Women at Each Other’s Throats?

In the church at Philippi there was a division. This was headed up by two women—the worst sort of split any church can have! There’s always the possibility that it can become a real shin-kicker and hair puller!

Their names might easily have been Odious and Soon-touchy, if they were anything like what we find in churches today. Their actual names are found in Philippians 4:2.

Before Paul mentions any names, he makes clear two principles that must be at work when bringing unity to a divided church. In Philippians 2:3, 4, he sets these forth:

  1. Get rid of selfishness or vane thinking about your own worth, while at the same time considering others better than your self.
  2. Instead of being all—fired concerned with your own interests, for once in your life begin to put the interests of other before your own!

You can always find some way in which others are better than you—if you’re willing to prayerfully take an honest look (of course, as his words indicate, Paul would have you to look away from yourself in order to do so).

And, if you are concerned about furthering others’ concerns rather than your own, again, you’ll find ways of doing so.

The two principles are not hard to understand-just hard for quarreling people to follow. Repentance may be in order to be able to do so.

On those two points, he goes further in the verses that follow to show how that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. He selflessly put us first, going so far as to put our interests (salvation) before His manifested glory as the second Person of the Trinity. He was willing to stoop to becoming a man, to becoming a slave, to becoming a criminal who died on the cross—all for our sakes.

Think of His condescension the next time your foot gets stepped on, the next time someone disagrees with you, the next time you’ve been insulted, the next time . . . simply the next time! It isn’t a matter of who is right. The point is—how are you handling the relationship? Follow these two principles, and you will certainly be doing much to bring about unity. In unity, you can work out the differences!

Living Right?

Christians often wonder about their lives—“Am I living the sort of life that pleases God?” some ask themselves (sometimes every day!). They think “I know that I still sin frequently; I haven’t by any Scriptural standard become all that God wants me to be.”  They wonder, “How does God see me when He sees my heart and my works?”

There are a number of indices by which you may begin to find answers to your questions (see especially 1 John), but there is one in particular that I wish to mention. Listen to Psalm 97:10:

You who love the Lord, hate evil.

How strongly do you hate? If there is no hatred in your life, there is something dead wrong.  Hatred for evil is a determining factor in whether or not you love God as you should. In some ways, the strength of your love for God is your hatred for evil—especially in yourself!

If evil doesn’t disturb you, and you have become cavalier about it, so that when you encounter evil not even the slightest bit of anger whelms up within—then something is wrong: dead wrong! You’d better begin examining your true love in terms of a true hatred—for sin and its effects.

Your love for God is determined by your hatred for evil (in part) because God hates evil. If you are not moved to anger, let alone hatred, over evil, it is time to do something about it.

“How can I change?” you ask. By beginning to think God’s thoughts after Him.  Until you think as He does about sin in His world, you will not love Him as you ought. How can you begin to think His thoughts? By studying the Bible—more and more to discover How He thinks!

A Truly Blessed Life

There are fascinating developments in store for every true believer. Some of them occur in this life; they will occur to all Christians in the life to come. Ours is not a “dull, somber, uneventful, faith.” It is an exciting one—even now—if and when you enter into it with fullness and determination.

“What does that mean?”

It means that you don’t play Christian; you live your faith. It means that you get excited whenever you discover some new truth in the Scriptures. But, of course, that doesn’t happen if you aren’t studying them. It means that you are thrilled when a relative or a neighbor to whom you have witnessed professes faith in Christ. But, of course, that doesn’t happen unless you witness. It means that your heart is warmed to see that couple who were at each other’s throats come back together in loving care and concern because you counseled them. But, of course, that doesn’t happen unless you counsel people.

“In other words, unless we understand, believe, and do what Christians ought to know, trust Him to bless our lives, and do what He commands, there will be no joy to our faith?”

You’ve got it. If your Christian experience isn’t challenging, exciting, interesting—something’s seriously missing. So, get with it, Christian. As James says, we are “blessed in the doing”(James 1:25c).

Judge Not

Most savvy Christians know that the prohibition to judging in Matthew 7:1 has to do with wrong judging, and not with judging altogether.

“I didn’t know that!”

Sure. In John 7:24 Jesus commands us to judge a righteous judgment. And, here in Matthew 7, he explains that he is speaking about the one who does not first take the log out of his own eye before he removes a splinter from another’s. That comment presupposes he will judge once he has dealt with his own sin.

“I guess I hadn’t connected that rightly.”

Yeah. But there are a couple of other things in the passage that also ought to be noted.

“Like what?”

Like v. 6.

“What has that verse got to do with the subject?”

Everything.

“Please explain.”

Gladly. Here’s what Jesus said: “Don’t give what is holy to dogs; and don’t throw pearls before pigs; otherwise, they may trample them with their feet and turn on you and attack you.”

See, that has to do with judging too.

“It does? Can’t see how.”

Well, for one thing, if you want to obey it, you will have to first determine who is a dog or hog!

“So?”

So, that’s judging.

“OH! I gotcha.’”

It’s none of our business to judge the actions and words of unbelievers; we have enough to do to rightly judge our own. Paul said, “What reason would I have to judge those who are outside [unbelievers]? Isn’t it those who are inside [Christians] that you are to judge?”(I Corinthians 5:12,13).

“Wow! That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?”

Very clear. But that’s not all. Jesus said that if you give valuable advice when trying to judge unbelievers (your dogs and hogs) they’ll not be able to assay its value and trample it underfoot, or turn on you because it wasn’t what they thought it was.

“Oh. Oh! I see that it can be dangerous to deal with such people.”

Proverbs has a powerful way of saying the same thing: “Whoever reproves a mocker gets insulted, and whoever corrects a wicked person invites bruises!” (Proverbs 9:7).

“Had no idea about such things. You mean he might punch me out?”

Literally or figuratively, yes.

“Woof!”

Yep. Lots of people who don’t have a biblical perspective, get angry over such reproof. It’s time we started focusing on those things in the church that need cleaning up before we take on the unsaved who can’t appreciate the value of biblical teaching.

“I can see that.”

Providence

Providence is the name of the biblical teaching that God not only planned His work, but actively works His plan.

Since we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), we can be assured that He is working out a beneficent plan for each of His true children that is going to turn out well.

We can, therefore, say, whenever a situation arises that may not be very pleasant

  1. God is in the problem
  2. God is up to something in the problem
  3. God is up to something good in the problem

Every truly saved person, therefore, may take heart, knowing that in the end, God has something in view that in this life, or the next, will be seen to have been for his very best.

Sometimes God allows us to see that outcome in this life; sometimes He doesn’t. Often we see only parts of it. Usually, that is the case. Joseph is one of those exceptions (See Genesis 50:20). Indeed, since He is working “all things together” it’s virtually impossible to begin to understand all of the ramifications of what is happening. (Even Joseph didn’t know what effects his words would have throughout the centuries and in your thinking today!). We don’t know all things; we can’t, therefore, put very many of those infinite number of things “together” to see the overall pattern of His plan at work.

So, then, what do we do?

Trust. Or, as the song rightly puts it, Trust and Obey.

Do You Rob Temples?

In taking on the inconsistencies of Jews who claimed to be God’s people, but who had actually broken covenant with Him, Paul asks this question:

You who find idols an abomination, do you rob temples?   Romans 2:21

“I’ve read that before, but it doesn’t seem to make any sense. What is this ‘robbing temples’ all about anyway?”

Good question. Are you sure you don’t understand?

“Absolutely. I know what a temple is and what robbing is, but can’t seem to put the two together.”

Well, Paul is pointing out that those who were so concerned to be religiously correct in one area—if they thought more carefully about themselves—might discover that they weren’t so righteous after all, and needed the saving grace of Jesus Christ to cover their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. In Romans 1 he laid out the reasons why Gentiles were sinful in God’s sight and needed to be saved. Here, he mentions ways in which the same is true of Jews. And, then, in Chapter Three concludes that “all [Jews and Gentiles alike] have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

“All very helpful, I’m sure. Thanks for the exposition. But what about robbing temples?”

Oh I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? Sorry.

“You did. So ‘mention’ it!”

OK, OK. You see, temples—both those in heathen lands, and also the temple at Jerusalem, in addition to being the center of worship for a people, served additional purposes. In addition . . . “

“In addition, what?—tell me please!”

My, my. Patience, please. As I was saying, in addition, temples were used as banks. To rob a temple is to be a bank robber!

“At last. Thank you.”

Welcome. One can be all fired up about one aspect of what his religion teaches, and scrupulously keep all sorts of regulations appertaining thereto, but at the same time, perform some other heinous sin without compunction. Presumably, Paul had in mind some well-known instances to which he hoped his readers would respond.

“Don’t expect there are any temple robbers around today.”

Possibly are in some of the heathen lands where temples surely still exist, but we’d probably never hear about it. Yet, the principle is still applicable—even to Christians.

“How’s that?”

Well, it’s easy to be quite careful about certain observances while neglecting some (perhaps, even weightier) items.

“Give me a for-instance.”

During the early days of the Reformation, there were Lutherans who zealously contended for the bodily presence of Jesus at the Lord’s table. Over this issue, they followed Luther’s lead when he refused to take Zwingli’s offered hand. So, later, when some persecuted Reformed people fleeing for their lives during severe storms sought a haven for their ships in the ports of the towns held by high Lutherans, they turned them down. Seems a good example of this sort of inconsistency.

“I agree.”

But, now, the thing to do is to bring temple robbery from the days of the apostles, and the Reformation rigidity of some, down to our day. The question is, How do you carry out your biblical beliefs in ways that are consistent with other aspects of your Christian life? The question is important for us all to ask ourselves from time to time.

“Any suggestions? About what to explore?”

No. you’ll have to look after your own temples—I have enough of my own to care for!

Refreshment

I want to translate more accurately a very important passage of Scripture. It is the verse in Matthew 11:28 which reads, in the original.

Come to Me all who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.

The idea is not merely to come to Christ to find rest from our futile efforts to keep the law, although rest does result when one stops striving to be saved by works and, instead, is justified by faith alone. But the idea is not that of settling down, and resting on one’s laurels. Rather, it is enjoying the refreshing peace and joy that enable one to serve Christ in the future.

Jesus goes on to say that “you will receive refreshment for your souls” (v. 29). This refreshment enables one to carry on, unburdened by an impossible weight, so as to serve Him Whose burden is light, and Whose yoke—the symbol of work and service—is easy to wear. It does not rub and injure those who wear it (v. 30).

To take another’s yoke upon one’s self meant to come under his teaching (that’s why Jesus says, “learn from Me.”). The passage is, therefore, a call, not to leisure, but to discipleship. The call is strong. The interesting word “Come” in v. 28 was normally accompanied by a gesture. One moved his finger when speaking it so as to indicate that he wanted another to come over to him.

Christ’s service is a pleasure to those who truly “learn from Him. That is the secret of joyous discipleship. Too often, fatigued disciples have been learning from every other source than their Lord. The answer to exhausted efforts in the Lord’s field is to return to, and imbibe the refreshing words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, service will be “easy” and “light.”

Are You “Going On?”

The writer of Hebrews exhorts you to do so. Listen to his words:

Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God .  .  . (HCSB Hebrews 6:1)

In making his “Inspired Translation” of the Scriptures (never completed), Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, got to this verse and, misunderstanding it, inserted the word “not”: [“not leaving . . .” etc]. He, of course, was woefully wrong. The people to whom Hebrews was written were long-time Christians who had become dull, and could not appreciate strong teaching (see Ch. 5). Therefore, the import of this verse is that they needed to go beyond the first teachings of the faith to more meaty material, so that they could grow in the truth. They were still sucking on a bottle of milk (see 5:12-14)! He wanted them to mature.

Today, to the contrary, we are told that to mature in the faith, we must go back to the first principles (elements) of Christianity (“Preach the gospel to yourselves”) and concentrate on them.  This strange idea—so contrary to the true method of growth—is being rapidly adopted by pastors and people who ought to know better. The passage before us today strongly counters it. The trouble with this new view is—because it isn’t biblical, it doesn’t work; people do not grow that way. They grow strong spiritually when they “go on” to the meatier truths of the faith, and then put them to practice in daily living!

Have you discovered that you don’t grow by continuing to drink only milk? Re-read, the book of Hebrews (focusing on chapter 5) and learn differently!

 

Nuanced!

Beware of those who frequently use the word “nuance,” or some derivative thereof.

“Why?”

Because they may be attempting to “snow you” by using that term.

“What does the word mean?”

It comes from a French word that means “shades,” and refers, for instance, to various subtle shades of color.

“I still don’t get it.”

You see, such persons are claiming, “I don’t see things quite as black or white, they way you do. I see various delicate shades of meaning that you don’t,” while all the while the differences are wide enough to drive a Mack truck through.

“Oh!”

And, so what is supposed to be a subtle distinction, quite often, is nothing of the sort—instead, it is a vital difference.

“And this is a way of covering up true differences?”

Exactly. While there are distinctions in the Scriptures, they are rarely (if ever) so subtle as to be called “nuances.” Often, a denial of some biblical truth is behind the use of the term.

“It’s a way of disguising true differences, then?”

Often is. And if you buy into it you will have been NUANCED!

People

Two kinds of people live in this world. Most don’t even know it. The other (smaller) group knows, but often forgets. Yet, the fact is of the greatest importance—for many reasons. Indeed, everything that the one group thinks or does differs from the other group. Beyond the fact that they are both physically alive, they are even different creations!

“That’s nonsense,” you may be tempted to say.

Granted, it is unusual to think or talk in that manner. But it’s true, and I’d like to explain.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the apostle Paul wrote

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

The Christian is a new creation of God. Yes, like all others who are not believers, he too was physically created. But because of what God has done through the saving work of Jesus Christ he has become a new spiritual creation as well. He is a creature who belongs to another world as well as this one, who holds primary allegiance to a King Who rules him from the heavens, and who has new power through His Holy Spirit to live above the sin that once ruled his life.

Now, if you are one of these new creatures of God, you have a responsibility to live according to the new ways you are capable of living. The power and authority of the old ways over you has been broken; you now have new desires and abilities to please God that you did not possess before. Your purposes and your ideals are quite distinct. You have little in common.

The question is, does anyone you know—besides another new creation like yourself—have even the slightest idea that you are what you have become in Christ? People should. Your language, your actions and your decisions made on the basis of all that you have become, ought to be so different, in proper, biblical ways, that he cannot but notice the fact that something about you is radically different. And it is precisely when one notices the difference that you have an opportunity to talk seriously with your unbelieving acquaintance about the way of salvation.

Think about it—you are a different kind of creation; let the world know it by living the life you are capable of living for Jesus Christ.