No More Wondering, Working, and Waiting

November 21, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I. When you think of God’s holiness and your own sinfulness, do you ever wonder how God could love you?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:4-5

It is simply in His marvelous nature to show forth His great love by His wonderful grace.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

I John 4:8

It is understandable that you might wonder HOW God could love you, but, if you have been born again into the family of God, justified through faith alone, and adopted as His Own child, then you ought never to question IF God loves you.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

II. When you understand that God’s holiness and justice require your absolute moral perfection and obedience, do you doubt that you have you worked hard enough to earn God’s approval, favor, or blessing?

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Romans 4:4

You can stop asking that question. There is no doubt that you can never do enough good things to make God your debtor. HOWEVER:

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Romans 4:5

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

You could never work your way to Heaven, but if you have trusted Christ unto salvation, then your disobedience, sin, and lack of good works have been washed away by the mercy of God in the blood of Jesus.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:5

III. Do you hope that one day God will forgive you, or decide to be kindly disposed toward you in spite of your rebellion and shame? Are you longing for a day when you will find yourself forgiven and accepted?

(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

II Corinthians 6:2

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Luke 4:18-21

The sovereign Lord and Ruler of this universe, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the all-powerful, majestic and holy King above all kings, will answer your call this very moment.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

John 1:12

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

If you have repented and believed His Gospel, He loves you with an everlasting love, and nothing in this world or beyond will ever separate you from it.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

If you have been regenerated, justified, and adopted by the Lord Jesus Christ, then you do not have to wonder at, work for, or wait upon God’s love.

The Humble King

March 21, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Matthew began showing us the humility of the King in Chapter 17 with the account of the King Who paid tribute. Jesus helped Peter to understand the practicality of glory. God’s glory, if it is to reflected in a way onto men, must be a disciplined glory which always points back to God. As Christ’s disciples we must be loyal to the One Who loves us enough and is gracious enough to shine His glory on us.

Did you know the word “shed” is used in 50 different verses in the King James Version of the Bible? Every single time up until Romans 5:5 it is used in reference to blood (except II Samuel 20:10 where it’s talking about guts). Guess what it refers to in Romans 5:5.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:5

After this experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the coin in the fish’s mouth, they must have really “got it,” right? After the Disciples saw their King transfigured in their midst, you would think their question would be, “Lord – King Jesus – what would You have us to do?” But that was NOT their question. Their question was, “Which one of us will get more than the others in this Kingdom?”

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1

This was not a very humble question. In fact, it appears to have been evidence of pride. Pride is thinking too much of ourselves. Humility is not thinking too little of ourselves. It’s not really even thinking realistically about ourselves. A better definition of humility would be not thinking of ourselves AT ALL. We can’t be trusted to have an opinion about how great or how little we are (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts are wicked and we are too biased and prejudiced to conduct a fair examination of ourselves – to see if we are humble or not.

The humblest person is the happiest person because he only sees opportunities for God’s glory. He’s not tired, not frustrated, not boastful, not depressed, not discouraged, not ashamed – because it hasn’t occurred to him to be those things – because he hasn’t thought about himself at all.

Pop psychology says that we should start exhorting people to be happy with themselves just the way they are, and it sounds good. It mixes a little truth with a little leaven – contentment mixed with self-esteem – so it even sounds kind of spiritual. “Be all that you can be.” “Get everything that God wants you to have.” “Have your best life now.” Saul of Tarsus had prestige, wealth, friends, a great career, a job he loved, room for advancement, respect. Then he met Christ – and he took his “best life now” and he threw it away to live like the scum of the earth for Christ’s sake, and for God’s glory.

Jesus wanted to show the Disciples what He thought about their argument over who would be “greatest” in the Kingdom, so He called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said:

… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3

This child was not spoiled. I cringe when I think what would have happened if He called one of my children to sit on His lap! Would she be laughing at her friends, sticking her tongue out? This child apparently exhibited the virtue of childlikeness, rather than the vice of childishness.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Mark 10:15

The quality of childlikeness that Jesus was pointing out was not playfulness, nor embarrassment, nor shyness, nor boldness. The quality that He wanted to illustrate was unselfconsciousness, which is another word for humility. Unspoiled children have a desire to please. They want to please their fathers, and others. Many times, as parents, we are guilty of causing them to lose this quality. We must not cause them to stumble.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:7-9

We should be stepping-stones, not stumbling-blocks. We should be blessings, not burdens.

What Can I Do for God?

February 18, 2015 at 11:48 am | Posted in Matthew | 3 Comments
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Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

The point of doing “good works” is not to impress other people with how “good” we are. Nor is the point to impress God, in the sense of gaining or earning His favor. However, the Bible does say to live your life before the eyes of God (I Kings 15:5; I Samuel 26:24). Many years ago, when I first started actively serving as a member of a local church, I was not sure what I would be able to do. The church had a gym, and it was in need of painting, so, as part of a big group project, I was assigned to paint a large section of the walls. I had done plenty of painting growing up, but this was special. In my mind, I wasn’t doing this for the church, or for the approval of the pastor or other church members. I was doing it for the Lord. I don’t think I’ve ever painted with such care and effort. I wanted to do a good job for my Lord.

If you are a father and you’ve ever taken a small child to a public playground, you have probably experienced this: There will almost always be young boys there with their mothers or some other female caregiver. They are happy playing by themselves until they see you (the only grown man) there. Almost immediately, they will begin showing off, vying for your attention, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, jumping off the highest part of the slide, turning a back-flip off a swing. “Hey, hey, look at me – look what I can do!” There is something inherent in boys that makes them want to please their fathers (or in the absence of their fathers) some male authority figure. It’s not exactly the same thing with God and His children, but there is a sense in which we should be striving to please our Heavenly Father.

On the other hand, though, we must be careful not to make an idol of our accomplishments when they appear noteworthy. We have a tendency to feel content as Christians when we accomplish all our spiritual “chores:” when we have read our Bibles, said our prayers, witnessed faithfully, advanced in our sanctification. When we have a day like this, we might secretly, perhaps even subconsciously, believe that God loves us “more” than on the days when we lose the battle to temptation, fall into sin, shirk our spiritual duties, and regress into the flesh. I call that type of of thinking “idolatrous” because, when that happens, we have become the source of our own “blessedness” – our own peace and contentment.

There is a difference between striving to fulfill every rule of law and living to please God – of being motivated by His greatness and goodness on one hand, versus being motivated by the false belief that I am somehow adding something to Him, on the other hand.

We like to think that God has no other hands than our hands, no other feet than our feet, no way of speaking but by our mouths, but this is not true. God is not dependent upon His children, and there would be no place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven if it was a place only for those with great faith, tireless devotion, and unfailing, continual, never-sliding-back progress in sanctification.

Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Isaiah 66:1

The idea that God doesn’t need us might make some folks mad, but it makes me very, very happy. God can raise up a rock to do anything I can do – and do it better than me! It’s not the world’s version of the “great ones” who rule with the King in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Matthew 19:30

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17

Yes, we shall reign in life, but not by our own righteousness. It shall be by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Catechism Question 9

July 18, 2014 at 9:40 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 3 Comments
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Question 6: What is wrong with you?
Answer: I was born a sinner, and I have sinned against God.
Prove it.
Psalm 51:5

Question 7: What is sin?
Answer: Sin is violating God’s law.
Prove it.
I John 3:4

Question 8: What is the punishment for sin?
Answer: The punishment for sin is death.
Prove it.
Ezekiel 18:4

Question 9: Since you are a sinner, how does God feel about you?
Answer: Even though I am a sinner, God loves me.
Prove it.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

When you ask question nine to your child, what you are hoping for here is an amazement – almost an incredulity that God could love a wicked sinner like me. You want your child to think or ask, “How can He forgive me when He has promised to punish all who sin?” You know you’re on the right track if you are getting those kinds of questions.

Do not gloss over the wickedness of sin. HOWEVER, you must not gloss over the richness of God’s love, either. Dwell on it here.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

II Peter 3:9

Catechism Question 5

April 30, 2014 at 11:58 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 6 Comments
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Question 4: How was everything when God created it?
Answer: It was very good.
Prove it.
Genesis 1:31

Question 5: What went wrong with everything God created?
Answer: Sin brought the curse of death into the world.
Prove it.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

It is important to teach the relationship of sin to death. This is also a good opportunity to explore the question, “Why are we paying the price for what Adam did?” In response to this question we can discuss the idea of “federal headship,” and explain that, while it was Adam’s sin that is the origin of our sinful condition, he was an accurate representative for our race, in that all of us have sinned (and do sin often and regularly) of our own volition.

This is also a good opportunity to explain what God was working out in allowing one man’s sin to bring death, and one “Man’s” (the Lord Jesus Christ, the “God-man”) obedience and sacrifice to bring life and salvation for all who would believe.

Another obvious question is, “Why did just one sin affect the whole universe and the whole human race?” Here is where we can highlight the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:16-17

God sent the curse, but He is not the author of sin. He gave Adam and Eve fair warning, and He keeps His word.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.

James 2:10

God is not determining “guilt” on a sliding scale. One sin is one sin too many, and God is righteous and just in condemning every single sin and every single sinner – which is why everyone needs a perfect Savior!

Christian F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip (Part 2)

November 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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The is the second part of a lesson on Christian friendship. In Part 1 I wrote that Christian friends should be:

F.orgiving
R.esponsive
I.insighful

They should also be:

E.arnest

Being earnest means telling the truth – being honest – being real. This can be one of the hardest parts of friendship, because sometimes the truth hurts. “How do I look?” I ask my friend (with ketchup on my face, mustard on my tie, and my pants unzipped). “Oh, you look fine,” he replies (immediately calling into question whether he is really my friend after all). Friends don’t enjoy hurting each other’s feelings, but:

Faithful [are] the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy [are] deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A fake friend stabs you in the back; a true friend stabs you in the front. Remember the “F” of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.hip – forgiveness – when you are on the receiving end of “earnest” friendship.

N.ice

This is a funny verse:

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

One of the easiest things to forget about friendship, especially when you have a really, really good friend – someone to whom you can say anything – someone who knows all your secrets – someone with whom you’re comfortable joking around – is to be nice. In other words, it’s easy to become presumptuous. Christian friendship is about serving, not being served. You can joke around and be relaxed, and yet still be polite. The Bible says evil communication corrupts good manners. Don’t make the mistake of being a funny friend who turns into an obnoxious friend. People act like giving compliments and building up other people with words is corny, but don’t you be deceived. People still like and respond to kindness, so be as nice (or nicer) to your friends as you are to strangers.

D.ependable

How do you gain someone’s trust? By being trustworthy. By being loyal. A good friend is there through thick and thin.

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man [is] a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Plenty of people will want to be your friend when you can do things for them, or give them things.

All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth [them with] words, [yet] they [are] wanting [to him].

Proverbs 19:7

But fake friends hit the road when you are having a hard time.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Adversity is when everything is going wrong – when you are not popular – when it’s not considered cool to be around you. That’s when you find out who your real friend is – the one who’s there for you at all times.

S.acrificing

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

How does iron sharpen iron? By scraping against it – by friction. It costs the iron something to sharpen another piece of iron. Sacrifice is when you give up something for your friend, when you do what is hard, or what is costly to yourself, for the sake of your friend. It’s when you give up your own comfort and go the extra mile. The things that are valuable in this world are things that are costly. If you have a friend, ask yourself, “What is this friendship costing me?” If it’s costing you nothing, it may be because you’re not being the best friend you can be.

Ultimately, Jesus is by far the best friend you will ever have.

F.orgiving: Apart from the forgiveness of your sins you could have no part with God, no place in Heaven, no pardon from hell. Jesus arranged your forgiveness on the Cross.

R.esponsive: Jesus left Heaven and came to seek and to save the lost (you and me) in response to our greatest need – salvation – and He still responds to every prayer we pray.

I.nsightful: There is nothing about you that Jesus does not know, so there is nothing about which you cannot talk to Him. And there is nothing you need to know that is not written down in His Bible.

E.arnest: Jesus cannot lie. “Verily verily” was one of His favorite expressions. He said you can believe in Heaven because if it were not so, He would have told you. He tells the truth about Himself and the truth about us.

N.ice: Can you think of anything kinder, more loving, more giving than Jesus coming to our world to lay down His life for us? People can say many things about Jesus, but no one could ever say He wasn’t nice.

D.ependable: He will never leave you nor forsake you. When young people use the expression “BFF” (best friends forever) the “forever” is a youthful exaggeration. But not with Jesus. He keeps His promises completely.

S.acrificing: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Going Beyond Fairy Tale Marriage

October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hosea | 5 Comments
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We prefer our love stories to be fairy tales, but the reality of marriage is not always sentimental. Few marriages are a perfect story-book from beginning to end. The Book of Hosea shows the stark reality of what it means to love in difficult circumstances. It shows marital love from the perspective of God’s love for us.

We can not be sure of exactly what happened, but Hosea married a woman named Gomer who either: (1) was already a harlot (prostitute); or (2) became a prostitute after the wedding. Then he ultimately redeemed his wayward wife in obedience to his prophetic call, as one of the greatest demonstrations of sacrificial love in the Bible.

And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

Hosea 2:19-20

God used Hosea to demonstrate His betrothal covenant to His people, and in our marriages we need to exhibit the characteristics and attributes of God’s covenant relationship with us.

Righteousness

God the righteous imputes the righteousness of Jesus to all who are truly born again.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:20-21

We have no authority, standing, or ability, as sinful human beings, to impute any sort of true meritorious righteousness to our spouses (or to anyone else for that matter, regardless of the erroneous and heretical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and its fictitious “treasury of merit”), but we must stand for righteousness on behalf of our spouses. We must be good husbands and wives and try to avoid sin to protect the sanctity of our unions.

Judgment

God’s judgment against sin was satisfied in the Cross for all who believe. We deserved God’s judgment, but Christ intercepted it in love.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Romans 5:18

Jesus willingly bore the judgment He never deserved. We must bear unrighteous judgment at times on behalf of our spouses.

Lovingkindness

God redeemed His people because He loved us and wanted to show us kindness.

At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Jeremiah 31:1-3

As redeemed creatures we were “meant” for God. In marriage we must think of ourselves as “meant” for each other – ordained by God to show His glory in our union and relationship, and practically, to help work out our sanctification.

Mercies

God withheld from us what we deserved.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

In marriage must never punish each other for things for which God has already punished Jesus. Be merciful to each other.

Faithfulness

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

God is perfectly faithful. We are not. However, we need to do our utmost, with God’s help and by His grace, to be faithful spouses.

From What Were You Saved? (C)

August 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Posted in Salvation | 7 Comments
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In the first part of this lesson we looked at salvation through:

Christ’s A.gony
and
Christ’s B.ruising

Now we will see:

Christ’s C.onquest

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that we deserve sympathy from God – as though Christ had to die for us because we were weak, uneducated, and ignorant, and that if we had just been a tad more obedient, God could have blessed us apart from the Atonement. No, friends, the “ungodly” in that verse are you and me, and it is a reference to our rebellion and the extreme nature of our iniquity.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

These “sinners” in Romans 5:8 are enemies of God – God-hating and God-mocking people. The term “sinners” should conjure up the image of a desperate, wicked gang of vile criminals trying to drag the Prince of Peace down from His throne and put Him to death. That is the category to which we belonged when God through Christ did what He did in Romans 5:9: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

What we are saved from is not, strictly speaking, a “what” at all. It is a Who. We are saved from God and His wrath. When we hear Jesus on the Cross say, “It is finished,” He is saying that God is not unjust. He did not waffle regarding sin. He did not ignore the dilemma of a just God seeming to declare the wicked to be righteous, nor the just to be condemned (Proverbs 17:15). God Himself poured out the stored-up wrath for all believers’ sins for all time on His Own Son – on Himself – because only He could withstand it and only He would be acceptable to satisfy God’s justice and truth – God’s holiness and God’s love – God’s wrath and God’s forgiveness.

Why did God look away from Jesus on the Cross?

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

The Father didn’t look away from His Son out of weakness. There is no weakness in Him. He looked away from His Son because the Son had been made sin, and sin is detestable to the truly holy God.

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Ephesians 2:16

Enmity is hatred that includes the cause of hatred. Jesus slew the hatred between God and man that existed because of man’s sin.

The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

Psalm 11:5-6

In the Garden of Gethsemane, before His Crucifixion, Christ prayed about letting the cup pass from Him. That was the cup of God’s wrath, and it was filled with His wrath because of my sins. If you are truly a Christian, God’s wrath may never be poured out on you, because Jesus drank every drop! There is none left for God’s children.

Now I hope you know from what you need to be saved. What a tragic thought that God crushed His Son for you, but you haven’t received Him. What we deserve is the wrath of God, and that wrath would send us to the Lake of Fire to burn in torment for all eternity. My prayer today is that you would see what your sin has cost Him, and that you would cry out to Him to save you. Otherwise, you are rejecting Him, expressing hatred for Him, and making yourself His enemy. It’s one or the other. He made you and He alone has the right to judge you. Will you trust Him right now? This could very well be your last chance. Will you be saved before it’s too late?

Servant Movers (Commitment)

November 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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When we talk about someone in a position of leadership in Christian ministry, I prefer the term “servant leader.” This is far from original, but I believe it is apt, because the New Testament paradigm for leading is to lead while, through, and by serving others. The Lord Jesus led by serving, and He was the greatest Servant Leader of all time.

Although we put an emphasis on serving, we must not deny the “leading,” either, and “leading” means “moving.”

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Romans 5:3-4

Biblical patience is more than just a willingness to wait. It contains the concept of “perseverance,” and perseverance is evidenced by commitment. When we persevere in our commitments, we gain the right kind of “experience” and we develop the right kind of character. Our character then governs our conduct.

“Leading” implies that people are following, and leading and following imply that we are going somewhere – or at least that we are moving. “Church” is not just a place to come sit. It should be a place to come serve. After salvation, regular attendance at church is very important, but it should not be the end of your journey. Instead, it should be the place where we meet to restock, to refresh, to prepare, and to train for our journey. A local assembly of believers (a “church“) must be moving. If people in our churches are not going or growing, we who claim to be servant leaders must bear a great deal of the responsibility for failing to lead.

Qualifications of New Testament servant leaders include commitment, character, and conduct. We think of someone who is easily able to influence others or who tends to attract loyal followers as someone who has “charisma,” and this word is actually the Greek word translated as “gifts” in several New Testament Bible verses. I would argue that while the “gifts” of ministry given by God to leaders are certainly important, commitment is just as (and possibly even more) important than the gifts themselves. Gifts by their very definition are things “given.” In other words, they are not earned.

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:

Jeremiah 9:23

Too much focusing on our “gifts” over and above our commitment can lead to boasting in our own “giftedness.” If we are not to boast on our gifts, then on what are we to boast?

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:24

What do we have that is any good at all that didn’t come from God? Gifts will attract followers to the gift-receiver, but Godliness will attract followers to the Gift-Giver. Therefore, being Godly is more important than being gifted. Godliness comes from being committed. Servant leaders are servants who are moving. People can’t follow someone who is going nowhere, doing nothing. That’s not leading.

Next time, I will say more about character and conduct.

Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 1

April 1, 2011 at 8:28 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Marriage | 37 Comments
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When the Bible uses the word “love” for the way spouses are supposed to treat each other, it is a translation of the Greek word agape (pronounced uh-GOP-ay). There are different Greek words which can be translated as “love,” but agape is the one we call “Christian love.”

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:24-32, emphasis added

A “mystery” in the Bible is not something we’re never supposed to think about it, and it’s not something to be solved.

https://i2.wp.com/www.modifiedpowerwheels.com/forum/userstuff/wheres/2009142627_MysteryMachine.jpg

It’s something that God has withheld the fuller revelation of, but is about to be revealed by Him. In Ephesians 5:32 God uses the Apostle Paul to reveal a mystery concerning marriage. Marriage had been around since the time of Adam and Eve, but the full revelation of what it meant had not been revealed until Ephesians 5:24-32. The revelation is that God always intended marriage to be a picture of Christ and His relationship to and with the Church. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, not only in the salvation of individuals (in that He pursues and “takes” a bride), but in that He loves His bride. Christians are supposed to love their spouses the same way that Christ loves His bride, the Church. Therefore, we need to know what kind of “love” is the love of Christ. Obviously, His type of love will be the best type of love. The Greek word for love resulting from relationships, especially familial relationships, such as parent-child and brother-sister is phileo. The Greek word for the type of “love” that is tied to physical passion is eros.

But agape is sometimes translated as “love” and sometimes as “charity” because it is more than just a feeling. It is an active love. It is love in motion. It is true love because it operates in truth and not just in feelings.

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love [agape] of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love [agape] toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:5-8, parenthetical agapes and emphasis added

For God so loved [agape] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16, parenthetical agape and emphasis added

Agape love is the love of God when He gave His most valuable Gift: His Son.

Beloved, let us love [agape] one another: for love [agape] is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love [agape]. In this was manifested the love [agape] of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

I John 4:7-9, parenthetical agapes added

In Part 2 I’ll show some very practical applications of the mystery of true marital love.

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