scrooge December 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 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 rich but 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 at other times? How do we keep our joy and continue to live in Christian liberty?

We Christians must be on guard to keep 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 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 in his sufferings. Paul was once a Pharisee, a religious legalistic zealot. He had education, distinction, and influence. Now, Paul has a new perspective. He confesses,

...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 Paul's day were Jewish people, and even Christians, who wanted all other Christians to follow the ceremonial laws of Moses and any traditions the religious leaders added to them. Paul refused to go back into an oppressive system of religion. He lives and obeys God by faith.

Today, there are those in the Christian community who are religiously legalistic people and 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 godliness 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 religious laws, ceremonies, 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 not only live in Christian liberty, but 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 in 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 which God has done in our lives and circumstances, and then we will rejoice. Let us count our blessings instead of the negative things in our lives. 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—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 teaching of the Bible. The true teaching of the Scriptures is faith in God expressing itself through love. It is because we love God that we obey him, love each other, and submit to one another.

Paul instructs us that we must not become uncaring 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 which 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, and 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 a relationship with God through Jesus (more...). We find our inner joy and peace in him, not our circumstances.
  • We must watch out for joy-stealers, those religious legalists or false teachers. Let us look to God and put our faith into practice.
  • We should learn to be content in whatever circumstances the Lord places us.
  • Let us not become uncaring in our Christian faith. We should fight for it, holding onto faith and a good conscience.
  • We should obey, give thanks, and pray for our governing authorities. They need our prayers, and they might affect the practice of our faith. Let us live in peace and cooperation, not contention.

Focus Verse

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

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A Look Ahead: We don't want anyone to steal our joy, so can we act any way we want to in church? Our Next Lesson deals with Right Conduct for the Church. Join us!

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