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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Men and Women in the Family of God

Our pastor, Scott Golike, preached a very helpful sermon today. It was part II of his sermon on "Men and Women in the Family of God". For me, it helped to clear up some confusion I have had about 1 Timothy 2:8-14 and the role of Biblical manhood and womanhood. It helped me recognize some inaccurate beliefs I have had and some inaccurate teachings I have heard that do not actually fit with what the text is saying.

Here is the mp3 from part 2:

Here is the mp3 from part 1:

Here is an index of the 1 Timothy series as well as links to the other sermons in this series:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why I Resist Community

A very dear friend of ours (who is not a Christian) gave us the cross in this picture. It hangs on our wall and is the very first thing you see if you walk into our house and look straight ahead. I love this cross for many reasons, but one my reasons for loving it I only discovered recently...this cross looks like it has arrows pointing up and out from it. It reminds me of something I am starting to see in the Cross of Christ-- and that is Christ's death on our behalf enables fellowship with God and with the worshippers of God. This is part of our great salvation.

So why do I resist this?.....

Last night with some friends, we were talking about whether we would have made the same decisions as Adam and Eve to rebel against God with the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or whether we would have grumbled and turned to idols like the Israelites wandering in the desert. For me, I know the answer is unequivocally “YES” because I do the same thing now. Because of selfish ambition, fear, and shame, I resist community with God and others. Because I do not seek community with God and His people (who point me back to God and enable me to honor God by imaging Him in community), I chase idols to satisfy the constant need in my heart for God.

To understand this, I need only go back to Genesis:

1) We are created to image God who is the Triune community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Genesis 2:26-27 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

2) God is a good God who genuinely and tenderly loves us and seeks to bless us.
Genesis 1:28-30 “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."

Genesis 2:8-9 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

3) We are created for unfettered community with God and with others, and we image God in community with others:
Genesis 2: 18-24, "Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

4) Things quickly go wrong as we stop believing that God not only exists, but that He also rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We believe the lie that God is not good and that He does not want our good. We are suspicious of the fact that God wants to be in relationship with us because of His love. We start to believe that He is holding out on us. Accordingly, we take matters into our own hands. We seek idols—things that we think will satisfy us because we no longer believe that God can satisfy us or that God even wants to satisfy us.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. "

5) When we step out of community with God and with others, and give sin its opportunity to deceive us. We disbelieve God and the result is fear instead of faith; selfishness instead of love; and shame instead of freedom. We break fellowship with God and with each other.

Genesis 3:7-10 “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ 10 And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’"

HERE IS OUR HOPE.. HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: Jesus came to restore fellowship. He came to restore relationship between us and God, and He came to restore fellowship between men. Here it is in 1 John 1:

1 John 1:1-10

“1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

If we do not want fellowship with God and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, then heaven has no appeal for us. Fellowship with God and fellowship with the family of God is what eternal life is all about.

Knowing all of this (and even wanting it desperately), I resist it. For all my talk of community, there is a part of me that doesn’t like it. Selfishly, I do not want to give my time and energy to others when it could be used to gratifying my own desires and ambitions. Also selfishly, I do not want to give of my heart in vulnerability and love because I know my heart will be bruised and broken. Fearfully, I do not want to be known and rejected—by God or by others. Fearfully (and selfishly), I do not believe that God or others want “good” for me. In my frenzy of fear and shame, I do not want to walk in the light. I do not want my ugly sinfulness to be exposed to God or to others. The only antidote for this is to know God’s perfect love and forgiveness and to believe it.

1 John 4:14-18 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

I need to believe the love that God has for me, rather than being suspicious of it because it seems too good to be true…

Is it really true that there is NO condemnation left for me (Romans 8:1)?! Isn’t God a little bit mad at me because today marks the 5 millionth time I have committed the same sin?!! Is it really true that God has no wrath left for my sin and it was all spent on Jesus (John 3:36; Romans 5:9; 1 Thes. 1:10; 2 Cor 5:21)? Is there any point to going to Him in prayer? Is there any point in reading His Truth in the Word, when I see His Perfect Purity and wonder how I could possibly stand in His presence while I feel the filth of my sin? Is it really true that through Jesus, God has not only forgiven me but CLEANSED me from ALL my unrighteousness so that I can be with God (1 John 1:9; 2 Cor 5:17-19)!? Does ALL really mean ALL—like I am clean from EVERY little and big thing in my past, present, future? Is it really true that because of Jesus that I can approach the throne of grace with CONFIDENCE? (Hebrews 4:16)?! Isn’t God a little bit disappointed in me? Isn’t He going to tell me to just stop it already now?!!! And what will I do then, since I can’t seem to stop on my own? Aren’t I screwed? Is it really true that God will help me and not devour me when I go to Him and that I will find mercy and grace to help in my time of need? (Hebrews 4:16)? Isn’t there anything I can DO to become BETTER? Is it really true that I am no longer under the law but I am under grace (Romans 6:14)? Is it really true that God promises not to leave me “as is” in my struggle with sin, but He promises to use all things to conform me to the image of Jesus FOR MY GOOD (Romans 8:28)?!!

The promises and characteristics of God in Scripture do not make sense given the chasm between God's goodness and my sinfulness, but God’s Word says they are true! God’s Word says that God is truly THAT unbelievably loving! If only I could believe it. If only I could believe it, then God’s perfect love truly would drive out all fear in my heart that keeps me from walking in the light with Him and with others. If only I could believe it, I would have no reason to hide my sin and shame because I would know that my sin is paid for, God’s wrath against my sin has been satisfied by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on my behalf, I can stand before God now with confidence, and God wants to help me be free of my sin so that I can enjoy relationship with Him without carrying the weight of my sin around with me anymore. Yet, this is really the illustration of how I live: it is as if I have gone out and committed cold-blooded murder…went on trial…was convicted…was sentenced to death so that justice could be done…God served my death penalty and did my time for me…my debt to justice has been paid for completely and I am free…I get a second chance to live differently and moreover, God Himself gives me the power to live differently….and yet, instead of enjoying my freedom to be with God and to live differently, I insist on carrying the dead body I killed with me everywhere I go! It is a hindrance to me. It impedes my ability to enjoy God in relationship.

We have the audacity to treat others in the same way—with an utter disbelief that God could be THAT good and that grace could really be freely offered to sinners. We judge others. We condemn them. We look at their sin and think, “Wow, that really IS bad!” or “You’ve really messed up big this time!” or “Really?! You have gone back to your vomit AGAIN?!” We are disturbed and disgusted by them because of their sin. We withdraw from them. We tell them that they better get themselves under control, or at least we think it. We give them a list of things they should try so that they can change. We reject them, we abandon them, and we throw them away. We move on to people who are not “lost causes”. We move on to people we like better and who make us feel better about ourselves. We move on to people who are less work and more gratification. We spit in the face of the unbelievable gospel love that God has demonstrated to us. Indeed, we handcuff the dead body to these very people for whom God has died!

Does anyone else relate to what I am saying here???????
At the root of these beliefs and behaviors, I fail to understand the gospel and what it means that God loves me! This love is demonstrated in that He died for me a wretched sinner (and I need to know the depth and ugliness of my sin and the depth and beauty of God's righteousness in order to recognize the supreme love of the great exchange--that Perfect God would die for a wretched sinner like me.) His love is demonstrated in that He has forgiven me; He has given me free access to Himself; and He is removing every obstacle of sin that keeps me from enjoying Him and His people forever! This is what the gospel is. God wants me to believe and live the gospel. He wants me to live in the freeing implications of the gospel--a life of joy and transformation in Him, and a life of freedom and faith that no longer fears walking in the light because there is no longer anything of which to be afraid! He wants me to glorify Him by bearing His image by living in a gospel way with my brothers and sisters in Christ. He wants me speak to and relate to my brothers and sisters in gospel ways (loving, serving, blessing, forgiving, forbearing, pursuing, etc). He wants me to administer gospel grace to my brothers and sisters and He wants me to receive that same grace from my brothers and sisters. In the face of the lies we are tempted to believe and the deceit of our hearts and our sin, He wants us to remind each other that the scandalous truth of the gospel REALLY IS TRUE!! This is the gospel community for which we were made, to the praise and glory of our Great God!

Dear Heavenly Father, I am desperate to believe in your love! I am desperate to be rooted and established in the love of Christ so that I might have strength with all my brothers and sisters to know the breadth, the depth, the height and the depth of your amazing love that simply surpasses all my understanding (Eph. 3:14-21!) I want to know this love and be rooted in it, so that I can be free of the sin that weighs me down and keeps me from enjoying full and free relationship with you! I want to know this love and be rooted in it, so that I could demonstrate it to others—so that your love could flow into me and out through me to others so that they too would know that you love them! I want to participate in the perfect and beautiful fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I want fellowship with you and the community of those who worship you! I want to be able to walk in the light with you and with others so that I can receive help in my struggles. I want to be able to walk in the light with you and with others so that others may see that there is nothing good in me apart from you and so that they may see how amazing YOU are to love me, to change me, to work in me and through me. I want to be able to walk in the light so that I can help others to do so too so that they can be helped too and so that they can give you glory as your power is displayed in their weakness too and so that they can have joy (and we can have it together!). Please forgive me for my selfish ambition and all my selfishness. Please forgive me for my fear and lack of faith in you and what you have done and what you have told me and promised me in your Word! God, I have no hope of victory in this area of my life apart from you. I NEED you. I feel like I spiral in this area. I feel like I walk around in circles. Please give me whatever help I need in this. I do not know what help I need, but you do. Please provide it for me. I pray this for my brothers and sisters too. I pray that you would penetrate our hearts and everyday moments with the gospel. That we would really know the full gospel and that we would really believe it and live like we believe it, empowered by your Spirit and not our own strength and will power. I pray that we would truly display the gospel to the world and even the heavenly realms so that your name would be proclaimed (Eph 3:10). Pour your Spirit out onto us in increasing measure, that we might see your truth and believe it more and more everyday. Please bridge the obvious gap between my head belief, my heart belief, and my hand belief. I believe you are able to do abundantly more than all I ask for and think, by your Spirit. Please do it in me. Please do it in us. Please help us believe. I love you, Lord. In Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paul Tripp Speaks on the Messiness of Community

I listened to a great sermon by Paul Tripp. It’s called “When Love Gets Messy: Hope for Broken Relationships”. It is available for mp3 download here (talk #601):

He also has a book I want to read soon called "Relationships, a Mess Worth Making".

Here are some highlights from the talk:

“Sin in its essence is not about breaking rules. Sin in its essence is about breaking relationship. I was made for relationship with God, and I was made to live in community with people. The essence of sin is I break relationship with God to live my own way. Sin in its essence is anti-social. That’s what sin is about. And if you just think that sin is somehow some technical breaking of laws, you don’t understand why it messes up your relationships so much. Sin messes up your relationship because sin makes you only care about you. And the very nature of that is when I only care about me, I only care about what I want, when I want it, how I want it and where I want it. And by the very fact of that, I do not care about you. And if I don’t care about God, I don’t have a bit of possibility of ever caring about you because you only keep the second great command if you’ve kept the first first.”

“If what I was created for is to live in worshipful community with God and humble community with you, the enemy of my soul will do everything he can to destroy that community.”

“Are you quite content in living in an endless fabric of terminally casual relationships with people that have casual acquaintance with you but don’t actually know you? How many people have you invited to intrude in on your existence, to challenge your assumptions, to confront the scary reality of the you that is you? How many people? Do you have meaningless conversations with people at the back of church and mistakenly name it as ‘fellowship’? Do you live around community of people but do you live largely an isolated life? You see we don’t just wrestle with people. We wrestle with an enemy who’s seductive, who whispers lies in our ears, who wants us to see autonomy as attractive and self-sufficiency as attractive… to paint that in ways that look beautiful to us so that we would live ways that we were never intended to live.”

“God is rescuing you from you. And so God puts in your life things that you are not able to deal with, he puts you in places with things that you can’t solve, he calls you beyond your autonomy and beyond your self-sufficiency to reach out and cry, “God please help me!” and at that moment you have now given yourself to community because you have stepped out of yourself and you say, “God I can’t do this by myself. God I need help, won’t you help me by your grace? And you are get close to what you were designed to be in the first place. God will put you in places where your autonomy won’t work. God will put you in places where your self-sufficiency will present itself as the delusion that it actually is, so that perhaps in that moment you would reach out to him and say, “God, would you please help me? I don’t know what to do.”

“We live smack dab in the middle of “the already” and “the not yet”, and the middle of “the already” and the “not yet” is messy.”

“Here it is: broken world, broken people, a broken angel who became a terrible tempter, but a broken Messiah who entered this world willing to be broken, so that in his brokenness, you could be made whole again. And as you are made whole, your wholeness has to do with being drawn once again into fuller, deeper community with God, living even more fully into interdependent community with other people. Your Messiah entered the broken house. Your Messiah was willing himself to be broken so that you would have hope of being whole again…and in being whole, being part of the restoration of community with Him and community with others. You live in a broken down house. There’s a fallen world mess, there’s a sin mess, there’s a devil mess—but there is a God of awesome grace who is in and over the mess, calling you out of your autonomy, calling you out of your self sufficiency, taking you way beyond yourself so that you would reach out and find Him and know the community for which you were created”

Monday, May 25, 2009

1 Timothy 2:8-14

This passage of Scripture has always been hard for me to understand:

1 Timothy 2:8-15 "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."

Our pastor, Scott Golike, preached a sermon on this passage of Scripture yesterday, and it was extremely helpful to me.

I even love the title of it: "Men and Women in the Family of God".

Why Gospel Community Matters

A wise friend told me that when she leads other women it works much better when she walks in humility rather than feeling like she has something to offer. This is something I have experienced too. I still struggle with pride in it—ashamed of my hypocrisy when I can see God’s beauty and truth in His Word and I communicate it with others, but fail in living it out. My least favorite verse is: James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I fail on that account the most. I hate that I fail, and I hate that teaching other women constantly reminds me that I do not measure up! I hate being a hypocrite.

I am a hypocrite, but God is teaching me that as He uses me to teach other women, He is just as equally using those opportunities (and those women) to teach and transform me. He is doing a double work of sanctification—in them and in me. It all re-emphasizes to me something I am learning in His Word in increasing measure in the last year and a half—we are created for community. We are firstly created to be in community with the God of community (the community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). We are secondly created to image the gospel in community with God’s people.

Matthew 22:34-40 “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”

Two of the main purposes for community that I see in Scripture are 1) to help and build up the Body of Christ; and 2) to display the gospel to the world and even to the heavenly realms to the praise of God’s glorious grace.

First of all, it is important for us to see how important to the Church (the worldwide community of all who believe) is to Jesus. The Church is actually called the BODY of CHRIST… my Savior’s own dear body that He obtained by His own blood—see Acts 20:28! When Jesus confronted Saul about persecuting the Church, He said to Saul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:4) He did not say to Saul, why are you persecuting my friends or my people. In Matthew 25:31-39, Jesus says that acts of loving service done to His brothers (believers) are acts of loving service done to HIM. In John 17, Jesus says that He is one with believers, just as the Father and the Son are one. Jesus identifies with the Church as His own body! An earthly (and less powerful) analogy to this would be the way that a husband would identify with the wife he loves… when my husband was working in Alaska and our friends served and took care of me while I was home alone, my husband felt loved by those acts of service as if they were done to him. We see this concept in Ephesians 5.

Our God cherishes and loves the community of believers, and being in community is a primary way in which God administers grace to each of us who believe in Him. First, God blesses us by pouring His Spirit into us, so that we can see Jesus in His beauty and truth and so that we can love Him! His Spirit then bears fruit in us like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control (Gal 5:22 and there are others of this type discussed elsewhere). He also graciously gifts every Christian with different spiritual gifts to be used to build up the body in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). [And we know that NONE of our spiritual gifts mean anything without the fruit of the Spirit—especially the fruit of love! (1 Cor 13). When we try to exercise some gift without the Spirit, our efforts are not honoring to God and will not prove to be fruit that lasts!] Then He entrusts us with stewarding the grace He has poured into us that is to be poured out for others. (1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 3:2). For this to work, we need to be continually poured into—that is, seeking to be filled with the Spirit so that we can increasingly know and love Jesus and so that we can increasingly be conformed to His image. This happens through private times of prayer (asking for it!) and studying the Word, AND ALSO through meaningful community that brings us back to prayer and the Word. The beautiful part of the community aspect is that God administers grace to us through our brothers and sisters and He helps us—shows us the deceitfulness of our own hearts (Jer 17:9), the deceitfulness of our sin (Heb 3:13), reminds us of His love and grace through the hands and feet and tongues of our brothers and sisters, and encourages us to move forward in Him.

James 5:13-20 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Hebrews 3:12-13 “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Paul says to the Romans in Romans 1:11-12 “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.”

In order for this to work, we need to be real, sincere, honest, and vulnerable—walk in the light.

1 John 1:5-10 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

No matter how grand our spiritual gifting is and no matter what measure of grace we have received, we all need the Body of Christ--we need each other and we belong to each other.

1 Corinthians 12:4-31 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

(Note that the “higher gifts” are the ones that most edify the Body of Christ! Also note that the more excellent way is love, as we learn from the next chapter of 1 Corinthians, which is chapter 13).

We get to administer the gospel to others and we get to receive the gospel from others. Incredibly, as we are helped, God gets the glory!

2 Cor 4: 5-11 “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 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. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

God does a work in us through community and we get to display the gospel in community. As Christians, we image the gospel in community. The primary way we do this is through the Church. (Unfortunately, in American culture the term “church” is often associated with a Sunday service. This is not the church as defined scripturally. The Church is simply all who belong to Jesus by faith.) We interact with the Church in our local expression of the Body of Christ, but we also interact with the Church in other relationships with believers. We interact with the Church through our relationships with our believing husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, employer, employee, governor, citizen, etc. We are called to live out the gospel in these relationships. This is why the New Testament is so full of practical ways we are to relate to one another with longsuffering, scandalous, sacrificial, pursuing, and persevering committed love. These ways of relating to one another are gospel actions. These are the ways that God has related to us in the gospel---out of His Great Love and Mercy, the Righteous and Mighty God of the Universe humbled Himself to save those of us who were His enemies--people who sinned against His Holy and Good Name--at great cost to Himself so that we could enjoy relationship with Him forever. This is how we are to relate to each other. We are called to love each other with the same love that Jesus showed us. In doing this, the world will know we belong to Jesus. This is how we display the gospel.

Jesus prayed to the Father about us:

John 17:20-26 “20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 13:35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In all of these Scriptures, Jesus is talking about the way believers love other believers. We are only able to have these “other-worldly” love relationships because the Spirit of Jesus lives in us. The very love between the Father and the Son lives in us through the Holy Spirit. We cannot love like this on our own, but we love like this only because the One who loved us first teaches us how and empowers us by His Spirit.

(I would like to insert a caveat here. Please do not get me wrong, we are absolutely called to scandalously love those who are outside the Body of Christ too. Not engaging with and not loving unbelievers is a grievous sin. Jesus is our best example of engaging with and loving those outside of the Church. He does this with the woman at the well, with Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, etc. He was known for hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors. Indeed, He did this with all of us. His kindness leads people to repentance. His kindness led us to repentance. Scripture contains lots of examples how are to treat unbelieving spouses, employers, employees, governments, etc. with scandalous love. Jesus even gives us many examples of how to treat our enemies with scandalous love. Let us never forget that Jesus washed Judas’ feet even though He knew Judas was the one who would betray Him. My only point is that we image the gospel the most powerfully through relationship with other believers because both we and they are connected in Christ and are empowered by the same Spirit that enables “other-worldly” love in action mutually.)

The amazing thing is that we as the community of believers (the Church) get to display the gospel to each other, to the world and even to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places!

Ephesians 3:7-13 “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”

The rest of Ephesians is all about how we image the gospel in community. Here are some snapshots:

Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:11-16 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Ephesians 4:25-32 “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Then Ephesians goes into relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, slaves and masters, etc.

Ephesians ends with telling us how we can do this---how we can live out of other-worldly scandalous love. It tells us how we can resist the temptations and the opposition we will face from our enemy who hates gospel community. It tells us to pray, to be armed with the Word of God (which requires that we know the Word, we study the Word, and we rightly handle the Word... which we do with the assistance of those in the Body), to believe the Word of God, and to obey the Word of God.

The beautiful thing is that the community we experience here on earth is only a shadow of what is to come. One day, there will be no sin to separate us from God and one another in any way. One day, we will experience fullness of relationship with God and with each other in glorious community. This is what we are saved to. Salvation is so much more than not going to hell and getting to go to heaven. Salvation is being in an unfettered relationship with God firstly and secondly in an unfettered community of worshippers of God to the praise of His glorious grace!

This is why gospel community matters.

I want to close with these glorious words that embody the gospel community that we are called to live out on earth by God’s grace and that we will one day live out in perfection in heaven with Magnificent God and with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what we are saved to:

1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak in the 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.

4 Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant 5 or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

7 Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

8 Love never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Where have I been?

You might have noticed that I have not blogged in a long time. Where have I been? A little lost. Wandering. Walking through life without aim. Going through the motions. Starved for time with my Savior—not because I have not had the time, but because I have not made the time. I have been running away. Instead of opening my Bible, I have been turning on the television or filling up my days with all sorts of busyness. I have been avoiding relationships—particularly the ones that are the most meaningful.

Fortunately, I did have some good time with Jesus reading the book of Ephesians this morning. I hope to spend much of the rest of today reading, meditating, and praying as well.

I need Jesus. My life does not work without Him. He is my source of joy, purpose, hope, peace, comfort, passion, and love.

I would love your prayers that I would be unhindered in pursuing Him in repentance and restoration.

Here are some areas of life where I have been struggling:

Hypocrisy—The Lord shows me a truth from His Word, and I often blog about what He is teaching me, yet I so often find myself forgetting what He has taught me. I struggle to live out what He reveals to me as truth. I find myself walking in circles and I have trouble seeing victory in certain areas of my life. This has made me reluctant to blog.

Not Believing God’s Truth with my Heart and my Actions—So often, I believe God’s truth for other people, and not for myself. If a friend came to me with the struggles in which I have found myself lately, I would direct that friend to God’s Word. I would gently point out to my friend that what she is believing about herself, her circumstances and her God is not consistent with what is in God’s Word. At least part of this struggle in me lately is that I have not been filling my mind with God’s Word—that is, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise, and whatever I have learned, received, heard and seen in Scripture (Phil 4:8-9). Consequently, I am filling my mind up with what I see in the world. I am setting myself up for failure, and so it is no surprise that I am struggling to see victory.

Not wanting to do the hard work of relationship—My number one sin in relationships with others is self protection at the expense of putting the interests of others above me.

Philippians 2:1-11 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

I have been hurt a lot in relationships in the last two years. The hardest part is that all of these relationships have been with Christians. What has made that even more difficult is that God has been showing me an aspect of the gospel I never understood before, and that is how He works in community. He is a God of community—Father, Son, and Spirit. We were created for community with God and with others. God’s Spirit works in us in mighty ways through community, and we image God and the gospel in community. Community is part of the gospel—it is part of the redemption we receive from the Father, through Jesus by the Holy Spirit! This is all over Scripture. I never saw it like this before, in part because I am a product of the highly individualistic culture in which I live. Now that God is showing this aspect of the gospel to me, I hunger for it. (if you want to learn more about this, a good place to start is by asking God to show this to you and then prayerfully reading the book of Ephesians).

Yet because of the hurtful situations in which I have been in the last couple years with Christian brothers and sisters, I have a hard time imagining that Christian fellowship in my life could actually look like Christian fellowship in the Scriptures. I find it much easier to love than to be loved. Yet, I know the mutuality of relationship is something that God wants for me too—so that I can know and image Him, and so that I can walk in the light and experience grace administered to me from Him through my brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, I struggle with trusting that people actually care about me and that they want anything more than to use me and throw me away when relationship becomes inconvenient. Maybe on some level it causes me to struggle with trusting that God actually cares about me. I know that is sick and wrong, since my God paid an unfathomable price to bring me into relationship with Him.

I also do not want to make an idol out of relationships. I don’t want to look for something in relationships that I ought to be getting only from God. While relationships are important and a natural and necessary outflow of loving God, they are secondary to loving God. Matthew 22:34-40 “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Learning How Not to Sin in Response to Being Sinned Against—Maybe the section before this one helps to shed light on this one. I want to follow Jesus’ example of sincere love, grace, patience, and commitment to the truth in the way I respond to being sinned against. I do not want to quench the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:25-32 & 5:1-21 “25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of isobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light.

Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the opportunity to come before your throne of grace because of Jesus. Thank you for not letting me live in the place of avoiding you, but in your grace, you ALWAYS bring me back. You are my Good Shepherd. Thank you for your love that I do not deserve. Thank you for your patience with me, as I am a dumb sheep who struggles to learn the lessons you teach me over and over again. Thank you that somewhere inside of me, I KNOW that the gospel works. I have seen it work many times. I believe, help my unbelief. Give me faith in you. Give me faith in your Word. Let me live in faith, and not by my emotions, circumstances, and what I see around me. God I confess all of these sins I have named above to you. I want nothing to do with them. Fill me with your Spirit, that I may turn away from them and live in your truth instead. Empty me of the lies I have filled myself up with lately, and fill me again with your truth. Grant me perseverance and endurance. Grant me the ability to love others as you would have me love them. Do not let relationships be an idol for me. Forgive me for the ways they have been. Help me to experience community as you would have it. Keep me close to you. I want to experience you every moment of my life. I pray for those in my life with whom I have strained relationships. Show me how to love them. Protect me against any anger, bitterness, or malice. Convict me and open my eyes to show me any ways that I might be sinning against them—whether that would be in the original circumstances from which the conflict arose, or whether that would be in response to their sin. Give me supernatural love for them—the kind that comes from your Spirit. Show me tangible ways of loving them and blessing them. Do not let the enemy deceive me or have any room in my life or theirs. Open our eyes to your truth. Give us soft and humble hearts. Protect us from the influence of our enemy. Be glorified in our lives. Redeem these situations, I pray. I love you. I worship you. You are worthy of losing everything else and you are worth every heartache this world may bring. You are my treasure. Help me to always remember that and to always live like that. In Jesus Name, Amen