Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Week Eight - Continue


 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.”  
Acts 2:42   

 The definition of “continued” here in Acts means to be strong toward, to endure or to persevere with a person or thing.  When you add the adverb “steadfastly”, it takes on an even stronger connotation.  The new believers were intensely following or staying with the doctrine, fellowship and activities of this new Way.  They were not wavering.  There was much for them to learn and it was intensely important to them.
As times goes on in Biblical church history we come to the book of
I Timothy and read Paul’s admonition – “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (I Timothy 4:16)  Here the definition is to continue long or to abide.
If we put the two definition together we get the idea dedication, or sticking with it, or being in for the long haul.  It’s like an intense importance; a singleness of mind set on purpose toward following a person or a thing.  In this case, the person is Christ and the thing is doctrine.  The two are inseparable.  Christ makes doctrine alive, and doctrine points the soul back to Christ making a stable and growing Christian.
Ephesians 4:14 warns us not to be as children, “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” but rather, to be growing in Christ, understanding and learning the truth that is in Jesus.  James holds a similar warning, “he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”  To continue means, then, that we must have solid ground.  We need to know doctrine.  We need to chart a steady course and stay on the path.
If you take note of the last phrase of I Timothy 4:16 it tells you why this is important.  “…for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”  Being consistent (continuing in sound doctrine) holds reward.  It is not the means of our salvation, nor that of others, but it is the assurance that as we are faithful to His Word, He will be faithful to us, and use our lives as instruments in the salvation of others.
Do you know what you believe?  Do you know why?  Is doctrine alive to you?  Are you living what you believe?  Can others see those beliefs in your life?  Are you continuing in your Christian walk, or are you wavering and tossed about?


“…Paul and Barnabas…persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” 
Acts 13:43

 “As the Father hath love me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”  
John 15:9 

The admonition to continue is sprinkled throughout Scripture. It is not limited to doctrine, but linked with several biblical directives.  Here in these two verses we are told to continue in the grace of God and the love of Christ.  It means to stay long or to abide.
The grace of God in this instance is, according to Barnes, “…His favour – in the faith, and prayer, and obedience, which would be connected with his favour.  The gospel is called the grace or favour of God, and they were exhorted to persevere in their attachment to it.”  That is a wonderful phrase – “persevering attachment to it”. 
It isn’t merely staying in church.  It isn’t just living a Christian lifestyle.  It is a real attachment; a choice based on commitment and determination.  Jude tells us “keep yourselves in the love of God…” This tells me that I have to be active in order to continue or keep myself in a certain place or position. To continue, stay long or abide means I am rationally, physically, emotionally and spiritually present.  I am involved.  I have a persevering attachment by choice to my Saviour and God.
And why would I not want to make this choice?  Why would I ever want to remove myself from God’s favour and love?  It is the best place to be.  It is afforded by the love of Christ and His sacrifice. I do not deserve it, but it is a free gift – a gift I have been given.
Choosing then, to do things that would set me outside the love and grace of God, is unwise and unproductive.  I want to stay where He can show me His love.  I want to interact with His love.  I want to wake every morning knowing He is there.
You with me?  Are you there – in the love and favour of God?  Do you life choices show that you have a persevering attachment to the Lord?  Or do your choices go against His Word setting you apart from a loving relationship with the Lord?


“Continue in prayer…” Colossians 4:2 

 “…if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” 
John 8:31 

 This is absolutely beautiful.  It is an open invitation to have fellowship and a real relationship with the Lord of hosts!  Let’s take time to look at the depth of meaning behind these two invitations.
Continue in prayer.  It means to join, to adhere, to spend much time together or to faithfully attend.  Our Lord is inviting us to join with him, to stick by His side and spend quality time together, to be a part of His team and in His presence. 
Sometimes we get the wrong idea about prayer.  We come with our list and dutifully set about praying for those with needs and the concerns on our hearts.  We see prayer as something we do, rather than something in which we are allowed to participate.  Doing is different than participating.  You can “do” all by yourself, but you cannot participate alone.  To participate means that to share in an activity.  It comes from a Latin root meaning “shared in” that is formed from two root words meaning part and take, or, to partake. 
If you are participating or partaking you are receiving a benefit from the activity.  You are putting part of yourself into the collective activity.  When we view prayer from this vantage point it takes on a different meaning.  No longer are we just alone in our prayer, but we are part of a larger group – the body of Christ – and we are participating in an activity or spiritual discipline that brings us into closer communion with the Lord.  The invitation is to keep praying, to spend much time with the Lord in prayer and pray without ceasing  - continue praying.
The invitation to continue in His Word has the idea of staying or remaining.  Again, we are privileged receivers of His Word.  The Word is alive in our hearts.  It is our source of strength and guidance.  Staying there, or remaining in the Word is a sign that we are His disciples. 
This Friend of ours desires our company.  Prayer and the fellowship of the Word are precious commodities.  We should continue in them and make them a part of every moment of our lives.


”…exhorting them to continue in the faith…” Acts 14:22 

“…continue in the faith grounded and settled….”  
Colossians 1:23

It was no small thing in the early church to continue in the faith.  Everything around them made it a difficult choice.  Through the centuries the difficulty of continuing in the faith has remained true throughout many eras.  Continuing in the faith meant being ostracized by society, facing real persecution and ridicule, being cast out of your family, or even burned at the stake.  Even today, men and women around the world are imprisoned, tortured and physically scared and abused for simply continuing in the faith of Christ.
And why do people choose to be burned at the stake or suffer in prison rather than recant?  Why do you think they would stand with their eyes toward heaven, some singing hymns, some praying, others testifying as the fire takes their life?  It was because they were Christians.  They continued in the faith.  They would rather die than turn their back on the Lord.  They held fast to their faith, firm to the end.  It is a proof of their salvation - a proof that real Christians continue.
People who are ungrounded and unsettled in their faith do not make choices like these.  No, people who know they have been entrusted with the Pearl of Great Price – the gospel, make them.  These are the people who know their doctrine, who have experience the grace and love of God, who are active in prayer and in the Word.  These continue in their faith, defend their faith and are shining examples of the testimony of Christ.
There are plenty of things in this world to dissuade us from continuing in our faith.  The media portrays us as ignorant and even dangerous in some cases.  The government tries to make laws that will hinder the gospel or constrict free speech.  Our friends and family try to point us to wider paths.  But if we are real Christians, we know that the narrow path is rugged, but we are ready to stay the course.  We will continue.

 “ But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”  
II Tim 3:14

Continue in what you have learned.  Stay there.  Remain in that learning. As a child, Timothy had been taught the truths of the gospel.  He had seen them confirmed by the instruction of Paul.  Now, amid the false teachers and errors of those around him, he is exhorted to hold fast that doctrine, no matter who might oppose them or whatever might be the consequence.
Proverbs 22:6 must have been the mantra of Timothy’s mother and grandmother.  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  These women are the “whom” that first taught Timothy.  Paul is simply exhorting him to continue in the grounding he had already received. 
In the book of Philippians, Paul makes a similar statement in 4:9  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
It is a good exercise to stop and consider what we know to be the basics of our faith.  Salvation – are we settled and sure?  Sanctification – are we pure?  Service – are we active?  Relationships – are we proper and healthy?  Giving – are we generous?  The Church – are we fitly joined and vital?  Finances – are we good stewards?  Testimony – are we upright?  Outreach – are we witnessing and winning souls?  Obedience – are we yielding to the Word?  The list could go on and on. 

There are so many biblical principles and truths that have been planted in our lives.  The real question is are we doing them?  Are we continuing in what we have learned, or, are we letting some things slip?

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