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Posts Tagged ‘First Epistle to the Corinthians’

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July 30, 2013
What We Have Now in Christ
“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:15)

The one who is trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord has many wonderful possessions which cannot be seen with our physical eyes but which are as real and permanent as if we were already in heaven. Many of these (only a few of which can be listed here) are noted by the present tense of the verb “have” (Greek echo).

 

First of all, as our text indicates (and these are the words of Christ!), we who believe in Him have—right now—eternal life. Our sins have been taken care of by the sacrificial death of Christ, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7; see also Colossians 1:14). Our sins will be remembered against us no more, because we have already been eternally redeemed. Then, also, in spite of all our sins and failures, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

 

One of the great resources we now have, but use so seldom, is the capacity to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

 

Having the mind of Christ should keep us from sin. Nevertheless, “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Not only do we have an advocate defending us, but we have a priest as our mediator. “We have a great high priest, . . . Jesus the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14).

 

Finally, we already “have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). And all this is only the beginning! “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). HMM

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FROM A WISE WOMEN-O' Church Arise

Church Membership Or Biblical Fellowship? (Notes)

church_membership_document

Over the years the question of Church Membership swirls around the Christian world, and is debated and discussed, sometimes fought over, and sometimes just taken for granted.

Now by “Church Membership” here, I mean it in the commonly used sense of the phrase, referring to formally joining a particular local church, in a formal way, maybe agreeing to some doctrinal statement, or agreeing to some written covenant, and actually being put on a list of “Members”.

Is that Biblical? Is it O.K.? Is it demanded? Is it optional? And so forth.

Today I want to open a discussion in what I think is a new direction regarding Church Membership, especially as it relates to Fellowship.

See, I believe that the discussion of Church Membership is in one sense missing the real point of what the Church is to be about.

Is Membership Fellowship?

There’s a big elephant in the room that no one mentions. This elephant is ignored, walked around, or maybe mentioned only in passing. The big elephant in the room is Fellowship.

Now I’ve read many extensive studies which attempt to prove from Scripture that Membership Lists are taught in the Bible. And I will admit some of them SEEM logical, and SEEM to make sense in a certain way.

But the truth is, there are no commands for Church Membership Lists in the Bible. There are no examples of Church Membership Lists in the Bible. And there are no examples of formal joining of the local church in the Bible.

Because of this, and in relation to Biblical Fellowship, I have come to believe that Church Membership Lists, and the formal joining of a local church, is a man-made result of a lack of true Biblical Fellowship, or what the Bible in Greek calls Koinonia.

No let me make a disclaimer, before I go any further. If you attend a local church that practices Membership Lists, I’m not saying you shouldn’t join, or formally become a member. Because the Bible also does not PROHIBIT the making of Membership Lists. So I want to be clear on that. The Membership List itself is not the problem.

Three Aspects

With that, I want to look at three aspects of this question of Church Membership:

1. What does the Bible teach about membership in general?
2. What made one a member of a local church?
3. What does Fellowship have to do with it?

1. What does the Bible teach about membership in general?

Romans 12:4,5, “For as we have many MEMBERS in one body, but all the MEMBERS do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually MEMBERS of one another.”

1 Cor 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are MEMBERS of Christ? Shall I then take the MEMBERS of Christ and make them MEMBERS of a harlot? Certainly not!”

1 Cor 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many MEMBERS, but all the MEMBERS of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

1 Cor 12:18, “But now God has set the MEMBERS, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”

1 Cor 12:20, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.”

1 Cor 12:25, “…that there should be no schism in the body, but that the MEMBERS should have the same care for one another.”

1 Cor 12:26, “And if one MEMBER suffers, all the MEMBERS suffer with it; or if one MEMBER is honored, all the MEMBERS rejoice with it.”

1 Cor 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and MEMBERS individually.”

Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and MEMBERS of the household of God.”

Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are MEMBERS of one another.”

Ephesians 5:30, “For we are MEMBERS of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”

Acts 2:47, “…praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

2. What made one a member of the local church?

Acts 15:41, “And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Acts 16:5, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”

“The Church” vs. “the churches”

Belief in Jesus Christ, baptism, and then practicing “church”.

Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

3. What does fellowship have to do with it?

Fellowship = “koinonia”, “commonality”, as in “koine” greek.

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1 John 1:3, “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have FELLOWSHIP with us; and truly our FELLOWSHIP is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

1 John 1:6, “If we say that we have FELLOWSHIP with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Now we get back to Membership Lists, regarding church discipline and dis-fellowshiping a member.youth-pray

Biblical “membership” involves “fellowship” — a commonality of spiritual Life in prayer, teaching, breaking of bread, drinking of cup, knowing one another, bearing one another’s burdens, sharing in one another’s financial needs, fervently loving one another, recognizing the hurt in one another and applying the balm of Jesus with warmth, stirring one another up to good works, exhorting, encouraging, blessing, hugging, welcoming, caring about, feeding with the true Bread, Who is Christ.

In other words, church discipline which may lead to dis-fellowshiping someone presupposes there is something to be dis-fellowshiped *from*. Something infinitely valuable, something one doesn’t want to miss, if they are a believer.282890_407010949350660_780975627_n

The modern American “church service”, where everyone files in at 11 and files out at Noon, with a, “How you doing?”, “I’m gr-r-r-eat!, how about you?” to a few people, followed by going home for another week apart from everyone else (or maybe till Wednesday for the truly “spiritual”) — doesn’t know what fellowship is. So it substitutes Membership Lists.

Then it either never dis-fellowships anyone, because “who cares?”, or it practices the church discipline of taking the unrepentent publicly sinful “off the Membership List”, whereupon the unrepentent publicly sinful either goes to the next church, or is “shamed” back onto the Membership List, not because they really miss the so-called “fellowship”, but because they are humiliated (too often they remain humiliated, with a red letter on their back…marked as a lesser being, not ike “us” who are incapable of falling so low…”How are you doing, Lesser Being?…O.K.?…go-o-o-d…see you next week…Ciao!”).

This is not meant to be a cynical comment at all, but a mere observation of many churches over many years, and a heart’s cry for a continual renewal of Biblical Fellowship.391270_369817819753634_869042150_n

“Church Membership Lists” is not primarily an exegetical question, it’s a spiritual one.

May God work His Fellowship in the churches.

Notes from Grace for Life

Posted on March 23, 2013

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BUT GOD….

The Our Daily Bread devotion for the day focused upon the great contrast between the things of man and the things of God.  Forty-six times in the Bible, we are told man’s thoughts, words, deeds, and intentions, and then the Word says, “But God….”  Here are a few of the forty-six:

But God warned a heathen king – Gen. 20:3.
But God protected Jacob – Gen. 31:7.
But God directed the life of Joseph – Gen. 45:8; 50:20.
But God hindered Israel from entering the land – Ex. 13:18.
But God delivered David from Saul – 1 Sam. 23:14.
But God prevented David from building His Temple – 1 Chron. 28:3.
But God fought Israel’s battle – 2 Chron. 20:15.
But God will resurrect genuine believers – Ps. 49:15.
But God is to be THE Judge – Ps. 75:7.
But God prepared a worm – Jon. 4:7.
But God alone forgives sins – Mk. 2:7.
But God knows our hearts – Lk. 16:15.
But God raised Jesus from the dead – Acts 13:30.
But God loved us while we were still sinners – Rom. 5:8.
But God chooses the foolish instead of the wise – 1 Cor. 1:27.
But God alone saves – 1 Cor. 3:6-7.
But God has called us to peace – 1 Cor. 7:15.
But God is faithful – 1 Cor. 10:13.
But God is merciful – Eph. 2:4

If I had read none of the Bible but just these short descriptions, I would learn several things about God: 

1)  He is definitely in control!  

2)  He loves all of mankind, sinner and saint alike! 

3)  He has a plan for each of us. 

4)   He is holds man accountable as THE Judge. 

6)  He is merciful. 

7)  He can be trusted to take charge of our lives.

The safest place in all the universe is being in the will of God!

Reblogged from :http://skipslighthouse.blogspot.com/2012/08/but-god.html

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Together in Christ

 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

 This is a wonderful promise. Whether believers come together in church or a home Bible study or even just two together (like husband and wife) to fellowship around the name of the Lord Jesus, He is there also!

 The Scriptures often speak of our togetherness with Him and therefore with one another. When we followed Him in baptism, we were “planted together in the likeness of his death” (Romans 6:5). Similarly, when He rose from the dead, God “hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6). One day, we are told, “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).

 In our Christian walk right now, we are being “fitly framed together” as a “holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22). We ought, therefore, to be “knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2), “perfectly joined together in the same mind” (1 Corinthians 1:10), and “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

 Then one day, when Christ returns and the dead in Christ are raised, “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

 So, when we are together with Him, through the indwelling Spirit of Christ, whether in a congregation of thousands, or just together with one or two Christian companions, we rejoice in His presence, for He is our mighty Creator, our loving Savior, our caring Comforter, our unerring Guide, and our soon-coming King.

by Henry Morris, Ph.D.

HMM July 20, 2012

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Question: “Is there meaning in tragedy?


Answer: When tragedy strikes, it is common for people to ask, “What does this mean?” When we witness some disaster or mass murder, there is a natural feeling that what has happened should not have happened. This innate sense of “wrongness” is a clue to meaning in these events. When we look to find meaning in tragedy, we must have the right perspective. We need to approach the question in a way that allows for a coherent answer, and this is only possible through a Christian worldview. Because God instills meaning into every moment and event in history, through Him we can begin to find meaning in suffering. The nature of this world lends itself to tragic events. Fortunately, God speaks to us, so that we can find not only meaning, but salvation and relief from the sufferings of the world.

When studying physical motion, it is crucial to understand perspective. Speed and acceleration are only meaningful in relation to some other object; this object is the reference point. The way in which the reference point moves affects our perception. The same is true in our sense of right and wrong. For concepts of good, bad, right, wrong, or tragedy to be meaningful, they have to be anchored to a reference point that does not change or move. The only valid reference point for these issues is God. The very fact that we consider a mass murder wrong strongly supports the idea of God as the reference point for our sense of good and evil. Without God, even the events we consider the most tragic are no more meaningful than anything else. We have to understand the nature of this world and our relationship to God in order to draw any meaning at all from the things we see.

God infuses every moment and every event with meaning and gives us confidence that He understands what we are going through. When Jesus instituted communion, He tied the past, present, and future together. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup (the present), you proclaim the Lord’s death (the past) until He comes (the future).” God’s knowledge of all events means nothing is insignificant to Him. If God knows when a sparrow falls, He certainly knows when we face tragedy (Matthew 10:29-31). In fact, God assured us that we would face trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that He has experienced our struggles personally (Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 4:15).

While we understand that God has sovereign control over all things, it is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin, all too often the sin of other people. For instance, a mass murder is the fault of the murderer disobeying the moral law of God (Exodus 20:13; Romans 1:18-21). When we look to find meaning in such an event, we have to understand why this world is the way it is. The hardship of this world was originally caused by mankind’s sin (Romans 5:12), which is always a matter of choice (1 Corinthians 10:13). While God is perfectly capable of stopping tragedies before they begin, sometimes He chooses not to. While we may not know why, we do know that He is perfect, just, and holy, and so is His will. Also, the suffering we experience in this world does three things. It leads us to seek God, it develops our spiritual strength, and it increases our desire for heaven (Romans 8:18-25; James 1:2-3; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7).

In the garden of Eden, God spoke to Adam and communicated in clear and direct ways, not in abstract concepts. God speaks to us today in the same way. In some ways, this is the most important meaning to be found in any tragedy. Tragic events demonstrate much of their meaning in the way we react to them. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This does not mean that God causes tragedy, but that He uses our reaction to tragedy to speak to us. Tragic events remind us not only that we live in an imperfect and fallen world, but that there is a God who loves us and wants something better for us than the world has to offer.

Recommended Resource: Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy by Jerry Bridges.

Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy  -     
        By: Jerry Bridges

Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy

NAV Press / 2006 / Paperback
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 There’s no more crucial topic in today’s world than understanding what God is up to in the midst of personal and global tragedy. Author Jerry Bridges helps readers answer the question “Is God in control?”, offering comfort and hope by exploring the greater purposes of God in light of Scripture.

 Publisher’s Description

From devastating natural disasters to deadly highway accidents, tragedies occur every day around the world and in our own lives. As we face death, grief, loss, we become angry and our faith is tested as we ask, “Is God really in control?”

Navigator author Jerry Bridges helps answer that question positively in this topical Bible study, offering comfort and hope by exploring the greater purposes and character of God.

• Includes discussion questions
• Can be used by men, women, and teens

Author Bio

Dr. Jerry Bridges is the best-selling author of such books as The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness, and Transforming Grace. Jerry is on staff with The Navigators’ collegiate ministry. A popular speaker known around the world, Jerry lives with his wife, Jane, in Colorado Springs, CO.

ChristianBookPreviews.com

Where is God when life is falling apart? From Job on, people have asked this question when their souls have been in anguish. Jerry Bridges supplies answers in Bridges writes for “the average person who has not necessarily experienced major catastrophe but who does frequently encounter the typical adversities and heartaches of life”. (p. 11)

Using Scripture and quoting other writers, many of them Puritan writers, Bridges grapples with the problem of understanding how a good God who is sovereign can allow, and sometimes initiate, suffering through humans, nature, and accidents.

“(I)t often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him….The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and unreasonable….Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. But trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries.” (p.21)

Bridges confronts questions about God’s goodness, His sovereignty, His wisdom, and our responsibility. Then he goes beyond the questions to apply Scripture to our times of hurt and confusion, helping us to accept our hardships and to grow spiritually.

His approach is very readable. He leans toward Calvinism in his acceptance of all things arising from the hand of God, and, though he does not excuse sin in human beings who bring us grief and pain, he suggests ways of dealing with our resentment, hurt, and anger against them. He promotes both recognizing God’s sovereignty and our responsibility with a good discussion of prudence. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, making it easier to use in a group setting, as well as in private study.

Jerry Bridges, a Bible teacher for the Navigators, has written several books, including the highly acclaimed The Pursuit of Holiness. Whether one fully agrees with him theologically, he addresses a thorny question thoughtfully, yet approachably. He offers much help in this short book. — Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com

 This bood not only teaches me to Trust God but it also backes up everything with GOD’S WORD.

Excellent commentary on the sovereignty of God.

For those who have doubts about the sovereignty of God, this is a must read. This book is an easy read yet very profound.

Christian Book Previews.com

  • Top 50 Contributor

Where is God when life is falling apart? From Job on, people have asked this question when their souls have been in anguish. Jerry Bridges supplies answers in Bridges writes for “the average person who has not necessarily experienced major catastrophe but who does frequently encounter the typical adversities and heartaches of life”. (p. 11) Using Scripture and quoting other writers, many of them Puritan writers, Bridges grapples with the problem of understanding how a good God who is sovereign can allow, and sometimes initiate, suffering through humans, nature, and accidents. (I)t often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him….The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and unreasonable….Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. But trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. (p.21) Bridges confronts questions about God’s goodness, His sovereignty, His wisdom, and our responsibility. Then he goes beyond the questions to apply Scripture to our times of hurt and confusion, helping us to accept our hardships and to grow spiritually. His approach is very readable. He leans toward Calvinism in his acceptance of all things arising from the hand of God, and, though he does not excuse sin in human beings who bring us grief and pain, he suggests ways of dealing with our resentment, hurt, and anger against them. He promotes both recognizing God’s sovereignty and our responsibility with a good discussion of prudence. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, making it easier to use in a group setting, as well as in private study. Jerry Bridges, a Bible teacher for the Navigators, has written several books, including the highly acclaimed The Pursuit of Holiness. Whether one fully agrees with him theologically, he addresses a thorny question thoughtfully, yet approachably. He offers much help in this short book. — Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews

What’s new on GotQuestions.org?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)?

How can a Christian overcome the fear of witnessing?

What is anthropological hylomorphism?

Should a Christian be interested in conspiracy theories?

What is a church trustee?

What is the Feast of Trumpets?

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise”?

Who or what is Metatron?

What is the lust of the eyes?

What does the Bible say about discernment?


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The Distinguishing Mark of Christianity

John MacArthur

Grace to You

JESUS IS LORD(1 Corinthians 12:3) is the distinguishing article of Christianity and marks the essential confession of faith (Romans 10:9). Jesus proclaimed it to His disciples, His enemies, and His casual inquirers alike – and He refused to tone down its implications.

The expression “Lord speaks of ownership, while “Master/Lord” (despotes) denotes an unquestionable right to command (John 13:13; Jude 4). Both words describe a master with absolute dominion over someone else. That explains Jesus’ incredulity at the practice of those who paid homage to Him with their lips but not with their lives: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Doulos frequently describes what it means to be a true Christian: “He who was called while free, is Christ’s slave [doulos]. You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). It describes the lowest, abject bond slave; his service is not a matter of choice.

A Misleading Translation

Unfortunately, readers of the English Bible have long been shielded from the full force of doulos because of an ages-old tendency to translate it as servant” or “bond-servant.” This tendency is regrettable, since service and slavery are not the same thing. “No one can be a slave to two masters” (Matthew 6:24) makes better sense than “No one can serve two masters.” An employee with two jobs could indeed serve two masters; but a slave could not. Scripture repeatedly calls Christians “slaves” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), purchased for God (Revelation 5:9). This is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (Romans 14:7-9).

A Revolting Concept

Not only is slave a word loaded with negative connotations, but our generation is also fixated on the concepts of freedom, fulfillment, and autonomy. Saving faith and Christian discipleship have been reduced to the cliché “a personal relationship with Jesus.” It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian. Many people (including Judas and Satan) had some kind of “personal relationship” with Jesus during His earthly ministry without submitting to Him as Lord. But His only true friends were those who did what He said (John 15:14).

A Difficult Truth

Slavery to Christ is not a minor or secondary feature of true discipleship. It is exactly how Jesus Himself defined the “personal relationship” He must have with every true follower (John 12:26; 15:20). In fact, the fundamental aspects of slavery are the very features of redemption. We are chosen (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:9); bought (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23); owned (Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19); subject to His will and control (Acts 5:29; Philippians 2:5-8); called to account (Romans 14:12); evaluated (2 Corinthians 5:10); and either chastened or rewarded by Him (1 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 12:5-11). Those are all essential components of slavery.

A Divine Introduction

Jesus introduced the NT slave metaphor. He frequently drew a direct connection between slavery and discipleship (Matthew 10:24-25). His words reflect what every true disciple should hope to hear at the end of life: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Jesus always described true discipleship in such terms, with no effort to adjust the message to make it sound appealing to worldly-minded sinners. He never muted what it would cost to follow Him. Would-be disciples who tried to dictate different terms were always turned away (Luke 9:59-62).

Slaves Who Are Friends

Perhaps the key passage on Jesus’ demand for implicit obedience is one already alluded to-John 15:14-15: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

The fundamental principle here is obedience. Jesus was not suggesting that His favor could be earned through service. Rather, He was saying that obedience is a singular proof that someone is His friend. Implicit obedience to His commandments is the natural fruit of genuine love for Him-the telltale mark of authentic, saving faith.

Why, then, does He say, “No longer do I call you slaves…I have called you friends” (v. 15)? Is He expressly telling them their relationship with Him was now a familiar, personal camaraderie between colleagues, rather than a master-slave relationship governed by authority and submission?

Not at all. The apostles were still His slaves, because that’s precisely what they were. He was simply saying they were His friends as well as His slaves. “The slave,” He explains, “does not know what his master is doing.” A slave isn’t owed any explanation or rationale. But Jesus had kept nothing secret from His disciples: “all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (v. 15). They were therefore much more than mere slaves to Him. They were His friends as well, privy to His thoughts and purposes (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16).

Slavery and True Liberty

So understood correctly, the gospel is an invitation to slavery. On the one hand, the gospel is a proclamation of freedom to sin’s captives and liberty to people who are broken by the bondage of sin’s power over them. On the other hand, it is a summons to a whole different kind of slavery: “Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18; cf. 1 Peter 2:16).

Both sides of the equation are vital. There is a glorious freedom in being the slaves of Christ (John 8:36), but it means the end of human autonomy for the true follower of Christ. In other words, everyone serves some master. We are all enslaved in one way or the other (Romans 6:16-21).

There is no legitimate way to adjust the message in order to make it sound appealing to people who admire Jesus but aren’t prepared to serve Him. Jesus didn’t seek admirers; He was calling followers-not casual followers, but slaves. Remove that spirit of submission, and the most profound kind of “admiration” for Christ is a spiritual fraud that has nothing to do with true faith.

Original publication date: July 8, 2009

http://www.crosswalk.com/spirituallife/11605719/page0/

 

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The True Marks of the Spiritual Man or Woman

 

Going back over my archives, I was reminded of an article from Milk & Honey: the Marks of a Spiritual Man by Bob Gesner. I remembered posting it (with permission) while planning t to interact with it.

Essentially the article highlights seven marks of a spiritual man: (1) hunger for God’s word; (2) dependency through prayer; (3) humility and obedience; (4) compassion for the lost; (5) longsuffering and forgiveness; (6) love towards the unlovely; (7) endurance and faithfulness. These seven marks are supported by various passages and are predicated on looking a certain way.

A hunger for God’s word is evidenced by daily devotions on God’s word. Putting away desires of the natural man evidences a spirit of humility and obedience. An overwhelming concern for the lost (like being moved in the spirit or weeping like Christ) is evidence.

Now, it’s great to encourage someone to read the Word and meditate on it—the Bible itself illustrates this in say Psalm 119, for instance. Unfortunately, I think the list winds up giving us a bunch of requirements that we all fall short of and, ultimately, can cause lost hope if we don’t cheat our way to attaining it. I find myself in agreement with the article where it says “most of us must conclude that there is much to be done in our spiritual life” but then don’t feel like I should be aiming to do anything. After all, I can’t.

 Gesner agrees when he states that the spiritual man is quietly growing and maturing in Christ with no attempts to self-improvement.

And there’s now dissonance within me.

I look at myself and find that I don’t see this whole quiet growing in maturity. I find myself struggling. Sweating. Fighting. Gritting my teeth. Not because Christ’s bond isn’t easy (it is) but rather because I know myself. I totally identify with Romans 7 (Article one and two).

And then, when I see a list of rules like this, I find myself knowing (wrongly) that I can be spiritual just by doing these things. I’ll read my Bible every day and think about it, and I’m finally a better Christian than you. I neglect everything around me to give out tracts or something and I find myself a better Christian than you.

I am then “Spiritual”.

An all too common abuse of the Spiritual. I can almost hear the most obnoxious group in Corinth, the ones who thought themselves as The Most Spiritual, puffing up their chests and saying “We’re not of Paul or Peter: we are of Christ!” and Paul immediately snapping when they speak up. Martin Luther is so right: The Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.

Which is why I love 1 Corinthians 12-14.

English Bibles open the section saying something like “concerning spiritual gifts”. But that’s not what Paul says.

Obviously the question they were asking in Corinth was about the spiritual gifts, lest Paul wouldn’t spend the rest of the three chapters talking about them. But Corinth didn’t have a problem with having Spiritual Gifts. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that they do not lack any of them.

But that couldn’t have been the extent of the question in light of the sharp divisions in the assembly and Paul’s constant complaint about those who thought themselves spiritual and even not being able to speak to them as spiritual at all (1 Cor 3:1).

Don Carson points out that it would seem to be a double-edged question: one group, say the Spiritual Group, asking “Are spiritual gifts the mark of the Spiritual?” and another group asking a similar question as a complaint.  So when Paul answers “regarding The Spiritual” it happily covers a nice range: from the gifts to those who are The Spiritual.

Which has direct bearing on these sorts of lists.

I see my confession of “Christ is Lord” in the first few verses and happily note that I didn’t do that alone: God’s Spirit made it possible. No struggling in the A.M to read the Bible. No rejection of everything natural with unwavering focus on the invisible: God worked.

I see that my abilities (be they weak or not) are on a spectrum which is all God given. And by here I don’t mean a gradating spectrum where some people’s gifts are more and more useless; rather I mean that God himself is giving gifts for specific purposes to individuals for the sake of the body. Sure there should be an aiming at doing better and more effective things, but that’s not the best.

The best, says Paul, is love. God’s grace lavished in us in love now reflected in us loving. He paints what it looks like and then quickly bolsters us by pointing out that we’re not there yet and won’t be there until when that is Perfect finally comes.

Love always remains.

That tells me something. This whole hunting for actions that The Spiritual Do is of a secondary importance. Paul spoke in tongues, which in Corinth was surely a Mark of the Spiritual, but he didn’t give two figs about it. He would rather speak five intelligible words for the edification of all than speak 10,000 words as a mark of a Spiritual.

So mess up. Grit your teeth. Struggle with the jealousies in you. If you’re anything like me, you’re a screwed up and messy person. But look to the freeing hope found in God’s Gospel that interrupted our lives with extravagant grace and love. Reflect that love to others, even when you feel unlovely, and you’ll find that you are walking in the very steps of the Most Spiritual, Christ Jesus.

Because the Marks of the Spiritual Man aren’t Bible Reading or weeping when Christ or Paul might have. The Marks of the Spiritual Man look like the God-Man, who was once pinned to a tree, coming back in a physical and marked up body to encourage his brothers saying “We’re family. I’ve conquered. You are conquerors with me. I’ll come back for you.”

It’s love revealed in action, no matter how ugly our marks.

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