You Before Me (Ephesians 5)

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Paul is calling us to act like God. If we really look at what it means to be a Christian, this makes total sense for our theology. Jesus Christ is God, and we are his followers, so naturally we are trying to imitate God in our daily lives. Paul writes, “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (5:1-2, NASB). Paul goes on to describe what this lifestyle looks like; putting away immorality, impurity, greed, filthiest, “silly talk”, foul language, and inappropriate joking and taking up a life of thankfulness. Paul recognizes this to be the way of the world. Christ calls us to be humble and thankful.

I think of a story within Jesus’ life. In Jesus’ time, it was customary for slaves to come and wash the feet of dinner guests, especially for a special dinners. Before the start of Christ’s final meal, he took up a towel and a water basin and proceeded to wash the disciples feet. He humbled himself before them. Being God, he was obviously deserving of all the disciples washing his feet, but he showed them that as his followers they were to take a lowly position so that others may be taken care of. (John 13:5-20)

Paul goes on and shows that our relationships with each other mirror Christ’s relationship to the Church. Paul first shows this through the marital relationship. Just like the wives are to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, so must the Church be to Christ. However, husbands get a much lengthy call from Paul in this letter. Husband are to be sacrificial for their wives. Husbands must give up everything, even their own lives, so that their wives are taken care of. In this same way, Christ died for the Church for her own good.

Can we live this sort of life today?  Let’s sit there for a second. Can we really live out this life of sacrificial love for one another that Christ has modeled for and called us into?

 

Too many times we hear about selfishness and greed ruling the world. Phrases like “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” and “we just grew apart” show me that this lifestyle is rarely known in our world. We have been called to stand out in our world. Paul writes in another letter, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NASB). This world tells us to look out for #1, while Christ shows us to look out for everyone else. Christ died for you and me when he did not have to. God could have chosen to let us all suffer the consequences of the Fall, and many of us do. But thanks to Jesus, we no longer have to suffer that punishment. We should be sacrificial in all of our relationships. Always giving up what we want, so that others may get what they need. I’m not saying that Christians should be in poverty so the rest of the world can prosper, but we tend to get too caught up in our own wants and desires we rarely stop to think about anyone else. Christ modeled a life of sacrifice for us to follow. I suggest that if we want to call ourselves Christians, we stop worrying about ourselves and start worrying about others.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 1-3

Also in this Series:

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“My Religion is Kindness”

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A few weeks ago I had come across a picture on my News Feed on Facebook. I wish I had saved it because now I can only vaguely remember it. What I do remember was that it held commentary about how the Church treats people. Specifically around the subject of homosexuality. Largely it had the notion attached that the Church is an organization that hates people and seeks to turn them all rich WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). All people have to look the same way, behave the same way, and have things that look a certain way. The post then followed up with this quote from the Dali Lama, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Which I must admit is a great sentiment, but it still got me upset!

So I went to the dictionary. Merriam-Websters dictionary defines kindness as “the quality or state of being kind: a kind act”. Thanks Websters, that helped a lot.  So I looked up “kind” which is defined as “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others : wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others”. The way that it would seem is that kindness (when it is the motivation) is a self motivation to do good for others for their sake and, whether intentional or not, to make us look good.

We are called to be kind to one another, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;” (Colossians 3:12, NASB). Clearly we should be kind to each other, and those that we come into contact with. But why, if there are so many commands about kindness, can the Church be seen as an unkind institution.

The answer my friends is love. This is the principle that the Church has been founded on. God loved us, so He sent His Son. Jesus loved us, so he died on a Cross. He commands us to love everyone, including our enemies. The Bible even tells us that God is love! (1 John 4:8). So why is the principle of love taken to be an unkind act?

Again, I went to Webster. Love, once you get away from romance and sex, is defined as “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another”. When you look out for the welfare of others, things can be taken poorly. Now lesson has taught me this greater than being a father. When your child wants to chew on electrical cords, or climb on something unstable, or even play in the street, you know that the situation is dangerous and something will happen to your child if you don’t fix it. So what happens when you take away the cord, pull them off the structure, or pull them out of the road? They cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. So no wonder the Church seems unkind. We tell people their wrong, so they cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. Why? Because we told them that what they are doing is unwise.

If you want to build you beliefs around kindness, go ahead. My God is love and He cares deeply for me. He came and took a terrible punishment so I don’t have to. I’ll take a god who loves me over a god who does kind acts for me any day. Yes, love can be kind. It’s important for love to perform acts of kindness. But kindness cannot be the center of our beliefs. Kindness alone is selfish, while love is selfless.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, endures all things.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB

Holy Week Day 5

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Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. Today we see Jesus realizing that the end of his earthly life is near. He institutes Holy Communion, while celebrating the Passover early with his disciples. Jesus took elements from the Passover meal, which has significance to the Jewish people, and re-purposed them for the use of his followers. The first was the bread, which he made his body. The second was the cup of wine, which became his blood.

The meaning of the term “Maundy” comes up from John 13:34. The term comes from the Latin word “mandatum”, which means commandment. “Maundy” is an English version of this word, and applied to today because Jesus instituted a new commandment on this Thursday. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:24, NASB). The heart of this day rests in loving each other and serving one another, as Jesus did for us. He showed us what love is on the Cross. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT). Today begins a series of events where God showed us what love is ultimately about.

I encourage you as we celebrate today to especially read John 17. These verses are the final prayer that Jesus prays before being arrested. He would have prayed these words either really late tonight or really early in the morning. I just think this is a good prayer to pay attention to during this time of celebration and remembrance.

Today’s readings: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-23; John 13-17

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 93

LOVE (2 John)

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As I was doing the reading for today and I struggled with what to write for a little (hence the late posting). The problem mostly came from the fact that the themes in the letters today and yesterday, are pretty much the same. So I really didn’t want to post the same thing twice.

But in today’s posting I’m covering one verse. 2 John is only 13 verses long, there are no chapters, and its a pretty simple, straightforward message. It may get confusing because John starts this letter saying, “I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, …” (2 John 1 NLT). However, he is most likely speaking to a specific church, probably the same church as 1 John.

There was one verse that stuck out to me today. “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.” (2 John 6 NLT). This says to me something very simple. As Christians, we don’t act a certain way because we claim to be Christians, we act this way because we love God. It really makes you look at your motives for what you do. Do you help someone less fortunate than you because your a Christian, or is it because you love Christ and that compels you to do it?

Love can make people do some crazy things. It’s enough to cause a strong atheist to begin to take a look at this God thing. That’s my story. I was a man that didn’t want anything to do with God, didn’t need Him, didn’t want Him, and I certainly wasn’t going to be in love with Him. Yet, I feel in love with a Christian, and she told me that we wouldn’t be able to go farther in our relationship if I wasn’t a Christian. So I figured I would give it a shot. I opened my dusty old Bible and began reading Luke.

So we must love others. Love is the basic foundation of our faith and who God is (1 John 4:8). Share your love. Not just with God, but with others. He has called us to love one another, so shouldn’t we listen. Stop bringing each other down, but rather rise each other up. So just…

LOVE

We Must Love (1 John)

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I decided that it is time to do another Bible study. However, this one will be quick. Over the next three days I will cover the three epistles of John. So grab your Bible, and start reading.

Today we are reading 1 John. In this letter John discusses two major themes. First, he combats a heresy that has arisen that says Jesus never came in bodily form. The second is to love and care for one another.

The heresy that John writes against is teaching that Jesus never came to earth, the apostles never saw him, spent time with him, or touched him. Basically, that it was all a spiritual experience. This is obviously counter to the entire gospel message! John writes, “And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross — not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses — the Spirit, the water, and the blood — all three agree.” (5:6-8 NLT). John is showing that Jesus was God’s Son, as proof from his baptism (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). He is also showing that the Spirit came because of Jesus’ promise (Acts 2). And also showing that Jesus had a fleshly body, since he was crucified on a cross and his death is our salvation.

To me however, the biggest point in John’s first letter is that the defining attribute of a Christ follower is love. He says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment — to love one another — is the same message you heard before.” (2:7 NLT).  John is referring to the message that Jesus shared all throughout the his ministry, and most likely the same message all the apostle took as they started new churches.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (3:18 NLT). This goes along with what James writes in his letter, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead…” (James 2:14-17 NASB). It seems counter to Paul’s argument that works cannot save you (pretty much most of Paul’s letter to the Romans). The difference here is that Paul is saying that you can’t do enough things to earn your salvation. James and John are both saying that if we have faith, we can’t help but do good deeds for the glory of God.

As Christians, we must love one another. “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (3:14 NLT). If we cross from sin into eternal life, it is because we have the Spirit inside of us, and that Spirit can’t help but love. So if you are still in sin, you cannot love the way Jesus, and the Christian lifestyle demands. However, I feel I should mention that this doesn’t mean we have to like everyone. There are people, even in my church, that I cannot stand. I still love them, but the moment that turns to hate, we’ve got a problem.

So love others. Christ loved everyone. God loves everyone. The Spirit compels us to love. This is the way it is for us. The most basic thing we can do on our Christian journey’s is to love others, unconditionally. Yes, people sin and that wrong. It’s ok to hate what they do, especially if it is a sin (we’re actually called to hate what evil and sin [Psalm 97:10]), but we can still love the person. Jesus showed his love to sinners and outcasts all throughout his ministry. So think about the words you say, and the things you do. Be certain that you are showing love to all people, especially fellow Christians.