Christianity 201

May 24, 2018

Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and LOVE

by Clarke Dixon

(This is the final sermon in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

When we are going for a concise statement about what we are about as a church, why does love make the cut? In fact love does not just make the cut:

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV)

Love is the “greatest of these”! Love makes the cut and is the greatest because love is central to Jesus. We often connect 1st Corinthians 13 and its message of love with romance and weddings. However, we ought to connect it with Jesus.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NRSV)

Though Jesus could and did work many wonderful miracles, if he had not love, where would we be? We would be in trouble! We would be dead in our sin. While love might seem like a luxury to some, it is essential to the follower of Jesus, because it is essential to who Jesus is.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry in preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke about love, and in doing so, spoke about Jesus:

 . . . This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it; he died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He wasn’t getting anything out of it. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is.

Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial and, in so doing, become redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives. And it can change this world. (The Most Rev. Michael Curry)

When we are told to “pick up your cross and follow”, we should not have in mind the idea of being weak in the will to live, but strong in the will to love.

So how do we walk with Jesus in love and help others do the same?

First, we define love as a decision and then we decide to love at every opportunity. Faced with a crucial decision, Jesus decided to love:

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:36 (NRSV)

Many sermons, I’m sure, have been preached on the obedience of Jesus to the Father in this prayer at Gethsemane. But it was not just obedience to the Father. It was love for you. Jesus made the crucial decision to love, and that has changed everything. Love as a series of decisions can change many a relationship, between marriage partners, within family or friends, and of course even between enemies.

Second, we love by growing into a loving character which reflects that of Jesus. When you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus, you don’t get the impression you are reading about an impatient, or unkind man who happened to make some loving decisions. Or an envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude man who insisted on his own way apart from a few decisions to love. Rather, you get the impression that Paul had Jesus in mind when he wrote about love:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NRSV)

In meeting Jesus in the Gospels you get the impression that love was central to his character. It still is! When people meet Jesus in the Gospels, then meet us, is it a huge contrast in character?

The best way to help others walk with Jesus in love, is to be walking with Jesus in love ourselves. But what if you feel far from being a person characterized by love? Then remember the Bible says

. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)

It does not say “the result of my hard work is love”, but the “fruit of the Spirit is love.” Indeed, just as love is the “greatest of these”, love is the very first fruit. You can be and do whatever God calls you to be and do, including love and be loving. He calls you to love. He calls us as a church family to help people, to the glory of God, walk with Jesus in faith, hope, and love. Our very first step is to pray!)


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (30 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

November 20, 2014

Jesus: “Be Me”

John 15:9-12

The Message (MSG)

9-10“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

God's RepresentativeYou’ve just been hired as a manufacturer’s representative. The manufacturer in this case manufactured the earth, the universe and all that it is in them. Then he appoints you, a part of that creation to represent Him on earth to the rest of creation. That’s hard to take in. A few years ago my wife Ruth wrote this to be read at a church plant she was doing in a place where representing God, representing Christ, would not be easy. But is it any easier where you are? Where I am?

Look at the example I have set in how I’ve loved you and all of the others and follow my example.

Follow my example. Love the world.

Be Me to the world.

Be Me to your neighbors.

The woman across the road, the guy who lives downstairs.

The kids who play on your lawn.

Be Me to the vulnerable, the hungry, the oppressed.

Be Me to the poor, the cold, the homeless, the lost.

Be Me to the rich, the insulated, the sheltered, the lost.

Be Me to the fearful, the sick, the lonely, the isolated, the recovering.

To the educated, to the street-smart, to the foolish.

To the bruised, the bleeding, the calloused, the rough, the tough, the abrasive.

Be Me to the stubborn, the unappreciative, the ungrateful, the dismissive.

To the takers.

To the users.

To the ones who have raised themselves up, the ones who have made themselves as small as possible or who have been made small.

Be Me to the almost there, the almost gone.

To the empty, the misunderstanding, the suspicious, the condescending.

Be Me to the ones whose backs are toward you, the ones whose heads are bowed, the ones whose chins are held high.

Be Me to the uninterested, the undesiring, to the undeserving.

To the shackled, to the free.

Be Me the way I have been Me to you.

Be Me.

You have no right not to be.

~Ruth Wilkinson

March 26, 2014

The People Christ Died For

Recently a young man in our community asked if I could help him prepare a talk for high school students on the theme, “The love of God.”

In a situation like this, my tendency is to offer too much help, thus denying the person the opportunity to make their own discovery in scripture. So my first email back to him was rather short:

Try these on for size; mull them over, and get back to me after 24 hours.

Just play them over in your mind and see where it takes you.
Seriously!!

Romans 5:7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.…

Titus 3:4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.

But then, just to make it interesting, I wrote:

Focus on the set-up verses in these pairs that don’t mention God’s love; in the first one verse 7, in the second one verse 5.

Because we’ve dealt with the Titus verse in various places here, like this one, I’ll focus to day on Romans.

I think verse 7 of Romans 5 is key to understanding verse 8. Jesus did not die for good people, he died for sinners, and this goes against every human instinct. Yesterday he asked for some clarification and I wrote this (edited for readers here):

Okay, I really believe Paul is having some fun with this verse in that he’s toying with his readers wanting them to see the idea for themselves rather than him just telling them.

He’s saying you might die for a good person, or more generally, a human might be willing to lay down their life for another person, if that other person were intrinsically good or moral or virtuous or capable of offering some gift that might help the planet in some significant way.

A good question to open with might be: “Do any of you have a friend or family member that you honestly would be willing to die for?” I wrestled with this my third year working at Christian summer camp, as I had never known true agape from outside my family; but I got to be good friends with two brothers, one of whom I still email occasionally to this day. I don’t know how or where the topic came up, but I was asking the older brother why the younger brother was willing to do something for me back in the city all summer, and the older brother suddenly said, “Because he loves you, man; and I love you, too.”

That was just too much for me, and I had to really work through the meaning of friendship, especially within the context of Christian community. Later, in further discussions the topic came up about being willing to die for a friend.

So the obvious answer is that if you thought the person worth dying for, if you thought their life was worth something, you might do it. BUT you wouldn’t do it if you thought the person was trash. Scripture tells us that to God, our righteousness is “as filthy rags.” Apparently the various shades of meaning in the original here are really gross; you might not want to go there with a youth group, or they won’t hear anything you say after that point! But in that state, Christ loved us, hence verse 8.

That’s where Titus 3:5 fits in too; the idea that there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s favor.

Here’s another possible opening question. “Let’s pretend that you just died, and that St. Peter is waiting for you at the entrance to heaven — even though the Bible actually doesn’t say anything about Peter at the Pearly Gates — and he turns to you and says, ‘Why should I let you in?‘”

People will usually give performance-based answers.

This question,  is at the heart of a program called Evangelism Explosion, and adults usually get it wrong, too. They’ll give all kinds of reasons why they were kind, volunteered, gave money, helped old ladies across the street, etc.

If you can help high-school kids to get past performance-based faith, you’ll be doing them a world of good.

This of course leads in to the broader topic of grace. Grace is something we learn about in church, but we never really know it until we’ve really wrapped our heads around the idea of our wretchedness versus God’s total ‘other-ness’ which we discussed a few days ago.

People don’t grasp this fully in one sitting. (I don’t fully grasp it right now.) So you want to leave them with an appetite (thirst) for more.

…I haven’t decided whether to send this as well — it’s important not to give someone too much help — but I thought of it as I was preparing this. This story exists in different forms, Andy Almendarez shares this one at Sermon Central:

I want to tell you the story of a young man. It is the story of a West Point graduate who is sent to Iraq. He takes his men into combat. He did a very good job in keeping his men alive. Until one night they were surprised by insurgents. All of the young Lt’s men were able to get to cover except one. The one soldier lay wounded. The Lt. and his men could hear his agonized cries. They all wanted to go out and get him and bring him to safety. However, there was one problem, leaving cover meant enemy fire was sure to follow.

Finally the young Lt. could stand it no longer and he himself went out into the deadly area. He got to the wounded soldier and managed to drag him back to safety. Just as the Lt. was pushing the young man behind cover he was fired upon and hit. He was killed instantly.

Time passed and the wounded soldier recuperated and went back to the states. The parents of the Lt. learned of this and wanted to meet the young man their son gave his life for. They invited him over for dinner one evening.

Finally the big night arrived. Their guest arrived, drunk. He was loud and obnoxious. He told bad jokes, was rude and showed no concern for his hosts. The parents of the brave Lt. did their best to salvage the evening and make it worthwhile. Finally the night ended and their obscene guest left.

As her husband closed the door the mother collapsed into a heap of tears and cried, “To think our son had to die for somebody like that.”

Before we jump on the bandwagon and begin to criticize that young man for his behavior, shouldn’t we consider just how much we have in common with him…

[…continue reading at this link…]

My hope today is that you and I will not only continue to know the breadth and width and depth of the love of God, but that we will be able to share it in such a way that people hunger and thirst for more.

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance: To this world Messiah came, sinful people to reclaim. I am the worst of them.
  (I Tim. 1:15 ISV)

 

June 22, 2013

The Bible on Love: Ten Important Verses

lovedToday I’m excited to introduce you to yet another quality Bible study and devotional blog.  Jack Wellman blogs at Christian Crier. I was going to just copy the ten verses Jack highlights, but this really needs to be read in full. I encourage you to read this at source, where it appeared under the title 10 Most Important Bible Verses on Love.

If you had to choose one, which is the most important love verse in the Bible?  Why would you choose one over the other?  What seems to be the most important verses in the Bible on love?

For God So Loved the World

John 3:16  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Some manuscripts take the first part of this verse, “God so loved the world” and render it as “for this is how God loved the world.”  I like that very much.  When we get closer to the literal Greek wording of this verse, it gets even better.  We could read it as:  “For this is how God loved the world, that He gave His one and unique Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life.”  Either way you read it, this Bible verse may be the most important verse of all for it displays such a sacrificial love – a life-giving love – which is unequaled and unmatched in all the world.  Love is a verb and it’s what you do…and this act at Calvary was the most supreme act of love that has ever been displayed.  That Christ died for us while we were still His enemies and most unworthy sinners at that, shows that love is an act of the will and not a feeling in the heart.

Greater Love Has No Man

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We could paraphrase this verse to read, “No one has a greater love than that which he or she would willingly die for their friend.” This reminds me of the many veterans who are serving and who have ever served their countries for their nation’s freedom.  Many did give their lives to defend what we often take for granted.  I have heard true stories of veterans who threw themselves on hand grenades to save their fellow soldiers lives but didn‘t live to tell about it.  Those whom they saved retell this most selfless act.  That kind of love reflects the agape love of God.   The agape love is the greatest love that there is and it is the type of love that gives a person over to sacrificing their own life to save another.  This love was most abundantly displayed on the cross by Jesus Christ.  He gave His life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

It is natural to love your family and friends, but to love those who hate you and persecute you?  Wow.  God loved us before we even existed (Eph 1) and died for us while we were still sinners and His enemies.  By the way, anytime Jesus says “You have heard it said” He is referring to the Old Testament laws and so when Jesus follows that by saying “but I say to you,” He is referring to the New and better Testament.  This is a difficult one indeed and it can’t be done in human strength but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In this reference in Matthew, Jesus says that God is gracious even to those who are sinners, sending sunshine and rain to them…which are essential to life.  The analogy might be that God even gives the sinner’s good things in life because He is a benevolent God.  This is why good things sometimes happen to bad people.

Love Is Unselfish

First Corinthians 12:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

First Corinthians chapter 13 may be the greatest chapter on love in all the Bible and love is displayed here by many tangible evidences.  It is patient; with people and circumstances.  It is kind; to people and animals.  It doesn’t brag; about self but brags about others and glorifies God and gives Him the credit.  It isn’t arrogant; lording over people your position, power, or knowledge.  It isn’t rude; but polite and displays manners and proper etiquette.  It doesn’t insist on its own way; but give precedence and priorities to others, even if it has to compromise.  It isn’t irritable; it is not easily provoked to anger by people or circumstances.  It isn’t resentful; it rejoices when others succeed, even at their own expense.  It doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing; it never delights in other people’s sins…instead, it rejoices in the truth of the Bible, it bears all thing (all means all), believes all things (gives people the benefit of the doubt), hopes all things (hopes for the best for all concerned) and endures all (all, like being used, abused, persecuted and so on).   These things are love.

Love Your Neighbor as Your Self

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The religious leaders were trying to trip Jesus up by asking Him which was the greatest commandment and Jesus nailed it spot on when He said that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, might, mind, and soul.  But we are also to love our neighbors.  Who are our neighbors?  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus showed that all men and women are our neighbors and so we should love them as well, even if they were a “Samaritan” to us.  Part of this command is not obeyed by many good Christians…the part where we are to love ourselves as our neighbors.  When we hate ourselves and are extremely hard on ourselves, we are breaking this commandment where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Love One Another

John 13:34-35  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

In what is called the High Priestly Prayer in John 13 and 14, Jesus gave the disciples, and by extension, all who would be His disciples, a new commandment.  This new commandment was to love one another “just as” or in the same manner that Christ loves us.  That is a big-time love my friend.  By this love we have for one another “all people will know that you are my disciples” and so this love for one another is evangelistic and it is diagnostic…diagnostic in the sense that it proves that we are either His disciple or we are not.  In the church today there are both wheat and tares and Christ will separate them some day.  Those who are His inherit eternal life…those that are tares, are plucked up and burned.

If You Love Me, Obey My Commandments

John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be worthy of being on anyone’s top 10 list of Bible verses on love, but wait…let me explain why I chose this one.  We display our love for others when they ask us to do something and we do it willingly because we love them.  If we truly love Jesus, why wouldn’t we want to please Him by obeying what He has told us to do?  Obedience is preferred over sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22).  Samuel asks a rhetorical question in this verse:  “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God would rather have a person obey Him than to offer many or costly sacrifices because obedience shows respect and love for the one to whom it is given.

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

First Peter 4:8  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

My children and grandchildren sin and will sin again but no amount of sins will ever stop me from loving them.  My friends have sometimes sinned against me too but to display my love for them, I am willing to forgive them, whether they ask my forgiveness or not.  Since we are all sinners, I can not cast the first stone and many times I have caught them in a sin but never mention it to anyone else.  Love does not gossip and when see others sin and don’t tell other people, we are covering for them.  The exception is that if it hurts the church…like gossip.  If they acknowledge their sin, repent of it, and confess it, then it is covered by God and so why would I gossip to others to say, “Hey, did you hear about so and so and what he/she did?”  Jesus death on the cross, and the love displayed in that action, covers all of our sins (2 Cor 5:21).   Proverbs 17:9 says much the same thing as the author writes, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” and that “love covers over all wrongs” (Prov 10:12b).

Love of a Friend

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

I have a close, special friend of mine who is a man and I am not ashamed to tell him that I love him.  I love him more than a brother.  This man is honest enough to tell me the truth, even when he knows it hurts and he is open enough to hear a friends rebuke.   King David and Jonathan had a love like this as described in 1 Samuel 18:1 “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” What a precious thing. Their souls were knit together…they were made of the same fabric, so to speak.  Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” which reminds me of Jesus’ second commandment of the two greatest…to love your neighbor as yourself.  This was repeated later in 1 Samuel 20:17 when “Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Marital Love

Genesis 29:20 “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Husband and wives love is reflective of Christ’s love for the church and the church of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:25-28 is one of the best descriptions of how a husband should love his wife, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Men, there is no “plan B.”  This is an imperative command.   Men are to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her.  The greatest thing a husband can do for his wife is to love her.  Women, the greatest need for a man is to have respect for him because respect is interpreted as love just as women interprets love as respect for her.  Men and women have different needs and so for men it is to be respected and for women it is to be loved.  The husband and wife relationship is like that of Christ and the church in that it is a sacrificial love.  When a man loves his wife, he would willingly give his life for her while the wife would more easily submit for a man willing to do this.

Conclusion

To me, these are the 10 most important verses in the Bible on love. You may have different ones.  If you do, please leave a comment and tell us which is your favorite Bible verse or verses on love.  What Bible verse is the most important to you and why?  Add your favorite Bible verse on love in the comments section below so that we might add it to our Bible verse love bank and by doing so, we can accumulate a vast treasure trove of God’s infinite love for those who Christ died for and even for those who are outside of the faith.  There is no greater love, there is no love more sacrificial, and there is no love that dies in your place, than that of Jesus Christ who died for us while we were still His enemies.  Paul wrote of this exact thing in Romans 5:6-8, 

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If you have not yet repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ to save you from God’s wrath, then you don’t know the full extent of Gods’ love yet.  John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” because “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). I pray that is not you.

November 6, 2012

Assured of Eternal Life

Today we look at what may at first seem rather elementary material about the basics of salvation, until we move on to testing ourselves on how this evidences itself in our lives. This from Pastor B. J. Rutledge at Grace Fellowship Church and appears on his blog as You Can Know You Have Eternal Life.


[Recently] at Grace we talked about an UNUSUAL PROMISE from God.  At the request of one of our web/tech guys, I’m putting some of the scripture, some added notes and the check list from 1st John in this blog.  Let me start with a couple of added notes…

1.  No one can earn their way into heaven.  We are saved by faith through grace which is the gift of God and is clearly taught throughout the NT.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear on this and Eph. 2:10 states that we do good works as a result of this.  Titus 3:5 is clear that none of us can be saved by any works we do; our salvation is based on His mercy as we trust Christ and are born again by the renewing and regenerating that only the Holy Spirit can do in us.

2.  James 2:14-26 says that if my faith is real then “works of that faith” or “good works” will follow.  They don’t save me, but they are evidence of the fact that I am saved.

3.  None of us will live up to the things that John wrote in 1st John as “tests” of salavation 100% of the time; that’s why we need God’s grace.  As I stated Sunday, and have stated many times, the issue of testing your faith is one of direction not perfection.  We all sin.  I still sin.  However, the bent of my heart is now in the direction of the things that John revealed in the book of 1st John.

4.  In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul was writing to the people who gathered as a part of the church in Corinth and challenged them to TEST themselves and make sure there was actual evidence that their lives had been changed by Jesus Christ.

5.  Paul was clear when sharing his testimony with King Agrippa that people must repent of their sins and turn to God to be saved, and then they should show / prove / give evidence of this change by their lifestyle or the things they do.

6.  John was clear that there are some very clear evidences that will be seen in a person who has “moved from death to life” or who is ”a child of God”.  He lists these things that help people test themselves as to their faith in 1st John.

Here’s some of the information from the message this past Sunday with a few added notes.

THE UNUSUAL PROMISE: You can KNOW you have eternal life.

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion.  1 John 5:13 Msg

Paul – who wrote much of the New Testament says – if you’re not sure – you should do something about it.   Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.      2 Cor. 13:5 (Msg)

TEST YOURSELF – IS THIS EVIDENCE  IN YOUR LIFE?

1st   OBEY THE WORD OF GOD   

We can be sure that we know God if we obey his commands. Anyone who says, “I know God,” but does not obey God’s commands is a liar…”1 John 2:3-4a NCV

You may not & probably won’t understand everything in the Bible, but do you have a desire to do what God says and are you striving to obey what you already know from God’s Word?  None of us will be perfect, but if you have no desire for the Word of God or have no desire to obey the Word of God then you need to evaluate your life and see if your faith is real.

2nd   LIVE A CHRIST-LIKE LIFE  

Here is how we know we belong to him.  Those who claim to belong to him must live just as Jesus did.      1 John 2:5b-6  (NIrV)

Jesus lived a perfect life & none of us can live up to that because we’ve all sinned & messed up.     The issue isn’t perfection – the issue is direction.   Is the direction you choose – one that’s moving you closer to becoming like Jesus?  All of us mess up.  In fact, a verse from the book of wisdom that has really helped me and I’ve shared with others for years is Prov. 24:16 which states:  “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again…”   I’m so grateful for the truth of 1 John 1:9 which reminds me when I sin and blow it, I can confess it and God forgives me.

So – Do your attitudes & actions give evidence of someone who is pursuing a Christ-like lifestyle?

3rd  STAY TRUE TO THE FAITH 

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  1 John 2:19 (NIV)

Believers will look for ways to experience community & do life with other believers.

4th  CHANGED NATURE 

“Those who are born again because of what God has done will not keep on sinning. God’s very nature remains in them…”     1 John 3:9a (NIrV)

Pigs like to wallow in filth because that’s their nature.  If you’re a believer, you’ve been given a new nature and while you’ll still sin – it’s not the habit of your life.  You don’t want to live in willful habitual sin.

5th  LOVE OTHER CHRISTIANS   

10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.  14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life…” 1 John 3:10, 14a (NLT)

Love…doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.  1 Cor. 13:4 CEV

6th  EVIDENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  

When a person puts their faith & trust in Christ – the Holy Spirit comes to live in them.

How do we know that God lives in us?  We know it because of the Holy Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:24b (NIrV)

We know an apple tree is an apple tree because of the fruit it produces.  If you’re really a Christian, there will be external evidence: fruit the Holy Spirit produces in you.  I’m not talking about Spirit Gifts here, but fruit.  Someone wrote me a note from Sunday and said “even an apple tree does not bare fruit at all times”.  They were absolutely correct, so let me try to expand the analogy.   Spiritual growth is a journey and we will have growth spurts and times when it seems like not much is happening; but it’s the Holy Spirit that produces fruit in us as we submit to Him.   As Jesus said when He was speaking about a person’s character: “the tree is known by its fruit” (Mt. 12:33).  The bottom line is that a person who has a genuine faith will at some point produce fruit; “the fruit of the Spirit” will be produced in their life at different times as they submit to God.

Gal 5:22-23a NASB  says:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

7th  HAVE THE SON OF GOD  

This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   1 John 5:11-12 (NCV) 

Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.  NOTE:  The thief on the cross never had a chance to do any of the things that John said were tests of salvation other than “have the Son of God.”  That thief put his faith & trust in Christ just prior to his death, and Jesus told him that he would be with Christ in paradise.  A simple accrostic I’ve used for years related to FAITH is:  Forsaking All I Trust Him.  That means I must put my faith in Christ and Him alone for salvation.

Here are a couple of other passages used in the message:

 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  James 2:19 NLT

Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God.  John 1:12 CEV

People have to die once. After that, God will judge them.  Heb 9:27 (NIrV) 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.     Heb. 4:13  (NIV)


For a previous article by B. J. Rutledge at C201, click here.

June 6, 2012

On the Nature of Benevolence

Today, for C201 post #800, we’re featuring the writing of fellow-Canadian, Jamie Arpin Ricci, who recently blogged an excerpt from his book, The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press) available at your local Christian bookstore. To read what follows at source, which we always strongly encourage, click over to Of Love and Charity.

Recently I took part in a lively discussion about the word “charity”.  While the intended use of the word in the discussion was referring to “voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need”, someone else mentioned that the word “charity” is often used as an explicitly theological term meaning love- specifically agape, the unconditional love of God and/or the love we are called to hold for all others.  I argued that the use of “charity” to refer to “love” is the result of the Vulgate translation of agape- a likely use to differentiate it from sexual love. However, etymologically, “charity” has primarily been used to reference benevolence to the poor.  I contend that the very small segment of Christian usage of the term as love does not accurately represent the words original and most common usage, historically or today.

Be that as it may, the intersection of love and charity became the heart of the discussion.  Jesus said:

“When you give to the needy, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is don in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3)

So how should we understand these secret works of righteousness? Interestingly, the Greek word used for “acts of righteousness” is not the same word in every manuscript. Some ancient manuscripts that include this passage use the same word for “righteousness” as the one in the Beatitudes, the righteousness/justice we are to hunger and thirst for. Other manuscripts, though, use an entirely different word meaning “almsgiving” or simply “gifts to the poor.” After shooting off a few e-mails to some Bible scholar friends of mine, I learned that while the best manuscripts use the former meaning (that is, they refer to works of justice), the reason the other meaning is used at times is because the primary “act of righteousness” in the Judaism of Jesus’ day was almsgiving.

The use of both Greek words suggests that Jesus was referring to the Jewish practice called tzedakah, a Hebrew word that loosely means “charity” but has as its root the Hebrew word for justice (tzedek). Rooted in the gleaning laws of their agrarian past, the complexities of the developing economy led to a more sophisticated set of guidelines and requirements about giving to the poor.  However, consistent throughout that development was the central fact that such giving was always to be done anonymously. What we can glean, then, is that while Jesus is commenting broadly on works of justice, most of his listeners would have thought immediately of tzedakah. And given that Jesus continues by directly addressing the practice of almsgiving in the following section, this connection is obviously intentional.

The connection between righteousness/justice and providing for the poor must not be missed or minimized. Its long history in Judaism and Christianity, and Jesus’ clear affirmation of its continued practice, should be more than enough to make us mindful of its significance for the church. As we have explored earlier, it is not uncommon these days for Christians to believe that God calls us to care for the spiritual needs of others, with material needs being of secondary priority (and often a distant second at that). Some even go so far as to say we are not called meet the material needs of the poor at all. However, most would simply minimize such charity as a secondary, less important aspect to the higher spiritual calling of saving souls.

We cannot miss that Jesus makes no such division or distinction between the spiritual and material needs of humanity. The righteousness and justice we are called to hunger and thirst after, and the shalom we are called to create in the world—even in its brokenness—is absolutely concerned with the whole person, in- deed all of creation. The disintegrative nature of sin is being reversed by the work of Christ’s redemption, moving us toward the intended wholeness of creation, reflected in the nature of the Garden of Eden before sin. It was good! Our commitment to Christ and his mission, then, must be equally devoted to the restoration of the whole person and the whole creation.

When we understand the dynamics at work here, we see that Jesus is not teaching anything new in respect to the requirement of giving to the poor (and acts of justice in general), nor are his warnings about doing so to be seen as righteous by those watching us. This was something all good Jews knew to avoid. Something clearly distinguishes Jesus’ admonition. He is not forbidding us from doing works of righteousness before others (which would indeed be a contradiction of his earlier mandate in Matthew 5:13-16), but rather he is warning us against doing such works for the purpose of being seen by others. Once again, Jesus is forcing us to examine the intentions of our heart, for the true nature of our righteousness is found there, not in the act itself. We must live in the tension between the interior formation of our hearts and the ethical behavior it gives birth to. We should not be surprised that this was such a common problem in his day. After all, which of us does not like getting praised for our good works? This is a universal temptation that we all face.

~Jamie Arpin-Ricci

 

Jamie was featured previously here at C201 on January 2nd, 2011 with an article entitled The Biblical Concept of Godly Leadership.

May 13, 2012

Leading With Power vs. Leading With Love

This is an excerpt from the currently releasing business leadership book, Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby (Zondervan). If you have people who work “under” you, this is a great read for heading into a new week on Monday morning.

Two millennia ago an itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus of Nazareth called his friends together for a dinner. This wasn’t like the normal meals that group enjoyed, however — Jesus knew it was his last meal. The next day he would be executed by the Roman government. So on that final night, Jesus had to decide how to summarize his view of how best to live so that his twelve followers could carry on his message.

Think of all the options before him. He could have:

  1. given them a written scroll that summarized all his teachings
  2. given them money to expand their ministry
  3. given them divine powers to make believers out of the skeptics, or
  4. introduced them to leaders who would have political influence

I know I would have done something like that — especially if option 3 was within my grasp! However, he surprised his friends with something so unexpected that it echoed through the ages, changing even the way organizations in twenty-first-century America are led.

As his friend John later remember, Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”(John 13: 4-5)

In the culture of ancient Palestine, such a gesture was considered the ultimate in self-effacement and humility — bordering on humiliation! Only salves washed other people’s feet. And given that most of the twelve disciples were gaining conviction about the divinity of their leader, Jesus’ actions struck them as all them more extraordinary.

Peter, the most outspoken of Jesus’ friends, was not pleased by what was happening.  He said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus must have seen the confusion in those familiar eyes, because he replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Peter wasn’t easily dissuaded — I’ve had more than a few people like him working for me!

But something bigger was happening than a mere argument about whether Jesus was acting like a slave — he was showing his friends a completely new way of leading. So he answered, “Unless I was you, you have no part with me.” (John 13: 6-8)

The fact that Jesus chose to embody his leadership on the night before his death by washing his “employees'” feet represents a compelling example for every leader who has followed him The occasion seared the importance of serving int o the minds of his disciples and challenged all who came after him to consider that leading with love might really be the best way to change the world.

If you lead anything or anyone, you are in a position of power, and if you lead with love, you will surprise others — just like Jesus surprised Peter. I am not suggesting that any of us is like Jesus, but I am suggesting that all of us have the opportunity to abuse our power or to use it well. To hoard it or give it away…

Joel Manby; Love Works, pp. 151-153

Footnote:  This book is a great gift for a business associate who may not share your faith perspective, but will resonate with its premise, having heard the “love chapter” from I Corinthians read at any Christian weddings they’ve attended.

November 1, 2011

“Look at Me”

John 15:9-12

The Message (MSG)

 9-10“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

 11-15“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

Look at the example I have set in how I’ve loved you and all of the others and follow my example.

Follow my example. Love the world.

Be Me to the world.

Be Me to your neighbors.

The woman across the road, the guy who lives downstairs.

The kids who play on your lawn.

Be Me to the vulnerable, the hungry, the oppressed.

Be Me to the poor, the cold, the homeless, the lost.

Be Me to the rich, the insulated, the sheltered, the lost.

Be Me to the fearful, the sick, the lonely, the isolated, the recovering.

To the educated, to the street-smart, to the foolish.

To the bruised, the bleeding, the calloused, the rough, the tough, the abrasive.

Be Me to the stubborn, the unappreciative, the ungrateful, the dismissive.

To the takers.

To the users.

To the ones who have raised themselves up, the ones who have made themselves as small as possible or who have been made small.

Be Me to the almost there, the almost gone.

To the empty, the misunderstanding, the suspicious, the condescending.

Be Me to the ones whose backs are toward you, the ones whose heads are bowed, the ones whose chins are held high.

Be Me to the uninterested, the undesiring, to the undeserving.

To the shackled, to the free.

Be Me the way I have been Me to you.

Be Me.

You have no right not to be.

~Ruth Wilkinson

June 5, 2011

Forgetting Yourself Into Greatness

This appeared earlier last week on Mark Wilson’s blog, Revitalize Your Church

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Who is my neighbor?”
“Anybody in need.”
“How do I love my neighbor?”
“With actions that help.”

“What keeps me from loving my neighbor?”
“Selfishness.”
“How can I stop being so selfish?”
“Forget yourself into greatness.”

Consider these words from William Arthur Ward of Texas Wesleyan University:

If you are wise, you will forget yourself into greatness.
Forget your rights, but remember your responsibilities.
Forget your inconveniences, but remember your blessings.
Forget your own accomplishments, but remember your obligations.

Follow the examples of Florence Nightengale, of Albert Schweitzer, of Abraham Lincoln, of Tom Dooley, and forget yourself into greatness.

If you are wise, you will empty yourself into adventure.
Remember the words of General Douglass McArthur:
“There is no security on this earth. There is only opportunity.”

Empty your days of the search for security; fill them with a passion for service.
Empty your hours of the ambition for recognition; fill them with the aspiration for achievement.
Empty your moments of the need for entertainment; fill them with the quest for creativity.
If you are wise, you will forget yourself into greatness.

As we forget ourselves into greatness, our hearts are filled with love. Selfishness is defeated when we invest our lives in others. It is in giving that we receive.

March 3, 2011

Love the Body

Sometimes I miss the most obvious things.

I was listening to Christian radio talk show host Neil Boron on Buffalo’s WDCX as he told the story of visiting another church — he’s a former pastor — and seeing the directions showing the restrooms were located at the end of a long hallway, walking by at least thirty people who simply looked at him but didn’t say anything. He said in many of those cases he initiated contact because they didn’t. He eventually made it to the auditorium and found a seat, and still nobody initiated communication with him until that particular part of the service where people are told to welcome each other.

This really bothered him.

It bothered me as I heard it.

That’s when I started thinking about John 13:34-35, the “new commandment” verse:

John 13:34-35 (The Message) “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

I mean, it’s not rocket science to notice that Jesus is clearly not saying that the world will be affected when we reach out to them and love them.  Of course we should do that.  We’re actually doing a credible job of that right now, at least on the domestic front; social justice ministries are multiplying in our churches faster than rabbits.

No, He says the world will sit up and take notice when we evidence love for each other.  They are watching us.  How are we doing on that one?

Is it possible we can be showing the love to the world at large, but not making a significant impact because they still don’t see it working internally for us as a church?

‘How they love each other! How they are willing even to die for one another!’ – Tertullian (early church historian).