Monday, March 30, 2009

Impressed to make an Impression

Recently I was reading some of Chrysostom’s homilies on Galatians. He can be fairly thought provoking at times… even if occasionally the thought is “What???” Like when he explains Paul’s rebuke of Peter as a ruse they had cooked up to silence the Judaizers. In Homily IV, he begins by quoting, 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” The interesting thing is he applies these verses to Christ showing longsuffering TO Paul instead of as I had understood it Christ showing longsuffering THROUGH Paul. Then I got to thinking…

Ephesians 2:10 brings out that we are a masterpiece being created by God to perform tasks He has foreordained… Paul tells us in the verse we just looked at, that through his life all the following generations should see longsuffering. John was the beloved disciple who became the apostle of love. So how do you show forth something unless you have experienced it? Paul first knew the longsuffering of God by his experience of it in the realization that God had born with Paul throughout his time of persecuting the Church and waited that He might show mercy on the road to Damascus. From that realization Paul could learn to do the same and show longsuffering to others. John learned what love is as he received the love of Christ in a way beyond what the other disciples experienced it. Having received, he could also give out that love, and it became the reoccurring theme in all his writings.
In Hebrews 1:3 Christ is spoken of as the express image of the Father. “Express image” is the translation of the Greek “Charakter”. That word has a two-fold meaning much like the English words “Stamp” and “Seal”. It refers to the thing which produces the image, and also to the image formed. Christ is both the image of God and the instrument that forms that image in us. How do we show longsuffering, patience, love, joy , etc… if we have never seen them? Thus it is essential that we first experience these things from Christ (either directly or through His people) so that we can show them forth to others. We are impressed to make an impression.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Relationship for Use or Use for Relationship

Recently I was doing some studying on the Life and Epistles of Peter, which I will be teaching in a few months. I was reading in Matthew 16 of how right after the most marvelous declaration of faith that Peter makes (v16), he then proceeds to argue with the Lord and to try to prevent His going to the cross (v22) in this being used by the devil.

This led me to consider a little bit about human ambition. Peter’s problem was that he had his own agenda in following Christ. This self-seeking was used by the devil to attempt to deflect Christ from the cross. I was musing on this and I came across, what I believe is the hallmark of human ambition. Human ambition, like Luciferian ambition from which it has its root, sees relationship as a means of use. Peter viewed his relationship in following Christ as a means to achieve the goals of personal advancement that he had (Thankfully he didn’t stay that way). This is the human and diabolical way of thinking. It is unfortunately very common even in Christian circles, people view their relationship with God as a means to get what they want, pastors and leaders view people as a means to achieve their aims. This is all a worldly mentality.

God’s mentality is use for relationship. The relationship is the goal and what we do for Him is the means He uses to bring about relationship. This is shown in Psalm 68:18 “You have gone up on high; You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts for men, yes, for the rebellious also, that You might dwell among them, O Jehovah God.” Notice the purpose in Christ’s receiving of gifts; it is that God might dwell among even the rebellious. This verse is quoted with some alteration in Ephesians 4:8, where it refers to Christ giving gifts – specifically the five-fold ministry gifts. When God gives gifts, especially the five-fold ministry gifts, the purpose is that as we use these gifts we will be reliant on Him and grow in relationship with Him. God does not bring us into relationship to use us, but He uses us to bring about His purposes so that He can thereby foster a relationship based on commonality of interest and experience (as we begin to know in a small measure His sufferings and joys). This is also the mentality we should have towards others; otherwise we are just like any worldly leader.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

King Saul

I was reading in 2 Samuel last night and came to the portion about the famine because of what King Saul had done to the Gibeonites. That made me think about just how inconsistent man is apart from God’s grace. Think about this:
1. When Saul was given a responsibility by God, he hides (1 Sam. 10:21-23), but shortly afterwards he boldly takes a responsibility that was not his (1 Sam. 13:9-10).
2. He is ordered to utterly destroy the Amalekites, which God had commanded hundreds of years before (Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 15), but he spares the king of the Amalekites and their cattle. However, mercy is not his strongpoint, because he tries to destroy, without provocation and in the face of a covenant of peace made before Jehovah, the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:1-2), and for a pretended offense against him, he also killed the priests at Nob (1 Sam. 22:11-19).
There are probably other examples of his inconsistency, but these two are the clearest. Inconsistency is the legacy of anyone who lives without God who alone is faithful. So in our world today there are some who would oppose the death penalty for those guilty of murder, and yet support the death of unborn children who have never done anything bad or good (Surely if any should receive mercy they should, their only crime is being inconvenient and unwanted). That is only one example of the inconsistency of mankind when he rejects God, there are others. For example the priests of toleration, who are exceedingly tolerant of almost anyone, except people that actually believe in right and wrong, those they will not tolerate and label them as “intolerant”. Jellyfish are wonders of nature in that since they have no back-bone they are extremely flexible, however, they also have little substance and as a result if flung make little impact.
King David, on the other hand, with all his flaws, was far more consistent than King Saul, because he was joined to Him who is faithful and true. That is the key to consistency!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Thoughts On Amos 1:2

Amo 1:2 And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.

The interesting thing about this verse is that it is a continuation of Joel’s prophecy in Joel 3:16. No prophet was a man unto himself. They took the torch from those who had gone before and ran to hand it to those who would follow. Even though Amos was not necessarily closely connected with Joel, yet somehow he had heard or read Joel’s prophecies, and in a sense starts where he left off animated by Him by whose will prophecy came (2 Peter 1:21).

This is also seen in the contemporaries who had similar messages, Micah and Isaiah (Compare Micah 4:1-13 with Isaiah 2:2-4). Though these men had different ministries, yet because they were ministering in the same general area and to the same nation they were similar. Their ministries also complemented each other, with each containing elements the other did not have.

I think the whole thing is summed up in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Those who have gone before can be an encouragement for us. We are part of their reward and they are our foundation. Amos started where Joel left off and thus was indebted to Joel. Joel on the other hand is rewarded for that which his ministry placed in Amos and both can rejoice before the throne of God. Also we who now read their prophecies are blessed by their ministry, and are part of their reward. Those who have run before have passed the baton to us, their part has been run and now they root for us as their team.

Tying this all together is the One who ran the perfect race, and who gives us the power to run ours – Jesus Christ, to whom be all praise and glory forever!