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scrooge December 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Philippians 3, 4; 1Timothy 1, 2

Keeping our Joy and Liberty

Scrooge appears as the main character in the The Christmas Carol, a Christmas story written by Charles Dickens in 1843. Life was very difficult for most of the people in the story; they lived in poverty. Scrooge was a very rich but a very stingy businessman, who despised Christmas. He could have helped alleviate the suffering, but instead Christmas was bah, humbug to him, and he tried to steal the joy of the season from others. Who is it or what is it that is trying to steal our joy at Christmas or any other time? How do we keep our joy and continue to live in Christian liberty?

We Christians must be on guard to keep ourselves rejoicing and committed in the faith despite our circumstances (see yesterday's lesson). If anyone had a cause for not rejoicing it would have been the Apostle Paul. He was writing as a prisoner from Rome. During his three missionary journeys he had experienced mockings, beatings, and threats to his life. What reason did he have to be joyful?

Paul found joy in the LORD. It was the LORD who provided a gracious salvation for him, who was formerly an abuser and persecutor of Christians. It was the LORD who gave him comfort amidst his afflictions. Paul was once a Pharisee, a religious legalistic zealot. He had education, distinction and influence. Paul said,

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:7-10, NIV).

Watch out for joy-stealers. They were present in Paul’s day and are present today. Joy-stealers in the Christian community are religiously legalistic people who have their own standards of righteousness and want to impose them on everyone else. Their standards are not set out clearly in the Scriptures as a part of holiness and righteousness. No, these are additional religious practices to make people appear righteous. Let us remember, however, that righteousness comes by faith, not by the keeping of laws and traditions, or by somehow doing something to mark ourselves as Christians. By faith we keep the commandments of God, love our fellow believers, and are kind to outsiders.

Do we want to be rejoicing Christians? We must take the focus off of our circumstances and rejoice in the LORD! Paul said,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you, (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV).

Inner peace, even amidst suffering, leads to rejoicing. We must pray to God when we are afflicted and give thanks. We must learn to focus on every good thing that God has done in our lives and circumstances, and then we will be rejoicing! Let’s count our blessings instead of the negative things in our lives. Let’s remember our citizenship is in heaven, not on this earth.

Last, to have joy in the LORD we must learn to be content in whatever circumstance the LORD has placed us. This is not always easy, but contentment leads to peace, and peace leads to joy.

How do we keep the faith, i.e. our commitment to Christ? This is closely associated with keeping our joy. To keep the faith we must not tolerate or give heed to false teachings and religious legalism, which tries to draw us away from the true doctrine of the Scriptures. The true doctrine of the Scriptures is faith in God expressing itself through love. As we said before, it is because we love God that we obey him, love each other, submit to one another, and even submit to governing authorities.

Paul instructs us that we must not become lackadaisical in our Christian life. We must “fight the good fight of faith, holding on to faith and a good conscience.” This we must do if we want to joyfully sail in our relationship with God, and not be shipwrecked (1Timothy 1:18-19, NIV).

Government officials can also affect our joy and liberty. The government official “is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience,” (Romans 13:4b-5, NIV). Paul gives Timothy further instructions about the importance of working with the government and not against it,

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, (1Timothy 2:1-4, NIV).

As Christians, we should try to obey the governing authorities that God has ordained and not be contentious. We should pray for our leaders. “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone,” (Proverbs 25:15, NIV). We should try to be reasonable, kind, considerate law abiding citizens. The only exception to obeying governing authorities is if it causes us to disobey God (Acts 4:19; 5:29). This uncontentious, cooperative behavior with our government in many cases will lead to peace, continued freedom, and even our joy.

Lessons to live by:

  • True joy and peace is found in Jesus in a relationship with God through Jesus (more...). Find your inner joy and peace in him, not your circumstances.
  • Watch out for joy-stealers, those religious legalists or false teachers. Look to God and put your faith into practice.
  • Learn to be content in whatever circumstances the LORD places you.
  • Do not become lackadaisical in your Christian faith; fight for it, holding onto faith and a good conscience.
  • Obey, give thanks, and pray for the governing authorities because they might affect the practice of your faith. Live in peace, not contention.

Today’s Bible memory verse: Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

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