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Finish Strong


"Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." 
Good Morning my beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We so glad that our brothers and sisters from around the world are here with us today.
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Every day I am faced with decisions and have to ask 'Who am I going to make Lord of my life?' If I lie, I am making others my Lord. If I tell the truth I am making Jesus Lord and taking up my cross. However, in order to apply this Lordship, I need wisdom. Wisdom I do not possess, wisdom that comes only from the Holy Spirit. Because these situations are not always so cut and dry, I must be able to be respectful toward my superiors and those around me, as well as uphold the truth, standing firm in my convictions. Yes, this requires much wisdom, because I must always battle to teach the truth, a battle that must be won!

The Christian’s life firmly positioned in two worlds. Believers are restricted by the body to this physical world, with all the problems associated with our fallen condition. The great tragedy of this condition is that the old nature with its desires is not buried. We are dead with Christ, and therefore spiritually alive; yet, we struggle against the very natural destructive desires of the flesh, that still define our earthly lives. And those desires are perverted and will always remain so. For this reason, we must not succumb to those desires as they mean nothing.

However, at the same time, we are Christ’s new creation, destined to live eternally in the presence of the Holy God. A future that is already a spiritual reality, we are now living in the presence of the One True and Living God. In fact, God's Holy Spirit Himself lives in the Christian. Because, we are free in Christ, we must not surrender to the flesh. When we give in to the desires of the flesh, we are in fact, revealing something dreadfully wrong with our lives.

If we should allow ourselves to think as the world thinks, to believe as the world believes, at the level of this brief momentary existence, it is to demonstrate that God does not factor into our life. Allow me to put it another way to attempt to emphasize the point, when we justify doing what makes us feel good rather than doing what pleases God the Father, we are effectively saying that Jesus Christ is no longer the center of our lives, for we made ourselves the center of our lives. To act in such a fashion is to brazenly and boldly declare that we deserve what we want, when we want it. It is to assert with callous disregard the will of God.  

A blanket of despair covers our world, young people are losing hope for the future. Many see no reason why they should struggle with life, taking their own lives. There are many other manifestations of unrest and evil in our day too: violence, mugging, rape, child abuse, widespread public pornography, students who cannot seem to learn to even read or write in our public school systems. We live in a world that is unraveling before our eyes, one in which Christians must commit themselves without reserve to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Let us bow our heads.

Heavenly Father,

Father, thank You for Your Word to us today. We ask You to give us understanding in everything through Your Holy Spirit. Help us to remember the standard to which we have been called, and remind us that Jesus, is the power for the keeping of it. Lord, we pray that we really have the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and will submit ourselves with the dedication of a soldier, the discipline of an athlete, and the diligence of a farmer, so that we might see the results of the abundant harvest in glory.

Father, give us an eternal perspective. Help us to experience the joys of victory, to taste of fruit of the Spirit, living in anticipation of the eternal reward that await those who are faithful. Remind us that no sacrifice, no trial or suffering in this life endured for Your glory, shall end unrewarded, in ultimate victory. 
In Christ's name

Today's Message: Finish Strong

As I read and consider the initial verses of this chapter to be among the most significant verses of the book. They are, as well, perhaps the most neglected verses of the missive which Paul wrote. I confess that I am ploughing quite a narrow furrow in these expositions. Note that the Apostle appeals to multiple metaphors in order to emphasize a truth. In II Timothy 2:2, when he has spoken of a teacher who is teaching a teacher when he writes, "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Immediately after presenting the image of a teacher preparing a teacher for the future, Paul wrote of a soldier. In II Timothy 2:3-4, he urged the younger minister, "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." Now, in II Timothy 2:5, he presents the image of an athlete engaged in a great contest. "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." One further metaphor will emphasize the contest in we are engaged; that of a hard working farmer. We will consider that word picture in a message in the near future.
A tremendous truth that must be stressed in each of the scenarios, the Apostle Paul presents, confronts modern Christendom and he confronts all of modern Christian life! We are programmed to anticipate instant gratification, to I believe, a tragic degree. If you think about it, our modern approach to life is quite infantile. We come into this life demanding attention. We are at moved with compassion at the helplessness of a new born baby. They are totally dependent upon adults for shelter, warmth, nourishment, and clothing. Therefore, we do not anticipate that babies will provide anything for themselves.
On some future day, we expect that infants will mature, assuming responsibility for themselves. The aforementioned needs will be provided through their own efforts. At least, that is our hope and expectation. Modern life has, however, delivered a new twist on this old perception. Modern western idealism has conditioned us to refuse to accept responsibility for anything bad that may come into our lives. Moreover, the needs, which by the way, never cease, are expected to be provided for immediately, perhaps, in some instances, even magically, without any input on our part.  
Open with me your Bibles to the Second Book of Timothy chapter two. The heart of this whole epistle comes to us, here, in the second chapter, it begins with the words in verse 1, "Be strong."
In our text today, Paul uses the illustration of an athlete. He uses the Greek verb athléô, which speaks of competing in an athletic contest. His use of that word recalls the Greek games. Though the Romans were rulers of what we know today as North Africa, the Near East or the Mediterranean and European nations, regional customs from the various nations often continued unabated despite Roman rule. The Greek Games were one such custom that continued long after the Romans had assumed the role of empire builders and rulers. These games were still very popular at the time the Apostle Paul was writing. I believe that it is clear, that Paul  considers Christians as competitors. 
However, I would like to stress, that we who believe, are not competing against other believers; rather, we are competing against our own desires. Allow me to explain. Throughout Paul's writings, he warns against succumbing to "the flesh." By this, he is speaking of surrendering to the desires of the natural man.
The fourth and final image he presents is that of a farmer. Even in today, farming, is a demanding occupation. He uses the Greek work geōrgon, a worker of the soil. Paul uses this to illustrate the strong spiritual life expected of those who would follow Christ. The teacher is rewarded by knowing that he has enriched and stimulated the lives of his students. The soldier is rewarded by the knowledge that he has pleased his commander. The athlete wins the award of a trophy. Paul reminds Timothy that the farmer is rewarded with the first share and the best example of the crops. Even those who were not farmers, in Paul's day, would have been intimately acquainted with the labor required of a farmer. That is not the case today. As we continue to grow in progress, we simultaneously become more distant from the land, we become less aware of what is entailed in producing food for the nation. Fewer and fewer people are producing food, more so than ever before; and fewer still seem to understand that the food we eat is produced through the hard work of those who farm.
According to the most recent survey, the USDA reported that the number of U.S. farms continues to decline slowly In the most recent survey, there were 2.02 million U.S. farms in 2019, down from 2.20 million in 2007. With 897 million acres of land in farms in 2019, the average farm size was 444 acres, only slightly greater than the 440 acres recorded in the early 1970s. 
And according to FarmlandInfo.Org, between 2001 and 2016, 11 million acres of farmland and ranchland were converted to urban and highly developed land use (4.1 million acres) or low-density residential land use (nearly 7 million acres). 
The idea that Paul is presenting, he is emphasizing to Timothy the reality of delayed gratification. Those of us who are in ministry, seldom see immediate rewards for the long hours and hard work we expend. Proverbs 14:23, teaches us "In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."
Yet, modern culture seems to imagine that reward should be instantaneous. They expect to graduate after four years of campus indoctrination with a degree in some critical field of study such as Computer Science, Psychology or Economics, expecting to start off as the vice president of a major corporation, a huge salary, 6 weeks vacation and a 401k.

Imagine the disappointment, after their dreams are dashed from believing the lies touted by President Barrack Obama "We are the ones we have been waiting for!," when they find out they're barely qualified to flip burgers, a file clerk in human resources or hotel desk clerk. Sadly, it's not much different of those who graduate from seminary, believing they will step right into a congregation of ten or twenty thousand souls, ready to dispense pearls of wisdom that the world has been eagerly awaiting. Obviously, I failed to notice the greatness lying latent under a patina of poor grammar, lacking superior biblical knowledge, believing he is acting wisely when he ignores the teaching in the Old Testament and ignorance of theology and the original text and languages, therefore, unable to expound the will of God to men.

Inherent in the human psyche is the thought that we are owed sycophancy and greatness. That the world doesn’t recognize our prowess and superior intellect is due to the benighted condition of the most of mankind. This idealization of our own greatness lies at the heart of our own fallen, sinful condition. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent approached Eve with the lie that God didn’t want competition, and therefore God kept her from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Believing that she somehow deserved better than what God had offered her. By eating the forbidden fruit, she could now advance herself to where she actually belonged. Isn’t that the essence of this same mindset of those in the world today?

In Romans 7:4-6, Paul said of his own struggle not to surrender to his natural desires. "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."
As a society, we once lived by a moral law, certain behaviors and actions were prohibited. The force of a law on the natural person is to make that person desire to try to see how close he can come to the boundary without actually crossing the boundary. Today, we make laws and the natural human inclination is to immediately test the boundaries. And, when caught transgressing the law, we bitterly explain that we haven't done anything wrong and are being unfairly judged. 
In Romans 7: 18-20, Paul speaks of his struggle, a losing struggle, of our natural desires as they run up against God's law. "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me."  
His final observation is made in verses 24-25 when he writes " Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
If Jesus Christ rules over my life, if He reigns supreme in my heart, I will be controlled by His Spirit. Consequently, in ever greater measure the fruit of the Spirit will be revealed in our lives. That fruit is the evidence that the flesh is under control. We can gauge how effective the Spirit controls our life by assessing the presence of these graces; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 
In contrast, if my life is marked in significant degree by such character traits as sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, addiction, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things of that nature, it is mute, though effective evidence that the flesh is prevailing. Therefore, my status as a competitor is called into question. I want to take a moment to draw your attention to the catchall phrase Paul used after this dark list of character traits that mark the lives of non-competitors—"things like these." Paul did not mean to present an exhaustive list of fleshly characteristics; rather, he was presenting a representative list. 
Beloved, I want to again stress, we are not competing against one another, though I am aware that is sometimes hard to believe when witnessing the actions of many professing Christians. Within any given congregation, we too often witness jealousy and struggling to gain an advantage over fellow believers. "Power brokers" seem always to infect the assemblies as some dear saint believes their opinion is superior to that of another believer. While others, are angered, because they didn’t get their way, react with choler, dropping out of the fellowship, rejecting the multiplied affirmations of devotion and love they have made previously. 
Still others will attempt to punish the congregation by withholding their love, refusing to participate in worship through giving. These responses are not infrequent occasions, in fact, they are  rather frequent. At any given time in an assembly, any or all of these matters are occurring as professed saints of God surrender to the desires of their fallen nature. Fortunately, there are yet others, dare I say the majority of worshipers, who endeavor to walk in the Spirit, expressing the fruits of the Spirit in increasing measure. 
I believe that I must touch on one further aspect, a number of Christians assume that by adopting various practices, they will somehow will conquer the desires of the natural man. These practices varies in the form of asceticism, fasting, recitation of prayers, participation in sundry church rites, reading devotional works; however, none of these practices, no matter how beneficial they may first appear, can defeat the desires of the flesh.  
In Colossians 2:20-23, Paul tells us that "If you have died with Christ o the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!"(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the  appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
We must recognize this truth, we are dead to the world, and the world is dead to us! Our baptism declares that we have become dead to sin. We must take positive steps to crucify our old nature. First, by recognizing those elements associated with our  fallen nature and refuse to permit them to have dominion over our lives. Then, understand the danger in surrendering to the elements of this fallen world—these character traits invite the wrath of God. And if He will judge the world because of these things, shall we be spared discipline if we embrace them? Of course He will discipline His child. Finally, formally renounce these character traits identified with this broken, fallen world. We cannot expect that we have sufficient ability in ourselves to be holy. As we continue to practice the divine replacement therapy of seeking what pleases God, and doing those things, His Spirit dwelling in us will equip us to fulfill His will.
The farmer is "hard working," yet his harvest is not immediate. The athlete pushes himself to the limit, knowing that any reward comes only after he has denied himself, pushing his body beyond its limitations to excel. The soldier, however, does not receive an award until he has risked himself in combat, training diligently, in order to win on the field of battle. His rewards are delayed. Rewards are be conferred only after they have been deserved
To profess to be a Christian, is to acknowledge that we are twice-born through faith in the Risen Christ.
Those of us, who are born from above, specifically those who are twice-born, may anticipate that God is taking note of their fidelity and service, giving appropriate rewards. Thinking of the promised rewards, it is essential to notice, that those who will be rewarded are responsible to adhere to God’s Word and will. If they pursue their own desires, they sacrifice the right to divine recognition before the assembled saints and angels.
In Luke 12:8-9, Jesus said "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."
In Closing..
God rightly anticipates that His people know His will. To know His will requires that we know His Word. It is a rare and wonderful thing to attend the services of a Bible believing, Christ preaching church, knowing that the Pastor faithfully declares the entire Word of God. However, if you are to be spiritually nourished, you must feed on the Word on an ongoing basis. As a Christian, you are responsible to spend time in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, hearing Him through His Word and speaking with Him in prayer.
God’s Spirit is at work changing us at this moment; and we are called to work together with Him to effect that eternal change. 
I believe, it will be helpful for us to remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:18, "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."
Jesus Christ is coming again; and we shall finally win our race if we do not lose heart, if we keep our eye on the prize. God will reward those who have continued faithful, trusting themselves to the care of the righteous God. None can be considered “super saints”; all are equally loved and equally prepared for this race. May we all finish well.
May it be so..
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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