JohnSWilson3 Blog

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” Matthew 13:44.

“But seek his kingdom…Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 12:31a,32,34, 13:18-19.

“God…was pleased to reveal his Son in me…Christ lives in me…I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 1:15-16, 2:20, 4:19, 5:25.

“…God, who tests our hearts…the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe…May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts…” 1 Thessalonians 2:4,13, 3:12,13.

“…that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

“…God has been making it grow…God…makes things grow…the Holy Spirit, who is in you…But God has put the body together…you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it…follow the way of love.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 6:19, 12:24,27, 14:1.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…it is God who works in you to will and act in order to fulfill his good purpose…the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Phlippians 1:6, 2:13, 3:8.

“…if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:10-11.

“…that you may know him better…that you may know…the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…he might show the incomparable riches of his grace…the boundless riches of Christ…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” Ephesians 1:17-19, 2:4,5,7, 3:8,16-17.

“…God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…in Christ you have been brought to fullness…Christ, who is your life” Colossians 1:27, 2:10, 3:4.

” ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’…See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks…we have a clear conscience…” Hebrews 3:15, 12:25, 13:18.

“God’s work…is by faith. The goal…is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith…take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 1:4,5, 6:19.

Verses from Today’s New International Version.

“Do Not Judge.”

I am constantly amazed by how quick we judge the acts of our natural world as either a judgment of God or not a judgment of God against people or a nation of people. Jesus said “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2) The context is about being hypocritical, being a critical person. Jesus did not mince His words with hypocrites, those who lived a false life, a life of wearing a mask. This is not living by the life of Christ but the flesh. In Christ, as we live by His life, by the Spirit, when we are tempted to judge the events or people around us, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

Our earth is a dynamic one, it is obvious. We see how matter and energy are constantly interacting with one another. We see this in every cycle and process on earth in every field of science. The areas of science such as Geology and Meteorology are constantly on display around us. The motion of the tectonic plates, the resulting volcanoes and earthquakes. The motion of our atmosphere and the resulting changes in weather and the water cycle. They express a world that is constantly changing. As Paul says “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Rom. 8:22) But as we have often seen, these natural aspects of our earth can have tremendous consequences. No one is free from them. As Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) But Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:45 is in context of loving our neighbors and loving our enemies in verses 43 and 44.

Are we really manifesting the love of Christ to others, whether our neighbor or our enemy, when we judge them about a matter, such as a natural disaster, that is not ours to judge? Do we realize that the sun rises and the rain is sent on us as well? No one is free from natural disasters. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate the life of Christ by loving our neighbor and/or our enemy. Perhaps it really isn’t a matter of judgment at all but of salvation. Perhaps the judgment is one of testing our faith. Perhaps it is God allowing His creation to help reveal the sons of God. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” If we are living by the life of Christ together, then His life of love will be manifested when the difficult circumstances of life occur. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12)

So why do we judge a people or a nation of people when these “things” occur, saying it is from God? Or why do we judge a people or a nation of people when these “things” occur, saying it is not from God? In either case are we not talking “back to God?” As a teacher I have had a few students talk back to me, judging me without knowledge. Pretty annoying to tell you the truth. So why do we think we should be quick to judge others that when something happens it is of God or not of God? Do we really know? “But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God?” (Rom. 9:20)

I am reminded of the words that the Lord spoke to Job:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Prepare to defend yourself; I will question you, and you will answer me.” (Job 38:2-3) “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2) “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)

So dear brothers and sisters let us not be quick in attempting to judge the acts of our natural world as either a judgment of God or not a judgment of God against people or a nation of people. How do we know that what is occurring is for judgment or for salvation? When natural disasters occur they are opportunities to “do everything in love.” (1 Cor. 16:14) “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…” (Rom. 12:12-15) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a) This is the manifestation of the sons of God, this is the expression of the life of Christ in and to and through His body!

Some final thoughts from the apostle James:

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.” (James 5:7-12)

Christ Jesus “sympathize(s) with our weaknesses…”
July 11, 2011, 3:42 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians, Q - Letter to Hebrews

There are some key thoughts from the letter to Hebrews in the first four chapters that have striking comparisons elsewhere in scripture, specifically in the first letter to the church in Corinth and Ephesians. The thought is to bring our focus on Christ Jesus, knowing Him better and so as not to fall to the temptation of the flesh, to live by the flesh, but by His life, by His Spirit. It could be said that that is the key to all of the New Testament letters if not the Old Testament as well.

In the letter to Hebrews there are some statements I felt needed some additional highlighting and expanding upon, and in fact I have used a highlighter on the sections in my Bible, :). In Hebrews chapter 2 in verse 18 the author says: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” In chapter 4 verse 15 the author says: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Interestingly Paul said earlier to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Christ knows us better than ourselves. He knows what temptation is like, He’s been there. He knows this weakness because He was made of flesh and blood as we are and so can sympathize with us. He does not want us to fall for it. In Christ we find hope in the midst of our temptation to fall to living by the flesh. He was able to so live by the life of His Father he was able to overcome the power of temptation and not sin and so He is faithful now to help us to live by His life and is able to provide a “way of escape” and “endure it.” In this life we will have trouble, Jesus said, but He also said, take heart for I have overcome the world! The key is to know Christ better, to so live by Christ’s life together that temptations no longer have any power over us to live by the flesh.

The author to the Hebrews points out some reasons why Christ can help us when we are tempted. In chapter 2 he said: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” In chapter 4 he said: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession….Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As the author said in between these two statements: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” We must learn Christ by hearing Him and being taught by Him through and to one another, to live by His life together. It is through the body of Christ that we are built up in Him! The author continues in chapter 3 pointing this out by saying: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.” Unless we are living by the Spirit together we will not grow into the fullness of Christ. We will miss hearing His voice and miss being led by Him, and we will hear deceptive voices and will fall for “the craftinesses of the devil.”

The letters of the New Testament are not without warning. There is a real conflict, a conflict to try and remove us from the life of Christ that we find in gathering together under His headship. Hebrews has many warnings about the temptations to live by the flesh. Both in Hebrews and Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth it is to learn from the failure of Israel to listen and believe God. Israel lived by the flesh and not by His commands. So to being in Christ we can be tempted to live by the flesh and not by His life within us. I have mentioned in my previous blog on Hebrews 3-4 about the importance of hearing Christ, our indwelling Logos or Word, and believing Him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14; “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness…Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall…Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” We must put off the flesh and put on Christ Jesus our Lord together.

How important it is to see the truth that in Christ He has made powerless the devil! In Christ we have been set free from the power and fear of death! Christ did this for us because He knows where we’ve been, He can sympathize with us for He loves us! Oh how Jesus has been merciful and faithful! We no longer need to live by our flesh, because we are now partakers of Christ, He is now our life, our flesh has been made dead, all of it, all of sin was put on the cross. The power of the devil has been made impotent! Only by the “craftinesses of the devil” can he try and tempt us away from living by Christ. How important for us to encourage one another daily, to consider fully, to fix our thoughts on Jesus and so live by His life, our great salvation!

“…baptized for the dead?”
February 6, 2011, 2:04 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

This is an amazing verse by Paul to the church in Corinth because just reading the verse makes you wonder what he was talking about since it grammatically is difficult to understand (not that others have difficulty understanding my grammar, lol). The passage is: “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?” Here are my thoughts that I shared with a sister on facebook who was trying to find out about what others thought it meant:

it is a confusing passage like many have stated already as any reading of it shows, in it’s context Paul is arguing that “Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” 1 Cor. 15:29 then has something to do with a practice of the church and his argument and then in verse 30 and continuing Paul points to his own practice of why they endanger themselves for the gospel. It is my opinion it has something to do with why we practice baptism, it being an example that shows that in Christ our flesh is dead and that we are now alive in Christ, and in fact is our life.

David E. Garland in his commentary (1) on the subject provides many views that some have taken and believes the more biblical view, versus a magical rite, is that the term dead refers to “a metaphor for the condition of believers who receive baptism. The recipients are, in effect, dead bodies when they are baptized. “On behalf of the dead” refers to not a third party but “those who are being baptized.” A paraphrase he gives is: “Otherwise what do those hope to achieve who are baptized for their dying bodies? If completely dead are not raised, why then are they baptized for themselves as corpses?” Think this makes sense. “Baptism assumes death and resurrection. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then baptism becomes a pointless rite that falsely represents something that will not happen. The dead will not rise.”

Think this offers the most reasonable interpretation.

(1) David E. Garland, Baker Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: 1 Corinthians, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 716-719.

Thoughts on Spiritual Giftings
August 7, 2010, 1:20 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration (literally ‘guidance’), and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

I tend to think that Paul uses the list that he does to turn upside down the Corinthian’s misplacement over use of tongues to the detriment of the body of Christ, given the context. Additionally, it is not a comprehensive list so it seems to imply that he is just trying to have the Corinthians rethink their strong opinions about the supposed importance of some gifts, over others versus making a form of church hierarchy. All members have a function(s) in the church, a portion of Jesus Christ to share, when it meets together in its face-to-face community life. To help it stay on course in following Jesus’ lordship, apostles or church planters are key in building that foundation. How important were Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, who were once assisting Paul and who were at the time of writing letters acting as church planters.

The rest of the gifts are part of God’s building materials when functioning in love by grace in faith to strengthen it and build the body of Christ into the fullness of His Son. I have found in face-to-face community with other believers and learning to have Jesus as Lord and Head over that group, the working out and the building up of the body with the gifts given to it, is probably the greatest way a church body truly grows and builds itself up in love. But it is not for the faint of heart! There is tension, there is the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit! When things get out in the open in that kind of life issues of the flesh are revealed and the need for spiritual warfare becomes heightened.

The problem with the Corinthians was they were focusing on self appointed leaders, or the works of others and judging one another by what they did instead of focusing on Jesus Christ who is the giver of the fruit. As a result “jealousy and quarreling” was occurring, and they were “acting like mere men.”

It is interesting that Paul has in this specific list of functions or gifts, which probably the ones that this church focused on also includes gifts of apostles, prophets, and teachers. David E. Garland seems to think the reason is that “Paul seems deliberately to mix into an amalgam a diverse sampling of ministries, supernatural grace-gifts, and services. The point would be to illustrate briefly the broad spectrum of spiritual manifestations in the church.” (1) Apostles and prophets (including evangelists such as Phillip and listed in Ephesians) from what I’ve seen in scripture were generally itinerant persons who focused on preaching Christ, forming Christian communities for those who believe, and encouraging the church as they traveled from city to city; while those later in the life of the church who were more mature (elder) in each church, in living by Christ’s life, helped guide the body to stay on course with Jesus as Head, such as those with the gifts of teaching, caring (shepherding), and guiding (rule/govern/lead which all literally mean guide). (See my other blog on my discussion of an ordination analysis reference laying on of hands). The body of Christ, when meeting together, and often, must function under the Lord Jesus Christ so that all can provide for the building up of the body and keep it focused on just Jesus. It seems to me as the body begins to live by His life, the functions of teaching, caring, and guiding begin to become visible as the church deals with the issues of the flesh and in order for it to move forward together in Christ. But here the church must also be careful that they do not elevate these persons to taking over the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Apostles according to Paul were generally the scum of the earth, so having it as “first” may be his reason for doing the list the way he did, again pointing out how the Corinthians focused on certain gifts over others. Remember what Paul said, sarcastically and rhetorically earlier in 1 Cor. 4:9-13: “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”

The Corinthians had an insistence that the miraculous was the most important fruit of a Christian. There opinion was probably – God’s will is that He will always manifest the miraculous gifts if He is present. Thus, elevating certain gifts, and as a result certain people in the church. It was what Paul rebukes them for. They coveted the speaking of “in different kinds of tongues” for self-gratification to the lack of edification of the body. Some in the church today will state that you must speak in tongues to be completely saved! (I am reminded of Acts 15 where the legalists demanded that the Gentile Christians must “be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses” to be completely saved – all are legalism) And hold that as their pet doctrine to the neglect of loving one another. Notice Paul’s rhetorical question: “Do all speak in tongues?” Answer: no. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Paul had much to say in regarding tongues, taking as much space as some of his other letters just to rebuke the Corinthians on coveting only this one gift in the body of Christ to the neglect of the rest of the gifts. God does not hold some gifts more important, if any Paul would say it would be prophesy because of its means of edification, but even then it must be done in love! If I “have not love, I am nothing…I gain nothing.” The Corinthians, when they met together, came with their own expectations of being church instead of the Lord’s. As Paul said at the beginning of his letter: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The body of Christ needs to gather together under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and seek Him, then the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ will be made manifested. Let us be careful that when we meet together brothers and sisters that we do not attempt to force our own opinions, pet doctrines, cause, or some agenda onto the body of Christ. If we do we can be sure we are drifting, we are focused on self, on works, on the flesh instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think the church, when it begins to focus on other things, or someone else, other than Jesus Christ, will invariably begin to drift, like the Corinthians did, causing a tendency to make a hierarchy in the body (using these few verses) or making one person in the church their leader, perhaps creating divisions of more than one leader (1 Cor. 1:12, etc), or like any other organization choose the one who is more dominant in personality or the one who speaks too much in the group, to overly protect the body, normally focused on a pet doctrine, to the detriment of the function of the body. This doesn’t have to be just an institutional church. We need to remember that all the churches of the New Testament were organic in nature. All the “gore and glory” (as Frank Viola would say) found in the different churches we see in the New Testament were organic churches. Let us not so point the finger at the institutional church as organic churches can turn into an institutional church in a home if we are not careful. The gore and the glory make up organic churches. How will we respond to the crisis that WILL occur? Will we respond in faith, in love, and with grace work out the problems, the opinions, the issues under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Will we bring the matters to Him? Will we seek Him? Or will we get angry, complain, become divisive and focus on self? Is the unity of the body of Christ important to us in resolving the problems? “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” When we leave our gatherings are we leaving in unity, love, and peace? Did we see and receive life? Jesus is the Life!

Brothers and sisters let us “eagerly desire the greater gifts…Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy…But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort…What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church…For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” In this description Paul gives us a possible typical organic church meeting, he emphasizes a couple things, one is “or.” Not all the gifts will be demonstrated in one gathering. That is not the purpose of the gathering. The purpose is to know Christ, whichever and whomever God uses to function to show their portion of Christ to the body. The fruit of the Spirit is demonstrated where the life of Christ is manifested: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Love is not something we do, it is a “way.” Jesus is the Way! It is living by the indwelling Lord along the way of the shared life we live together and the world. Let us follow the way of the Lord, “the most excellent way” – love.

(1) Garland, David E., 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003, 599.

Believing Wives and Husbands, Unbelieving Wives and Husbands

In the third chapter of Colossians Paul briefly remarks about how a wife and husband live Jesus’ life towards one another. This life in Christ is learned and displayed through the church as they meet in each others homes. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, in Chapter 7, Paul gave a lot of information about how wives and husbands live by the Spirit in oneness together, believers who were married to unbelievers, those who are not married, and a short discussion on slaves. An excellent source of what living by the life of Christ looks like as He manifests Himself to one another in our relationships. When Jesus Christ is our Lord, then He becomes our everything, our all as we learn Him as we live by His life. That has major implications in the basic relationships between a man and woman including working relationships.

I felt like I needed to continue this learning of Christ in relationships. While Paul gives a brief idea of what Christ’s life looks like between a wife and husband in Colossians, Paul has had much to say about how that relationship looks like in his letter to the Corinthians. Remember that Corinth was like Colosse in that they were both Greco-Roman cities, except that Corinth was very large and very active, having a large diverse ethnic population with a huge slave population due to the mercantile business that made up most of Corinth’s business. As such it was a place seething with idolatry and evil. The mix and divisiveness of wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters in the households of Corinth must have been even more prominent in Corinth. As they met from house to house lives were changed and the miraculous work of Christ was seen often being worked in each others households, to the point that the miraculous was often expected and looked for more so than Christ Himself. The work of Christ became more important than Christ Himself, a form of idolatry to the Christians. This extremism in the church in Corinth because they met in the households eventually affected the marriage relationship and they even asked Paul if “it was good for a man not to marry”? This church did not have Christ as head of their gatherings and as a result they were divisive over many things. Apparently not only were they jealous over who was in charge of their gatherings but they were also pitting married couples against those who were not married, somehow thinking that single life was more important than married life and vice versa. How sad! The purpose of our gatherings are not about us, but about knowing nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We are members of one body, if you are single or married it does not matter, there is no single or married distinctions in the body of Christ, “but Christ is all, and is in all.” We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and are called to function equally as we meet together.

As the church gathered together in each others homes, some who attended may not know Christ. It could also be that some who gathered and were part of “the family of believers” came without their husband or wife because their husband or wife were not a follower of Jesus Christ. Obviously this would bring a new dynamic in the couples relationship if they were married to an unbeliever. A dynamic allowed by the Lord so He might display His grace and truth. By living a shared life together with the body of Christ they learned Christ, learning to live by His Spirit. This would profoundly affect their marriage relationship! For those who are married, Paul reminds the Corinthians that when a person received Jesus Christ as Lord, their marriage partner must also confess Jesus as Lord to be in Christ. But some may be unwilling to accept the Lord. We have to remember, especially if it were the wife who was the believer, her husband literally owned her as property. To be a believing wife and be married to an unbelieving husband she was now placed in a volatile situation, a situation where her faith is greatly tested in living out the life of Christ. So Paul gives this word of advice that Jesus had not mentioned from the gospel accounts, but has every weight coming from Jesus Christ in Paul: “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” This would enable Christ’s life to be manifested through the believing husband or wife to their unbelieving partner. Perhaps the church might gather together in these households, especially for the believing husband and the good news of Jesus Christ and His life, being manifested by the church, could come to those in their household by believing the message and receiving Christ Jesus as Lord!

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.” If there is a situation where the unbelieving partner is abusive and harmful I think this would be something the believing husband or wife should consider. While God hates divorce, this reference is specifically related to believing marriage partners because it does not show the beautiful picture of Christ and His Bride. Although in this world, no matter if they are believers or not, the consequences that occur because of divorce can be devastating, another reason for God hating divorce, the consequences tend to be very hurtful for all involved. Christ cannot divorce Himself from His Bride, they are one in each other. But if someone is unbelieving they are not a part of Christ and therefore do not belong to each other in God’s eyes.

The church should be involved in helping and loving these couples, living by Christ’s life, clothing themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” bearing “with each other” by looking after those who have been hurt in society. For a believing wife to divorce herself from her unbelieving husband and his household would be to either force her to go back and return to her parents home or to live with another household where the church gathered. If not she would find herself on the streets or as a slave in perhaps greater distress than when she were married to an unbeliever. How important it is for the church, the body of Christ to meet from house to house, to live by Christ’s life towards one another, to care for one another, to display His grace and truth to everyone in the homes that they gather in!

For those who are single believers, and if you marry, how important it is to marry those who “belong to the Lord.” Look to the “family of believers” and be alive with Christ and let His peace and life direct you in all matters! Let Him so dwell in you that however He leads you follow!

“…God has arranged the parts in the body…”
June 25, 2010, 2:04 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

Allow God to use your individual function in the body of Christ, don’t assert that everyone else in the body must have the same function as you.

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 1 Cor. 12:18

Let us see the wonderful colors of our Lord as we meet together in face to face community and praise Him for what He is doing through each of us as He shows Himself creatively and differently through all of the body of Christ, as each one functions to the glory of God!

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Cor. 12:4-7.

“Pursue love…”

As the brothers and sisters were sharing today in our organic church life together a brother shared his thoughts about 1 Corinthians 13. How no matter what gift I have if I do not have love then what I have said or done “profits me nothing” – it is worthless.

Christianity was not mean to be an individual Christianity where I try and do the best that I can on my own, just me and God. Christianity is so much more, in fact individual Christianity is not even a thought in the mind of God. What Paul describes as individual Christianity is generally in a negative light, because it is almost always focused on self and the desires of the flesh.

A sister read the passage and a word struck me. She read:

“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-14:1a)

The words that struck me were – “is not provoked.” How many times I have felt provoked, especially by defiant and disobedient students. While they are only adolescents the provocation can get to you after a while. Thankfully we have measures to deal with insolence, such as behavior interventions, referrals and the like. I have made an attempt at the beginning of the school year to use a social contract so students know how to behave when working together as well as seating arrangements to help mitigate the issues that arise from students working together in groups. Does this help all the time? No it doesn’t. Human nature, the flesh is at work. They are also not mature adults, although that too does not make a difference. Many adults act immaturely. Many do not know basic manners normally taught at home. The power of this world, Satan and his minions, are at work constantly prowling around looking for whom they can steal, kill, and destroy. No wonder Paul describes “the governing authorities” being “established by God” “for rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil” and “is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.”

I guess the whole reason for this discussion is that while we can do everything we can to try and have peace on this earth, such as in the classroom, it does not and will not last. Peace is a Person, Jesus Christ. Because He lives in me then His peace in my heart is what I am after. When I heard and read “is not provoked” the thought that comes to mind is that because the fruit of the Spirit is love, then when something attempts to provoke me, such as a defiant student, Jesus is not provoked. I guess the sense is that if I feel provoked and the blood begins to rise in me, you know what I mean, then I think that means love has been lost and I am, in mind, thinking in the flesh. Let me explain. It seems this week God gave me a couple of examples. On one day in a number of classes there were some students who attempted to provoke me. I saw this coming and immediately, instead of getting defensive, removed them from the classroom for a duration. I felt no provocation. On another day, another student really got me irritated and I got loud! I realize now that “love is not provoked.” If I am living in the Spirit, letting Him be in control, then in my mind, because of being controlled by the Spirit, I will not “feel” provoked and become defensive. But if I am thinking of how to control the situation in my flesh that’s when I will feel provoked and the blood pressure increases and the flesh comes out. James 1:12-16 comes to mind.

My focus should be on loving the students with Christ’s love, allowing His love to take control of my actions. At the same time, because of being a teacher I also must ensure that poor behavior is dealt with and swiftly. I should never become defensive and take what is done by a student, whether they are being defiant or disobedient, as being against me, but against Christ and His authority. Therefore Jesus is the One who will deal with that person in His own way. Part of His authority is that of “governing authorities” and therefore I or we should never be defensive in those difficult circumstances but follow the procedures we have in the classroom to deal with poor behavior. My responsibility is to live by His Spirit and to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the warth of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Trying to find out the reason for the defiance or disobedience is perhaps the best thing to do, showing compassion in the process. “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…”
September 5, 2009, 2:53 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

Finishing the first letter to the church in Corinth I am fascinated by the fact that in these last couple chapters Paul brings everything home! “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance”!

The life of the church at Corinth had been focused on everything but Jesus Christ, they had begun to lead idolatrous lives focusing on themselves at the expense of their other brothers and sisters in Christ and were not expressing Jesus life not only to each other but to the world around them. Sounds like a parallel to what happened with the nation of Israel where time and again Israel lost its focus on being a “light to the Gentiles” and fell into idolatry.

In these last two chapters of his letter Paul focuses on the whole purpose of the Christian life: Jesus! “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and then he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve…” As a follower of Jesus, Jesus desires to live His life, ministry, death and resurrection life in and through me to be expressed in love for one another. Jesus command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” But their focus on distinctions in the body of Christ, dividing the body into the haves and have nots, taking advantage of one another, arrogance, slander, idolatry, and lack of humility robbed God of His glory and power in their lives and were living defeated lives. They were hurting Christ! May it never be so with me Lord!

They had lost their testimony to themselves and the world because of their lack of unity, lack of consensus and accountability to living Jesus life according to His words. Jesus prayer had been forgotten: “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” They had forgotten about the resurrected life of Jesus! They had forgotten that resurrection comes after the crucifixion! Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Paul said earlier that his only desire while he was with them was to “know Christ and him crucified.” Why? Because resurrection comes after crucifixion! Jesus will more fully express Himself in our lives, His love and grace, the fruit of the Spirit, when we deny ourselves and take our cross daily and follow Him.

But it is not an individual life that we live, it is with His Body! We learn to live a life of love through His Body! We cannot know the love of Christ fully unless we are growing more and more together in His Body! We cannot know the resurrection life of Jesus unless we “stand firm” in Jesus, making Him Lord and Head of not just our lives but in the life of the Body when we assemble together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and then His power, His resurrection power will be available to us for His glory! “In Christ all will be made alive.”

Towards the end of his letter Paul gives us a wonderful revelation of the glory of Christ, but also the glory that Christ gives us when we are together with Him! “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed”! Jesus wants to transform me, you, us, the Body of Christ so that we look like Him!

“There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” How is Jesus living and loving others through me, you, through His Body? Is it my life or is it Jesus life? Is there love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Are we focused on Jesus? His life, ministry, death, and resurrection? Are we making Him Head over us? Can we like Paul say: “For I am resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”? Am I boasting about what Christ is doing or about what I am doing? Am I following “the example of Christ” from His words He gave us? Am I sharing my life with others, my other brothers and sisters in Christ and for that matter anyone, for their common good, or my own? Do I have concern for others or for myself? “Love is patient, love is kind. it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…Follow the way of love…for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” Paul says to be careful whom you hang around with. Are we hanging around people for their good, to express Jesus to them, or for us? If so they will influence us for evil. “Bad company corrupts good character.” The resurrection life will be demonstrated in our lives, Jesus’ all powerful resurrection life, when we die to ourselves and live by faith, by letting Jesus live His loving practices through us to one another no matter the cost involved. “Do everything in love” Paul says.

Paul ends his letter again reminding them of those who have lived Jesus life among them, not just Paul, but those who they know and trust: “the household of Stephanas…(who) have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” Paul reaffirms how Jesus is still in their lives because of members from the church having come to visit him and “have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.” Paul needs the followers of Jesus in Corinth, living by His life, in order to know Christ more fully! Even Paul! But Paul desires that they come to unity and fully allow Jesus to express Himself through the Body. As such he notes the lives of Aquila and Priscilla who worked among the Corinthians and the believers their saw this couples way of living by the life of Jesus. This godly couple greets these Corinthians “warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house” and in fact “all the brothers here send you greetings.” What an awesome means of encouragement. After realizing how much they had fallen in living Jesus life through themselves they are given a reimagining of what Jesus can do in and through them by remembering the work of God that was done in them from the beginning by the wonderful examples of men and women who had denied themselves, carried their crosses and had followed Jesus!

Lord how we need examples of Your people truly living your life, expressing your love and grace so that we to might reimagine the crucified and resurrected life you desire in me, in us! First Corinthians…what an awesome letter of understanding what the life of the body of Christ is all about! How every church needs to read it with prayer and conviction and reimagine the life of Jesus that is possible in every follower of Jesus living in a shared life in His body, including me!

“Follow the way of love…”
September 4, 2009, 1:54 am
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

As I’ve read and meditated over chapters 12 to 14 these past couple days Paul seems to bring together everything that he has just written in his first letter to the church in Corinth and focuses on the need to “follow the way of love.”

Everything that Paul has been addressing before has been everything but lovely! People who have been attempting to control others, making distinctions between believers causing division, focusing on things of the world, arrogant, not holding each other accountable to the word of God, unable to reconcile with each other, not concerned about other brothers with a “weak conscience,” not caring about the hungry, humiliating others, etc. Paul said to “flee idolatry” as they had been focusing on themselves, making themselves lord both in and out of their assemblies instead of Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus I pray that I do not fall into any of these things, but keep my focus on You!

Paul then provides a wonderful description of the body of Christ! Paul’s point is to bring Christ to the forefront of their meetings! Why? Because “you are the body of Christ”! Every follower of Jesus Christ is a member of the body of Christ! “Each one,” as determined by the Lord, has been given “the manifestation of the Spirit…for the common good” no matter the gift given to that member! Just like every part of the human body has a purpose and function so does every member in the body of Christ. No one is worthless, everyone is important! But Paul mentions that the issue, while that every person who is a follower of Jesus has a function or purpose it “is given for the common good.” Paul said earlier we are not our own, we were bought at a price, the body of Christ, like our own body is to be honored! It’s not about me, it’s about us!

Because the church is the body of Christ, I truly cannot know Christ in reality apart from the the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ speaking into my life and vice versa. If they don’t share their gift, they aren’t sharing what Jesus wants me to know or to have! If I don’t share my gift then I rob the body of Christ of something that Jesus wants them to know or have! The church robs Jesus of His power when we do not lovingly participate in the lives of one another! It’s about “the most excellent way” following “the way of love.”

Paul describes that while the gifts are important, it’s really about how we love one another with those gifts! Without love, whatever we do, “I am nothing…I gain nothing.” Wow! How am I loving others? Is what I do and say, for example with my students at school, with my kids or wife at home, being done for them out of love or for me? The gifts, used in love are for “strengthening, encouragement and comfort…(edifying) the church.” Is my focus on making Jesus Head or making me head? Am I trying to be in control or is Jesus really in control? Let go and let God sounds good about now. I think that applies here. And when this happens, when the brothers and sisters assemble together “in the name of our Lord Jesus” in a home or room somewhere, then “the power of our Lord Jesus is present”!

Paul describes what this meeting together of the church can look like, perhaps helping the Corinthians remember what they had seen Paul model for them when he was there. “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” The power of Christ is shown being present in these meetings because they came together in the name of the Lord Jesus, He was made Head! What a time these believers must have had together! But from assembling with a few other couples in an organic way last weekend it was very similar to this. In fact it was really close! Paul wasn’t so far off from reality!

When followers of Jesus come together with the sole purpose of making Jesus Christ the Head, giving up all of our control and giving Him full control, because “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” “everything (will) be done in a fitting and orderly way.” Lord help us to continue to learn “the way of love” to see You fully expressed through us to one another! How I desire to meet with You again when the body of Christ comes together! Lord help me/us not to fear that by losing control of when we assemble together that we will fail you! That is Your desire, to have us give up control and give You complete control! Take charge Lord Jesus! Let Your Kingdom Come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!