What the Bible Says about Neighbors

August 31, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors | 3 Comments
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Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 5:43-46

You may have heard the common expression, “Good fences make good neighbors.” As Christians, God has specified two groups of people that we are commanded to love: our neighbors and our enemies. It may be that God grouped these together because they are often the same people!

In several previous posts we have opened the Bible and learned to “S.W.I.M.” (see what it means) concerning some of the doctrines in the Word of God relative to our neighbors. Now we will use an acrostic – N.E.I.G.H.B.O.R. – to help review those lessons.

N.otorious and N.eedy neighbors (Luke 10:25-37): No one would have expected a notorious Samaritan to help someone in need, but Jesus used this as an illustration for us to consider before we decide who is, and who is not, our neighbor.

E.quivocal neighbors (Psalm 12:2-3): Equivocation is “doublespeak” or duplicitous language. We must be wary of neighbors who say one thing and mean another.

I.nsurgent neighbors (Joshua 9:15-16): Obedient Christians are anxious to be “neighborly” toward outsiders, but we are cautioned by God to be careful of those who would pretend to be something they are not in order to disrupt Christian fellowship.

G.lorified neighbors (Luke 14:12-14): Christians ought not to cultivate influential people as our favored neighbors, hoping to get something in return, while neglecting those around us who are truly in need.

H.ypocritical neighbors (Psalm 31:11,15): Our highest level of trust should be reserved for God. There are some neighbors who are friendly when things are going great, yet they are nowhere to be found when trouble comes.

B.eneficial neighbors (Ruth 4:16-17): Believers should teach their children – and encourage one another – to be a blessing, instead of a burden, to their neighbors.

O.bservant and O.btuse neighbors (John 9:8-10): Remember, your neighbors are watching you. When God blesses your life, do not let “luck” or “chance” take the credit. Be sure to let your neighbors know more than “how” you were blessed. Make sure they know by “Whom” you were blessed.

R.epudiated neighbors (Ezekiel 16:26): As faithful children of God we should do our best to maintain a good relationship with our neighbors. However, we are commanded not to give in to the temptation of joining in with sinful practices, even if it means the breaking off of fellowship.

Character and Integrity Part 3

August 28, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in character and integrity | 4 Comments
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Who are your three main enemies? They are the devil, the “world,” and your flesh. The devil wants to lie to you, and deceive you. Your flesh wants you to please you, and not to please God. The world wants you to be fake – something you’re not – so that it can somehow make money at your expense.

It is important to be what God wants you to be. When you are fake, God knows it, and that is damaging to your integrity. When you are fake, other people know it, and that’s damaging to your character. Let’s look at the example of Mary in the Bible, and see what we can learn about her character and integrity.

Mary lived in Nazareth, a disreputable place.

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:45-46

There are places today with a reputation similar to Nazareth. I grew up in a small town that is kind of the “Nazareth” of North Louisiana. Nazareth in Mary’s time would have been the kind of place where a teenaged girl could have easily been bored, seeing the merchants and traders going to and from Jerusalem. That boredom could have led to temptation and promiscuity and immorality for many of the teenaged girls who lived there.

However, Mary was engaged to be married, and she was a virgin. The angel Gabriel came to visit her. He told her that she would conceive and bear a Son, and that she was to name Him Jesus, and that this Jesus was the Son of God. Mary was probably around 13-15 years old at this time.

Contrary to Roman Catholic dogma, Mary was not sinless. She, like all of us, was a descendant of Adam. Of all the people ever to walk the face of the Earth, only Jesus was without sin.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Mary called called God her Savior (Luke 1:47). She knew she was a sinner, and she knew she needed a Savior.

Even though she was a sinner, Mary is a good Bible example of someone with integrity. She kept her virginity. She was saved.

Let’s look at her character. In a previous lesson we learned about the things which spoke well of David’s character.

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I Samuel 16:28

We can compare this description of David to Mary.

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Luke 1:28

People who knew Mary might have wondered about her character. God knew she was a virgin, but what do you think people said when they found out she was pregnant before she got married?

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

John 8:39-41

People who knew about Jesus’s birth and childhood accused Him of being born out of wedlock. That was a reflection of their opinion of Mary, too. However, Mary surrendered her character to the Lord.

Character has to do with your name – what other people think of you – but we can’t always control that. What happens when you have integrity, but other people are wrongly smearing your character? I have three school-age daughters, and I can tell you from what I know of their experiences that all children can be mean, but girls can be meaner than boys – especially when it comes to gossip.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Even though Mary could predict how her miraculous pregnancy would affect her character, she said, “That’s fine with me, Lord.” Mary considered herself a handmaiden, and, in Mary’s day, handmaidens had to serve – and they had to serve joyfully.

Can you say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy Word?” Before you begin to hope that God would never do something to you that would embarrass you the way Mary’s pregnancy embarrassed her, remember: He already has. His Word tells you to do all sorts of things that are going to make people think you’re weird. And some of those things are going to affect your character – in the short term.

Are we willing to look in the Book and see it what it says? Are we dressing immodestly? Do we tell lies? Do we put ourselves in places of sexual temptation? Are we actively hoping for some strong temptation to come along, so that when we fall, we can blame the temptation, and not ourselves?

Many Christians say, “I’m saved – but I’m going to mess up once in while.” If we call ourselves Christians, then we had better stand for the Name of Christ. When I fill in the blank on a form that asks what religion I am, and I say, “Christian,” I don’t want to be responsible for someone else saying no to Jesus, based on my character.

Mary not only surrendered to the Lord, she was happy about it. As soon as she heard about God’s plan, she went to see her cousin, and she sang a song of praise about it. Her song is found in Luke 1:46-55. It is often called the “Magnificat.”

The word “Magnificat,” comes from the same root which gives us our word, “magnify.” To “magnify” something means to “make something bigger” or “to give someone glory.” Mary’s song magnified the Lord. She was interested in making herself seem smaller, and the Lord seem bigger. Mary would not have been happy with the way this part of the Bible is often used today. The Roman Catholic Church has a well-known prayer referred to as the “Hail Mary.” It comes from a combination of Luke 1:28 and 42. The Catholic prayer says, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” But Luke 1:28 tells us that the “hail” with which the angel greeted Mary, was just that: a greeting – not a description of sinlessness. Mary was not “full of grace.” She was a sinner, saved by God’s grace, through faith. When the Bible calls her “highly favored” it means that Mary was the recipient of grace given to her by God.

Note that Luke 1:32 does not say, “You will be great…” It says, “He shall be great..,” referring to Jesus. And Verse 42, which says, “blessed art thou among women,” has Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin – not the angel – speaking.

So, what was Mary’s secret? How could she be so happy, so excited, so obedient… knowing that her character was going to be questioned? For one thing, Mary loved the Word of God – she knew the Scriptures.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

Remember, Mary did not have a Bible. She would have gone to the synagogue to hear the Word of God in the Old Testament being read aloud. Mary hid the Word in her heart – she memorized it. In her song, she quotes from the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. Luke 1:50 has part of Exodus 20:6 in it. Luke 1:51 has part of Isaiah 40:10 in it. Luke 1:53 has part of Psalm 107:9 in it. If Mary could memorize Bible verses without even owning a Bible, how much more should we be able to do it when we can have access to a Bible any time we want!

It grieves me to see people – especially teenaged children – get up after a Sunday School class, and leave their Bibles laying on the floor. We have to wonder if Mary would have gone out of the synagogue and left her written copy of God’s Word, if she had had one, laying on the floor.

So we see, Mary could face the possibility of having people say bad things about her – to fail to see her true character – because she was not being fake. She was being real. She understood that her life needed to be given to obeying the Lord joyfully. The secret of having that joy was (1) surrendering to God’s Word and His way; (2) magnifying the Lord; and (3) knowing the Bible and memorizing it.

Unlike David, other people didn’t always say, “The Lord is with him/her…” However, when it comes to Mary’s character, think about the people who whispered about Mary, and said bad things about her behind her back. And then ask yourself, “Who do we recognize as the earthly mother of our Savior?” Bible students for centuries have honored the name of Mary for her Godly character, but we do not know the name of a single one of her critics. I’d say that’s pretty good character.

The Life of a Missionary: Having a Fit, Making a Tough Choice, and Singing in Jail

August 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts | 5 Comments
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The events recorded in Acts Chapter 15 took place about 20 years after the day of Pentecost. The meeting that is described is often called the Jerusalem Council. Some Jewish “Christian” theologians had come to the Church – possibly sent by Satan – and they had taught a false gospel: Christianity constrained by Judaism.

The result of the Jerusalem Council was a sort of a compromise. There were two commands: avoid idolatry and fornication. And there were two concessions: don’t eat blood, and don’t eat meat from animals killed by strangulation. This result preserved unity in the Church.

Most local churches that wind up destroyed do not get destroyed by outside forces. Most of them split from within.

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

Acts 15:36-39

Paul and Barnabas got into a fight about Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark. The Greek word for “contention” in Acts 15:39 is a funny word – paroxysmos – meaning a paroxysm or a “fit.” Paul ended up taking Silas with him, and Barnabas took Mark. Paul cared for people in the sense of what they could do for the Lord. Barnabas cared for people in the sense of what God could do for them, or what God’s work could do for them. Of course, it could just be that God wanted two missionary teams instead of one.

Acts Chapter 16 describes the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. At Lystra they picked up Timothy to replace Mark on Paul’s team. Timothy and Titus, Paul’s two main proteges, were both gentiles. Timothy was circumcised, but Titus was not. The reason is that Timothy was going to be working with Jews and gentiles, but Titus’s circumcision would have helped Paul’s enemies (Galatians 2:1-5).

Paul’s personal preference was to go east to Asia, but God wanted him to go west to Europe. He went to Troas, then to Macedonia, then to Neapolis, then to Philippi.

On this missionary journey, Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple dye, was saved.

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Acts 16:14-15

Paul cast a demon out of a girl who was following them, even though she was proclaiming salvation.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

Acts 16:16-18

This young lady’s conversion cost her masters much income, and they had Paul and Silas beaten. Notice how sneaky Satan is! He tried to trap Paul and his team: They could let this girl keep it up and corrupt the message and their separated walk; or, they could oppose her, stir up trouble, get beaten, thrown out, and lose the opportunity to witness. We must wonder if Satan thought he had baited the perfect trap. If Paul and his team let the girl continue, then Satan could use her to start lying. If they silenced her, they would make her masters angry. However, God always makes a way of escape for His people when they are tempted of Satan. So, Paul and Silas were beaten, and then instead of getting thrown out of town, God allowed them to get thrown into prison. Paul and Silas were in prison, singing songs of praise to God!

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Acts 16:25

God shook open the prison doors, but Paul stayed to witness to the Philippian jailor.

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Acts 16:30-31

Here, it is important to note that they are not telling one man to believe by himself, such that his belief would be a substitute for the belief of everyone else in his household. They are telling him that each person of the household must believe on his/her own.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 16:34

Paul and Silas were prisoners, but they were treated differently once they claimed their rights as Roman citizens.

But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

Acts 16:37-40

Universe or Multiverse?

August 24, 2009 at 8:09 am | Posted in Genesis | 8 Comments
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The Bible clearly refutes the currently popular theories of what is falsely called “science” (I Timothy 6:20), and the proponents of these theories who are “willingly ignorant” (II Peter 3:5). When a “scientist” claims that, several billion years ago, some sort of cosmic accident formed the “universe,” he would do well to repent, and read Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

“Uni” comes from the word meaning “one,” as in “unicycle” (a cycle with one wheel), and “uniform” (a set of principles or things which have been standardized to one type). A “verse” is a sentence of language, usually found in a poem or song. Therefore, God created the “universe” in “one sentence.” That sentence is found in Genesis, Chapter One, Verse One.

What’s worse is that most “scientists” who have come to believe the heretical lies of the “big bang” and “evolution” theories learned these at a “university.” Perhaps they should call it a “multiversity.” The Bible, on the other hand, is based on the foundational truth that God, the omniscient, omnipotent Creator, exists eternally, and that all “things” and living “creatures” were made by Him and for His Glory.

https://i0.wp.com/c0573862.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/1/1/46086/816088/mason_stcyp_full.jpg

Petrified car proves that cars are billions of years old!

The Most Obvious Difference between Jesus and Us

August 21, 2009 at 11:13 am | Posted in Salvation | 14 Comments
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Most people will say that they believe in God. But many people do not really understand much about God’s nature. Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, showed us the true nature of God (Colossians 2:9). Jesus Christ was completely sinless (Hebrews 4:15). Even His earthly enemies, who would have stooped to any level to find fault in Him, had to admit that He was perfectly without fault (John 8:46). As you read this, of all the differences between you and the Lord Jesus, this is the one that should be most obvious: He never sinned; you sin all the time (Romans 3:10-12). Your sin has brought you in line for God’s judgment. God’s holiness and justice require that His judgment be carried out (Ezekiel 18:4). God’s great desire, however, is to show you the bright ray of hope that shines over this bleak scenario. For all those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior, God’s judgment was satisfied in the Cross of Calvary. You can receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ’s payment for your sins, because He, being perfect before God, died and rose again for those of us who are filthy with sin before God.

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

I Peter 3:18

Curtis Hutson Encouraged Young Men to S.W.I.M.

August 20, 2009 at 10:03 am | Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment
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I would say this to you young men here who have a vision and a burden: Of course, it is not going to be easy. You are going to have to sacrifice. There are going to be some hard times and some discouraging times. But the grapes of incomparable blessings are worth the battles that you have to go through to get them.

Somebody commented that those grapes were so big that when Joshua and Caleb started back across the river with them, Caleb stepped on one of them and shot the heart out of it. Then he took the hull and made a swimming cap out of it. Then, putting it down over his head, he started swimming across the river and splashing water; and Joshua jumped out of the way and said, “You’re going to drown me, you fool!” (Of course, you will have to find that in the original Hebrew!)

It doesn’t come easy. I don’t know how big those grapes were, but I can imagine they were big enough to make swimming caps out of the hulls.

Since there are grapes of incomparable blessings, there are giants of immense opposition. We are attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants.

“There are big grapes over there. And it is a land flowing with milk and honey! Man! It is fantastic..! BUT… there are big walls over there and big giants too.” Attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants – that is true in a lot of things.

Curtis Hutson

And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Numbers 13:23-33

When Time Shall Be No More

August 13, 2009 at 7:51 am | Posted in Eternity | 7 Comments
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Our souls were created by God to last forever. Every person who has ever lived will exist for all eternity in either Heaven or Hell. Hell is reserved for those who say “no,” to Him Who said “yes” to the Cross. Heaven will be the home for those whom the Lord has graciously saved from their sins. The thought of hell lasting forever is understandably horrible. But what about Heaven?

Sure, Heaven will be a wonderful place, but, to our finite minds, eternity seems so long. Anything that lasts forever is bound to get boring after a while. But it is not so with Heaven. For in Heaven, those who belong to the Lord will never tire of marveling at His glory, of exploring the endless mysteries and majesties of His Gospel, of fellowshipping with His saints, or with discovering the unending truths of His Word. That’s right, the Bible will be in Heaven. (I Peter 1:25)

When the Lord Jesus asked His disciples, “Have ye understood all these things?” it amazes me that they answered, “Yea, Lord.” (Matthew 13:51) We might excuse them for their enthusiasm, but our understanding of the depth and richness of God’s Word should remind us that every one of us who has been taught from the Scriptures, and would teach others in turn, “is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52) It is always good to remember and repeat the lessons we have learned from the Bible, but we must be constantly digging deeper to bring out the treasures which God has given us from the foundation of the world, but which ever seem new to us.

God’s Plan for Water Pollution

August 12, 2009 at 7:09 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Ezekiel | 4 Comments
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Sometimes I wonder if water may be one of the greatest things God created. It has many uses, and so much potential. Few and far between are the days that I don’t try to get it all over me in an attempt to get clean, or at least cool off.

When God showed Ezekiel the vision of God’s grace, flowing like water and glorifying God, a key function of these waters were that they healed the other waters which had become polluted and contaminated.

Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.

Ezekiel 47:8

This passage is a prophecy of the future, but it also contains a wonderful principle for our lives today. Are there areas of your life which started out pure, devoted to God, but which have become contaminated by worldly interests, fleshly laziness, or secret pride? The parts of your life which once proclaimed Christ’s victory and your deliverance do not have to be allowed to dry up and die. The medicinal waters of God’s grace can bring new passion and life.

And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.

Ezekiel 47:9

Imagine – living water healing dying water! The water of God’s Word, and the water of God’s Spirit, and the water of God’s grace can cleanse the filthiest pool, stream, river, or sea, if we will seek it.

Seeing and Following Instead of Scratching and Stabbing

August 11, 2009 at 8:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Christians are called to live at a higher level than the world. The principle of the world, when dealing with someone who treats you well, is, in general, treat them well in return. We call this theory, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” On the other hand, the world’s principle for dealing with someone who treats you badly, is that it is now acceptable for you to treat them badly in return. We might call this theory, “You stab me in the back, you had better not turn your back on me.”

However, the Bible contains God’s principles for God’s people. And His standards are always higher, and always better.

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

I Thessalonians 5:15

This is a standard that requires vigilance, for our flesh finds it repulsive. Who can tread such a narrow path of righteousness, and not fall? Only the Christian who “watches” always where he is going (I Thessalonians 5:6; Hebrews 12:15). Thus the reminder to, “See that…” Keep your eyes open, and fixed firmly upon Christ and His Word, and you will always follow that which is good.

This Big Light of Mine

August 10, 2009 at 7:27 am | Posted in Biblical Light, Biblical Parenting | 18 Comments
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God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all. (I John 1:5) In fact, the very first creation that God recognized as “good” was the creation of light. (Genesis 1:4) Keeping this in mind, it would only make sense that the children of God (those that, by the spiritual birth of regeneration through faith in Christ Jesus, have become partakers of God’s divine nature) would be children of light.

Following this reasoning, children of light would have a desire to walk in the light, and to tend toward performing daytime, rather than nighttime, activities. Children of light should be sober, for the favored time of drunkenness is nighttime. Children of light should be properly dressed, for daytime is the time for getting dressed, and nighttime is the time for getting undressed. Children of light are to flee from the temptations of immorality and fornication, and these sins are most likely to occur in the dark.

Furthermore, children of light should be awake and alert, watching and working, staying ready for the coming of the Lord, which could happen at any moment. Physical sleep is something that promotes growth and good health when done in proper balance, but spiritual sleep – for the sons and daughters of the Most High God – is to be avoided.

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

I Thessalonians 5:6

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