Sunday June 13th
I heard a story about this Scottish man who was walking around in New York City when he happened to look in one of the shop windows and saw a sign that caught his eye. The sign said, "Suits $10.00 each, Shirts $4.00 each, Trousers $5.00 per pair". He thought to himself, "I could buy a whole lot of those, and when I get back to Scotland, I could sell them for ten times the price and make a fortune".
So he goes into the store and says, “I'll take fufty suits et $10.00 each, fufty shirts et $4.00 each, and fufty pairs of trousers et $5.00 each.”
The owner of the shop asks, 'You're from Scotland, aren't you?'
'Well... Yis,' says the surprised man. 'How dud you know thet?'
The owner says, 'This is a dry cleaners!'
Speaking of walking around, in the opening verses of Chapter 5, Paul addresses how we are expected to “walk” as Christians:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
First, he says “be imitators of God”.
We imitate God by walking in holiness. And we can also say that ONLY holy behavior imitates God because He is completely holy.
The second thing that Paul challenges us to do, as a part of walking in holiness, is to “walk in love.” And if there is any question about what kind of love we are asked to walk in, Paul spells it out for us; “just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.”
So, the kind of love that we are asked to imitate and to walk in is a very self-sacrificing love, which imitates Jesus’ willingness to lay down His life for others.
That’s not an easy love to walk in, but the only alternative to walking in holiness and walking in love is to return to our “former lusts”. And Paul is going to explain next why that’s just totally unacceptable:
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
If we’ve been restored to a right relationship with God, then we aren’t sinners anymore, we’re saints! And it’s not “proper” for saints to act like sinners!
Things like immorality, impurity, greediness, filthy or even silly talk, or coarse jesting (like telling dirty jokes) don’t match our new profile. And it’s clear that none of those behaviors could be said to “imitate” God.
This isn’t something that God takes lightly.
He is serious about our restoration. And He is serious about holiness. And He is going to punish those who willfully disobey Him. Look at what verse 6 says:
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
So, if ungodly people and their ungodly behaviors are going to be judged God, how should we, as born-again believers, relate to them?
Paul explains it all here in verses 7-14
7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
Paul says “you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord.”
In verse 13 he says, “all things become visible when they are exposed by the light”.
The very presence of Christians in dark circumstances and environments is designed to expose sin through the contrast between how it looks when we walk in the light and how it looks when those around us walk in darkness.
Keep in mind that the key question that always arises when believers spend time with unbelievers is this: “Who is going to rub off on whom?”
That’s why Paul’s next words are:
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.
Paul says that for believers in Jesus Christ, the true path to worship isn’t found through wine, but by being filled with the Spirit.
And one of the ways that we live the spirit-filled life is by doing what verse 21 says next:
“and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
The reason that I want to highlight that last phrase, about being subject to “one another”, is that it holds the framework for everything else that Paul is going to say for the rest of chapter five.
Unfortunately verse 22 is often looked at separately, as if it’s not just a part of the larger discussion of MUTUAL submission:
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
But I’m going to ask my wife to share about that.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
Sunday May 2nd
Did you ever hear the phrase “denial is not just a river in Egypt”?
The psychological phenomenon of denial is a very powerful thing.
Did you ever have anyone accuse you of being in denial?
I was having a conversation with someone recently who kept accusing me of denying reality and living in a fantasy world.
That’s so ridiculous! It actually made me laugh so hard that I practically fell off of my unicorn!
The heading over Romans Chapter 15 in the New American Standard Bible says that it’s about “Self-denial in behalf of others.”
Here’s how the Apostle Paul brings this out, starting in verse one:
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.
Notice that Paul say “we” who are strong have an obligation to bear with the struggles of the weak. Paul obviously considers himself one of the “strong” ones. And he sees the misinformed and immature “weak” ones as a true cause for concern, but his main emphasis is on the responsibility of the “strong” ones to support the “weak” ones. He doesn’t want to see pride, such as the flaunting our freedom in Christ in a way that is offensive or a stumbling block to our weaker brothers and sisters.
We see similar statements in Romans 14:19
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another
And then in 1 Corinthians 8:1
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes one conceited, but love edifies people.
Then in 1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are permitted, but not all things are of benefit. All things are permitted, but not all things build people up.
And further down in 1 Corinthians 10:31-32
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God. 32 Do not offend Jews or Greeks, or the church of God
So this idea of not offending our weaker brothers and sisters is a pretty consistent theme for Paul, and he explains why in verse 3:
3 For even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written: “The taunts of those who taunt You have fallen on Me.”
Paul quotes Psalm 69:9 here, pointing out that the willingness of Jesus to deny Himself and suffer for the benefit of others should serve as an example to all Christians in relating to our weaker members.
4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Paul is referring here to the Old Testament Scriptures, which were written not just for the benefit of the people of Israel, but also for the benefit of Christians. We also know this to be true from 2nd Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one purpose and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It takes patience, perseverance, and encouragement to work together, but unity in the church is essential if God is going to be glorified. When we worship God with one common purpose and one common voice, then God’s true glory is manifested through us. And how does that unity begin? With acceptance.
7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us, for the glory of God.
A good basis for accepting others, even with all of their faults and failures, is to remember that Jesus accepted us into His family despite all of our own faults and failures. And notice again that when we do accept one another, it brings God more glory!
Now Paul addresses a specific area where acceptance might be a problem – the separation between Jewish and Gentile believers:
8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision in behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises given to the fathers,
When I first read this, I was thinking that Paul was talking about his own role in serving the Jewish believers, but what he actually says is that Christ (Himself) has become a servant to the circumcision (which meant the Jewish people).
But Jesus didn’t stop in His servanthood with just the nation of Israel. He became a servant to all:
9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written:
“Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles,
And I will sing praises to Your name.”
10 Again he says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,
And let all the peoples praise Him.”
12 Again Isaiah says,
“There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,
In Him will the Gentiles hope.”
Paul quotes a series of Old Testament verses to show that God’s plan for salvation has always included the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And his quote from Isaiah points to the hope that comes with that promise. So in verse 13 Paul prays a little benediction over the Roman Christians:
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Having hope is actually evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Wherever you find hope, you will surely find the Holy Spirit behind it.
Starting in verse 14, Paul begins drawing this letter to a close by returning to the theme of his vision for expanding the influence of the gospel.
14 And concerning you, my brothers and sisters, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given to me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In some ways, Paul sees his evangelistic ministry as a form of priestly service. Since he was raised as a Jewish man, seeing the offering of sacrifices in the temple, Paul now sees preaching the gospel as the means by which these Roman Gentiles will be brought to God as his form of personal offering. That makes sense for two reasons:
17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and all around as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
I think we should take note of the fact that Paul describes his ministry in terms of a work of the Trinity - God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit, who has moved in signs and wonders throughout Paul’s preaching of the Gospel. God works in unity with us as well.
And Paul describes the extent of his ministry as reaching “from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum”. Paul’s journeys, according to the book of Acts, stretched from the eastern part of the Mediterranean as far west as Macedonia. That quite an expanse of territory, especially considering that much of it was covered on foot. But Paul had a real passion to reach those who had never been reached:
20 And in this way I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already known by name, so that I would not build on another person’s foundation; 21 but just as it is written:
“They who have not been told about Him will see,
And they who have not heard will understand.”
Now keep in mind that the Christians that Paul is writing to are in Rome, a place where Paul has not been to yet, but it has been a great desire of his:
22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while--
There are two things that will make Paul’s visit to Rome possible at this time:
(1) The previous phase of Paul’s ministry in Asia Minor has been fulfilled for the most part. He is now ready to take on some new challenges
(2) Paul feels like the next phase of his ministry involves reaching Spain, and Paul can therefore stop by Rome on the way to Spain.
Spain was actually the western-most extremity of the known world back then. If Paul took the Gospel there, he would have essentially preached to the “ends of the earth”. But before he could head towards Spain or Rome, he had another stop to make along the way:
25 but now, I am going to Jerusalem, serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to do them a service also in material things.
Paul reveals that his immediate plans are to visit Jerusalem with the financial gifts that the Gentile churches had raised for the Christians there. But Paul also sees a greater significance in their gift.
He believes that it is the duty of the Gentiles to look after their Jewish brothers and sisters in view of the spiritual blessing they have received by being grafted into God’s olive tree, as we saw back in chapter 11.
28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
Now I want you to think about this. As far as we know, Paul may have never made it to Spain, but we know for certain that he made it to Rome. How did he arrive in Rome? As a prisoner! Paul says that when he comes to them, it will be “in the fullness of the blessing of Christ”.
Can we still believe that the full blessings of Christ are with us even in the midst of struggles, trials and persecution? Paul did.
But he also asked for prayers along the way:
30 Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;
Paul’s prayer request is twofold:
32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and relax in your company. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
I want you to notice again here that Paul believes that it is the will of God for him to visit Rome. And he also says he expects to come to them “in joy”.
What did we just establish a few minutes ago? What was Paul’s status when he finally arrived in Rome? He was a prisoner. And he had been shipwrecked and bitten by a poisonous snake along the way! Did Paul still arrive in Rome filled with joy?
To find out the answer to that question, we can look at Acts 28:15, which is the first verse that Luke wrote after he and Paul had landed in Rome:
And from there the brothers and sisters, when they heard about us, came as far as the Market of Appius and the Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Did Paul let the circumstances of his arrival to Rome dictate his attitude? Not at all.
He simply thanked God for the opportunity to connect with other believers and he took strength and courage from the fact that he was not alone.
And as the book of Acts comes to an end, here are the last two verses: 30 Now Paul stayed two full years in his own rented lodging and welcomed all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching things about the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.
Do you see how this ties back in with the theme of self-denial? Paul still was a prisoner. He could have focused on that. “Woe is me! Life is so unfair! I didn’t do anything to deserve this!” But instead he takes any opportunity he has to receive visitors and tell them about the love of Jesus. Which is why he is able to write to the Philippians from prison and say this: (Phil. 1:12) Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.
What circumstances are you facing today that God can use for the greater progress of the gospel? Are you ready and willing to be used in that way?
Sunday March 21st
A Jewish man walks into his synagogue on Yom Kippur with his dog. The rabbi stops him at the door and says "Abraham, what's the matter with you? You know you can't bring a dog in here."
Abraham says, "Don't worry, Rabbi. Isaac here is just as orthodox as I am, and he's come to pray." And as soon as he says that, the dog stands up on his hind legs, pulls a yarmulke out of Abraham's pocket, grabs a prayer book and starts praying in perfect Hebrew.
The Rabbi is amazed. "Oh my god," he says, "this is incredible, Abraham. You should allow this dog to become a rabbi!"
"That might be a problem, Rabbi," replies Abraham. "His mother wants him to become a doctor."
In Romans Chapter 9, the apostle Paul is going to give us a unique perspective on Abraham and Isaac.
He starts out by sharing the burden that is in his heart over the unbelief of his fellow Israelites:
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my countrymen, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and daughters, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, and the promises; 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
This is really an incredible statement. Paul is saying that he would be willing to give up his own salvation, and allow himself to be back under the curse of sin, if somehow that could bring about the salvation of his Jewish brothers and sisters.
How many of us would be willing to make that kind of statement – That we would give up our own salvation if somehow that would lead to our family members, our neighbors, or other people’s salvation?
It just shows how serious Paul was about the unsaved status of his countrymen. He calls it “great sorrow” and “unceasing grief”.
As shocking as this expression of passion is, it’s not the most shocking thing that Paul says in this chapter. Get ready to dig into the concept of God’s total sovereignty and the doctrine of election:
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants shall be named.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.” 10 And not only that, but there was also Rebekah, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”
13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
Let’s break this down, because Paul uses several examples to make his point:
14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? Far from it! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I show compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on the person who wants it nor the one who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I raised you up, in order to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
If you were here when we studied the book of Exodus, you might remember that the question was raised, “Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God or Pharaoh?” And the answer was – both were true. Pharaoh chose to have a hard heart and God chose to allow that hardness of heart in order to accomplish His divine purposes of setting His people free and of having His glory proclaimed throughout the earth!
Ultimately, Paul says, it is God’s decision who He wants to show mercy to and who He wants to have hardened hearts. But this still seems unfair to us.
So Paul continues to explain this difficult concept:
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, you foolish person, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does the potter not have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one object for honorable use, and another for common use?
The question that Paul is posing, a question that he anticipates people asking him, is this, “If it’s ultimately up to God which people will have hard hearts, isn’t it kind of wrong for God to blame anyone for having a hard heart?”
In answering the question, Paul uses the analogy of the potter and the clay. Who gets to decide what the pot will be used for? It is the potter or the pot?
In Jeremiah Chapter 18 we see the same issue being addressed: The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.”
3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. 4 But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 6 “Am I not able, house of Israel, to deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel.
Both Jeremiah and Paul are making the same point – What right do we have to tell God how to handle His business? If He wants to make certain jars one way and other jars another way, isn’t that His perfect right to do so?
And Paul says that God makes some jars for honorable or special use, and other jars for common, or not so special use. Isn’t He allowed to do that?
But now Paul takes it to a whole ‘nother level. He asks, “What if God makes some jars just to break them while He keeps other jars from breaking?
22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with great patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon objects of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
Think of it this way: God made all the jars, so He can break all of the jars if He wants to. Or He can break some of the jars and spare other ones. And in essence, none of the jars are perfect, so not one of them can complain if God chooses to reject them.
Now Paul brings it back to the issue of his people:
24 namely us, whom He also called, not only from among Jews, but also from among Gentiles, 25 as He also says in Hosea:
“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”
26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
The key here is that the nation of Israel was originally God’s chosen people. Why? Simply because He chose them!
But what if God decides NOT to choose some of them and instead chooses to make some of the Gentiles part of His chosen family. Is He allowed to do that?
Of course He is. And that’s exactly what He did!
Paul shares that quote from Hosea to emphasize that God had said all along that He was going to unfold His plan in a certain way. Then he adds these quotes from Isaiah to show that God knew which of the descendants of Abraham were going to follow Him and which ones were going to reject Him:
27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel may be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved; 28 for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.”
29 And just as Isaiah foretold:
“If the Lord of armies had not left us descendants,
We would have become like Sodom, and would have been like Gomorrah.”
Even though the descendants of Israel would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, God knew that only a remnant, only a portion of them, would come to salvation through faith in Jesus. And even that, Isaiah says, is evidence of God’s mercy, or they all could have been lost, like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Paul is going to explain in more detail in Chapter 11 how God is planning to bring even more of Israel to salvation, but for now he simply sums it up like this:
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, but the righteousness that is by faith; 31 however, Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though they could by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.”
Whether we are of Jewish heritage or Gentile heritage, we will never attain righteousness by our own good works. That is a stumbling-block for many people because they are convinced that they are worthy to be counted as righteous by their own choices and their own behavior.
But as Pastor Roger showed us back in Romans 3:10
“There is no righteous person, not even one.”
And Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The fact that any of us are saved, the fact that any of us are here today, has nothing to do with our own good works. The sole reason that we are seen as righteous in God’s eyes is that He chose to reveal to us His great mercy. He chose to call us to a place of surrender, repentance, grace, and forgiveness.
Aren’t you glad that He chose you? I know I am!
Sunday March 7th
A little boy went to his father with a serious look on his face.
He asked, “Daddy, what is a man?”
The father answered proudly, “Son, a man is someone who takes care of the family, who works hard to provide, who is willing to protect loved ones, who always speaks the truth and will never break a promise. That’s what a man is!”
The little boy said, “When I grow up, I want to be a man…just like Mom!”
So Pastor Josh asked us to tackle this chapter together because it addresses marriage, but it does so in a very unusual way – it points out the reality of the phrase that we hear in the classic wedding vows, “till death do us part”!
Here’s what the apostle Paul has to say about that in verses 1-3:
Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is alive she gives herself to another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress if she gives herself to another man.
This is basically a no-brainer. If your spouse dies, you’re not committing adultery if you get remarried. Why not? Because the Law that bound you to that first husband was made null and void by his death. That’s simple enough, right?
Paul emphasizes this exact same point in 1st Corinthians 7:39
“A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
So what’s that have to do with the rest of us?
Well, the reason that Paul is talking about this is really just a metaphor for us being married to sin!
In other words, we WERE married to sin, but now we are free from that marriage because our old nature, our old self, has died and we are now born again through faith in Jesus!
This is how Paul explains it in verses 4-6:
4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in regard to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were brought to light by the Law, were at work in the parts of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
The connection being laid out here goes like this:
Before we came to faith in Jesus, we were “married” to the Law. We couldn’t give ourselves to righteousness, because our sinful “flesh” was our spouse and we were tied to its demands for life.
But thankfully, we died to our old nature when we accepted Jesus as our savior. And since death breaks the bonds of our former life, we are now free to “marry” Jesus and to serve Him fully as our only spouse, living in the Spirit instead of living in the flesh.
Paul realizes that this analogy makes the Law seem like a terrible thing, so he wants to clarify the Law’s real purpose:
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Far from it! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
The Law isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It serves a purpose. It lets me know that the choices I am making are not pleasing to God.
Once I am aware of that situation, I am able to decide whether that’s the way I want to continue living my life, or if there’s a better path for me.
By knowing that coveting is wrong, I can assess the impact that covetousness is having on my life.
And the end result will be that I will recognize that trying to live under the Law is not a source of life and blessings, it is a source of death and struggles:
8 But sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin came to life, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it, killed me.
The Law brings out my sinful desires, and sin is a killer! It brings about a desire within my flesh to do the exact opposite of what God wants me to do, and that brings death to my soul. So does that make the Law a bad thing? No, Paul says just the opposite:
12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
It’s not the Law itself that’s the problem, it’s what the Law does when it triggers a response from my sinful flesh!
13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? Far from it! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by bringing about my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
What Paul it saying is that there is nothing wrong with God’s standards. What is wrong with the whole equation is that sinful part of my old nature that rejects God’s Law because it only wants to do what IT wants to do! My flesh doesn’t want to listen to God, it doesn’t want to obey God. It wants to BE God!
Then Paul goes on to describe the battle that this causes inside of him:
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. 17 But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
18 For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, 23 but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
So let's not stay married to sin. Let's enter in to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!
Sunday October 25th
1 John 1-2
Now that we have finished our study of John’s gospel, we’re going to take a look at John’s letters. And that made me think of the phrase “A Dear John Letter”. Do you know the kind of letter I’m talking about? He is one example:
I have been unable to sleep since I broke off our engagement. Won't you forgive and forget? Your absence is breaking my heart. I was a fool, nobody can take your place.
All my love,
P.S. Congratulations on winning last week's Powerball lottery.
So let’s start off our study of the real “Dear John” letters. The apostle John starts off his first letter by talking about what was happening “from the beginning”.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that John starts off talking about the beginning, because his Gospel started off with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)
The truth is that God had a plan in place from the very beginning of time, and that plan included sending Jesus to save the world, and that plan included saving YOU!
Look at what Ephesians 1:4 tells us:
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
When did God choose you? The day that you got saved? No, He chose you in the beginning, even before He laid the foundation for the world!
I think that makes you pretty special!
In verse 1 of this letter, John refers to Jesus as the “Word of Life”, just like he did in his Gospel when he said this in John 1:14
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
How can we be sure of that? Because John says “we have heard (Him), we have seen (Him) with our (own) eyes, we have looked at (Him) and touched (Him) with our (own) hands.”
Peter uses the same argument to make this same point in 2nd Peter 1:16
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
In verse 3 John says that there is another important reason why he is writing this letter:
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
So fellowship with God, with Jesus, and with each other is an important goal for John in writing this letter and that shouldn’t surprise us, because it was also important to Jesus. Remember how Jesus prayed to His Father concerning us in John 17:21?
“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
So John’s goal for believers is the same as Jesus’ goal, fellowship and unity.
Then in verse 4 John adds another goal:
4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
Once again, this isn’t just John’s goal for us, it’s also Jesus’ goal. Look at John 15:11
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
How are these goals connected? Because true fellowship with God and with each other should be a tremendous source of joy in each of our lives!
Do you see how many of the same themes in John’s letter are also found in his gospel? And this pattern continues in verses 5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Where have we seen this before? Look at John 1:9, which describes Jesus this way:
“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”
So just like John’s Gospel, this letter emphasizes the contrast between light and darkness. Jesus is the light that came to shine in the darkness of a world that has rejected God.
John is reminding us that all of us as believers are faced with a choice: either “walk in the light,” by coming to Him and opening their hearts to Him, or “walk in darkness”. And walking in darkness, according to John, isn’t just committing sin, it’s also denying that we sin. Look at verses 8-10:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
So the conflict between light and darkness is linked to a conflict between those who “practice the truth” and agree with God that they need salvation, and those who say they don’t need salvation, thereby essentially calling God “a liar.”
The reality is that even believers sometimes still sin. But the good news is that the cure for sin—which is confessing our sins, and being cleansed by the blood of Jesus—is God’s continually available, irrevocable gift to us.
There’s only one simple step that we need to take when we’ve stumbled in our journey along the way. “If we confess our sins.” That’s it. No penance. No retribution.
Think about how wonderful that is! God’s forgiveness is given to us as soon as we admit our need for it, instantly!
It’s not based on anything we have done to earn forgiveness. It’s only because of His grace. And this free gift of forgiveness carries with it a total purification from our unrighteousness. Once we have confessed what we have done wrong, God accepts us and sees as righteous because He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. That is, the very righteousness of Christ is reckoned to our account.
Because Jesus is righteous, and we are covered by His blood – WE are now righteous!
In chapter 2, John is going to continue emphasizing the role that we as believers are supposed to play by being “in the light”!
He starts out by saying this in verses 1 and 2:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
John wants us to know that the only possible proper response to God’s mercy on us is to live a life of holiness and obedience, not one of sin.
But he also knows that no one is perfect, so he reassures us that when we do occasionally sin, we have an advocate on our side. So what’s an advocate do?
The Greek word for advocate basically means a “helper,” and one form of help would be like an attorney to represent us with a legal matter.
Jesus is our advocate, our lawyer, to plead our case when we mess things up.
John also calls Jesus something else, our “propitiation”. What’s that mean? A propitiation was a sacrifice that was meant to take away the separation brought by sin between God and man. Jesus is our propitiation. His blood has erased the sin that separated us from God.
So how do I know that my sins have been covered by Jesus’ sacrifice? John explains that next:
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
John says that true followers of Jesus will “walk in the same way in which Jesus walked”, so if we call ourselves His followers, then we should be keeping Jesus’ commandments. If we aren’t keeping His commandments, then calling ourselves His followers is a lie.
And what are Jesus’ commandments?
Well, let’s start with this one from John 13:34
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.
That’s crucial for us to understand. Jesus told His followers to love each other. If we aren’t loving each other, then we’re not His followers!
In the next two sections, John is going to emphasize this commandment, saying that it is both old and new:
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Listen to this commentary:
The commandment of Christ is both “old” and “new.” It is old, because believers had this command “from the beginning,” when Jesus began to teach. It is new because it is continually being reapplied in new acts of love, with their source in Him.
John has talked about old and new, light and darkness. Now he uses another contrast, fathers and children:
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
The “fathers” and “children” that John is speaking to in these verses are actually the same people. On the one hand they are called “children” because they have been made part of the family of God. But they are also called “fathers” because their relationship with Jesus qualifies them to pass this knowledge down to future generations.
John says twice in verses 13 and 14 “you have overcome the evil one”. This is a major theme of this letter that will be picked up again in Chapter 5. The overcoming victory John describes is resisting temptation and keeping faithful to God’s word.
The thing is that, even though the victory has been won, we still have to fight this ongoing battle against the things of the world. So John reminds us in verses 15-17:
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
What John is referring to as the “world” is the spirit of rebellion that rejects God and His rule over our lives.
Those who love this world are self-centered, prideful, and short-sighted. They want their lusts to be satisfied and their pride to be honored now.
And speaking of the world’s system, we now hear mention of the ultimate description of the world’s system – the AntiChrist!
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
You might have heard various theories about who the antichrist will be or where he will come from. But don’t strain your eyes too hard looking for the antichrist to arrive, because John wrote almost 2000 years ago that many antichrists had already appeared during his lifetime!
And in verse 19 John seems to indicate that these antichrists were actually part of the church at one point:
19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
Do you see that? “They went out from us”! These people left the church, which proved that they weren’t true followers of Jesus, or they would’ve stayed in unity.
But does John want his readers to be all worried about these antichrists? No, he goes on to assure us that we are fully capable of discerning the antichrist spirit:
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
The Christians who lived back in John’s day faced opposition from antichrists who denied that Jesus was God’s Son, the Messiah. And so do we still today.
But John’s words should bring us comfort, as he reminds who we are as he closes this chapter:
24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
John is reminding us that as believers we have access to direct revelation from God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the Word for us and the truth of the gospel.
Can you trust God when He tells you that about yourself – that you can hear His voice through the anointing of the Holy Spirit?
In these two chapters John has given us several powerful keys to what it means to “walk in the Light”
Sunday August 2nd
I don’t want to spoil the ending for you guys, but the final verse of the Gospel of John, Chapter 21, verse 25 says,“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”So there are a lot of things that Jesus did that aren’t recorded in the Bible, but if you do your research you can find some of them. For instance, I don’t know if you’re aware of the story about that time when Jesus and Lazarus were playing poker. Lazarus placed a bet and Jesus said...I'll see you and I'll raise you.
Of course John chapter 11 is where we find the story of the raising of Lazarus, and also the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection power. The story begins with Jesus getting the news from Martha and Mary that their brother was sick, with an obvious expectation that Jesus would immediately come to heal him.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
When Jesus finds out about Lazarus’ illness, He immediately proclaims that this story will not end with death. But notice how Jesus doesn’t say that Lazarus wouldn’t die, only that this would not “end with death”.
That’s important, because at this point Jesus is aware of three things:
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
Think about the seeming contradiction in that verse:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
There are going to be times in our lives when God is doing things that make no sense to us. If fact, what God is doing might seem to be the opposite of what we think He should be doing. But God knows what He is doing!
And the disciples can’t figure out what Jesus is doing either:
7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”
13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
What a bunch of knuckleheads!
They don’t want to go into Judea because they know that there are people in Judea who want to kill Jesus. They say “Let Lazarus sleep if he’s feeling sick.” Then when Jesus makes it clear that He’s talking about death, not sleep, Thomas throws up his hands and says, “Okay, fine. Let’s all go die together in Judea!”
So they all head out towards Bethany, where Jesus runs into Martha on the way. She is distraught with grief:
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
I tend to think that Martha spoke those words with a bit of an accusation in her voice. After all, “what took so long?”
But in the midst of her confusion and questions, she still has hope. She says this to Jesus:
22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Martha believes in the eventual resurrection of believers on Judgment Day, but she doesn’t have a full understanding of who Jesus really is, and the power that He holds over life and death. She is about to find out.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
Verse 25 is the core truth of our Christian faith. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. This parallels the words that Jesus will speak in John 14:6
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
Martha says that she does believe what Jesus is saying.
Then she backs that up by acknowledging that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the only one who can raise the dead.
Then Martha runs to share this hope with her sister Mary:
28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.
30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Notice how Mary’s level of misunderstanding reflects where Martha’s was. “I know that you COULD’VE done something to prevent this IF ONLY you had come in time.”
Mary is crying, the others are crying, and soon Jesus is crying too:
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,
34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”
John 11:35 happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible.
But it is also a very significant verse in light of how it reflects Jesus’ true humanity. He wept. He cried. Like we do when we lose someone we love.
Hebrews 4:15 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.
In other words, Jesus has experienced every aspect of what it means to be human except for one thing, and that’s sin. Because of that, He can fully understand and sympathize with whatever we’re going through.
Some people have wondered, “if Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, then why was He crying about the situation?” But we see in Romans 12:15 that we are called to:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
So Jesus was simply sharing in the very sorrow that He was about to erase.
The people in the crowd had their own opinions as well, similar to what Martha and Mary had expressed:
37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
Could Jesus have kept Lazarus from dying? Absolutely! But there is a bigger plan at work here.
38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
I think that’s really ironic, and kind of typical of how we sometimes relate to God. We tell God what we need. He starts to address the need in a way that only He can. And we tell Him why that won’t work!
I mean seriously, don’t you think that a God who can raise a dead man to life can also make the smell of death disappear?
So when we’re going to trust God for our answers, let’s be willing to believe He can work out every detail!
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
I heard a cute story about a children's Sunday school class that was presenting their end of the year program for the congregation. The children were telling stories about the life of Jesus.
When it came to the part about Jesus' miracles, one little boy said, "Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead!" The teacher urged him to tell the audience more.
He said, "Well, Jesus told them to open the tomb, and then He said, 'Lazarus, come out!' And it's a good thing he didn't just say 'Come out!' because there would have been a stampede of dead guys."
Do you know what’s great about that? At the resurrection there’s going to be a whole stampede of dead guys and ladies coming out of tombs, and we might be part of that stampede!
Now you might think that this powerful miracle would change the minds of everyone in Israel. Not exactly.
45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.
47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.
Many of the people who witnessed this miracle became followers of Jesus, but the hard-hearted Pharisees still won’t believe. In fact, they are even more determined to kill Jesus.
And the Holy Spirit speaks through Caiaphas, who is NOT a believer, and prophesies that Jesus would be the “one man” who would die for the “whole nation”, in fact, for the whole world. And they will be a part of that.
So the final verses of this chapter are sort of a lull, a waiting period before the plot to crucify Jesus starts to unfold:
54 Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples.
55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.
I know it seems incredible that these leaders would want to kill a man who has just raised the dead. But in John chapter 16 Jesus tells the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. By the way this isn’t the same Lazarus!19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
How true of a statement was that? The Pharisees had Moses and the Prophets to point out that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They wouldn’t believe them.
AND they had a man, Lazarus, raised from the dead, and they STILL wouldn’t believe! In fact, we’ll see in chapter 12 that they wanted to KILL Lazarus too!
What are we to make of this?
Well, for one, we shouldn’t be surprised that people reject the truth no matter how clear it is.
We saw back in John 7:7 where Jesus said that:
“The world… hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”
And in John 3:19
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”
So don’t get discouraged when people don’t seem receptive to the gospel. Just keeping sharing it with your words, your lifestyle, and your love. Because those are the things that God uses to break through hardened hearts!
Sunday November 10th
1 Corinthians 5
I’ve heard it said that “singing in the shower is all fun and games until you end up getting some shampoo in your mouth – then it turns into a soap opera!”
There are some people here who know a little secret about me – I watch General Hospital. It’s only on Wednesdays when I stop by to visit my parents before returning to church for the Wednesday night service, but I’m able to keep up on the story for two reasons:
Now I know that soap operas can sometimes have pretty steamy story lines, but those are nothing compared to what Paul had to address in 1st Corinthians 5 verse 1:
“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.”
How’s that for an exciting plot? So what was really going on here? There are several possibilities according to Bible commentators:
One possibility is that this man’s father may have died, and then the son married the woman who would have been his stepmother. The other possibility is that the father is still alive and the son is having an affair with his stepmother behind his father’s back, or even openly. In any case, this type of inter-family relationship is explicitly condemned in Leviticus 18:8. And although the culture of that day tolerated a wide range of immoral activities, Paul points out that even the pagan gentiles were embarrassed by this kind of behavior.
Paul also isn’t very happy about how the Corinthian church had been dealing with their soap opera:
2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
This verse is the key to Paul’s real concern. The fundamental problem here wasn’t just the sexual sin of one messed-up individual, it was the failure of the Corinthian church to deal with the sin—in fact, Paul was disturbed because they had a sense of pride about how they were accepting and tolerating it.
That’s a big issue in our culture today, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be very tolerant and accepting of whatever anyone else chooses to do. If you express an opinion about someone else’s behavior possibly being sinful or ungodly, you are immediately labeled as “intolerant”.
But Paul is clearly NOT going to tolerate this behavior in this church that he established, even though he’s now far away from Corinth on his missionary journey. He says:
3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Paul is physically absent from the Corinthian community, but he tells them that he was there with them in the Spirit during their service, and that he actually passed a prophetic judgment in their midst. His judgment is that the church should forbid this offender from attending their fellowship. Just kick him out! In fact Paul goes so far as to say that he is willing to “deliver this man to Satan”!
Of course that all sounds very harsh, but we have to understand that Paul’s stated purpose in his judgment is the man’s salvation. He believes that the man’s restoration can only be achieved if he is made to repent and his sinful tendencies are overcome. Paul refers to that process as “the destruction of the flesh”.
Then he returns to his concerns about these church members boasting about how “tolerant” they are:
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?
Paul compares the Corinthian’s tolerance of sin to leaven, or yeast. Leaven was often used in the Bible as a metaphor for a spreading sinful and corrupting influence.
That’s why, during the annual Feast of Passover the Israelites had to remove all leaven from their houses.
We see this in Exodus 12:15 for example:
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
Do you see that idea of being “cut off” from fellowship?
Paul seems to be making a direct reference to that practice when he says this to the Corinthians:
7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
If the cleansing out of leaven was important in the Old Testament, Paul says it’s even more important with Jesus as our Passover lamb. Because He was sinless, we should strive to walk in holiness as well, in order to honor Him.
The next part of Paul’s explanation regarding the issue of dealing with sin might actually surprise you:
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
The first thing that I want you to notice here is that Paul makes reference in verse 11 to the fact that “actually, I wrote to you” about this already.
This means that, prior to writing the letter which we call 1st Corinthians, Paul had already sent another letter instructing these same Corinthians about this same issue!
In other words, he had previously told them to separate themselves from believers who practiced immorality.
And that’s a key distinction that Paul is emphasizing here. He’s saying that he never meant for them to stay away from “the immoral people of this world”.
Otherwise, how would they be able to evangelize?
Paul certainly understood that there was no real value in staying away from unbelievers who sin, because ALL unbelievers sin!
The issue that Paul is dealing with here is staying away from BELIEVERS who sin, so that by draw a line of dis-fellowship it will cause them to get their lives back on the right track.
Paul actually seems a bit frustrated that these Corinthian believers didn’t get the point of his original teaching. At least that’s what it would seem like from how they were treating the sin situation right under their noses!
Possibly the Corinthians had misunderstood Paul, and thought that he was commanding them to maintain separation from the sinners in the world. So he explains again that what he had in mind was separating from anyone who claimed to be a Christian but whose life and actions clearly contradicted the teachings of the faith.
Now, my bible commentary says that this injunction to expel or shun offending church members (going so far as to say “not even to eat with such a one”) is primarily referring to life within the church and probably does not mean that all personal contact of any kind was to be avoided.
(In others words you didn’t have to avoid them at the supermarket)
That view especially makes sense when we compare this situation to what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Do you see the balance there? Don’t associate with disobedient brothers and sisters, but remember that they ARE still your brothers and sisters!
In verse 13 of today’s chapter Paul quotes the command found in Deuteronomy 17:7 which says to purge or expel the wicked from Israel. “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”
In doing that, Paul is drawing an important parallel between the Old Testament Jewish community and the New Testament Christian church. This is something that he will emphasize again when we get to chapter 10.
The bottom line is that these verses tell us that the church has the authority to exercise discipline within its own fellowship, but it does not have the authority to regulate the behavior of non-Christians. Sinners gonna sin! But believers gonna stop sinning!
So how did this apply to them back then, and how does it apply to us now?
Well, for starters, we can confidently conclude from 2 Corinthians 2:3–11, that the Corinthian church finally did obey Paul’s instruction, and that this man did repent of his outrageous sin.
Let’s look at that account:
3 This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.
Paul is making reference here to the fact that he knew that his rebuke would make them sorrowful, but that their sorrow wasn’t his ultimate goal. His true goal was to show love to them by bringing correction to a situation that clearly needed to be addressed. And what was the response to that loving rebuke? Look at verse 5-8:
5 But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. 6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority,7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
Paul says that true source of everyone’s sorrow wasn’t him, it was the man who was sinning. That man’s sin caused pain to the entire church community. Paul then refers to the “punishment which was inflicted by the majority.”
This means that the majority of people in the church had obeyed Paul’s instructions and cut this brother off from fellowship. Paul also says that this “punishment” was “sufficient”, meaning that it accomplished its purpose by causing the man to repent.
Now that the man has repented, Paul says, forgive him, comfort him, and reaffirm your love for him, because we don’t want “excessive sorrow” to overwhelm him.
Sometimes it’s important to know when enough is enough.
Once a person has repented, they are clean in God’s eyes, and we need to see then as cleansed and renewed also, rather than continuing to remind them of their sin.
And Paul adds a few more verses to explain why this is so important:
9 For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
In verse 9, Paul tells the Corinthians that his original instructions – to cut the man off from fellowship – were sort of a “test” to see how obedient they would be. Since they were obedient, and now that the goal of the man’s restoration has been accomplished, Paul says that he has no reason to harbor any un-forgiveness towards this person.
And the most important point that Paul is making, for the Corinthians and for us, is that holding on to un-forgiveness plays right into the hands of the enemy.
Paul says, “We are not ignorant of his schemes”.
We know how Satan works. We know that he is the accuser of the brethren. So why should we allow him to use us as his co-accusers?
I think that’s the most crucial lesson that we have to learn today about this “issue”.
As Pastor Josh pointed out last week, we aren’t supposed to be in the business of running around judging each other, and yet there are clearly going to be times when we need to hold each other accountable. That’s what families do for each other.
There are times when we need to say, “Hey brother, I’m concerned about some of the choices that I see you making.”
“Your behavior doesn’t match up with the standards of a Christ-follower.”
There may even be times when we have to say, “I’m not sure that I can hang out with you if you’re going to keep choosing that ungodly lifestyle.”
But that’s never the ultimate goal. It’s simply a step towards the goal.
Because the ultimate goal is always to see that brother or sister restored to a proper relationship with God, both in their heart and in their behavior. And once they have started to turn their heart back towards God, we should be running out to meet them like the Prodigal Son’s father!
The only one who wants to keep reminding them of their sin, and putting them through guilt and shame, is Satan.
And we certainly don’t need to be helping him to carry out his schemes of condemnation.
The devil is always working to keep people separated from God and from each other. God is always working towards reconciliation.
Look at these verse from 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Let’s choose to make that our heart today towards any brother or sister that is struggling in their walk. If we need to bring correction, let’s do it gently, in a spirit of humility, knowing that we’ve all stumbled and fallen short at times.
Remember Jesus’ instruction that we should begin by removing any log from our own eye before we start pointing out specks in other people’s eyes.
And consider Paul’s wise words from Galatians 6:1 - Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Always keep in mind that the ministry that we’ve been given is one of reconciliation – helping people to get back to a right relationship with God and with the family of God. The Corinthians did it, and so can we.
Sunday October 27th
1 Corinthians 3
I wanted to share with you this morning my 3 favorite quotes about immaturity:
If I had a dollar for every time someone called me immature…I’d buy so many hot-wheels!
My wife told me I was immature and needed to grow up. Guess who's not allowed in my tree house anymore.
My girlfriend left me because she thinks I'm immature. Now it’s Christmas day and I’m crying my eyes out. Because I just found out that Santa isn’t real.
God’s plan for His children is that we would grow up, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually as well!
Here in chapter three, Paul addresses a problem plaguing the young Corinthian church—spiritual immaturity.
There’s an old saying that goes: "You are only young once, but you can be immature forever." Sadly, the Christians in Corinth had a lot of growing up to do.
Paul opens the third chapter in this letter with these words:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.”
The reality is—physically or spiritually, we all start off as babies. Growth takes time. When Paul first planted this church in Corinth, it was only natural that these brand new believers would be spiritually immature. They were babies in Christ. They needed to learn the foundations of the faith.
But as we mature in our faith, we ought to grow up little by little. We ought to develop a more Christ-like spirit and attitude. We ought to understand more and more of the Bible. Paul puts it this way in chapter 13 in this letter: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me”
It had been a few years since Paul first started this church in Corinth, and they were still struggling with immaturity.
Paul then talks about one of the things that is keeping them from growing in maturity:
3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Paul had started this church in Corinth during one of his missionary journeys (we read about it in Acts chapter 18).
But shortly after Paul left to visit other cities, another traveling preacher arrived in Corinth—a man named Apollos. Apollos had a natural gift for teaching and he made an immediate impact in Corinth. He spoke boldly, interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures effectively. He debated against the opponents of Christianity forcefully and convincingly. Apollos basically continued the work that Paul had started.
Of course, Paul is quick to point out that it was God—not him and not Apollos—that brought about the growth of the church. Paul planted, Apollos watered, God harvested!
Paul also talks about growing in terms of serving. He writes,
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Paul is comparing the church to a building that is still under construction. The foundation of the church—for all believers—is Jesus Christ. Nothing and no one else will do. A building is only as solid as its foundation and anyone that doesn’t make faith in Christ the bedrock of their beliefs and ministry is doomed to collapse.
But even if we have that right foundation, that doesn’t ensure a lasting structure. Paul compares our works—our ministry and our serving—to construction materials. We can either build with weaker materials like wood, hay and straw or with precious stones, gold and silver.
Jesus laid the foundation of our lives with his ministry of preaching, teaching, and serving. When we carry on that kind of ministry, we build upon his foundation. But Jesus cautioned his disciples, saying, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).
As one commentary put it, the Corinthian Christians were more interested in “serve us” then service. Immature Christians say, “I’m looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me,” not, “I’m looking for a place where I can serve and be a blessing.” As we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift towards living a life of service to others. A mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who’s going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet?”
As he calls the church in Corinth to a higher level of maturity, Paul closes out this chapter with a warning:
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
Do you think that warning has any application to our lives today?
Let’s start by looking at this warning from 2 Timothy 3:1
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
Are there difficult times in our world today? I would certainly say so. And the times may be getting even more difficult!
I think that we as a church are going to have to face a difficult challenge. This will be a challenge that will test our maturity as followers of Jesus Christ. It is an area where I hope we can show more maturity and grace than the Corinthian church did.
But before I address the specifics of the issue, I want to add this additional scripture from Ephesians 4:1-6
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul uses the word “implore” when he asks the Ephesians to work towards unity and peace. He is essentially begging them to be patient, humble, gentle, tolerant and loving towards one another. He says that we all have the same Lord, the same Father in heaven, the same Holy Spirit and the same hope. We’ve all been baptized in the name of the same savior.
Can I “implore” you this morning in that same manner?
What are you talking about, Pastor Steve? We don’t have issues with Apollos and Paul. There is no “jealousy and strife” among us. We are not “fleshly”. We are not “walking like mere men”.
I’m not saying that we are. But I need to warn you that there are “difficult times” ahead, particularly as we enter into this next election cycle.
I think most of us are familiar with Psalm 133:1
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
I think it’s fair to say that if dwelling in unity is good and pleasant, then dwelling in disunity is bad and unpleasant!
But we don’t have to allow disunity to enter into our church.
Let me use this example to shed some light on the situation that we’re facing.
Let’s say that Paul and Apollos are candidates who are running for office.
Why would people want to vote for Paul?
He was a strong voice for the gospel. He was bold. He wrote powerful letters. He planted churches. He was willing to risk his life and suffer hardship in order to reach the world for Jesus.
Why would people NOT want to vote for Paul?
He had participated in the murder of Stephen. He had persecuted and arrested many believers. He had gotten into a very public argument with Barnabas over whether or not to take John Mark along on their next missionary journey.
What about Apollos? Why would people want to vote for him?
He was well-learned, a good public speaker, and he could argue convincingly against unbelievers.
So why wouldn’t someone want to vote for Apollos?
Well, he didn’t even know about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so Priscilla and Aquila had to pull him aside and correct him. And then Paul had to fix the misunderstanding about baptism caused by Apollos’ lack of knowledge.
And while we’re at it, let’s throw in a third candidate, Cephas (or Peter). Paul mentioned in Chapter one that some of the Corinthians considered themselves to be followers of Cephas.
So why would anyone want to vote for him?
He was bold. He was the first person to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God. He wrote two books of the New Testament. He fought to defend Jesus by cutting off the High Priest’s servant’s ear.
Wow! Then why wouldn’t anyone want to vote for Peter?
Hmmm. There was this little thing about denying three times that he actually KNEW Jesus. And he had a little impulsivity problem. And even though he was married, we never hear about his wife! That’s a bit of a concern.
My point is simply this – none of these three men would’ve been a perfect candidate, because in reality there ARE no perfect candidates. As Paul put it, they are “mere men”.
And we are also “mere men and women” who have to try our best to decide which candidates for public office are most deserving of our support, despite their flaws.
Some believers choose to cast their vote for candidates who take strong positions against abortion and for traditional family values. Those are certainly good issues for Christian voters to consider.
Other believers place a higher priority on candidates whose focus is on caring for the poor and defending civil rights. And those are clearly some important biblical values as well.
Some of this comes down to different viewpoints based upon our individual backgrounds and culture.
Let me share with you something that a friend shared with me about cultural issues:
Cultural sensitivity allows us to respect and value other cultures with no hidden agendas. It is acknowledging that differences exist between us, but not assigning values to those differences by saying that one is better than the other, or one is inherently right and the other is wrong.
It is building an environment that encourages discussion and strengthens teamwork through education and acceptance of other viewpoints.
I think those are wonderfully encouraging words.
In the end, there is a way for us to handle these challenges, and it is shown to us in Romans Chapter 14.
Here Paul is discussing the differences of opinions that were occurring regarding what kinds of foods to eat and what holidays to celebrate. And in verses 12 and 13 Paul puts it this way:
“So the each one of us shall give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore.”
Doesn’t that seem like a good plan for how to handle our differences of opinion?
You are going to have to give an account to God for who you decided to vote for and why. And so will I.
You don’t have to answer to me and I don’t have to answer to you. We both have to answer to God.
So let’s not allow fleshly strife and contention disrupt our unity as a church family.
We’re allowed to disagree. We just need to do so respectfully and in love.
One thing that I believe that the Holy Spirit gave me regarding the upcoming election is this reminder:
Whether we end up with the same president or a new president for the next four years, we will still have the same king – Jesus Christ!
In Romans 14:13 Paul advises us, “not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”
So just remember that wearing a t-shirt, a hat, or a campaign button to church that supports your favorite candidate might accidentally create a stumbling block for a brother or sister who sees things differently than you do.
Therefore we might want to choose to lay down our liberty in that regard for the sake of one another.
I think we’re mature enough to do that, don’t you?