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)

“There is now no condemnation for the ones in Christ Jesus.”
February 5, 2011, 2:22 pm
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes, L Letter to Romans

I had a dialogue with a brother on facebook related to whether or not a follower of Christ can be condemned, e.g. due to learning to put off the flesh and putting on Christ. I believe the answer is yes and no. It depends. Pretty wishy washy, yes, I know. :). This also included a review of the text of Romans 8:1 and the textual difference from various manuscripts. The following blog was used to support keeping the added text used in the KJV translation, that condemnation can be shown to occur against Christians ( I did not think the author of the text in the blog, Dr. Thomas Holland’s, did a reasonable job to describe the differences in word usage in Scripture and left it open to condemning others, which I could never leave open to doing. Have I not had a clear conscience because of learning to see my flesh as dead, absolutely. But praise God for Jesus Christ who shows me the flesh for what it is, dead, and so to depend on Him who lives in me and is my life! So here is the word study and my conclusion. Blessings brothers and sisters. Here is the edited version from facebook. I wanted to provide me link of the review to Dr. Holland’s thoughts but the link does not allow me to provide comments, oh well.


I have to say brother that while I understand the textual criticism involved and can accept that it interprets what follows, the author’s last two paragraphs does not hold very well. I did a word study and this is what I found. So this is where I am at with the whole matter. Open to how Christ changes my opinion, lol.

I looked up the passages and words the author of the blog used and he focuses on the translation’s use of the word “condemn” when the original has many different words that do not all mean the same thing, similar yes, but not the same.

The specific word “katakrima” for condemnation in Rom 8:1 is only found in Rom 5:16 and 18 (referring to Christ’s work on the cross) and refers to “the sentence pronounced.”

Another similar word “kataginosko” for blaming, refers to Paul in his blaming Peter for his bigotry in Galatians 2:11 and blaming of the conscience of a body of believers in 1 John 3:20-21.

Another variation of the word, “katadikazo” is used in James 5:6 which warns against condemning others.

Another variation of the word “katakrino” meaning “passing judgment” in Rom 2:1, 14:23 refers to self condemnation due to judging others or not respecting others.

The other references of this variation of the word, such as “katakrino” is for condemning the world such as at Sodom and Gomorrah and during the flood.

I guess what I am learning is that in Christ there is literally no condemnation, sin has been judged by Christ. And as we learn to walk by the life of Christ it is our heart that can condemn us when we do things after the flesh, not having a clear conscience. It is not Christ condemning us it is the flesh that does so, it is the world that does so, and it is the spiritual forces of evil that do so. Blaming by one brother or sister against another is shown only in the case of an apostle against another apostle and done with gentleness and respect. Blessings brother!


Word meanings from “Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.”

“…I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”
November 27, 2009, 3:49 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

It has taken me a while to get ready to write this blog on this latter section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Having seen conflict in one form or another as well as been in the middle of it I guess there is some pain you have to work through in the process. One thing that comes to mind is wondering whether it was necessary and the other is was it done properly.

Having read Paul’s letters and seen what occurred in the book of Acts Paul was not one to stay away from conflict, in fact he kind of put himself into the middle of it. But Paul couches conflict with this phrase “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” It seems to me that there is a whole lot that could be said about this one phrase or proverb. And I am sure I will barely put a dent into it’s understanding. I get a sense that Paul had read the gospel according to Matthew which surely had been written by now. Paul would have read in that gospel how Jesus told his disciples “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” But there is also a sense that perhaps Paul also took what James had written as well: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” The conflict that Paul sees in the body of Christ are those from without and those from within. Jesus’ words describe conflict with those who do “not welcome you or listen to your words” and whom we are to “be on our guard against.” James’ words describe conflict with those in the body of Christ.

If anyone has had time to form real authentic relationships with others, or made an attempt to can tell you, there will be conflict. Is this perhaps the reason the church as an institution does more to prevent conflict by making its services as non-participatory as it can and why most people limit their relationships to just a few, if any at all, and those being primarily shallow in nature, and perhaps why social networks online are more palatable than face-to-face relationships? Jesus, James, and Paul sees conflict as necessary. Why did God allow Adam and Eve to choose between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? So conflict must occur in our relationships within the body of Christ, not that we go out and look for it it, it just naturally occurs as people get to know each other. Growth is based on how we respond to the conflicts. As I’ve heard it said, “God brings sandpaper people into our lives to smooth out our rough edges.”

Looking at this section in the last part of the letter to the Roman Christians Paul says how important it is in conflict to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Perhaps because when we find out each others differences we are tempted to judge one another, or think wrongly of someone and their motives. Jesus, in the His Sermon on the Mount told the disciples “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.” Paul had said earlier in his letter similar words which seem to indicate that his section on being a living sacrifice plays an important role in conflicts. As I mentioned in a previous blog on Romans 12 Paul’s initial statement is the defining statement of the Christian life in the body of Christ. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul goes further to describe the importance of not being conformed “to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It seems that to Paul we are to be so Christ-centered as a body that when conflict occurs we will know God’s will in the midst of that conflict.

Perhaps the reason why conflict doesn’t really go very well in the church is because we are not as Christ-centered as we should be. Being Christ-centered means just that, we are “not to think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” To be Christ-centered infers that we will be focused on loving one another, because it is Jesus body, it is He who is loving us through one another. If we are not loving one another, then we are not loving Jesus! Paul said that “love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” Paul describes this love among the brothers and sisters as a sacrificial love, as love that offers “our bodies as living sacrifices” to one another.

This entire section and the one like it in what he wrote to the Corinthian Christians in his first letter speak volumes about how the body of Christ lives. We are to never “repay evil for evil” but to “be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge…” Isn’t this the first thing we are tempted to do? We get defensive and the conflict gets worse? But God says ” ‘If your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” I find it happens all the time in school, there are certain students who always seem to try and “push my button.” Students are not the only ones who do that, adults do it to. How do we respond? One word – “love.”

After having seen conflict in many different forms and instances and how to deal with them in principle Paul tells the church in Rome “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Wow. This is the third time Paul says “I urge you, brothers.” The first was in describing the sacrificial life the body is to live among one another, the other was just a moment ago when he asked them to “join me in my struggle by praying to God for me” “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit.”

Being Christ-centered means an absolute dependence on Jesus and His life in His body! Do we first go to Jesus in our conflict or do we try and figure out how to resolve it on our own, whether for good or ill? If Jesus is Head of the body then He is the One we go to! Especially in the matters of conflict. But Paul’s description of conflict here is of vital importance to the life of the body! Paul’s talking about someone who is causing divisions and putting obstacles in Jesus way of life we were called to live. Paul had dealt with this before in Corinth. in Corinth there were those who were attempting to make themselves head of the body instead of Jesus. In fact it seemed like this happened every where a Christian community was formed due to his preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Something was behind the divisions and obstacles in keeping Jesus as Head of His body….”The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Satan wants nothing more than to divide Jesus’ body and put obstacles in the way of the simple and pure devotion to Christ that occurs when believers gather together organically and share His life with one another. Paul says to “keep away from them.” Is it possible that a simple change that prevents Jesus from being Head of His body is really all that important? According to Paul it was! The reason to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” perhaps is because there may be some good things that someone in the body might want to do but does it keep our focus on Jesus, does it focus on being living sacrifices, does it focus on loving one another, or does it bring the focus on someone in the body other than on Jesus? Does it serve ourselves or does it serve the body?

The Roman Christians had some issues that they needed to work on as Paul pointed out early in his letter, and while Paul said “everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you” he wanted them to be careful about how they lived life together. Paul does not want us to be naive, but to have our minds controlled by the Spirit. He said that “those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” We therefore “have an obligation” to live according to the Spirit! “Those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned” we must “keep away from them” because their minds are controlled by the sinful nature and not the Spirit. Be careful of those who use “smooth talk and flattery” in an attempt to boost your ego or self. We are not to focus on our self! Paul said to the churches in Galatia “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.” Self is to be crucified! Self is to be made a “living sacrifice”! When someone tells me that the great commandment says to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and so we must be able to love ourselves so we can love our neighbor I heartily disagree! I think this is a misinterpretation of the intent of the scripture which was not self love but sacrificial love. Self love causes selfishness and egotism. As James says “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” Paul says to “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing’ he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions.” How we need God’s grace in these matters!

Paul had described a list of disciples for the church to greet just before he gave this warning to the church. Perhaps this was meant as a contrast. Those who lived by the Spirit, lived a sacrificial life, who focused on Jesus being the Head of the body, who loved one another deeply from the heart, in contrast to those who lived contrary to this. The list of disciples describes believers who focused on sincere love. How sincere is our love for one another? Are we focused on what we want or the body of Christ? How do we respond to “smooth talk and flattery”? If there are those who do this can we “keep away from them”? We also need to recognize that the life in the body of Christ is a life in process. Some have not fully realized how their lives are in Jesus and so are still in process, like us all, in crucifying the sinful nature. Paul said to the church in Thessalonica in his first letter to “warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone, make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we gather together in Jesus name, we may not always say and do things that are helpful to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore when a brother or sister in Christ says or does something not helpful to the body then love must prevail! We will be tempted to not say anything or do anything when we do not warn, encourage, help, and not have patience. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Paul in his second letter to this church says “if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” Again the need “to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

Some are a little more ahead of us in the process than others. Advice and counsel is a good thing – seeking Jesus’ will together. Could this be the reason for conflict, to help us grow closer together with Jesus? It is Jesus who established us and enables us to live by His life. How often do we seek His advice in matters of His body? “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

“…she has been a great help to many people, including me.”
November 2, 2009, 1:22 am
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

In chapter 16 Paul provides a list of brothers and sisters in Christ whom he is grateful for. They are those who have learned to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” and those who have “clothed themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”! These are men and women who have made “every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

The first is “our sister Phoebe” who is the person carrying Paul’s letter from the church in Cenchrea which is close to Corinth in Greece to the church in Rome. Because the Christians in Rome do not know her, Paul wants them “to receive her in the Lord” just like any sister of Christ, but because of her service to the church, Paul goes further and asks them also “give her any help she may need” because “she has been a great help to many people, including” Paul.

The next list of names is an interesting list of brothers and sisters. Paul does not address so many in any other letter except for this letter to the Romans. But this list of names are for people Paul knows and perhaps have just recently arrived or have only been in Rome for a short time because Paul asks the church in Rome to “greet” them. Others suspect that they may have been sent to Rome to help establish the church in Rome and lay a greater foundation for expressing Jesus Christ in this the imperial city of the Roman Empire.

Would you know that at the top of Paul’s list to help lay a foundation in Rome would be “Priscilla and Aquila,” Paul’s “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” who “risked their lives for” Paul. Both Paul and “all the church of the Gentiles are grateful to them.” But not just them but also “the church that meets at their house.” Is it possible that the church that met in Priscilla and Aquila’s home in Ephesus all together left to go to Rome to express Jesus together? Amazing! Perhaps the rest of the list of names are some of those who make up “the church that meets at their house.” They have been found by Paul as ones whom God has given “endurance and encouragement” and who has also given this transplanted church such “a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus” that they left all, forsook all “so that with one heart and mouth (they) may glorify God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” by expressing Jesus’ love to those in Rome so that others may know “the God of hope” who can “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that (others) may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”! Is it possible that what Paul has been writing about in his letter has been a reflection of this church that left all to go to Rome?

As we look at these names and descriptions of members of this body of Christ, Paul names many of his relatives. His relatives include “Andronicus and Junias” who not only were his relatives but also “have been in prison with” Paul and whom Paul considered as church planters or “apostles” before he even became a Christian. I assume then that they were in Jerusalem “on the day of Pentecost” when the church was birthed by the Holy Spirit. The other relative of Paul that is mentioned being a part of this church is Herodion. Later in the letter Paul mentions also “Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives” but they are still with Paul along with Timothy in Greece. As I reflect on this, how I desire to see my own father and siblings to be “in Christ” and involved in expressing Jesus Christ through His body the church. How I praise God for my wife and daughter whom God has touched with salvation and who desire to express Jesus to others! My boys are not to far off from belonging to Jesus and look forward to that wonderful day! Paul never does mention his parents, wife or siblings specifically and perhaps these relatives are not his closest kin.

Paul also mentions two “dear friend(s)” of his who also make up the church that planted itself in Rome. These are Epenetus “who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia” and “Stachys.” Paul also specifically mentions “Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord” and “Persis.” How wonderful to have “dear friends” in Christ! Those whom you can be so close to.

Paul also mentions those in this church who “work very hard in the Lord” such as “Tryphena and Tryphosa” and “Persis” who are all women, Persis, Paul’s “dear friend,” specifically who “has worked very hard in the Lord.” Praise God for women in the body of Christ who “work hard in the Lord”!

Paul mentions some entire households who went with this church to go to Rome, those of “Aristobulus” and “Narcissus.” Paul specifically mentions “Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” How the body of Christ, the people of God, are such genuinely a family of God!

Other than Priscilla and Aqila and Timothy, Paul also asks the church in Rome to “Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ.” He also asks them to “Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.” Perhaps Urbanus and Apelles has been part of Paul’s church planting companions in Ephesus and have been sent by Paul now as part of this church plant in Rome. Paul also mentions “Mary, who worked very hard for you.” It seems Mary is from Rome, and was the one who provided Paul some information about what God has been doing in the life of the early church plant, that had resulted from Christians from Jerusalem returning back to Rome to live Jesus’ life together.

Then Paul lists a few more brothers and sisters in Christ. All important who together make up the body of Christ who express Jesus love from house to house “so that all nations might believe and obey him – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” In this list of names of faithful followers of Jesus who made up such a devoted body of believers, I am reminded of what Paul was saying in chapter 12, and perhaps Paul was thinking of them, how “just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” and who are “devoted to one another in brotherly love” who are “never lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” who are “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” How they must have loved one another! Each of these followers of Jesus gave up their lives, they died to themselves, they offered their bodies as living sacrifices, so that others might hear and see the good news of Jesus Christ lived out in their daily lives. May we, God’s people, truly be about living “by faith in the Son of God, who (loves us) and gave himself for (us)” because we “have been crucified with Christ,” no longer living according to the flesh, but letting Christ live in and through us!

“…so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.”
October 31, 2009, 3:50 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

I have been reading, thinking about, and trying to hear God speak as I read the last half of Romans 15 through chapter 16. This is an interesting ending to Paul’s letter “to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” I will focus these last blogs on Romans on a couple parts to this conclusion.

After writing about the practical application of offering our bodies as living sacrifices, dieing to ourselves, by how we love one another, submitting to governing authorities, loving our fellowman, and accepting one another, specifically as it relates to one who is “weak” in the faith and one who is “strong” in the faith, Paul concludes his thoughts. Paul is overwhelmed by what Jesus has done in confirming “the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” and “the grace God gave” Paul “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.” Because of this Paul felt in his letter that he could write “quite boldly on some points” in way of reminders of what they had already been taught.

Paul worships the Lord and glory’s “in Christ Jesus in (his) service to God” and would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” Paul, just a man like you and I, but understanding who lives in him, God Himself, Jesus Christ, realizes that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” because Paul recognizes that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Now that Paul has planted organic, naturally growing churches that meet in each others homes which express the love of Jesus to one another and their neighbors, is now ready to travel to Rome on his way “to Spain.” Paul at the beginning of his letter described how he “long(ed) to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Now in conclusion he “hope(s) to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while, because he desires to “come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Brothers and sisters could we say the same? Could we, when we are apart because of our jobs and work, “long to see” each other, to long to “mutually encourage each other’s faith” to desire to come together “with joy and together with you be refreshed” like a real family? Why should we feel this way? Because we are a family, are the body of Christ, Jesus is the one who gives us that desire, the fruit of the Spirit, to long to love one another, to express “some spiritual gift to make” each other strong. Jesus wants to express Himself through each of us, to one another. So much so that we would “be devoted to one another in brotherly love” and to “share with God’s people who are in need” and “practice hospitality.” Is it any wonder that Paul was always “eager” “to remember the poor” among God’s people when he met with James and the elders, or more mature believers, in Jerusalem? Even James makes the point that “faith without deeds is dead.”

After Paul and Barnabas began helping the church in Antioch to grow, when “the brothers living in Judea” were in dire straights because of “a severe famine” it is was Paul and Barnabas who were sent to bring the church’s “gift” to the church in Jerusalem. Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia desired to help the church learn to “carry each other’s burdens” and “not become weary in doing good…to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” To the church in Thessalonica Paul said to “never tire of doing what is right” because “the Lord direct(s) your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” Later while traveling again through Galatia Paul told the churches to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up” inorder to help the poor among the churches. To the church in Corinth Paul explains what he “told the Galatian church to do” because of his desire to help the poor in Jerusalem. As I think about this, I also have to recognize that these churches were made up of the poorest of the Roman Empire, slave and free persons. The living conditions were probably not the best and many probably died at an early age due to sickness. But because of the Christians desire “to serve (or be enslaved) to one another in love” they lived “by the Spirit” having “crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” To ensure no wrong doing, Paul even brought brothers and sisters from the churches to help him deliver the “gift” to the poor in Jerusalem.

Paul uses the agrarian proverb that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” Now in his letter to the saints in Rome Paul is about ready to return to Jerusalem to take this collection of money to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. These churches “were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” in fact “they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” Paul never mentions a tithe, he never mentions an offering plate, while he does mention collecting the money on the first day of the week, this was probably more for convenience than meant to be a ritual, since it was a way for the churches to collect the money for this specific purpose of helping the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Brothers and sisters, why do we tithe, why do we put money into an offering plate? Christ is the end of the Law! Tithing was a Jewish national tax for Jewish priests and rulers. As Christians we no longer have priests and rulers, except Christ! Why can’t I take the money I earn from God and give it to a Christian in need? Do I really need another mediator other than Christ? Sure Paul was somewhat a mediator in his case but it was for a specific task and not meant to be a ritualistic duty, which Paul was never intent on doing, in fact I think Paul would be outright aghast at the fact so much money is spent on everything but helping God’s people who are in need. Someone had to be the go-to person, along with representatives from the other churches, to physically take the money to the poor in Jerusalem. But does someone have to be the go-to person every Sunday morning, or whatever day of the week that you think is a special day? Paul’s writings to the churches in Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome make a point that as brothers and sisters in Christ, who have Christ living in us, can “share with God’s people who are in need” whenever we see the opportunity to do good arises, because of our sincere love and devotion to one another.

We are “to offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” I can die to myself and love one another and my fellowman, my neighbour, and contribute generously “to the needs of others.” Perhaps if God’s people lived Jesus life organically together in each other’s homes instead of paying monumental amounts of money for buildings and clergy and staff, perhaps God’s people could really make a difference personally in the lives of others. If we did perhaps the churches, those which live organically together in each other’s homes, living a life of “faith expressing itself through love,” we would hear more of how God’s people today “became a model to all believers,” “your faith in God has become known everywhere,” “your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing,” “your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action,” and finally to be able to thank “God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” May the body of Christ, truly BE the body of Christ, that “the life (we) live in the body, (we) live by faith in the Son of God, who loved (us) and gave Himself for (us).”

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
October 25, 2009, 2:07 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians has been refreshing and breathtaking! He has described the awesome love, grace, and mercy of God to both Jew and Gentile, and then in Christ we are one body and live in community with one another by the life of His Spirit! This life is expressed by Jesus Himself through His body and this expression is that of sacrificial love.

In chapters 14 and 15 Paul now relates probably the most practical part of the letter to the issue of acceptance in the body of Christ. The most basic of human needs, and yet the most basic needs of authentic Christian community. Because we live in a world of distinctions that create stereotypes, prejudices, and divisions Paul wants to make clear that this is not how followers of Jesus live in His kingdom. Paul wrote a year or so earlier to the Corinthians that believers are to “no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” There are no distinctions in the body of Christ. Years earlier, Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” About the same time frame even James, one of the elders of Jerusalem wrote to the persecuted Christians who had left the simple organic life in the home churches of Jerusalem to start other organic churches in regions beyond Jerusalem said “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism…don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” Again to the Corinthians Paul wrote to them saying: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all of its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” As a result we are to see Christ in every believer, because God only sees Jesus when He sees every believer. Yet, we are to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” This light, this expression of love, is Jesus shining through us! Probably the greatest way we can see Jesus expressed in the body of Christ is when we die to ourselves and “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Because Christians are constantly being born there are always going to be those who are ahead in the journey with Jesus. Because of our flesh we will be tempted to be religious and conceited, however minor the distinctions we make between those who are weak and strong in the faith. Jesus said we were never to lord it over others, that is not the way of the kingdom! To those who are a little ahead in the journey Paul says to “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Opinions are a dime a dozen as the saying goes. Everyone has one. Things that are disputable could be what you eat, what you don’t eat, whether you think one day is more special than another day or one who “considers every day alike.” Therefore for those who are strong or weak in the faith we are not to “judge your brother” or “look down on your brother” on disputable matters. Why? Because ” we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another” because we cannot judge the motives of a man’s heart only God can. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Is what we say and do when we come together leading to peace and mutual edification? Is Jesus the sole focus of our meetings? Is He the head and body?! Or are we the focus, are we edifying ourselves instead of others? Do we like to hear ourselves talk and perform, or manipulate others for our purposes, or are we willing to lay that down at the foot of the cross and let our other brothers and sisters participate in the body of Christ?

Paul had plenty of practice being a peacemaker with the Corinthians, and think this essentially lays out what most of his letters to the church in Corinth spells out in great detail. Paul lays much of the responsibility of peacemaking with those who are further on in the journey with Jesus. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” If you have known Jesus for a while then it is your responsibility to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to realize they are one in Jesus with you and that you are just a follower like they are and are in process in the journey like they are. If you feel like you need to control others, to control the meetings in the homes where brothers and sisters meet with Jesus, whether intentionally or unintentionally, be careful, you will have to “give an account of (yourself) to God.” I sure do not want to be in that position, where I think I need to control Jesus. Is it any wonder Paul’s anthem in life was “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.” Paul could have really put himself up on a pedestal but he didn’t. This is the same theme from Romans 12 where Paul rings out the words “therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

What do you need to die to? What do I need to die to? In my spirit Jesus is speaking even to me. My personality, my gifts, my talents, my religious views/opinions, my institutional Christian views/opinions, my need to be right, etc.? Anything that makes you feel important can be a stumbling block for others knowing Christ in an intimate way. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant…so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.” A servant! Do you see it brothers and sisters? “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

For those strong in the faith your function is to accept others, to serve, to encourage others to know Christ intimately by allowing others to fully participate in the body through the face-to-face open meetings “in order to bring praise to God”! Don’t force others to participate, be quiet and still before your Lord and let Jesus show up in His body! Trust Jesus in this. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” You have Jesus in you! He can help you to overcome your biases, to put off the old man and put on the new man, and accept your other brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said he would build His church, let’s let Him. “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”