This love of Christ will result in the loving of the church!
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
This love of Christ will result in the loving of the church!
Friday, September 27, 2013
There is a very encouraging word for the people of God in 1 Samuel 12. God's covenant people, Israel, have sinned. They have rejected God as their King and have asked for a man-king so they could be like all the other nations (1 Sam 8:20). By the way, the whole point was that Israel NOT be like all the other nations! God gives them Saul as king, and Samuel the prophet stands up to address Israel. In Samuel's words we learn much about what to do when God's people fail.
Acknowledge Our Sin
First, we learn that we must own up to our sin. Don't try to sweep it under the rug. We must admit our guilt. Samuel told the gathered congregation of Israel, "...your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for yourselves a king" (1 Sam 12:17b). The people agreed (after God backed up Samuel's words with a sign - thunder and rain!): "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king" (12:19 ESV).
When God's people fail, the very first thing we must do is admit our sin, confess our sin to God and repent. We must not water down the truth of our failure by using words that make it sound a little better than it actually is. Call the thing what it is. Samuel said, "your wickedness is great." The people understood that they deserved to die by sinning against the holy God, and referred to their failure as 'evil.'
We acknowledge our sin. But we do not stay in this place!
From Failure Go Forward In Faith
Samuel told the people:
Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 1 Samuel 12:20 (ESV)Once again Samuel acknowledged the people's sin. "You have done all this evil." Yet, this is not the final word! Samuel also said, "Do not be afraid." Admit your sin. But do not despair! With the Lord, their is grace and mercy for his people!
Samuel told Israel to go forward in faith from their failure. Don't wait until you've felt guilty for long enough (Dale Ralph Davis). Repent and then go forward in faith. Look back to the Lord and begin to walk in faithfulness to him "with all your heart."
Sometimes when we fall into sin we face the temptation to just give up. Samuel addressed this temptation. "Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD..." Yes, you have sinned. You've messed up BIG. But do not add to this by giving up, by turning from God. Repent and believe and move forward.
Embrace God's Grace
Samuel continues, warning Israel not to use their failure as a turning point to go after false gods:
And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 1 Samuel 12:22 (ESV)No god can satisfy but the Lord! Do not let failure tempt you to run to something else for consolation. Other gods are 'empty.' They cannot 'profit or deliver.' Admit your guilt and then run to the Lord!
Remember God's Faithfulness
Finally, Samuel reminds Israel of great truth that will fill them with hope:
For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. I Samuel 1:23 (ESV)The source of our hope is not in US but in GOD! God's love for his people does not rest in the performance of his people, but in his own choice! Samuel reminds Israel that God will not forsake his people, 'for his great name's sake'!! God has chosen to glorify his great name through his people that he is saving and bringing near to himself. He has purposed to do this, and he will not relent. 'It has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.' For himself! God has put his love and affection on his people, not for any reason in us. The reason is in him. This is what he has chosen; this is what has pleased him. He does not change or lie or fail.
Is This True For Us?
This encouragement was given to God's old covenant people, Israel. But through Israel's line God sent his Son, Jesus Christ. And in Christ God has made a new covenant, with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. All who come to him, by grace through faith in Christ, are part of his people, the church. Jesus has redeemed us with his blood, poured out on the cross. He has risen from the dead. And he has done this for his people, 'that he might present the church to himself in splendor...' (Eph 5:27). We who are in Christ are his precious people, and these promises apply to us in him!
When believers fail, we must not wallow in our guilt. Jesus has already borne our sins in his body on the tree (1 Pet 2:24). So what do we do? We quickly confess our sin to God in repentance. And we put our eyes back on Jesus, going forward from our failure, in faith. We remember the great truth that God has loved us from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) and has chosen to glorify his great name by bringing his people to himself. We have hope, because the God who loves us is sovereign, and he cannot fail!
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
- No one can serve two masters…And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. …If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. …So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Matthew 6:24; Luke 9:23; 14:26, 33 (ESV)
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
What is this word??
Because hesed is such a specific and nuanced word, it is very difficult to define in English. In various Bible translations it is rendered ‘steadfast love’ (ESV), ‘loyal love,’ or ‘covenant love’ (NET), ‘unfailing love’ (NLT), and ‘loving-kindness’ (KJV). It ‘denotes kindness, love, loyalty, mercy’ (Mounce). 'Strength, steadfastness and love’ are three strains of its interacting meanings (Strong). Daniel Block describes it as ‘that quality that moves a person to act for the benefit of another without respect to the advantage it might bring to the one who expresses it.’ He goes on to say that hesed is described mainly through action rather than emotion.
This is the way God treats his covenant people. The Old Testament narratives illustrate this profoundly. Israel strays from God again and again, yet he continues to act on their behalf.
But what about Gentiles? What about the church? Is this unstoppable, special love for us as well?
The Church is the New Covenant People of God
We Must Treat Our Brothers/Sisters with the Loving-Kindness We have Received from God
A quick word search will provide much blessing as you study hesed in Scripture. Here are a few to get you started:
Genesis 19:19 – Lot was shown hesed as the angels dragged him out of Sodom!
Gen39:21 – towards Joseph in prison
Exodus 15:13; 20:26; 34:6-7
Num 14:19 - in forgiving sin
2 Sam 9:3 – David and Mephibosheth
22:51 – to David
1 Kings 8:23 – Solomon’s prayer at Temple
Ezra 3:11 – sang about it
Neh 13:22 – spare me according to it
Jeremiah 9:24 – know God through it
Hosea 4:1 – God confronts Israel for not having it (6:6)
Zech 7:9 – show it to each other
Jonah 4:2 – Jonah mad at God for showing it to Gentiles
Micah 7:18-20 – not anger but love
May we praise God for his unstoppable, unrelenting loyal-loving-kindness toward us, who enjoy these blessings because of the blood of Christ!
And may we show this loyal, covenant love to one another in our local congregations, for the glory of Christ in the church.
Monday, November 26, 2012
The short answer? No (Rom6:1-4; 1 John 3:6-10; Heb12:5-11). Christianity is not merely one's religion of choice. One is not a Christian because his parents are Christians. A Christian is someone who has eperienced an internal transformation by Christ - he has been born again (John 3). A miraculous and powerful act of God has begun at his core (heart) which will reveal itself increasingly through a new lifestyle that glorifies God and looks like Jesus. In Ephesians 4-6 Paul calls this new lifestyle the 'walk' of the Christian.
- Futility of mind – apart from God’s saving grace we do not think right. Our thoughts are bent towards sin and self until the light of Christ breaks in (now we have the mind of Christ – 1Cor 2:16)
- Darkened understanding – There is no one who understands (Rom3:11) truth or spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) until regenerated by God.
- Alienated from the life of God – We are spiritually dead to God until he raises us to life (Eph 2:1)
- Ignorance – unaware of God and the life of Christ; blindness
- Hardness of Heart – A willful rejection of God
- Callous – No sensitivity to the Lord
- Given up to sensuality – Completely bent towards seeking sinful pleasure
- Greedy to practice all impurity – indulging in sin and growing hungrier for more.
Christ’s School (4:20-21). “But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus“ (4:20-21). Paul emphatically declares that his description of the old walk is not consistent with the one who has learned Christ! Rather than learning rules, we have learned a Person! The phrase ‘heard about him’ is literally ‘heard him,’ as in, ‘you have heard him speak’ in the gospel and the apostle’s teaching written in Scripture (Boice). So Christ is the subject matter (we learned him); Christ is the Teacher (we heard him); and Christ is the classroom (we were taught in him) [Stott]. It’s all Christ! Christ said to come to him, yoke up with him and ‘learn’ from him (Matthew 11:29).
Teaching is part of Christ’s great commission to the church (Matt28:19-20). We are to make disciples as we go, baptizing them and teaching them all things that Jesus taught. Rather than ignorance and futility of mind, Christ shines light on us and teaches us from the inside out, that we might walk in his ways.
Put Off And Put On (4:22-24). “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (4:22-24). When we learned Christ, we learned conversion (repentance and faith); the putting off of the old man and putting on of the new. Paul refers here to the initial putting off and on that took place at our conversion; Because God poured his grace on us, enabling us to put off the old man and put on the new in Christ, we can now walk a lifestyle consistent with the new man. The ‘walk’ Paul is about to describe for us flows out of our conversion. Without conversion we do not have the power to walk the walk. But through the renewing of the spirit of our mind as we believe the gospel and continue in the school of Christ, we have grace to walk!
Corrupt vs. Created. Notice that the old self is ‘corrupt through deceitful desires,’ but the new self is ‘created after the likeness of God’ (Piper). We can’t somehow work up this new lifestyle; it is CREATED in us when we are born again, and our outward walk increasingly lines up with this truth. This is the process of sanctification. Paul has already said that we were dead in sin (2:1), God made us alive (2:4-5) and that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works (2:10).
Friday, November 16, 2012
Diversity In The Church (4:7-10). Paul has called for our eager maintenance of church unity. But unity does not mean we are carbon copies of each other. Verse 7 begins with ‘But…’
Diversity is From God. Diversity is not an accident, or a problem to overcome. It is God’s will! However, it was in response to sin that God brought it about. At the tower of Babel, an effort of man’s pride and godlessness, God multiplied the languages, creating diversity of nations and peoples. And through this diversity he will be glorified by every language and nation! Jesus accomplished a unified diversity at the cross (Eph 2:11,ff). And now we learn that he continues to encourage diversity in his unified people by giving differing gifts of grace!
Diverse Grace-Gifts Given (4:7). “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift (4:7). Paul spoke of the grace of God in his ministry to the Gentiles (3:2, 7-8), and now he shows that he is not alone (O’Brien). Each believer has received a measure of Christ’s grace in the form of a gift to be used to build up the church. This grace differs according to the will of God (see also Romans 12:6 and context).
Diverse Gifts Are A Sharing of Christ’s Triumph (4:8-10). “Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”  (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things)” (4:8-10).
Paul quotes Psalm 68, a celebration of God’s victory over his enemies, and implies that Christ is the fulfillment of this Psalm. Though the verse in the Hebrew speaks of Christ receiving gifts from men, Paul emphasizes Christ’s giving gifts to his people (Acts 2:33 shows that Christ received the promise of the Spirit and then gave him to his church). Christ triumphed over the rulers and principalities at the cross (Col 2:15), and has shared the spoils of his victory with his saints! Paul also speaks of Christ’s descending and ascending: he lowered himself to become a man and descended into the grave, and he rose in victory, ascending to the right hand of God, ‘that he might fill all things!’ The victorious Lord Jesus now pours out diverse gifts of grace on his saints that we may be a unified diversity, progressing in maturity, for the purpose of displaying the glory of God to the universe!
Maturity In The Church (4:11-16). James Boice asks a good question. If Christ gives diverse gifts to the believers, what is to ensure that we stay together? What is to keep us from going off in our own direction? The answer is the purpose of the gifts! Paul tells us that the gifts are given in diversity but are to be used in unity, in order to build maturity in the church.
Diverse Leadership Gifts (4:11). “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers… “ (4:11). Christ’s gifts to the church begin with leaders who declare God’s word.
- Apostles and prophets. Paul seems to be speaking here of apostles and prophets in the ‘technical sense’ (Boice); the original recipients of the gospel revelation on which rests the church (2:20). There are apostolic and prophetic gifting today, but not those who write Scripture and serve as foundations of the church. Christ’s apostles gave us the New Testament, and appointed elders in the churches to teach it to the church.
- Evangelists. While all believers in the church share the work of evangelism, some are gifted to lead the church in proclaiming the gospel.
- Shepherds (pastors) and Teachers, or Pastor-Teacher. There is only one definite article in the Greek before these two giftings (O’Brien), leading many to see this as one office rather than two. The apostles who planted churches appointed elders (plural) in the local churches to lead the churches by (1) overseeing, or tending the flock, and by (2) teaching, or feeding the flock (John 21:15-17; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 1 Thess 5:12; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:2). Shepherd, pastor, refer to the function and are interchangeable with the offices referred to elsewhere as elders, overseers, and bishops.
Diverse Ministry Gifts (4:12). “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (4:12). While leaders are to be seen as gifts from Christ and thus followed with respect (1 Thess 5:12-13) they are NOT special Christians who do all the ministry. Church leaders are given to the church for the purpose of equipping the believers to do the works of ministry. Elders equip the saints through prayer, serving the saints, providing an example to follow, encouraging the believers in their ministry gifting, etc, but first and foremost by the faithful teaching of the word of God. Thus each member of the church is to be growing in the proclaimed word and applying that word by doing “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Each member of the body has an important function in the church, and should be concerned about the maturing of the local church of which they are a member.
Stott comments that there are five lists of gifts in the New Testament, recording some 20 different gifts; of which some are ‘unsensational,’ such as ‘doing acts of mercy’ (Rom 12:8).
Maturity Through Unified Diversity (4:13-16). “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (4:13-16). All of the varying gifts in the church are for the purpose of building up the church towards maturity, for the glory of God.
A Few Observations From The Text:
- How long are the gifts necessary? “…until we all attain…the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The gifts will be in operation in the church until the day of glory when the church is perfect in the presence of God
- Maturity has to do with doctrinal stability (v14). Immaturity is compared with being tossed around by the storms of false doctrine.
- Maturity involves both truth and love (v15). This phrase is literally ‘truthing in love.’ It is easy to be all about truth while lacking in love, or all about love but soft on truth; Christ wants his church growing in both!
- Maturity happens as each part of the body does its job (v16). “when each part is working properly.”We are not merely a group of saved individuals, but a BODY that is dependent on one another. None of us alone is the body of Christ; each of us is a member of the body. Each part of the body must be fulfilling their function for the body to grow. Are you living in dependence on, or independence from the body of Christ?
- Maturity is a corporate, not just an individual, process. This text emphasizes the collective maturity that happens through unified diversity in the church. It’s not about ‘me’ maturing in Christ, sitting at home with my Bible (‘me and Jesus’ attitude), but rather it is about ‘us’ maturing together. This is how God has chosen to display his glory. This is why it is impossible to be a ‘solo’ Christian. You can worship God alone, but this is not God’s eternal purpose (3:9-11).
Apply The Word
-Believe God’s word concerning the body of Christ. See this vision and receive it as God’s plan. Embrace it. Love it!
-Commit yourself to the ministry of the word from the leaders in your local church. Podcasts from SuperPreachers are good, but they are not the ones God has placed in your life to be your primary ‘shepherd.’ God has given you local elders who can know you and minister to you in a special way. Commit yourself to this!
-Are you doing your part? How can I help the church grow in unity and maturity? Are you a functioning part of the body? How has God gifted you, led you, equipped you to serve?
-Do your ministry in the context of the church! Many in our day despise the church and emphasize their ministry, apart from a church context. We can overemphasize ‘MY ministry’ or a parachurch organization and forget God’s plan of a local church ministering to one another and growing up together in love.
Monday, November 12, 2012
The Church: Walking in Unity (4:2-6).
It is interesting to discover that the very first part of our walk Paul describes involves church unity (Eph 4:2-6). Paul begins with relationships within the church! Our walk starts with how we treat others. This is how the watching universe sees the glory of God displayed in his church.
We have learned in chapter two of the doctrine of unity: Christ accomplished it at the cross, tearing down the wall of division between Jews and Gentiles, creating one new man in place of the two, reconciling us to God and to each other. NOW WE ARE CALLED TO WALK IN THE UNITY CHRIST ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED. What Jesus has done must be believed by the church, embraced by the church and lived out by the church, for the glory of God!
1. Unity Maintained (4:2-3). “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.“ (Eph 4:2-3, ESV). Paul teaches the church HOW to walk in the unity Christ accomplished. Since God has treated us with overflowing grace in Christ, we are now called to treat our brothers and sisters in the church the same way:
- All Humility. The ‘humble recognition of the worth and value of other people’ (Stott). “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). This is how Paul treated the Ephesians when he was there (Acts 20:19) [O’Brien]! This describes Christ (Phil 2:3-8). Unity is destroyed when we lack humility; Pride thinks, “I do not deserve to be treated this way…I deserve better.”
- Gentleness. Meekness. Controlled strength – not weakness. ‘consideration for others, willingness to waive one’s rights’ (O’Brien). Jesus describes himself as ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt 11:29).
- Patience. Long-suffering. ‘Makes allowance for others’ short-comings – endures wrong rather than flying into a rage or desiring vengeance’ (O’Brien).
- Bearing with one another in Love. We are called to maintain unity by putting up with one another...but in love. The love of God in us will empower us to treat others in this way.
Having called us to maintain the unity, and instructed us concerning how to maintain the unity, now Paul describes this unity. He gives us 7 statements of unity, arranged around the members of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This is because our unity in the church flows out of God’s unity within his Godhead. Because God exists as a unity of Persons, the church must and can and will be unified.