Every Christian should exhibit joy in their life because we have so much to be thankful for. Jesus makes it clear to us that He is the One who brings joy into our lives and that we choose whether or not we will have joy to the fullest by our "abiding in Him". (Jn 15:11)
After Jesus had received the seventy disciples that He had sent out on a mission trip, He saw that their joy was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He had given them. He makes it clear to them in Lu. 10:20, that instead of rejoicing in their power over the spirits, they should, "Rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Our salvation from our sins and the just penalty for those sins should be enough to make us joyful. After all eternal punishment is a terrible consequence for anyone. But for the Christian it is just as much the nature of one who has been born again.
Paul in 2 Cor. 5:17, tells us "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new." When we emerge out of the waters of baptism we are "born again" (Jn.3:3-5) The Greek phrase that Jesus used in Jn.3:3 literally means "born anew". We are not what we used to be . This includes an attitude of joyful living. (Gal. 5:22)
This change is an ongoing process in which the Holy Spirit teaches us through our study of the Bible. Especially those teachings of Jesus found in the four Gospel accounts of His life, and the teachings of His Apostles and other writers of the New Testament who were guided by His Holy Spirit. (Jn.16:13, 2 Tim. 3:16,17, 2 Pe. 1:20,21)
When we learn what the Holy Spirit teaches us through God's word and we allow these teachings to guide us and change us, something wonderful happens. We are changed. We will live our lives differently. Now we are living our lives according to Christ's teachings. When this occurs we are showing the world behaviors that Paul in Gal. 5:22-25 calls the fruit of the Spirit. One of these fruits is joy. (Gal. 5:22)
Now read Phil. 1:1-6, Here Paul is writing to a church than ten years earlier he had started in the city of Philippi. Paul's work there is found in Acts 16:9-40. When you read about how Lydia, upon her baptism gladly opened her heart and her home to Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke, four total strangers, you see the immediate joy of her salvation.
Later when you read of the miracle earthquake and how the jailer immediately afterwards ministered to the needs of Paul and Silas. Then you read that after he and his family were baptized, he immediately took Paul and Silas into his house and fed them you see this great joy! These were the charter members of a church that brought Paul joy.
Over a period of time Paul experienced two financial gifts from the Philippian church that again brought him joy and showed their joy. Read in 2 Cor. 8:1-5 about the great generosity they showed when an offering was taken up for the saints in Judea. Also read in Phil. 4:10-18 about the gift they had sent Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. In these two passages we see how they brought joy to the Apostle Paul by giving joyfully.
1. In Phil. 1, what did Paul do every time he remembered the church at Philippi?
2. In Phil. 1, what emotion did Paul experience when he prayed for the Philippians?
3. In 2 Cor. 8, Paul speaks of the generosity of the Macedonian churches. What two qualities does he say "abounded in the riches of their liberality"?
4. In Phil. 4:10-18, What other churches in addition to the one in Philippi "shared with Paul concerning giving and receiving"?
5. In Acts 16, after the jailer had set food before Paul and Silas, what did he do?
Love is the dominant emotion in the life of any child of God. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 13:13, "And now abide faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love." Love is greater than our faith, because a loveless faith can never please God. Love is greater than our eternal hope, because before we can get to heaven we must know God. "He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love." 1 Jn. 4:8.
The Philippian church demonstrated to Paul a deep and genuine love. They loved the salvation they enjoyed in Christ; so they in turn, supported Paul as he preached the Gospel. (2 Cor. 8:1-5) They loved Paul so much that they sent a much needed gift to him while he was under arrest in Rome. (Phil. 4:14-18) When they heard that their minister Epaphroditus was sick near to death; they worried about him, and he worried about them. (Phil. 2:25-27)
You don't find this shared love for each other anywhere, but inside Christ's church. And the church at Philippi had this kind of love. So they lacked nothing, right? Not quite, in our lesson today, Paul prayed in Phil. 1:9, "And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment."
You see, even with a great love for each other, a church must have a complete knowledge of the teachings and the will of Christ Jesus. Read Eph. 4:11-16. Here you find that Christ calls men to preach, teach and shepherd His church because all of us must be equipped for ministry. Each one of us in Christ must minister to the needs of others. Secondly, each of us is expected to "come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13)
Christ wants us to become like Him! This will never happen unless we study His life and His teachings. Only then will we know how we should act and treat one another. Only then will the world see Christ in all that we do. (Gal. 2:20)
What is discernment? The definition of discernment is "the ability to judge or distinguish well." Discernment or judgment is necessary that we may know how to live our lives free from sin. Discernment is necessary within a church so we might worship God properly; as we see in the New Testament church. But as you might guess, you can't have discernment apart from a complete knowledge of God's word!
In Phil. 1:10,11, Paul tells us the necessity of having a love "that abounds in knowledge and all discernment." Then we will be "sincere and without offense". The word sincere means "without deceit." Many people try to deceive the Lord by acting religious, yet their lives are not truly changed.
Also, Paul notes that they and we will be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ". When we are baptized into Christ, we "put on Christ". (Gal. 3:27) When we put Him on we receive His righteousness which saves us. Yet there is still fruit that we must bear for the lord through our righteous lives. Why? Because our lives are a witness to the world for Christ Jesus. We are called to be "salt and light". (Mt. 5:13-16) This is the fruit of righteousness the world must see.
1. True or False, Eph. 4:12 tells us each of us must be "equipped for the work of ministry"?
2. True or False, Love is greater than faith and Hope?
3. True or False, You will never have the gift of discernment without a complete knowledge of God's word?
4. True or False, We can truly know God and still be without love for others?
5. True or False, Phil. 3:9 tells us we have Christ's righteousness if we are in Him?
6. True or False, if we have Christ's righteousness we will be a witness to the world for Christ?
It is a blessed life we have as believers in Christ Jesus. Paul in Eph. 1:3, writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." You and I have the forgiveness of sins, we are now heirs to eternal life, our prayers are heard by God, we have the presence of God's Holy Spirit within us and we have a family of loving brothers and sisters known as the church.
Yet each of us will find that in this world we will have trouble (Jn.16:33). If we truly live a godly life, following the teachings of Christ we will face persecution of some kind. (2 Tim.3:12)
Sometimes we hear of brethren and missionaries in faraway countries who become martyrs for their witness to the Lord. While we know this is the risk that believers face daily in this sinful world, it still troubles us. When we ourselves are ridiculed or ostracized because of our faith, it can cause us to be less joyful. It's normal for us to desire acceptance and blessing over opposition and enmity.
Read Phil. 1:12-18. Still God uses opposition to accomplish His purposes in this world. Paul was very familiar with opposition and persecution (1 Thess. 2:2, 2 Cor. 11:24-28). Now as he was writing this letter to the Philippians, he was under house arrest in Rome. Waiting to be tried by Caesar. He was chained to a Roman soldier both night and day. He could not leave the house. It seemed that Paul's ministry was very limited. His very imprisonment seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle to his calling to preach the gospel.
But here in these verses we are told there was noteworthy fruit born of his house arrest and this made Paul rejoice. First, his preaching had been heard by the whole palace guard (1:13). Plus he had made some believers from the "household of Caesar" (4:21,22). Paul was still preaching and people were still responding to the gospel.
His continued work, even while under arrest had made other brethren in Rome more bold. (1:14). They were no longer fearful to preach the gospel in the capital city of the Roman Empire. So Paul also rejoiced in this fruit as well.
Ironically, there was a second form of opposition to Paul that had arisen, yet it still furthered the gospel. Look again at verses 15-18. In addition to bold men who were preaching the gospel because of Paul's example and from "goodwill", there was a second group of preachers. This group was preaching the gospel from "envy" and "self ambition", hoping to "add affliction to Paul's chains".
It seems they were opponents of Paul. Brethren who evidently were jealous of Paul's apostleship, his ministry and his success. Still Paul rejoiced! Why? Because Christ was still being preached. While they were jealous of Paul, they were still correct in what they taught. This stands to reason in light of what Paul stated in Gal. 1:6-8 about false gospels. Though under arrest, Paul rejoiced because the will of God was still being accomplished!
What are the things that steal your joy, oh Christian? Is your joy subject to your earthly circumstances? Do you need to be accepted and recognized to be a joyous Christian? True Christian joy is a product of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25) and not a product of our circumstance. Even when we are opposed, we like Paul should still rejoice! Phil.4:4
1. True or False, Jesus promised us a life free from trouble?
2. True or False, Paul's "chains" had furthered the Gospel?
3. True or False, Those who preached Christ from envy were preaching an incorrect or different Gospel?
4. True or False, Paul criticized those who preached Christ from "selfish ambition?"
5. True or False, There were no saints among the household of Caesar?
6. True or False, God can still work out His purpose in your life even when others oppose you?
Paul was being held prisoner in Rome at the time of his writing Philippians. He was under house arrest; chained to a Roman soldier around the clock. He was waiting to appear before the judgment seat of Caesar. While he could be released, he also knew he could be found guilty of sedition against the Empire and be put to death.
Read Phil. 1:19-26. When you read this text, you can't help but feel that Paul was so much stronger in his faith than you and I. After all, the consequences we face here in America will seldom result in our being killed for the faith. Paul had no fear in the prospect of his death, and neither should we.
The true believer in Christ is changed. Jesus tells us in Jn. 3:3, "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." When one is born again they become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). A new life in Christ has begun. In Rom. 6:4, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." The verses that follow this one make it clear that we are dead to sin, which once held us captive."
But along with our salvation comes transformation. This transformation occurs because we now look at everything differently. Look at Rom. 12:2. Here Paul indicates that we must not continue to think and act like the worldly do. This is because our mind is being renewed. Now everything we do should serve God's purposes.
In Phil. 1:19,20, Paul expresses his confidence that one way or another, he will be delivered. The Greek word here in v.19 translated "deliverance" can mean either delivered up to death or delivered as in "saved from death." Paul realized that in his own death he could still magnify Christ! As Christians we "magnify Go" by our good works (Mt. 5:14-16). Christ is "magnified" when people's attention is shifted to God. Because of this, Paul would later challenge the Philippians to "shine like lights in the world." (Phil. 2:14-16)
In vv. 21-23, Paul arrives at the true lesson that you and I should learn from this text. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." As you can imagine this was a source of conflict for Paul. He truly wanted to die and "be with Christ." The faithful Christian only dies physically. At death his soul goes to be with the Lord in Paradise; a temporary dwelling place where they are with Christ until the day of judgment (2 Cor. 5:8, Lu.23:43). As good as our lives often are here in America, it can be hard for us to embrace death as Paul did. We should all see death in the same light as he did.
For Paul, if he was released and lived on it would mean the continuance of his ministry and more fruit that he could bear for Christ. We all need to bear fruit in our lives. Jesus shares God's expectation of the fruitfulness of our lives in Jn. 15: 1-8. Fruit comes when we engage ourselves in prayer, Bible study, fellowship and the Lord's Supper. It is also born when we bring others to Christ (Mt. 28:18,19).
Paul reaches a logical conclusion about his future in vv. 24-26. He now realizes that the great need that the churches, including Philippi had means he will be released and resume ministry. God had a purpose in Paul's life and ministry. Jesus, Himself defined it in Acts 9:15, "He is a chosen vessel of mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel." Paul realized he was still needed. Knowing this he was confident that he would one day return to the Philippians to bless them with his teaching.
All of us in Christ have a purpose. We all have different talents and gifts. Paul makes this pointy clear in 1 Cor. 12:14-31. Here he compares the church (the body of Christ) to the physical human body. Each part, though all members of the whole body have different functions. Have you asked God to show you His purpose for your life in the body of Christ?
1. True or False, Paul knew he would soon be executed by Caesar?
2. True or False, If Paul died he wouldn't see Christ until His Second coming?
3. True or False, The Christian is expected to bear fruit for God's glory?
4. True or False, Paul was confident that he still had a purpose in his living?
5. "rather to be absent from the body and to be _________________with the Lord." NKJV
6. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be_____________________by the renewing of your mind." NKJV
READ the Text. If you have ever taken the time to read about the planting of the church at Philippi in Acts 16:11-40, you realize that Paul spent very little time there before he was asked to leave town. So it seems only normal that Paul would wonder about these brethren and their walk with the Lord. Were they glorifying Christ in their lives? Would they remain united as one body? Would they stand fast in the face of opposition?
As we noted in our previous lesson, Paul has realized that he will be released from his imprisonment in Rome. But when, he did not know. Meanwhile he has a great concern for their faithfulness. So in 1:27-30, Paul tells them about the expected conduct of the believer.
In any and every circumstance they must "let their conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ." The Greek word for conduct is "polis", it means "as a citizen of". In 3:20 Paul also reminds them, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." The Christian is held to a higher standard of conduct than the citizens of the world. That standard is revealed to us in the Gospel accounts of Christ; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here, the Lord's teachings are revealed to us as well as His conduct. Christ alone is our model. This conduct cannot be expected of the non-believer, but only those who are "born again" in Christ. (Jn. 3:3, 2 Cor. 5:17, Rom. 8:5,6)
Paul also tells them in v.27, 'stand fast in one spirit, with one mind." This is a call for unity in the church. Jesus prayed to the Father in Jn. 17:20,21, for unity among all believers. However this unity must be based on God's word, the Bible. Prior to unity, Jesus had prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth." (Jn.17:17)
The teachings of the New Testament is what we must believe and practice. Jude in Jude 3 states, "I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was, once for all delivered to the saints." The "faith" here is not what I choose to believe, but the whole body of teachings that God through His Holy Spirit gave us in the NT Scriptures. This must always be our basis for unity. A unity that is not grounded in the truth of God's word is compromise!
If the brethren in Philippi do these two things; conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and stand united for the faith, then they will not be "terrified of their adversaries." (v.28) The word for "terrified" actually means to "alarm" or "startle". When horses are startled they turn and run away. Paul is here reminding the brethren that they cannot run away from proclaiming the truth about Christ. There will always be opposition to the truth (Jn.15:18,19). But, those who seek to "suppress the truth" will one day face the wrath of God, (Rom.1:18).
For the believer who stands fast, opposition is a proof of the believer's salvation. To those who oppose the truth, their opposition is a proof of their "perdition" (destruction) (v.28). The believer must never compromise even in the face of persecution.
In vv.29,30, Paul reminds them and us that "God grants" that we not only have faith in Christ, but that we will suffer "for His sake". The Greek word rendered "grant" literally means "gift". Suffering for Christ is a "gift". I doubt if you have ever thought about suffering for Christ as such, but the Apostles did. Read Acts 5:40-42, though beaten, the Apostles "rejoiced." Later in 3:10, Paul states that he wants to know Christ completely, including to have knowledge of "the fellowship of His sufferings." It is in this sense that suffering is a "gift from God." Because we suffer as Christ suffered we have fellowship with Him.
Paul's final thought in v.30 is an assurance that it's okay to be conflicted about suffering. Paul did not embrace suffering anymore than you and I will. Pain and humiliation are against human nature. Paul reminds them of his own conflict which some of them had witnessed while he was in Philippi. Read Acts 16:35-38. Paul was outraged that he and Silas' rights as Romans had been violated! The tone he takes with the authorities is one of indignation. Paul's point is that it is alright for us to feel conflicted about suffering. In 2 Tim. 3:12, Paul reminds us, "Yes and all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The blessings of Christ do not come without opposition and suffering!
1. Finish this statement: "Only let your conduct be worthy of the ______________________
2. Finish this statement: "that they may be all one, as you Father _____________________
__________________________________; that they also may be one in us."
3. True or False, Paul wanted the Philippians to run from their adversaries?
4. True or False, Opposition to the faith pof the Gospel is proof of your salvation?
5. True or False, Suffering for the sake of Christ is not a gift from God?
6. True or False, A Christian should have no conflict internally about suffering for the sake of Christ?
READ TEXT. Churches do many things to try to unify their members. Fellowship meals, group activities, small group Bible studies and visitation are all examples of how leaders of churches try to get their members to be like-minded.
The church at Philippi was a good church. They brought joy to Paul. (1:3,4) They were a loving church. (1:8,9) They were also a generous church; supporting Paul while he labored in Thessalonica (4:15), and while he was a prisoner in Rome. (4:18)
But Paul knew that they had weaknesses and he points to these weaknesses in 1:27-30. Paul worried about their conduct; whether it would glorify Christ. He worried if they would stand fast in spite of opposition. He also worried about there unity as well; would they be of "one spirit, with one mind."
Paul knew that true unity has only one source. It doesn't come externally from church activities like church activities. Instead the true force that promotes unity in the church is internal in nature. It comes from each member's experiences in Christ. so, here in our text, Paul points to four things that each believer should experience in our relationship with Christ. And if indeed we have experienced these four things in Christ; then these should provide the motivating force to maintain unity in the body of Christ.
The first of these motivating experiences is have we experienced any consolation or encouragement in Christ? Does the fact that He died for me give me any sense of encouragement? It should. After all "While we were still sinners Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8 But Christ doesn't leave us alone to falter in our daily life. Instead He "advocates for us before the Father". (1Jn. 2:1) Literally He pleads our case before the Father. So Paul reasons if we have received any consolation in these things Christ does for us, then it should motivate us to seek unity in the church.
Secondly, have we found any comfort or love in Christ? Does it comfort you when you read in Jn. 14:1-3, that Christ has left this world to "go and prepare a place for you"? That you might be with Him for all eternity? Do you find love and comfort knowing that absolutely nothing "can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus?" (Rom. 8:37-39) If it truly gives you comfort, then again you have every reason to strive for unity in the church.
Have you experienced fellowship of the Spirit in Christ? For the believer the Holy Spirit illuminates your study of God's word. (Eph. 1:16-21) The Holy Spirit also convicts us when our behavior is NOT what it should be. (Gal. 5:22-25) This work of the Spirit should cause us to bear fruit. If we have, then there is more motivation for us to be of "one accord" with our brethren.
Have you found any "affection or mercy" in Christ? Affection as used here is not a casual emotion. It is a deep felt love for one another. Again Christ loved you enough to die for you. The Father showed you affection and mercy in a most incomprehensible way. In Rom. 8:32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for all of us, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" That's mercy! If you have experienced this in Christ then you will strive for unity in His church.
So this is the internal force of our experience in Christ that will cause us to preserve unity in the church. Paul then goes on to show us in vv.3, 4 the "marks" or evident behaviors that can be observed in a church that has unity from Christ and through Christ. They are attitudes that are displayed to other members of the church.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit." Life in the kingdom of Christ is about serving and not about our ambitions. Jesus made this lesson clear to the disciples in Jn. 13, when He washed their feet. Read what the Lord told them afterward in Jn. 13:12-17. A church filled with servants will be a strong and united church.
"Esteem others better than yourselves." This is humility. Paul says of Jesus in Phil. 2:7, "He made Himself of no reputation." It is human sinful nature that wants to be recognized as the best. Jesus had every reason and right to be served, but instead He served us by dying on the Cross for our sins!
Finally a church with unity will "look out for the interests of others." Paul in Gal. 6:2 reminds us, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Bearing one another's burdens is not simply praying for another person, but helping them. Have you ever served someone else's needs?
Maybe helped an elderly member clean their home? Have you ever shared your Thanksgiving meal with a brother who had no family? Have you mowed the lawn for someone who is handicapped or elderly? Have you ever invited a new family over to your home to have dinner? These are all great ways to "bear one another's burdens." When you do this you also "fulfill the law of Christ." It's an attitude that leads to unity in the body of Christ. Actions speak louder than words.
1. What three concerns did Paul have about the church in Philippi?
2. Who does John say is "our Advocate with the Father?
3. What are the three "marks" of unity in the church?
4. What are three ways that you can "look out for the interests of others": in your church?
5. What did Paul tell the Philippians that they could do that would fulfill his joy?
READ TEXT. In our last lesson Paul told us that unity within the church occurs when the members recognize the life changing experiences they have experienced in Christ. It's our experiences in Christ that supply our motivation to strive for unity. When the proper motivation is present, the members will give evidence of the effects of a changed life; the "marks" of unity. This evidence was summarized by Paul in three humble attitudes: 1.) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 2.) Esteem others better than yourselves, and 3.) Look to the interests of others.
Today Paul gives us the "model" that leads to true unity in the church. That model is the "humble" Christ. Though Christ Jesus was on the same level as God the Father, He was willing to let go of His rights as a God and come to earth as a man. A humble man.
Think for a moment of what Jesus gave up to go from God to man. Three things quickly come to mind. First He gave up His glory. In Jn. 17:5, Jesus prayed to the Father, "And now O' Father glorify Me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you, before the world began." You and I cannot fully understand the glory that Jesus enjoyed with the Father in heaven. When Moses asked God in Ex. 33, to see "the glory of God." God told him, that wasn't possible. In Ex. 33:20, God tells him, "No man shall see Me and live." God's glory is too much for any mortal man to process. Too dazzling, too brilliant, we would be overwhelmed. The sheer beauty and majesty of God in heaven is beyond our imagination. Jesus knew that glory, but He gave it up for us.
Secondly, Jesus gave up all His riches to become a humble man. Paul speaks to this in 2 Cor. 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."
On earth as a man, Jesus was poor. He had no home. (MT. 20:8) He was supported during His ministry by the generosity of others, including women. (Lu. 8:1-3) When He died, the only possessions He owned were the clothes on His back. In death Jesus was placed in a tomb given to Him by the generous Joseph of Arimathea. (Mt. 27:57-60) By our worldly standards, Jesus was a beggar.
Jesus also gave up His authority of His own will. He now did all that the Father told Him. In Jn. 5:30, "I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father, Who sent Me." The writer of Hebrews in 5:8, tells us, "He learned obedience by the things He suffered." By giving up His rights as God, Jesus suffered poverty, scorn, and punishment. That's what God gave up!
Paul goes on to tell us in v.7, that Jesus became a "bondservant", a slave, He came in the "likeness of man". It was necessary that He become a human being, that He might become the "second Adam." The first Adam brought the curse of death into the world because of his one act of disobedience. But Jesus, "through His one act of righteousness gave us justification of life." (Rom.5:18) He had to live a righteous life without sin that He might be our perfect sacrifice as our High priest. (Heb. 4:15)
Also in v. 7, we are told, "He made Himself of no reputation". The actual Greek word rendered "no reputation" means "emptied". Jesus "emptied" Himself. He became in a word "nothing." Read Isa. 53: 1-6. In just the first three verses of this prophecy about Jesus, we are told; He was fragile, like a "tender root", He was not particularly attractive or beautiful, and He was despised and rejected. The Son of God, Who reflected the glory and majesty of God, was while on earth an "unremarkable man."
In v. 8 of our text, Paul tells us that the already humbled Christ, humbled Himself even further. To death, "even the death of the cross." The cross was a criminal's death. Yet as you already know from Isa. 53: 5,6, Jesus had to suffer for our sins. On the cross He took all the world's sins upon Himself and bore our punishment for them. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:21, "For He made Him, who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God through Him."
Because of our sins, Jesus experienced what every sinner, who dies apart from Christ will experience; separation from God. It was because of this terrible loss of fellowship with the Father that Jesus cried out from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?"
For us to become like Christ means that we must see others as being better than ourselves. We must see our brothers and sisters in Christ as being those whom we are obligated to serve. We must also, like Christ be willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. That's our model, the humble Christ.
1. Our model as Christians for humility and service is ________________________.
2. Why did Jesus have to come to earth as a man according to Heb. 4:15?
3. Through what in Heb. 5:8 did Jesus learn "obedience" in this world?
4. Whose will did Jesus do while He was on earth?
5. What three things did we see in our lesson that Jesus gave up when He became a man?
6. According to Isa. 53:1-3, what was Jesus' appearance as a man like?
In our last two lessons Paul has addressed the question, "What causes proper unity to occur in the Church?" The answer is that unity occurs when we are humble. Our experiences in Christ should motivate us to be humble. If this is the case, a church will display the right behaviors: "Doing nothing from selfish ambition, in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself, and look out for the interests of others."
Then Paul pointed to Christ as our example for humility. He set aside His Divine privilege and humbled Himself to die for us. So in these past two lessons we have seen the motivation for unity, the marks of unity and the model for unity.
Today Paul shares with us the reward that Christ has received for His humility. He has been exalted by God the Father with "a name which is above every name." (Phil. 2:9) While you and I will never be exalted in the same manner as Jesus, we will still be exalted if we humbly submit ourselves to God's will.
The use of "therefore" to start verse 9 indicates that "because Jesus humbled Himself to the death of the cross", He has now been exalted by God. Jesus has now been given a :name" that is above all names.
True exaltation can only come through God. Human exaltation is often just flattery and only lasts through one's life. The Bible tells us of men who tried to exalt themselves and were punished by God. Read about Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4:28-33. He refused to acknowledge God's role in his success and was humbled to acting like a beast in the field.
Read about Herod in Acts 12:18-24. After God prevented Herod from murdering Peter; delivering him by an angel from Herod's jail, Herod went down to meet with men from the countries of Tyre and Sidon. These small nations were experiencing famine and they hoped that Herod would help them with food, as he had in the past.
So that day as Herod gave them an eloquent speech, the people began to pay homage to Herod as if he were a god. Herod knew better, but He did nothing to discourage them. So God punished Herod with death. Man must never exalt himself to the status of God!
Jesus, being "equal to God humbled Himself." (Phil.2:6-8) So God exalted Him. Jesus gives all men both a model and a standard rule as to how they can one day be exalted by God. The model is His life described by the four Gospels. The standard rule is in Mt. 23:11,12, "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." You see, God rewards those who serve others.
The reward for Jesus was a name. That name according to Phil. 2:11 is "Lord". The truly glory that goes with this name is that Jesus will be worshiped and acknowledged by every person that "He, Jesus is Lord." The significance of this title is even clearer in Rev. 19:11-16, Here John sees Jesus as the victorious Christ riding on a white horse. He has conquered all the earth. John goes on to tell us in v.16, ""and He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords." When Jesus returns to earth with the saints the dead will rise from the graves and along with all the inhabitants of the earth, everyone will confess "that Jesus Christ is Lord."
Many will do so in fear and sheer terror because they realize they are about to be condemned. (Rev.6:15-17) But the saints will do so with unbelievable joy! Because they confessed Jesus as Lord while still living and humbled themselves to live obediently to Him. (Acts 4:12, Rom.10:9,10) This is the exaltation of Christ!
But the faithful saints will also be exalted with Christ. Not as Christ, but as joint heirs with Christ. They will "reign with Him." (2Tim.2:12) But this will only happen if we have taken on "the mind of Christ". (Phil.2:5) This is the mind of humility and service to others.
Humility brings reward to the Christian. Read 1 Pe. 5:5,6, here Peter restates the Lord's rule in Mt. 23:11,12 in this way, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." The only way any man will ever be exalted by God is by humbling himself to the Lordship and authority of Jesus Christ."
1. According to Jesus in Mt. 23:11,12, how will one become the greatest?
2. What is the name that God has given Jesus, by which He will be confessed by every tongue?
3. Why has God exalted Jesus according Paul in Phil. 2:6-9?
4. Will everyone confess that Jesus Christ is Lord or will it only be Christians?
5. Why will the Christian be one day exalted with Christ according to Peter?
6. When John saw the victorious Christ riding a white horse in Rev. 19, what name was written on His robe and thigh?
7. How can you as a Christian become more like the humble Christ?
Read Text, Phil. 2:12,13. To many people salvation seems a one time event in which they have little or no role. Non Scriptural doctrines such as Calvinism and "Once saved always saved" only add to the confusion about what is required of the believer concerning spiritual growth. Worst case scenario is that such doctrines can create an excuse for sin and an abuse of God's grace.
The church at Philippi was a good church. They had love for each other and God. They were generous in meeting the needs of Paul. They cared deeply for one another. However, it is obvious that Paul felt that they might be taking their spiritual growth lightly.
So after presenting Christ as their model for humility and service to God (Phil. 2:5-11), Paul encourages them to "work out their own salvation in fear and trembling." (v.12) When we see this statement there are two questions that we realize need answered. 1.) What is meant by this admonition, and 2.) How do we do this? This will be the focus of this lesson.
First, we need to understand that salvation is spoken of in the New Testament in three tenses: past, present and future. Literally each tense is indicative of a phase of our salvation.
Past tense speaks of the salvation event. This phase is often referred to as the point of our justification. This is the point at which God forgives us of our sins and we stand justified in the eyes of God. Mk. 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." is an example of referencing salvation in it's past tense.
Salvation as Paul speaks of here in Phil. 2:12 and in 1 Cor. 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." In both instances salvation is presented in present tense or still occurring in the life of the believer. This phase of salvation is commonly referred to as sanctification. The word means "to be set apart". At this phase we are becoming "set apart" for God's purposes and we are learning how to live a life pleasing to God. It is in this process that the Holy Spirit leads you and speaks to you through the Scriptures. It is the maturity process that God expects us to participate in.
It is in this process that new and better qualities are showing up in our lives. Peter in 2 Pe. 1: 5-11, speaks of these qualities that we must add to our lives. It is a serious business, this becomes more apparent when you read v.10, "Therefore brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will not stumble."
Then there is the future tense of our salvation; often referred to as our glorification. This is as Peter says in 1 Pe. 1:9, "receiving the end of your faith- the salvation of your souls." It's the day that our faith becomes sight. We have persevered and remained faithful until death. (Rev. 2:10) Another verse that speaks to this final reality of our salvation is found in Rom. 13:11.
So logically Paul cannot be speaking to the salvation event of the brethren in Phil. 2:12. They have already been saved through obedience to the Gospel. Obviously they are still in the flesh here on earth, so they cannot be in the future tense of their salvation either. So the current phase of salvation in which they are "working out their own salvation" or their sanctification is what Paul is speaking of. Knowing this, we now address our second question: "What must I do to assist in my sanctification?"
The good news is that God partners with us in this process. He has done His part to assist you. He has given you His Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) You received Him when you were baptized. He has also given you the Scriptures; this is what Peter speaks of in 2 Pe. 1:3,4, "as His Divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him, Who called us by glory and virtue, by which we have been given these exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may become partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." The Holy Spirit will lead you, He will speak to you through the Scriptures and He will also "enlighten the eyes of your understanding." (Eph. 1:18)
But you still have to do your part. You should pray that God might "incline your heart to Him." (1 Kgs. 8:58) You must study the Scriptures that you know how Christ wants you to live. You must make living for Christ your first priority. (Mt. 6:33) You must commit yourself to helping other members of the Church. (Gal. 6:2) You must strive to be an example; a light to the world, showing God's love to all those whom you come in contact with. (Mt. 5:14-16)
This is how you do it. There are no short cuts. This is how one becomes spiritually mature in Christ. In this process you will go from "believer" to "disciple" and then to "servant". It's what God desires for each of us. He has done His part. Will you do your part?
1. What are the three phases of salvation that one goes through?
2. Paul's statement "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" is an example of salvation in ______________________ tense.
3. Solomon in 1 Kgs. 8:58, asked God to _______________ our _____________ to Him.
4. When does the believer receive the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:38?
5. In 2 Pe. 1:3, "God has given us all things that ______________ to godliness and __________
6. What is the child of God's obligation to the world in 1Kgs. 8:60 and Mt. 5:14-16? (In your own words)
READ Phil. 2:14-16. As human beings we are prone to complain. We complain about slow service, cold food, self-service checkouts, bad drivers, preachers who preach too long and internet that runs too slow.
Now sometimes we have a right to complain. It is only fair that we get what we pay for. We should also stand up for our rights as citizens of this country. Paul certainly did not hesitate to insist and argue for his rights in Acts 16, when he and Silas were unfairly beaten without due process. This was a violation of their rights as Roman citizens.
But, we as Christians should never complain about what God asks us to do or to bear. This is in fact what Paul means in v.14 when he says, "Do all things without complaining or disputing." This is clear when we look back at verses 12 & 13 where Paul had previously asked them to, "Work out their own salvation with fear and trembling". He then states why they should do this in v. 13, "Because this is God's will for you to do for His pleasure". That is why Paul begins v.14 by stating "Do all things". Among "all things" is to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling."
Complaining goes against the model that God has given us through Jesus Christ in Phil. 2:5-8. After all, Jesus let go of His rights as God that we might be saved by His sacrifice. In addition to not complaining to God, or about God, we must not complain or grumble to our brethren. In 1 Pe. 4:9, "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling." Grumbling to your brothers and sisters can spread a quality to them that God disapproves of.
Also, we should never complain in the presence of non-believers. Paul gives us a positive model of how we should speak to those outside the body of Christ in Col. 4:5,6, "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." We are obligated to always present Jesus and His church in a positive light.
There are four points we need to make about grumbling or complaining. Each is Scripturally based. After all, the Scriptures represent God's truth and not our opinions.
First God does not care for our grumbling against His will for us. The Old Testament gives us the example of how God dealt with Israel when they grumbled against Him. They continually grumbled against God and Moses, His spokesman. So in 1 Cor. 10:10, Paul tells us the outcome of their complaining, "nor complain as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer." If you go back to 10:5, Paul states, "But with most of them God was not well pleased; for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." In 10:11 we are told that Israel's history is recorded "as an admonition for us." So don't complain for God's sake.
We also should stop complaining for our sakes. Because we need to become children of God. Eph. 5:1, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children." Children imitate their parents. It's only natural. In v.15 Paul tells us that we should, "become blameless and harmless children of God." The two Greek words rendered "blameless" and :harmless" in the NKJV actually mean "holy" and "innocent or pure". God desires us to be holy as in 2 Pe. 3:11. He also desires us to be pure or chaste as in 2 Cor. 11:2. This is God's will for us and we should not complain or resist God's will in this matter.
Thirdly, we should stop complaining for the world's sake. Look again at verse 15., we are "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation." It is among this "crooked and perverse generation" that we are called to "shine as lights" to the world. Jesus has commissioned every believer to be an evangelist, so that we might make "disciples of all nations." (Mt. 28:19) The world needs the Gospel that we have to offer. (Rom. 1:16) Because it alone is the "power" of salvation. We have this "power". But we also have the "proof" of God's salvation that shines through us. This is our changed lives. In 2 Cor. 4:6, "For it is the God that commanded light to shine out of the darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus." We are the face of Christ Jesus to a dying and lost world. Stop complaining for their sake.
Finally in v.16 Paul reminds them to stop complaining for his sake. Paul was their teacher. He brought the Gospel to them and is writing to instruct them. Paul wants to be able "to rejoice in the day of Christ" because they will be found faithful and pleasing to God. He does not want to think that he has "labored in vain".
In Eph. 4:11-13 Paul tells us that Jesus Himself has given us earthly teachers for two purposes; 1.) to equip you for ministry, and 2.) bring you to the fullness of the stature of Christ. One day your earthly teacher will have to stand before Christ and his work will be tested by Christ. (1 Cor. 3:10-15) They take every loss personally, just as Paul did. Every soul that has wandered from the truth is a loss. So for the sake of your teacher stop complaining and start shining!
1. According to 1 Cor. 10:10, What happened to the Israelites who complained against God?
2. In the Greek text of Phil. 2:15 what are the meanings of the words "blameless" and "harmless"?
3. What two words did Paul use to describe the generation (world) in which the Philippians lived in Phil. 2:15?
4. If the Gospel is the "power" of our salvation (Rom. 1:16), then our example to the non-
believer must be the ___________________ of our salvation.
5. What was Paul's fear in Phil. 2:16?
6. According to 1 Cor. 3:13, the Christian builder or minister's work will be "revealed by fire and
the ________________ will ____________________ each one's _________________.
READ Phil. 2:16-18. The world defines great men on the basis of their achievements. What were their successes in life? What contributions did they make to our society? Were they great and effective leaders?
The Apostle Paul was a man of greatness even by worldly standards. He wrote 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Over half of the words are his. He also established Christ's Church on two continents.
But Paul would never allow himself to be elevated to any level of human greatness. In many of the books he authored he referred to himself as "Paul a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ." He considered himself a "dulos"; a household slave (Grk.). He was a slave laboring for the Lord Jesus.
The instructions that Paul gives the church in Philippi in our text reflect three key truths about Paul. Truths about his true self. These truth's are 1.) his heart, 2.) his humility, and 3.) his joy. These three verses tell us what was his heart, his humility and what brought him joy. It would do us well to compare ourselves to him in these three areas of self.
In v. 16, Paul's heart is summed up in these words, "holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, or labored in vain." Paul had been commissioned by Christ to preach the saving message of the gospel. For him "laboring in vain" meant that some whom he had brought to Christ, might wander from the truth and ultimately be lost. (Jas. 5:19,20, Heb.6:4-6) Paul's heart was in line with God's heart on this matter. In 2 Pe. 3:9, "For the Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Now read 2 Cor. 5:14,15, Paul states his motivation for his ministry. What it was that compelled him. "For the love of Christ compels us." This does not mean that Paul preached because he loved Christ, but rather he preached because Christ loved all people and died for all people. The "love of Christ" is used here the same as it is in Rom. 5:8 where Paul describes "God's own love". Christ's universal love and his death for all men was Paul's motivation for preaching to the lost and ministering to the saved.
But Paul also ministered out of fear. Specifically he feared that some in Philippi might not continue faithfully in Christ. In Rev. 2:10, Jesus tells us it is only those "who are faithful till death" who "will receive a crown of life."
Paul was also very conscious that his own fleshly nature might cause him to stray as well. In 1 Cor. 9:27, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
Paul was aware of his own past history. He had persecuted the church, thinking that he was doing God's will. This sobering truth humbled Paul. In 1 Cor. 15:9, "For I am the least of the Apostles....because I persecuted the church of God."
This humility is further revealed to us in Phil. 2:17, "Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith." A drink offering was a secondary offering to God that was merely a complement to the main burnt offering. It was usually a goblet of wine poured onto the main sacrifice as it was fully ablaze.
Paul's language in this verse indicates "present tense", as "his being poured out as a drink offering" was already occurring instead of yet to come. So it is obvious that he is speaking of "his chains", his imprisonment. The total time in which Paul spent imprisoned beginning with his arrest in Jerusalem until his release by Caesar in Rome was five years! Yet humbly, Paul says, "mu sacrifice is secondary to yours."
How could this be? Well, when you look at Phil. 1:28, we are told the Philippians had "adversaries", which they were terrified of. In 1:29, Paul states, "Christ has granted it to you to suffer for His sake." The persecution was already underway in Philippi, and it would worsen. Some of them would be martyrs. Their sacrifice was the "main offering", his was only "the drink offering". Humility, front and center. Paul never thought his suffering to be a big deal. In Rom. 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Finally, we see Paul's joy, his rejoicing at the end of v.17 and in v.18. Paul rejoiced that they were suffering. Not because he enjoyed seeing them persecuted, but because he realized they along with him, were sharing in the "fellowship of the sufferings of Christ."
Paul's attitude towards suffering and persecution was always, "Christ suffered, so I want to suffer like Him." Jesus promised His disciples in Jn. 15:20, that they would be persecuted like He had been persecuted. Paul felt like persecution was a fellowship with Christ. Read Phil. 3:7-11. Paul had counted "all things loss for Christ." Still he, just like us desired to one day "know His resurrection"; this is our glorification with Christ. But Paul also wanted something else. In v.10, Paul wanted to "know the fellowship of His sufferings". Paul's joy was always in the context of living, serving, suffering and dying for Christ. Where is your rejoicing?
1. What does the word "bondservant" mean in the Greek language?
2. What two things "compelled" Paul's preaching and ministry?
3. In Paul's heart, what caused him the greatest fear regarding the Philippian brethren?
4. If Paul's sacrifice was only a "drink offering", the Philippians' sacrifice was greater in what sense?
5. What two things mentioned in Phil. 1:28,29, point to a persecution there in Philippi?
Read Phil. 2:19-24. I'm sure that most of us have tried to pattern our lives after someone else's example. As children we naturally mimic our parents and often unconsciously behave like they do. As we get older, we expand our circle of acquaintances and often find other people, whom we adopt as examples. Possibly allowing them to mentor us.
The minister Timothy had such a man in his life who served as his mentor. That man was the Apostle Paul. In acts 16:1-5 we are told of Paul's meeting Timothy. Timothy had already reached a degree of spiritual maturity. First, he was "well spoken of by the brethren." His behavior and character were of a godly nature. Secondly, his mother is mentioned. Why is she noteworthy? Because we are told in 2 Tim. 1:3-7, that his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois had educated him in the faith. He was a believer.
So, Paul saw potential in this young man and took Timothy with him on his second missionary trip. What an education that must have been for a young minister. He heard Paul's sound teachings and learned them. (2 Tim. 1:13) But he also learned from Paul's example. He witnessed how Paul coped with persecution, dealt with opposition, how he loved people and how Christ-centered Paul's life was.
As we have previously learned about the church in Philippi it was a good church. Yet, Paul had his concerns. No doubt when Epaphroditus the Philippian minister had come to Rome, he gave Paul a full report on they were progressing. Paul had noted they were in a time of persecution. He heard that there were unity issues. He had also found out that not all of them had the humble mind-set of Christ. So, Paul chose to send Timothy to them.
This was not a slight to Epaphroditus. But Paul realized that perhaps he needed a "fresh set of eyes". Epaphroditus was one of them, a homegrown minister. Perhaps he had understated the problems out of love for his church. Paul needed to feel "encouraged". (v.19)
By this time, Timothy had labored indepently from Paul at both Corinth and Ephesus. He was exactly who Paul needed there in Philippi to correct the problems that existed there."
Paul trusts Timothy because they are "like-minded". (v.20) This quality means he could by his example encourage them to be correctly "like-minded". Paul hoped that Timothy could show them what a like-minded church looks like. The cure was for them all to adopt the "mind of Christ".(Phil. 2:5-8) Paul knew that Timothy had that "like-mindedness." He knew a letter to them would never be as effective an example. When Paul had sent Timothy to Corinth, he urged the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 4:15-17, to "imitate me." Then he points out that Timothy will "remind you of my ways in Christ." So Timothy was there example.
Paul sends Timothy because he "sincerely cares for your state." (v.20) This word "cares" is a very strong verb in the Greek language. It is translated in Phil. 4:6 as "anxious", as in "Be anxious for nothing." It notes great concern that causes one to worry. This is how deep Timothy's concern for the church was. He worried over each member.
Jesus gave the template for all who serve as ministers in Jn. 10:11-14, where He proclaims Himself as "the good shepherd". Paul had these qualities and we can be reasonably sure that Timothy had them as well. The good shepherd is willing to die for the sheep. The good shepherd will not run or shrink when wolves (false teachers) surface. The good shepherd is not just a "hired hand" who is there for money or fame, but instead he cares for the sheep. The good shepherd cares for the sheep because he knows them. Every minister will embrace these qualities if they aim to please Christ!
In v.21, Paul sends Timothy because "he seeks the things which are of Christ". Paul had already sent Luke and Aristarchus away to minister to other churches. There were others he could have possibly sent to Philippi, but all the others had one major flaw, "for all seek their own". Sure they knew God's word. However, seeking the things of Christ was not their top priority. Paul had full confidence that Timothy's top priority was serving the interests of Christ.
It should be our top priority too. Look at Col. 3:1-3. What makes a believer seek things that are Christ's? Things that are above and not things of eart? The answer is that your life, "must be hidden with Christ in God." When John the baptist was told that Jesus was making more disciples than he, John responded, "He must increase, and I must decrease."(Jn. 3:30) This is major truth, our wants should be second to what Christ wants from us. That's how Paul was, and that's how Timothy was.
In 1 Pe. 4:10, "As each one has received a gift, minister it one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Using our gifts, and all of us have them, is a proof that one is a good steward. Timothy had gifts to offer and he used them. We should too.
1. In Acts 16, How did the brethren in Lystra and Iconium speak of Timothy?
2. What were two issues in the Philippian church that Paul was concerned about in chapters one and two?
3. What two churches had Timothy already been sent by Paul to minister to before going to Philippi?
4. Who had told Paul of the things he was concerned about in the church at Philippi?
5. What three personal qualities did Timothy have according to Phil. 2:20,21?
6. According to Col. 3:1-3, "setting your mind on things above means your ________ is ___________ with _______________ in God."
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What does the Bible say that heaven will be like? Men often have their opinions on this subject, yet Scripture tells us accurately what the eternal dwelling place of the saved have to look forward too. In this second part of this topical teaching we look at what life will be like in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.
Look at Revelation 21:9-11 with me. Here, John continues to describe the physical appearance of heaven. "Then one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me, and talked with me saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal."
Just as the church redeemed is the "bride of Christ" in 21:1-4, so too, the actual city, the New Jerusalem is also the "bride of the Lamb." Reality is that you can't have one without the other. A redeemed church, given a glorious resurrection body need a glorious city in which to dwell. A glorious city without citizens submitted to Christ is not a suitable bride for the Savior.
Note that this city descends from out of heaven. This heaven from which it descends is the "third heaven" (2 Cor. 12:2) It is the place where God dwells and those who previously died victorious in Christ live as souls with Christ until the Day of His return to earth. (Rev. 20:4) This is also referred to by the Lord as "Paradise" when He promised the repentant thief on the Cross, "This day you will be with Me in Paradise." (Lu. 23:43) This is also the place the Lord called Abraham's bosom in Lu. 16:23. It is a spiritual realm. This makes sense because "God is Spirit." (Jn. 4:24) So on this glorious day the New Jerusalem known to many as heaven will actually descend from the spiritual realm of God down to the New Earth. The earth which God has recreated. The earth that was subjected to futility (cursed) because of man's sin. (Rom. 8:19-21)
Verse 11 tells us she "has the glory of God"; there is nothing defective, carnal or earthly about her glory. Again it is a glorious city made exclusively for a redeemed people given life eternal and glorious incorruptible bodies. The quality of God's city is beyond compare and human comprehension. This "glory" is God, the Lamb Himself is it's light. (Rev. 21:23) The Jasper stone is a diamond. A diamond is translucent, it not only reflects light, it also refracts light. Refraction occurs when light is re-directed. The city is as dazzling as huge diamonds reflecting and refracting the light of Christ Jesus.
Verses 12, 13 tell us that there are four walls. They are "high walls". How high? Verse 16 states, "twelve thousand furlongs are it's length, breadth and height." This measurement in miles would be 1,500 miles. Why would heaven need walls so high? Could it be in the glorious life that exists here that the streets run not only horizontal, but possibly vertical? Each wall has three gates. Again one must ask why? For what purpose? After all, God's enemies including Satan have already been dispatched to Hell. (Rev. 20:10) The most reasonable answer is found in verse 18, "The construction of it's wall was of Jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass." These walls have only one purpose; to reflect and refract the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ Jesus and God the Father are apparent in every detail.
Over each gate there is an angel. He is not there as a sentry, but likely will help us. Perhaps he will greet us as we go in and out of the New Jerusalem. After all there is a "new earth" made by God for our enjoyment. Maybe the angel will recommend beautiful sights and features of this "new earth." Hebrews 1:14 tells us about angels; "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" Perhaps they might be our tour guides.
Each of these walls is set on a foundation of twelve layers (v. 14). These foundations honor the twelve Apostles of our Lord. In verse 17 we are told these walls have a thickness of 144 cubits. This would be 216 feet thick. These walls and their massive foundations are a reflection of the security we will have knowing this eternal home will never be taken from us.
The twelve foundations are adorned with all manner of jewels. Several different colors. Each has one purpose to reflect and refract the glory of God and the Lamb throughout the city. A glorious Savior deserves a glorious city. God and the Lamb will dwell here with us. (21:4)
The buildings of the city according to verse 18 "was gold, like clear glass." Literally you can see through the walls. To humans this might be a source of anxiety, but clothed in an eternal and incorruptible resurrection body, you won't have any cause for embarrassment. Jesus reminds us in Mt. 22:30 we have no sexual identity in heaven, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven."
The twelve gates are made of pearl. In fact each gate is one massive pearl. (21:21) With man this would be impossible to fathom. But "with God all things are possible." If you search for a meaning in this marvel, I would remind you of a point made by John MacArthur; the only material used in the construction of the New Jerusalem that is the product of a living creature is pearl. Everything else is either a stone or a metal. A pearl is form by an oyster. It is formed in response to an injury. When an oyster is wounded it secretes the pearlescent substance around the offending object. So maybe we can see a great object lesson here in the New Jerusalem every time we enter or exit. Maybe God wants to remind us that we have this glorious eternal dwelling because of the wounds inflicted on His Son on Calvary's Cross. In Isa. 53:5 we are told of Christ's suffering, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes we are healed."
It's certainly a possibility. Until next time, God bless you as you grow in His word- David
Here on earth we call it Heaven. In the realm of Heaven they call it the New Jerusalem. It's the place where Jesus went "to prepare a place" for His disciples. We read about it in Rev. 21. Beginning with verse 1 John begins by telling us what he saw. "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea."
The first heaven and first earth has been destroyed. Peter told us this would happen in 2 Pe. 3:10, "But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be be burned up."
Now the old heaven is not the realm of God, but the atmosphere that surrounded the first earth. This is the environment where we see birds and airplanes fly. It along with the old earth are now no more. The timing of this precedes the Great White throne judgment of sinners. This fact is mentioned by John in Rev. 20:11, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them."
The purpose of the destruction of the first heaven and earth was that it had been ravaged by man's sin. In Rom. 8:19-21, "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope: because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." The creation bears the scars of man's sin; pollution, urban sprawl, unsightly scars from various acts of war, greed, and inconsideration. It has borne the Divine punishment of thorns and thistles because of Adam's sin. (Gen.3:17,18). And so it must be made new, just like it's new population, the redeemed of Christ.
In verse 2 John sees, "the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." It is descending out of the heavenly realm of God to the "new earth". Literally, God is going to create Heaven on earth! She is beautiful, like a bride "prepared for her husband." Later in verse 9 John will be invited to take a closer look at "the bride, the Lamb's wife."
Now the question arises, "How can the bride of the Christ the Lamb of God be a city?" Shouldn't His bride be the Church redeemed? Well the easy answer is that His bride is both the physical city and it's citizens. Because both have been made anew. Not only is the city new and beautiful, so too is the believer. He has received his glorious resurrection body, incorruptible and immortal (1 Cor. 15:50-54). In this new body the believer is now conformed to the "glorious body" of Christ (Phil.3:21). Newness is the theme here: New heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). So the city and it's citizens are one.
In verse 3 we are told, "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them." In the Old Testament God's presence was found in the "tabernacle", the place where God met with Moses and Joshua. Though God came and spoke with these men, it was incorrect to say that God "dwelt with them". But here we find that God Himself will dwell among the redeemed.
By this time sin and death are no more. Sin no longer is possible here in the New Jerusalem because the saved are now totally sanctified, besides this the nature of the resurrection body is "incorruptible"; it cannot sin, nor can it be tempted to sin. Death is gone, it was thrown in the lake of fire with the devil and his angels (Rev, 20:14). Because of this, we have a different kind of life experience; we won't cry, mourn, hurt or be sorrowful. This is truly a "new life". "The former things have passed away". (v.4)
In verse 5 the "new" theme is all the work of God and His Christ. "Behold I make all things new." So appropriate, after all we have new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, the redeemed are made anew and this life will be brand new and nothing will spoil it. Nothing.
In verses 6 & 7 we find that John is told that the citizens of this wonderful place share two things in common that set them apart from those who were condemned to eternal punishment. First, they thirsted for the "water of life". They wanted eternal life with Christ Jesus more than anything else. More than earthly treasures and more than sinful pleasures. This verse reflects the character and lives that we saw in the "souls" that John saw in Rev. 20:4, "Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands." Here "they" are "them'.
In verse 7 the second thing is that they have overcome. They overcame temptation, fear, doubt, sin and remained faithful to death. The Lord warned the church at Smyrna in Rev.2:10 of impending trials and persecutions. Telling them that some would be thrown into jail and would suffer. Then He reminds them, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." They overcame because they were faithful to Christ and refused to compromise or recant. This is the nature of all the citizens here in the New Jerusalem.
Finally, in verse 8 we are reminded that not everyone will be here. John shares eight sinful behaviors that if left unrepentant will damn one's soul to hell. The cowardly are those whose faith was lacking. It's the same word Jesus used when He rebuked the twelve in Mt. 8:26, it denotes a faith that is lacking. It's a fair bet that these believed in Christ, but simply lacked the faith to remain steadfast and firm in the face of temptation and persecution. The unbelieving are those who never believed in Christ, in the end they reap the wages of unbelief. The abominable are the "ungodly"; their behavior offends God. Those who take innocent life will not be here. Nor will the sexually immoral. The general Greek word "pornois" is also translated "fornicators, whore mongers, and homosexuals. Those who practice witchcraft or satanic rituals won't be there. Neither will be those who worship any god other than the One True God. And "all liars" who fail to repent will not be there. A liar is one who knowingly tells falsehoods; deceivers and false prophets are among the damned in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.
In the end, heaven wouldn't be heaven if God allowed the unrepentant sinner to gain entry in the New Jerusalem. Those who refused to be "born again", "born of water and Spirit" will not be here either. As Jesus states clearly in Jn. 3:5, "Unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God." You must be born again, born anew. New is the theme of salvation, both here and there. Next time we will look at the physical description of the New Jerusalem in part two of this teaching. God bless- David
I recently had a debate with a woman concerning whether a woman was authorized by the Scriptures to preach or hold an elders role in the church. She had been given a theory from a Bible College professor that Paul's directive to Timothy concerning the role of women in 1 Tim. 2:12-15. Here Paul tells Timothy who was a minister at the church in Ephesus, "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control."
Her theory was that since Ephesus was the city with the pagan temple of Artemis (Diana). That possibly a few of the women who served as priestesses in that pagan temple had received Christ and now were desiring to have the same roles in the church that they had at the temple. Some of them lacked a true Holy Spirit gifting for this purpose and had begun to teach things that were contrary to correct doctrine. Thus because of the threat of false teaching Paul imposed a ban on all women holding such roles, but only at Ephesus.
Now there is no "concrete" evidence to prove, nor disprove such a theory. However, one must recognize that the Bible claims to be the product of God through His own Holy Spirit. In 2 Tim. 3:16,17, Paul states, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Peter echoes Paul's affirmation of the Divine inspiration of Scripture in 2 Pe. 1:20,21, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
So the Bible itself states it is the product of God and came to us through the pens of men who were guided by the Holy Spirit. This is consistent with what our Lord Jesus promised the disciples concerning the role of the measure of the Holy Spirit that they were to receive in Jn. 16:12-15, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has is Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." Note that this measure of the Holy Spirit was promised to the eleven, those who along with Matthias and Paul would be the chosen Apostles of our Lord. God realized the need for an absolute source of Truth. Initially the source were the teachings of the Apostles (Acts 2:42). These teachings DID NOT originate with them, but GOD! The Father told the Son, the Son told the Spirit and the Spirit told the Apostles. As time went on, they as well as Mark, Luke, Jude and James were prompted by the Holy Spirit to record these words for the benefit of the Church for ages to come. This beloved, is how we know that the Bible alone is our complete source for the truth of God!
Many today do not agree with the Bible as being the one source of God's truth. Sadly, many "churches" insist on teaching and practicing things that actually conflict with God's word. Some suggest that somehow men have tampered with the Bible; scribes changing the manuscripts, books that should be recognized not included in the Cannon, verses omitted and as my debater alleges verses not written clearly, but with ambiguity.
Let me submit to you an undeniable truth concerning our Great God beloved. If God is able to resurrect Christ from the grave by His power (Rom. 6:4). If God is able to impose His will on the writers of the Bible. If Jesus Himself plainly stated, "Sanctify them by your truth, Your word is truth." (Jn. 17:17). Shall we believe that God Who can do all things, was not powerful enough to clearly state His truth in Scripture? Shall we also dare think that God is not powerful enough to preserve His truth? This is why now more than ever before we must recognize our only source of truth is the Bible, because it alone is God's word! To that end, any church that supposes that it is the church of His Son MUST stand upon HIS word. Anything else is simply the words of mortal men.- David Miller
Pentecostals allege that the tongues they speak today is a heavenly language. A language that can only be understood by God and the angels. The benefits of this language is said to be that it is a confirmation of one's salvation and it also is a faster way of communicating an urgent prayer for Divine intervention. An example would be if you witnessed a catastrophic car crash; by uttering a quick prayer to God, He could intervene for the individuals involved.
So what does the Bible say regarding "the unknown tongue" and the language or "tongue of angels"? Is this really a heavenly language or is it a gross misinterpretation of Scriptural context?
The only place in NT Scripture where an "unknown tongue" is mentioned is in 1 Corinthians 14:4, KJV, "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself, but he that prophesieth edifieth the church." Most translations have dropped the "unknown" because the Greek equivalent is NOT USED in the original manuscript. It was added by the KJV translators because they felt this particular tongue was not the same manifestation as described in Acts 2, where known languages were being spoken.
This verse is a gentle rebuke to those at Corinth who were trying to imitate the tongues that were truly a part of genuine Holy Spirit gifts. This is why Paul in the same sentence points them to the most needful gift of all for the church, the gift of prophesy. Prophesy was given so that all in the church might be edified.
This argument becomes even clearer in 14:6, "But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying or by teaching?" It is really not hard to understand Paul's point; If it is not instructive to the brethren then keep it to yourself. Even the gift of tongues that Paul shared was purposeful and not a mystery! It is important to remember that this entire chapter deals with the correcting of that which was wrong.
Now concerning the "tongues of angels", this appears in 1 Cor. 13:1, where Paul has begun his famous treatise on the value of all things being done in love as opposed to the selfish desire for attention and glory that some at Corinth were seeking. Here in verse one we read, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or clanging cymbal." Here Paul is giving a hypothetical example that those who had placed the actual gift on such a high pedestal could understand. The NKJV here begins with the word "though", but the Greek word that begins this statement is "ean" which clearly means "if". Again the translators of the KJV and NKJV both felt "though" was needed, but it decidedly changes the point of Paul. That point is "If I could speak in all the languages of men and angels." NOT THAT he did speak in the tongues of all men and angels! The context here is still meant to correct a vain and self-glorifying attitude that caused some to imitate the genuine languages that were actual tongues.
As for these tongues being a confirmation of one's salvation. We find on that day when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in about 15 different languages (Acts 2:8-11) that none of those three thousand who were baptized spoke in tongues. Nor did Simon the sorcerer who was baptized in Acts 8: 9-19 speak in tongues, in fact it isn't until verse 17 that the Apostles had to lay hands on these for them to receive any Holy Spirit gift. In fact the closest Scriptural example to this Pentecostal belief is found in Acts 10: 44-47 where we read, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak in tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"
Scripture tells us they had only "heard" the word, not yet believing. Peter states plainly, "Can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized?" These Gentiles still need baptism to be forgiven of their sins. (Acts 2:38) Hence it is quite clear this singular manifestation of the Holy Spirit gift of the tongues was only a sign to Peter and the believers that God had approved the preaching of the Gospel message of salvation to the Gentiles. They had not been baptized, yet they still needed to be baptized. Thus this event never again duplicated in the NT Scriptures is simply a sign from God to Peter that he could continue and immerse them into Christ.
An accurate conclusion for all based on the Scriptural evidences is as follows: 1.) there is no such thing as a believer speaking in a "tongue of angels" or an "unknown tongue" and 2.) tongues are not a confirmation of salvation as some suggest Acts 10 states, instead it was a one time event meant as a sign to Peter. Further more as we concluded in part one of this teaching, tongues served their purpose a long time ago and as Paul sates in 1 Cor. 13:8, "whether there are tongues they will cease." Why did they cease? Because the time came that the last revelation of God to us had been dutifully recorded and preserved in a book we commonly know as the Bible.
In Mark 16:17,18 Jesus gives us signs that would be common among believers in the infancy of His Church. Here Jesus says, "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
Most Churches today are of the belief that such works of the Holy Spirit are not manifest in believers. However there are some, mainly Pentecostals that fervently maintain that at the very least every believer will speak in tongues. In fact many Pentecostals believe that the ecstatic display of speaking in tongues is the evidence that an individual has been saved.
As is the case with any issue spoken of in Scripture, it is necessary that we have a complete understanding of what Scripture actually says. After all Scripture is all-sufficient. The Apostle Paul verifies this truth for us in 2 Tim. 3:16,17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." With this in mind let us see what Scripture says about the gift of speaking in tongues.
The first occurrence of tongues being spoken among believers happened on the day of Pentecost. This was one of the gifts that was given to those who received this outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that day.
So who received this gift? Was it all the disciples of Jesus? Or was it only some? Some have erroneously concluded that since Acts 2:1 begins, "When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."; that this must be all of the disciples. However, we find that the final thought given in the previous verse (1:26) is that Matthias was included as one of the twelve Apostles. This proof that it is only the twelve Apostles who received this baptism of the Holy Spirit and it's gifts becomes clear when we arrive at Acts 2:14 where Luke tells us, "But Peter, standing up with the eleven,". Again we see those who were present among the believers were the Apostles.
A second question which is pivotal in our understanding of why the gift of tongues was needful is "What were these tongues?" This question is answered here in Acts 2:8, where those who heard these tongues uttered by the Apostles say, "and how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" Obviously these tongues were known languages of people of various nations. Luke even gives us a list of fifteen different regions and nations in Acts 2:9-11; further proof these utterances were languages and not some celestial language as Pentecostals maintain.
It is a given that the purpose in these tongues was to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. That is too obvious to be misunderstood. You had people present who did not speak Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, the three languages common in Judea. Without this working of the Holy Spirit then the Gospel could not have been proclaimed with success.
So the question that anyone who maintains that tongues are still spoken today must answer is this: "What purpose would this gift be to our generation?" After all, God would never give us a useless gift, would He? Consider that today we have the ability to proclaim the Gospel message in every language! We can do this without this manifestation. Today God's word is available in every known language and men and women have the means to learn every known language.
With this in mind let us look at what the Apostle Paul told the Church at Corinth about the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. In 1 Cor. 13:8, "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." Paul makes it clear these three specific gifts would end. They were temporary. Given to an infant Church that did not have the complete Scriptures of the New Testament, nor the ability to communicate them and their gift of salvation to the whole world as the Lord had commanded them in Mt. 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." These tongues were specifically given for this purpose.
When we continue this teaching in part two we will look at what the Pentecostals falsely believe about the "language of angels." Until next time, God bless and keep you. -David Miller
In part one of this teaching regarding Sin and Suffering we discovered that both sin and suffering are the result of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. All creation was corrupted. The very mind set of man was corrupted as well. This accounts for suffering and evil that exists in our world today. Now in part two we examine the impact that the free will of man has on sin and suffering in our world.
From the very beginning God made man with the ability to choose to do right or wrong. To obey God or disobey God. To treat his fellow man well or to do him great harm. Man is an agent of free will. This freedom of choice that man has to exercise in his life serves the highest glory when man chooses to love, worship and serve God. But when man chooses to sin against God or his fellow man, evil and suffering can be the result.
A man chooses to drive while drunk and an innocent life perishes. A man chooses to rob a store, the clerk resists and another life tragically ends. An innocent wife is infected with HIV by her unfaithful husband. An unborn infant dies when his mother chooses abortion 15 weeks after conception. All these are the result of the choices that men and women make.
What if God did not allow us to choose? Would our lives be better? I think not. Without the capacity to choose what would our lives be like? Without choice we would eat the same food. We would have no chance to better ourselves. No choice in who we marry. What would games, sports and other competitive events look like? Certainly safer, but better?
Along with the capacity to make poor and evil choices comes the capacity to choose wisely and decide to help others. I could not choose to stop and help the elderly couple with the flat tire. I couldn't choose to donate my blood or a kidney to show my compassion for someone dying. I couldn't choose to sacrificially give to help someone in a financial crisis. Perhaps the greatest loss for a world without free will is that you and I could not choose to love someone and act with only their best interests in mind.
Our relationship with God would be sadly different as well. You see God has everything He needs. There is absolutely nothing that God needs from me. But there is something He desires from me. More than anything else God desires me to love Him. Literally this is the only gift any of us can ever give to God. But, take away my free will and I am nothing but a robot. Nothing I will do will be done from love, but from the compulsion of instinct.
Most of all our free will allows us to comprehend God's love for us. In Rom. 5:6-8 the Apostle Paul writes, "For while we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Without the freedom to reject God, could we ever experience the joy and comfort of knowing God's "own" love for us? A love like none other?
In conclusion while eliminating the freedom to choose would make life less painful and tragic, we would still experience a different kind of loss that would also be tragic. That loss is the freedom to choose to follow Christ Jesus, be saved from our sins and love God. Without the ability to understand the love behind God's sacrifice we would never know the greatest love of all. That is the love of God. David Miller
Many people struggle with the question "Why does a good God allow evil and suffering to exist in a world that He created?" This is an age old question. After all if God is indeed good and loves man why does He allow man to suffer?
The answer begins in the story of God's creation of the world and man. In Genesis 1:31 God at the conclusion of His creating the world declares that everything was good, "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." In stating that everything was good, God affirms that this was how He desired and designed all things to be. Nothing was less than it should be. Nothing was lacking.
The ideal creation also included an ideal man and woman. Their relationship with all things was perfect. In Gen. 2:25 we are told, "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." Why were they not ashamed? Because they were innocent as children. Every thought was pure, holy and God-honoring. They had no desire to exploit or deceive one another. No ego, no pride, no feeling of competition and no desire to dominate the other.
But all that changed when Adam and Eve sinned. Sin brought immediate consequences. "Their eyes were opened." In an instant they recognized their base desires and felt and looked at their nakedness in a very different way. Gen. 3:7 tells us, "they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings." In the next verse we find them hiding from God. The same God whom they previously walked with and trusted they now HID THEMSELVES FROM. Sin changed how they thought. They were no longer godly and accepting of each other, but now motivated by shame and fear they thought selfishly according to what they now felt was best for them as individuals.
All sin comes from selfish motives. We steal to gain. We kill out of anger and fear. We lie to escape accountability or to gain the smallest measure of the opinion of others. We lust to satisfy unhealthy desires. We covet the things of others because we resent their success and prosperity.
Adam and Eve's sin brought curses upon life that punish all. In Gen. 3:16, Eve brought affliction on all women; their pain in childbirth was multiplied and their marital relationship with the husband would be marked by "a desire" to be in control of him. Because of Adam, men would find the soil cursed with thorns and thistles. An occupation that once was a work of love would now be a work of great labor. And because of Adam's sin in v.19 man and woman "would return to the ground"; meaning they would die.
Pain, labor, contention in relationships, a world that is cursed and the certainty of death. These are all the consequences of sin. And it is passed on to all men regardless of what they do, good or bad. In Rom. 5:12-14 we read, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned- For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come,"
So as we come to the end of part one of this study, we see that the first sin brought the consequences of sin into the world and they are shared by all who live. We also find that the innocent nature which God placed in man was lost when sin entered the world. Also we find that every relationship that man has is cursed because of sin.
In part two we will examine the impact of the free will of man on the problem of suffering and evil in the world that God made. I hope you will join us then. - David Miller
There are many opinions concerning the partaking of the Lord's Supper, commonly known as the Communion. The vast majority of Protestant denominations do not partake of this act of worship on a weekly basis, citing a concern that somehow it might lessen the impact of this event in the spiritual lives of their congregants. The Roman Catholic Church has long held to the belief that once the emblems (the bread and the cup) have been properly blessed by a priest and are consumed by the believer, they then become the literal flesh and blood of Our Lord. But what does the Bible say concerning this? After all, the Bible ought to always be our authority on all spiritual matters.
First, the Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus, Himself on the night that He was betrayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this event. Paul also recounts the event as well in 1 Cor. 11:23-32. And for our purpose we will use this account.
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 1 Cor. 11:23-25
Here are the points that the Lord makes. First, the bread and the cup are emblematic of His body and His blood. The point that they are emblems is made clear by the Lord's statement, "Do this in remembrance of Me." This makes it clear that the objective hear is for the believer to "remember" the Lord's sacrificial death on the Cross. A death that Christ died in the flesh. The idea that the Lord's flesh and blood is what is consumed is absent from the Lord's words. It is the symbolic ritual that is in mind here.
Second, the Lord makes a point of reminding us that the cup "is the new covenant in My blood." Jesus' death on the Cross fulfilled the first covenant, the covenant made by God with Abraham. It replaced this covenant with a New Covenant. Why? Because the first was imperfect. Heb. 8:7, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." This covenant offers us "eternal redemption" through His death. Heb. 9:12, "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." The price of this covenant was the blood (life) of Christ Jesus. It is certainly the "why" of "Why we partake?" By reason of logic those who partake must be those who are now under this New Covenant, those who have through belief, repentance of sins and baptism have had their sins removed and have been born again by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38, Jn. 3:3-6)
Now let's continue our look at what additional comments Paul the Apostle makes in 1 Cor. 11:26-29, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
First, Paul tells us that this observance is an ongoing act of worship that the church should continue to observe "till He comes." Obviously this coming is the Lord's return to claim His Church. While this is certainly not a "Thou shalt do this every week." it certainly implies a regular event. Compare this with what Luke the author of Acts states in Acts 20:7, "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." It seems that the purpose of the Church of Troas' coming together is by context, to "break bread." The fact that this occurred at such a late hour likely rules out this being a meal. The more likely meaning is that they came together to partake of the Lord's Supper and their custom was to do this weekly.
Secondly in verse 26 Paul states a second purpose in this observance, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." Here we find that the Church is in this act of worship "proclaiming the Lord's death." In essence we are bearing witness to the world that Christ Jesus has died for our sins.
Thirdly, Paul warns all that those who partake must be mindful not to partake "unworthily". To do so will bring judgment upon the offender. The reason why is given to us in verse 29, they are "not discerning the Lord's body." The likely offense here is that the offender did not pause to remember the suffering and death of the Lord. After all it is His body "broken for us" and the cup of His shed blood to give us redemption that we partake of.
But there is a second and equally valid interpretation that may also apply to "not discerning the Lord's body". We know the Church is the Lord's body as well, (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:30). So what if this "not discerning the Lord's body" also refers to those who have sinned against their fellow believers and have yet to repent and ask for forgiveness?
Consider the Lord's teaching in Mt. 5:23,24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Jesus is literally saying that offenses against our brethren that we have not made right will make our worship to God null and void. This is why He states so clearly a need to go and be "reconciled" before God's throne is approached. Should not the same mandate apply to the Lord's disciples when they come together at the Lord's table? In each instance we are entering into an act of worship and fellowship (communion). My firm belief is that Paul's warning of "not discerning the Lord's body" is two-fold. First I MUST remember the Lord's death for me. Second I MUST NOT be at odds with a brother in Christ. After all, this act of worship is just as much a corporate act as an individual act.
In summary the Lord's Supper should be observed as part of the Sunday acts of worship. We do in fact assemble because Christ died for us. It would be fruitless to even attend church services if Christ did not die to save us! So why not proclaim His death to the world each Sunday? Are we so weak in our conviction that we fear an inability to pause and remember His death? This weekly reminder can only make a Church stronger.
Also, this observance is a memorial. The emblems are only symbolic, but no less important to the truly regenerate. To read any type of supernatural purpose or experience of transubstantiation into this act of worship is just that; to be reading something in the text that is absent!
Finally, it is a serious occasion. It requires us to "discern" our remembrance of our Savior's death and our relationship with our brethren. If either is not present then we ought to decline that invitation to partake until we can do so in good conscience.David Miller
Just last week the United Methodist Church at it's conference in St. Louis narrowly voted not to recognize same-sex marriage or to ordain homosexuals into their clergy. In the days since there has been much emotional response and comment concerning these decisions in various media. Many are deeply hurt because they had found acceptance in these churches. Many are hurt at the prospect of seeing many exit their churches. Many are beginning to express their desire to see their church stand more on Scripture than cultural norm. All are very concerned. So with all of this in mind, let's talk about Scripture, the Church and sexual immorality.
The very first time that God speaks regarding sexual orientation is found in Gen. 1:27, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." It is expressed here that God's design at the time of creation was that human sexual identity should be found in how we are created; either male or female. Clearly God is the one who chooses.
Next we find that God ordains marriage. In Gen. 2:23,24, "And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Adam readily understood that the woman was made for the man and God had made her to be so. With the coming together of man and woman in sexual consummation they are no longer two, but one flesh. The implication is that a family has been established and a bond has been forged.
Jesus understood this as well, and He publicly upheld God's original design for marriage in Mt. 19:4-6. This is very important, because concerning the UMC's acceptance of homosexuality in the past was three contentions: 1.) The Apostle Paul wrote concerning sexual immorality with a "cultural bias", 2.) The Levitical texts found in Lev. 18 concerning homosexuality were intended only for members of the priesthood, and 3.) Jesus NEVER spoke directly concerning homosexuality.
Understand that the context in Mt. 19 in which Jesus affirmed God's design for marriage was given because the Pharisees had advocated "divorce for any reason". They were attacking God's design on the grounds that Moses had given them an allowance for divorce. Jesus' point is that "from the beginning it was not so." (19:8) What Jesus is stating is very clear; Man has no right to alter or change God's design. Therefore if the only design that God ever gave for human sexuality is within the confines of Scriptural marriage ( a man and a woman ) then man HAS NO RIGHT to redefine human sexuality or marriage. God's model is still God's model. Any sexual relationship other than that model is wrong. It does not matter if it is adultery, fornication, pedophilia, beastiality, homosexuality or lesbianism it is by virtue of not being God's model; sexual immorality.
So are there other reasons why God does not want any other model for human sexuality? Yes there is. In 1 Cor. 6:15-20, the Apostle Paul affirms that once we belong to Christ our body as well as our soul belongs to Christ and we are obligated to: "glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's". In verses 18,19 Paul states, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" When we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ we not only receive the remission of our sins, we also are given the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us. (Acts 2:38, Jn.14:21-23) Our bodies become a "temple"; they are set apart for the purposes of God! When we commit acts of sexual immorality we are literally desecrating God's Temple! Again, remember God has given only ONE MODEL for human sexuality. Any other sexuality besides the sexual activity between a man and a woman in marriage is not the model and is sexual immorality.
Also, we find that a church cannot have fellowship with anyone who fails to repent and ask forgiveness of their sexual immorality. In 1 Cor. 5:1-13 Paul commands in the strongest language that the church must expel a brother who was in an adulterous relationship. Paul makes it clear that his sin must be called out in front of the church assembled. (5:4,5) He also warns that they are obligated to protect the body of Christ. (the church) In v. 6 he states, "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump." His concern is two-fold; 1.) other brethren might see this as an acceptable lifestyle and be caught up in this kind of sin, and 2.) the church would lose their credibility as Christ's church if they behaved as the rest of the sinful Corinthian culture. The church must always break fellowship with any who continue to bring reproach on her by their public sins. Paul again in 2 Cor. 6:14 states, "What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" SIN IS ALWAYS DARKNESS.
So what should be the response of a Church towards those who are practicing any form of sexual immorality. First, we have an obligation to love them; sin is the enemy, not the sinner. If we love them and make them welcome when they visit our churches then we are showing Christ's love for them. Secondly, when the topic of becoming a Christian or placing membership is approached we should be very forthcoming with the truth revealed to us in Scripture. In becoming a Christian we repent of our sins. (Acts 2:38) Sexual immorality is a sin. Also in the very act of baptism we are to die to sin. (Rom. 6;4-6) We cannot expect to be saved if we wish to continue in any sinful habit. (Rom. 6:1,2) We must also express our confidence that with the help of Christ Jesus we can overcome any sin issue in our lives including sexual sins. And we should strive to make help, support and pastoral counseling available once Christ is received in baptism. In Christ Jesus there is love and transformation. (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 12:1,2)
In our two previous lessons on baptism we have focused on the flaws of objections to baptism. In today's study we want to look at what other Scriptures that we have not previously looked at tell us about the believer's need for Christian baptism.
In Romans chapter six the Apostle Paul gives us several powerful statements concerning what baptism does for us. Turn to Rom. 6:3-6, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
The first significant truth that Paul shares with us is that "we are baptized into Christ." This same image of us putting on Christ is also stated in Gal. 3:27, where Paul states, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." To say that "we have put on Christ" is to establish that we have a new identity in Christ. Secondly Paul in v. 4 tells us that in baptism we experience a death. This death is equated by Paul in v.6 to be "the old man of sin" being "crucified" with Christ. In Col. 3:3, Paul writes, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Again a death has occurred and we are hidden or covered by Christ Jesus! This is how it can be said that we "walk in newness of life." Thirdly in v.5 it is plainly stated that "if we are united in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection." The meaning here is that as Christ was resurrected so to in like manner we will be resurrected. But only if we have also shared in the likeness of His death! And finally, we are now held in captivity by sin (v.6). This is not just our release from the sinful habits we have, but also, and more importantly we are set free from the consequences of sin; which is death, Rom. 6:23.
In 1 Peter 3:20,21 we read, "who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an anti-type which now saves us- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Here Peter is drawing a comparison between the ark which saved Noah and his family and baptism which now is the final step in the process of our salvation. Peter states that baptism is the anti-type of the ark. But what does that mean? In Col. 2:16,17 we read, "So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." The OT covenant was full of types and shadows; less than perfect ceremonies, observances and food and drink laws. Each of these types in the OT have a more perfect anti-type in the New covenant of Christ. In this case the ark was a less than perfect version of baptism because the salvation it gave was only temporary. Ultimately Noah and his family would die. On the other hand, the anti-type, baptism now saves more perfectly; for it saves us eternally. We must note that while both work "through water", it is incorrect to say we are saved by water. In fact Peter states "but the answer of a good conscience toward God." In other words; we are not saved by the water, but in the act of baptism we have properly answered or said "yes" to His offer to save us. We can conclude from this passage, just as Martin Luther did that "in the waters of baptism we receive the forgiveness of our sins."
Finally, let's take a quick look at what Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) stated that he was told by Ananias that he must do. In Acts 22:10 Saul states that the Lord told him, "Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do." Again remember this is the Lord Jesus speaking to Saul. He makes it clear to Saul that he (Saul) will be "told all things which are appointed for you to do." This means simply; whatever Ananias tells you, that you MUST DO! In 22:16 after Ananias has told Saul of the plans that God has for his new life in Christ, he then tells Saul in the form of an imperative command, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord."
Though God had Saul's future mapped out we find there was one thing that Saul had to do. He had to be baptized. This baptism was to "wash away" his sins. Here the effect of baptism presented by Ananias is the same as the effect of baptism presented by Peter on Pentecost. To achieve the removal of his sins or the forgiveness of sins. Ananias also here equates the act of baptism as "calling on the name of the Lord", quite similar as the "answer of a good conscience toward God" in 1 Pe. 3:21; in each case it is the Lord who grants this salvation through the act of baptism as opposed to the physical act being the agent of our salvation.
Did your obedience to the invitation of our Lord's salvation include being "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins?" If not, Triad Church of Christ would love to help steer you into the proper form of obedience to the gospel of Christ. Let us know either with a call or by e-mail how we can assist you in taking that final step of obedience that you might know that you are saved!God bless, David Miller
In our previous study "Why should all believers be baptized? Part One we spoke of no part of God's word (the Bible) ever contradicting another part of God's word. The Holy Spirit of God is the assurance that though some Scriptures may present challenges, they in no way contradict other Scriptures. In our second part of our study on "Why should all believers be baptized?" we will focus on the chief argument against baptism's role in salvation. This argument is that baptism is a "work of man" and therefore cannot save or contribute to our salvation.
This doctrine never surfaced until some 1500 years after Peter offered the first invitation to be saved in the name of Jesus Christ and stated clearly to those who responded to his message on Pentecost, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." It was Huldreich Zwingli who first put forth this doctrine of salvation by faith only.
Surprisingly, Zwingli's German counterpart, Martin Luther who is highly regarded by most denominations differed with Zwingli, taking the historical view that baptism is a "saving work of God". In fact, Luther states, "Through baptism man is saved." ( Small Catechism IV:6)
Zwingli's main contention is based on what Paul states in Eph. 2:8,9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast." Zwingli's assumption is that anything which a man does to receive salvation is a "work of man." This would certainly seem to contradict what Paul clearly states here in Eph. 2: 8,9.
But there is a key question that must be asked here. That question is: "Can someone other than God perform a work of God?" Look at John 6:27-29. Here Jesus has just fed 5,000 people and they are now determined to make Him their King. And for good reason;p Jesus could feed the whole nation of Israel with the most insignificant amount of food. Now Jesus is determined to shift their focus from the temporary needs of this earthly life to the eternal need of every man. The need of salvation.
"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal upon Him. Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
Here Jesus makes it clear that there is a "work of God" that MAN MUST DO in order to have "everlasting life". That work is "to believe in Jesus".
This "work of God" is faith, just as Paul stated in Eph. 2:8,9. But what manner of work is this? Is it not an act of obedience? Bear in mind this faith that Paul speaks of in Eph. 2:8,9 is not "the gift of God", grace is. Neither here in John 6:29 is this faith (believe) a gift. It is said by Jesus to be "the work of God". So obviously, this type of work, though said to be a "work of God", MUST BE DONE BY MAN.
So it should logically follow that any acts of obedience that the Bible tells us we need to do to receive salvation should fall under the category of a "work of God." Therefore, when Peter commanded those who cried out for salvation from the wrath of God and the penalty of their sins on the day of Pentecost, that they "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) he was telling them to do these acts of obedience because they are "works of God." When viewed properly as "doing the works of God" baptism is kept in the same role in which it was practiced by the Apostles and subsequent generations of the Church for the first 1,500 years of it's existence. And is in no way in conflict with what Paul writes in Eph. 2: 8,9.
As always, if you desire to speak with me on this subject or others, feel free to send me an e-mail through our contact page at this website. Until next time, God bless you richly.
The necessity of baptism of the believer has been debated since the Reformation Movement. Many churches see no reason to baptize, believing that a simple prayer to God asking for forgiveness of sins and for "Jesus to come into their hearts" is sufficient.
It would come as a surprise to most members of American denominations to learn that the church practiced baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins for nearly 1,500 years. This only changed when a Swiss reformer, Huldreich Zwingli formulated a doctrine that contrary to Scripture teaches that baptism cannot be for the purpose of salvation because it is a "work of man" and the total work of atonement has been done for us through Christ Jesus. Zwingli primarily based his conclusion on a faulty understanding of Ephesians 2:8,9, where the Apostle Paul states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Zwingli's objection was based on the notion that anything that a man might do in an effort to receive this gift is a work and thus violates the concept of salvation being a gift. Essentially he saw this as discrediting God.
There are two things that must be recognized about baptism in the writings and practices of the early church that put the Zwinglian view at odds with NT Scripture. One of the primary assumptions that any student of God's word must observe when handling the Scriptures is that no part of Scripture will ever be in conflict with another part of Scripture. If this is the case then God's word would be contradicting itself! This would lead some to discredit the Bible as God's word based on the conclusion that some passages are in opposition to others. The Bible must have agreement and harmony on every subject if it is indeed God's word.
So with this in mind, let's take a look at what the Apostles of the Lord Jesus practiced and preached concerning baptism and salvation on day one of the church that Christ established. Look at Acts 2:37,38. Here we find that Peter has just stated that his audience was responsible for the murder of Jesus, who was (is) the Son of God and their long awaited Christ (Messiah). They had rejected Him and thereby participated in His murder! (v.36)
Now Luke tells us of the response of the audience that day, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, What shall we do?" "Then Peter said to them, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Now understand that Peter along with the rest of the twelve Apostles had received the Apostolic measure of the Holy Spirit that day. Not only did this special measure of the Holy Spirit enable them to preach to others in their own languages, per Acts 2: 7,8, but just as importantly they were "guided into all truth" by this measure of the Holy Spirit. This was promised to the Apostles by the Lord Himself in Jn. 16:13 where Jesus told them, "However when He the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you of things to come."
Now with this knowledge that the Holy Spirit personally guided and led the Apostles into "all truth", it would be impossible for Peter to have given an answer in Acts 2:38 that WAS NOT THE TRUTH! Because he was under the direction of the Holy Spirit. What Peter stated was exactly what God had directed him to state through the Holy Spirit.
What Peter told them was directly given to him by the Holy Spirit. In order to be saved from God's wrath and punishment these men MUST do two things; 1.) repent of their sins, and 2.) be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins and so they might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. How important are these two benefits that Peter promised through baptism? They are essential. They must occur if one is to be saved! One must have their sins remitted (forgiven) and one must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in order to be "born again" as Jesus stated to Nicodemus in Jn. 3:5, "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." The only way to be saved is to be "born again". The only way to be born again is to be "born of water and the Spirit." There is NO OTHER act in Scripture that a believer is told to do that fulfills these requirements! NONE.
To deny one baptism for the remission of sins and to receive the Holy Spirit is in direct conflict with what the Apostles taught and practiced beginning on the day of Pentecost. It is also to dispute that the Holy Spirit gave proper instruction to Peter. It is to say that the hand chosen Apostles of our Lord, in spite of the direction of the Holy Spirit somehow got the answer to the most important question WRONG!
In part two of our study we will look at the question, "Is baptism a work of man or a work of God?" Should you desire to speak with me personally on this topic or present another question to me, please feel free to contact me through the contact page here at triadcc.org. Until next time, may God bless you richly.
One of the truly great hymns the Church has ever used is the hymn, "Just as I am." The point of this wonderful hymn is that Christ Jesus will accept us as we are with all of our sins and flaws. Christ has never told anyone, "Come back and see me when you get your life right!" He will take you as you are.
But this is not where the story of our relationship with Christ Jesus ends. From that point where we emerge from the waters of baptism, "we are raised to walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4) Paul also makes the idea of change clear to us in 2 Cor. 5:17 where he tells us, "Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." The implication is that we must leave our old life of sin and selfishness behind.
This transformation really begins before we are baptized when we repent of our sins. The Greek word which is rendered in our New Testaments as "repent" literally means to "turn away". We must thus "turn away" from our sins when we are baptized into Christ. (Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:1-4)
Our help in this matter comes four key resources. In Gal. 5:25 we read, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Allowing the Holy Spirit, Whom we received upon baptism to guide us we will surely change our sinful behaviors. The study of God's word is also essential for true transformation. This is especially true of learning Christ's teachings. In Jn. 6:68 when Jesus asked the twelve if they would leave Him as many others had; Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." There is NO SUBSTITUTE for knowing the teachings of Christ Jesus!
Much time in prayer each day is a must. Praise God with your prayers and declare your dependence upon God for all things. This was the very thing Jesus asked us to do when He gave us the model prayer in Mt. 6:8-15. And finally, realize Christ has redeemed you so you might be a member of HIS Church. Too many believers today discount attendance and participation in the body of Christ ( HIS Church). Upon your salvation you are automatically added to HIS Church (Acts 2:47). So take your place in the local body of Christ. It is God's will for your life. Think about it...David
"Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called "barren". For with God nothing will be impossible."
"Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her." Lu. 1:34-38.
Has God ever called on you to do "the impossible?" Maybe it was a ministry or task within the Church that you did not feel qualified to do. Maybe it was to abandon a sin issue in your life which you had tried for years to end. Perhaps it was to take a "leap of faith" and leave a career that left no time for service in Christ's kingdom.
I'm sure many of us have had or still have those areas of our lives that we need to surrender to Christ and trust that He will give us the equipping or the strength or the daily provision to be submitted to His will. Usually in these cases, FEAR is our worst enemy. FEAR tells us "You can't do this!" Truly FEAR is a part of our fallen human nature.
To the many of you who live in FEAR that God cannot or will not help you with these "impossible" challenges, I give you Mary. Mary was likely 13 or 14 years old when the Angel Gabriel told her of the most unique ministry she must perform for God. She freely confessed that she could not understand "how" this miraculous birth could occur since she was single and apparently not to become Joseph's wife anytime soon. She likely could have given 1,000 reasons (excuses) why she was not right for the job. But she didn't. She simply trusted God and He did the rest. Her response in v.38 validates that inside this young heart was a servant who trusted God to make up for her inadequacies.
The Apostles Paul, Peter and the New Testament author James each chose to refer to themselves as "a bond servant of the Lord." A bond servant is one who has voluntarily placed himself in the service of another. In the case of these men and Mary, the other was Christ Jesus. Before any of us can have the "true heart of a servant" we must defeat FEAR. FEAR will only be defeated when we trust Christ. Check out what Jesus promised those who "put the kingdom first" in Mt. 6:31-33. God never fails the faithful...Think about it...David
"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isa. 9:6. To most of us who have a relationship with Christ Jesus this is a familiar passage. It is a prophecy concerning the birth of Christ. Here Isaiah reveals to us four names by which the Savior would be called. Each is grand and majestic and speaks to Jesus' pre-eminence, power, wisdom and glory.
In Scripture Jesus is referred to by nearly 150 different names, titles and personifications. Among these are Christ, the Son of the Most High, the Bread from Heaven, the Good Shepherd, the Alpha and Omega and Emmanuel. The name by which Jesus most often referred to Himself was Son of Man. Seventy-seven times Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man.
It is an appropriate title. It infers that God chose to become man. I like the idea that God chose to become man. It means that He has experienced everything that I go through and with the same feelings that I would have. Literally the Son of Man has walked many miles in our shoes! He knows my disappointments, my fears, my joy, my grief, and my anxieties. He has been there!
The Hebrew writer is quick to point out to us that Jesus' life experience from a human perspective leads Him to be able to understand and have empathy for our struggle. In Heb. 4:15 we are told, "For we have not a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin." What a comforting thought to know that the Son of God is also the Son of Man and understands just how I feel. Think about it...David.
Do you remember the most anticipated Christmas that you experienced as a child? That one year that you really wanted that one toy more than anything you had ever wanted. My most anticipated Christmas as a child was the year I got a new bicycle. It was a three speed "Sting ray", lime green in color with a sparkling green banana seat and knobby tires. I anticipated getting that bike for over three months. And it was well worth the wait!
Somethings are well worth the wait. Waiting for the right spouse. Waiting for the right job. Waiting for the best deal on a car or a home all fall in this category. Unfortunately, sometimes we get tired of waiting. A hasty decision might only cost us money or time lost, but sometimes it will haunt us for the rest of our life.
God can easily identify with the value of waiting patiently. After He had created a perfect world and two perfect people God watched as the sin of Adam and Eve literally destroyed His perfect work. But being God He already knew that was going to happen and already had a plan to restore His creation and redeem mankind from sin. The only catch was that it wouldn't happen immediately.
From the moment of sin in Genesis 3:6 until the resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 28:6 approximately 4,000 years came and went. Yet God waited patiently. Paul comments on God's timing in Gal. 4:4,5, saying, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."
God's plan worked out over a period of 4,000 years. All the details; people, places, kingdoms, triumphs, losses, miracles, prophecies, sins, revivals, apostasies practically too numerous to list had to occur before you and I could be saved from our sins! It did not simply happen in one single day! Yet God was patient and God was faithful.
So, when you are impatiently awaiting that answer to prayer; the restoration of relationship, the healing of a spouse, happier times, the arrival of a child or any other event that you have prayed countless times for, remember this: Everything comes in God's time, not your time. Be patient. Be faithful. And above all things be prayerful as you await the time when God will grant your petition. Good things happen when we wait. Think about it....David
Many of our heroes of the faith had moral failures. Peter denied the Lord thrice on the night of His betrayal. Samson was immoral and violated his Nazrite vow repeatedly. The prophet Jonah thought he could ignore the call that God had placed on him to go preach against Nineveh. Lot became drunk and slept with his two daughters. Even Abraham showed a lack of faith in God on at least three occasions.
Most of us are aware of the sin of King David. David was said by God to be "a man after My own heart", yet in spite of his wonderful relationship with God the Father, David committed heinous sins before God. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, though he had several wives and concubines. Then when he realized that her pregnancy would reveal his sin before all Israel David had her husband Uriah killed. David literally gave the command that Uriah should be murdered. You can read of David's sins in 2 Samuel chapter 11.
Ultimately God had Nathan the prophet confront David about his sin. David then recognized and repented of his sin. Though he was forgiven still there were consequences; the child would die and one of David's sons, Absalom would betray him. Anytime we sin there are some consequences we must still bear.
David records his own prayer to God concerning his sin and his desire to be forgiven in Ps. 51. It is not only a beautiful prayer, but it also reveals a truly penitent heart. In v. 2 we read, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." In v. 7, David continues saying, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." And in v.10, "Create in me a clean heart, O' God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." David's desire was not only to be forgiven, but also restored.
The wonderful thing about our relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ is that even when we fail we can still be forgiven and restored. All we need is to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness. A helpful resource on this matter can be found in 1 Jn. 1: 5-10. Think about it....David
"Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he wads one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered with their fathers, another generation rose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel." Jdgs. 2:8-10
The generation of Joshua was the generation of Israel that that inherited the promised land of Canaan. They had first-hand evidence of God. They had experienced His power when He dried up the Jordan River to allow them to cross. They watched as He leveled the mighty walls that surrounded Jericho. They beheld the ground splitting open and swallowing Achan who had sinned against God, as well as his family. Yet once this generation had passed, their children DID NOT KNOW GOD!
How could that be? Simple, the Israelites did not teach their children about God. They failed to praise God in the presence of their children. They did not boast of the great blessings they had received from God's hand.
Beloved, their is great danger to our children when we fail to teach them the reality of God! When we fail to share the story of the One True God with our children they often accept the false gods of this present age that CANNOT SAVE THEM! When we fail to tell them that God loved all men so much "that He gave His only begotten Son" for their sins, they will likely die in their sins and WILL BE LOST FOR ETERNITY! When we fail to share the pattern of teachings found in the New Testament that tell us exactly what the real Church that was founded by the real Jesus practiced and believed, then we leave them with the erroneous concept that ANY CHURCH WILL DO!
We must teach our children the Bible! We must see to it that their view of God, Jesus and His Church is correct and meshes with Scripture. True New Testament Christianity is always only one generation removed from vanishing when the older generation fails to do their part. Truth matters, let no one deceive you. As God, Himself declared in Deut. 6:6,7, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." Think about it...David
"For we know that if our earthly house, this tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven." 2 Cor. 5:1,2
Most of us do not like to think of our death. This is natural because we fear the great unknown. What happens once we die? Most of us whether we have chosen Christ or not are a little unsettled in what will become of us.
Paul refers to our body here as our earthly house, our tent. The fact that he refers to our bodies as tents is of great significance because a tent is never meant as a permanent structure, only a temporary measure. And so it is for those who trust in Christ our bodies are only temporary as is our lives here on earth. There is something much better. Something permanent. Something eternal. It here called "our habitation which is from heaven." And it is not made by "hands". Instead it comes from God, the perfect engineer, the flawless designer, the authority on what is best for all men.
Most of us are never happy with our bodies. We are too short or too tall. We are too skinny or as is the case most often, too fat. If we have straight hair we would rather have curls. And of course "brunettes want to be blondes." This lack of contentment stems from the curse of sin. The perfect creation was spoiled and God's design for us was damaged. Beloved only God can make you what you want to be. I am ever convinced that what God chooses to clothe us with in eternity will not only be flawless, but also will make us content with our new and eternal appearance.
So do not fret and worry over the decay of our human bodies. It was only a temporary covering. One that will one Day be replaced by a perfect body given to us by a Perfect God to all who trust in His Perfect Son Christ Jesus. Be encouraged and Think about it! David.
Years ago on Christmas Eve I discovered my water pipes were frozen, so I crawled under my house to begin the long process of thawing out the water line. Moments later I heard a friendly voice, asking the question, "Did your pipes freeze?' It was a neighbor, who quickly volunteered to help me with my problem. After a quick trip to a hardware store for heating tape and pipe wrap and the heat from a small propane torch wielded by my neighbor, we managed to solve the problem in roughly three hours.
That neighbor had been a great source of help to me in my time of need. Gene Mosley was his name and I doubt if I will ever forget his kindness and his desire to help his clueless 27 year old neighbor.
You and I have a helper who is available to us in this life. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. In Heb. 13:5,6 we are told, "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you, So we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" The Lord's help to us is two-fold. First he supplies our needs. When we accept this fact we will overcome our temptation towards covetousness. This point is brought to bear in Mt. 6:33 where we are told by the Lord, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." If you and I are faithful to Him and trust Him, He will never cease to meet our needs. Secondly, the Hebrew writer tells us there is no need for us to fear anything that man may do to us. We live in times where violence and cruelty are ever increasing. With Christ it does not matter what man may do to us. To this point Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5: 7,8, "For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present in the Lord." Should we perish we have not lost a thing, but instead we have gain our reward in Christ.
Is there a greater helper to be found? One who supplies our needs. One who has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you? May the Lord be your helper. For there is none to have with you as you walk through the uncertainty that is this life. Think about it...David
What makes church feel like home? Though proper doctrine and practice are essential, we must realize that the church is a family. All who are in Christ are a part of this family. We are brothers and sisters and as such we are all obligated to practice hospitality to one another.
The writer of Hebrews makes a great point that God's people should be given to hospitality. In Heb. 13: 1,2 we read, "Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels." I suspect that the Hebrew writer had in mind the hospitality that Abraham showed the heavenly visitors who showed up at his tents in Gen. 18. One of these three visitors is identified as "the Lord", and it is commonly believed this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ Himself. On that day Abraham gave rest and refreshment to these three "strangers."
The point that is firmly established by the Hebrews author is that God sees our hospitality or lack thereof. And while one may not be literally entertaining an angel, it is still our duty to promote love within the body of Christ by hosting others in our homes. In the post modern era of the church this seems to be a lost grace. With many of us not wanting such intrusions of our privacy. Yet we must always realize that we are expected to be different from the ordinary citizens of this world. Paul in Phil. 3:20 reminds us that "our citizenship is in heaven." This truth alone should cause us to make a serious effort to open our homes to the brethren. The family of God is a wonderful thing. It is to bad that many will never experience the joy and love of true fellowship with the brethren on this side of eternity. Think about it...David
"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." Col. 4:5,6. A new day for the believer in Christ is not just a gift, but also an opportunity. It is an opportunity that must be used wisely.
Those who are outside of Christ Jesus are watching us. Do they see our joy? Do they see the difference in our behavior. In our priorities? If they do then we are truly "redeeming the time." Another way of saying this is, "make everyday count for Christ Jesus." After all He is the Lord of our life. We should glorify Him in all that we do. Col. 3:17
The "lost" do not read the Bible, nor do they frequent churches looking for eternal life. To them we are the Bible and we are the only sermon that they may hear. For this reason we must "walk in wisdom". Understanding that they may only be reached through our efforts and examples.
It is too easy to get side tracked in the worries and cares of this life. When we do we can come across as discouraged and less than joyful. When this happens the "lost" hear the same negatives that everyone else around them are expressing.
Beloved we have true joy because "our names are written in heaven." (Lu. 10:20) Even when everything is crumbling we have this great promise that Paul constantly reminded himself of; "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8:18. Knowing this let us be ever mindful of putting our best foot forward to those who do not know Christ. Think about it...David
Who has the most influence on your life? Your parents? A teacher? A political party? A spouse? A mentor? Maybe a philosophy or religion? All of these will ultimately shape the way we act and think.
For the Christian it is Christ who ought to have the greatest influence on our lives. Paul in Gal. 3:27 tells us, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." His point is that upon our rebirth in Christ we begin to live a life that should change how we act, how we think, how we behave and what truly guides us through life.
There are really three things that all disciples must embrace to become more like Christ. First we must die to sin. Paul makes this clear to us in Rom. 6:1-4. It is against the will of Christ for us to continue to live in sin. Secondly, we must employ the teaching of the Lord Jesus in our daily lives. Jesus stated that the wise man would "hear His teachings and do them." Mt. 7:24-27. And thirdly we must "follow Him". In Mt. 16:24 He tells all who would be disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." One must truly be committed to a life of serving the Lord. The very definition of the word "disciple" is "one who follows."
Now if this seems difficult, that's because it is. It is a process, not a sudden supernatural act. It takes years, maybe a lifetime. And be aware that you still will not be perfect on this side of eternity. The Apostle Paul, great follower of Christ understood that even his best efforts were still indicative of a need for improvement. In a verse that should serve as both encouragement and comfort for all of us, he said in Phil. 3:12, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Here Paul confesses that he was still striving, because he was lacking. So to we must "press on". But we must also realize that Christ "has laid hold" of us as well and we can rest assured that He will help us daily as we strive to do His will. Think about it...David
"Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O' what a foretaste of glory Divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of love. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood." The words are familiar and comforting. In Jesus we have this assurance if we continue to walk faithfully with Him.
We have had our sins forgiven through the blood of Christ. (Eph. 1:7) We have received the mark of the circumcision that is not of human hands when we were baptized into Christ. (Col. 2:11,12). The grace of God has saved us. (Eph. 2:8) We are saved, but yet we still often fall short of the standard that Christ expects of us. And sometimes we are troubled with doubts about whether we are indeed saved. After all, we supposedly have died to sin. (Rom. 6:1,2) Are we right to feel this way?
The answer as is always the case, is found in the Scriptures. In 1 Jn. 1:7-9, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Here John reveals two great truths about walking faithfully in Christ. The first is that if we are "walking in the light" our sins will continue to be forgiven. This is not to be interpreted as our past sins, but rather our future sins. If we are striving to follow Christ and apply His teachings to our lives, then even when we stumble, we will be forgiven! This does not apply to "willful sin" as the Hebrew writer points to in Heb. 6:4-6, but rather it pertains to the believer who strives daily to "walk in the light".
The second great truth is that we must "confess our sins". The truth is that WE WILL SIN, even after we have repented and been baptized into Christ. Salvation guarantees forgiveness not perfection! So each day as I come to God in prayer I must confess my sins, both the ones I am aware of and the one's I might have forgotten. This will guarantee that I enjoy the gift of continual cleansing.
So the great lesson for every child of God is that though we might stumble as we walk in the light, our daily confession on our sins will cover us with the blood of Christ Jesus. While conscience is most often a good barometer of our spiritual health, we must acknowledge that try as we might we will never be perfect on this side of eternity. Keep walking in the Light and cling to that "Blessed Assurance". Think about it.
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20 Indeed these are some of the most beautiful words ever penned, "I have been crucified with Christ." All of us should seek to die with Christ if for no other reason than to be saved.
To my knowledge no other religion requires that one die to self as Christianity does. But for most this is not an easy task. By nature we are selfish. We want what we want. Self-sacrifice goes against everything that culture encourages us to be. Yet like Paul we too must be dead to self.
Jesus made it clear to all that our freedom as His followers was not without cost. In Jn. 8:31,32 Jesus encouraged a number of Jews who had begun to believe in Him with these words: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Here we find the key principle to our dying to self; it is to obey or abide in the "words" or teachings of Christ. Our lives must be surrendered to His will. No exceptions.
This principle requires that WE KNOW His teachings. Sadly there are many churches that now refuse to accept some of the Lord's teachings. Some encourage the most common form of idolatry; the desire to have God always subject to our will. Some, especially within the "word of faith" movement, blatantly encourage covetousness. And now, more and more are willing to accept sexual immorality.
Because false teachers abound, as do false churches we must NEVER accept any man or woman's teaching without question. We also must do as the people of Berea did in Acts 17:11 when Paul was preaching and teaching Christ there. Luke says of them, "they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether those things were so."
With this in mind we all must search the Scriptures to be able to validate or refute what is being offered to us by those who claim to be ministers of Christ. The greatest asset to living a life surrendered to Christ is a sound knowledge of His teachings. So study the Gospels. They are the record of Our Lord's teachings. Preserved so you and I might "know the truth and the truth shall set us free." Study what He taught that you might be "dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 6:11 Think about it.
The times we live in are quite dangerous! Just watch the news on a regular basis and you will know what I mean. Recently I heard a news report which informed me that over the weekend fifty-nine people had lost their lives in the greater Chicago area because of gun violence. This was not the total of one mass shooting, but instead, a person here and a person there.
When we hear such terrible news, we often feel a need arm ourselves that we might defend ourselves. We do have a constitutional right to do so. But how does God feel about a child of God who is prepared to wound, injure or kill another human being?
In the Old Testament God's people not only defended themselves as individuals, but as a nation as well. Some of God's best known servants wielded the sword. Abraham did. Joshua did. David did. Of course they for the most part acted on God's will.
But what of God's will for His people today? The Lord Jesus told His followers to "turn the other cheek" Mt. 5:39, and to "love your enemies", Mt. 5:44. Do we as Christ's followers REALLY feel that way? Are we prepared to set aside our rights when we are threatened?
Paul instructed the church in Philippi to, "Do all things without complaining or disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Phil. 2:14,15.
So here is the wisdom of God concerning our right to kill or hurt others in an effort to defend ourselves. First, the only threat to you and I comes from those who are sinners. Those who are not God's children. Secondly, we are called to SHINE as lights in this world. We are to be different! Jesus said as much in Mt. 5:14-16. If I act in darkness, I CANNOT be light! And thirdly, to that extent the child of God MUST be "harmless". I am not free to harm or injure anyone at my discretion because God says I must be different!
This teaching from the Lord is not very popular in a world where we cherish our rights. However anyone who is in Christ must surrender to HIS authority if he wants to be Jesus' disciple, ( Jn. 8:31,32, Lu. 9:23). So to this end, as in all cases we must make every attempt to do the will of Christ. If we choose not, then we may not be truly His disciple. Think about it....
Most of us can honestly say that we have received many things of which we are grateful for. Perhaps it was a birthday or Christmas present that we really wanted. Maybe it was job that we desperately needed. Maybe it was a stranger who saw we were having car trouble and came to our rescue. It might have been a debt that we couldn't pay that we were forgiven of.
Whatever the case, we likely expressed our gratitude with very sincere thank yous, maybe a card, or a small heartfelt gift. A former neighbor whose small yard adjoined mine once baked me a pan of brownies because I had mowed their small yard every time I mowed mine one summer. The brownies were delicious and it felt good to be appreciated.
But in some instances we have likely found that we could never do or say enough for someone else' act of kindness. Such was the case in Luke, chapter seven, when Jesus was invited to the home of a Pharisee named Simon. As Jesus sat at the table, a woman who was known by Simon to be a sinner, likely a prostitute came to Jesus and washed his feet with her tears. She then dried the Lord's feet with her hair. Then taking an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, she anointed His feet with this oil.
Jesus, knowing what was in Simon's heart told him a story of two men who owed sums of money to a certain creditor. One owed 500 denarii, the other 50. The creditor forgave both because neither had the money to pay him. Jesus then asked Simon, "which of them will love him more?" Simon logically stated, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more."
After Jesus had reminded Simon of all that the woman had done to show her love for Him and reminded of the social customs which Simon had failed to show the Him, Jesus then amplified Simon's own answer to the Lord's story. In Lu. 7:47, "Therefore I say to you, her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."
You and I owed God a debt that we could not pay. That debt was paid by Jesus, though Jesus owed nothing to us. Paul pointed to this in Rom. 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly." Does your life show the kind of gratitude that the sinful woman showed Christ?
"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen." Mt. 6:13. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Mt. 6:8-15 He clearly asks that they pray, "Lead us not into temptation." The question arises, "Why would a God who loves us and desires the best for us ever lead us into temptation?" To say the least it seems as if this is contrary of a loving God. But yet we know these words are the words of the Savior and therefore must be true.
The answer would seem to be that while God does not tempt us Himself, He does at times "test" us. This was true of Abraham in Gen. 22:1-14, when He asked Abraham to "offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering." In this instance, while God asked Abraham to do something immoral and contrary to God's general character, God would have never allowed Abraham to actually sacrifice his son. In short, Abraham could only fail this test if he never purposed in his heart to offer up Isaac.
Temptation, on the other hand comes from within. James verifies this for us in Jas. 1:12-15. James clearly states that the source of temptation comes from our own "desires". Sinful desires are a part of the sinful nature of man. A nature that should in time change after one has obeyed the Gospel of Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17, Rom.12:2
Our perspective on temptation is often incorrect. Because James tells us in Jas. 1:12 that there is a "crown of life" to be gained if we love Christ more than any pleasure or treasure that yielding to temptation might bring. Paul reminds us as well that "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Literally God always gives us an escape hatch.
So while God does test us, it is our own sinful desires that tempt us. It is a mark of Christian maturity when we pass the test and refuse to submit to sin.
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Col. 3:17. So you talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? It's a question we who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior must ask ourselves periodically. Is my life wholly surrendered to treating others with love and dignity, regardless of how they may treat me? Or do I just love those who love me. You know Jesus said, "Even the tax collectors do the same." Mt. 5:46
What if everyone I ran into today was Jesus? My boss, my wife, the clerk at the store, the guy who delivers my pizza, or even the couple that live next door. Would I act differently? I'm sure I would.
The truth is that anyone I encounter ought to receive my brightest smile. Don't they all deserve an encouraging word? Would I complain as much as I currently do if Jesus was my foreman? Of course not. Jesus would always get a cheerful employee ready to do a good days work.
The point is this; Jesus wants everyone I serve, work for or encounter to get the royal treatment. Be my best, do my best to everyone I come in contact with. That is so unlike the rest of the world. Right? But, then again Jesus expects us to be different from the world. The Greek word for "church" means "the called out". And that is exactly what Jesus wants you and I to be. Called out of the world, called out of sin and called out of our self-interest. So glorify Christ Jesus in all you do!
Mt. 5:223,24 "Therefore if you bring your gift before the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Growing up with a brother two years younger than myself I discovered that I could play the part of the bully anytime I wanted to play with something that he was playing with. I'm sure he would agree that I got away with that kind of behavior frequently.
But sometimes I got caught. And when I got caught there were consequences. Usually a "switching" or a few lashes with Dad's belt. This was their way of keeping peace in the family. And over time it worked. By the time I had entered the teenage years I recognized that if my relationship with my brother wasn't good, then my relationship with my father would not be good either.
Jesus makes it clear to all who desire to worship God the Father that our relationship with our church brethren must be good. If it isn't then there will be a major consequence; God won't accept our worship!
Just as there will be relationship issues in any earthly family, there will, from time to time be relationship issues between members of the family of God. When we ignore our wrongs against our brethren there are two huge risks we run. First we risk causing the brother we have hurt to stumble or fall. But even if he doesn't fall God will still hold us accountable for making things right. His punishment is that He won't receive our worship.
So how would you like to have to explain to God someday why you refused to apologize to another member of the body of Christ? The easy answer is that we wouldn't like that task. But yet, hear what Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." I think this knowledge really puts everything in proper perspective. Don't you? Think about it.
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?- Unless indeed you are disqualified." 2 Cor. 13:5
"Christians are not perfect, only forgiven." The quote is not attributed to anyone, yet it is just as true as Scripture. In spite of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and the on-going work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are still vulnerable to sin. While the grace of God will cover our sins provided that we ask for forgiveness, we must realize that God's will for our lives is that we be free from sin and "slaves to righteousness." Rom. 6:17,18.
But what about sinful habits that we become complacent about? What about those areas of our lives that seem to always be a "work in progress"? Are there consequences for the Christian who seems to continue in sin?
Paul's reminder to us in 2 Cor. 13:5 should be a sobering reminder that our daily walk with Christ might very well be a daily struggle to overcome sin. Paul himself acknowledged the possibility that even he could be "disqualified", 1 Cor. 9:27. Wow! If the greatest missionary the world has ever known, the man who wrote nearly two thirds of the New Testament could be "disqualified" by sin, how much more can most of us?
Now don't start out on a never-ending guilt trip just because you recognize that you too have reoccurring sin issues in your life. While that is not what God wants, the very fact you recognize them means you are still capable of true heartfelt repentance. This alone means that God will still forgive you when you go to Him daily for help and forgiveness. 2 Cor. 7:10, Jas. 5:16.
The advice Paul gives us to "examine ourselves" is needful to all. After all, we all want to please God. Self examination not only leads to true repentance, but to a greater desire to improve oneself. Intense prayer accompanied by regular fasting can be a great tool for overcoming these sin issues. Finding a trusted brother or sister in Christ in whom you can confide your needs to, is well within the context of Jas. 5:16. Therefore examine yourselves to see if you re in the faith. May God bless you richly.