Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wednesday, April 30th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 1-2; Psalm 86; John 18
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 6:5-9

Ephesians 6:5-9

English Standard Version (ESV)

Bondservants and Masters

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Spirit-Filled Labour Relations
Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Christian at Work

Though this passage uses the terms bondservants (or slaves) and masters (or lords) it is really meant the way we view the words employee and employer.

I don't want to get off topic and discuss slavery itself, but suffice it to say that abusive slavery has always been condemned in the Bible and that it is the spread of the gospel that causes the elimination of slavery as a practice.

This passage is pretty basic.  Employees need to work hard, they need to work ethically, they need to work efficiently, they need to work willingly, they need to work with a good attitude, they need to work productively - no matter who is or is not watching.

Even when their employers are rude or mean.  You always have the option of changing jobs, but if you've decided to work for someone, you need to submit to that relationship.  Employees need to obey their employers unless they are being told to sin.

Your service to your employer is an act of worship to God.  Your work is your mission field.  Every single Christian works in the ministry whether they are a janitor or a pastor.  There is no such thing as a part time Christian.

And employers?  Treat your employees the way Christ treats you.

This is a very simple passage.  Easy?  No, not always.  Simple? Yes.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ephesians 6:10-12
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Samuel 3-4, Psalm 87, John 19

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday - April 29 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ruth 3-4; Psalm 89; John
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
I once saw a question posted on Facebook about the 5th commandment "Honor thy father and mother." The question was - "why should I honor a person who left me, or abused me? Why should I obey a parent who tells me to do wrong?"
It's a serious question, but one that is easily answered when taken within context of a Christ-following life.
Honoring is not always the same as loving. Honoring is respecting a person, of acknowledging their place in your life no matter how they treat you. God is not commanding us to stay with abusive parents, to search out and live with parents who abandon us. He is asking us to be a person of integrity and treat people as someone worth the love of Christ no matter what we personally feel.
This commandment of honoring is in place for our entire lifetime.
There are ways to respectfully disagree with someone who tells you to do wrong, and I personally feel that if a parent asks you to do something that goes against the word of God, you have the right to respectfully disagree.
It's a sticky situation, and I'm not sure where the theologians fall, but I have always felt that the "obey" command gets harder as you get older. Once you are an adult, you are then looking after yourself, and the command to obey tends to fall to the wayside. However, if you continue to honor your parents, if your parents are Godly people, you may willing follow their advice.  But maybe that is just following advice and not technically obeying. :)
As it is pointed out in Ephesians 6:3, the promise that follows honoring your parents is "enjoying long life on earth." In Biblical days, disobeying parents could lead to being put to death through the law.  Yikes. 
Also during Biblical times, fathers had complete control of their children- they could do whatever they wanted with them, including selling them as slaves. Paul is telling fathers (and in turn mothers) to treat their children with love, to protect them. To give them an education, to teach them about the love of God, and to model a life of integrity.
For me personally, I find myself in an interesting place in life - training up my children to be people of integrity, while trying to model it each day so that they willingly honor me. Thank God He is with me every moment!
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ephesians 6:5-9
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Samuel 1-2; Psalm 86; John 18

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday, April 28th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ruth 1-2, Psalm 84, John 16
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 5:25-33

Ephesians 5:25-33

English Standard Version (ESV)
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Christian Husband
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: God's Pattern for Husbands Part 1 and Part 2, and Husbands, Love Your Wives

I appreciated MacArthur's general advice about marriage....that it's not about finding that perfect person for you that checks off all the right boxes, but it's about finding someone who loves Jesus, with a heart to serve Him, and you can pursue holiness together in relationship with each other.
 I do understand that marriage does pose conflict because when you slam two centers together permanently, they’re going to rub each other the wrong way because that’s what sin does. But the answer to all of that, of course, is to be obedient to Christ, to love Christ, to love each other and to walk in the power of the Spirit and watch the Lord overcome those things and fill your life with profound joy and blessing beyond anything that could be experienced in singleness unless that is what God has particularly designed you for.

There is such a negative attitude towards marriage in our society today.  Such an emphasis on staying single so you can do all these things you want to do.  Such a self focus.  There are obviously people that God has called to singleness, either for a season or for a lifetime, but the majority of us are designed for marriage.  There are a number of reasons for that.  Marriage prevents immorality, eliminates solitude and provides companionship, produces children which are a blessing from heaven, and, of course, provide loving affection.  The sooner the better (within reason) I say!  :)

Thought marriage is one of life's greatest joys, because we are sinful people, our most intimate relationships can also be the source of our greatest hurts.

Our marriages need to be empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit - that's why these passages follow the topic of being filled with the Spirit, having an attitude of submission towards those around us.  Friday we dealt with wives, today we're dealing with husbands.

The husband’s command is very clear. It’s a single command. Husbands, love your wives. Love your wives. That is the command. There is no command to take authority over your wife. That’s not the command. That is not the command. Is the husband the head? Absolutely he’s the head. We saw that, didn’t we, in 1 Corinthians 11, the husband is the head of the wife, Christ is the head of the man, God is the head of Christ. But the command is not to take authority. It doesn’t say a word about that. It doesn’t say take authority. It doesn’t say rule over your wife. It doesn’t say order her around. It doesn’t say command her. It doesn’t say subjugate her, subject her. It doesn’t say dominate her. It says love your wives…love your wives. And the word for love is from the verb agapao which is the most intense, most divine, most magnanimous, most sacrificial, most humble kind of love. It’s the love of the will. There are other words for love in the Greek language. There’s the word eros from which you get erotic, that’s a sexual kind of love. There’s the word phileo, the verbphileo which is the word that is in the word Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, it means that, that kind of a normal, human affection. There is even a word for family love and that word is used when the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy and says that people in the society, the worldly society have lost their natural affection. That is their family love. So there are words for family love, and erotic love, and brotherly love. But this is the word for the love of the will. This is the word that is the most magnanimous, the most far-reaching, and the most intentional. This is…this is a word for love that is not defined by the solicitation of the one loved. This is the love of the will. This is loving because it is right to love

Husbands are to love their wives the way Christ loves the church:
Christ loves us with an inseparable love, with an undying love, with a love that cannot be diminished and it cannot be replaced. You think about loving your wife that way. You love your wife with a love that couldn’t be broken by tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword. It couldn’t be broken by death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, powers height depth or any other created thing in the universe. This is how Christ loved His church. This is how a man is to love his wife.

1 Peter 3:7 adds that husbands should love their wives with consideration, and understanding, and sensitivity, and chivalry, and communing together with her, understanding you’re equal heirs of the grace of life which is, of course, marriage in Christ. Together in deep intimate commitment and communion, your prayers will be heard and answered.

Husbands are to love sacrificially. Selflessly.
Legge: how many husbands die daily for their wife? I would hope most of us probably would die for our wives if it came to the bit in a situation - but dying daily is a different thing, isn't it? To be selfless for our wives, to pay the price of what it means to love as Christ loved the church

Husbands are to love with a purifying love, never leading them into sin, but rather towards a closer walk with Jesus, praying for them continuously.
Husbands are to care for their wives, protecting and providing for them.
Husbands are to love permanently, till death do us part.

And, what is the mystery in v32?
New revelation, something in the past hidden, and now revealed. The mystery is this; this has never been said before in holy Scripture, never in the Old Testament that marriage is to follow the pattern of Christ’s relationship to the church. Marriage is sacred. The church is one with Christ, that’s the mystery. The church is one with Christ, and that’s the picture of marriage. It is sacred by virtue of its association with the relationship between Christ and His church.

Marriage is not only an emotional and physical relationship, it is also a spiritual one, where two become one.  What a beautiful picture of Christ and His church.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ephesians 6:1-4
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ruth 3-4, Psalm 85, John 17

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday, April 25th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 17-18, Psalm 83, John 15
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 5:22-24

Ephesians 5:22-24

English Standard Version (ESV)

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

So, I get the controversial one :)

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: God's Pattern for Wives Part 1 and Part 2, The Willful Submission of a Christian Wife
Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Christian Wife

Both Legge and MacArthur tie this passage in to yesterday's passage.

MacArthur: we draw our attention to chapter 5 verse 18 because here is the foundation. “Be filled with the Spirit.” Be being kept with the Holy Spirit. We’ve already talked about that. We know what that means, it means to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, to be moved along by the Holy Spirit. It’s not a glass-filled, because that’s a static kind of filling. It’s a sail filled because that’s in motion and that’s this kind of filling. Be born along, moved along, carried along by the Holy Spirit. That is essential to Christian living.

And then we see what Spirit-filled people do. They speak to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In other words, they worship. Spirit-filled people worship. Verse 20, they give thanks. Their lives are marked by thankfulness.
And then in verse 21, and this is what triggers the rest of the section, they submit…they submit. You could break these things down - singing is a personal expression of joy for what’s going on in one’s own life by the working of the Holy Spirit, “saying thanks” is directed at God and “submitting” is directed at others....
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others.” That is the soul of submission. It is humility. It is being unselfish, having no conceit but with humility of mind, considering others as more important than yourselves. Not looking out for your own interests, but the interests of others. That is a spiritual grace that is produced by the Holy Spirit. If there is any fellowship of the Spirit, any real fellowship of the Spirit, this then will appear. And—by the way—the greatest illustration of this is Christ Himself. You are to have this attitude of humble submission in yourselves, verse 5, which was also in Christ Jesus who although He existed in the form of God didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, held onto, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave and being made in the likeness of man, found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”...
 a Spirit-filled person will be humbly submissive....
It is this submissive attitude that makes a marriage work. I don’t have any question about the fact that I’m supposed to be the head of Patricia, my wife. She doesn’t have any restraints placed upon her by that, that in and of itself are abusive or harsh, because I understand that while I have authority over her given to me from God, I am also commanded to be submissive to her in every area of her needs. Sometimes when people say to me, “What’s the key to a good marriage? What’s the key to a marriage full of joy and blessing?” And I’ll tell you what it is in a very simple sentence. And this is my objective in dealing with the wife that I adore; it is simply this, “Whatever will bring her joy and be to her benefit, I will submit to do, happily, because all I want is her joy and spiritual benefit.” It’s that simple. 
We are all to live in an attitude of submission towards each other.

Then, Paul goes on to give examples of this submission.  And the first example is of the wife being submissive to her husband (not to other men) as to the Lord, as it fits the created order of God.

The wife submits to her husband not in the sense that he’s a dictator, not in the sense that he’s domineering, not in the sense that he’s authoritarian, but in the sense that he is the protector, the provider, the preserver, the Savior. I’ll save you from want…the husband says. I’ll save you from need. I’ll save you from danger. I’ll save you from illness. I’ll save you from disaster. I’m here to be your rescuer, your protector, your preserver, your savior.
So the Apostle Paul is saying that the wife must recognize that in the husband’s capacity as head, he is closely united to her in one flesh and he is deeply concerned about her needs, her relationship to him is as a believer’s relationship to Christ. She views him as her spiritual guardian, her spiritual protector, her source of safety and blessing and provision.
To extend it even more, Jesus is our Savior because He sacrificed Himself for us, right? And a woman should look at her husband and see one who would make any sacrifice for her well-being. That is what women are looking for and that is what men must offer....
Now all of this goes back to the principle of chapter 5 verse 18 where we started, right? You say, “How can a husband be all that?” Be being…what?...filled with the Spirit. How can a wife be all that? By being filled with the Spirit. This is what overthrows the curse.

Monday's scripture focus: Ephesians 5:25-33
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 19-20
Sunday's passage: Judges 21
Monday's passage: Ruth 1-2, Psalm 84, John 16

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday, April 24th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 15-16, Psalm 82, John 14
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 5:15-21

Ephesians 5:15-21

English Standard Version (ESV)
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Fullness of the Spirit
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: Walking in Wisdom Part 1, Part 2, and Be Not Drunk With Wine Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, Be Filled With the Spirit Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Obviously, I did not read all 9 of MacArthur's sermons on this passage!  I skimmed parts of the last in each series, and read Legge's sermon.  I'm sure there are a lot of great points to be made here, but I'm going to pretty much just stick with Legge's outline as I'm just writing a quick post for Miriam and need to get going on my one for Monday!

We are charged to walk in wisdom by redeeming the time, and by understanding God's will.  We are to be filled with the Spirit - rejoicing, thanking, and submitting.

I love the phrase redeeming the time.  But, it is very convicting.  None of us knows how much time we have left - how are we using what we've been given? Are we using it for God's purposes or for our own? I admit that I am not always a good steward of my time, and I need to work on this area.

Knowing God's will for our life is not overly mystical.  I liked MacArthur's take on this.  His point, basically, was that if we are believers, and if we are living out our faith daily, pursuing God through studying of the Word and prayer, if we are growing more and more like Jesus - then God will plant righteous desires within our hearts - He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Note the slight twist there - it's not that He will give us whatever our hearts desire (taken as a genie granting our every wish), but that He will cause us to desire that which He has planned for us to do before the beginning of time.

I won't go into the drinking bit too much as we've discussed that before on this blog.  Suffice it to say that drunkeness is obviously forbidden by God, and there are many questions to take into consideration when deciding if drinking any alcohol is the right choice or not.  Is alcohol the same now as it was in biblical times? Is it necessary to drink it or are there other options?  If it's simply a want (not a need), is it the best choice?  Is it habit forming?  Is it potentially destructive? Is it offensive to other Christians? Will it harm my Christian testimony?  Is this a way to make a distinction between my lifestyle and the lifestyle of nonbelievers around me? Does your conscience both you in any way when you drink? (Because even if something is ok to do, if you feel like you are violating your conscience you shouldn't do it, as that will weaken or even sear your conscience, and produce self-guilt and condemnation that should not be there). Well, that ended up being longer than I intended! :)  I do not think it is wrong for Christians to drink, but we have chosen not due to several of the answers to the above questions.

We know that we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we become a Christian, but we are to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, to work within our lives, to be purposefully sensitive to that work, and to yield control to Him.

When we do so, our lives will reflect that.  We will be people of joy and gratitude, concerned with the needs of others over ourselves.  In the coming passages we will see specific examples of how the plays out practically in our daily lives.

Tomorrow's scripture focusEphesians 5:22-24
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 17-18, Psalm 83, John 15

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday, April 23rd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 13-14, Psalm 81, John 13
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 5:8-14

Ephesians 5:8-14

English Standard Version (ESV)
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Accompanying David Legge sermon: The Children of Light
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Living in the Light

We were darkness.  We weren't just victims of darkness.  We were contributors, active participants.  We were darkness personified.  That hits hard, doesn't it?

I believe, sincerely, that some of the greatest difficulties we have in the Christian life with regards to holiness are because we do not fully understand our own depravity before we were saved. We think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Paul is reminding them

It's only when we understand our absolute depravity in contrast to His absolute holiness that we can even come close to understand His mercy and love.

We were darkness.  But now, we are light!  And we need to live like it.

God is saying: 'Look, if the light of God is in you, you will be the prism of Jesus Christ - and you will radiate His light in these three things: goodness, righteousness, and in truth'.
We prove that we are light by radiating those good things, but also by refusing to partake in evil things, and by exposing them, as guided by the Holy Spirit (some things we shouldn't even speak of, and definitely not dwell on).

when Christians walk as the children of light, as Christ walked, light will be brought to other people. We are to show forth God's light, and it's not just preaching the Gospel, but it's preaching the Gospel with a life filled with the light of God - that's what makes the difference! When men can see: 'That is for real! That really works!'.
Do we radiate Christ with the way we live our lives?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ephesians 5:15-21
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 15-16, Psalm 82, John 14

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday - April 22 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 11-12, Psalm 80, John 12
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 5:1-7

Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, afragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them;

At this point I'm late with my blog, and honestly I have very little to say about this passage without being able to study it further.  Instead, I'll leave you with the link to Mark Driscoll's sermon and John MacArthur's 2 sermons (here and here)

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ephesians 5:8-14
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 13-14, Psalm 81, John 13

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014 -by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 9-10, Psalm 79, John 11
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 4:25-32

Ephesians 4:25-32

English Standard Version (ESV)
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I was at a funeral this weekend for a co-worker. Her parting comments in her funeral program echo the final verse of this passage.
Nancy's program said:

and the passage says:
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are commanded to be kind. Be kind. In our words. In our actions. In our forgiving. We don't know what others are going through. We don't know how large or how heavy their burden is that they carry. People are reluctant to be vulnerable and we tend to hide our struggles and fight our battles alone instead of with each other. When we love like Jesus did we are kind. We treat others well. We don't have to know what people are going through to be kind to others. We are to treat people as Jesus would. We need to act out our faith through our actions

John MacArthur goes beyond that:

Now Paul is reinforcing basically the same truth in Ephesians. Paul is saying in chapters 1 to 3 “Look, this is who you are,” verses 4 to 6, this is how you act. And you can never separate the two. There is always the standard in terms of position and then there always is the activity in terms of behavior and they go together. You cannot say - Well, I am a Christian because once I received Christ...If you are a believer, this is how it is manifest. Peter says it in II Peter chapter 1, he says you have received the new nature. You have received a nature that is beyond corruption. You have received great and precious promises; you have been made a partaker of the divine nature. Now the only way that will ever be verified, the only way that calling and election can ever be made sure, is when you add to that virtue. And when you add virtue to that you begin to see the reality of that. And he talks about virtue and he talks about kindness, and he talks about love, and all of those characteristics of a new creature.
In other words, what Peter is saying is this - You will have the knowledge of your salvation, the assurance of your salvation, not by remembering a past event but by seeing a present virtue.
That's basic.
John says the same thing in I John, you can know that you're a Christian by the thing that's going on in your life now. And this is true. You know, even people who are Christians, when they get living in a sinful situation for any length of time, one of the first things they lose is a sense of security. And they begin to doubt whether they're really saved. Because that comes from the witness of a life and a confirmation of the Holy Spirit within us.
So if you're not living a different life there's a real possibility you're not a different person. New creatures act like new creatures. But watch this, even though this is an absolute, and -even though God says this is how it is, there is still the cooperating element of my will. And even though the Lord is saying if you are a believer, this is how you will live, that doesn't mean it's against my will. That's the beauty of the paradox of the Christian life.
Are we different people because of our faith? Will people around us recognize us as believers? If "this is who we are" then "this is what we do". You can never separate the two.

If you're new in Jesus Christ, it ought to be there. O would to God that these things were true.
Listen, people, if we could be a community in the midst of this world, a community of people who never lie but always speak the truth, a community of people who never get angry so that it's a sinful anger, but always act in love, if we could be a people who never steal but only share, if we could be a people who never speak filthy communication but always minister grace to people who are listening, if we could be those who have no bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, but are characterized by an incessant kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness do you think the world might take a note of our message? I think they would. That's the way new men are to act.
Examine yourself whether you are in the faith. Do you speak truth? Do you have control of anger so that it only operates in righteous ways? Do you share? Do you speak graciously? Do you love in kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness? New men live new lives.

Do we?

Tomorrow's scripture focusEphesians 5:1-7
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 11-12, Psalm 80, John 12

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday, April 18th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 3-4; Psalm 78; John 10.
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 4:17-24

Ephesians 4:17-24

English Standard Version (ESV)

The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Off With the Old, On With the New Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying David Legge sermon: Change Your Clothes
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: I am New

In Chapters 4-6 Paul is mirroring practically what he wrote about doctrinally in Chapters 1-3.

Doctrinally, Paul said...
Ephesians 2:1-2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

Practically, Pauls says....
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

As Christians, our walk, our lifestyle, the way we live our lives, needs to reflect our new nature.

Without Christ, we think foolishly which leads to darkness of understanding which leads to alienation from God which leads to blindness of ignorance which leads to numbness of sensuality and the impurity of lust.  Total depravity, where sin is not only committed flagrantly, but it is celebrated!  And it never ends, because lust is insatiable.  It can never satisfy us.  Sin blinds us to that fact, but it's true.

The only reason we are not currently living in a hell of our own making is due to the grace of God and the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit in the church of Christ. If it weren't for those two factors, the world would be in utter and extreme chaos.

When we receive the gift of salvation, that has to stop.  We cannot continue living in that lifestyle.  Salvation is instant, but it is also a growing process with Jesus Christ as our teacher.  If we are not learning and growing, we need to question whether our faith is even genuine.

We need to consciously and proactively put away that old life, repenting of our sin - not just once, but every time we come under conviction by the Holy Spirit.  Our minds need to be renewed - changed so that we think like Christ.

When we become Christians, we give Christ our sin and He gives us His righteousness.  As Legge says, here Paul is crying to us to show the righteousness of God toward one another, and to show true holiness before God in our lives.

We need to....
ask God that He'll take us into His school - the school of Christ - and that He'll begin to take those things out of our hearts, and renew our mind, and enable us to live lives of righteousness and true holiness in His sight. For He can do it, for it is God that worketh in you to do and to will of His purpose.

Lord, we pray like old M'Cheyne prayed: God, make us as holy as sinners can be. Not for our glory, but for Thy glory and for the extension of Thy kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday's scripture focusEphesians 4:25-32
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Judges 5-6
Sunday's passage: Judges 7-8
Monday's passage: Judges 9-10, Psalm 79, John 11

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday, April 17 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Judges 1-2; Psalm 77; John 9.
Today's scripture focus is Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Good morning!  Anyone else love the description of the church as a body, with many different parts all performing different functions?  I've always liked it because it confirms that with the vast variety of strengths, weaknesses, talents, abilities and gifts of all the different individuals in the church, all the parts are important, necessary, beneficial to the body as a whole.  God created each of us to be individual and unique for a reason.  Our individuality and our unique gifts and talents need to be explored and utilized so that we can be a functional and productive part of the whole!  I love this.  I love it because while it celebrates our individuality, it also means each person is not having to do everything on their own.  We're all part of the team!  We all have different roles.  We're all helping and serving each other, and serving God as part of the church, part of His body, but it's a team effort, not an individual sport.

Legge says the following in his sermon Body Building:

 Listen: when the body of Christ, with the gifts of Christ, work together with Christ, the church grows. There is a process: gifts are given, why? To equip. Then, when the saints take the gifts that Christ has equipped them with, and begin to serve with those gifts - thirdly, what will happen is that the body will be built up and growth will happen. Now, there is a myth - and I don't care what evangelical circles you go to, this myth exists, and even in the Iron Hall I'm sure it exists - and it's that the church is some kind of a pyramid structure, and at the top is the pastor or the elder, or the elders. There they are at the top, and they are the one who is to do the work of the ministry that you find in verse 12. They are the little 'popes' at the top of the scale. There is this mentality of the bus driver - maybe the pastor's driving the bus, and everybody's in the seats behind, and he's taking them wherever he wants them to go. That is false! That is not in the New Testament, that's not found in the word of God - and I believe, honestly from the depths of my heart, that this is one of the greatest hindrances to the gospel of Jesus Christ that there is at this moment in this place! The church cannot operate as a body if you're relying on one group of men.

Vance Havner said these powerful words: 'Christianity began as a company of lay-witnesses. It has become a professional pulpitism, financed by lay-spectators'. Yes, and I add this: the labourer is worthy of his hire, but he goes on to say, 'nowadays we hire a church staff to do the full-time Christian work, and we sit in the church on Sunday to watch them do it'. Every Christian is meant to be a full-time servant! There is, indeed, a special ministry for pastors, teachers, and evangelists - but for what? Verse 12: 'for the perfecting of the saints, and for your ministry'! That's what it means! Not for my ministry, not for the oversight's ministry, but for the ministry of the body of Christ working together as one. What is the bottom line? The bottom line is this: Christ has given you a gift, and Christ has given you a gift to be used within His church. There are many ministries within our land that need to be utilised that have never been tapped. There are ministries to prostitutes, there are ministries to unmarried mothers, there are ministries to poor people, disabled people - ministries that you couldn't even imagine, that we have not even thought about, that need to be thought about!

Verse 16: 'From whom the whole body fitly joined together', you see that, 'fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth' - all of you are important! That's what I want you to see! Every single one of you has a gift! You've been ordained of it by God for a reason: that you use it within the assembly of Jesus Christ. 

Let us bow our heads, and let's consider - each of us individually - are we utilising the gift that God has given us? He has promised that He has given us at least one. My friend, the word of God indicates that on that day when we stand at the Throne many of us, more than we could ever imagine, will suffer loss. If you're not using your gift, you can be sure that you'll lose your reward. Ask God to reveal to you how and where you can use it. May you use it from this night forth.

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Ephesians 4:17-24
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Judges 3-4; Psalm 78; John 10.