Tag Archives: truth

Colossians: Pray and Keep on Praying

Standard

Colossians 1:3-14

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[a] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our[b] behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[c] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[d] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I did not write the lesson on this section in Colossians, but I would love to share some thoughts concerning this passage. I would encourage you to read through the passage above and record your own observations (noting key words, admonitions, tone of voice, connectives, and so on).

The first thing I noticed this time around is Paul’s very friendly and encouraging tone toward the Colossians. It reads quite differently from his letter to the Galatians for example. He also introduces us to a new name, Epaphras. New names immediately pique my interest and result in me following a rabbit trail that takes me hours to get back to my original path. In order not to take you on too many rabbit trails, I’ll simply choose a few ideas from the passage I found interesting (trust me when I say this is very hard to do for me. I’d like to pick apart every. single. verse.).

If we look at this section of the letter very broadly, we would note his common habit of giving thanks and praying for the recipients. It is a beautiful way to start a letter. I find that Paul teaches me about being thankful and how to pray for others simply by the way he writes his letters.

As I mentioned he’s very encouraging toward the Colossian believers, noting their faith and their love (v. 4, 7) which is a result of the hope (v. 5) they have in Christ {hmm…where have I seen those three qualities together before??}. He also comments on the gospel bearing fruit and increasing among them since the day they heard it and understood it (v. 5-6). I find the idea of an inanimate object being able to bear fruit very fascinating. The good news (gospel) which Epaphras spoke to the Colossians continues to produce good things among them.

I would like to look closely at the idea of faith. Webster’s 1828 defines it as “a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared and because He has declared them.” Another way to put it is an “affectionate, practical confidence in the testimony of God” or a “firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations of His word.”

Perhaps it is best to point out that the power of faith depends not on the person who has the faith but on the One in whom the faith is placed. Christ is the object of our faith. Our faith has power because it is on Him, and He does not fail. C.F.D. Moule wrote this:

Regardless, the issue is not just the presence of faith, but a faith that resides in Christ. It gives the thought of reliance going forth to Christ, and reposing on Christ, so as to sink as it were into Him, and find fixture in Him; as the anchor sinks to the floor of the sea, and then into it, that it may be held in it.

To recap, Paul gave thanks for their faith and love because of hope (and this hope does not disappoint because it is also in the person of Christ who has secured glory/heaven for us). One of the ladies I teach with said this, “The validity of faith is not the fervency with which you believe, but the degree to which the object of your faith is true.”

It is in verse 9 when he switches to praying for these people he’s never even met. He asked that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. I couldn’t tell you how this happens, I only know that if he asks for it, it must be something that can happen to any believer. We can know God’s will for our lives. Isn’t that such a comforting thought? I also happen to love that he prays this for them as a father would pray for his own children to know God fully.

Hopefully you had a chance to read my post detailing the background of Colossians. You see, there was a threat of false teaching in Colossae, and those opponents were promising spiritual fullness with things that were not Christ. Paul tells the believers that true spiritual fullness can only be found in Christ alone. Just look at these verses in the letter about fullness or being filled:

1:19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

1:25 …to make the word of God fully known

2:2 …all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

2:9 For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

2:10 and you have been filled in Him…

4:12 …stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Christ is sufficient. (more on this later!)

Now on to verses 10-11. Paul had spoken of the gospel which was bearing fruit in the lives of the Colossians and now in verse 10 he tells them to walk in a worthy manner, being pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work…. One of my favorite teachings of Jesus (and which Paul continues) is this idea of the Vine and branches. We abide in the Vine (which is Christ), and He produces fruit in us (fruit of the Spirit for example). I realize this can be a touchy subject since too many people believe they must work really hard to be “good” and accepted by God (or whoever it is they believe they need to work for). I would clarify that it’s not so much that we work for God but that God works in us. {I feel a blog post bubbling to the surface so I had better stop at that.}

In verse 11 Paul tells them their strength comes from God. The words for strengthened and power come from the same word in our English language for dynamiteDunamei means “to make strong, strengthen” and carries the idea of making something strong that is inherently weak. Paul says this power helps us to endure and have patience with joy. Again, this is his prayer for the Colossians and gives me such encouragement knowing this can happen for me as well.

Paul wraps up this section in verses 12-14: we give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in His inheritance, He has delivered us from darkness and transferred us to His Son’s kingdom, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Now those verses are truly packed with some dynamite!

What I learned from this passage is that the words used for delivered and transferred give the idea of military conquest. In Biblical times it was common to take a people who had been defeated, uproot them from their culture and environment, and re-root them somewhere else. That is exactly what God did for us! He broke the bonds of our past life (out of darkness) to assimilate us into a new life with Him (His kingdom of light – see also 1 Pet 2:9). It’s His grace to us, because we don’t deserve a single thing He did in those verses. We have been qualified, delivered, transferred, and redeemed.

Titus: Beware the Deceivers

Standard

titus-bkgd

Titus 1:10-16

Below you will find the entirety of my talk as well as a link to watch/listen (if you aren’t interested in reading!).

Let’s talk about who these “deceivers” were and what they might have been doing. We are going to watch for 5 characteristics of false teachers:

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

Titus 1:10 reads:

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

Paul does some serious trash-talking in these verses. We get a glimpse of the fire in his bones as he unloads on these people. I imagine him here as the redeemed yet angry version of the Saul of Tarsus that everyone feared!

Interestingly, Paul does not even refer to these individuals as teachers, which tells me this could have been anyone! For the purposes of this lesson, I’ll still refer to them as “false teachers” because Paul uses the same or similar language in his other letters when speaking of false teachers. And also because they were teaching” things they ought not to teach (v. 11). However, I do want you to keep your radar up when it comes to being on guard against these deceivers because they could be anyone.

When we read a text in Scripture, we tend to identify with the “good guys”. Do we not? For instance, we feel for the man who was beaten and left to die on the road and we LOVE the good Samaritan. We likely never see ourselves as the religious men who passed by unmoved by the plight of the broken man. Another example is that we see ourselves as one of the disciples but hardly ever identify ourselves as a Pharisee.

Though it might make you uncomfortable, I want us all to consider 2 things: first, in what ways have we been like the deceivers? And two, how should we be on our guard against such people?

To begin, we’ll break down each of those descriptions, first technically (speaking of the words themselves in the Greek language) and then we’ll expand on the meaning of the words.

Insubordinate/rebellious people

In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Anupotaxtos meant “pertaining to refusing submission to authority, undisciplined, disobedient, rebellious”

  1. Here in v. 10 used of spoiled children
  2. Also used in 1 Tim 1:9 of flagrant law-breakers.

This one is not difficult to understand. But it does leave some room for imagination. How exactly were these men rebelling or being insubordinate? So were these rebellious men initially a part of the church that Paul started but later had trouble submitting to Titus’ authority? The Greek indicates that they were acting like spoiled children which begs the question, were they used to getting their way and then started acting up when Titus began to organize the church as it was intended to be?

Regardless of the details, Paul’s concern is for the unity of the church. So if you have any who are trying to disrupt it by refusing to follow the authority that is in place, you have a problem that needs to be handled quickly.

Idle or “empty” talkers

  1. In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Mataiologos means “an idle talker, windbag
  2. In interlinear bible – meant “one who utters empty senseless things”
  3. You may have heard the word Logos before. “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.” John 1:1
  4. This word is only used in Titus 1:10
  5. Similar word (mataiologia) (same root) found in 1 Tim 1:6 “empty, fruitless talk; turn to fruitless discussion”

This description struck me the most as I read this passage. I really love how both the Hebrew and Greek often paint word pictures for us. As you read those words, you imagine what an empty talker is like. It’s rather like an oxymoron. Full of words but the words are empty.

A funny (or rather cute) example of this would be how a one-year-old speaks to his family. I’ll never forget my youngest son rambling on and on as if he were carrying on a complete conversation, but to us, he said absolutely nothing that made sense. His words were empty, senseless.

A more serious example would be the person who talks for five straight minutes but never actually says anything. You have heard the statement, “he’s just full of hot air.”

They are senseless, fruitless windbags. The imagery of a windbag is both sobering and comical. What is the point of catching the wind? What good would a windbag do you?

Just as these deceivers were speaking empty words, Isaiah 41:29 speaks of the emptiness of worshiping idols. He says

Behold, they are all a delusion; /   their works are nothing; /   their metal images are empty wind.

So if idols were delusions which produced nothing, what does that say about those who worshiped them? The false teachers were no better than an idol worshipper. JESUS plus anything equals nothing. Vanity. Emptiness. Windbags.

In contrast I think of a person whose words are filled with meaning. Colossians 4:6 tells us

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

And also Ephesians 4:29,

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.

I wonder if we’ve ever considered the source of our words. Those words which are gracious and full of meaning likely originate from the Holy One! Think about what the Scriptures say about God’s words. Isaiah 55:10-11 says,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Can you picture that?! God’s word goes out and does return to Him void. Talk about words that are FULL of meaning. They accomplish exactly what He sent them out to do. They are never empty, senseless, fruitless. No windbags here.

In contrast, when our words are empty, when they tear down their hearers, consider the source of those words. Perhaps they come from the evil one. This is the case that both Jesus and Paul make on several occasions. We will come back to this briefly later on.

To wrap up this section on empty talkers, I want us all to consider the importance of our words. Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 12:36-37 said,

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Will our words be empty? Or will they give life and grace to those who hear? Will they build up or tear down? Will they be a fruit-bearing product of the Vine? Or a windbag that has its source in the deceiver?

That brings me to my next point on the false teachers! They are…

Deceivers

  1. Phrenapates In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) “deceiver, misleader”; also “seducer”
  2. Again this word is only used in Titus 1:10
  3. A similar word phrenapatao is found in Gal 6:3 and meant to “mislead concerning the truth, deceive (oneself).”
  4. Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines the word deceive this way: “To mislead the mind; to cause to err; to cause to believe what is false, or disbelieve what is true; to impose on; to delude.”

There’s something very sinister about a person who purposefully and knowingly leads someone away from truth and toward destruction. However there’s also something terribly tragic about the person who deceives even himself.

I already began the discussion about the evil one being involved in the words we speak. We all know how the evil one deceived Eve in the garden (Gen 3:4-5; 2 Cor 11:3). Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan deceives the whole world. There are over 40 passages that refer to Satan as a deceiver or to his deceitful work. (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/4123-Satan-as-deceiver)

Jesus had a heated discussion with the Pharisees in John 8 concerning their origins with Abraham and His origin with God the Father. They make several accusations about Him, but He responds with this in v. 44:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies.

You want to know where the false teachers get their insubordination? Their empty words? Their deception? They got it from their father, the devil, the father of lies.

We read the passage in 2 Cor 11:13-14 which refers to the false teachers as

deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ [who get this from Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light]

Jesus spoke of false prophets as those who would come in sheep’s clothing though they are actually hungry wolves (Matt 7:15).

The Pharisees are rather like those insubordinate, spoiled children Paul speaks of to Titus. Jesus disrupted the way of life they were used to living and that life involved deceiving people and weighing them down with empty and useless words/rules. Perhaps these false teachers in Crete were some of the old faction of Pharisees who just wouldn’t let go of their idols.

On that note, let’s talk about…

The Circumcision party

The term “circumcision party” is mentioned three times in the NT – Acts 11:2 (against Peter), Gal 2:12 (with James), and here in Titus 1:10. This was a legitimate religious faction.

Thinking back to Pentecost, we know that there were Jewish brothers from Crete who were present and had heard the message of the resurrection. But there were also Jews on the island who held to their man-made traditions. These are the “circumcision party” or the Judaizers.

John MacArthur (Bible Handbook) writes,

The younger elder [Titus] was already familiar with Judaizers, false teachers in the church, who among other things insisted that all Christians, Gentile as well as Jew, were bound by the Mosaic law. Titus had accompanied Paul and Barnabas years earlier to the Council of Jerusalem where that heresy was the subject (Acts 15; Gal. 2:1-5). (p. 451)

If you aren’t quite familiar with what happened at this council, let’s turn there to clarify. Acts 15:1, 13, 19 says,

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” [much debate v. 2-12] 13 After they finished speaking, James replied,…

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,…”

After this the council sent Paul and Barnabas as well as Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas to all the Gentile churches with the full details. Later in Gal 2:1-5 we learn that Paul had taken Titus with him on his missionary journey where they were pressured by “false brothers” to have Titus, a Greek man, circumcised.

 For Paul this [circumcision party and their message] was an alarming development because it undercut the core message of the gospel; if salvation could not be attained without embracing Judaism, then the death of Christ was insufficient. (Archeological Bible footnote)

Once again I’ll repeat the equation. JESUS plus ANYTHING equals NOTHING. Thus the reason Paul takes no time to correct these deceivers as they crop up.

Moving on to the next verse, Paul writes,

11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 

You can imagine why Paul tells Titus that they must be silenced! This word is epistomizo and meant to “bridle or stop up the mouth” (interlinear). Not only were they teaching for their own personal gain, but they were teaching things which were not truth and in so doing were upsetting entire families within the church.

The word for upsetting is

  1. Anatrepo and can be translated as “to overthrow, overturn, destroy, and subvert” (interlinear).
  2. The Greek Lexicon says it meant “to jeopardize someone’s inner well-being, upset, ruin”.

This meaning is even more ominous than to simply upset someone. The goal is their destruction or ruin. Paul’s concern, therefore, was for the truth to win out and for the church not to be harmed or divided.

The text does not specify exactly what these false teachers were teaching, but they were teaching things which they “ought not to teach”. We might assume that this is at least part of the reason for Paul writing about certain doctrinal truths to Titus. We can also assume the false teachers had fallen away from these truths.

Not only were these deceivers teaching false doctrine but they were also doing it for some sort of “shameful gain”. {Remember the Cretans had no problem with greed or shameful gain.}

The emphasis is their motivation. They taught from selfish motives. It was not for the benefit of those who hear. Or even because they loved God and wanted others to know about Him.

In stark contrast to these false teachers, Paul is very intentional about pointing out how he preached the gospel to people. In 2 Cor 2:17a he writes,

17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

In 1 Cor 9:18 Paul tells the people that he presented the gospel “free of charge”. In all of his teaching on the Body of Christ, Paul encourages believers to do nothing from selfish ambition but to consider others above ourselves and for us to use our gifts for the edification of the Church, the Body (Phil 2:3; Eph 4; 1 Cor 12:7, 14:3; 1 Thess 5:11).

These guys were bad news! In fact, one of their own people, Epimenides of Crete (according to tradition), said this about the Cretans:

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons… (v.12b)

Epimenides was a poet and philosopher in the 6th century B.C. who was native to Crete. He was held in high esteem by the Cretans and was credited with several predictions that were in fact later fulfilled. (Arch. Bible footnote).

Cretans were known for their immoral living. Liars. Evil beasts. Lazy gluttons. They are believed to come from the ancient Minoan civilization which undoubtedly involved worship of multiple deities. (from Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology by Ilse Schoep  “The Minoan ‘Palace-Temple’ Reconsidered: A Critical Assessment of the Spatial Concentration of Political, Religious and Economic Power in Bronze Age Crete”)

LIARs

During the Roman times the Cretans likely worshiped the common Greek gods, including Zeus and Hera. (from Wieland, 346) Zeus was known for his ability to deceive and apparently Cretans followed after their idol because they too were known for their ability to

deceive but also [had a] proclivity to be deceived. Josephus tells of Crete’s Jewish community being hoodwinked by a pretender to Herod’s throne.

In fact the nations surrounding Crete began using the Greek term kretizo (“Crete-ise”) because of the island’s reputation for deceit and cunning. (Wieland in “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

Dishonesty in public life continued under Roman rule. In fact, Mark Antony attempted to wrest Crete from Rome with a forged document and between the time of 20-70 A.D. no less than five governors were recalled to Rome to face corruption charges. (Wieland, 345-46)

The term “evil beasts” was rather ironic for this people group who enjoyed the reputation of being “free of wild animals.” (Wieland, 347 quoting 1st century Pliny and Plutarch) The irony was that the beastly characteristics were exhibited not by animals but by the people, including their practice of herding the young men into groups like cattle.

Finally the term “lazy gluttons” is rather telling as Paul exposes the false teachers’ motivation for deceiving others was their own appetites. Lazy gluttons engorge themselves on food and have no self-control to reign in their appetite.

Paul continues,

13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 

Rebuke sharply

Paul instructs Titus to rebuke these men SHARPLY. This word is apotomos and meant to be “severe, rigorous.” Even abrupt and curt. The word rebuke is elegcho and meant to “reprehend severely, to chide, admonish, reprove, to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation” with the idea of bringing conviction.

This word for rebuke is the same word used in John 16:8 of the Holy Spirit’s work,

And when he comes, he will convict (elegchō) the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

Paul has in mind that Titus’ rebuke would convince them of their sin in order that they might repent and be sound in the faith.

To be sound in the faith

The word sound carries with it the idea of being well and in good health. Those who are sound in the faith, who speak sound words, sound teaching, sound doctrine will be speaking healthy words. They would be speaking Truth to their hearers because those words will be grounded in the Word of God.

Jesus said this of His words in John 6:63:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Healthy words are words that speak truth but in love. They are words that encourage and don’t condemn. Healthy words do not ask something of you that would be unhealthy for your spirit or your body. Sound words are healthy words.

We could probably all think of “false teachers” in our culture today who have spoken lies to thousands of people and have committed all kinds of spiritual abuses. They are unhealthy people acting in unhealthy ways and feeding off of already broken lives. A SHARP rebuke is what’s in order for these people. Not soft, marshmallow, indulgent comments of agreement or even apathetic leniency.

Here is another great way to think of this: J. C. Ryle was a champion for the truth in the Church of England during the 19th century. In Warnings to the Churches (p. 110, ch. 5 “Controversy in Religion”), he wrote about how difficult yet necessary controversy in the church is. Then he added,

But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.

After acknowledging that many would view what he writes as exceedingly distasteful, he states (p. 111),

Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin. (from Steven Cole at bible.org)

The key is being sound in the faith, with both feet firmly planted in the Word of God. You can bet that every false teacher out there has stepped one or both feet out of the Word and into something else. Be on your guard.

Hopefully we have expressed our passion to you for the Word of God in such a way that you also see the necessity for it in your lives. We are not aiming to stuff you with a bunch of knowledge from God’s Word as if you were the next Thanksgiving turkey. What good is knowledge for knowledge’s sake? The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. We believe that the Bible is God’s holy Word and has the power to change our lives, making us look and act more like our Savior.

How can we have Christ without His doctrines? We must LOVE the doctrine of God our Savior! (Spurgeon “Adorning the Gospel”) Sound doctrine rightly applied produces holy living.

Paul continues that he wants Titus to rebuke them so that they would be sound in the faith…

14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

Before discussing myths and commands of men, let’s first address what we should be devoted to. To be sound in the faith requires one to be firmly planted in the truth (Psalm 1:1-3). Jesus told His disciples in John 8:31,

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

And later in John 17:17 he prayed to the Father,

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Paul tells us in Col. 3:16,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Paul also warns in 2 Tim 2:15,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

These men were doing anything but handling the truth correctly. They were TURNING AWAY from the truth. Now let us look at what Paul meant by…

Jewish myths

Paul also uses the phrase in 1 Tim 1:3-4 saying,

…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (NIV)

Paul states that the problem with these myths is that they promote controversial speculations and don’t actually advance God’s work at all. I think of that image of EMPTY windbags. Myths and speculations are empty and senseless, of little value.

The footnote in my Arch Bible for this verse 1 Tim 1:4 says:

’Myths’ may refer to mythical stories built upon OT history (‘genealogies’) that later developed into intricate Gnostic philosophical systems.

One of the most popular groups of false teachers in Paul’s day were those who called themselves the Gnostics.

From Arch Bible article “The Gnostics and Their Scriptures”:

From the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”, Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God. Its adherents considered the Biblical God, the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god. In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity. The Gnositc Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity’s ‘true’ divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world.

You can see how this myth about God would promote all kinds of controversial conversations among the church!

So let me translate this for you in today’s terms. Stay away from the person who wants to argue and debate about the latest hot topic of religion. They’ll give you all sorts of opinions and rants but nothing will be grounded in the Word and the motive will be to either stir you up in anger or tear you down in your beliefs. Most importantly it does nothing to advance the gospel. It’s just a bunch of empty speculation resulting in ZERO fruit/good works.

The Commands of People

Jesus speaks to the problem of following human tradition in Mark 7:6-9, 13 (NIV):

[v. 1-5 disciples eating with unwashed hands and Pharisees question Jesus] He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! [Jesus’ example of their lack of obedience to God’s original intent v. 10-12] 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

The Jewish teachers of the law had added so many “commands” to the actual Law that they became more important than the Law itself. They would often set aside the true intent of the Law just to abide by their own traditions.

Originally their motives were simply to be extra careful to observe all that was written in the book of the Law. Remember when the serpent asked Eve what God had told her about the trees of the garden in Gen 3? She told it that God had said not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden AND not to touch it. We know God didn’t add that extra command, not to touch. But this is an example of what the rabbis did to the Law. They called it building a “fence around the Torah”. They added extra measures to the Law in order to keep themselves and others from disobeying it. If they couldn’t even touch the fruit, then they certainly couldn’t eat it. (Michael Heiss)

Because these men wanted to understand the Scripture and know how it applied to their lives, the rabbi’s came up with a way to interpret the Scripture known as midrash. Midrash is an exegetical process or technique the rabbis used to creatively explain the meaning of the Scripture which made use of certain interpretive tools such as etymology (word origin), wordplay (prophets using puns), catchwords (words that grab your attention), analogy, and so on. They sought knowledge of the Scripture by using logical inferences, combinations of different passages (cross references), and the like.  (Sound familiar? We do this too!) The

“main purpose of Jewish scriptural interpretation was to make Scripture comprehensible and applicable to particular communities.” (p. 99 Joel Green in The World of the New Testament)

However, the rabbinic interpretation was often raised to the same level as Scripture, and you can see how this kind of elevation of the “commands of men” resulted in all sorts of doctrinal issues. You can also imagine the kind of religious atmosphere Paul and Titus were dealing with. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 23:2-4,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

Please note that Jesus does not fault these religious leaders for having too much knowledge but rather that all the knowledge never made an impact on their hearts. Those facts didn’t travel from the head to the heart to become actions. Thus they became hypocrites, whose knowledge of the Word made no difference in their lives.

Be wary of the person who completely discards the pursuit of the knowledge of God’s Word. Os Guiness writes in Dining with the Devil,

Today theology is rarely more than marginal in the church-growth movement at the popular level. Discussion of the traditional marks of the church is virtually nonexistent. Instead, methodology is at the center and in control. The result is a methodology only occasionally in search of a theology.” (p. 26)

He continues on to explain that worship and discipleship are often subordinate to evangelism, and all three to that of entertainment which he calls “the Achilles’ heel of evangelicalism.” (p. 27) Guiness further describes the trouble of offering milk and never meat to a growing congregation:

‘all things to all people’ means it is perfectly legitimate to convey the gospel in cartoons to a non-literary generation incapable of rising above MTV and USA Today. But five years later, if the new disciples are truly won to Christ, they will be reading and understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans and not simply the Gospel According to Peanuts.” (p. 28-29)

Keep in mind that one of the spiritual gifts God gives to His Church is knowledge which often goes along with discernment. (1 Cor 12:8) If it were a bad thing, why would He give it for the benefit of His Church? Like any gift, it can be misused or abused, but it is not in and of itself a bad thing.

How can a believer live a holy life apart from knowing what the Holy God prescribes for His children? His Word is meant to be studied for it contains direction for our lives.

Neither let us make knowledge the end point nor forsake the study of God’s Word.

Too many people are afraid of knowledge and claim “we don’t want to fall into legalism.” However, this kind of thinking is just another form of legalism (excessive adherence to law or formula). Rather than adhering to a strict following of the law of God, these people follow a strict law of correct practice (orthopraxy) divorced from orthodoxy (correct belief). It leads to a faith devoid of doctrine which is ultimately ignorant and misinformed.

The Cretan deceivers had strayed from God’s Word and had been following Jewish myths and the commands of men, elevating their knowledge above the Scripture. Not only that, but as Jesus said, they likely required the people to follow these myths and commands as well, though they themselves were unwilling to live what they preached.

Do we ever place burdens on other people that we ourselves do not even require of ourselves? Or taking this a step further, do we project our perfectionism onto another, expecting an impossible standard that we ourselves cannot even attain to?

Now for our last verses: v. 15-16. 

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

DEFILED

  1. Interlinear – miaino (me-ah’-ee-no) meaning “to dye with another colour, to stain; to defile, pollute, sully, contaminate, soil; to defile with sins
  2. Greek lexicon – to cause the purity of something to be violated by immoral behavior; refers to the mind of the faithless in v. 15

Note in Lexicon:

The primary sense ‘to stain’ (as of dye) prepares the way for the transforming sense of causing defilement through socially or cultically unacceptable behavior. It is well to keep in mind…that in the Greco-Roman world [to have a harmonious relationship with the gods and nature, all people were expected to observe certain moral and ritual laws]. Individuals were subordinate to interests of the community and violations of standard moral and ceremonial expectations could jeopardize the delicate balance between an entire populace and its deities.

In other words, you were obligated to maintain moral or ritual purity for the sake of the community so as not to “offend the gods”!

In light of this cultural custom, one way to think of verse 15 is in the context of food laws and ritual purity.

Purity in the NT

Footnote from ESV:

To the pure, all things are pure echoes Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:39-41 (39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.) and Paul’s earlier writing in Rom 14:20 (20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.).”

Another way to think of this verse is in the context of morality and holy living in general.

Both mind and conscience are defiled. A great example of this can be found in John’s gospel. John 18:28 tells us,

Then they [chief priests and Pharisees] led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

Did you catch the irony? They didn’t want to “defile” themselves by going into the Gentile man’s headquarters because they wouldn’t be qualified to eat the Passover according to their man made traditions. Yet they were already defiled by their sin and blind to their crime of handing over Jesus, an innocent man.

Both their mind and conscience were completed stained or tainted by their own appetites and agendas, and they would view their own behavior as pure and religiously motivated and justified as a result of their completely twisted concept of morality.

Profess to know God

Verse 16 tells us the false teachers professed to know God. I want to recall a passage from 1 John 2:3-6 which referred to knowing God:

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandmentsWhoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The one who knows God will do what He says. The one who keeps God’s Word walks the same way Jesus walked. So how did these men of Crete measure up?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes about this false knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble (godless chatter NIV) and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Remember what I said about the Gnostic heresy? They claimed to have a “special knowledge” about God. These false teachers professed to KNOW God, perhaps claiming this special knowledge of the Gnostics OR claiming their heritage as Jews meant that they automatically knew God. They professed to know God, but their hearts were far from Him (From Jesus’ words in Mark 7: *Isaiah 29:13 “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…”).

DENY Him by their works

While their words appeared to express a love or knowledge for God, Paul says their works tell another (TRUER) story. Matt 7:15-19

15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus also addresses the fruit concept in Matt 12:33-37 (the tree is known by its fruit.” v. 33). In both passages He connects words with works/fruit. Those who love Him obey Him and walk like Him because as they ABIDE in the Vine, they begin to look and act more like the Vinedresser who faithfully produces fruit (good works) in the lives of His image-bearers.

James writes at length on the importance of faith and works working together. In fact he makes the bold statement that faith without works is DEAD (James 2:26).

The false teachers said “yes we know God” with their words but in all that they did, Paul says they denied God.

Peter also speaking about false teachers says this: 2 Pet 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people… who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Similar to Paul’s theme of denying God by living immorally, Jude writes this v. 4,

For certain people have crept in unnoticed … ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

John puts it way more harshly in 1 John 2:22,

Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichristdenying the Father and the Son.

As we think about this term to deny, I want to take you to Isaiah 59:12-15:

12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
    and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
    and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the Lord,
    and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
    conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.

14 Justice is turned back,
    and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
    and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Isaiah was speaking to the Israelites in that day, but you can see how his words applied very much to those false teachers at Crete, and even to those walking among us today.

I can’t help but think of these sobering (serious?) words from Jesus (paraphrase), “if you acknowledge Me, I’ll acknowledge you before the Father. If you deny Me, I’ll deny you.” Matthew 10:32-33

Without sound doctrine, we are just another deceiver – defiled, detestable, disobedient. Unfit for good works.

Unfit for good works

  1. Greek lexicon – word is adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos) and meant “not standing the test, unqualified, worthless
  2. Interlinear bible – “not approved (properly used of metals and coins); unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate”

Let me put it this way : 2 Tim 2:15 tells us we must be diligent to present ourselves as workmen APPROVED to God who accurately handle the Word. And remember what Job said after all of his horrific trials, “when He has tried me, I shall come forth as pure gold“ (Job 23:10).

The refining process for silver involved the metal worker heating the silver to its melting point, skimming off the dross/impurities, and ending his labor once he saw his reflection in the pure silver. When we, like the precious metal, have gone through the affliction, we come forth qualified, approved, as those who have stood the test. They are fit for good works.

To tie this all together, remember God has created us for good works (Eph 2:10) but these works are a privilege and a gift for those who have stood the test and have been approved.

This is exactly opposite of the false teachers. They are unfit. Not approved. Unproved. Did not stand the test. Not ready for good works.

Characteristics of False Teachers 

In closing let me take just a moment to summarize some characteristics of false teachers. (From bible.org Steven J. Cole – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

To expound on this last characteristic, I wanted to read to you from Steven Cole’s article on false teachers. He writes:

Arius (d. 336), was a heretic who denied the deity of Christ and was the forerunner of the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses. He gained a huge following. But the courageous Athanasius battled against him. Parker Williamson describes Arius:

‘Here was a bright, energetic, attractive fellow, the kind of citizen whom any Rotary Club would welcome. Singing sea chanties in dockside pubs and teaching Bible stories to the Wednesday night faithful, this was an immensely popular man. His story reminds us that heresy does not bludgeon us into belief. We are seduced.’ (Standing Firm: Reclaiming the Chastain Faith in Times of Controversy [Lenoir, North Carolina: PLC Publications, 1996], p. 31, cited by John Piper, “Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away from the Truth,” on DesiringGod.org)

So to recognize false teachers, watch their motives, their message, their master, and their methods.

What does this mean for us? Know your Truth people! The Truth sets you free from all the false doctrine the world contains. (John 8:32) This is no war against flesh and blood. Those deceivers/false teachers are not the enemy. The evil one is our enemy. {KATNISS! “Remember who the real enemy is”}

Therefore put on the whole armor of God so you can stand against the devil’s schemes! (Eph 6:11) Fasten the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the shoes of the gospel, take up the shield of faith, wear the helmet of salvation, and finally keep that sword sharp. Then just pray pray pray. (Eph 6:14-18)

As for what we must do to guard against false teachers, Paul tells us, “Keep your eye on them and turn away from them.” (Rom 16:17) The noun related to the verb “keep your eye on” is used in Ezekiel 3:17 (LXX) to refer to the watchman on the wall. His job was to keep his eye peeled for the enemy and to sound the alarm when he saw them coming so that they could prepare for battle. Since these false teachers often disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15) or as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15), you have to be discerning to spot them.

Paul also says, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” Or, in Jesus words (Matt. 10:16, ESV), “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Our focus should be on being wise in the Scriptures. Knowing the truth will equip you to refute the errors of false teachers.” (From bible.org – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

Finally, watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Tim 4:16 (NIV)

titus-bkgd

Click on the picture for the link or see the link below:

http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/c45ad67

It Can Change Your Brain

Standard

Brain bible prayer

I happened to be perusing Facebook one day and noticed that someone had posted a link to an article regarding how certain television shows can change a person’s thinking on certain social issues. The writer, an Indian man, supplied some of the psychological research that has gone into this theory and spoke of his own experience growing up watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in Mumbai, India. One of the working theories is that people will be less prejudiced against people who are different from them (in any way) when they are given the chance to interact with those people. Black and white. Gay and straight. Alien and earthling. Then they can all sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya together.

It made me think of a comedian’s sketch I watched on Last Comic Standing as he joked about how he had no problems doing extreme sports with his white friends. It was his white friends who had trouble kickin’ it with him (to watch the sketch go here and slide to minute 4:45, ending around 5:56).

But I digress.

As I read the article, my first thought was, “oh I’ve watched that show and it was funny!” But I also remember that I stopped watching it because it walked over a few lines that I had drawn in the sand. I’m fairly particular about what I put into my mind, especially when it comes to television shows. [For instance, my husband and I used to watch Criminal Minds, but it got entirely too creepy and made me think a serial killer was going to kidnap me and cut me into tiny pieces. No peace of mind I tell ya. I didn’t need those nightmares!]

Another show we stopped watching early on was House. We liked how the writers showed the tension between opposing beliefs and made you seriously think about these moral issues in a different way than you usually do. However, it too crossed some defining lines of what we believe and on these issues we won’t compromise. Now I must pause and say that my beliefs don’t result in me hating the characters on Criminal Minds or on House. Nor do I look down on anyone who chooses to watch those shows (maybe they are braver than I am and don’t think serial killers are lurking around every corner). No, rather, it was just a choice of what I will not spend my time on. I won’t fill my mind with the opposing beliefs or the images that place fear in my heart. No harm done.  End of discussion.

To be blatantly honest, this article gave me pause. I don’t want TV shows to change my brain. Don’t get me wrong, this article and the research behind it is so fascinating to me. As a student of the psychology department at Oklahoma Baptist University, I remember reading about studies like this and even doing research related to issues of the same nature. I think that having empathy and sympathy for another person is a good thing. The problem I find with this is simply that I believe there is something better out there that can and has been changing my brain.

It’s called the Bible.

Within its pages you will find the Author who is utterly holy and completely full of love and compassion. You will see how Jesus loved the unlovely. How He met the needs of the outcast and sinner. How He reached out to the unclean and the hurting, and He restored them to life. He spoke out against the hypocrite and challenged the spiritual. He taught His closest followers like a father teaching his children. He gave dignity to women and championed their cause. What is more, He took twisted men and women, people full of evil and deceit, and He changed them from the inside out. THIS is what it looks like to have someone change your mind.

It is a bit of a mystery how God’s Word, being alive and active, could change a person, starting with the thoughts and intentions of the heart. When it is my habit to be harsh to my kids in their moment of disobedience, He changes me to be gentle yet firm. Truthful but loving. To look at a person with different beliefs from my own, resulting in different actions from my own, and to love that person with the love of God. It starts with His Word. That’s where TRUE change begins.

Many people will say that reading the Bible produces a bunch of bigoted religious nuts. However His true followers will find themselves anything but religious or bigoted. Because it is Him at work inside of those people, producing strong character and compassionate hearts that speak His truth in love.

It is not enough to have my mind changed by a television show, to produce friendly feelings toward a person of different color or religious background or sexual orientation. That is surface level. His Word sinks in deep and clears out the areas in my heart that might harbor hate or judgment. His Word produces a love that cannot be manufactured or faked.

Finally, in this article, the writer points out one research project showed that people who encountered or observed a less-liked person of a minority group (his example was Omarosa) were more likely to be prejudiced against that minority group. His point was that television doesn’t reinforce a positive view of a minority group unless the minority person portrayed in the show has a favorable personality. MY POINT is that how you live matters greatly!

If you are a believer, you represent Christ. Far too many people don’t take this seriously enough. This is why they laugh at us (see Ann Voskamp’s article on that here). Or rather they mock us. They label us all hypocrites. Religious nuts. Yet I know of thousands who are quietly living out their genuine faith each day, making an impact in people’s lives for the kingdom of God. I personally know many individuals who have chosen not to settle for surface level spirituality and work out their faith in fear and trembling, searching the Scriptures to find the picture of Jesus as they figure out ways to imitate the One they call Savior. No religiosity. Just relationship.

I don’t need a TV show to change my mind. I need Jesus. He informs my beliefs, my views on life. And where my beliefs aren’t in line with His, He changes them so that I more closely resemble my Savior.

Bragging Rights

Standard

Family Pics '14 0150 (edit)

Have you ever taken one of those life events stress inventories? I’m pretty sure we win the biggest score this year (I’m all about winning, so don’t rain on my parade if your score is bigger!). Moving to a new state, starting a new job, starting seminary, building a new home, and having a baby are all BIG life events, and we get to check each one of them in one year’s time. It’s enough to make me want to lock myself in a closet for a week and just cry. I can’t tell you that it’s all been bad. Some of it is very exciting while other parts are frustrating and cause anxiety. But then you add to all of those BIG life events the “adventure” of learning a new location (my goodness, you people don’t know BIG until you’ve been to Houston…I’m saying….), finding a new church, and making new friends (did I mention I’m an introvert??). Someone get me a paper bag so I don’t hyperventilate.

For some reason, I’m doing fine! (well today…ask me tomorrow, I may not be so fine.) The insanity doesn’t seem so insane. That Reason is my God. Oh how I love Him.

I wrote about the blessing of the thorn as something that keeps us humble. I’d like to boast in my God for this post. He is the One who gives us good things. One of those things is faith or trust. I have seen Him turn my anxious heart into one of bold trust in Him. Here’s a simple, very real example. I am due to give birth to our third boy April 17 (can you imagine three little Farmer boys? seriously…I’m going to be one fit momma). We close on our house April 9. Now unless the medical world has come up with some medicine that miraculously allows you to have your baby whenever you want, I’m pretty sure I can’t depend on this little one to show up on his due date. I can’t even depend on him to hold off until after we get moved in. For all I know, he could come tonight. This REALLY bothered me for, oh, the last 8 months. I just want to have it my way. I would tell people at church, “Please pray that the baby comes on or after his due date!” But then I went to the doctor for my 36 week visit, and she tells me I’m already dilated and thinning out some. *GASP* Let the panic attack begin. I freaked out for a few days (packed my bags since I was so sure he’d come at any moment), but then I got wise and started to ask my friends to pray for me. Keep in mind every cell in my body and thought in my mind was set to anxiety overload. There was nothing I could do to change this, or the events that will soon take place. I was so pathetic, and yet God breathed peace into my heart and mind, allowing me to stop and rest in Him. He spoke truth over me, and I can have full assurance that whatever happens is going to be the best (and though the best may be hard, it’s still the best).

I can boast that my God is able. There’s nothing too big for Him to handle. There’s nothing too small for Him to care deeply about concerning me. He is able. (Mark 10:27; 1 Peter 5:7)

I can boast that my God is strong. In my weak moments when I lose perspective and begin to worry over the things in this life, He gives me sufficient grace so that when I’m weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Deuteronomy 11:2; Psalm 68:35)

I can boast that my God is in control. Though everything seems absolutely chaotic, and nothing feels at peace or settled, He is unshaken. His plans are perfect and nothing can disrupt them. (Psalm 33:10-11; Job 42:2; Psalm 93:1)

When I’ve “got it together”, it’s only because He’s holding me together. It has nothing to do with how spiritual I am or how good I am at handling stress. I’m a wreck without Him (just ask my children when I’ve started out in a bad mood for the morning…oh Jesus, help me…).

I just love how my God handles me when I’m a wreck. He’s no drill sergeant. He’s not interested in giving a guilt trip. He doesn’t even act disappointed that I can’t get myself together.

He’s so kind. And truthful. And compassionate.

So when I’m in negative mode, I don’t have to be down on myself and feel guilty that I’m just not trusting Him. What I should do is recognize my weakness (admission), go to Him (confession, utter dependence), ask others to pray for me (humility, intercession), and let Him do His work in my heart (sanctification).

He delights to give His children good things and to see us walk in truth (Luke 11:13; Psalm 145:9, 15-16). When we give thanks for what we receive from Him and when we know the truth of who we are, we bring glory to His name. When we have been overwhelmed by His goodness, may we be quick to turn to Him with hearts full of gratitude  and shout with joy about what He’s done.

 

A Guide for the Unsettled Seeker

Standard

From CreationSwap

Here we go again. Off to another church. Will this one have Sunday school or just “Lifegroups”? Do they have a women’s ministry? What about for men? What do they say about certain doctrines? Does the pastor preach topically or expositorally? What is their worship service like? What can I expect from their children’s ministry?

You may have been in this situation before and have asked some of these same questions (or should have asked them!). You move to a new town or simply determine that you want a change in where you worship. You get this feeling that you’ll never quite find that place to call “home.” Why is this such a big deal?

I thought it would be challenging to feel “settled” as we wait to move into our new home, but I never knew how unsettled I would feel as we church hop each week. It is that same feeling I wrote about in my post on Craving Connection. We want to feel connected to the Body of Christ not only for our benefit but for our desire to serve in the Body.

Here are a few things I’ve learned through this small journey to finding a “church home”:

1) It’s incredibly hard not to compare former pastors with these “potential” pastors at each church we try. I’ve decided we were rather spoiled at our former church because we had a pastor who faithfully preached the word in a dynamic way so as to keep our attention while at the same time challenging us to think and to live out what he preached. It was no fluff, let me tell ya. My litmus test these days, unfortunately, is whether or not I can stay awake (and trust me, I NEVER fell asleep at my old church).

2) Closely related to my first point, it’s important to let your pastor know how he’s impacted you in the way he serves your church. A lot of people sitting in the Sunday morning pews have no idea how fortunate they are to sit under the teaching of a well-rounded pastor. Can we just clone the good ones? Is this too much to ask?? (Note to everyone at IBC: You should go tell Dr. Fisher how much you appreciate him. Go.)

3) It takes time to find where you should serve. This is true of you even if you already have a church home. What is more, you should be asking yourself this question if you aren’t serving somewhere already. Does the church have ministries that you are already interested in (women’s, children’s, missions, etc.)? Is there a need in the church for someone to lead a particular ministry (service, reaching singles, college)? It’s a fine balance to determine what you want from the church and how you can serve in the church.

4) There are far too many churches that are going with “trendy” rather than “truth“. Like I alluded to above, I’ve heard a few “fluffy” messages…ones that have very little substance. This tells me something very alarming about church-goers today–they like the fluff. UGH. I’m not ok with this! This also tells me something about the pastors–they’re either lazy and don’t take the time to prepare a really great sermon, complete with illustrations and packed with the Word of God OR they have lost the purpose of being a pastor…preach the Word faithfully, guide and protect the flock.

I’m sure I could go on for eons about what I’ve learned, but because that part of me that says I have to have a point is yelling at me, I must stop here. I challenge you who are searching for a church home, think and pray about what kind of message you’ll be getting every week. Also research what the church offers for you and as a way for you to serve (what you can offer to the church).

For you who already have a church home, I encourage you to consider how you can serve as a part of that Body. It will look different for you than it does for your best friend…and this is ok, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Also take a good hard look at the messages that your pastor presents. Is the Word of God primary or is it an afterthought? Does he jump from topic to topic without a seeming goal in mind or does he have a plan for your church as he goes through a sermon series or book of the Bible? Do you fall asleep? (ha! just kidding…that could be your problem, you know.) May you never be satisfied with “fluff“, my friend.

I am that important

Standard

If you read my last post, you’re absolutely confused. 🙂 “Didn’t she just write about how we are just not that important?” Why yes, I did. But that was in the context of thinking too highly of myself. Desiring to be important and in the limelight. I want to address our worth in this post. God says we have worth, and it’s because of this that we are that important.

Haven’t you been there? Wondering if you even matter to anyone? Being entirely too critical of yourself when you fail in any form (small or great)? Thinking that you never measure up? This is the pendulum swinging the other way. And I hate to tell you, but it’s not opposite of pride (in other words, it’s not humility). It’s a difficult topic because it opens up the raw emotions of depression, anxiety, fear, shame…all the fun ones.

When you find yourself in this place, you can know you’re not alone. And you need to know that none of it is true of you.

You do matter. You aren’t a failure when you can’t do “x” or when you yell at your kids or when you make that mistake at work. You are enough in God’s eyes which means you don’t need to keep trying to measure up. You already do, and the fantastic part is that it’s because of Christ’s work (not something you did or have to do).

First, let’s tackle the issue about worth then we’ll get to the truth about Christ’s all sufficient work on the cross (making you sufficient before God). Remember in a previous post (https://ashleydfarmer.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/god-is-good-so-what-part-3/) I wrote about the dignity of human life – our self worth is found in the God who created us in His image. This means that every person matters to Him because He places His image in each one of us. No one, not even you, can say that what He has made is bad, because He already declared it as good. You can check out Isaiah 45:9-10 or  Is. 29:16 for a reference. God also says many times that He creates each individual with a purpose (Eph. 1:11, Phil. 2:13, 2 Tim. 1:9).

Now for the fun part. 🙂 To break down the theology, we have nothing in ourselves that can make us pure before God, and we can’t reconcile ourselves to Him by any effort on our part. We’ve all sinned, and so we need a Savior who hasn’t. God requires complete holiness and the life of the one who commits the sin must be surrendered through blood (because the life is in the blood – you’ll find that reference in Leviticus 17:11).

This is where Jesus comes in.

He’s my hero. 🙂

Because He is God, that means He’s perfect, and because He is Man, that means He can die on our behalf. Voila! It’s brilliant! Jesus Christ satisfies the demands of the Father so that when we come to Him, He sees the perfection of His Son in us. It’s called substitutionary atonement and involves the imputation of righteousness (fancy words for a Baptist girl, eh?). Those fancy words just mean that we are considered righteous because of His righteousness. He imputes it to us (see Phil. 3:9, my favorite 2 Cor. 5:21, Is. 53:11, 1 Pet. 2:24, Rom. 8:1-4, and let me tell you the list goes on…). For further reading on this whole topic, I’d recommend Hebrews 4 and beyond. 😉

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. 2 Timothy 1:9

Did you catch it? You don’t measure up to God’s standard so He made a way that you could. The next time you feel incompetent or begin to be overly critical of yourself, remember what God says about you. You are that important to Him.