Christianity 201

January 15, 2022

Once We Were Dead, Then God Granted Us a Reset

This is our sixth time highlighting the writing of Art Toombs of Art Toombs Ministries. Art has served in vocational ministry since 1997 as a minister, church pastor, chaplain, and internet minister. As usual, clicking the header which follows sends traffic to their website and that is one way we can be encouraging their ministry.

Changing Our Values

Ephesians 2: 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (NKJV)

The book of Ephesians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.

There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.

The book of Ephesians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first three chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ. The second half, the last three chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the book of Romans.

The epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Ephesus, Asia. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to other churches in Asia Minor.

In this passage, Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus of their personal spiritual journeys, which is the same journey all Christians make. Paul begins by writing “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1).

Paul describes becoming a Christian as being “made alive” in Christ. Prior to that we “were dead in trespasses and sins”.

Paul calls these people “dead”, meaning spiritually dead. They will not go to Heaven, unless they change.

All Christians “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (v. 2a). This behavior is a result of original sin, the fact that we are all born as sinners.

Many believe that we were all born pure and can stay that way by being a good person. They think that this is the way we were meant to live, that this is just human nature.

The Bible tells us that this is false thinking. Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and because of that we are all born sinners, in need of a Savior.

Unfortunately, left to our own devices, the way of the world is all we know. This is all we know if we are not introduced to Christianity.

People who grow up not knowing better are not bad people. They are just not educated in spiritual matters.

As adults though, we bear responsibility in that we all are born with a conscience which causes us to know good, and to seek out the source. It is a curiosity in children that should be welcomed by their parents and cultivated in their children.

Even those who never become Christians know good and do good things, as defined by the world. They may be very good people in the eyes of the world, of whom they serve.

But when we follow the ways of this world, we are following Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Satan is described as “the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2b). Satan is now at work in those who are disobedient to the Word of God, the Bible.

Satan’s values are the ways “of this world”. As Christians, we make the journey from following Satan, with his set of values, to following Christ, with an opposite set of values.

Before becoming Christians, we “conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (v. 3a). We were captives to the desires of our flesh and our minds, to our own selfish desires.

We “were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (v. 3b). We were “by nature” (our human nature) deserving of “wrath”, the wrath of God. We were enemies of God.

Paul writes “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (v. 4). God, because of His mercy and great love for us, intervened in our lives.

Paul then describes this intervention by God. He writes “even when we were dead in trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (v. 5). We were dead in our sins, but, when we became Christians, we were “made alive together with Christ”, through the grace of God.

In conclusion, the journey for those who become Christians continues on. The journey, for those who don’t, never progresses beyond the ways of this world. Their values never change.

When we become Christians, our values change. We see things through God’s eyes and not the eyes of the world.

When we are saved, by the grace of God and because of His great love for us, our desire is to please God and not the world. We cannot do both because the values are opposites. Satan’s values are the opposite of those of God.

Where Christians get hung up is that they want to please everyone. They want to be liked by everyone. The result is that they often displease God.

As much as we would like to have it both ways, we can’t. If we try, we wind up serving two totally opposite masters. One will always be displeased.

We must change our values to those of God. As Christians, we no longer belong to the world and its values. We belong to God.

January 23, 2019

He Wants Preeminence over Our Hearts

Today we’re back with Art Toombs Ministries. You’ll find both exegetical and topical articles on the site, combined into a single index. Or, as we did today, you can choose commentaries by title. (Some trivia about Art this time: He is ” a permanent member of Theta Kappa Alpha, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology.”)

You’ve heard the saying “God is my co-pilot,” but as some have pointed out, if he is merely your co-pilot, “you need to switch seats.” Click the title below to read at source.

Is Jesus Your Pilot or Co-pilot?

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (NIV)

This passage explains three relationships of Jesus Christ. It explains His relationship to the Father (v.15), to creation (vv. 16-17), and to the church (v.18).

Our Father in Heaven is spirit. He is invisible. Jesus is an “image” of the Father. The word translated “image” is “eikon” in the Greek. It means image, likeness, or portrait. When we say something is an image it means that there is an original from which it came. The Father is a spirit and invisible, but if you could paint a portrait of Him, which you cannot, it would look like Jesus. Jesus said “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). This means that Jesus is representative of the Father. Those in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament (Rev. 1:17) who said they saw God actually saw His representative, Jesus. Jesus, the historical man was just that, a man. Therefore, God in Heaven, if an image of him could be seen, would appear as a man, not as a woman as some would contend.

Jesus was the “firstborn” (v.15). This does not mean that He was created. Jesus was not created. He was present at the creation (John 1:1-2). He already existed prior to the creation. God existed at creation, in the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The expression “firstborn” as used here denotes a place of superiority or supremacy, as God said to David: “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of earth” (Ps. 89:27). Jesus was the “firstborn over all creation” (v.15).

As the firstborn over all creation, Jesus created all things for His own use. He created “all things in Heaven and on earth.” He created all things “visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities”, which would include angels, kings, and all leaders of all nations since the creation (v.16).

Not only did Jesus create all things, “He is before all things” (v.17). He was at the creation. He was not a created being, as is taught by cults such as Mormonism, who claim He is not of the “same being” as the Father and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who claim He was created by the Father. Those cults claim to be Christian, but they worship a different god than do Christians.

Jesus is the creator of all things and He also is the one active in holding all things together (v.17). He is the Sustainer of the universe and the Source of its perpetual motion. Even while He was on earth He calmed the wind and the waters (Luke 8:24). He also made the Sun stand still (Jos. 10:13).

Finally, we see that Jesus is also the head of the church. He is the beginning, meaning the source of our spiritual life. He is the first in His church to rise from the dead with a glorified body (1 Cor. 15:20). He has preeminence over all things (v.18).

Just as Jesus has preeminence over all things He wants preeminence over our hearts. He wants us to put him in the place in our hearts where he belongs, first place. He does not want to be our co-pilot, just along for the ride. He wants to be our pilot, in charge of the journey.

July 22, 2018

The Head of the Small “c” church and The Head of the Capital “C” Church

We’re back for a fourth time with Art Toombs Ministries.  Be sure to check out his archives of scriptures covered in past posts; you never know when you might need it. To read today’s item at source, and then look around the site, simply click the title below.

This particular post lands here at C201 on a Sunday, which is normally the day for our Sunday Worship feature. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Many people truly give their leaders worship that should only be due Christ. Such leaders are applauded and given palatial homes and cars and shown a reverence that should only be given to Christ. To an outsider, in some such churches it would be hard to pin down who it is that is revered and honored.

The Head of the Church

1 Corinthians 3: 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (NKJV)

The writer of 1 Corinthians is the apostle Paul. He wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, Greece during his third missionary journey. The church was established by Paul during his second missionary journey when he ministered in Corinth for a year and a half during A. D. 51-52.

Paul wrote this letter during his two year and three-month ministry in Ephesus, Asia in A. D. 54-56. It was actually his second letter to the church (1 Cor. 5:9). However, the first letter obviously was lost. The purpose of this letter is to emphasize that Jesus is our Lord and Master.

Paul had started the church in Corinth and had stayed on for one and a half years before turning it over to Apollos to run. It has come to Paul’s attention that there is dissension in the church because some of the new converts are following Paul while others are following Apollos.

Paul writes to the church and explains their spiritual condition. He refers to the members as “babes in Christ” because they are still worldly and have not matured as believers (v. 1). He says they are still worldly and therefore must still be on “milk, not solid food” because they are still babes in Christ (v. 2).

Paul defines a carnal Christian as one who is guilty of “envy, strife, and divisions among you” (v. 3a). He says their behavior is “carnal” because they are divided over “mere men”, servants like Paul and Apollos, instead of being united under the Lord (vv. 3b-4).

God in His grace had given the Corinthian believers two wonderful “ministers”, Paul and Apollos (v. 5). Instead of being thankful for these ministers the church had split their loyalty between the two. Instead, they should have been united under the leadership of, not one or the other but, the Lord.

Each minister was provided by God for a specific use. Paul “planted” and Apollos “watered” (v. 6a). Paul brought the Gospel to the unbelievers in Corinth and planted the Word of God in their hearts. Apollos then came along and ministered to them.

However, none of that would have been enough to grow the church if God had not “gave the increase” (v. 6b). God, the Holy Spirit, convicts and converts unbelievers into believers.

Jesus Christ is Head of the church. He is the One we should follow. We should be thankful for our ministers and we should respect them as representatives of Christ.

However, we should never allow our loyalties to be divided between them. Our loyalty should always be with Jesus Christ and our goal should always be to please Him

 

January 8, 2018

Conflict at Church

This is our third visit to Art Toombs Ministries, and today I read several great articles trying to decide which one to carry here. Be sure to check out his archives of scriptures covered in past posts — he’s currently in the epistle of James — you never know when you might need it.  I also follow Art on Twitter. To read today’s item at source, and then look around the site, simply click the title below.

Resolving Church Conflict

James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (NKJV)

James is writing to first century Christian Jews who have been dispersed from Jerusalem. He specifically is writing to teachers of the Gospel. The current teaching is on the subject of resolving conflict in the church.

This passage begins with the word “therefore” (v.7a). This is a reference to the previous verse which states “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” The key to resolving conflict in the church is humility.

We see this humility lived out in six commands which if heeded will resolve conflict in the church. The six commands are listed in verses seven through nine:

(1) “Submit to God” (v. 7b). Submission to God requires obedience to His word. We do not know what to obey unless we know His word, the Bible. We should turn to the Bible for advice on all matters. Then we should be obedient to that Scripture.

(2) “Resist the devil” (v. 7c). The devil always hits at our weakness. For many of us Christians our weakness is pride. Pride is also the source of much church conflict. We must resist pride, and all other sin. When we do, the devil “will flee” (v. 7d).

(3) “Draw near to God” (v. 8a). When we do this, “He will draw near” to us (v. 8b).    We draw near to God through prayer. The more we fill ourselves with God, the less room there is for self. The closer we draw to God, the more we see things through God’s eyes and not our own. Our selfish desires then take a back seat to the will of God.

(4) “Cleanse your hands” (v. 8c). This is a reference to our actions. Sinful actions require confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness, from both God and from those we have offended. It is not enough to just confess our sin, if we intend to then repeat the sin. We must also turn from, repent of, that sin.

(5) “Purify your hearts” (v. 8d). This is a reference to motives. Our motives may be mixed, “double-minded” (v. 8d). We must be careful to keep our motives pure. Our motives may be what we perceive as what is best for us, instead of what is best for God’s kingdom.

(6) “Lament and mourn and weep“(v. 9a). Without getting too bogged down in the theology, let’s just say this has to do with our attitude. Our attitude needs to be one of sincerity. If we have wronged another, we should feel badly for our sin against our fellow Christian. We should feel so badly that we never want to return to the behavior or mindset that may have contributed to a problem. We should feel so badly that it is hard to laugh or have joy (v. 9b). Even if we are not the source of the problem, we should be upset with ourselves for letting things get to this point. We should not take the problem lightly, or pass off all the blame on others. We cannot control what others may say or do, but we can control our reaction. A poor reaction often escalates a slight, or an offense, into a problem.

So If you “humble” yourself in these ways, “He will lift you up”, (v. 10). God will provide a way to resolve the problem that will glorify God. Humble yourself, and then put your trust in God.

James then introduces what may be interpreted as a new subject. However, I believe that he stays on the subject of humility. He writes of criticism, specifically criticism of a “brother” (v. 11a), a fellow Christian. There is no place for criticism in a humble heart.

How can you be humble while criticizing another? The two do not go together. You are breaking the Golden Rule. You are not doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. No one likes being criticized.

When you criticize “you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (v. 11b). God is the only “Lawgiver” (v. 12a), the only judge. He is the only one “who is able to save and to destroy”, able to judge (v. 12b). We are not “to judge another” (v. 12c).

Correction is another matter. It is Biblical to correct a fellow Christian who has gone astray. The correction, however, should always be offered in the form of kindness and love, not criticism.

So the key to resolving church conflict is humility. Humility does not escalate a slight into a problem. Humility, instead, allows God to lift up the situation. Stay humble and trust God to resolve the situation in His own way, and in His own time.

 

January 18, 2017

Church and State

Last year around this time, we introduced you to the ministry of Art Toombs. Again be sure to check out his archives of scriptures covered in past posts, you never know when you might need it. His website is Art Toombs Ministries – Online Bible Commentary. To learn of new posts, follow Art on Twitter. To read today’s sample at source, and then look around the site, simply click the title below.

Separation of Church and State Came from God

2 Chronicles 26: 16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord–valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.” 19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him. 21 King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. (NKJV)

King Uzziah reigned over Judah from 810 to 758 B.C. He became king at the age of sixteen and did right in the eyes of the Lord. His country prospered because he was faithful to God. Judah’s prosperity was at a height not seen since the days of Solomon, 200 years earlier.

Uzziah became powerful because he followed the Lord. But then Uzziah’s pride took over. He decided that he could take over the responsibility of the priests in burning incense in the temple (v.16). Only the priest who burned the incense was allowed in the temple during the ceremony, but Uzziah thought himself to be above the men chosen by God. The priests followed Uzziah into the temple, confronted him, and ordered him to leave (vv.17-18).

Uzziah, still thinking he was above the Lord, raged at the priests, and he was immediately afflicted by the Lord with leprosy. Realizing this, Uzziah allowed himself to be ushered out of the temple by the priests. The leprosy afflicted him for the rest of his life (vv.19-21).

This incident was Uzziah’s only act of disobedience to the Lord in his fifty-two year reign. The fact that this act deserved its own severe punishment is significant. It serves as a warning to all leaders to not interfere with the work of men ordained by God.

Today in our country, we see leaders interfering with the work of men ordained by God at every turn. This is a sin against God and a violation of the separation of church and state. God’s intent, as seen in this passage, and the intent of our founding fathers was to protect the church from the state. In defiance of God, and our constitution, recent leaders in this country have instead sought to protect the state from the church.

Military chaplains are prosecuted for fulfilling their call from God. Pastors, chaplains and ministers are penalized for teaching the Bible, and for abiding by those teachings. Our leaders pompously tell men of God how to do their jobs. Who do they think they are? God is watching.

As if that’s not bad enough, our leaders decide to preach the Bible to the nation, taking on the responsibility of men ordained by God. Perhaps, they are afraid that the men of God will confront them, as the priests did to Uzziah. They are certainly deserving of confrontation for their blatant disrespect of God.

Our leaders are playing with fire. Just as God punished Uzziah, He will punish these leaders. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

January 15, 2016

The Father’s Discipline

Today’s devotional writer, Art Toombs is new to us. Before we dig in, check out his archives of scriptures covered in past posts, you never know when you might need it. His website is Art Toombs Ministries – Online Bible Commentary. To read today’s sample at source, and then look around the site, click the title below.

The Lord Disciplines those He Loves

Hebrews 12:5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews is addressing Hebrew Christians, encouraging them in their walk with God. Of course, these words are meant for all Christians, because we all face hardships in life. God does not want the hardships of life to pull us away from Him. So, in this passage he gives us some insights into the nature of hardships and how we should respond to them.

The writer begins by reminding us of “that word of encouragement” (v. 5a) in verses 5b-6, which are taken from Proverbs 3:11-12. The literal Greek translation for these verses is as follows: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint while being corrected; for whom the Lord loves He disciplines; and whips every son whom He receives.” To us, this probably does not sound like encouragement. No one chooses to be disciplined, or whipped for that matter.

But this is a picture of God’s correction for his children. Our Creator knows us best and knows the discipline that will achieve the desired result. He is not politically correct. God cares little for the rules of man, when they do not align with His word. Here He endorses whipping as a correction for children. God’s age of accountability is about twelve years old, so this would seem to be the age that such discipline is no longer warranted.

Also, we should not despise the one who disciplines us because he only disciplines us because he loves us. Contrary to the thinking of the PC crowd, we show our love for our children by disciplining our children, not by refraining from discipline. Physical discipline should be a part of that discipline, but only until the age of accountability.

The Lord disciplines adults, as our Father in Heaven. But discipline of adults usually comes in other forms. Physical discipline gives way to discipline of consequences. Adults face hardship, which is a consequence of sin. Our hardship may be a result of our own sin or it may be a result of living in a sinful world.  God allows hardships in our lives in order to discipline us. He disciplines us in order to refine us, to make us better. Through hardship he shapes us into being a child of God.

We should “endure” this hardship “as discipline” (v. 7a). We should understand that God is disciplining us. He is refining us. He is making us better, stronger. He is treating us “as sons” (v. 7b). He is allowing discipline because he loves us, as His son, or daughter.

God loves everyone, and wants no one to be lost, separated from Him. Therefore, “everyone undergoes discipline” (v. 8). The rain falls on everyone. God “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness” (Mt. 5:45). Everyone suffers hardships in their life. It is God’s way of correcting us, and showing His love for us.

Hopefully, we learn from our hardships. Hopefully, we are wise enough to know that we must fall in line with God’s ways of doing things if we want things to turn out right. Hopefully, we will reach a point in our lives when God does not allow hardship.

But nothing is guaranteed. We do not know the amount of refining that God wants for each of us. He may have different things in store for some, and choose to allow more refining of them. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isa 55:8).

Whatever the case, we should never resent God for His discipline. He allows it because He loves us. The alternative would be that He does not love us. None of us should want that. So we should rejoice in our hardships, knowing that God is working on us because he loves us. And no matter what, He is always there with us in the midst of our hardships. He has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. And He always keeps His promises.