2017-01-22T08:28:58.731-05:00"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)The true mark of maturity is not how you live on Sunday, but how you live on Monday when no one from church is watching you. As parents, we teach our children how to behave through instruction and commands; watching them to ensure that their behavior lines up and conforms to what we have taught and commanded them. When they do the things we command, we praise them. When they do not, we discipline them that they might learn to follow our instructions and commands. The goal of all this is so that, when they are grown and out of our sight, they will continue to live by what we taught them and trained them to do. Our fundamental hope is that, if we "train up a child in the way he should go, [then] even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) If we succeed in this, then we will have succeeded in raising our children to be mature adults.Paul viewed those in the churches to which he ministered as his children. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church saying, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." (1 Corinthians 4:15) As a father, Paul was concerned with their growth towards maturity. To this end, he desired, not only that they would obey him when present, but even in his absence, the things he taught and commanded them would continue to guide their lives, conversations, and behavior. Only when they were able to live a righteous and moral live in his absence, would he have succeeded in raising them unto maturity.The working out of our salvation is our own personal responsibility. Having been taught and trained, it is up to us to put that training into practice. Others can instruct us, others can command us how we ought to live, but it is up to us to decide how we will actually live our lives and put to use those things we have been taught and commanded. Even the very faith we have in Christ, it is up to us to put that faith into action; to allow it to become active in our lives and to allow it to dictate and control every aspect of our daily walk and life. It is not enough to hear, learn, and understand the Gospel of God, we must actually learn to live by what we have learned, heard, and have understood. We must take what we know and put it into action.The great paradox in all of this is that, even though we are responsible for working out our own salvation, it is not really us who are working, but God who is working within us. While our salvation is our own personal responsibility, we do not do it alone. Prior to grace, we were left to the Law and the Law commanded us what it willed but give us no help or power to do the things it commanded. We were left to our own willingness to obey and our own power to follow through on that willingness. However, now that grace has come, we are no longer left to ourselves but God Himself aids us in living the life He commands. Paul, writing of himself, speaks to our new life in Christ. "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:19-20) In Christ, we have died and have been given a new life. In this new life, we find that it is Christ who is living in us and who is working both to give us the willingness and the strength to live the new life we have been given and commanded. We have the very resurrected life in Christ empowering us to do the very things Paul commands; that we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Augustine of Hippo used to say, "Lord command what you will and grant what you command!" How great is the good news o[...]
"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)For what reason was Christ highly exalted to the place where every knee will bow and every tongue confess? Because of what Paul had previously taught us, that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped and that He emptied Himself, became a man, and was obedient even to death upon the cross. Jesus descended to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. For this reason, He has also ascended to become the Lord of all. In saving all of mankind, He became the Lord of all mankind. This is also what Paul meant when, after quoting David, "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives," (Psalms 68:18) he writes, "Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things." (Ephesians 4:9-10)
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)Attitudes just don't happen, they are chosen and formed by a conscience act of our mind and will. This Greek word means to exercise the mind or to form and maintain an opinion or mental disposition. It speaks of an active undertaking not a passive acquiesce to a thought or idea. Paul is not calling us to an attitude but calling us to action to form such an attitude within us, an attitude which was also found in the person of Jesus Christ.
2017-01-07T10:44:38.297-05:00"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)How many churches have been destroyed through selfishness, strife, and empty conceit? How many marriages have been ruined by those same diabolical attitudes and behaviors? Strife and empty conceit not only hurt relationships but also destroys any attempt to unite people together either as a church, a marriage, or any other form of relational institution.Other translators translate the Greek word for selfishness as "strife" (Darby) and "selfish admission" (NKJV). Thayer translates this word as "a courting distinction, a desire to put oneself forward, a partisan and factious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship, factiousness." In any organization, including the church, there will always be people who have different ideas, different views of how things ought to be done, and different ways they would use to approach a common issue or problem. The problem is not so much the dissension of ideas, plans, and means but the striving for having your own idea, plan, and means adopted as the only approach to any project, problem, or mission. We may not always agree on the direction or plan taken, but when we resort to intrigue, courting others to our side, and waging intellectual war against our opponents then we have crossed the line into something that is bound to be destructive and divisive. We must, in the midst of our differences, find a way to work together as a whole; to place ourselves under a common yolk so that we might pull together in a common direction and towards a common purpose.The truth of conceit is that all conceit is empty. Thayer describes this Greek word as "empty self-esteem." The reason conceit and self-esteem are empty is not because there is no reason to be conceited or to have self-esteem but because the source of those things for which we might have conceit or self-esteem is not from us but from God. There are many good qualities in each of us and many reasons to be proud and confident in who we are, but those traits and qualities are not from us but God given and God honed through His work in our lives. When we let ourselves think that who and what we are is a product of our own efforts and industry then we deceive ourselves and our estimation of ourselves is empty. However, when we realize that all the good things in us are gifts from God, then we are moved to thankfulness and our desire becomes to use those gifts for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. Then our purpose will not be to put ourself forward or to strive for our own way but to find how to use our gifts, talents, and abilities for a larger purpose than ourselves.Why should we view one another more important than ourselves? Are we not important? Are we not at least as important as they are? Why should we consider them more important? Vine defines this Greek word as "to hold or have above." In other words, the sense in which they are "better" than us is not derived from some qualitative comparison of morality, aptitude, or ability. Rather is is a choise we make to voluntarily consider them first before ourselves.There are two keys to being able to look at others as more important than ourselves. First, we must have a humble and realistic estimation of ourselves. The truth is that we are just like everyone else; we are no better or no worst. Paul reminds us that, "for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:22-23) In the things that really matter, we are just like everyone else. We have all sinned; we are all fallen; we all need a savior. Secondly, we need to be confident that God cares for us and that He is, and will continue, to look after our needs. David said, "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me." (Psa[...]
2017-01-05T08:32:18.580-05:00"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." (Philippians 2:1-2)Paul is asking the Philippians to stop and consider the benefits they have found in Christ. While Paul's words are stated as a question, the implied answer to each question is "Yes". In response to Paul's questions, here is what he is hoping we will realize.There is encouragement in Christ. The Greek word for encouragement is a form of the same word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit as our comforter, "And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever." (John 14:16 Darby) In Christ, there is comfort, encouragement, and consolation, even in times of trouble and loss. Our encouragement comes not from our own power of will, but because the one who is our comforter lives within us. We have comfort and encouragement because of our relationship with Christ and His very presence in our lives.In Christ we have received the love of the Father and, through the Holy Spirit, our lives have been filled full with the love of God. "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) This Greek word for consolation is translated by Vine as "to speak closely to anyone." Through the love of God, we experience not only His nearness but we also hear his expressions of love and feel His breath upon our spirit as He speaks His love to us.In Christ, we have fellowship with His Spirit. Not only do we live in social intercourse with the Spirit, but we also participate with Him in His work in our lives and upon this Earth. Our fellowship with the Spirit goes beyond simply knowing Him, we also participate with Him in a purpose that is greater than ourselves. Through the Spirit, we become partners with God and partners in a mission that is extending His Kingdom throughout the whole Earth.In Christ, our hard hearts have been made soft again; where there was once coldness there is now the ardent warmth of love. Instead of indifference towards others, our heart now burns with love, compassion, mercy, and empathy. Instead of self-love, we find a new motivating force within us that draws us to others, that causes us to take notice and consider other people, and that motivates us to share with them the same love of Christ that has been shared with us. Our love, that was once selfish, has been turned outward towards God and towards others.In all of this, Paul is trying to get us to see all we have received in Christ and, in seeing this, to motivate us towards love and community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Message bible puts it this way, "If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ... then do me a favor..." (Philippians 2:1-2 The Message) We have been given so much in Christ that we ought not to keep it to ourselves or to use it only for our own purposes, interests, and benefit but we ought to share those benefits with others.Paul's joy was the joy of a father; the joy a father feels when his children grow up to become mature, well constituted, men and women of character, fidelity, courage, and godliness. Paul's judgment of their maturity was based upon how they lived and interacted with others. It is not only an inward maturity that Paul was looking for but also an outward maturity that affects every aspect of our lives, speech, and conduct.Paul's joy was not only for the individual but also for the whole church. Paul not only loved and cared for the individual but he also loved and cared for the church. To this end, Paul encourages the Philippians in how they should relate to one another. Specifically, he asks that they would live in unity with each other. That that they would have the same[...]
2016-12-31T10:15:44.137-05:00"in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:28-30)The early church was often under the constant threat of persecution. Waves of persecution would wash over the church bring imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom to many. Here, Paul is not talking about people who just don't like us, he is speaking of those who oppose us, and threaten us, because of our faith. Paul is urging the Philippian church to stand strong in the face of persecution; to not be quickly moved to fear by the oppressive forces around them. The way we respond to persecution and oppression has a lot to say about who we are and who they are who seek to persecute us. If we respond in fear or like aggression then we prove ourselves to be just as they are. However, if we respond in faith, showing the confidence and peace that faith brings to us in times of difficulty, then we demonstrate ourselves to better than them, not because we ourselves are better, but because the hope and foundation of our lives are better than that upon which their lives are built. Furthermore, we prove that our confession of Christ is real and His promise of salvation is true. Our faith and confidence are evidence that what God has spoken is true and that, no matter how great the persecution that awaits us, our hope of deliverance and eternal life is greater than any persecution that can come our way. In the end, our faith and confidence in Christ are evidence that those who seek to destroy us are not fighting against us but against God and, those who fight against God, do so to their own destruction.In our own human understanding, it does not appear to be any great reward that we are granted the privilege to suffer for Christ's sake. However, when we suffer, it is not because we have done anything wrong, on the contrary, it is because God has found us worthy of His suffering. As such, it is an honor and a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is said of the Apostles, after having been beaten and released from Jail, that they rejoiced "that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) Persecution and suffering are not times for fretting, fear, or despondency but rather for rejoicing that God has found us worthy to suffer for Him. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) Persecution is evidence of the new creature, one who is worthy of this new life, that God has remade us to be.Finally, Paul reminds them that he too has suffered, and is suffering, the same things as they are suffering. When facing trials, sufferings, and persecutions, it is tempting to think that we are the only ones who are suffering, It is easy to feal alone in our suffering, thinking that no one else knows or understands what we are going through. However, this is not the case. The sufferings we experience are common to all believers. Paul promised us that, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12) The truth that we are not alone in our suffering ought to encourage us and give us hope in our suffering, It also should cause us to consider how we endure our own suffering, knowing that others are watching. We ought to suffer in a way to give the same kind of hope and encouragement as Paul's confident suffering did for the Phillipian church. We all suffer, but let us suffer in a way that brings honor to God and hope to those around us,David Robison[...]
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)True integrity is found in how we behave when no one is looking. It is one thing to behave right when someone is watching over us, but it is another to live right when no one is watching and where no one can see. It is in these hidden places where the truth of who we are is revealed.
2016-12-26T09:36:46.146-05:00"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." (Philippians 1:21-26)This is a curious statement, "to live is Christ." Here, Paul equates a verb with a noun. It would be like saying, "to drive is Henry Ford" or, "to eat a burger is McDonald." According to the conventional rules of grammar, this statement makes no sense. So what does Paul mean by this statement? Speaking of his relationship with Christ, Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20) Paul understood that to live on in the flesh was to accept the calling to die daily to ourselves that Christ might live His life through us. To live requires our dying while to die brings us into eternal life. To live means to let Christ live through us.Paul contrasts the gain that is to be ours in our death with the gains the world has to offer us in this life. Speaking of those worldly gains, Paul says, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8) Paul realizes that the gains of this world are not to be compared with the gains that are to be ours in the resurrected life. There are those who live for the reward of earthly gains only to forfeit to themselves those gains which are of true value, eternal value, and that are with God in heaven. Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:25-26) True riches, true gain, and true life is found when we are willing to lose our life for Christ's sake; when we are willing to set aside our will, plans, and purposes that we might take up Christ's will and purpose; that His life, plan, and purpose might be expressed and worked through us here in this life. Those who are willing to lose their life for Christ's sake will find it in abundance in Christ.Paul was in prison and he understood that there were two possible outcomes to his imprisonment: one was his release and the other his death. So which would he choose if the choice was up to him? It is interesting that Paul thought it hard to chose between the two possible outcomes. For most people, the clear choice would be to live. However, Paul was not so sure that was the best choice. Only those who have the hope and confidence of eternal life in the presence of God could ever view death as gain. Paul understood the reality of the life that was awaiting him upon his death. For him, living had no real gain beyond what he already had, yet his death would bring the realization of everything he had hoped for and lived for all his life. Therefore, why remain in this life while there awaited him so much gain upon his death? The only reason that Paul could consider life as an advantage was because he was looking towards the gain his continued life would bring to others. It was only by considering the needs of oth[...]
2016-12-14T08:10:59.078-05:00"for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." (Philippians 1:19-20)Paul was in a difficult place. In his imprisonment, things were happening around him that were outside of his control. However, Paul was not without hope nor despondent due to his circumstances. Paul had confidence that he would soon be delivered from his chains. The Greek word Paul uses that is translated here as "deliverance" is more frequently is translated as "salvation." This brings to light the depth of the meaning in this one Greek word. Our salvation in Christ affects more than our eternal destination. It provides salvation for the whole of our existence. Such salvation includes our healing, wholeness, deliverance, protection, and provision. This was the kind of salvation that Paul was confident that would be his even in his imprisonment.For what reason did Paul have such confidence in his salvation? From two sources; the prayers of the saints and the supply of the Holy Spirit. God is sovereign. He does whatever He desires and prohibits whatever He chooses. However, God has chosen to allow Himself to be moved by the prayers of His people. It is through prayer that we get to partner with God in His purpose and His work in the Earth and in each other. Our call to prayer is an invitation from God to join with Him in His redemptive and saving work in and around us. Our prayers and the provision of the Spirit are the catalyst for God in our lives.For this reason, Paul's faith produced in him an earnest expectation and hope in the will and plan of God. Thayer defines the Greek word translated here as "earnest expectation" as "to look forth from one's post." Vine adds that it carries the idea of being absorbed in watching for and expecting something or someone. Paul's eye was upon his salvation; he was absorbed in watching for and expecting God's deliverance in his life. Instead of being filled with dread, fear, or despondency in his imprisonment, he was filled with the knowledge that God was working in his life and the expectation of God's salvation yet to come. The Greek word for "hope" can also mean to "anticipate." Paul was not just hoping for deliverance, he already anticipated it and was planning what he would do once he was delivered from prison. So confident was his hope, that he already made plans for what he would do once he was released. This is true confidence, expectation, and hope.However, Paul's hope was not just for the future, he had hope for the here and now. While Paul fully expected to be released from jail through the prayers of the saints and the help of the Holy Spirit, he had hope in God's salvation even while he sat in jail. Paul's hope and confidence was that God would enable him to be a testimony for Christ whether in prison or out. If God's plan for him meant prison, then he was confident that he would be a witness for Christ in prison. If it meant freedom, then he would witness in freedom. Paul believed that in every circumstance of his life, God would and should be exalted.Paul's hope was that he would not be put to shame, but what shame is he referring to? The shame of falling short of the will and purpose of God for his life. Paul had a mission from God. This mission was more that that of an apostle but also that of a believer; a mission that included bring glory and honor to Christ through every aspect and condition of his life. Paul's shame was to somehow come short of that lofty goal. However, Paul was confident in God that, through His help, he would be more than enough to meet the challenge[...]
2016-12-10T09:22:53.958-05:00"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice." (Philippians 1:15-18)Imagine this, that someone in your church or community that is being used by God to preach the Gospel, is arrested and imprisoned. Would you step in to fill the void and to take up the mantle and be the one to continue their work; the work of preaching and spreading the Gospel? Is so, why?This is what happened to Paul. He was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel and, in his confinement, others came forward to take his place and to take up the ministry left undone by him. However, not everyone did so out of the same motive. Some, out of love and respect for Paul, stepped forward to continue his work and to follow his example. They did it, at least in part, to stand with Paul; to show that they too loved God and were committed to the same cause as Paul. They showed their solidarity and their agreement with Paul, his ministry, and his Gospel. However, others did so out of competition. They entered the fray, not to show solidarity with Paul, but to finally have their day in the sun. This was their chance. All the time they spent in the shadows while Paul got all the glory; this was their chance to shine. Their resentment for the the ministry and notoriety that Paul enjoyed was now free to express itself, now that he was out of commission. It was now their turn to show Paul that they too could preach, that they too could shine bright, and that they too were just like Paul.Out ups and downs, our successes and defeats, and our advancements and retreats are all opportunities that challenge our hearts. When we are advancing, it is easy to become proud and to see our advancement as proof that we are worthy and right. However, our defeats can also breed resentment for those who are winning and advancing. After all, we are just as good as them so why do they get to glory while we are stuck in defeat? I am sure Paul faced these same inward challenges as he lay in prison. So how did Paul fight the temptations towards anger, bitterness, resentment, and judgment? By looking outwardly towards the outcome rather than inwardly at his own personal situation. Paul looked to the advantage that others were bringing to the Kingdom of God, that same Kingdom he had so long proclaimed himself. In the end, it was not his own personal advancement that mattered but the advancement of the Kingdom of God.Here is the moral of the story. When we focus on ourselves, we give ourselves over to competition, pride, resentment, and judgment. However, when we focus on the Kingdom of God, we see reason to rejoice even in our own personal defeats. We begin to understand that our life and position are secure in God and that what really matters in this life is not who we may seem to be to ourselves and others but the work that God has given each of us to do; a work that benefits the Kingdom and the Body of Christ. The key to surviving success and failure is looking outward to the goal of what our success and failures are driving at. If we can do this then we too, like Paul, can rejoice at the advancement of the Kingdom regardless of the personal motives of those who are seeking to advance it.David Robison[...]
"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14)As the Roman government sought to stamp out Christianity, the more they persecuted it, the more it grew. Thinking to cause a deterrent to others, their imprisonment of Paul actually made other believers more confident and bolder in their defense and proclamation of the Gospel. This reminds me of another story from the scriptures. "Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants." (1 Chronicles 20:4-8)
2016-12-03T10:09:32.917-05:00"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11)The Greek idea of "abound" means to be more than enough, having love in excess, and even "super-abounding." Paul's prayer and God's desire for us is that our love would grow to the point where it is not only enough but where it resides in us in excess. Our progress in this Christian life is to be judged by the degree to which our love for God and our love for others continues to grow and abound. Paul reminds us that, "faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)Love is not blind and love does not exist apart from judgment. Love must be a discerning love. Paul prays that as our love grows, so ought it to grow in knowledge and discernment. Not everything is to be loved and not everything is to be praised. The Greek word translated here as "real knowledge" can also be translated "full knowledge." It represents more than a cursory knowledge, it speaks of a knowledge that had been developed and honed to a depth by which we fully understand a subject or idea. Full knowledge takes intentionality in developing. It takes time and effort to search out and understand. Often we live by what we feel or what we imagine rather than by what we have sought out and come to acknowledge as true and right. Furthermore, many times we simply accept as true what we have been taught or what other people think and espouse as being true but we never search for the truth ourselves. We must take the effort to learn and understand truth for ourselves; the truth that is found in Christ, His word, and His kingdom.The Greek word translated as "discernment" comes from a root word that means to perceive. It is not enough to have full knowledge, we must also have accurate perception and judgment. Paul writes, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) Knowledge is not enough, we must also be able to judge between good and evil, clean and unclean, and useful and destructive. Speaking of his own life, knowledge, and perception, Paul writes, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12) It is one thing to have the knowledge that all things are lawful for us, but we must also have the judgment and clear perception of things to understand that somethings are not profitable for us.The purpose of full knowledge and perception is not so that we might judge the intents and actions of others but that we might judge the intents and actions of ourselves. Knowledge and perception is meant to be a protection for us by allowing us to see and understand those things which are profitable for our lives and those things that are not. Knowledge and perception teach us to love what is good in our life and hate what is in use that is evil. The goal of such love is that we might be pure and blameless at His coming. Love that is built upon knowledge and perception is a love that motivates us to change; to repent from those things that offend God and to adopt those behaviors that are pleasing to Him. It is a love that does not seek to please ourselves but to please God.Finally, we must remember that all knowledge, perception, and understanding comes from God. Even our willingness, ability, and endurance in the process is a gift from the Holy Spirit wh[...]
"For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:7-8)It is only right that Paul feels in what way towards them? Is it in feeling that God will perfect them until the day of Christ Jesus as mentioned in the previous verse, or is it in feeling such intense love for them as mentioned in the next verse? I believe it to be the latter. Also, in what way is it right for him to feel this way? Is it out of faith or out of some other motive? What is interesting is Paul's next thought, "because I have you in my heart." Darby translates this thought in a unique way among all the other translators. He translates it as, "because ye have me in your hearts." (Philippians 1:7, Darby) Personally, I believe that this translation makes more since, at least as to how the sentence is constructed, and it helps the sentence to flow better and to yield a simpler meaning. It is right and just for Paul to have such love for then since, after all, they have expressed such love and concern for Paul and for his work. More than that, in all that Paul has been through, they too have endured, and as his love for them has endured through his hardships, so has their love for him endured throughout all of their own hardships.
2016-11-26T11:01:39.642-05:00"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6)In Paul's greeting to the Philippian church, Paul is emphatic about his love and care for each and every one of them. Paul uses the same Greek word (or their derivatives) four times in repetition to emphasize his point. He says that his love and care for them is in "every remembrance," at "every time," with "every prayer", and for "every one." Paul was fully invested in the Philippians, not only as an apostolic worker on their behalf, but as a fellow participant in the Gospel and kingdom of Christ. Paul's letter is more than a momentary show of concern, it is the result of a daily remembrance of them, unceasing prayer for them, and an enduring love for them individually and corporately.Paul and the Philippians had very little in common. Paul was a Jew, raised in the strictest observance of their laws and traditions. Paul was raised to believe that he, and his people, were the only chosen ones and that the gentiles were to be forever excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. The Philippians were gentiles, raised without any benefit of the understanding of God's previous revelations in the scriptures and prophesies made before Christ. They were godless in their morals, ethics, and philosophy. Their God's were many and bore little resemblance to the one true God. However, even given all these differences, Paul found commonality and unity in the Spirit with these gentiles because they had something in common that was of greater significance than their differences: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our participation in the Gospel breaks down the walls that divide us. In the Gospel, though we are different and our heritage is varied and unrelated, we are made to be one people in Christ. We, who were many, have now become one. We have been joined together in a Gospel where, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:28-29)When we first come to the Gospel, God begins a "good work" within us. What is important to understand is that, our salvation experience, is not the end of that good work, but only the beginning. Salvation is not an event that happens and then we go our merry way, but it is the beginning of a journey and a process of being transformed into the image of Christ. While being born again is essential to our new spiritual life, it alone is not sufficient to bring us to where God desires to take us. Salvation alone is not enough to bring us to "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes," (Ephesians 4:13-14 Darby) Salvation is just the beginning and, once having started His good work, God wishes to bring it to a conclusion.This conclusion of the good work God has started will take a life time of walking with God. We will spend the rest of our lives learning of God, learning from God, and learning obedience to the things He asks of us. This process is begun by God, sustained by God, and completed by God. However, it's beneficial aspects in our lives also requires our participation with God in the process. Paul reminds us to, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in[...]
2016-11-20T10:14:39.471-05:00"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:1-2)Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome. His apostolic partner, Timothy, is with him, although not in prison himself. Some have described Timothy as being a young pastor of one of the early churches. However, there is no evidence that Timothy was ever a "pastor" or a local leader of any of the early churches we know of. Eusebius, in his book on ecclesiastical history, never includes Timothy in any of his lists of bishops of the early churches. As far as we can tell, Timothy was an apostolic worker with Paul in Paul's ministry to the churches in Asia Minor. Later, when we read Paul's letters to Timothy, where He says to Timothy, "As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4) we understand that Paul did not leave him behind to "pastor" the church but to complete the apostolic teaching in the church that Paul himself did not have time to complete.Paul describes himself and Timothy as "bond-servants" of Christ. This is interesting in light of Jesus' words to His disciples. "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) While Jesus says He does not call us slaves (the same Greek word Paul uses that is translated, "bond-servant"), Paul calls himself and timothy bond-servants. How can, or should, Paul call himself a bond-servant when Jesus does not but rather calls him a friend? The key to understanding this is to understand an Old Testament tradition. "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment... But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently." (Exodus 21:2, 5-6) Paul and Timothy's subjugation to Christ as a bond-salves was not by coercion, force, or duty but rather voluntary our of their love for their master. While the love of God had set them free, their love for God bound them to Him in eternal servitude. They had committed their lives to serving their master out of the their boundless love for Him and His boundless love for them.Paul writes to those who are in Philippi and, almost as an after thought, to the overseers and deacons as well. It is important to note that Paul does not write to the leaders of the church, although he includes them in his letter, but he writes to the church in general. I have know churches where any prophesy or spoken words, other than simple encouraging words, had to be first submitted to the leadership for judging before being presented to the church as a whole. However, this does not seem to be Paul's approach to addressing the church. It is interesting that in addressing those who ruled over the church that he does not call them leaders or pastors but overseers. The role of the rulers of the church were not so much to lead as it was to oversee. The church functioned according to the "proper working of each individual part" (Ephesians 4:1[...]
"But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love." (Ephesians 6:21-24)We live in a highly connected world. Sometimes it is hard to remember that back then they did not. It could be months in between communications and years between visits. Many people to whom Paul wrote had never met him or had met him only once. Having heard that Paul was imprisoned, many people prayed and hoped for his safety with out ever knowing if their prayers were having an effect or if their prayers had found the object for which they prayed. For them, it was a great joy to receive Tychicus and hear the report of how Paul was fairing.
2016-11-12T09:56:46.958-05:00"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:18-20) We are to be constant in prayers and petitions. Many of us know this, but few of us do this. Moreover, how does one pray at all times and with all prayers in our busy and jammed pack lives? The key is in understanding what Paul means by "all times". The Greek word used here for "time" does not mean the sequential passing of seconds, minutes, hours, and days but refers to discrete moments or opportunities in time. Darby translates this verse as, "praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication in [the] Spirit." (Ephesians 6:18 Darby) God is not asking us to fill every waking moment of the day with prayer, rather, when opportunities arise or when the situation requires it, to be ready and prompt to pray. Each opportunity we face, each decision we must make, and each movement of testing that comes our way are to be filled with our prayers and supplication,Paul speaks of "all" as in "all prayer and petition" he means to indicate that there are various forms of our relationship with God of which prayer and petition are but two. Paul is encouraging us to use all forms of voicing our needs and concerns to God, be they asking, begging, or something else. Prayer is not to be rote or simply a static discipline we have with the Father. Payer should be dynamic and applicable to the need at hand. All forms of communing with the Father are to be pursued as needed. In fact, the Greek word for "prayer" can also imply "worship". Worship is a powerful force with God for it says, "Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with chainsAnd their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written; this is an honor for all His godly ones." (Psalms 149:6-9) Worship can be a powerful weapon in our time of need. Furthermore, we must elicit the help of the Holy Spirit, praying in the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) In our time of need we have not been left alone but have the agency and help of the Holy Spirit within us who not only enables us to pray but also prays for us as well.When Paul says, "with this in view," he is speaking of our need to prayerful in all seasons and in every occasion. Another translation would be, "With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) Knowing our need for prayer, we must always be on the alert, ready to pray, and praying with all perseverance. The Greek word for "alert" means both to watch and to keep awake. The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but watching. Remember what Jesus asked his disciples when He found them sleeping while He was praying, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:37-38) Those who are asleep have no idea of what is going on around them nor the battle that is raging against them. We must be people who are awake and who are watching in prayer that we might see the reality around us and perceive the things that require our "all p[...]
2016-11-11T07:31:05.345-05:00"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)Once again, Paul encourages us to take up the panoply of God; taking unto ourselves the full armor, utility, and instrumentality of God. What is important to understand is that the time to do this is not when you find yourselves in the mist of the evil day. When everything is assaulting you, it's not the time to be looking for your armor. Armor must be put on prior to the battle, not in the midst of it. Also, the armor is not something you put on and take off. We are to be continuously robed in the armor of God. Only then we will be properly prepared to meet whatever may come our way. It is also interesting to note that our call is to stand. I have known some people who always seem to be looking for a spiritual fight. They are always assaulting something or trying to cast something out. Paul is not telling us to be running head-long into the battle we think we should be fighting, but rather to be prepared to stand should the battle come our way. Paul's words to us are like the Boy Scouts' motto, "Be prepared." You needn't go looking for a fight. Trust me, it will find you. Therefore, be prepared.To gird oneself is to be ready for action and for service. Jesus tells us to always be prepared for whatever may come our way. He also tells us to be ready at a moment's notice to obey our master's wishes. "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately." (Luke 12:35-36 NKJV) Truth is essential to our preparation to act. Without truth we are easily lead astray. Without truth we fail to understand the true nature of life and the world we live in. We fail to understand the importance of being ready and what is at stake by our obedience to Christ. To properly see the world and to be ready to answer God's call we must shed the lies of the world and surround ourselves with the truth of the Gospel.While, here, Paul references the breastplate of righteousness, in other places he refers to it as the, "the breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) I believe that this is because faith and love equal righteousness. Remember the words of Paul when he said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Righteousness is nothing more than faith working through love. It is also interesting to note that righteousness can be a defensive weapon.Remember when Jesus said, "the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (John 14:30) Righteousness removes all the hooks in our heart by which the enemy can grab and yank us around. The enemy comes around looking for those in who he has place, but righteousness closes the door and keeps him out. How powerful is righteousness to our ability to stand!The phrase, "the preparation of the Gospel of peace" has always been a bit enigmatic for me. Is the Gospel of peace the preparation or are we to shod our feet as the preparation for the Gospel [...]
2016-11-07T08:00:43.621-05:00"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)There are many things that seek to rattle our cages. As we go through each day, we often find things that seek to oppose us and derail us from our faith and consistency with Christ. However, far too often, when we try and war against these forces, our contention is misdirected and aimed at the wrong actors. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Your enemy is not our spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors, or those of your family. Far too often these people become the recipients of our war against those things that seem to upset us, but they are not the problem, They are the unfortunate ones who are the closest to us so they are the ones who receive our frustration, our rebuffs, and our aimless flailing against our ever present opponent. Our unfortunate misdirection of force only serves to hurt those near us and perpetuate the influence of the enemy in our lives. We need to learn that people are not our enemies but rather our enemies are more powerful, unseen, and ready to exploit any weakness that may be in us for their own ends.Paul mentions four things, or classes of influence in our lives, which we do and ought to struggle against. The first is rulers. Darby translates this as "principalities". These are chief rulers; those given authority over specific domains. They were created as rulers, given both permission and empowering to rule by their authority. They hold sway over large areas and large groups of people. They may even be seen to govern over specific sins, such as drunkenness, and certain maladies such as leprosy and mental illness.The second is powers. These are those who have been given power and authority to act by the principalities they server. Darby translates this word as simply "authorities." There exists a host of minions doing the work and bidding of various principalities. We can think of these as the many demons who serve and work under the authority of higher ranking and ruling principalities of demons. These can be compared to the little foxes that Solomon refers to. "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)Third are the world forces of darkness. Darby translates this as "universal lords of darkness," The Greek word for "world forces" is a combination of two Greek words. The first is the word "kosmos" which indicates all of this created realm, and especially this world. The second word can be translated "to seize or retain". I believe that this phrase refers specifically to Satan as the ruler of this world. It is curious that this word is translated in the plural and perhaps includes the many antichrists of which John says, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)Lastly, Paul names "spiritual forces of wickedness." There is a whole host of non-corporal beings that are at work in the unseen real whose mission is wickedness. It is not simply that their mission is to spread wickedness, but their mission is to menace, scheme, and agitate those who are seeking to live a godly life. They are bent on our destruction and our derailment from the abundant life God has for us. What is most important to learn is, these forces are not seen but invisible. Those we can see are not the enemy[...]
2016-11-06T09:27:42.022-05:00"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:10-11)The Greek word used her in "be strong" means to be empowered or to acquire or increase in strength. It implies a process where by we go from weakness and inability to strength and ability. What is important to note is the means by which we are to grow in strength and to be empowered in our inner-man. We are to be empowered in the Lord. It is only in relationship with the Lord that we can be empowered to face and defeat the forces that are bent upon our destruction. We cannot find such strength in ourselves, our material possessions, or in anything this world has to offer. Our only hope of victory, our only source of strength in the battle, it found in and flows from the Lord.God's strength is to become our strength, The Greek word used for the "strength" of God's might implies action. It can be translated vigor. The word used for God's "might" can also mean forcefulness. The strength of God is shown in action, It is not enough to be strong, but we must use that strength to overcome the schemes of the Devil. We are strong in the Lord, but we must put that strength to work in our daily lives. At times we must be vigorous, forceful, deliberate, and active in our stance and opposition to the enemy. As we learn to be strong in the Lord we must also learn to use that strength to be forceful.The Greek word for "full armor" is an interesting one and one from which we get our word "panoply" which Webster defines as "a group or collection that is impressive because it is so big or because it includes so many different kinds of people or things." Here its application is made in reference to the full armor worn by the Roman solders, but its application is wider than that. It can refer to the full instrumentality of God. It is the full tool-box or complete set of skills we have in Christ. Here Paul gives a list of some of those things. However, I believe that this list was not meant to be exhaustive but simply an illustrative list. For example, for some they could add scripture memorization to the list. Others could add worship. Still others, fasting. The point is that we need to take the sum total of God's armor, the tools He has given us, and the skills we have developed along the way that we might apply them to the wiles of the enemy so that we might continue to stand in our faith. We need all God has to offer us. This may mean learning new skills, taking up new tools God has for us, and putting on more armor to protect our lives. All of it is needed and we need to daily dress ourselves in the panoply of God.We need the panoply of God to guard against the wiles, scheming, and trickery of the Devil. The idea is that we do not always know when and how the enemy will attach. He uses trickery, slight of hand, and surprises to try and catch us off guard. Therefore, we must always be ready; always dressed in our armor; always having the tools and instruments of God in hand and ready to use, It reminds me of the scene in Nehemiah where they were building the wall while under constant threat of the enemy. It is said that, "those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon." (Nehemiah 4:17) They did their work with one hand while carrying their weapon with the other, Even while working they were prepared to fend of the enemy if necessary, In the same way, [...]
"And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him." (Ephesians 6:9)When Paul instructs masters to "do the same" what is he talking about? Certainly not obeying their slaves. The "same things" are those things that are done "with good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men." (Ephesians 6:7) Masters should live their lives towards others, including their slaves, with good will. They should be kind and considerate of the needs and dignity of those they master over. Specifically he mentions giving up threatening them. This Greek words means to be a menace to someone else. Other places Paul instructs them to be fair and just in the treatment of their slaves, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1)
2016-11-01T08:16:58.468-04:00"Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free." (Ephesians 6:5-8)In Paul's day, slavery was a well established social institution. However, slavery in the Geek/Roman period differed from our own period of slavery in some very significant ways. First, slavery then had little or no relationship to racism. Those who were enslaved were not enslaved because their masters believed them to be inferior or created for slavery, they were most often enslaved as the result of being conquered in war. Part of the spoils of war was then the right to enslave those you concored. This is also the second major difference between slavery then and that of the past several centuries. The slave trade that supplied slaves to America and other nations was itself supplied by black tribes in Africa who would kidnap those of a rival tribe and sell them to the white Europeans for transport and sale to America. In Paul's day, slaves were made slaves through what was then a noble act of war and the right of the victor to enslave the conquered, where the slave trade of recent past was the result of the complicity of both Africans, Americans, and Europeans in the lustful pursuit of money. In saying this, I am in no way justifying slavery, but we must be cautions not to judge and understand slavery in Paul's time based upon our own recent experience with slavery.Similarly, Paul is not justifying slavery. He is acknowledging it as the normative state of the world he and many believers lived in. Slavery existed and it would be centuries before it would pass away. Many of the first converts to Christianity were slaves and Paul's main focus in these verses is not to address the issue of slavery but to address those who were slaves and those who were masters and to give them instruction as to how they should relate to each other; both in the context of their existing relationship as slave and master and in their existing relationship with God. To Paul, it was more important to address the spiritual condition of the individual first, before addressing the ills of the culture around them, for Paul knew that, if you changed the heart of the individual, then eventually you would change the culture in which they lived. Today, there are few of us who remain as slaves. However, there is much we can learn from Paul that can be applied to our work lives where we serve the will of our employers.In instructing slaves, there are several things that Paul teaches, all which address issues of the heart. First is that they should obedient. This Greek word means to listen to. Slaves should be attentive to the commands and direction of their masters. This involves an active listening that turns into corresponding action. A useful slave does not need to be instructed in every last detail of what he is expected to do. He hears and understands what his master is saying and then proceeds to carry out his commands. For example, there were times when I asked my kids to do the dishes. When I came back, the dishes were done but the kitchen was still a mess. Some people only do the letter of what was asked, but others understand the bigger picture an[...]
2016-10-21T07:44:11.974-04:00"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4)Paul has finished given instructions to the husband and wife, now he turns his attention to the children. It is interesting that Paul feels free to talk directly to the children rather than telling parents what they should communicate to their children. This is because, even as children, we have our own relationships with God. Our relationship with God is not filtered by, or intermediated by, our parents, rather we relate directly to God in both our prayers, worship, and obedience. As such, God asks us to choose, as free moral agents, to honor, respect, and obey the parents that God has given us. It was God who created us in the womb and it was God who determined who our parents would be and, as such, He asks us, in an act of obedience to Him, to honor and obey them.When Paul uses the phrase, "in the Lord", he is not saying that we should only obey our parents if they too are in the Lord, but that our obedience and honor for our parents should flow as a natural result of our relationship with God. It is only when we are in right relationship with God that we can properly understand and respond to His commandments to honor and obey our parents, even if they themselves are not in the Lord. I knew a woman whose parents were harsh and fought against her relationship with Christ, yet she found solace in testimony of apostles who rejoices because, "they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) It was her relationship with Christ that gave her the grace and strength to love, honor, and obey her parents who were less than charitable to the things of the Kingdom.We are living in a time when there is an all-out assault on the traditional family of a husband, wife, and children. We are told that families comes in all stripes and flavors and that no one sort of family is to be preferred over another. We are also seeing the in-reach of government into the family in ways that diminish the role and authority of the parents over their families. Young girls, who cannot take an aspirin in school without a parent's notes, can get an abortion without their parents ever having to know. Laws have even made it illegal for public libraries to disclose to parents what kinds of books their children are checking out of a library. Public figures are telling us that it takes a village to raise a child when God designed it to be a family that raises a child. When government and other cultural forces work to erode the bond between parent and child, a structure that God created in His own wisdom and purpose, then our culture begins to unravel and our nation rushes forward in decline. The key to a strong and lasting culture and society is the relationship between parents and children and the strength of the traditional families. So important is this intra-family dynamic that before the final coming of Christ God has promised to, "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6)Honoring our father and mother not only ensures the longevity of our society, but it also promo[...]
2016-10-18T07:47:10.269-04:00"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:28-33)This is an interesting verse, especially in light of how some interpret the words of Jesus when He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Some have misconstrued these words of Jesus to mean that we must love ourselves before we can love others. However, Paul's observation is that we already instinctively love ourselves. The problem is not in learning how to better love ourselves but in learning how to love others as we already love ourselves. Here Paul is simply restating the golden rule as taught by Jesus, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) Or. as my mother would say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The point is that we should treat our wives as we would wish to be treated. We should treat our wives with the same care, nurture, and attention we give to ourselves. In fact, our love for our wives should be even greater than our love for our neighbors, for she is a member of our own body. While we are called into harmony with our neighbor and into unity with our brethren, we are called to be one in body with our wives. Therefore they deserve first place in our love and they deserve to be loved even as we love ourselves. For, in truth, if we truly love our wives then we are truly loving ourselves as well.One of the keys to loving our wives is perception. The Greek word for "hated" can also be translated "detest". How we look at our wives will determine if, and how, we will love them. Some men come to the place, for whatever reason, where all they see is the bad in their wives. They become fixated on their faults and short comings and forget why they fell in love with them in the first place. All they see are the things that irritate them and have they forgotten that which once drew him to her. Even where there are real failings in her life, his perception of her is to detest her rather than to extend Christ's love to her in a way that will help her to grow and overcome the issues in her own life. He becomes a man who demands perfection instead of nurturing growth in her and in their relationship. If we can learn to see past each other's failures then we can see the image of Christ that dwells in each other and we can then learn to cherish and nurture what is good and right in each other rather than always focusing on the bad in each other.Paul says that, for this reason, a man should leave his father and mother... but for what reason? That the two of them, the man and the woman, might become one. To be "joined," in the Greek, means to be "glued" together. The reason a man is to leave behind his family is so that he might be adhered to his wife and that the two of them may form their own family, creating a new family out of two individuals. The p[...]
2016-10-16T10:09:37.880-04:00"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)On balance, Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, devotes far more space to instructing husbands to love their wives as he does instructing women to submit to their husbands. I believe this is for two main reasons. First, because, for most men, loving their wives does not come naturally. Men can be very task focused leading them to pursue their goals, hobbies, and carriers with singular focus. Men also tend to compartmentalize their lives. They have their work life, the leisure life, their church life, and their home life. Sometimes, if men are not careful, their pursuit of things, like their carriers, can occur at the expense of other things in their lives, such as their spiritual life and the family life. Men need to be reminded frequently not to disregard one for the other and to remind themselves of what really matters in life.The second reason Paul spends more time exhorting men to love their wives is because, as the head of the household, God holds them ultimately responsible for what happens in their families. In speaking of the fall of mankind, Paul writes this of the woman, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Timothy 2:14) However, he writes this of the man, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." (Romans 5:14) It was the woman who was deceived but it was Adam who sinned. God places the greater part of the culpability for the fall of mankind upon Adam then He does upon Eve. More instruction is given to men by Paul because of the greater responsibility they face for their family and the greater judgment they will receive for their failings in their families over those of their wife.So how are men to love their wives? Paul shows us by reminding us how Christ loves the church; Christ being a figure of the husband and the church that of the wife. Paul reminds us how Christ gave Himself up for the church and asks men to do the same for their wives and their families. This Greek word used here for "gave" means to surrender, yield over, or to give to another. Men are asked to surrender their life for the well being of their family. They are asked to choose to give themselves to their family above all other duties and obligations they might have, even above their work and their church. This word can also mean to betray, bring into prison, or to hazard. Men are to betray their other pursuits and desires for those of their family. The are to hazard all other goals for the goal of a godly, joyful, and secure family. They are to imprison their wants and needs that they may pursue the wants and needs of their family. All this Jesus did for us and, as men, we should be willing to do the same for our families.Jesus not only gave up His life for the church, but He loved her with action. Jesus said of Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) I have meet many men who are passive and disengaged at home.[...]