JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?”
August 30, 2009, 1:46 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

Reading chapters 5 to 7 in the first letter to the church at Corinth Paul now begins to describe the results of the divisions that had occurred in the church. Paul had earlier tried to help the church to realize who they were in Christ and that the divisions were because of relying on human wisdom and human strength. In Christ there are no distinctions!

These Corinthian Christians should have been spiritual fathers and mothers, mentoring other followers of Jesus in the simple practices of loving one another as Christ had loved them in the power of the Holy Spirit. With the divisions the focus had not been on Jesus and so the body of Jesus no longer looked like Jesus. Paul stated that he “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” and that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” and reminded them of the way he lived “in Christ Jesus.” Because the church was not following the practices Paul had given them, they had become a human organization focused on selfishness and servitude versus selflessness and service.

In chapters 5 to 7 Paul describes how the church was not acting spiritually mature, “infants in Christ.” In one instance is sexual immorality where a brother “has his father’s wife” in another disputes between believers have been taken to “the ungodly for judgment” due to cheating one other. What a bunch of mess! As I have been reminded relationships can be messy and only the power of Jesus can lead us through the mess. Paul reminds them of Jesus words about what to do when a brother offends the church, saying “When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” Wow! When the body of Christ assembles “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” when we actively make Jesus the Head, when Jesus is our focus and devotion, through worship, prayer and praise, loving His body, loving each other as Jesus loved us His “power…is present” and the body of Christ, who are meeting together in a home or wherever they decided to gather, has His authority to do the right thing! Not for the faint of heart! If the body is functioning rightly then I need to make confession and repentance a constant practice, if not the body will deal with it! Spiritual fathers and mothers, those who are focused on Jesus being Head and helping others to do the same, these are the prayer warriors, these are those on the front lines whom God can use in the spiritual warfare that wages against His body!

Because Paul lived with these Corinthians for a couple years, I could almost get a sense of hurt from this betrayal of Jesus in their lives coming from his words. To have lived among them, helping them, guiding them in the life of Jesus, and to have built such close relationships and then to have many fall away and ruin the lives of others in the church, must have hurt him terribly. But Paul is adamant and makes the point that followers of Jesus are not alone! It is “by his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also”! The body of Christ IS the body of Christ. His power is available, His resurrection POWER! “Your bodies are members of Christ himself” and that as a follower of Jesus we have been united with Christ, we are in Christ and “the Lord is one with (us) in spirit.” Our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God” and “you were bought at a price” and should “therefore honor God with your body.” I get the sense here that Paul not only is referring to each individual person who follows Jesus but to the assembly of His followers together. We are united together as one body, we are one in spirit with Christ, and to honor God we honor His Body, one another. I hear Jesus final prayer to His disciples in this. Therefore we must “flee from sexual immorality” because any one in the Body who sins sins against HIS Body (Jesus Himself!), we hurt each other and Jesus, when we sin. We “are not our own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Paul then describes the purity of sex in the context of marriage to prevent immorality, for those who “cannot control themselves.” And for those who do not want to marry, and have self-control, they do not have to marry. Both do right in either case. But the whole point is not about getting married or not, it is about devotion to prayer, “keeping God’s commands is what counts,” being “concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he (or she) can please the Lord.” The issue is not even about sexual immorality but also anything in life that can keep us from being focused on Jesus. Am I more focused about my job or getting a better job or how I can dominate someone in a conversation or task? The focus according to Paul should be on knowing Jesus, being “responsible to God” in both my married or unmarried life and while I am work or unemployed.

How devoted am I to the Lord? Am I more “concerned about the affairs of the world” or “about the Lord’s affairs”? Does what I say and do reflect or express Jesus to others? Not just to other followers of Jesus but to friends, family, and co-workers? Jesus came to save them and bring them to Himself, He desires to bring them into His Family, His Body, to truly know the love of Christ.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
August 28, 2009, 1:32 am
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul” went on his third missionary journey and finally “arrived at Ephesus.” He had “traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.” What a man! As I think of this I think of enjoying all the hikes that I’ve done over the many years…so much fun! Here Paul must have enjoyed his time hiking and enjoying life together with the body of Christ that had formed in the previous towns and cities he had gone to earlier. God was finding a home to dwell in wherever Paul went!

Like at Corinth, Paul also spent a long time, a couple years at least in Ephesus. While there he got word from the followers of Jesus in Corinth about certain problems that were occurring in the church at Corinth. Apparently Paul had done quite a lot of letter writing back and forth to Corinth from Ephesus. He must have been really concerned about this family of Christians in Corinth.

As I read the first four chapters of his first Letter to the church in Corinth (possibly a second one, scholars are unsure) Paul is adamant about the fact that the church must not be divided! I like the fact that Paul focused on telling the believers in Corinth who they already were in Jesus, but weren’t expressing or living like it! He described them as “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” “called to be holy,” “his (God’s) grace given you in Christ Jesus,” “in him you have been enriched in every way,” “our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you,” “you do not lack any spiritual gift,” “you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed,” “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful,” “it is because of him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption,” “we have…received…the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us,” “we have the mind of Christ,” “we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building,” “you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you,” and “you are that temple.” Wow what a list! Sometimes, maybe more so than I realize, I need to hear that as a follower of Jesus, that based on who He is and who I am in Christ Jesus, who the body of Christ is, should transform not only how I think but how I relate to others. It’s all about relationships! I think this is the issue Paul is trying to bring out.

Paul was informed that “there are quarrels among you” and “jealousy” and arrogance because some claimed or boasted about being followers of Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Christ. Paul pointed out that this type of behavior was “worldly,” people who were acting like “mere men.” Then Paul does something amazing! He makes the point that he, Apollos, and Peter were “only servants, through whom (they) came to believe.” Paul didn’t given himself a title or position, just plain Paul! Paul had already written his letter to the churches in Galatia how as followers of Jesus “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” etc. There are no distinctions in Jesus Christ, we “are all one in Christ Jesus” and we are all “heirs according to the promise.” No one in the body should lord it over or dominate others, it goes against what Jesus said in the gospels. When followers of Jesus come together to share life together, to devote “themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” there are no leaders, only One is Head, Jesus Christ. Everyone participates, everyone has freedom to share whenever the body of Christ meets. If someone attempts to call a group or church by their name is this not the same thing? If they are the only ones functioning in the group or drifting the group to something other than Jesus is this not the same thing? Is that not creating a division in the body of Christ? When someone is given a title or position or gives themselves one we have just made a division in the body, clergy and laity comes to mind. If someone attempts to control the group they have made the group theirs not Jesus’. Everyone in the body of Christ make up His temple because “God’s Spirit lives in you” everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. To boast in position or titles in the church, or anything else, whether we do so intentionally or unintentionally, we become anti-Christ because we are to boast only in “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Leaders in the church, according to Jesus, are servants, and it is not based on position or titles or what this world thinks describes a leader. In fact the word used for leader most often used in Scripure is “guide.” They guide people to Jesus! When we base our relationship with others on position or titles according to Paul we are “worldy – mere infants in Christ.”

I like the fact that after all this Paul goes back to describing how he lived among them, he describes his function, what he did, that to be mature is to be a spiritual “father” someone who is focused on others, mentoring and helping others live “the gospel,” to live by Jesus’ life. Paul even sent Timothy to the church in Corinth to “remind (them) of my way of life in Christ Jesus” to model the shared Christian life that apparently they had forgotten. It is so easy to drift away from Jesus to other things. Paul denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Jesus. It’s not about me and what I want, it’s all about Jesus and His desire, His passion to live through His Body.

Lord help me to not lose sight of Your desire to be Head of Your body, to live in and express Yourself through Your body, to mature Your body together, growing organically spiritual fathers and mothers from within the body of Christ, whose sole focus would be knowing “nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified” and guiding others towards this same kind of life!

“When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
August 26, 2009, 1:07 am
Filed under: E Acts

As I read the latter part of chapter 18 along with chapter 19 of Acts God impressed upon me how much God used followers of Jesus like Priscilla and Aquila!

Paul had met them when he arrived in Corinth whom “had recently come from Italy” since Aquila was a Jew and the Jews for some reason had been ordered by Claudius “to leave Rome.” It is amazing that God set this couple up with Paul, at the same time, both tentmakers, with the natural result of their companionship blossoming!

Later Silas and Timothy, Paul’s church planting apprentices, arrived in Corinth bringing news of the welfare of the other churches that had just been started previously. As was their custom of following the teachings of Jesus they testified “to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (their Messiah).” But like usual they became abusive towards Paul. But God opened up the doors to allow the good news to be shared to “men of peace” who were willing to believe in the Lord Jesus and allowed networks of relationships to hear the good news “and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”

Paul stayed almost two years in Corinth, allowing Priscilla and Aquila to watch and practice the teachings of Jesus from Paul and his companions. They saw how “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common…they gave to anyone as he had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God”! They watched and practiced the love they had for one another, sacrificial love that Christ had for them. They found freedom to enjoy Christ together and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through each other bearing fruit of love towards one another. They saw how the “gospel came to (them) not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”

Priscilla and Aquila saw how Paul and his companions lived among the body of Christ forming in Corinth, and they too caught the fire, the eternal purpose of God to find a home among the nations through the gospel of Jesus Christ, through the loving touch of Jesus being made real to those they met. When Paul left Corinth he took them with him to Ephesus and he left them there knowing God’s call on their lives to form churches in their home wherever they went.

In Ephesus Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos whom they realized that God was working through but that he needed to know more about the ways of Jesus than just lecturing about Him. They showed him “the way of God more adequately” by inviting Apollos into “their home” where the body of Christ was forming, and Apollos saw the love they had for one another, devotion “to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” etc. Apollos caught the reality of life in Christ! God helped remind me that the life of a follower of Jesus is about a relationship with Him and His Body! It isn’t just about speaking “with great fervor” but a relationship!

As a result of Jesus speaking through the church meeting in Priscilla and Aquila’s home Apollos and the church heard God’s direction for Apollos to go to Corinth. Based on the letters that Paul would later send to the church in Corinth, I think God knew what was up and the church needed some additional mentoring that Apollos could provide them in the interim. All because of a couple who found God’s eternal purpose to use them to form churches in their home! Lord help me and my wife and the couples around this globe be like Priscilla and Aquila whose only desire would be to form churches in our homes, spreading the good news from house-to-house, so that the loving touch of Jesus could be made real in the lives of all they meet and in turn cause other households to become alive in Christ so that You might find a home among all the nations!

“We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him…”
August 25, 2009, 1:12 am
Filed under: I Second Letter to the Thessalonians

After reading the second letter to the church in Thessalonica the idea that God desires we share in His glory became more evident! I cannot fathom the possibilities!

This second letter seems to have been written shortly after the first letter and while Paul was still in Corinth, as Paul stayed in Corinth for over a year and a half. It seems the news of the ekklesia in Thessalonica continued to spread even to Corinth, possibly from Paul’s apprentices who perhaps traveled back and forth between the churches.

Timothy, after taking the first letter to the church, possibly returned with additional news of what God was doing in them. Somehow there had been a false letter written to try and deceive them about “the day of the Lord” having already come, causing the believers to become “unsettled or alarmed” and some brothers apparently were not following Paul’s advice to continue in the teachings of the apostles and were becoming “idle.” As a result Paul wrote another letter to his favorite church to encourage them, that they are “loved by the Lord” and chosen by Him!

Because of the suffering the church was facing Paul was compelled to share with them the truth that because God is not only a God of love but also of justice that those who troubled them will in the end pay for it by God Himself, specifically when Jesus comes again, and “punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” What an awesome statement! As a follower of Jesus I will come literally face-to-face in His presence and “the majesty of his power” and to marvel at our Lord! What a day that will be! Makes you kind of stop and just take it in for a second!

But Paul also tells the church that not only will we enjoy the presence of Jesus in His fullness one day we can enjoy His presence now! As we meet together with other brothers and sisters in Christ when we encourage each other, through the Spirit, the Lord Himself, can “encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” and that as we follow His teachings “the Lord (will) direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” God is at work in me by the evidence of our faith “growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”

How do I relate to my brothers and sisters when we come together? Does this determine whether we enjoy His presence? What demonstrates the reality that Jesus is the Head? Does Jesus really have freedom in our time together to love through each other to one another? Is Jesus really glorified in me and me in him? Perhaps the key words mentioned by Paul in these two letters to this church are that he prayed for them, asked them to pray him and his apprentices, and to pray continually for each other and to the Lord! If Jesus is my Lord, my Savior, my life, how can I not talk to Him? How can I not pray for my other brothers and sisters in Christ? If we are growing in our devotion to the teachings of the apostles and to one another then I should be able to hear from Jesus through His Body and the Bible. Jesus oh how I desire You! Jesus speak, the one whom you call a friend is listening!

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…”
August 24, 2009, 1:16 am
Filed under: H First Letter to the Thessalonians

I spent this weekend reading and re-reading with prayers the First Letter to the Thessalonians by Paul. What an incredible letter of encouragement! The Lord impressed upon me the devotion that Paul not only had for Jesus but also for His Body! In fact can we really love Jesus without loving His Body?

After Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke and perhaps some others with them left Philippi they journeyed to Thessalonica and spent roughly three weeks their “explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” and “some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.” Paul and Silas left to Berea due to a riot in the city and then to Athens and finally on to Corinth. Based on the letter that Paul sent from Corinth to the church at Thessalonica, having only known them for about three weeks, Paul could write to them with such brotherly love! Because Paul and Silas had to leave only after three weeks of being with the church he felt necessary to send Timothy, his church planting assistant, back to Thessalonica to find out how they were doing because of the trouble that had occured in the city. When Timothy returned and Timothy shared with Paul how the church was doing, Paul was overwhelmed at what God had done in the church’s life! Paul felt compelled to write a letter to them and share his joy for them!

A year or so earlier he had written to the churches in Galatia about the importance of knowing their freedom in Christ and focusing on loving one another as demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In this letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul focuses his desire for “the Lord (to) make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” This family of believers got it! They followed the instruction and example Paul set for them on “how to live in order to please God” and urged them “in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” I think of Jesus saying His new commandment which was to love one another as He had loved them, and that “this is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

By focusing on Jesus, being devoted to applying the teachings of Jesus together in their lives, devoted to sharing life together, praising God and sharing this good news of salvation by faith in Jesus to others this church “suffered from (their) own countrymen.” Paul told them that as followers of Jesus “we were destined for” trials. Paul was confident that God was at work in their lives because of how they were living for Christ! Paul told them that God had “chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” Man, what an experience Paul and his group had when bringing the gospel to them!

Jesus desires that His Body “encourage one another and build each other up” and that can’t happen if I’m a solo Christian. I need a small group of brothers and sisters who are free to speak truth to one another, to me and vice versa, who can enjoy Jesus together, everyone participating in each others lives to let our “love increase and overflow for each other!”

Is it possible that when a body of believers meet together, whether in a home or office, or where they can meet in life, that when they make Christ the Head of their time together, with no one being a leader, except Christ, sharing His love towards one another, that the body can experience the gospel “not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” “in spite of severe suffering”? Can I let “the word of God” when shared with one another “work in” me? Lord work in me, work in Your Body! You are “faithful and” You “will do it”! Amen!

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”
August 21, 2009, 1:00 am
Filed under: E Acts

In Acts chapters 16 to 18 from Paul’s second missionary journey I am struck by how God uses Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, and others with Paul to share the good news of Jesus to so many people! I guess what strikes me the most is how “sold out” Paul was to the heavenly vision he had of Jesus and what God did in his own heart that made such a difference.

In his Letter to the Galatians, that he had sent previously, Paul described himself as “sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead,” “a servant of Christ,” and had “received it (good news) by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Paul who intensely “persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” was the same Paul whom God called “by his grace” and was “pleased to reveal his Son in (him).” What a life changing event Paul had gone through, the transformation that God wrought in his life! Jesus can do that through you and I! Lord bring this kind of changed life, your life, through me and my family!

And when he, Barnabas and the other members of the body of Christ lived in devotion to Jesus and His teachings, to a shared life with the other followers of Jesus, house-to-house, loving one another as Jesus had loved him, and sharing the good news of Jesus with anyone he met, he also learned to mentor others to do the same. After over a decade of this simple and organic way of life, Jesus way of relating to and loving others, Paul became the premier church planter the world has ever seen, not just a church planter, but a planter of churches that plant other churches, causing a movement that caused him and Silas to find themselves being “severely flogged” and “thrown into prison” by non-Jews and made Jews jealous who “formed a mob and started a riot,” “agitating the crowds and stirring them up,” causing other followers of Jesus in the same towns to become persecuted as well. But Jesus said that if the world hated Him it would also hate His disciples, thankfully Jesus has overcome the world!

This is not our home! We are on the journey to help expand God’s Kingdom in this world, to provide Jesus a home, a Body! The good news that we can have a relationship with the God of the Universe, no matter who we are, and by just believing in Jesus as Lord alone for salvation! Praise God that not just me but my whole family and friends to, if they could see the love of Jesus in me, and just trust in Jesus for salvation! My home can be not just a home for my family but a TRUE home where Jesus dwells, where we can talk to and enjoy Jesus together!

How much joy the jailer must have had to not only have been saved by faith in Jesus but also “all the others in his house” were also saved because of believing “in the Lord Jesus”! In just this short period of time Paul and the other disciples with him, showed Lydia and “her household,” the jailer “and his whole family,” and later those who believed in Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth how to live in the freedom of being saved by Jesus, to become devoted to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, the breaking of bread in each others homes, sharing life together, praying and worshipping God together!

This happened again and again, because Paul knew God’s eternal purpose! Lord help me and my household to be the kind of followers of Jesus described here in Acts who devoted themselves to the apostles teachings, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, sharing life together, praying and worshipping God together in our homes and where we work and live life, and mentor others who believe in Jesus to do the same, so You can find a place to dwell, a home in every neighborhood and town, no matter the cost!

“…we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
August 19, 2009, 10:16 pm
Filed under: E Acts

Reading chapter 15 from Acts I was reminded again about how important God feels about the simple grace and freedom found in believing the good news of Jesus.

“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved” begins a dramatic story of the early church’s dealings with those who want to add something to simple faith in Jesus. Paul and Barnabas had just gotten back from their first missionary journey seeing many non-Jewish people (Gentiles) come to believe in Jesus. I can only imagine the holy anger swelling inside both of these men as they had given their lives, Paul almost dieing from being stoned, after seeing so many come to trust in Jesus for salvation, and to have these legalists say something has to be added to faith that Jesus had never mentioned in the gospels! Needless to say “this brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.”

Neither of them were going to back down from faith in Jesus alone for salvation and so the body of Christ in Antioch sent them to the body of Christ in Jerusalem to correct this thinking. What is interesting is that “the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” said among this impromptu meeting in Jerusalem that “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” It’s funny how they added obeying “the law of Moses” to what they originally said was required for Gentiles to be saved! I guess that’s what happens when we begin adding rules, we find more rules to add on!

Somehow the devotion to the apostles teaching for these Pharisees didn’t quite sink in when they trusted in Jesus. They seemed to have held on to their traditions. Perhaps because they had been “leaders” in the Sanhedrin they felt they could automatically be leaders in the church. But Jesus said to be great you must be the least, a servant, a follower. This doesn’t mean a leader serves but that a servant leads. This tells me that perhaps the house-to-house sharing of life together in the body of Christ in Jerusalem may have been having some problems; perhaps the apostles in Jerusalem had begun having a break down in the simple meetings they once shared in its earliest beginnings?

I find it surprising that “the apostles and elders” even had to meet “to consider this question” and with “much discussion”? Wasn’t it plain and obvious? What were the house-to-house meetings and the shared life the followers of Jesus being devoted to now in Jerusalem? What does that say about the Body of Christ today? Most meetings in Western Christianity tend to be focused on going to a large building to hear a teacher or preacher with very little if any participation by those who attend, and even fewer have opportunities to gather in small groups with the focus on BEING the body of Christ together, functioning like the apostles teaching from the New Testament, and if they do have opportunities it is seen as foreign.

Four men share their observations in this story in Acts. First was Peter, describing how God used Him to bring the good news to the Gentiles first and believed like the rest of them and that “it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Then Barnabas and Paul shared their experiences from the church planting journey. Then finally James speaks showing from the Scriptures the truth of God that the Lord desires that “all the Gentiles” would “bear” His “name.”

After having read the Letter of James and Letter to Galatians by Paul, and the fact that Paul and Peter had some heated words about distinctions in the body of Christ earlier, give rise to these similar issues. It reminds me of a verse: “God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The person is saved by faith alone in Jesus. I don’t have to add anything to my faith in Jesus to have a relationship with the Lord! Anything, means anything! I don’t have to do anything to my body, like circumcision or baptism or tattoos or hair cut or anything, and I don’t have to have a certain set of rules to follow, like wear certain clothes or wear certain things or pray a certain way or look a certain way or take the Lord’s Supper or do a certain thing or anything, to be completely saved. Amen!

James instead makes a compromise that for those who are Gentile believers they recommended that they avoid a few things that would be beneficial for them and have peace with the Jewish believers. In all of this the body of Christ focused on what was the right thing to do, what would bring God glory for His Body, both Jew and Gentile, that would bring peace, and ensured they had consensus, everyone agreed.

The thought here is that it is important that I don’t add anything to the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, Jesus accepts us, me and you, just as we are, even when we may not accept ourselves! I can also see the importance of a truly shared life together in the Body of Christ, because the issues brought up by these Pharisee brothers might have been taken care of if the apostles and deacons/servants had been ensuring the health of the Body as they met house-to-house.

Thankfully God, through Barnabas and Paul as devoted to the simple gospel as they were, brought this issue to the forefront so it could be dealt with. Praise God for those who desire that the simple shared life of the Body based on simple faith in Jesus was restored! I guess my question is what about me, what about the Body of Christ right now? Are we divided because of certain theological differences instead of focusing on the unity found in simple faith in Jesus Christ? What would Barnabas and Paul, Jesus for that matter, think of the Body of Christ where you are, where I am? Am I holding onto traditions or rules that are not biblical but man made and are preventing me from truly living a shared participatory life with my brothers and sisters, devoted to Jesus and one another in love? Am I really focused on Jesus as Head or me as head? Is Jesus in control or am I?

It is unknown if these Pharisee believers repented or apologized for having harmed the Body of Christ, I guess they did if they got consensus, but because they are no longer mentioned after Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and James shared I would guess they may not have. Is there something that I have done to harm the Body of Christ that I need to turn from? When I harm the Body of Christ, I harm Jesus, my Lord and Savior! Jesus says “Love one another just I have have loved you.” It is all about loving Jesus and His Body!

“…what counts is a new creation.”
August 18, 2009, 12:09 pm
Filed under: G Letter to the Galatians

Reading the Letter to Galatians by Paul I got a sense of balance after having read the Letter of James yesterday. James seemed to focus on the practical experiences of loving your neighbor as yourself while Paul seemed to focus on the freedom Christ has given every believer in His Body to freely express Jesus, His love, towards one another.

Paul was adamant in this letter that faith in Jesus is all that is necessary for salvation, and THAT salvation brings freedom…”It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” and that anything that attempts to take away that freedom as a believer is against this good news of freedom in Jesus. Paul mentions the Jewish law and circumcision a few times so possibly there were Jewish people, perhaps followers of Jesus who were still under the impression that even though they received Jesus Christ as Lord they must still meet all the requirements of the law and traditions. Paul of course said how silly that was because no one can and because the law was only meant to “lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” It is possible that these Jewish people and maybe even Gentile religious people still had not realized that Jesus had set them free from all of the stuff that keeps us from fully focusing on Jesus, keeping them enslaved in their addictions. I know I can be pretty conscientious about things, I like a lot of order most times, but I have realized that when I try to be in control I usually mess things up or the relationships I have suffer. Maybe this is what Paul was referring to?

People who like to control others are not reflecting the reality of the good news of Jesus. He set us free not only from religion but also from distinctions or prejudices that we make, such as what Jesus said about the Gentiles who lord it over others. When the Body of Christ comes together everyone is equal at the foot of the cross, “you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There are no distinctions, so who ever is in the Body of Christ you have freedom to love one another, to serve in love, as Christ loved us! There is no clergy/priest and laity distinctions in the Body of Christ, those were Old Testament law distinctions, everyone has freedom to participate and share. Perhaps Paul was referring to this because those who lord it over others intimidate others, perhaps unintentionally, not allowing the freedom to participate in the Body of Christ. Is this what happens in traditional or contemporary churches today? Do I/you have the freedom in Christ to participate in the Body like is mentioned by Paul in Galatians?

Paul said the only thing that counts in the Body of Christ “is faith expressing itself through love” and being “a new creation.” That new creation, you and I who are followers of Jesus, have freedom to live a life of love, living “by the Spirit” and keeping “in step with the Spirit” not the works “of the sinful nature.” “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

Lord help me/us live by Your life so that we may “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Live in me, through me, to Your Body in freedom, You are the Head, be in control, be glorified!

“…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead…”
August 17, 2009, 10:30 pm
Filed under: F Letter of James

After Acts chapter 14 this seemed a good place to read the Letter of James. Scholars seem to think it was written about the time the Jewish Christians left Jerusalem during it’s initial persecution and so had dispersed into Judea and Samaria and other parts of what we know as Syria.

As I read the letter by James I was struck at how much this letter can mean to the Body of Christ who meet together either in the marketplace or in homes. It seems as though James purpose for writing was to remind these Christians about the kind of life they had lived in Jerusalem while meeting together either from house-to-house or wherever they could in the marketplace, since they had been thrown out of the Jewish temple (it is my opinion that the temple was where they witnessed to the life of Jesus instead of having a “large church worship service”). I sure do need reminding!

The letter also reminds me that life lived close together can get messy and there is a bunch of messy stuff to be dealt with when people get to know each other in a shared life, warts and all! I remember from Acts that the followers of Jesus were devoted to the apostles’ teaching of the life of Jesus, devoted to fellowship, sharing life together, breaking of bread in each others homes, worshipping God, prayer and fasting. There is a way of living that we share in common, the life of Jesus!

James seems to contrast the life of Jesus to the life of the world. Almost like Paul who says later in the New Testament about putting off the old man and putting on the new man – Jesus! James reminds the Christians about being wise in how we conduct ourselves and describes how living a life of wisdom is practically shown within the Body of Christ, perhaps seeing it from his own experiences in organic church life. Every church meeting in homes together must read James, read it completely through, and think about and share what God is saying to them from it! How did I participate in the Body of Christ when we met together, was I selfish or humble? How does the Body of Christ look like when they are living Jesus’ life together?

James says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James repeats what Acts has shown me in that Jesus is living his life, ministry, death, and resurrection through His Body! When the Body of Christ comes together in homes or wherever they can gather, “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…look after orphans and widows in their distress…don’t show favoritism….’Love your neighbor as yourself,’ (then) you are doing right…speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom…I will show you my faith by what I do (in helping someone who ‘is without clothes and daily food’)…Not many of you should resume to be teachers, my brothers, because we know that we who teach will be judged more strictly…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be…show (wisdom and understanding) by his good deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom…wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere…’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’…Submit yourselves, then , to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up…Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins….be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near…Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders (or mentors) of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, we will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective…Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” Man, what letter!

Life together isn’t a pretty picture, it’s messy, it’s difficult, but Jesus said it was not going to be easy, but praise God He said He had overcome the world! This is Jesus living His life, ministry, death, and resurrection life through His Body! James describes in practical terms what it means “to deny youself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” in loving one another as Jesus loved us. I need to by faith, submit to God and His grace and in so doing His fruit of patience, love, perseverance, and humility will be expressed as I relate to others. When the Body of Christ meets together everyone has freedom to share Jesus with each other! With all that life deals me/us how important living by the life of Jesus must be in how the Body lives together! The Body Christ living this kind of life, His life of love together, will provide God a home! God be at home in this place!

“…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.”
August 16, 2009, 1:23 pm
Filed under: E Acts

Reading chapters 12 to 14 in Acts testifies to this statement made by Paul and Barnabus as they completed their first missionary journey. Again Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection are fully being realized, becoming reality in the lives of His followers as He expresses His life through them, finding a home, a dwelling place, among “all the nations.” In chapter 12 “James, the brother of John, (was) put to death with the sword” by King Herod’s command and also put Peter “in prison.” This forced the Body of Christ in Jerusalem, in their homes, to “earnestly” pray “to God for him.” And God answered their prayer and Peter was miraculously released! Because “Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down.” In chapter 13 and 14 we see the advent of church planting in its truest form. Jerusalem never truly is the focus now, the shift it seems is the move of God to the nations. After years of learning to die to self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus, the Body of Christ in Antioch becomes a truer reflection of Jesus living through His body. The body of Christ focused on building their inner life, seeking Jesus life together, through worshipping, fasting, and praying together. How I would have loved to be at those gatherings where they were joined fitly together, living stones, being built together in the Lord, seeking God! As a Body they could sense the Lord’s direction! I/we need this kind of life! Following the teachings of Jesus, Barnabas, Paul, and Mark leave on their missionary journey. It seems they just went, it is not clear that they had a specific place in mind, except that they were “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit.” Lord help me and Your Body to wait on You, so that I/we can truly know Your direction, not my/our own. Mark soon leaves Paul and Barnabas and returns back to Syria, perhaps not having counted the cost involved. And man was their cost! Paul was actually stoned in one place, and lived to tell about it! Paul and Barnabas focus seems to be reaching those in the Jewish synogogues with the good news of Jesus that “God raised him from the dead” and that “through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you…” Awesome news! People want to know that in truth and in reality my life, your life, can be forgiven and we can truly live a new, changed life! as a result many believed in the message, first in Pisidian Antioch, then to Iconium, then to Lystra and Derbe all in the southern part of Turkey today, originally known as Galatia. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogues and the marketplaces to find people willing to listen to the message of good news about Jesus. They were living the life of Jesus among those they met, His life, ministry, death, and resurrection! Showing love and wisdom to all they met. They spent time in each place, perhaps not a lot of time, but enough time, to show the new followers of Jesus, the life, ministry, death, and resurrection life of Jesus. The basics of living together as the Body of Christ in their town, learning to love one another as Christ had loved them, dieing to self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus, being devoted to the apostles teaching about the life of Jesus, being devoted to each other, living a shared life together from house-to-house, worshipping God and breaking bread together. Then they left them in the care of the Holy Spirit, they committed them “to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.” They showed them, modeled to the new followers of Jesus, how to develop their inner life together: encouraging each other, praying and fasting together, listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit together. Lord build in me these inner qualities together with Your Body, the church, that I too can better listen to Your Holy Spirit and follow the directions You give me/us!