The Right Kind of Hatred

 

Amos 5:15


Introduction


We live in a culture that detests moral absolutes. The greatest wrong in the opinion of some is to say that something is wrong or right. “We all have our own alternative lifestyles!” is the not so happy attitude of people who envision a society without consequences. Such a viewpoint only breeds social chaos, and with the approval of the media and the courts, we are fast descending into the pit.
In contradiction to the contemporary foolishness, God tells us that there are certain attitudes, actions, and words that are right and others that are wrong. I think that all Christians recognize the truth of that statement. However, the Lord will not allow us to remain at the level of mere intellectual assent. He demands the involvement of our emotions and will. He wants us to delight in the truth (1 Cor 13:6), and he wants us to hate evil, which is the teaching of our text. We have to come to grips with the fact that there is a right kind of hatred—the kind that God also has.
Point: As God’s image bearers, we are to reflect his glory by being like him. This means that we must respond in life situations in conformity with his will. Usually, this is going to require us to love God and love our neighbors. But to love properly, there are some things that we must hate.

Amos 5:15
Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.


Exposition:

I.    We must hate sin out of obedience to God’s command.
A.    What do we mean by “hate”?

1.    Hate is the opposite of love. If we are to understand what the Bible means by this command, we must see it in contrast to love. John Piper defines love as “the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others.” [Desiring God, p. 103] Love understands the ultimate worth of God, rejoices in him, and wants to share that joy with others, even at the cost of pain to the lover. Thus a man or a woman will work long hours and deny himself or herself some personal satisfaction to be more highly satisfied with the joy of his or her beloved.
2.    In contrast with this, hate understands the unworthiness of something, does not set its affection on it, and will not seek its satisfaction. It understands that what should be hated deserves wrath and leaves it in the realm of wrath.

B.     Hatred, like love, can be perverted. Love can mutate into lust and hatred into malice.

1.    However, both emotions are right when they reflect the character of God. When his will (expressed in the Scriptures) says that I should do something or refrain from doing something else, God’s will must be my standard, and not my understanding of the situation.
2.    The command to hate evil is not an optional matter. We may not pick and choose a subset of words, actions and attitudes out of the Bible. We must obey this command of God (Rm 12:9).
Illustration: God’s will is not like ordering a cheeseburger at Cheeburger, Cheeburger. We cannot form our life choices out of “suggested content”. We must mold our choices according to God’s choices.

Transition: So we hate evil out of obedience to God’s command, and…

II.    We must hate sin out of conformity with God.

A.    Sin God detests evil (Hab 1:13), we also must hate it.

1.    This demands that we have Biblical ideas about God.
Action Step: To help you learn from the Bible, you can use Packer’s Knowing God or Pink’s The Attributes of God.
2.    In our knowledge of the Lord, our Father expects us to manifest a change of character (Eph 4:20-24). Notice in the following context how this demands that we hate evil as well as delight in righteous conduct.
3.    As we grow in understanding of the word of God, we come to understand that we must hate every wrong path (Ps 119:104). We learn to distinguish good from evil.

B.    The Lord Jesus Christ is an example of hating evil. Ps 45:7; Heb 1:9

1.    His hatred of evil is clear in the cleansing of the temple (Jn 2:13-17).
2.    His hatred of evil is plain when he denounced the Pharisees (Mt 23).

C.    God’s hatred of sin is displayed preeminently at the cross of Christ.

1.    Why did God put his beloved Son to grief? Why did he crush the Son he had full pleasure in? The answer is his hated of sin. Is 53:5-6, 10; cf. 2 Cor 5:21
2.    Hatred for sin is learned at the foot of the cross of Christ.

a.    When we look by faith and say, “Ah, it was for my sin that he suffered,” then sin begins to lose its attraction and we develop hatred for it.
Comment: All the paintings of the crucifixion lack the awesome wonder that faith sees!
b.    Would you want to use the knife that killed your father?

Transition: So we hate evil out of obedience to God’s command; we hate evil out of conformity to God, and…

III.    We must hate sin in order to grow in holiness.

A.    We must view sin as something that God hates.

1.    Sin is something that is against God (Gen 39:9; Ps 51:4; Is 1:2).
2.    Therefore, we cannot flirt with sin. In a practical way, this is only going to occur as we delight in the Lord. If we do not make him and what he loves the object of our affections, then we will find it far too easy to flirt with sin.

B.    We cannot be selective in hating sins. Ps 119:127-128

1.    We cannot be selective about the type of sin. Who do we deceive when we want to part ways with every sin, except one? We deceive only ourselves.
2.    We cannot be selective about the time of hating sin. We must hate it consistently and constantly.

Illustration: Remember the Roman senator who closed every speech with the words, “Carthage must be destroyed!” So we must utterly reject sin.
~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church
Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church
 

Transformed by God: New Covenant Life and Ministry

CMC Editor: This review courtesy The Gospel Coalition

 
David G. Peterson’s
Transformed by God: New Covenant Life and Ministry.
Downers Grove: IVP, 2012. 192 pp. $20.00.

 
Anyone familiar with the work of David Peterson has come to expect work of the highest caliber. His numerous books always exhibit a thorough exegesis, a careful reading of texts within the storyline of Scripture, and a practical application for the church. Transformed by God is no exception. The first four chapters were originally given as a series of lectures in May 2011 at the Oak Hill College Annual School of Theology in London, England. Peterson served as the Principal of Oak Hill from 1996 to 2007 before assuming his present post of senior research fellow and lecturer in New Testament at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia. Since giving the lectures, he added two more chapters to complete the book.
As Peterson notes in the “Introduction,” the purpose of the book is to expound upon the Bible’s teaching regarding the new covenant. Peterson argues that the new covenant” is central to NT thinking about the saving work of Christ and the way it is appropriated by believers” (p. 15). It is only when we grasp the nature of the new covenant, Peterson insists, that we will understand “the differences between pre-Christ and post-Christ experiences of God” and how “the Christian dispensation is a fulfillment and perfection of the covenant first established by God with Abraham and his offspring” (p. 15), let alone comprehend the profound practical implications for Christian ministry. Such areas as evangelism, the nurture of believers, and NT teaching on perseverance, growth, and change are all grounded in new covenant realities.
Chapter 1, “The New Covenant in Jeremiah,” begins by setting the stage for the subsequent chapters. It is a model in exegesis and biblical theology. Peterson discusses Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy (Jer 31:31-34) by placing it first within the book of Jeremiah and then in relationship to other OT prophets who also speak of and anticipate the dawning of the new covenant age (e.g., Isa 11:16-20; 42:6; 49:8; 54-55; Joel 2:28-29;Ezek 11:17-20; 36:26-28; 37). By doing so, he avoids atomistic exegesis and demonstrates that the new covenant promise includes a larger hope that includes the anticipation of a new Davidic king, a new Zion tied to a new creation, a new community comprised of Jews and Gentiles, and most significantly a new act of salvation. Peterson also contends that in the OT, when the new covenant dawns, all of the previous covenants in redemptive-history are “reaffirmed and fulfilled” (p. 39; cf. pp. 42-43). In this way, the new covenant is no mere renewal of the older covenants; it is “new” and specifically in three areas: (1) God writes the law “on their hearts” (Jer 31:33) thus fulfilling God’s promise to circumcise the heart of his people (Deut 30:6) so that they will love and obey God wholeheartedly; (2) the entire covenant community will “know the Lord” salvifically, which includes the elect from Israel and from the nations; and (3) the new covenant will be an unbreakable covenant given the definitive forgiveness of sins it achieves (Jer 31:34). “Radical forgiveness is the basis for the promised spiritual and moral transformation of the people” (p. 35).
In the remaining five chapters, Peterson develops how the new covenant promise is worked out in the NT, first in Jesus and then in its application to the church. In chapter 2, “Israel and the Nations Renewed,” he begins with Luke-Acts. Not only does Jeremiah’s prophecy provide the interpretative key to the Last Supper (Luke 22:20), but throughout Luke-Acts, the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption for Israel and the nations is viewed in new covenant terms. Peterson nicely demonstrates how central the new covenant is to Luke-Acts by walking through the opening chapters of Luke, which announce the coming of Christ in new covenant categories; examining Christ’s ministry, which uniquely focuses on the centrality of forgiveness of sins in him; and unpacking Christ’s cross, resurrection, and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost and the incorporation of the nations into God’s people. Specifically, he develops the crucial Christ-Spirit link that brings to fulfillment OT expectation. In the new covenant, the Spirit “is not simply given to equip believers for service but to make possible the sort of transformed relationship with God promised in passages such as Isaiah 32:15-17; 44:2-5; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27” (p. 64).
In chapter 3, “The Renewal of Worship,” Peterson turns to Hebrews, where Jeremiah’s prophecy is more directly prominent than any other NT book. He nicely links Christ’s high priestly work to the new covenant promises and how Christ’s substitutionary death is what is necessary to secure the definitive forgiveness Jeremiah anticipated. At the heart of the problem with the old covenant is sin. Fundamentally, the old covenant was unable “to maintain the people in faithfulness to God and to prevent them from experiencing his wrath” (p. 82). But in Christ, sin is definitely dealt with, a new heart is now secured, and the new covenant promises now become a reality in our lives in an “already-not yet” fashion. In addition, Peterson wrestles with the warnings of Hebrews in light of the unbreakable nature of the new covenant. He concludes that genuine Christians cannot fall away, yet people “can be caught up in a group experience, without being genuinely converted. . . . Hebrews has in view those who see clearly where the truth lies, conform to it for a while, and then, for various reasons, renounce it” (p. 97). Ultimately all true believers persevere to the end. As in every chapter, Peterson concludes by drawing helpful pastoral application. In this case, he challenges Christians to maintain the balance between warning and assurance, urging us to press on in the knowledge of God and his grace with the accent on the assurance of sins forgiven in Christ.
In chapters 4-6, Peterson focuses on “New Covenant Ministry” (e.g., 2 Cor 3-4), “Hearts and Lives Transformed” (e.g., Rom 2:12-15, 25-29; 5:1-5; 6; 11:26-27; 12:1-2; Gal 4:24-28), and “The Transforming Knowledge of God” (e.g., John, 1 John 2:20). Peterson leaves no stone unturned as he sets each new covenant text within its immediate and then canonical context. He demonstrates that Jeremiah’s promise occurs everywhere in the NT and is foundational to the gospel itself. Ultimately what the new covenant brings is transformation: spiritually (in our relation to God), morally (enabling a new life of obedience and service), and physically (allowing us to share in Christ’s resurrection from death in a new creation). “What law was seeking to achieve for Israel is now accomplished for believers in Christ through the ministry of the gospel by the enabling of the Spirit,” and foundational to this knowledge is “the certainty of justification by faith and of trespasses not being counted against those who believe” (p. 126). All of these realities are central to the new covenant being worked out in the church.
The strengths of Peterson’s work are numerous: solid exegesis, biblical theology at its best, and application rooted in new covenant realities. The only weakness is I would have liked to see him apply some of his conclusions to ongoing debates within systematic theology, specifically the differences in how dispensational and covenant theology view the new covenant. Is the new covenant community the “new Israel”? If so, is there a future role for ethnic Israel? Is the new covenant community best viewed as a regenerate community or still a “mixed” entity like Israel of old? Given the tight linkage of the Spirit, forgiveness of sin/justification, and heart transformation for all those in the new covenant, must one not affirm that the church is a regenerate community, a people in faith union with Christ by the Spirit? If not, why not? If so, what implications does this have for ecclesiology? However, a book can only do so much, and regardless of this weakness, I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to think deeply about the glory of Christ and his new covenant work.
 
Dr Stephen J. WellumStephen J. Wellum
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky, USA

 
 

A Proper Diet

 

Will you be leaving too?

 
Jesus was a popular figure in his day, especially among the hungry, the lame, the blind, the unclean, and the despairing.  Enough so that among the privileged classes it was both a jealousy for their own standing and a fear of the unruly crowds that led them to crucify Jesus.  Yet at one point—as reported in John 6—even the devoted crowds abandoned Jesus.  That shift invites a bit of reflection because it speaks to our own worlds. In John 6 we find the summary of Jesus feeding the five thousand.
What followed? 
The crowds—possibly led by Zealots, an anti-Roman party of the day—began to stir a recruitment campaign in order to make Jesus their figurehead king.  Jesus would have nothing to do with it and quietly withdrew from the scene. The next day the crowds migrated to the location where Jesus was staying, to Capernaum, and started to press the issue again.
What did they want from him? 
A program of daily public feedings!  This was an expectation they felt they could demand of a divinely empowered leader because it was what Moses in the wilderness journey had done centuries before—he (actually God, but Moses was his spokesman) supplied the people with daily bread for year after year (verses 31-32).  This was a happy prospect for a crowd familiar with subsistence living!
Jesus, again, would have nothing to do with it:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  Here we have a question for our own hearts and for the church at large.  What motivates us as we come to Jesus?  Is it for our personal welfare?  For the benefits he offers us?  For the security of a benign but distant benefactor?
Jesus went on as he confronted his utilitarian followers:
“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give unto you.”  He then presented himself—the whole person—as the proper object of our deepest appetites.  We’re invited into a wholly devoted relationship, a relationship we describe as a loving devotion. At the end of that conversation the crowds left Jesus in droves.
The abandonment was so striking that Jesus even asked the twelve apostles, “will you be leaving too?” 
They stayed with him, of course, but his ministry was never the same numerically.  The cost was too great: he called for a personal response and devotion, not a pragmatic engagement.   He offered food for the heart, not food for the body.
The question for us to reflect on, then, is this: what defines our own deepest diet?  Some self-defined benefits; or a Christ-captured hunger for more of what he offers us in himself?
Any thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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The Spirit-Led Church in its Labor of Love: Final Instructions (3)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

 

We simply jump right back into this list of instructions….

Don’t seek personal revenge

Paul’s next command is to not seek revenge.

Verse 15: “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil.”

Revenge is not just tolerated today; it’s championed. You can’t avoid the image. Everywhere you go, everywhere you turn, it’s there. People are wired for it. ‘You do that to me, I’ll get you back, somehow.’ ‘You do me wrong and I’ll repay you equally.’ Payback: that’s what’s so wished for. People want justice. They want the score settled. And they, all too often we, want it done now.

The philosophers of Paul’s day were no different than our own. “Where vengeance follows most closely upon the wrong,” says one, “it best equals it and most amply requites [repays] it.” Seneca said that vengeance was legitimate. The commentator writes “In the Roman world, just as in the Greek, avenging oneself for a wrong done was necessary ‘because of the humiliation a Roman’s prestige suffered, if he showed himself reluctant to respond and retaliate for hostile acts. A Roman, governed by a harsh ethos, simply could not afford to ‘turn the other cheek’ and expect to maintain his position in society.'” In other words: No revenge. No honor.

The counsel of a Roman mother to her sons is also documented. “You will say that it is beautiful to make revenge on your enemies. I consider revenge as important and glorious as anyone,” said she.

The Instruction of Scripture

But the instruction of Scripture is quite different. Scripture forbids revenge. Personal payback has no place in the life of a believer.

In Romans 12:17 Paul says to not repay anyone evil for evil. Two verses later, in verse 19, he tells the Roman believers to not avenge themselves. “Never avenge yourselves,” he writes, “but leave it to the wrath of God … “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” One thing we can draw from this is how payback is really symptomatic of a tremendous pride. Avenging ourselves is really an exaltation of self to the place of God.

In 1 Peter 3:9, the apostle commands us “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling…”

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Proverbs 20:22. “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” So, payback is also a form of unbelief. Those who entrust themselves to a faithful God wait for him.

Proverbs 24:29. “Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”

So, don’t avenge yourself. If you’re humble and you trust in God, you won’t.

To be clear about this, I want to be specific. I want you to see how mixed up and distorted this can be. We’ve talked a bit about admonishing one another. Paul brings it up here. So that’s why we are. And that’s good because it’s an area we lack in. We don’t really admonish each other. If we’re honest about it, we don’t. We listen to each other. We make excuses for each other. We do all kinds of things, but we don’t admonish. Not really. And here’s why in part: We actually got this upside down. When a brother admonishes, that is an act of kindness and love. “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it (Psalm 141:5). But what do we do when rebuked? We treat it as if evil and hatred. We take offense often. And we seek revenge some subtle way. Or not so subtle. That’s upside down. That’s evil. No wrong has been suffered. But we all too easily act otherwise. We act as if wronged.

By the way, evil here is that which harms. It’s what’s harmful. It’s not merely the kind of payback one might see at the movies with guns blazing. It doesn’t need massive explosions to be evil. It doesn’t need horns and pitchforks and vampires to be evil. The devil doesn’t wear red. He actually masquerades as an angel. That’s what Paul says. “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). He doesn’t even wear black, for goodness sake. So, we must be about our wits. We must be alert and on our guard at all times. Devouring a church for dinner is on the devil’s bucket list. And one way he does that is through calling evil good and good evil. To admonish is good. To receive it is good. To seek revenge for it, in any number of ways, is that which is actually evil. Don’t get this mixed up and turned upside down.

Also, do not fail to notice this is a corporate responsibility. In other words, this is not merely a call for individuals to keep themselves from revenge. Rather, it’s a call to the entire church body to ensure it doesn’t happen. Paul says ‘See that no one repays evil for evil.’ He’s calling on the entire church to see this doesn’t happen. There is, in other words, a call to accountability in the thing. It’s a group project, and one that requires, again, admonishment.

Decisively strive to bless all.

The flip side of this is decisively striving to bless. Don’t avenge yourselves. Be a blessing instead.

“…always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”

This ‘seeking’ is to be very intentional. If not it won’t happen.

It is also to be very intense. Intentionally, and with intensity, do good to one another. This is so huge. We could spend many Sundays on this. And we might very well spend two.

Do Good to One Another

But doing good to one another; what does that look like?

Doing good to others is much more than shovelling sidewalks.

Well, it might include things like shovelling sidewalks. It’s keeping doors open for each other. It’s greeting one another, bringing meals to each other, praying for each other, and things like that. But that’s only the beginning of it. MUCH, if not everything I’ve mentioned, anyone can do. It doesn’t take someone indwelt by the Spirit of Christ to do these things. What Paul means is more, much more than shoveling driveways. What he means is in keeping with things such as…

Do good by keeping your word.

Do good by keeping your word. That’s what God did. And does. And will always do. God means what he says. Some of you don’t believe that, I know. O yes, you nod your head to the fact. You would never disagree, nor deny with your lips. But the way you live betrays you. You think your profession of faith is all you need. Pursuing righteousness, producing the fruits of repentance, and real affections for Christ do not interest you. Your life, your unexamined life, proves you don’t believe Jesus when he said, “Unless you repent [unless you be repentant and are in fact repenting; repentance is a life-long thing of producing the fruits in keeping with repentance, like thirsting to be with those who starve for Christ, like not demanding your own way, like refusing to covet the attention others get and you don’t, like presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice], you will all likewise perish” (Luke 3:5). Lord, have mercy and remove the scales of unbelief from the eyes of our hearts!

But God always and without fail keeps his word. “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). And that is good.

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalm 15:1-4).

Translation – His words are bonds. He would rather break a bone than his word. Does this not speak of God Himself? His words are a bond. He would rather crush His Son than break His promise!

There’s a cost to keeping our word! Keeping our word may often mean sacrificing something we treasure, like our comfort, or money, or pride. What the Scripture makes plain to us is the tremendous premium and value of a word kept. And so we should follow through on what we tell our spouses, our children, our friends. But we dare not forget our church. We dare not forget those who are over you in the Lord. [And in case you’re wondering, that isn’t John Piper or RC Sproul or John MacAarthur. In your case, that’s me. I’m over you in the Lord. You’re under me in the Lord. I’m not trying to exalt myself over you or anybody else. I’m just dealing with the verses before us. So, if you have an issue with this, take it up with Paul and the One for whom he speaks. Okay? The Word is the authority in this.] You are to do good to me by keeping your word to me. If you say you’ll show up, show up. If you say you’ll do something, do it, whatever that might be. Of course, that goes both ways. Our words to each other are bonds. We need to value them. We need to keep them. We need to make good on them and thus show we really care for each other. If we don’t keep our word to each other, we don’t love each other. It’s that simple. And that’s serious stuff.

Allow me to remind you of what we’ve said to each other.

Members, we’ve promised to walk together in Christian love, to strive together for the advancement of this church, to promote its prosperity and spirituality, to be faithful in our commitments, to maintain private and family devotions, to avoid all backbiting, slander, and unrighteous anger, to watch over one another in Christian love, to remember each other in prayer, to be slow to take offence, always ready for reconciliation; that’s just a partial list. We do good to each other if keep our word here. How served would this church be if we were faithful in these things, if we all were slow to take offence, especially when admonished? How served would we be if every member kept private and family devotions!

Our life together is nothing more than the sum total of who we are as individuals.

We cannot expect to burst with life on Sunday if there’s nothing but death Monday through Saturday. If there’s no feeding upon and communion with Christ during the week, our post-sermon chat will show it. You will speak to each other about the weather, your jobs, your families, your struggles, and even, shiver me timbers, the Calgary Flames. And there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that. But if our conversing never gets past those things, what does that say? Does it not speak of what we’ve stored up in our hearts? And does it not betray our word, our pledge, to strive together for the advancement of this church, to promote its spirituality, and maintain devotions? We speak out of that which fills the heart. Why is it that we do not exude Christ and bleed over each other with His word? C.H. Spurgeon – “The converse of saints on earth should be a rehearsal of their everlasting communion in heaven.” I love that. Church should be heaven on a stick, a foretaste of glory.

So, do good to each other by keeping your word. Be faithful to your word. Don’t be fickle with each other. I urge you in the Lord’s presence, and have every confidence in him, that you will view your words to each other as bonds.DBLP01

Do good by speaking truth to each other.

“It is impossible for God to lie.” And that is good. Speak truth to one another, Paul exhorts, “for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4.25). “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self which is being renewed…” (Colossians 3:9-10).

The command to speak truthfully is grounded in the body’s unity. Think about it. The eye cannot lie to the brain without consequence, sometimes serious consequences. You’re driving up the QE-2. Everything’s fine. Traffic is moving well. But you think you see a deer. You react. And there’s a twenty-car pile up, because you thought you saw a deer. Your eye lied. And many paid the price.

But other times false messages and disconnects may not be so consequential, at least at first. Sometimes the consequences manifest themselves over time. I’m no medical student. But it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in medicine to figure it out. If any part of the body gives or receives false information, dysfunction, and even death, is the consequence. Just think about it.

But here’s the point: The local church is a body. We not only sin when we deceive each other, we hinder the spiritual advancement of that body. And we even hasten its death. Speak truth to one another, Paul exhorts, “for we are members one of another.” Deceiving a brother is like deceiving yourself, ‘for we are members one of another.’ Personal, even private actions have corporate effects. A little yeast leavens the whole batch. And lies kill. And killing is not good; suicide is not good. That’s what deceiving each other is. It’s spiritual suicide, why? “We are members one of another.” The church is a body, and bodies have members and parts. When those parts sin by lies, it’s like death by a thousand dope injections.

Of course, we don’t lie to each other here. No one has ever been deceitful under my watch. I wish that were true. The truth is, that is not true. Oh, there may not have been blatant lies amongst us. Maybe not. But deception isn’t a blatant lie. Deception is craftier than that. Deception is underhanded; it mixes enough truth with untruth to make it believable. In fact, deception, or deceit, is a distortion of the truth. That’s the oldest trick in the Book, isn’t it? The snake lied. But he was crafty about it, subtle, clever, and cunning.

And if we take a look at it, we see this sinful action employed by those who were jealous. In Matthew 26.4, we find the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus. ‘They plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth.’ ‘Stealth’ is the rendering of the word for ‘deceit,’ or ‘guile.’ It’s very helpful; there’s stealthiness to deception. It’s there. But it’s under the radar, lurking about. And that’s very hard to deal with, isn’t it.

It’s tough to deal with. But it must be dealt with. Those given to it must stop it. We must guard against in ourselves. It’s sinful. It’s manipulative. It’s self-justifying. It brings reproach upon the name of the One you profess and His church. It breaks fellowship, hinders worship, and causes sinful division. Resolve this day to speak truth to your brothers and sisters, and especially yourself. That’s where it begins, right? Get real with yourself! And everyone, here’s a novel idea: why not admonish each other to speak truthfully to each other. If something doesn’t pass the smell test, if it doesn’t add up, say so to each other. Don’t enable sinful patterns. Encourage godly patterns. Be a sanctifying influence on each other. That’s what the church is for! That’s what genuine Christian fellowship is about. It’s about encouraging each other to kill sin by the Spirit. It’s about encouraging each other to pursue Christ and behold Christ and become like Christ.

Do good by walking in truth before each other.

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth…I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth” (3 John 1,4).

Truth is not simply something embraced and cherished and delighted over and treasured. Truth is walked in. Truth is lived. The faithful live in truth. Which means they walk in the light. Which means they know Christ. Which means 1 John 2:3. “And by this we know if we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

It’s addressed to Timothy. But it’s applicable to every believer: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). That’s tremendous. You want to serve the church? You want to do good to each other? Be an example. Be an example of what it means to be a Christian! Of what it looks like to love Christ and worship Christ and put Christ before all your earthly endeavors! Be an example of what it looks like to lay your life down for the sheep! Be resting in Him, fleeing sin, pursuing righteousness, committed to the church and its spiritual welfare! YES, that will cost you. Where did you get the idea that it would not? Not from the Bible! What the church, what this body needs from you, is your holiness. The church needs you to be holy. The church needs you to be walking in truth, and decisively so. We don’t need you if you are of two opinions. Choose this day whom you will serve! If Christ and His people, great! But anything less just won’t cut it.

Good is not at odds with pain because conformity to Christ is the goal.

Next. Doing good to others sometimes means causing them pain. And that means willing to be thought of as a jerk. I long to have a godly, Christ-entranced, Scripture-saturated elder beside me, and one who loves you so much he’s willing to call you out at the risk of bringing your wrath down on his head. Why? Because that would be most profitable. Doing good to another is not the same as making them feel better. Sometimes they must feel worse before they feel better. But feeling better isn’t even the goal. Being conformed to Christ is the goal. And that doesn’t happen apart from the odd spanking. Our dads, if they loved us, “disciplined us for a short time… but he [i.e. God the Father] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful… but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:10-11).

This is not the way most think. Most think doing good to others means protecting them from all pain. “If it hurts them, or troubles them, it can’t be good for them,” is the thinking. Well, I want to tell you that is all wrong. That’s the wisdom of man. But to the Bible it is folly.

In conclusion, I remind you that ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.’ Let our prayers be filled with petitions for much help in these things, for eyes that see, hearts that hear, and feet that walk the way that is indeed right according to His Word and not the folly of sinful minds. And may we examine ourselves – there is much reason here to do so, even to see if we are indeed in the faith… Where repentance is needed, let there be much of it. Amen.

____________________________

Todd is the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blacke, Alberta, Canada. After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary (M.Div), he served a Baptist church in eastern Ontario for six years before coming home to Alberta. He has been SGBC’s pastor since October 1, 2005.

Ministry to North Korean Refugees

 

Hannah Kim, a friend of mine from church, wrote this guest post for my blog about her interest in North Korean refugees. Please read and join her in praying for this people group.

 
TumenWhen I was 17, I briefly attended an unbiblical church. I was drawn in by the size of the youth group and the swirl of activity. There was plenty of discussion about wealth and prosperity, satanic back-masking in rock music, and spiritual gifts. But I don’t recall anyone talking about sin, repentance, sanctification, sacrifice, suffering, or living for the glory of God.
The youth ministry leader was 22 and a recent convert. Plenty of rumors swirled around him, but I gave them no credit until he invited me over to his townhouse. When he acted just like the non-churched men I knew and attempted to initiate a sexual relationship, I called him out. Then I turned him in to the senior pastor. As similar situations surfaced with other girls, much chaos and gossip ensued in the weeks that followed. I’d like to say that this all went down well, but it didn’t. It turns out that it is very costly to ignore both common sense (a single man only a few years older is leading the youth ministry?!) and Scripture’s guidelines about leadership (“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” 1 Tim. 3:6).
In the wake of this mess, I left that church and everything else to do with Christianity. I spent the next 12 years running from God, convinced I had seen the entire spectrum of faith and it was hollow and deceptive. But God, being rich in mercy (sweet, sweet words!), arrested my attention and regenerated my heart and faith on one Easter Sunday on a trip to South Africa. While I doubt I was genuinely regenerated as a teenager (my journals show little fruit), I still ponder that early church experience from time to time and how it dishonored the gospel.
Most recently, I recalled it as I read about a youth director in a local church who for five years was sexually involved with many girls from the youth group. The church did a poor job in vetting the hiring of this man (his previous employer told them about inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl), in considering the doctrine of sin (“the senior pastor said he was shocked to hear that his youth director could be involved in inappropriate behavior”), and in observing and correcting his questionablepublic interactions with the teen girls (cuddling, personal attention, partying). What’s commendable, however, is that the church has undergone a long, public transformation process to correct the problems and create a church responsive to victims of sexual abuse.
Nevertheless, over the past few months, I kept coming back to this one thought: we need to instill discernment in young girls so that they can more readily identify abusers and predators. This ought to be embedded in our Titus 2 discipleship, our parenting, and our youth group leadership. Now, please hear me out. I am not piling on condemnation for the girls who were involved in this particular case, nor their families. They have my sympathy. But as I read their accounts, I kept thinking about them and many other young women I know who have been tripped up by the same smooth lies. It’s the trend I want to address.
Predators and abusers offer the same routine each time — you’re special, no one else makes me feel this way, don’t tell anyone, here’s the justification for my questionable behavior, what we have is unique, etc. It never varies because it so consistently works. And you know why? I’m speaking broadly here, but I believe it is generally true: because the rest of us puff up the minds of girls with princess mythologies but we don’t (often) equip them to recognize that Prince Charming needs to have some character, not just sweet talk. I can’t tell you how many young women I’ve mentored who couldn’t connect those dots. And in fact, how many got defensive when you pointed out the gap between the words and deeds of the smooth dude in question.
Therefore, based on my own experience, this particular church incident, and the interactions I’ve had with other women, here are the initial basics of a discipling discussion about discernment that I think we should have with every budding teenager (boys need to know these standards, too):

  • If you can only remember one thing, this is it: What is legitimate and godly is done in the light, known by others, and doesn’t violate biblical standards. Anything you experience that is done furtively, in the dark, and kept secret is nearly always sinful.
  • Which means young women need to know biblical standards for godly living. They also need to know the Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 passage about the qualifications of leaders, so that they can recognize those who twist the Word for their own gain.
  • They need to know that a man who genuinely loves them will honor this relationship publicly, a love that is shown like a banner over them (Song of Solomon 2:4).
  • They need to know a godly man and a future husband is an imitator of God who walks in the light, avoiding sexual immorality, taking no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, and who desires to nourish and cherish his wife (all of Ephesians 5). Therefore, one who pursues sexual immorality and encourages them to lie and deceive others is not an imitator of God and needs to be confronted or exposed.
  • They need to know the standards of godly speech, so that a man (especially a man in authority!) who texts and talks to them nonstop about sex is automatically suspect in his motives, because this reveals the defiling overflow of his heart (Matt. 15:19).
  • They also need to recognize, in humility, that their desire for romance and pursuit is legitimate, but it can become the very thing that trips them up if they aren’t willing to acknowledge this is exactly how predators and abusers work the system. If they aren’t willing to consider that they are being lied to in any particular situation, they they aren’t going to ask the hard questions–of the men or themselves.
  • Love is an action. It is measured equally as much in the deeds of those who claim friendship or affection as it is in the proffered words. Make sure they match.

This are just some of my initial thoughts. I’d like to hear your perspectives, too. I don’t want young women to distrust men, but to be wise and discerning, able to question improper actions but also eager to encourage the godliness of others around them.
________________
Some blog posts are worth repeating. This is one of them. ~ CMC
Read the original post or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
 
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.
 

The Necessity of Love (Part II)

1 Corinthians 13:3

 
Introduction
With this message we will be continuing along in our study in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. Let me remind you very quickly of why Paul is talking about love here. 1 Corinthians 13 finds itself right in the middle of a discussion that Paul is having on the spiritual gifts. Paul is rebuking the church for misusing the gifts which God has given them. God has given spiritual gifts to the body of Christ for the purpose of building up the body. The Corinthians, however, were using their gifts not for the purpose of building up the body, but to exalt themselves. Many think that Paul is ADD or something. They wonder, why does Paul talk about gifts in chapter 12, love in chapter 13, and the gifts in chapter 14? Well, that statement is not entirely correct. Paul talks about the gifts all throughout chapter 13. Either way, Paul does not have ADD. The reason he talks about love in chapter 13 is because love is the answer (prescription, antidote) to their misuse of the gifts. If only the Corinthians were to pursue love above all things, they would not be using their gifts to exalt themselves, but to build up others.
You will remember from our previous study that I broke the chapter up into three sections:
1. In vss. 1-3 we learn about the necessity love,
2. In vss. 4-7 we learn about the nature of love, and
3. in vss. 8-13 we learn about the permanence of love.
Last week we looked at the first two verses in the first section. In vss. 1-2 Paul says that we are nothing if we do not have love, regardless of how gifted we might be. This week we will be spending all of our time on vs. 3.
 
1 Corinthians 12:3
Let’s go ahead and move long to vs. 3. I first want to explain what Paul is saying and then I will make a few concluding comments. Lets take a look at the passage.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul is here speaking to two things, self-sacrificial giving and self-sacrificial devotion. First he talks about giving away all he has. He then talks about giving up his body to be burned. Now this passage may come as a shock to many of you. Why? Because of many Christians have an inadequate understanding of what love is. A few weeks ago I defined for you what it means to love. I said that love is when you desire the good of another so much so that you are driven to act on their behalf. Many people say that love is an emotion. The majority of Christians understand that this is not an adequate view of love. After all, biblical love often times demands that we do things that we frankly do not want to do—love will demand that we do things that we don’t feel like doing. Because of this reality, I do sympathize with those who want to say that love is not a mere feeling. However, those who say that love is not a mere feeling end up trying to divorce affections and feelings from love altogether. They end up oversimplifying love by saying that love is not a feeling but a choice a decision a commitment. I have argued that true love will always result in decision, actions, choices, and commitments. However, it is not helpful to boil love down to a mere commitment.
What is the problem with divorcing the affections from love?
Well… 1 Corinthians 13:3. You can sacrifice all that you have—the ultimate decision, choice, commitment—and yet have not love. You can give away all you have and give it to the poor and yet not have love. You can sacrifice everything you have for another person and yet not love that person. What is the ingredient which takes empty self-sacrifice and turns it into loving self-sacrifice? Desire, affections. Self-sacrifice is only loving when it is driven by a desire for the person’s good. If you give away all that you have without desiring the good of those you are giving it to, you gain nothing.
But this begs the question, “Jimmy, how can you say that love will demand that we do things that we don’t want (desire) to do and yet that love is driven by desire?” The answer is very simple. Here it is, whenever you make a decision you are always faced with the reality of competing desires. Let me illustrate. The work week starts tomorrow morning for the most of you. Most of you will hear your alarm go off and you will say, “I don’t want to go to work. I’m tired.” You desire to sleep in. However, you will decide to do that which you don’t want to do (go to work). Why? Because your desire for income, your desire to be able to pay your bills and put food on the table is greater than your desire to sleep in. There you have competing desires. You do that which you do not want to do in order to fulfill a greater desire. Your desire for an income drives you to get up early and go to work. We can also illustrate this with chemotherapy. I will bet you 16.2 trillion dollars that no one reading this desires to experience the hell of chemotherapy. However, if you get cancer you will be driven by desire to take chemo therapy. You will do that which you don’t desire to do, get chemotherapy, for the sake of a greater desire, life.
You can actually see this very same thing in the Scriptures. Turn with me to Mark 14:32.

“And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” 

Here Jesus is praying in Gethsemane. He doesn’t want to be forsaken by His Father. He doesn’t want to die under the wrath of His Father. He prays that God would “remove this cup from Me.” The cup is a clear reference to the wrath of God. He doesn’t want to drink the cup of God’s wrath. So why does He do it? We learn in the second half of the verse. He has a greater desire. He desires to do the will of His Father. Consider these two passages about the Lord Jesus.

“I delight to do your will, O my God.” (Psalm 40:8).

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). 

The author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 40:8 as a reference to Jesus Christ. Jesus delighted to do the will of His Father. In John 4, Jesus says that His sustenance was to do His Father’s will. This is what brought Him fulfillment and satisfaction. Jesus was driven by a desire to do the will of His Father—it was His food, He delighted in it. He did that which He did not want to do (drink the cup of God’s wrath) in order to fulfill a greater desire (fulfill the will of His Father… glorify His Father). Jesus was driven by a love for God, a love for His glory, a desire to do His will. He said, “Remove this cup from Me, yet not what I will, but what You will.” Even the Son of God evidenced the reality of competing desires.
Let me give you one last biblical example.
Don’t forget what we are talking about here. I am asking how I can say that love will demand that we do things that we don’t want to do and that love is driven by desire. The greatest and most clear example of this is the process of church discipline. Jesus establishes for us the process of church discipline (see Matthew 18:15-20). Church discipline is a gift that God has given the church. It the process that God has given the church for restoring a fallen brother or sister to fellowship with God and His people. Church discipline is not a pleasing process. No one likes Church discipline. It is hard because it involves exposing a person’s sin publicly. It leads to the excommunication of a professing brother or sister in Christ. However, it is a process that Jesus has graciously given us for the sake of restoring a sinning brother or sister back to fellowship with Christ and His body.
Let me be clear. If a church practices church discipline on a brother or sister in Christ and yet does not intensely desire their good in Christ, longing for their restoration and repentance, the church is in sin. If you find a church that is unmoved by disciplining a member of the church, you have found a church that you should never join. But this can be an incredible mark of maturity as well. If you find a church that cannot practice church discipline without being broken to the core for those who are in sin, you have found a rare jewel. Most churches in America don’t love the people of God enough to do go through the difficult process of church discipline. Other churches are trigger happy with church discipline and self-righteously wear their hard-core loveless discipline as a badge of honor. Those who truly love will do the thing that they do not want to do because they are driven by their desire (longing) for the spiritual good of their fallen brother or sister. Here is where it is the clearest. If there is no longing, no desire, no affections for the good of the brother or sister, the church is not in reality practicing church discipline.
Yes, love will demand that you do things that you do not want to do.
That does not mean that you can say that love is not a feeling but a choice. Rather, God demands of us that we desire (long for) the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you do not desire the good of your brothers and sisters in Christ, you can serve them all you like, but you do not love them. Now I know that this may seem like a long argument. You may think that I have spent way too much time on a technicality. But this is so essential as we talk about love. Why is it so essential that we understand that love involves the affections?
First, it is essential because you must know what God expects of you.
So many people dumb the command of love down to a decision or a choice or a commitment. This is a problem because we dumb the standard down so that we think we can fulfill it in the power of the flesh. We feel that we have fulfilled the command to love so far as we have given of ourselves sacrificially. We feel that we have fulfilled the command to love simply because we have made the meals, cleaned the church, changed the diaper, picked up the trash, or whatever. But the question is, “What is driving you to make those difficult decisions and choices? What is driving you to commit? What is driving you to serve at great cost to yourself?” God demands that we be driven by a desire for the good of the person. It is not enough to merely do good for another. God is concerned about the heart. We cannot feel that we have loved the brethren if we have merely served them. Our service must be motivated by a desire for the good of those we are serving.
Second, it is essential because you need to know how in need you are of the help of the Spirit of God.
I don’t know about you but, I can’t turn my affections on and off like a light switch. I am at the mercy of my affections. This is the beauty of it all. God commands us to love one another. However, we cannot fulfill this command unless we are walking in the Spirit. You cannot create or manufacture true, bona fide love without the Spirit working it in you. If you truly understand the command to love you will stand before speechless, with full understanding of your need for the Spirit to work a miracle in you. This is where Augustine is so helpful. He prayed,

“Lord command what you will and grant what you command!” 

Augustine here is saying that God can command us to do whatever He wants us to do. But He is saying, “Lord, if I am to keep your commandments, you must empower me to keep them.” When you understand that the command to love is a matter of the heart, of the affections, you are left in a place where you cannot keep the command in your own power. The only way you can keep this command is if you are walking by the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, living in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).
Have you ever heard a Christian say this after they really blew it, “God is not as concerned about externals as He is about the heart”? Many Christians find comfort in the fact that God is primarily concerned about the heart. But, friend, if you find this to be comforting to you in your sin, you don’t understand what that statement means. I agree. God is concerned about the heart. However, that should not lead to laziness. It should not lead to indifference to sin. Understanding that God is concerned primarily about the heart should make repentance not a lesser priority but a greater priority. It should lead to greater dependence. Why? Because anyone can obey the law of Moses walking in the flesh.
The commandments given by God to the Israelites in the Old Covenant had primarily to do with externals.
Why? Because the majority of the Israelites were not converted. Any goat can get circumcised. Any goat can do no work on the Sabbath day. Any goat can keep a certain diet and wear certain clothes. Only those who are walking in the Spirit can love as Jesus loved. Jesus came along and upped the standard. Why? Because everyone in the New Covenant He died to establish is regenerate. The standard is higher because the covenants are different (see Matthew 5-7). Love cannot be faked and it cannot be manufactured by the power of men. When it is a matter of the heart, the standard is not compromised, it is actually raised. God commands you to do what you cannot do without complete dependence upon Him. This is why love is spoken of as the fruit of the Spirit.
And love is the fruit of the Spirit.
All the other fruit of the Spirit are merely the different faces of love. How do I know this? Simple. Compare the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and Paul’s statement about the nature of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What do you see when you compare these two passages? Similarity. The fruit of the Spirit is love. The only way you can produce love is if you are walking in the Spirit. Or, as Jesus put it, if you are abiding in the vine (John 15:1-9). You cannot produce it on your own.
So Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:3 that it is possible to give everything that you have away for the poor and yet to not have love. Many non-Christians have given all their possessions to the poor. Some are motivated by self-righteousness, some by guilt, others by mere obligation or duty, and still others by reputation. What motivates you to serve God? What motivates you to serve His people? This is the question that Paul is asking. If you are not driven by a love for the glory of God. If you are not driven by a love for others, all of your giving and sacrificing is a waste.
One last thing before we transition to communion.
Test yourself!
This passage should drive you to test whether or not you are truly a born again Christian. If you were to ask the average professing Christian in America how they know they are truly born again they will say, “I prayed the sinners prayer.” Folks, this is never given as a reason in the Scriptures for how you know that you are truly born again. This doesn’t mean that God can’t use the sinners prayer. I prayed the sinners prayer when God saved me. However, many people treat the sinners prayer as if it were a magic button. They pray the prayer and they think they have passed from death to life. This is not necessarily the case. Paul actually commands us to test yourself to see if you are in the faith.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!  

What is the greatest and most important test?
How can you know that God has done a work in your heart? John tells us in 1 John that the primary way we know that God has done a work in our heart is if we love God and love His people. Test yourself! What drives you to serve God? What drives you come to church? What motivates you to do the things that you do? What motivates you to give to the poor? What motivates you to read the Bible? Are you driven by a love for God and a love for His people? Do you have affections for God? Or does your knowledge of God leave you cold and uninterested? You may not be a Christian. How do you know when God does a work in your heart? I want to read a portion of John Wesley’s journal where he talks about his conversion experience.
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
What happened to Wesley? He was a man who knew the Scriptures forward and backward. He was well studied in the word. He had heard the Gospel a thousand times. However, there was no life in the heart. One day, as he says, his “heart was strangely warmed.” That is the idea. That is how you will know that God has done a work in you. You hear the Gospel, you come to church, and it isn’t that you are necessarily hostile to the truth, it is just that you don’t find it all that interesting. You don’t understand why everyone else is jazzed up to hear the bible preached. But God breaks in and you find your heart strangely warmed. This God now becomes your all in all. Before the Gospel was just a set of facts to you. Now you find it to be that pearl of great price. Before you had cold knowledge. Now you are burning with a desire to hear more and to know Him. Your heart is strangely warmed. May God grant you new life even this morning!
Here is what happened to Wesley:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

You can even pray this as a prayer to God.
Communion
As we transition to communion I just want to make one small point. God did not send His Son dispassionately. What motivated God to send Jesus? 2 things.

  • Love for sinners:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The idea is that God so desired the good of fallen humanity that He sent His only Son so that we might be saved through Him. God was not robotic in sending His Son. He was driven by affections and desire.

  • Love for His own glory:

Ephesians 2:4 In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

He was driven by His own glory.
Salvation is not primarily about us, but about God. God sent His Son for the sake of putting His infinite love and grace on display. Paul states that God’s primary motivation in sending Jesus to die for us is for His own glory. In other words, God’s sending Christ says more about His all-surpassing grace, mercy, and love than it does our worth.
This is why God sent Jesus. God is not a robot. He is driven by desire. He is driven by love. He is driven by a love for sinners and by His love for His own glory. Communion is a picture of the Gospel. Here we are reminded of the great provision that God has made to save sinners like you and me. Jesus’ body was broken and His blood was shed for the sake of rescuing sinners from death and for the praise of His glorious grace.
Lets take the first part of the verse first.
Paul says that radical self-sacrificial giving profits you nothing if you do not have love. The phrase “give away all I have” in the original reads this way, “if I give away all my belongings bit by bit” or “If I parcel out all my property for food.” The picture here is that of a person who gives and gives and gives all that he has for the sake of feeding the poor. Imagine if everyone at SGF were to go home this afternoon and put our houses on the market, take all of our money in the bank, cash in all of our investments, put all of our belongings (clothes, vehicles, computers, furniture, appliances, gadgets, etc.) up for sale, and take all of the earnings and give it to the poor. What a picture of self-sacrificial giving! We call it benevolent philanthropy. That is what Paul is talking about here.
Paul is here talking about self-sacrificial giving.
In other words, it is giving away your own stuff—at your own expense. You give away all of your own stuff for the sake of helping other people. Now lets think about this for a moment. I may step on some of your toes here. I will ask a simple question. I do not presume to know the answer. However, I will ask the question. Was Mother Teresa a Christian? I don’t know. She said some pretty bizzare things and believed many things that any true Christian would find to be appalling. But why is it that everyone gives her an immediate pass regardless of her beliefs. Because of her sacrificial giving. Regardless of whether she was truly born again or not is not my place or your place to know. However, what if Mother Teresa were a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness or an Atheist? I can say with confidence that there are thousands of non-Christians in the world who are just as self-sacrificial in their giving as Mother Teresa.
When I lived in Las Vegas I became friends with a Mormon who got a religion degree from Brigham Young University. He was well-studied and quite passionate about his Mormonism. I agreed to let him teach me about Mormonism if he would let me teach him about my Christianity. In the course of one of our discussions he told me that everyone at their church fasts every Wednesday. They take all the money that they save from not eating and they give all to the poor. I found this to be quite the spectacular practice. I am not here to discredit their labors. God can use even non-Christians as instruments to bring about good. However, we have to understand that radical self-sacrifice is not always motivated by love. Sometimes it can be motivated by guilt. Oftentimes non-Christians work their fannies off serving others, giving sacrificially in order to secure their salvation. They are not driven by love, but by a desire to gain a right standing with God. I believe this was true of the Mormon man that I got to know. It is possible to give away all that you have without being driven along by love. Some are driven by 1. self righteousness, others are driven by 2. reputation, others are driven by 3. guilt, while still others are driven by 4. duty.
We actually see an instance when Jesus rebuked a group of people for giving generously but for the wrong reasons. They were driven by self-righteousness. Turn with me to Matthew 6:1-4.

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This may surprise you that I would point to the Pharisees as examples of men who gave sacrificially. Many have a wrong understanding of the Pharisees. Many think of the Pharisees as basically lazy gluttons who never wanted to do more than they had to do. I don’t think this was the case. The Pharisees were incredibly disciplined. Many of the Pharisees had the whole Old Testament memorized. They were intense about their religious practices. The Pharisees were not loafers, they were zealots. Paul speaks about his preconversion life as a Pharisee. He makes it quite clear that We often times run through Jesus’ stinging words to them about fasting. We usually take these words about fasting lightly as if the Pharisees had an easy, watered-down way of fasting. We think that they were basically lazy in their fasting and that they would sneak apple pies while no one was looking. This is not the case. They were intense in their observance of the law. When the Pharisees fasted they went without food for days and days. The Pharisees didn’t cut corners. So Jesus rebukes them for their giving, fasting, and praying. And He did not rebuke them for giving too little or fasting too little or for praying too little. There is no reason whatsoever to think that the Pharisees were anything but sacrificial in their giving. How sacrificial were they in their giving? Much more sacrificial than the average American Christian! They were as sacrificial as they had to be to win the applause of men and to earn a right standing with God.
Why did Jesus rebuke the Pharisees?
It had everything to do with motivation. They were not motivated by love. They were motivated rather by self-righteousness and to hear the praise of men. They were not driven by a love for the glory of God. They were driven by a selfish love for their own glory. They were not driven by a love for the poor. They were driven by a love for their own reputation. This is why Jesus calls them hypocrites in vs. 2. A hypocrite is one who engages in false advertisement about himself. You know what false advertisement is. You watch  the McDonald’s commercial. They display a picture of the Big Mac. The sandwhich looks big, fresh, and juicy. You want it so badly that you drive down the street to get it. You pay for it and they hand you something about half the size of the advertisement, and it looks like an elephant put it together. The special sauce is only on one half of the burger and the lettuce looks like it has been sitting out for a few days. They make you think the burger is one way even though it is completely different. This is just what the Pharisees were doing. They were giving all this money to the poor in public. They were advertising themselves as those who sincerely love the poor. However, the image they created was a sham, it was a lie. They didn’t love the poor. They were exploiting the poor. They were giving to the poor because they loved themselves. This is why Jesus called them hypocrites.

“In fact, interesting to look at, verse 1 says: “The loveless person produces nothing of value, just noise.” Verse 2 says: “The loveless person is himself of no value, I am nothing.” Third verse, “The loveless person receives nothing of value, it profits me nothing.” Just a big nothing. Life minus love equals zero. And that’s why in… we saw briefly last time, in Revelation chapter 2 says this: “To the church at Ephesus, I know thy works and thy labor and thy patience and how thou canst not bear them who are evil and thou hast tried them who say they are Apostles and are not, hast found them liars, hast borne and hast patience for My namesake has labored and not fainted.” Boy, they had worked hard. They had right doctrine. “But I have something against you because you have left…what?… your first love.” And you know what He did? He removed the candlestick and the church was dead and its never been there since.” (MacArthur)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

First, as I said previoulsy Paul is using hyperbole.
He is speaking in extremes to make a point. In vs. 1 he talks about speaking in the languages of angels. There is never an instance in Scripture where God empowers anyone to speak in the languages of angels. Why does Paul speak of it then? Because he is making a point. Even if he were to be given a gift which far surpasses the gifts which God has given the church in splendor and glory, he would still be nothing if he did not have love. Even if God were to empower him to empower him to speak in the languages of angels, he would still be just a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal before God if he had not love. In vs. 2 he talks about having the gift of prophecy such that he can understand all mysteries and all knowledge. No one with the gift of prophecy understands all mysteries. No one has all knowledge. God has never empowered anyone to understand all mysteries or to have all knowledge. Why then does Paul speak like this? Paul speaks in extremes to say, in effect, even if I did understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but I had not love, I would still be nothing.
He then says that if he had all faith—no… not faith like George Mueller.
Mueller had the gift of faith, but he did not have all faith. God has never empowered anyone (other than Christ) to have all faith. What then is Paul’s point? Even if you did have all faith but had not love you would still be nothing. All week long I have had a line from one of James’ cartoons in my mind as I have been working through 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. The movie is called “The Math Circus.” The purpose of the movie is to teach kids their numbers and basic mathematics (addition and subtraction). In the beginning of the show they introduce all the numbers. They introduce the number 1 and the number 1 comes out and says, “I’m number one!” They get to the zero last and he comes out and says, “I’m just a big nuthin’!” That is just what Paul is saying. He is saying that even if you have the most glorious and spectacular gift in all the church, but you don’t have love, you are just a big nothing before God. Love is to be our supreme focus. Conformity to the image of Christ is our first and most important pursuit. So many people pursue the gifts. Paul says, “Pursue love.” If you pursue love, you will desire the gifts, because you will want to build other up.
_________
1 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/journal.vi.ii.xvi.html
~ Jimmy

 
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
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Reflections on Great Bible Teaching

 

Courage and boldness combined
with humility is a powerful cocktail.

 
Recently I was at a conference, enjoying it both as a participant and as a presenter.  I was particularly struck by the main Bible teaching.  I have been pondering what made it so effective and will offer my reflections in three posts.  I know the speaker is not a limelight seeker, so I won’t name him, but I trust these reflections will be provocative for us.
 
Observation 1 – Masterful Handling of the Text
In four messages we were taken through the entire book of Daniel.  Not the easiest book to preach, nor the least controversial.  How was the text handled so effectively in the course of four one-hour presentations?
A. The speaker was sensitive to both the literary and historical context of the book.  He knew his Babylonian and subsequent world empire history and demonstrated a keen awareness of the various disciplines needed for pulling together the complexity of Daniel.
B. He was deeply aware of the literary structure of the book.  Layer upon layer of structure was masterfully woven together as the book was presented, leaving the listeners struck by the artistry of the writer.
C. He showed a remarkable ability to summarise the content of multiple chapters without losing the essence or the core intent of the passages.  The teaching had integrity, even when a chapter was surveyed only briefly.
D. The speaker was as bold as a lion, yet as winsome as a lamb.  In a mixed crowd of people from multiple denominations and disciplines, it would be tempting to try to please everyone with a sort of neutered presentation.  Not here.  There was a stunning level of courage in this presentation.  He knew that many would disagree on various levels, yet he was unashamed in his presentation of the book. I think this kind of courage required both a genuine winsomeness and an authoritative mastery of the book’s contents.
I was challenged by the obvious passion for the Word that showed in this series of talks.  But there was more to it than that, tomorrow I’ll look at the issue of targeted applications…
I am also struck by another labour intensive feature of the messages:
 
Observation 2 – Brilliant and On-Target Application.
A. The speaker was sensitive to the specifics of a very mixed crowd.  I heard him speak from Daniel almost twenty years ago.  It was powerful then because it was targeted to a the group of young people of which I was a member.  This time the messages were different.  Part of that was the difference in audience.  This was a mixed group with a variety of ministry roles from across the continent.  Yet the messages were so pertinent to people living as a small minority in difficult anti-Christian cultures.
B. The speaker honoured the intelligence levels of those present. This was a gathering of people that included a significant number of the highly educated.  The messages were not elitist at all, but the speaker was sensitive to the intelligence levels in the room.  Nobody would have felt patronised, nor would anyone have felt untouched by the ministry.
C. He obviously invested significant time in preparation.  The level of relevance and applicational targeting in these messages would not come from a quick scan of old notes.  The speaker evidenced a real love for the listeners by the level of specificity he managed to achieve in his thoughtful applications to the audience.
 
Observation 3 – The Credibility and Integrity of the Speaker
Now there’s an almost intangible element to be included in any set of reflections:
A. Ministry and life.  Since I am not naming the speaker, this post might seem a bit pointless.  Nonetheless, rather than focusing our attention on him, I’d love it to prompt our thoughts in prayers in respect to our own ministry.  Here is an individual who has been running the race for a good long time.  The race for him has included crossing cultures, engaging with different and often very challenging contexts, success in other fields apart from biblical teaching, facing direct opposition with deep integrity, etc.  There is a weightiness and a power in a life well lived.
B. Longevity.  Maybe this is the same as the previous comment, but it is important.  For those of us that haven’t been in the race for five, six or seven decades, it can seem a bit irrelevant to us.  But that is exactly wrong.  The longevity of our ministry and the impact of our service is very much about the life we live this week.  Longevity and integrity doesn’t sneak up on us, it is cultivated in the daily walk with Christ.
C. Humility.  It is always striking when someone who has reason to be proud isn’t.  If messages like these had come out of a young man, it would be hard to imagine the possibility of such humility.  Courage and boldness combined with humility is a powerful cocktail.
I will leave it there, just in case blogging about an anonymous individual is more annoying than helpful!
You can comment on Peter’s article here
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.biblicalpreaching.net” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”http://www.cordeo.org.uk/” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

Abba! Father!

 

This Spirit-to-spirit witness
is not to be understated.

 
One of my special moments in life came in Israel when I watched a young boy run after a man, calling out “Abba, Abba!”  For the first time I had a tangible sense of what God offers us in Christ: an invitation to call him “Daddy!”  The confidence and energy of that Israeli youngster spoke of a bond that I now have with God.  It was a call rich with intimacy and easy access—the boy knew he was loved by his father and wanted to be with him.
In Galatians 4:6 Paul wrote, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”  The full embrace of God—Father, Son, and Spirit—form this bond.  The Spirit, who represents the Son in this case, is sent by the Father to join our hearts in a communion that moves us to resonate with the Son’s heart in calling the Father “Abba!”  Our real union with Christ makes us sons with the Son, who have a full and lively access to the Father.
Paul reiterates the same point in writing to the Romans: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” [Romans 8:15-16].
This Spirit-to-spirit witness is not to be understated.  I say this because of some occasions when I’ve talked to Christians who say, in effect, “I’ve always been a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home.”  In one such case a very thoughtful believer asked me, “Did you have a distinct conversion when you came to faith?”  When I said, “yes!” I was surprised by his dismissiveness.  “Well,” he responded, “my own faith is lifelong.”  As I probed a bit I found that he was actually put off by the idea that a sense of having been converted or born again was crucial to Christian faith.  His sense was that each of us should hold to our unique experience with equal confidence.  Some have conversions and some don’t; and those of us who have had conversions must not impose that expectation on others.
I respected the man—someone who was very bright and well educated—but I was unsettled by what he said.  Here’s why.  In what he shared of his faith there was no reference to God as one who is personal to him—of God as his Abba, Daddy.  Instead the man spoke of his confidence in his training and his devotion to the truths of the faith as the measure of a sound Christianity.  My thought, by contrast, was that a new life in Christ has a real impact on someone.  Jesus, in John 3, spoke of the coming of the Spirit as comparable to a breeze sweeping through a forest: he’s clearly evident by his presence.  And, in the two “Abba” texts I’ve cited here, the Spirit is evident as he creates in us a sense of God’s immediacy and his intimacy.
So let me ask this question: what are the true marks of a Christian?
Is a sense of personal intimacy with God among them?  Or is it just an option for some of us but not for all?
Any thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
Visit Spreading The Goodness
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Sinning in Any Circumstance

 

Amos 4:1-13

 
Introduction

Remember 1 Cor 10:11. We are now in the second section of the book—the second prophetic proclamation.
We need to interpret Scripture by Scripture—using one part to understand another. Here we need to know the foundational revelation (the Torah) to understand Amos’ message.
 
Exposition:
I. The varied situations in which Israel continued in sin (4:1-11)
A. They sinned in a time of prosperity (4:1-3).

1. Amos points out the sin of the women.

Comment: God does not worry about being politically correct. In a sexist or racist society, like America, one worries about speaking against the sins of any group. God is not sexist or racist. He does not play favorites (Ac 10:34-35), and he feels free to address people in their sins (Ti 1:12f).

a. He compared them to fattened cows. (Bashan was a lush, green area.) We should be careful not to turn God’s gifts into a means to satisfy our sinful lusts. This is too easily done!

b. He exposed their oppression of the poor. Contrast 1 Tm 5:10

c. He pointed out the danger of being enslaved by strong drink. Prov 20:1; 23:20-21; 23:29-35

2. He presents a contrast with the Holy God (4:2). If you want to know what you really are like, compare yourself to God (Is 6:1-7). Exposure to God’s holy character will bring your glaring deficiencies to light.

3. A possible interpretation of “with hooks”

a. It was an illustration—like being caught like fish.

b. The Assyrians really used “hooks”. We have examples from archaeology.

B. They sinned in their acts of worship (4:4-5).
1. Probably there is no wrong indicated by “leaven” (cf. Lev 7:13). The problem was their religious pride. They were involved in religious ritual and gloried in it. Contrast Gal 6:14.
2. Two things that were wrong

a. Bethel, which was the place of “Jacob’s ladder”, but also of one of Jeroboam’s golden calves

b. Gilgal, which was the place of Israel’s first camp in the Promised Land (cf. Ho 9:15)

Apply: Past experiences cannot provide grace. God deals with us in the present tense. Is he changing you now?
C. They sinned in spite of corrective judgments (4:6-11).
1. Notice the recurring refrain or chorus—“yet you have not returned to me”. It is used five times. We might expect judgments to change people. We ought to respond positively to correction, but often we do not. Grace changes, and not experiences.
2. The judgments recorded here are just what God said he would do if Israel sinned and departed from him. This is in agreement with the principle asserted in 3:7. Let’s look at these judgments and God’s previously announced threat (Dt 28:15ff).

a. Empty stomachs – Dt 28:53; 2 Ki 8:1

b. Withhold rain – Dt 11:17; 28:23; 2 Chrn 7:13

c. Blight and mildew – Dt 28:22

d. Locusts – Dt 28:38, 42; 2 Chrn 7:13

e. Plagues – Dt 28:22,27-28,35,59-61; 2 Chrn 7:13

3. Truths to put to heart

a. What God says, God does. Do not put God to the test.

b. We should look for God’s hand in everyday events. In daily events we should be seeking God and asking, “Is there something I should be learning?”

c. Every believer is a “snatched one” (4:11; cf. Zech 3:2). It is important to keep this in mind to prevent spiritual pride. We are not here because we are better than others, but only because of God’s free and sovereign grace (1 Cor 4:7; 15:10).

 
II. The verdict announced to them because of their sin (4:12-13)
A. Israel must face God.
1. There is no escape (4:12).
Apply: We must listen to God’s warnings while there is hope (Prov 29:1; Is 55:6-7).
2. Compare the situation in Ex 19:15-16, where they were told to prepare to receive God’s law.
B. Israel must have a proper concept about the God they would face (4:13).
1. Considered from what he does

a. Creator

b. Revealer

c. Preserver

2. Considered from his name—it proclaims his ability to do what he says. He is the Lord God Almighty.
Apply: We must properly revere God’s name. It reveals all that he is. He is able to speak and to do.
~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church
Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church
 

The Necessity of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Introduction
We will be continuing our study through 1 Corinthians. I have already laid something of a theological foundation for 1 Corinthians 13. This portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is famously called the “Love Chapter.” This morning we will actually be diving into the contents of 1 Corinthians 13. Before jumping into verse 1 I have two introductory matters.
1. The context of 1 Corinthians 13.
This chapter is often times one of the most misunderstood parts of the Bible. Many take it right out of its context and treat it as if it were an isolated text. However, Paul is speaking to the issue of the spiritual gifts. He continues this discussion all the way to the end of chapter 14. Paul does not drop the discussion on the gifts in 1 Corinthians 13. He continues it. You will remember that Paul was writing to the Corinthians about the gifts because they were misusing the gifts. Spiritual gifts are tools that God has given us for the building up of the body of Christ. The Corinthians were using these gifts to exalt themselves. They were not using them for the purpose for which God has given them. They were using their gifts as a way of gauging how spiritual they were. If you had a gift which was overtly supernatural and extravagant, you were clearly more spiritual than the next guy. Paul does not leave this issue of the Spiritual gifts here in chapter 13. Rather, he seeks to correct their selfish use of the gifts by talking about the superiority of love. Paul points to love as the antidote to their misuse of the gifts. If they only will love each other as Christ has loved them, they will not use their gifts to exalt themselves, but to build each other up. Love is the answer.
2. Simple outline for 1 Corinthians 13.
This chapter can be conveniently broken up into three sections.
1 Corinthians 12:1-3: The Necessity of Love
1 Corinthians 12:4-6: The Nature of Love
1 Corinthians 12:7-13: The Permanence of Love
If you read 1 Corinthians 13 right through you will find that Paul talks about the gifts all throughout this chapter. In vss. 1-3 he talks about the uselessness of the gifts without love. In vss. 7-13 he contrasts the temporal nature of the gifts with the eternal nature of love. All the gifts will cease when Christ comes back in all His glory. Love, however, will continue forever. Let me say here as well that I have become increasingly convinced that 1 Corinthians 14:1 is the linchpin verse in Paul’s discussion on the gifts. Here God tells us to
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.”
Which of the two is the stronger word, “pursue” or “desire”? Pursue! The point is that love is supreme. In fact, the more we pursue love the more we will desire spiritual gifts. The gifts, after all, are tools that God has given us for the building up of the body. The more you love the brethren the more you will want to build them up. Pursuing love, keeping it primary will lead to greater effectiveness with the gifts. Love is key. That is the whole point of this chapter.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
As already stated, Paul talks about the necessity of love in vss. 1-3. In these three verses he mentions five different gifts: languages/tongues (vs. 1), prophecy, knowledge, faith (vs. 2), and giving (vs. 3). His point is that you are useless if you do not exercise the gift(s) God has given you in love, regardless of how extravagant your gift may be. Let me clarify. His point is not that the gift is useless.  Rather, his point is that the person who exercises the gift is spiritually bankrupt before God if he does not have love, regardless of how extravagant his gift is. Let’s read the passage.

1 If I speak in the languages/tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1. You will notice that Paul first speaks of the gift of languages/tongues.
Many people wrongly think that this passage teaches that the gift of languages includes the ability to speak in the languages of angels. There seems to be no good evidence, however, to understand it that way. Paul is using hyperbole. The gift of languages (speaking in tongues) is the ability given by the Spirit of God to speak in real, human languages (like German, Mandrin Chinese, Korean, Spanish, etc.) which you have not learned and that you do not understand. Why then does Paul talk about speaking in the tongues of men and of angels? He is using hyperbole. Hypberbole is an obvious exaggeration. Jesus used hyperbole from time to time. He spoke in the extreme to make a point. For example, He said the following in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus is not here commanding His people to literally cut off their body parts in order to avoid sin. If this passage was to be taken literally, I can guarantee you that all of us would be eyeless, tongueless, earless, and limbless. Jesus is merely telling Christians to go to war against sin. Paul reiterates the very same command in two places. In Romans 8:13 he tells us to “put to death the deeds of the body” and to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” in Colossians 3:5. This is the very same idea that Jesus is communicating in Mathew 5. Jesus argues in extremes to make His point loud and clear—so that we will in no way have a casual relationship with sin—that we might “put [sin] to death.”
This is just what Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians 13:1 when he talks about speaking in the languages of angels. The Scriptures never communicate that God empowers His people to speak in the languages of angels. What Paul is doing is expressing how essential love is. Even if God were to give you a gift that far surpassed the gift of languages and you were actually empowered by the Spirit to speak in the languages of angels but had not love, you would still be nothing. This is how useless the gift of languages is without love. Even if you were to have the gift of languages on steroids you would be useless if you didn’t have love.
The primary reason I believe Paul is using hyperbole in vs. 1 when he speaks of the speaking in the languages of angels is because that is what Paul goes on to do in vs. 2. Take a look at vs. 2. He says that if you have “prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge… but have not love, I am nothing.” Does anyone with the gift of prophecy understand all mysteries and all knowledge? Of course not. Not even Jesus had the gift of prophecy such that He could understand all mysteries and all knowledge. After all, He Himself said, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). So this prophetic ability is far superior to the gift of prophecy which God has given the church. No prophet has understood all mysteries.
No man has ever had all knowledge.
I lived in Kansas City for two years. My favorite program would come on at 3pm on the Christian Radio Station. It was called the Bible Answer Man hosted by Hank Hanegraaff. Hanegraaff is quite the guy. The Lord has given him an unusual mind. People call in with all sorts of questions—questions about archeology, other religions, theology, questions about specific passages. Hanegraaff answers ad hoc/impromptu questions live in real time. Some callers will call in asking Hank to give an explanation of an obscure passage that the average Christian would never recognize as being from the Bible. A caller would call in with a question, for example, from Zephaniah 2. Without skipping a beat Hank would be able to shed light on the text and give a synopsis of what the most up to date scholars have to say about the passage. He has quite the gift!
Men like D.A. Carson, R.C. Sproul and others have evidenced similar gifting. But none of these men have “all knowledge.” Paul is pointing beyond the gift of knowledge that God has given the church as is pointing to the gift of near omniscience. What is Paul’s point? Even if a person has gifts which far outshine even the greatest gifts which God has given the church, he is useless if he doesn’t love.
I hope you see that Paul is using hyperbole in this passage because that is what gives this passage so much weightiness. This demonstrates how central love is in the Christian life. Even if you were able to speak in the languages of angels, even if you understood all mysteries and all knowledge. Even if you had all faith but had not love you would be nothing. This is quite the amazing statement, isn’t it. Remember George Mueller? The German pastor from the 1800’s who ran an orphanage with well over 2000 orphans at a time. He would only make his financial and practical needs known to the Lord in prayer. I read for you an excerpt from his biography.
Remember, it was morning and Mueller had nothing to feed all these orphans. They sat at the table with nothing in the cupboard to feed them. Mueller prayed thanking God for the food that God was going to provide. As soon as he finished praying there was a knock at the door. A man stood there and said that the Lord woke him up at 2am and told him to make bread for Mr. Mueller. The Lord provided miraculously. Just after the man left there was another knock at the door. A man driving a milk truck broke down and needed to lighten his load and so they received a full breakfast even though Mueller hadn’t told a soul that there was no food in the pantry.
This happened over and over again. God responded to Mueller’s simple dependence upon the Lord. Imagine if George Mueller had “all faith.” He didn’t. But imagine if he did! That is what Paul is talking about here. He is not simply talking about the gift of faith, but perfect faith. Even if a man were to have perfect faith—the sort of faith that can move mountains—but had not love, he would be nothing. What Paul is saying is this; even if you had gifts that far surpass the gifts that God has given to the church in glory and extravagance and yet you don’t have love, you are a zero before God.
What does Paul say about the one who has extravagant gifts and yet has no love?
In vs. 13 he says that the person who can speak in the languages of men and of angels but does not have love is a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” There are two possible ways of taking this. First, there is certain evidence that the instruments mentioned her by Paul were popularly used by pagans in worship  of their idols. They would dance around playing their instruments. As I mentioned a few months ago, it is also true that the majority of the Christians in Corinth grew up worshipping the pagan gods. It is also true that something which resembled the gift of languages was common in Corinthian paganism. The pagan worshippers would speak gibberish. Thus some suggest that Paul is saying that their Christian worship is virtually indistinguishable from their pagan worship because they don’t have love. They are speaking in tongues and all of it sounds like pagan worship to God.
The second way of taking this is to simply understand that their worship was not a “sweet sweet sound in Your ear.” They were “serving” and “worshiping” God, but He was repulsed by their efforts because they had no love for God or for one another. They were driven by a desire to exalt themselves. Because their service and worship were not driven by love, God found it to be repulsive. God covers His ears when His people exercise their gifts without love. Have you ever heard someone who is rhythmically challenged and tone deaf belting a song thinking that they sound like Pavarotti? What is your first reaction? To cover you ears and to say, “Really? Are you serious?” This is how God responds to those who worship and serve Him without love, regardless of how spectacular their gifts may be. It may be the most excellent and passionate and doctrinally pure sermon in the world, but God will not receive it if it is not preached in love. You may work at the Deerfield fair, but if you are only doing it for yourself to gain a certain reputation in the church, without any love for God or for His people, it will not be pleasing to Him. Consider for a moment how God responded to Israel’s worship while their hearts were far from Him. Turn with me to Isaiah 1:12-17.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good;
seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Isaiah is here prophesying to the Israelites at the height of their rebellion against God. They had no love for God and no love for each other. Nonetheless, they faithfully observed their religious feasts and services. How did God respond to their worship and serve? He hated it (vs. 14). Why did he reject their worship? Well… look at their sins in vs. 17. They were oppressing each other. They were not defending the cause of the helpless and the hopeless. They were taking advantage of each other. To put it in short, they had not love for God and no love for each other. This is why God was repulsed by their service and worship; it was not motivated by love.
In 13:2 he goes on to say that the one who knows all mysteries and all knowledge and has all faith but does not have love is nothing. Do you want some examples? What about Balaam? God supernaturally empowered Balaam to prophesy over Israel (see Numbers 22-24). However, Balaam had no love for God and no love for the people of God. Even though God so empowered Balaam to speak His very words, Balaam is held up all throughout the word of God as an example of one who is given over to unjust gain (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11). What about King Saul? Did not the Lord empower King Saul to prophesy? God empowered Saul to prophesy even while he was on His way to find and kill David, the Lord’s anointed (see 1 Samuel 19:19-24). God empowered Saul to prophecy, but Saul was not even a believer. Saul had no love for God and no love for His people. This is why God rejected Him and removed His Spirit from him (see 1 Samuel 16:14-15).
Probably the greatest example of all is Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Christ.
Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Like Balaam, Judas loved money more than God and His people (John 12:4-6). Nonetheless, Judas was empowered by God to proclaim the kingdom of God and to lay hands on the sick for healing, and was given authority to cast out demons just like the rest of the disciples (Matthew 10:1-15). He was also in the number of the 72 who were sent out for the same purpose (Luke 10:1-12). Judas was mightily empowered by God. However, Judas’ service for Christ was a stench in the nostrils of God because he had more care for money than for God or His people. Balaam, Saul, Judas… they were all nobodies in the sight of God. Gifted? Certainly! God empowered them to do mighty things. But it all amounted to zero.
Concluding Thoughts
Here’s the point: we have to take love more seriously. Love is not merely a commandment. It is the commandment. It is the greatest commandment. All the law and the prophets hang on love. We must take love more seriously. We must expend ourselves in loving others as Christ has loved us.
God is not impressed with shear giftedness.
Shear giftedness does not build up the body. What grabs God’s attention is Christlikeness. It is not giftedness but character that pleases God and builds up the body of Christ. Or as John Stott puts it, “the evidence of the Spirit’s fullness is not the exercise of his gifts… but the ripening of his fruit.”
It is Christ-like character that makes the difference.
This is the great pursuit of the Christian life—to know Him, to make Him known, and to be like Him. To whom does the Lord look? To the great orator? To the charismatic prophet? To the boisterous evangelist? To the scholar? To the great giver of gifts? God tells us what catches His attention in Isaiah 66:4.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
He doesn’t look to the gifted or to the intellectual or to the charismatic. He looks to the one who is humble, contrite and who trembles at His word. What catches God’s attention is character, not giftedness. This should speak to us about how we spend our energy as Christians. What do you work hard to attain as a Christian? Do you labor to be the Bible answer man? Do you labor to be the extroverted evangelist? Do you spend your time laboring to be the prayer warrior of the church? What is it that you strive after? Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with seeking to grow in bible knowledge or to become an avid evangelist or to become a prayer warrior. However, the greatest pursuit of the Christian life is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10). This ought to be where you put all your energy. It is the pursuit of Christ-like character. To be like Jesus. This is what should occupy your life as a Christian. This is what you should strive for.
You may come to church and do the Christian thing. You may lead the communion devotional, pray, teach the kids, serve at the Deerfield Fair, but when you go home do you love your spouse as Christ has loved you? You young men may learn all your theology and get high marks on your tests, but do you love your roommates as Christ has loved you? Do you love the brethren? Young kids, you may memorize all your verses for VBS and Sunday School, but do you love your brothers and sisters as Christ has loved you? It is amazing that Christians will go to church and work their fannies off serving the body but then will go home and will treat their spouse like the dirt under their feet. Some Christians boast of their great love for God but then slander the people of God all day long. This is the great pursuit of the Christian life. This is just what Paul is saying in vss. 1-3. You can have the most extravagant gifts, but if you don’t have love, you are nothing.
One of the most frightening things in modern day church life is pastoral search committees. What is the criteria for choosing a pastor? Well… you only get to meet him once or twice. The decisions is made primarily on how dynamic of a preacher he is and how well he knows his stuff. Isn’t this scary?! This is certainly part of the criteria as laid forth in 1 Timothy 3. However, the bulk of the criteria for an elder has to do with character, not gifting. The only gift an elder must have is to be able to teach the word of God.

1 Stott, Baptism and Fullness, 66.
~ Jimmy

 
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
Visit pastor Snowden’s Blog

A Summary of Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs

 

“Wisdom is the major theme in the book of Proverbs.”

 
The wisdom taught in Proverbs is not some kind of general human knowledge gained by way of human contemplation and reflection on the facts of life, but knowledge concerning God and his way that is ultimately communicated to humanity by God himself through torah.
The book of Proverbs teaches that God used wisdom in creating the world (Prov 3:19–20).
The idea of the seven pillars and the the high places of the town in Prov 9:1, 3, 14 relates Wisdom and Folly to the concept of temple.
Wisdom is closely associated with sanctuary building in the Old Testament (see Exod 31:2; 35:30–36:1; 2 Chr 2:13).
An important theological connection exists between God’s wisdom in building the earth as a sanctuary (where God and humanity relate together) and the God-given wisdom of people like Bezalel and Solomon, who were used by God to build the tabernacle/temple.Because God is the source of wisdom, all wisdom comes as a gift from him (Prov 2:6).
Wisdom is of great value (Prov 4:7; 8:10–11; 16:16).
Wisdom is readily available (Prov 1:20–21; 8:1–5); but we need to get hold of, to love, and to never forsake wisdom (Prov 4:5, 7).
We need to pay attention to it (Prov 5:1), to listen to the voice of wisdom (Prov 2:2; 8:6), to search for wisdom like searching for hidden treasure (Prov 2:4).
The person who possesses wisdom is blessed (Prov 3:13; 8:32–34).
Wisdom provides protection (Prov 4:6), honor (Prov 4:8), splendor (Prov 4:9), and life (Prov 8:35; 9:6).

To comment on Steven Coxhead’s article visit his blog page here.

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Steven Coxhead
Brother Coxhead has served as visiting lecturer in Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College since 2002. He’s taught Advanced Classical Hebrew regularly at the Macquarie Ancient Languages School since 2009. As a part-time lecturer at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney from 2002 to 2010, teaching the Old Testament, Romans, John’s Gospel, Biblical Hebrew, and New Testament Greek; and taught Johannine Theology and the Old Testament at the Wesley Institute in Sydney from 2010 to 2011. Steven also taught Old Testament, New Testament, and Systematic Theology in South-East Asia.
Visit Steven Coxhead’s Berith Road Blog

A Rage to Live

“A Rage To Live: Surviving
The Holocaust So Hitler Would Not Win.”

 
Hello, My name is Moe Bergeron. I am the publisher of CMC and I want to introduce you to the labor of my good friend pastor Joseph G. Krygier. Pastor Joe has co-authored the above titled book. I’ve read it and have profited much by this personal account and I highly recommend it to you. As I read through its pages I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of sadness knowing that Adam’s rejection of his Creator and God has had tragic consequences for all of his family. Thankfully, God’s people are not without hope. May the God of Israel speak to the hearts of Abraham’s descendants about His mercy and grace.
The following is in Joe’s own words.

This is the story of Victor Breitburg, 85,  who survived the Lódz Ghetto, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt Concentration Camps. He was liberated by the Russians on May 8, 1945 on his 18th birthday and repatriated to England and eventually to the US, where he had family who left Poland before the war. It tells of his education and we get glimpses of the rest of his life up to the present. Our book has been accepted into the Yad Veshem, US Holocaust Museum, The Imperial War Museum and Center For Holocaust Studies – Atlantic University  research libraries. It has received endorsements from Jewish and non-Jewish readers including Alan Adelson :

My copy has arrived, Mr. Krygier.  What a superb job you did.  As a person who has worked on the contemporaneous as well as memoiristic writings from the Lódz Ghetto for many years, I certainly congratulate you for making this valuable contribution to the literature.
..
Thank you and all best wishes,
Alan Adelson
Executive Director
Jewish Heritage

Pastor Krygier is presently writing a play based on the written account so that the story of Victor Breitburg, who represents multitudes of others who suffered under the tyranny of Hitler, can be told to countless others.

You can find more information including pictures, video interviews and other comments at www.tolifeink.com
In addition you can obtain an ebook copy of this excellent work at a greatly reduced rate through Noisetrade.

A Rage to Live

Discernment and Sexual Predators

 

“It is very costly to ignore both
Scripture Guidelines and Common Sense”

 

Be Cautious!
When I was 17, I briefly attended an unbiblical church. I was drawn in by the size of the youth group and the swirl of activity. There was plenty of discussion about wealth and prosperity, satanic back-masking in rock music, and spiritual gifts. But I don’t recall anyone talking about sin, repentance, sanctification, sacrifice, suffering, or living for the glory of God.
The youth ministry leader was 22 and a recent convert. Plenty of rumors swirled around him, but I gave them no credit until he invited me over to his townhouse. When he acted just like the non-churched men I knew and attempted to initiate a sexual relationship, I called him out. Then I turned him in to the senior pastor. As similar situations surfaced with other girls, much chaos and gossip ensued in the weeks that followed. I’d like to say that this all went down well, but it didn’t. It turns out that it is very costly to ignore both common sense (a single man only a few years older is leading the youth ministry?!) and Scripture’s guidelines about leadership (“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” 1 Tim. 3:6).
In the wake of this mess, I left that church and everything else to do with Christianity. I spent the next 12 years running from God, convinced I had seen the entire spectrum of faith and it was hollow and deceptive. But God, being rich in mercy (sweet, sweet words!), arrested my attention and regenerated my heart and faith on one Easter Sunday on a trip to South Africa. While I doubt I was genuinely regenerated as a teenager (my journals show little fruit), I still ponder that early church experience from time to time and how it dishonored the gospel.
Most recently, I recalled it as I read about a youth director in a local church who for five years was sexually involved with many girls from the youth group. The church did a poor job in vetting the hiring of this man (his previous employer told them about inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl), in considering the doctrine of sin (“the senior pastor said he was shocked to hear that his youth director could be involved in inappropriate behavior”), and in observing and correcting his questionablepublic interactions with the teen girls (cuddling, personal attention, partying). What’s commendable, however, is that the church has undergone a long, public transformation process to correct the problems and create a church responsive to victims of sexual abuse.
Nevertheless, over the past few months, I kept coming back to this one thought: we need to instill discernment in young girls so that they can more readily identify abusers and predators. This ought to be embedded in our Titus 2 discipleship, our parenting, and our youth group leadership. Now, please hear me out. I am not piling on condemnation for the girls who were involved in this particular case, nor their families. They have my sympathy. But as I read their accounts, I kept thinking about them and many other young women I know who have been tripped up by the same smooth lies. It’s the trend I want to address.
Predators and abusers offer the same routine each time — you’re special, no one else makes me feel this way, don’t tell anyone, here’s the justification for my questionable behavior, what we have is unique, etc. It never varies because it so consistently works. And you know why? I’m speaking broadly here, but I believe it is generally true: because the rest of us puff up the minds of girls with princess mythologies but we don’t (often) equip them to recognize that Prince Charming needs to have some character, not just sweet talk. I can’t tell you how many young women I’ve mentored who couldn’t connect those dots. And in fact, how many got defensive when you pointed out the gap between the words and deeds of the smooth dude in question.
Therefore, based on my own experience, this particular church incident, and the interactions I’ve had with other women, here are the initial basics of a discipling discussion about discernment that I think we should have with every budding teenager (boys need to know these standards, too):

  • If you can only remember one thing, this is it: What is legitimate and godly is done in the light, known by others, and doesn’t violate biblical standards. Anything you experience that is done furtively, in the dark, and kept secret is nearly always sinful.
  • Which means young women need to know biblical standards for godly living. They also need to know the Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 passage about the qualifications of leaders, so that they can recognize those who twist the Word for their own gain.
  • They need to know that a man who genuinely loves them will honor this relationship publicly, a love that is shown like a banner over them (Song of Solomon 2:4).
  • They need to know a godly man and a future husband is an imitator of God who walks in the light, avoiding sexual immorality, taking no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, and who desires to nourish and cherish his wife (all of Ephesians 5). Therefore, one who pursues sexual immorality and encourages them to lie and deceive others is not an imitator of God and needs to be confronted or exposed.
  • They need to know the standards of godly speech, so that a man (especially a man in authority!) who texts and talks to them nonstop about sex is automatically suspect in his motives, because this reveals the defiling overflow of his heart (Matt. 15:19).
  • They also need to recognize, in humility, that their desire for romance and pursuit is legitimate, but it can become the very thing that trips them up if they aren’t willing to acknowledge this is exactly how predators and abusers work the system. If they aren’t willing to consider that they are being lied to in any particular situation, they they aren’t going to ask the hard questions–of the men or themselves.
  • Love is an action. It is measured equally as much in the deeds of those who claim friendship or affection as it is in the proffered words. Make sure they match.

This are just some of my initial thoughts. I’d like to hear your perspectives, too. I don’t want young women to distrust men, but to be wise and discerning, able to question improper actions but also eager to encourage the godliness of others around them.
________________
Some blog posts are worth repeating. This is one of them. ~ CMC
Read the original post or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
 
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.
 

Networks

 

In Christ!

 
In a world filled with more and more social networking on the Internet we taste God’s creation design in a new way.  We are made to be relational—that’s our starting point.  It comes from God, who as the Triune One, exists in his eternal life of communion, with the Father and Son always exchanging a mutual devotion in love through the Spirit’s intimate ministry.
[box type=”shadow”]The Spirit is not the lover himself,
but the discloser of the depths of the one to the other
(1 Corinthians 2:9-13).[/box] We, in turn, are made in the image of God as relational.  Adam and Eve were the original “Man” who was one, though he—they—lived within the distinctions of being male and female.  The bond of the original couple was ultimately spiritual—that of a pair whose distinct inner person or spirit was glued together by the presence of their shared life in the eternal Spirit.  Their “yoke” or bond was Spiritual so that a marriage of an unbelieving person to a believer was an “unequal yoking” (1 Corinthians 7:13-14, 39 & 2 Corinthians 6:14).  Only in Christ, then, can it be said that “the two shall be one flesh” in the fullest sense of God’s creation design.
This, I realize, isn’t a commonplace view in a world now shaped mainly by the assumptions of individualism.  It’s even rare among Christians.  The presumptions of individualistic-being were best expressed by the ancient Stoic Christian, Boethius, who held persons to be individual thinking-choosing units.  His portrayal was then widely accepted in subsequent Western thought—no doubt a default sentiment birthed in the Fall of Adam.
Boethius, however, missed the biblical presumption that God created human life to be bonded both together with each other and also with him within the fabric of his own eternal Life.  We are dependent on him both for our physical life and for our spiritual life—that which is born of the flesh is flesh (and comes through his creation and sustaining the earth), and that which is born of the Spirit is a spiritual life (coming through our bond to God in Christ).
All this leads to the remarkable truth that the true meaning of networking only comes for those who are “in Christ”.  Short of that we just love those who love us—which is a very insecure sort of bond in a fallen world where love is mainly conditional and temporal rather than unconditional and eternal.
Our bond in Christ also sets us up with the promise of an “insider’s” view of life as we enjoy the communion of God’s Life.  Listen to Paul on this:
[box type=”shadow”]“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).[/box] So what can we say about all this?  Does it have any practical implications for those of us who network with each other as believers?  As we share “the mind of Christ” (verse 16) are we really different?  I think we are . . . and we should be.  For one, our connection is eternal rather than temporal and temporary; so we get to talk about things within a much broader frame of reference.  And huge implications result from that.
Any other Spiritual reflections on what this all means are welcome.  And maybe we should call the community that has this conversation “ChristBook”.
 
Any thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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