all succeeding generations of Christians – love each other in truth.
– Tim Johnson