Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Church No Disciple

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
(John 13:35 – ESV)

The world cannot get along, but we in the church are called to get along, even in difficulty, and especially in difficulty. We cannot just run away or practice avoidance or do those things those in the world do. We have to show ourselves as truly changed by Christ because now we can get along and cooperate when situations and people make it difficult. That is one main way we show the power of Christ. Being a Christian means being involved with His Body, and it is expressed locally as church assemblies. We must show that we are different, not just as individuals but also as local units. Where other people cannot get along, we must show that Christ has given us the power where we can. This is how we show the world we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, by loving one another even when some of us are unlovable at times.

You cannot avoid this Word from Christ, to avoid it is to avoid Him and His power in your life, and to deny His Lordship, and to prove that you are not a true disciple. You cannot be some part time lover of Jesus; you know that don’t you? Well, you cannot be some part time lover of His people, and that is what you are trying to do if you won’t commit to a local church. You just want to play nice when you see someone out, or keep a few friends who you talk about God with. That isn’t what Jesus was talking about. He doesn’t think part time lovers are true disciples.

If you aren’t involved in a local community of believers then you cannot be having the love for one another that Jesus was talking about. You would just be having friends with a common interest, but no covenant bond that requires sacrifice, sweat, and sanctification, as you had to deal with the ups and downs of relationships. If you are not doing that you are doing no better than the world, those who just take up and leave whenever it gets uncomfortable.

You must be willing and intentional in your devotion to Christ by becoming involved with an imperfect church made up of imperfect people like yourself. You must be learning to live the redeemed life in community, showing the love of Christ, the love that loves despite what has happened to us, the love that loves the unlovable, the love we must show the world we have for one another or we deny Christ.

If the world cannot see us getting along in situations that they wouldn’t be able to, then why would they want to join a local church, even if they wanted Jesus? Oh I see; you agree with them, you don’t want to be at a local church either. I guess you just don’t really want to be a disciple either. If you are not learning to love people more you are not learning to love God more. That is what Jesus would say to you.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Sound of Silent Music

nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
(1 Timothy 1:4 – ESV)

You might be looking at the verse above and wondering what this has to do with music. Well it is a verse that in context is one of many sections where Paul admonishes church leaders to keep sound doctrine at the fore. When observing and studying the “pastoral epistles” of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, we see that Paul continually speaks of sound doctrine, of correction, rebuke, exhortation, public reading of scripture and truth before feelings. They seem to be silent on the style and content of music. In searching through the pastoral epistles you will notice he doesn’t tell Timothy (or Titus) to make sure they have a great praise band!

So Paul wasn’t concerned with music. Or was he? Indeed he was; if Paul continues on and on about doctrine, then the means of which it is delivered must also adhere to his strictures. By his silence Paul isn’t saying anything goes, especially if it is loving, has a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. No he is saying that good doctrine will lead to those qualities in truth, which would lead to good music choices. He isn’t saying anything goes he is saying anything that goes must go according to his doctrine. When he says doctrine he means Gospel.

He isn’t implying that music isn’t important but he is obviously intending to say that music is secondary, it is an instrument for doctrine, doctrine first, and music as a means of delivery of doctrine. By concentrating on doctrine Paul doesn’t say don’t do music he is saying that all our music should be doctrinal leading to devotional. Right devotion is informed by right doctrine.

Music teaches us something, not just by what it says but also by what it doesn’t. If it is only fluff with no meat it is teaching us that doctrine doesn’t matter. It obviously does to Paul and to God since the NT focuses on teaching, and so obviously the content of our songs of worship must be doctrinally rich if they are to be biblically sound. Paul doesn’t downplay worship with music; he exalts it by exalting the Bible! First things first: in keeping his students focused on doctrine, he is keeping them focused on the content of their worship. It isn’t that “worship” is unimportant, but that it is, so much so that it needs to be seen in the right order. Focusing on the Bible will help us to focus correctly in worship.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Straight Shepherds

desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
(1 Timothy 1:7 – ESV)

Faithful exposition of the Word leads to biblical, true, godly love because it concerns itself and teaches and creates pure hearts, good consciences and sincere faith. Paul told Timothy and God tells us to continue in the Word, and be set free from the folly of fascination with fads (1 Timothy 4:15-16). He says instead that those who stray from the teachings are making a shipwreck of their faith. That is the definition of pastoral concern: keeping people off the rocks, which will leave them shipwrecked. Let's be thankful for all those who are gifted by God to think of the church in this way.

What’s supposed to happen? We are supposed to be being discipled. What is that? It is learning to apply the Gospel to our whole lives. That is our first thing and really the only thing, and if we stray from that, leaving the Gospel behind, we are straying from Christ, as this text teaches. We need shepherds who talk straight, not those who lead us into flights of fancy.

Timothy was to keep proclaiming and promoting the Gospel, so as to keep people from trying to save themselves by straying from the Gospel. He and we are to be warning and guarding and teaching against those who promote the false ways, straying from the Gospel. Oh they don’t start out like that, it starts out as something not so sinister, like trying to find some deeper meaning from the OT law that would give us more power today or please God better than we do now, or something like that. But Paul is telling Timothy, telling us, and I am telling you that it is indeed straying, leading us away from the real security of clinging to Christ and into the false security of clinging to ourselves.

Straying just a little off the path leads to another path altogether. We must stay on the path of the Gospel, where Christ is our righteousness, and we find in Christ our significance, sufficiency, and security, and we must be aware of the danger of straying onto the path of self righteousness, and self sufficiency which leads to self doubt, self condemnation, and ultimately damnation.

The Gospel is what it is all about, and let’s stay with it, let’s teach and learn and find ways to apply to it to every facet of our lives, instead of straying off the path by trying to find some hidden new secret, key, formula, or method of salvation, sanctification, or life enhancement that Paul never instructed Timothy about, and God doesn’t want us making vain discussion about. The Bible declares for the Christian that Jesus Christ has become for us our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31 – ESV). Come to Him today, He is what you need, and all you need. Amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday Sermon: I Want You To See Something

Ephesians 1:15-23

Have you ever had that experience where something just clicks, you finally get it, you know, the light comes on, that little light bulb over your head shows up? It is as if you have been thinking about or studying something but then you finally learn it. It is like you found the secret, like you find that missing piece of the puzzle, you figure something out, find where the leak is, finally realize how something works, finally understand what someone is trying to say, finally get what the teacher is looking for on the test, finally understand why your spouse is so upset, finally get the big picture, or the fine detail of something you have been struggling with or didn’t even realize you needed till the answer came. You finally learn to overcome something. You finally see the answer after all this time. You finally understand how or why.

Or you see it happen to someone else, you have been trying to tell them something for years and they finally get the message, they finally learn how it is done, your children finally get motivated, a couple finally reconciles their past problems, your friend finally comes to Christ. They finally get it.

That is one of the greatest feelings in the world isn’t it? It is wonderful and it does happen to everyone at some point in their lives, and we all wish it would happen more often. There is no one in the world who isn’t wanting and waiting for this to happen at some level, with some problem, with some relationship, with some difficult thing they have been trying to do or to see happen. No one is exempt from this, the need for something to finally click, to come together, to make sense, finally. My prayer is that this might happen in some way to all of us today.

You see, the Bible is no stranger to this phenomenon, in fact the Apostle Paul knew that we all needed this to happen in our walks with God if we were ever really going to “get it” and get going on the path instead of just sitting there. How many times have you read something in the Bible over and over, and then one day, wham, it finally clicks? Or you see something in your daily life that makes the scripture or a biblical concept come alive with fresh meaning? It is a powerful experience, isn’t it? By the grace of God we will be able to get you to see some things today, finally. To have our hearts set ablaze, the eyes of our understanding enlightened, to make it real in practice, to have it click. Today might be the day that it all clicks for you. That was Paul’s prayer, and my prayer for all of us today, believers, unbelievers, and even make believers.

Vs.15-16 – because they were in Christ and sealed by His Spirit, and because they were faithful to God and loving of one another, because God had done something and they had responded and done something, that is why Paul is praying. This isn’t for people who are not Christians, they do not have the significance, the sufficiency and the security of Christ, but they can if they want it. Faith and love do not earn us participation in this great work of God. They are evidence of our participation in God’s plan. In light of the ultimate plan of God that Paul lays out in verses 1-14, in light of that he prays for more light for right now. He’s praying that they would see something.

Paul saw that they were holding the faith in truth, and that they loved others out of a love for Christ. He knows that they will want and need an increase in faith, so as to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of God. We give thanks for what we see and know of Jesus now, and we pray for others to get a further revelation of Him within the context of daily life. As a pastor I not only preach to you, I pray for you. Are you praying for those you are witnessing to?

Vs.17 – That God would shed a little more light, illuminating the beauty of Christ. Not some spooky magical supposedly spiritual power tool, but a more thorough, working knowledge of Christ. It is practical, and yes mystical, but a living knowledge of our living Lord. From the soul, the center, the very core of our being becoming enlightened. It is a spirit of it, a process of understanding. It is not a one-time shot or even many shots it is developing this understanding throughout our lifetimes. We are strengthened, not so much like boosters that put us to the next level, but the Spirit is working with us in our situations and they coalesce together to form a more perfect understanding.

Revelation – it is coming to us more and more. Wisdom – we are realizing what it means and what to do with it. Wisdom and revelation as to who He really is what He is really like, which helps us to live, to witness, to minister, to encourage and to discern. As you are more and more in the light the difference will become more and more pronounced to others, the more His light will shine through you.

Vs.18-19a – For this reason (what God has done and what they were doing) (vs.15) he prayed for this thing (enlightenment, wisdom and revelation about Christ) (vs.17) for this reason (to know the hope, riches, and power) (vs.18). Paul prays for the light to come on, to full power, and that we would then be able to ascertain, to know, it would come on our radar screen. When the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the heart, one will be able to see all these great truths. Not that we could see it as just as mere words, but that we could actually see it with our spiritual eyes, and it might become a reality in this life.

As we understand the hope it gives rise to more faith and the light of Christ we are seeing will be reflected to others. When the lights go up we see the hope of our calling, and we see the riches of the glorious inheritance, in the saints. You see, our riches are in God, and God’s riches are in His saints. We see the power, we live for His glory and He is glorified in us. The prayer of Ephesians 1:17-19 is essentially a request that the promises of Ephesians 1:3-14, the safety, satisfaction, and rest become a reality in the lives of the Ephesians.

Paul is praying for three things. Paul was praying that they would know, that they would begin to understand and to grow, in not only the hope, and not only the riches of the glorious inheritance waiting for them in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5), but also in His mighty power to them in this life (1 Timothy 4:8). Our hope for heaven, His riches poured out in us, and the power to get it all done, the power to see Jesus more clearly and become more like Him now! Paul is praying that you would be so enlightened that you might shine for the glory of God and become one of the jewels in Jesus’ crown! Paul wants this to start happening now, and this will reach its zenith with His second coming (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Vs.19b-23 – Paul now describes the power. The power is of the same essence as that which raised Jesus from the dead, and this is the kind of power God is working in us that believe. Do you believe it? Pray that you can see it! God energized this, showed its power; He demonstrated it by raising Christ from the dead. This same power is available now, to raise the drunkard from his drink, to raise the thief from their thievery, to raise the Pharisee from his self-righteousness, to raise the head of those who are held captive, to raise the spirits of those who are downtrodden and lonely, to raise you from that pit of sin and self, and to raise the dead in sin to be born again.

The power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead can create a new life for you, giving you true safety, satisfaction, and rest, the promises of Ephesians 1:3-14. It is a life that glorifies God by raising you from the spiritually dead. Be made alive today. If you are born again but you are so down you feel dead, be energized to see God’s power today.

Christ was filled with all authority and power, and He fills His church. Jesus is pouring Himself into His church, and we are growing into His fullness. This is where the enlightening happens, this is where Paul was praying for it, to the church at Ephesus, as a group, not simply to the individuals but to them, so that they all might see some of the beauty and together share that beauty. This letter was a circular letter; it was to travel to all the local churches. You see, in this life we cannot as individuals behold all the beauty that is Christ, but together we can see Him reflected in a multifaceted way, understanding more of Him than we would be able to do otherwise.

His Body which He fills as He see fit, in many varied ways and means and we are stewards of that (1 Peter 4:10) and when we see that we will see what Paul was praying for and what God wants for us in Christ, it will all finally click, because we will see all the pieces finally come together. His body, the church, is what He fills. This is perhaps the strongest motivator as to why you HAVE to go to church, because if you don’t you won’t, see it that is. It CAN happen, it can all finally come together for you, as you help it come together for others. We can spread grace instead of trying to hoard it.

Pray that you might be able to see something of the light of Christ in other believers today, and every day. Pray for those that won’t come to church, that think the people there are the furthest thing from Christ, when Paul is making it clear that it is they who are far away, as Christ is filling His church with His light. You say “but, but, but, but, but, what about this or that situation, or person, or that church who hurt me” or whatever? Well let me tell you that is the devil that is doing that to us. Think about it; Satan has us all separating and now is not the time for that! We need to be a unified witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The ones outside are in the darkroom but they aren’t being developed, pray that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened.

I hope you have become enlightened today, and may it ever be so and ever be increasing. Paul wanted them to see something because he wanted them to be something. You need to see more light to be more of a light. From the simplicity of childhood to growing deeper as we grow older, as we mature in the love of Christ, we have much to look forward to as Christ becomes more and more beautiful to us even as the things of the world become less and less satisfying. We can go from knowing it in the general sense to where you are realizing it in every sense, every situation, every circumstance, every facet of life, you increasingly see and you’ll increasingly be. That was Paul’s prayer, and that is my prayer, for me, for you, for us, for God’s glory.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, October 26, 2007

Desiring Doctrine

desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
(1 Timothy 1:7 – ESV)

Right teaching MUST be under-girded by right goals. What is your desire, to teach the law or to teach love? Is your goal born from a love for being a teacher or from a love for the teachings themselves? Look at the words Paul uses in this passage, right doctrine is more important than personal devotion and desire. Of course there are those who have right doctrine but only in their heads, but right doctrine held rightly leads to right personal devotion and desire.

In their desire to teach the Word they were not really good students of the Word and so not good stewards of the Word. They strayed from the focus because they didn’t stay with the focus as a guide to their study and so they wandered off.

They try and teach strange things they swerve from the main aim and they had impure motives. What they wanted to do was to be respected as a teacher and they go off into areas they know nothing of and they handle the Word wrongly and deceitfully. They are and they become even more overconfident and unteachable (1 Timothy 6:3-5). These people did not even understand the implications of their own teaching. They didn’t have the Law right either and they were missing love. Their knowledge was superficial when they thought it super spiritual. Many think they are going deep but what they’re really doing is just splashing around a lot and making a lot of waves at the shallow end, or worse yet, diving into poison waters.

If you can’t explain the core don’t try and explain more. “I know the core, Jesus died for your sins”, well then is that just the jump off point into more stuff or is it the very life? Can you explain how the Gospel applies to every part of your life? Are you devoted to and desiring to learn that as a disciple? No, well then that is why it isn’t enough for you. The message of the cross isn’t the doorway to more stuff it is the stuff itself. It is the way to love as Jesus loved, and when we do that we fulfill the law from the heart (Romans 13:8-10 / Galatians 5:14).

A healthy church is about a people who love in the right way, they relate to God rightly and therefore to each other rightly. They will be increasing in the knowledge of God’s Word and in the grace of Jesus Christ and so therefore increasing in love and grace toward one another.

Our job as disciples is not just to find out the difficult things but concentrate on what we do know already. Are we even doing that? Then why think some new stuff is the key to doing the old stuff? The problem then and now is with people who seem to be or want to be advanced beyond applying the gospel to their own lives. It is about more than merely knowing that or even how the gospel applies to every aspect of your life; it is about being transformed by the gospel in every aspect of your life. Before you desire to teach some deep truths, you must be devoted to doing sound doctrine in your own life.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stray Sheep

Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
(1 Timothy 1:6 – ESV)

These certain persons stray from teaching those qualities that issue from good doctrine, they go from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith into vain discussions, silly distractions, and such. They are straying from a love for the truth, and led by their desire to be teaching so-called deep truths. Paul is telling Timothy that he is down in the depths and that he has been given the deep truths, and that if others are trying to go “deeper’ they are leading people astray.

Looking at 1 Timothy 1:4,6,7 we see that the evil that the enemy sought to introduce, with regard to doctrine, had a twofold character; fables of human imagination, and the introduction of the law into Christianity. The first he dismisses as human folly, but the second he explains in verses 8-13, because the law does have its proper use. The law is to bring us to Christ.

In 2 Timothy 2:25-26, Paul appears to speak of believers who have been led astray through false teaching. Satan thus strives to hold people captive to do his will by deceiving them to believe what is false and misleading. If nothing else, this text emphasizes how crucial sound doctrine is. Elders must rebuke but eventually may need to remove those who lead others astray.

True love is never served by compromising the truth. There is no greater expression of love for another than the willingness to make painful and unpopular decisions for the sake of bringing an errant brother into the light. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13 – ESV). Lay down his life for his friend, willing to be wounded because of the backlash, waiting for God to vindicate the position and the truth of the friendship. Long term compassion for them rather than short term comfort for you.

Paul is saying, “Timothy, some of the sheep have wandered away, and you have to go get them and bring them back. You may die in the short term, but they live in the long term. You have to go and pick up the strays, even if they bite you at first.”

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Doctrine Discerns

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith
(1 Timothy 1:5 – ESV)

They say “doctrine divides”, well I like to say it better, doctrine discerns. The Word of God discerns (Hebrews 4:12), its teachings discern, not our feelings as foremost or other qualities, but the Bible and its teachings, and we line up and mature and grow in our discernment as we grow in God’s Word, and then we can discern more accurately (Philippians 1:9-11).

That is why we have some people, who know the Word of God in truth, these people can instantly know if some things are wrong, because they see something that doesn’t line up with biblical teaching. It is not those who get a spooky feeling about it, but those who have renewed their mind and been trained over time to discern. It isn’t their discern-o-meter, or some overtly mystical thing, but that their biblically informed conscience is working well. Yes, it can start out like a “check this out further”, or “check” in our spirit, but our goal should be to go from the “check” or “something doesn’t seem right” experience to the “I know this isn’t right because” experience, and this can happen as we get to know true doctrine more clearly over time.

It is okay, and actually it is very good if we sense something isn’t quite right, and we can’t quite put a finger on it, and so we go and check it according to the Bible (Acts 17:11). It is a right thing to do to test things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), but we want to grow up in God’s Word so much that we know it so well that we can test things quicker and more accurately and we can put a finger on it immediately. So the test isn’t if something seems pure, good, or sincere, but if it matches correct doctrine. A love for the truth, that is what Paul was teaching Timothy, and that was what the false teachers were and always are straying from.

Not that these things are the measure of good doctrine, but that Paul was wanting Timothy to teach good doctrine, and so the love, etc. would be in accordance with godliness. Purity, conscience, and sincerity are not the arbiters of truth. True doctrine will lead to a love that is truthfully pure hearted, has a truthfully good conscience, and a truthfully sincere faith, a true faith grounded in truth. One can be loving, pure in devotion, have a seemingly clean conscience, and be sincere, but still be wrong. Paul isn’t saying that these qualities are what make up good and true doctrine. Paul is saying to stick to true doctrine, as he has taught, and then you will be loving out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

It is not that good doctrine issues from these qualities but good doctrine will issue out these, true love issuing from truth. Ask yourself; do a truly pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith come from us or from God, from being grounded in His truth or from our own efforts? Yes, we want sincere faith, a good conscience, and a pure heart, which will result in true godly love, and these are acquired through God Himself, and He relays these through the renewing of our minds by the truths of the Gospel, by true and right doctrines. We must learn to discern.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Loving Doctrine

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith
(1 Timothy 1:5 – ESV)

Right teaching MUST be under-girded by right goals. The love Paul is speaking to Timothy of is a love that issues from the right source. We aren’t all the way there yet, but this is where we are to be going toward, and those other things, the myths and endless genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4) and the different doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3) lead us the wrong way, bad doctrine makes for bad practice. These things must be in the proper order; it is not that being good in practice means we necessarily have good doctrine (it can be a shadow for a while) but that right doctrine held rightly will lead to right practice.

We need to see clearly what Paul is saying to Timothy here. He starts in verse 3 by charging him to focus on good doctrine, and tells Timothy in verse 4 to stay away from those myths and such that aren’t a good stewardship of the faith. Then here in verse 5 he says that love is the target, but that it issues from certain things, and these things are the result of good doctrine.

The foundation is faith (vs.4) and the end result is love. Correct stewardship of the faith, correct doctrine (vs.3), will lead to correct and true love. Those qualities, a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith, are the wellspring of the love Paul speaks of, and they issue from a correct understanding and faith in true doctrine. And what Paul had taught Timothy was correct doctrine, which is what we need, and we don’t need new things Paul didn’t teach.

The charge is good doctrine, that is the first thing, not that if we find our way to these qualities, or that if we come to these ends, that our doctrine is okay, but that we need our doctrine to line up rightly and these qualities will be okay. Paul tells Timothy why he needs to be concerned with correct doctrine, so that these other qualities will be right. True doctrine will result in a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that will make for true love. If someone or something looks like true love, but it doesn’t come from true doctrine, if they don’t have true doctrine they don’t have true love, no matter how it looks or works.

The aim of the charge is love, but not any old type of love, but love that issues from these qualities and that love is made by doctrine. If someone seemingly has these qualities, but not true doctrine, it isn’t true love that issues forth. The charge is about right doctrine, and the aim of having right doctrine is having the right love, which issues from these qualities, which have been formed by the stewardship of faith, correct doctrine.

Again lets get the order right, so that we can have discernment, and so we don’t fall for a counterfeit. Good doctrine, the doctrine of the Apostles, the doctrines Paul taught in his epistles, it leads to a truthful state, one that has a pure heart, etc. and from this comes true love. Paul makes the connection between doctrine and godly love clear in this passage. We can see people do all sorts of good things, and they are good as far as helping humanity, but if these people organizations, religions etc. do not have the right doctrine then that love is only born out of common grace, not out of godly love, and not out of the stewardship of true, saving faith.

A Muslim or a Mormon can have a pure heart toward their god, a good conscience, and be sincere and love out of those things, but it still wouldn’t be a true, godly love because it isn’t done from true doctrine. Paul is saying to stick to true doctrine, as he has taught, and then you will be loving out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stay in the Corner

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,
(1 Timothy 1:3 – ESV)

Paul was admonishing Timothy to stay in Ephesus and to stay with the scriptures. Paul had already talked to Timothy personally about it, now he puts it in writing. The importance of doctrine cannot be overestimated. Just because it seems that false doctrine is pervasive and truth is scarce and no one is listening or learning doesn’t mean it is time to leave.

Certain persons were overthrowing the faith of many, and it is important that true shepherds and true believers contend for the faith, fight the wolves, correct, rebuke, admonish and exhort one another, rooting out those little pet doctrines that have ingrained themselves into individual lives and spread out unawares to others in the congregation.

What would be the “different doctrine” Paul was warning about? It would be anything not echoed by the New Testament writers, or logically derived from New Testament concepts, something that wasn’t related to the Gospel. Trying to reinvigorate OT types and shadows as offering some sort of new blessing is speculation at best.

Paul’s concern was not primarily that Timothy himself would begin to teach wrong doctrine. His concern was that Timothy would allow others to spread false doctrine. He had to stand firm against difficult people. No wonder he might have felt like leaving Ephesus. He wasn’t to present doctrine as an option; he was to command it like a military officer.

Timothy was to continue in the doctrine as Paul had taught; something new wasn’t something true (2 Corinthians 11:4,12-15 / Galatians 1:6-9). This applies to us just as much today as it did back then. Of course even old doctrines can be new to our ears. We do need to teach the old doctrines in ways that engage our lives today, but they aren’t new truths.

The old paths laid out for us in the bible have all we need for faith and practice. People who are looking for excitement and who are into novelty and those who are overly emotional want to say that to stick with the scriptures is to stay in a rut. Yet it would be a colossal mistake to underestimate what is being said here by Paul and in the New Testament. Paul is saying that there is absolute, unchangeable, spiritual truth, and that the Apostles were preaching it, and that they had a corner on it! We aren’t in a rut; we had best stay stuck right there in Truth Corner.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday Sermon: The Ten Men

Luke 17:1-19

Today I want you to know Jesus more fully, to understand what He is all about a little more clearly. It isn’t about applying heavenly power to those things that we want just as much as the world does, and getting them because we are on God’s side. It is about looking at God and to God and for God to give us things that only He can give us, change things that only He can change, not change things that worldly wealth or wisdom could change if we had them. No, He is about giving us things others don’t want, don’t see, and have no desire to be changed by.

Jesus is the Way out of things others don’t even have a problem with because they don’t see them as a problem. Looking at Jesus’ agenda and adopting it and applying it to our lives are how we can have an increasing faith. The eyes of faith are not, “God is going to give me what I want”, but “thank God He is God, and He will change me to do what is right, and think of Him as enough”. He will fulfill our temporal needs, yes, but He keeps on fulfilling our greatest need, for more of Him, so that we can do things unbelievers cannot do, not works of power, but works of Presence.

Luke 17:1-5 – Why we need an increasing faith

Temptation and Frustration – we need faith to be longsuffering, to bear with one another. This is the difficult task. People will set traps, woe to those people, indeed, but it will happen, so be on the lookout. You leave it up to God; He will deal with them. You watch yourself, and you warn others, but let God deal out the judgment on them. All of that takes faith.

Real forgiveness can’t happen until there is repentance, but we are not permitted to judge another’s repentance if they repent to us. If someone had sinned against me seven times in a day, in other words, they kept on and on, and kept asking me to forgive them, I might think that they were not really sincere. Yet Jesus commands me to still forgive them. Great faith is needed to get along with people like this.

What is faith for? It is for enduring and engaging despite what happens. Look at Hebrews 11; it is not faith for stuff but faith in spite of stuff NOT happening, like these persons who keep frustrating us. Increasing temptation and frustration takes increasing faith to deal with.

Luke 17:6 – The power of an increasing faith

This is how powerful faith is when focused rightly. Jesus describes faith’s potential power, so powerful it is like this example, not that it is for this type of thing, it is for the seven, for the seventy times seven, for the spiritually impossible things. Increased faith is not really about the quantity, but the quality. Faith does impossible things, but primarily Jesus means the spiritual things, the forgiveness, repentance, restoration and such.

Yes our faith can see God do miraculous physical things, but too many, and I dare say most, even almost all, are looking only at or firstly and primarily at the temporal, the physical, the “I can see it with my eyes” things, and they are wanting the smaller of the two things. The spiritual is eternal; it is bigger it is more important; it is where our focus should be. The physical things are only temporal and they are only a shadow of the true power of faith, the substance is spiritual, the substance of faith (Hebrews 11:1).

What type of harvest are you hoping for? Be honest. It isn’t that God won’t give you temporal blessings or that it is wrong to want them, it isn’t, if you have your priorities straight (Matthew 6:33). If you are increasing in spirituality but not yet in temporal needs or wants, are you complaining, if so, then why, because it shows what you consider more important.

We usually think of faith as being exercised with dramatic, miraculous works. And people who only know Jesus on the surface see this passage as a way to do those “big things” financially or health wise in their lives or they try and minister to others through this understanding. It fails, and people’s faith fails. They fail and they realize they need increased faith, but they aren’t even looking at the right place. Now God can do and Jesus did do outwardly miraculous things, demonstrations of power, but that isn’t what this passage is all about. It is about it in a sense, that may be true, but don’t miss the application here. The greatest miracles of faith have to do with the restoration of relationships, specifically our relationship and /or fellowship with God. As we relate to God rightly we will relate to others rightly. We will see the object lesson of this as we move on, the outward miracle and the more of the increasing faith.

Mark 4:5-6, 16-17 – the seed is the Word of God not your faith seed of finance, or whatever. Giving to get back with interest is usury, something the Bible explicitly condemns. Faith is about giving all you have and demanding nothing in return. Faith expects that God will provide, but it doesn’t expect or demand that God provide more as we “do” more. Whatever God has given us grace to do faith does it, but doesn’t think it is owed something.

False teachers and those who don’t know any better entice, coerce, and manipulate “minimum wage people” with this demonic device get them to supposedly work God’s plan when the are just getting worked over. Yes we should give and give abundantly but not so as to get stuff for ourselves or get God off of our backs, but to give stuff as a blessing to others and to give to get the burden off others’ backs. When we do this God is free to bless us without spoiling us. I want to be rich, spiritually rich, deep, and full of mercy and grace, truth and peace, wisdom and the knowledge of God, loving Jesus and loving like Him. I want increased faith.

Luke 17:7-10 – What an increasing faith is not, but how it begins (being faithful)

Jesus says, “You want an increased faith? Well let me tell you what it isn’t, it isn’t just fulfilling some growing list of duties, doing that is just the measure of faith, or faithfulness.”

Jesus describes faith’s personality; faith realizes God doesn’t need it, it needs God, it is not our faith that makes things happen it is God. Our faith is in the ability of our Master not in our ability to muster, not in what we can do but in what He can do, not what or how much we do for Him, but in what He does for us, not in who we are but in who He is. If you can see this and say that you will have begun to understand increasing faith.

Most people don’t really want an increased faith, however. They want to work for God at minimum wage. Do you have to be baptized, do you have to take Communion, do you have to give money to the church, do you have to go to church every week, do you have to read your Bible every day, how often do you have to pray, and on and on and on. How many times have you heard these or similar questions? How many times have you wondered about them yourself?

Well, we need to think about these things, not because we need the answer, but because the questions themselves reveal a wrong mindset. It is a worldly one that is reflected in the way the world thinks, you know, do just enough to make the boss happy, etc., etc. They just want to be done with it and get on with their lives. The kingdom of God isn’t like that, however.

Considering these things and other questions like them, ask yourself why. Why do you want to do it? Cause you have to, or because you want to be recognized? If some were to tell the truth, if they didn’t feel like they had to do it they wouldn’t do it at all, and that is the real reason for the questions. For others, it is just a fear thing, they want to make sure God isn’t mad, but when they feel like they have made sure then they feel like they can live any way they want, they’ve done what they’ve “had” to do. It is sort of like the lawyer who asked Jesus who was his neighbor. He didn’t do that so he could find out whom he needed to love, but to find out whom he didn’t have to love. He wasn’t looking to include people, but to exclude them.

When we have this attitude we are looking, not to include God in our lives, but to exclude Him. We may add Him to our lives in increasing ways, but only in activity not in real devotion. That isn’t an increasing faith. The minimum requirement mentality can do these things divorced from the heart. If they feel things aren’t going the way they want, to get God off their back they just add another thing to the list. They could fill up every box on this imaginary list and still God not have their heart. He wants us to want Him not to simply dispatch our duty. You could do all your duty and still Jesus says that all it means is that you are an unprofitable servant. Your faith has to go further than that. God doesn’t want us working on a minimum requirement resume.

We ought to be finding new ways to walk the extra mile, not looking for any way to get out of going the first mile. If that is the way you feel about serving God, why would you want to be in heaven? Oh, I see, you just want to find a way out of hell. Sounds to me like you already know what that is like. You have a habit of turning blessings into burdens. Most people are under the impression that the more you sacrifice for the Lord, the godlier you are. That’s a lie, and that isn’t increasing faith. Faith doesn’t see it as sacrifice, in the sense that sacrifice is something we don’t want to do. Faith sees it as something we get to do, and we want to be able to do, and as our faith is increased we can do, as worship, as the sacrifice of praise.

One of the benefits of Christ paying the price of redemption for us is that we might be able to bless Him. When you in turn pay the price to bless Him, you are the one who gets blessed. We should see these things, things like obeying Him by being baptized, or taking Communion, living a moral, godly life, praying, reading our Bible, and yes, giving, as gifts we can enjoy giving to God, not as burdens we must bear lest we be lost. Besides, we are earning wages in heaven for such things, let alone the fact that they please God. Christ gave us many such blessings, different ways to be able to be like Him. Don’t look for a list of minimum requirements. Don’t settle for minimum wage. This is the beginning of understanding, that faith is more than duty.

Luke 17:11-19 – What an increasing faith looks like, what happens to it, and what it sees

So what is an increased faith, what does it look like, and how do we get it? Now I want you to look at the whole of Luke 17 up to this point and realize something. This all goes together. Look at it. First, He teaches them some difficult things, and they realize that they must have more faith in order to do these things, and they ask for an increased faith. Jesus gives them hope by speaking of faith’s power and then teaches that faith is not merely doing one’s duty, and then we have an object lesson of what persevering, increasing faith looks like. It does do what is asked of it but then it goes further and so its power goes further, not depending on doing its duty for the faith, but depending on God. Having faith in God not faith in faith, or faith in personal devotion, or faith in merit or service or sacrifice, but faith meaning praise and thanksgiving to God. Not faith to get stuff but faith that understands it has been given stuff already.

The nine received the outer blessing just as many are looking for and that was all they wanted, but the 10th man wanted Jesus Himself and was made whole. Sure he was looking for the outer first, but his faith had increased, he saw the greater miracle, he was made whole, and his relationship with God was made right. Health is great but wholeness is better. They wanted an increased relationship with Jesus’ power; the other man wanted an increased relationship with Jesus Himself. The nine saw their most pressing physical need; the 10th also saw his real need. You have received many blessings; do they cause you to look to God in thanksgiving and praise, or to look to Him for more stuff? He wants to give you more, more of Him, as your faith increases.

Faith is about the inner life and how it relates to outer struggles, not how to change the outer struggles but to change our inner perspective. Faith is trusting that no matter what your walk looks like, God is going to see you through to the other side of judgment. They asked for and received mercy but the one received more.

Here is an object lesson, more than just the body, living a life of praise and thankfulness is faith and it results in being made whole. That doesn’t mean going around singing songs all day, not that this is bad, but it means to be faithful to come to God for problems, do what He says, and be thankful. When Jesus has done something He still wants to do more; do you have the faith for it? Not for getting something out of it but faith in God no matter what He might do.

In Matthew 15:21-29 the Canaanite woman had faith even though Jesus seemed to insult her. Job had faith although God seemed to want to destroy him and everything surrounding him. Abraham had faith although God looked like he wanted to kill the very seed He promised. God has given us the seed of the Word of God to grow our faith spiritually, for spiritual things, to see with spiritual eyes, to bear the fruit of the Spirit, and He wants it to increase, to have that fruit be a blessing to God and to others. Do you want the faith for that?

The nine had been given a great gift, but the 10th man saw Jesus as He truly was, as greater than mere healing, not just great enough to give him what he wanted, but so great that Jesus became what he wanted. Luke 17:18 – don’t miss the fact that Jesus calls Himself God here. The other nine knew Jesus was able to heal them and they received it, but the 10th man saw himself as needing more than just physical healing, he realized that he might have been healed, and that he may have everything he thought or anyone else thought he needed, but he realized he was lost without Christ. The nine saw their physical problem, but the 10th man saw his spiritual problem. His faith went further, his faith had increased to accepting Jesus to fulfill deeper needs than just the physical. He realized the great difference between himself and Christ, it wasn’t simply that he was a leper, and he came back, he bowed down, and he worshipped the King of Kings for who He was. All 10 men were separated from society, were healed, and made able to draw near to other people again. But only one man knew how he really was separated from God, he was made whole and drawn near to God. His faith wanted more than a part of Jesus, it wanted the whole Jesus, and he was made whole.

The puritan John Flavel said this in a sermon from 1675: "When God opens the eyes of men to see their sin and danger by it, nothing but Christ can give them satisfaction: it is not the amenity, fertility, riches and pleasures, the inhabitants of any kingdom of the world do enjoy, that can satisfy the desires of their souls: when once God touches their hearts with the sense of sin and misery, then Christ, and no one but Christ, is desirable and necessary in the eyes of such persons."

"Many kingdoms of the world abound with riches and pleasures; the providence of God has carved liberal portions of the good things of this life to many of them, and scarcely left any thing lacking to their desires that the world can afford. Yet all this can give no satisfaction without Jesus Christ, the desire of all nations, the one thing necessary, when once they come to see the necessity and excellency of him. When this happens, give them whatever you wish of the world, nevertheless they must have Christ, the desire of their souls."

Is Jesus Christ truly the desire of your soul today? Do you know what you really need? How much of Jesus does your faith want? Are you looking to Jesus to make you whole? I think we all need an increased faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Perks for Paul

…whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
(Philippians 3:7 – ESV)

Paul didn’t follow Christ to gain worldly things; he already had as much as any Jew could have, in that he had prestige, pedigree and position. Yet he left all this for beatings, jail, being despised, and the trials of being the first missionary to the Gentile nations. He gave up everything, not to get anything but to lose it all and go back even further for the sake of winning Christ. How many see Christianity as a chance to gain things, but here Paul shows that he gave up not gained up, he went from the penthouse to the prison.

Paul gives his pedigree and his practice, his possessions by birth and his behavior since. He had as much to boast about as anybody. Yet he tells us that his faithfulness to his old religion was nothing compared to the faith in Christ he had been given. In Philippians 3:5-6, he lists seven things that were not enough, and that by way of modern application we will see are still not enough.

1. Faithful parents. Paul was circumcised the eighth day in accordance with Leviticus 12:3. It doesn’t matter who your parents are.

2. Faithful people. Paul was of the stock of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and an heir to God’s covenant with them. Paul was a Jew. It doesn’t matter what race you are or what country you are from.

3. Faithful tribe. Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, which gave Israel her first king, Saul (1 Samuel 9:1-2). It was the tribe that aligned itself with Judah when Israel divided into two nations at the time of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:21). It also had Jerusalem in its boundaries (Judges 1:21). Paul wasn’t just any Jew, but a member of Benjamin. It doesn’t matter what tribe you are or what sect you belong to, or your social status.

4. Faithful legacy. Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He was pure Jew on both sides. This also contrasts him with those who embraced Greek culture, as many Jews at that time tried to live and act as much like Greeks as they could (Acts 6:1-6). Paul’s line was faithful to their heritage. It doesn’t matter how good you family history is.

5. Faithful profession. Concerning the law, a Pharisee. Paul was elite, they weren’t many Pharisees, perhaps only 6000 or less, and they lived their whole lives trying to keep every detail and letter of the law. Of course they did so at the expense of the spirit of the law (Matthew 23:23). It doesn’t matter what degree you hold or what job you do.

6. Faithful labor. Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. Paul was not just an intellectual opponent of perceived heresies; he was an active fighter against them. Acts 7:58-8:3 / 9:1-2, 21, 26-28 / 22:3-4 (5:34) / 26:10-11. It doesn’t matter how successful or hard working you are.

7. Faithful practice. Blameless – Paul achieved the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day, although this standard fell short of God’s holy standard. By man’s interpretation of the law, there were those who were deceived into thinking that they really were blameless, like the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). It doesn’t matter how good you try to be, or how much good you do.

Even if you have all these things they aren’t enough to get you to heaven. But for those who don’t have anything anyway, realize you don’t need any of these things either. All you need to inherit the kingdom of heaven is Christ. Jesus Christ is all you need, and more than anything you will ever leave behind. Christ is more beautiful than anything in the universe. Life may give you great things, or it may not, but if you come to Jesus you will receive the greatest gift of all, God Himself. Don’t come to Christ for His perks come for His person.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Christianity and Certainty

Dr. Dan Hayden serves as the Director of Ministries at Sola Scriptura in Orlando Florida. He has a daily radio feature, A Word from the Word, and has served as both pastor and seminary professor. His task was exploring the centrality of absolutes to Biblical Christianity.

He stated that there is no wisdom in uncertainty, and then began making some observations, such as the immense popularity of the Harry Potter series, to show us that the things of God have been marginalized by the culture. Moralism and feel good ideology without absolutes and any real foundation lead to the implied death of God in the society filled with humanism. This of course doesn’t change the truth, it only points out the problem.

The issue is truth, and the postmodern culture is 1) committed to relativism – no fact is true in all times and all places, and 2) committed to syncretism – the blending of elements from various faiths into a new form of spirituality.

The culture is not anti spirituality, they are highly spiritual, but orthodoxy has become “flexodoxy”.

Dr. Hayden took us to 2 Timothy 3 & 4, and dove into the original Greek to uncover some depth for us.

2 Timothy 3:1

This know
Present tense – continuous action
Imperative mood – very important

In the last days
Generally – the whole church age
Specifically – the end of the age

Perilous times
(Gr.) chalepoi – dangerous, difficult to endure
Illustration: Matthew 8:28 uses same word, the NASB renders it exceedingly fierce. In other words, this time would be like living among maniacs.

Godliness and Gospel – the world sees Christ through us

Chapters 3 & 4 are an inverted parallel, or chiasm, as it is called.

Chapter 3 / Chapter 4

The Culture
Last Days Culture (vs. 1-9) / Last Days Conflict (vs.9-18)

The Connection - authenticity
The Power of Godliness (vs.10-13) / Purpose of Godliness (vs.5-8)

The Core
Focus on the Word of God (vs.14-17) / Importance of Sound Doctrine (vs.1-4)

The Last Days Culture - Perilous Times caused by a lack of character

15 negative characteristics in these verses

Lovers of self – philautoshumanism

Lovers of money – philargurossecularism

Lovers of pleasures – philedonaiexistentialism (hedonism)

Form without power (vs.5)
Gender confusion (vs.6-7)
Religious confusion (vs.8-9)

More than lovers of God – philotheos

Parallels with 1 John 2:16

The Power of Godliness - example of Paul's life (vs.10-11)

The connection between God’s Word and ungodly culture is God’s people living godly lives.

Authenticity is:

Service – not lovers of self

Sacrifice – not lovers of money

Suffering – not lovers of pleasure

Persecution of the godly (vs.12)

Deception of the ungodly (vs.13)

A willingness to suffer for righteousness whatever the cost

Keep the Focus - Holy Scripture

The Gospel of Christ = The Power of God to change lives

Stick with the Word (vs.14)
“continue” – (Gr.) meno – dwell, abide, stay steady
“learned” – (Gr.) manthano – to learn, find out
“assured” – (Gr.) pistoo – to assure, become certain

Stand for the Truth (vs.15)
Into salvation
Through faith
In Christ Jesus
This is wisdom

Study the Scriptures (vs.16-17)
Teaching (truth) / Training (maturity)
Correcting (positive) / Exposing (negative)

Hear the Word of God, see what you’ve done wrong, make it right and live it out in Christ.

Scripture is the Foundation for Truth, the basis of all certainty

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free – Jesus

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Current Dilemma

Chris Pixley, Pastor of Grace Bible Church, the host for the Brandon Biblical Theology Conference, was the speaker for session 1. Chris set the table for the upcoming speakers and topics by bringing the idea of the postmodern mindset back to its roots.

Postmodern thought puts forth the idea that says truth is not actually knowable, or certain, or clear. This can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden and chapter 3 of Genesis, where Satan asked Eve, "hath God said?" This of course was a challenge leveled at God's Word. The "Truth War" as it may be called, all began as an assault on God's Word, and we should not be surprised that it continues today, although we are often surprised at the manifestations it takes.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 shows us that truth is paramount in the mind of God, and we are to be doing spiritual warfare, which is a war for truth.

The assaults on God’s Word have changed forms in the last 50 years. It used to be that the idea of biblical inerrancy was on the front lines. Although that is still a battle line, the fire has died down a bit. This will be discussed in a later session.

The next battle line drawn surrounded the idea of the sufficiency of the Bible. Charismatics and others who valued experience over propositional revelation stoked the fires. Again, the battle still rages, and we are still reeling at this level, but the battleground has a new front line in the Truth War. Sufficiency will be addressed at a later session.

Now, instead of inerrancy, sufficiency, or even the authority of scripture being the front burner issue, now it is the clarity of scripture that is being fought for with passion. Can we really know what the scriptures are saying with any real certainty? This topic will be further explored during the later sessions, but for now, Pastor Pixley laid a foundation for us.

In regards to this He took us to 2 Peter 1:1-21, specifically focusing in on verses 16-21. He made two main points.

1) Certainty is built upon historical witness

2) Certainty is embedded in divine revelation

When verse 19 says that we have the prophetic word made more sure, Peter isn’t saying that the experience of Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration makes God’s Word more sure, he is saying, and the Greek grammar bears witness to this, that the Word of God is a more sure word than even that experience they had.

The Bible is indeed the very word of God; it is clear, understandable, and sufficient for all of life and practice. The matters of the soul are to be studied and satisfied with God’s Word as found in the pages of scripture, it is what we need and all we need for sanctification, for teaching, correction, and edification. Stay tuned as we explore the next few sessions together from this wonderful conference. Pray that I may give edifying summaries.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Brandon Conference Highlights

The third annual Brandon Biblical Theology Conference winds up today, October 13. We will be posting some notes and highlights as we are able. It has been an informative and inspiring time in the Lord, and we will endeavor to give you some of the abundant fruit from it. Stay tuned...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, October 11, 2007

See To It

And say to Archippus, "See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord."
(Colossians 4:17 – ESV)

Your understanding of the supposed size and scope of your role doesn’t determine the level of involvement by God in your life, work, and ministry. It matters to Him. It is all one and the same to Him, and He can be fully engaged with you as well as everyone else on the planet for every single second you and they are alive, all at the same time. He is God after all, that’s what He does. He is fully involved in your personal situation. He will see to it that He holds up His end; He exhorts all of us to see to it that we fulfill our assignments.

Paul showed that God has concern for your individual assignment. See to it means it never really ends; it is an ongoing commitment and process. Our lives are to be a living fulfillment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To fulfill it means you are to keep making it full (2 Timothy 4:5). He is fully involved with you; He wants you to be fully involved with Him. Whatever it is, God will see you through it, and you will see God through it.

We see here that the people in the church at Colossae were to help Archippus. The church is to help each of its people fulfill their ministry in the Lord. Ministry isn’t simply full time preaching or teaching, or missionary work. The scriptures are not just for the so-called clergy but for the laymen as well. We are all ministers and missionaries of the gospel, full time, with our lives; whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Seeing to it means being involved in a local church setting. Archippus would not have heard this exhortation read out loud to him had he not been there to hear it! Perhaps Archippus had a visible public ministry, and had not been fulfilling his duties, and so needed to be reminded of his obligations. However, we must also realize that while it may have seemed embarrassing to him or heavy handed by Paul to single him out in front of the church, it might also have been for Paul to make sure the Colossians recognized the calling and ministry Archippus was given from the Lord. In any event, the truth that is clear is that Paul wanted to make sure Archippus got the encouragement and support he needed from the church body.

God wants to make sure we all get that, we all have a ministry in the Lord, whether a visible or vocal public service or an unseen but just as vital role in God’s kingdom. Whatever the case may be, we all need one another in order to continue to fulfill it to the fullest extent. In this seemingly insignificant verse we see that God doesn’t hold anyone or anyone’s ministry as insignificant. God wants all of us to help each other be fully committed to continually fulfilling our ministry, and expects all of us to be equipping one another with the ammunition of encouragement. The supposed lone ranger Christians out there will eventually run out of bullets.

Christ is worth knowing to the fullest extent possible, and may we always be striving to learn and love Him more, even as we come to understand His love for us all the more. Wherever you are and whatever God has called you to, see to it.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Filling Up the Cup

…in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions …
(Colossians 1:24 – ESV)

Paul is speaking of paying his dues as a minister. He talked to the believers at Colossae about continuing in the faith, and now he is declaring that he is doing just that. Continuing in the gospel for him means teaching it, proclaiming it, and attending to its service for others, which also means suffering. He is leading by being an example of pressing on and pressing in. He rejoices because his suffering is accomplishing good for others in the Body.

Paul isn’t saying the sacrifice of Jesus was incomplete or missing something, he is saying that by our suffering, Jesus still “suffers” as He ministers through His people. By His stripes we are healed and by our stripes He is revealed. Paul is filling up his own measure (2 Corinthians 1:5). We all have a measure of affliction God has appointed us to, and the more we do the less others might have to. Not everyone who is a believer will suffer as much as Paul but we will still suffer (2 Timothy 3:12 / John 16:33 / 1 John 5:4).

Of course many feel like they are suffering for Christ and the Body’s sake, but they aren’t. They aren’t suffering for the cause of Christ they are suffering for the cause of carelessness, or cowardice (we suffer because we will not “do” confrontation in love), crassness (we confront without love) or childishness (we won’t submit to sanctification, and we lose ground because we won’t suffer the death of our flesh), or compromise (being in sin and calling this trials).

It hurts to do the right thing. It hurts our flesh and our emotions because we have indulged them and we haven’t trained ourselves in righteousness, at least in certain areas. That is why they hurt so badly. The hurt may never go away fully but we can understand that the hurt isn’t as great as the heaven and serving our Lord now is more important than our personal comfort.

This is a major deal. People don’t want to give up their personal comfort to serve Christ because they don’t think it is necessary. However it isn’t about immediate necessity it is about values. Learning to value Christ above all else means learning to leave other things behind, and, when necessary, things we have grown attached to. Not that we have to leave everything but that if anything gets in the way well, then…we have to learn what is hindering us and what is not.

That is developing Christian maturity, leaving childish things behind as Paul states to ADULTS at Corinth. People feel or know they are already forgiven, so we don’t see the need or the necessity, but we don’t know what we are missing or how this will affect us later because we will have the same thing happen later just in a different circumstance. And we will have to keep having circumstances until we get it right. Even when we do get it right then perhaps we will still have more, but our perspective will be changing.

Another thing to consider is that our slack and our lack will affect others who need us as an example, that is why Paul soldiered on in his afflictions, he didn’t want there to be any lack, he wanted the full measure so as to obtain the full benefit for others. 2 Timothy 2:9-10 – see this also in temporal terms.

If we have been trained it will not affect us as much. But we don’t know what we are losing out on (God’s presence and rewards in heaven etc.) and so we keeping on indulging our flesh. If we want God’s best we have to pass the test and He keeps making us take it like a good teacher would if they had the time. God takes our entire lives to try and teach us some things; when will we ever just give in to God? The longer you wait to suffer the worse it will be because that much more of your flesh has taken over and so that much more has to die, and the more pain you have to go through, see?

For the sake of his body, the church – it is not just about you but also about the whole Body of which you are a member. We are to be maturing and helping others. Paul followed in the footsteps of Jesus, and was an others-centered person. Paul found holiness, spiritual growth, and maturity when he pursued them for others. If you won’t do it for yourself do it for the cause of Christ and for the Body, because others are doing it for you.

We must die to self (John 12:24). Just as Jesus had a cup, we also have a cup, or a cross, our burden we must bear if we are to follow Him and be His disciple. Knowing this, that everyone has their own cup, would you still want to sing, “here’s my cup Lord, please fill it up Lord”? What if the contents of “here’s my cup, fill it up, and make me whole” were suffering, what if that is the cup that would make us whole?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Frozen Chosen?

You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…
(John 15:16)

Some things to think about…

Whose choice is it? Is it God’s choice or man’s choice who is going to be saved?

If Jesus died for all the sins of all the people ever, doesn’t this include unbelief?

Why, then, aren't all people going to heaven?

Is it God who ensures or man who secures? Is it more loving for God to let everyone of fallen man try and secure his own salvation making it dependent on his own choice, or is it more loving that God ensures that some will be saved, making sure they make the choice?

Did God send His Son to die, so that He could be loved, or did God send His Son to die because He loved?

Does God rescue people that do not love Him, or does He wait till they love Him to rescue them?

Is it “I’m so glad I chose you”, or “I’m so humbled you chose me?” Was it something in me that caused Him to choose me, no, or something in me that caused me to choose Him, no…does it ultimately have to do with us, or was it God’s plan all along? If you believe in Christ, that is wonderful, now give God the glory He is due, for He saved you…

Charles Spurgeon, 19th century preacher, spoke of the gospel call being universal, but the atonement being definite, and it was in an article over at Pyromaniacs the other day, and it is worth looking at if you want some more understanding on this issue…also check out this recent post by our friend Craver VII...

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, October 08, 2007

Discipline Is Discipling

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already…deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved…
(1 Corinthians 5:3,5)

When Paul says that he is with the Corinthian church in spirit, he is not talking about some mystical psychic projection. He is with them by means of this letter and by prayer, and he is telling them that his physical absence does not lessen his authority as an apostle. He appeals to Jesus as the source of his authority and their submission.

This is Paul as bishop, administering church discipline, a rarely seen event these days. Perhaps this is because we haven’t been able to effectively do this in the right way. That is to say, we don’t see what Paul was trying to do, use this not as punishment, but as needed correction. Church discipline is primarily for restoration, not condemnation (Galatians 6:1 / 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 / James 5:19-20).

This episode was not about inflicting evil upon an evildoer, but the removal of protection. In other words, they put the offender outside the church, leaving him to fend for himself without having to necessarily hear the admonition and encouragement of the local body. It wasn’t simply because this person was a backslider (Proverbs 14:14), because we all have our faults and sins to deal with. No, this was because he reveled in his rebellion; he was a bragging backslider. And so this separation was to hopefully bring him to the place of realization that he needed help from the others, to give up his pride and come back to the fold in humble submission. The church was to give him over to what he wanted and let the chips fall where they may, in that he would see what this sin was really doing to him.

The reasoning was that if the offender would see that this sin separated him from the body on earth, then certainly he would know that it would separate him from God in heaven in the afterlife. Because of his unrepentant attitude the church had no choice, they could not afford the offering of assurance to this man of his salvation. We cannot judge a person’s soul, but we can keep them from peddling rotten fruit in our assemblies (Matthew 7:15-20).

Would he continue to love his sin more than God and His people? They were to leave the person with the hard choices, which we are not doing today, and why we see so little of true sanctification taking place, but rather a lowering of God’s holy standard of living. Instead of using this passage of scripture as our guide, we are tolerating defiant rebellion thinking that this is showing more grace. We are to build each other up, as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Of course this must be done with the right motive and to the right people. The separation taught by Paul here is not for unbelievers, as a way of shunning them, but for disciplining professing believers in love, albeit tough love, as it were. This is also not about a believer who is struggling with sin but is seeking help from the church. This is about those who say they are believers but who will not give up their sin and in a defiant or bragging manner continue to parade it about or refuse to admit it is a problem for the rest of the congregation, when Paul, and the Holy Ghost therefore says it is (verses 6-7). Then is when this separation is called for. This is God’s method and it works. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 relays Paul and his heart towards this particular individual, as he told the church to receive this person again.

We need to realize that properly applying church discipline is one means of discipling believers, and more than just the individual, as church discipline is community discipling.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Good News of God’s Grace

…the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them
(Acts 16:10)

First the bad news…

We can't make it to heaven on our own; no one is good enough to meet God’s perfect standard. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned, and all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Did you know that’s what He requires, perfection (Matthew 5:48)? It’s true. Now come on, admit it, you aren’t perfect, you may be better than a lot of people, but are you as good as God? Left to ourselves, we all will die without God, and that is bad news, indeed. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

Now for the good news…

God had a plan all along; he knew what he was doing. He would show his mercy and grace to a people he would call out for himself. He would send his own son, to die for those people’s sins, and give those called out people the righteousness they needed, the righteousness of his own son, Jesus. Jesus executed that plan; he came to earth and lived a perfectly righteous life, and allowed himself to die for our sins. He was a righteous man, the only righteous man ever, paying the penalty due us. His death meant that God would grant us mercy. His life meant God would give us grace. You see the mercy is God forgiving our sins because Jesus paid the penalty with his death, and the grace is God giving us a righteous standing based on Christ’s perfect life. God accounts our sin to Jesus’ account, and Jesus’ righteousness to our account. This great exchange is explained to us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – he who knew no sin (that’s Jesus) became sin for us (he paid the penalty) that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (through his perfect life we meet God’s standard). God had spoken of this plan before Jesus was even born (Isaiah 53:6), and he proved that this sacrifice and this way was what he planned all along by raising Jesus from the dead (Romans 1:4 / 4:25).

Now we obviously didn't deserve it, but that’s grace, my friend (1 John 4:9-10). God draws us to Him in a way that he knows we will respond to if we are one of his, and God gives this gift to us freely. All God asks us to do is believe (John 3:16 / Romans 10:9). When we accept Jesus sacrificial death to forgive our sins, the bible calls this being justified by faith (Romans 5:1), and God counts Christ’s righteousness as our own. But there’s more, because God also leads us into a more holy life, where we learn to truly seek after and please God, and God ensures that we will make it to heaven. Because God didn’t leave us to ourselves, when we die we will be with God, and that is good news, indeed. If you will believe, you’ll make it to heaven, and that’s the end of the story.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©