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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #43 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 15

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 12 each day this week.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter. Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 14.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, and to practice hospitality! A lot of work!

The fifteenth critical imperative is —15. Believers are to BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE THEM (v. 14)!

I know very little about persecution. I have never been threatened for my faith, never been assaulted for my beliefs, never been discriminated against for my convictions. My heart goes out to the many believers in the world who do face physical danger in their culture for following Jesus.

It’s quite possible that some Western Christians are passed over for job promotions or ignored or ridiculed for their faith. And with our part of the world becoming more anti-Christian, perhaps persecution is just around the corner for us.

But right now, we are to bless those who persecute us. What does “bless” them mean here? It’s certainly the opposite of “curse” those who persecute us. We are not to pray imprecatory prayers against those who make life difficult for us as individuals. We are not to retaliate in kind toward those who mock our faith. We are to “bless” them. That doesn’t mean we agree with their opposition, but that we don’t respond in an ungodly way to their harsh treatment of us. And that takes God’s power, doesn’t it?

Today’s Challenge: Can you think of anyone in your acquaintance who in some way or another is “persecuting” you? Then pray for them today. And ask God to show you how you can “bless” them.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Why Shouldn’t the World Think Us WEIRD? (A Study of I Peter 1:8-9) Part 4 Conclusion

My friend Frank and I are now going through I Peter. This is our read-the-same-chapter-every-day-for-a-week online Bible study which I’ve described here. We’re making great progress going through the epistles of the New Testament. But the following passage from I Peter really got me thinking:

Please forgive my underlining and bolding and changing colors, but these two verses kind of hit me between the eyes. And they help me not to be so surprised when the world looks at me funny and thinks I need medication or a lengthy stay in a mental hospital. Let’s continue our study of these two verses:

I. We Love What We Do Not See!

But others SAW Him — and used empirical language to describe their experience. We are to “walk by faith and not by sight,” but this doesn’t mean that our faith isn’t established on the facts!

We noticed a second truth in this text and it was that —

II. We Believe in Him! (v. 8)

We are not gullible to believe in Him! And there are so many benefits to belief in Christ (survey the gospel of John for a fascinating study!).

We then continued our study by noticing —

III. We Are Filled with an Inexpressible and Glorious Joy (v. 8)

Someone has said that “the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee!” (Willard S. Krabill, M.D.). If there is no contagious joy with the believer, something is wrong and someone needs to get filled.

Let’s conclude our study of these two amazing verses by seeing that —

IV. We Are Receiving the End Result of Our Faith — the Salvation of Our Souls (v. 9)

What is the conclusion, the pay-off if you will, of our faith in Christ? The salvation of our souls! There are other biblical texts that indicate that our salvation is not just of our souls (as we’ll see below), but here Peter’s emphasis is on that surviving-beyond-death aspect of our humanity.

Is salvation of our souls alone? Some believe that the body is the prison house of the soul (which is not a biblical concept). However, Scripture teaches that our natural body is to be resurrected and changed into an immortal body fit for eternity (I Cor. 15:35-58). In fact, our bodily resurrection is referred to as “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23-24).

Some Christians hold to the idea that we are three parts: body, soul, and spirit (trichotomy). Others (like myself) see the Bible as teaching dichotomy (that the terms “soul” and “spirit” are sometimes used interchangeably). I believe this is what I call a “distinctive” area of belief (in other words, there can be legitimate disagreement between believers without either falling into false teaching). I Thessalonians 5:23 does say, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As one writer puts it, man is a unified being divisible into two aspects, material and immaterial. “In the Bible these aspects are variously termed, body and soul [e.g., Matt. 10:28], body and mind [e.g., Rom. 12:1-2], body and spirit [e.g., 1 Cor. 7:34; James 2:26], flesh and spirit [e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 7:1], flesh and heart [e.g., Rom. 2:28-29], and, of course, the outer man and inner man [e.g., 2 Cor. 4:16]. Human beings, though they were created to live in the physical world, are also capable of existing in the spiritual realm as disembodied souls or spirits [e.g., Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9-11]. See the article “Body, Soul, and Spirit: Monism, Dichotomy, or Trichotomy?” found at https://www.equip.org/perspectives/body-soul-and-spirit-monism-dichotomy-or-trichotomy/

One writer says, “The problem with trichotomy is that the words “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture. Jesus says that his soul is troubled (Jn. 12:27), but a few verses later, we read that he became “troubled in spirit” (Jn. 13:21). Likewise, Jesus mother says, “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:46-47). Moreover, dead believers can either be called “spirits” (Heb. 12:23) or “souls” (Rev. 6:9; 20:4). At death, either the “soul” departs the body (Gen. 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21; Isa. 53:12; Lk. 12:20) or the “spirit” departs (Lk. 23:46; Eccl. 12:7; Jn. 19:30; Acts 7:59). The “spirit” knows an individual (1 Cor. 2:11); therefore, the soul and spirit perform the same function. (see http://www.evidenceunseen.com/theology/anthropology/trichotomy-or-dichotomy/)

Conclusion: From our brief study of I Peter 1:8-9 we’ve seen that we are to love Him whom we do not presently see, are to believe in the One who is not visible to us right now, and that both those responses are to fill us with unbelievable joy! The bottom line is the salvation of our souls — and we should not be surprised if the world thinks us weird! God doesn’t!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2020 in I Peter 1

 

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Why Shouldn’t the World Think Us WEIRD? (A Study of I Peter 1:8-9) Part 3

My friend Frank and I are now going through I Peter. This is our read-the-same-chapter-every-day-for-a-week online Bible study which I’ve described here. We’re making great progress going through the epistles of the New Testament. But the following passage from I Peter really got me thinking:

Please forgive my underlining and bolding and changing colors, but these two verses kind of hit me between the eyes. And they help me not to be so surprised when the world looks at me funny and thinks I need medication or a lengthy stay in a mental hospital. Let’s continue our study of these two verses:

I. We Love What We Do Not See!

In Part 1 we saw that believers presently do not see the Lord — but OTHERS have seen Him! And have testified (at the cost of their lives) of that fact. We looked briefly at I John 1 and noticed the empirical language John uses about having seen the Lord Jesus.

Let’s notice a second truth in this text and it is that —

II. We Believe in Him! (v. 8)

Belief is a big deal in the Bible! But BELIEF in the Bible is not gullibility! The evidentiary basis of the Christian faith is real. And we are not fools for BELIEVING in Him!

Let’s continue our study by noticing —

III. We Are Filled with an Inexpressible and Glorious Joy (v. 8)

Our world desperately needs joy-filled followers of Jesus! As a result of believing in Jesus, Peter tells us, “you are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”! Is that true of you, my friend? Right now? This joy is described as (1) inexpressible (we can’t really put it into words) and (2) glorious (a joy reflecting the glory of our God). How often should the believer pray, “Lord, restore to me the joy of my salvation!”? As someone has said, “Christians owe it to the world to be supernaturally joyful!” (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2020 in I Peter 1

 

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Suffering?! What Suffering? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians and we’re in Chapter Four:

Suffering?! What Suffering? (A Study of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

What is “this treasure” (v. 7) to which Paul refers? The passage is clear. It is: “The word of God” (v. 2), “our gospel” (v. 3), “the light of the gospel” (v. 4), “we preach . . . Jesus Christ as Lord” (v. 5), “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (v. 6). But being “jars of clay” which contain this treasure comes with a cost — suffering!

I. The Descriptions of Paul’s Suffering (vv. 8-11)

II. The Purpose of Paul’s Suffering (v. 10)

>>> “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body”

III. The Benefit of Paul’s Suffering (v. 12)

>>> “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (v. 12)

Today’s Challenge: In a real sense, we believers are walking dead men.  We carry with us the death of Christ who can become LIFE to those who believe. How in the world could we think that such a ministry would be accomplished with no suffering attached to it?! Count yourself privileged today to suffer . . . for Him!

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2020 in suffering

 

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Some Thoughts about Church Membership – Part 7 Summary and Conclusion

Here are the highlights of what we have seen in our six-part study of church membership.
1. We have seen that God added new believers to the family of God in the book of Acts and they joined together to practice certain priorities.
2. Although we have no formal document detailing the process of new believers’ becoming “members” of a local church, the Bible is clear that conversion and baptism were integral steps to joining God’s community.
3. They are, indeed, specific steps that must be taken to remove someone from a local church (Matthew 5, Matthew 18, and I Corinthian 5 detail some of the process of having to expel another believer from God’s people). So if there was a process of exclusion, it is reasonable that there was a process of inclusion.
4. We have no early church “covenant” (that I am aware of), although unbelievers testify as to the practices of the early Christians. For example, Pliny the Younger asked Emperor Trajan how to deal with Christians in the 2nd century and Pliny the Younger’s letter gives us great insight into the life of the early church. Here’s what Pliny wrote (this is a bit long, but well worth reading over):

Let me point out a few things that jump out at me from this document:

1. Pliny is asking for persecution advice. Should all Christians (young, old, sick, healthy) be interrogated the same?
2.  He describes the process he has been following, giving the Christian three chances to turn away from the faith.  Capital punishment is the reward for those refusing to recant.
3.  Those who renounced their faith (and cursed Christ) were let go.
4.  Notice the amazing statement about “the sum of their guilt or error”:
a.  on an appointed day (Sunday?) they were accustomed to meet before sunrise —
b.  to recite a hymn antiphonally to Christ, as to a god —
c.  and to bind themselves by an oath to abstain from certain behaviors —
d.  they would then have an ordinary meal together (not cannibalism, as some had interpreted Jesus’ words “eat my body and drink my blood”) —
e. they stopped their meetings after his order against secret societies.

Pliny goes on to describe his interrogation (by means of torture) of two maidservants, finding nothing in them but “a depraved and extravagant superstition.”

Wow!  What an amazing source of information from an enemy of the gospel!  The early believers met together (before daybreak — that would test the saints today, wouldn’t it?), worshiped Christ as a god (an early indication that Christians held to the deity of Christ contra the opinion of liberal theologians), committed themselves to a moral lifestyle, and enjoyed a potluck together (probably followed by a celebration of the Lord’s Supper)!

May God, by His grace, give us such committed church members that joyfully, and at great risk to themselves, proclaim this “depraved and extravagant superstition” that saves men and women from the wrath of God!

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in church membership

 

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Who Are You, Really, Christian? (Time for a Great Quote)

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2018 in identity

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

St. Valentine was a Roman Priest under Emperor Claudias who persecuted the church and screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-6-22-55-amprohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.

Valentine lived in a very permissive society. Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together. And yet some of them seemed to be attracted to the Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. Valentine secretly married them despite the edict.

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of Emperor Claudius the second. There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.

One of his judges was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.

In 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He signed it, “from your Valentine.” (http://www1.cbn.com/st-valentine-real-story)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Valentine's Day

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 64)

Psalm 64

For the director of music. A psalm of David.screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-6-11-23-am

Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
    protect my life from the threat of the enemy.

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
    from the plots of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongues like swords
    and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
    they shoot suddenly, without fear.

They encourage each other in evil plans,
    they talk about hiding their snares;
    they say, “Who will see it?”
They plot injustice and say,
    “We have devised a perfect plan!”
    Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.

But God will shoot them with his arrows;
    they will suddenly be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
    and bring them to ruin;
    all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
All people will fear;
    they will proclaim the works of God
    and ponder what he has done.

10 The righteous will rejoice in the Lord
    and take refuge in him;
    all the upright in heart will glory in him!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2016 in SWOT

 

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The Joy of Unit-Reading #25 (the book of 2 Timothy)

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that unit-reading isScreenshot 2016-01-17 07.07.00 reading straight through a book of the Bible.  I don’t think all 66 books are meant to be read that way (certainly not the book of Psalms), but most books can be profitably read by ignoring the chapter and verse divisions and plowing right through!

Today we are reading another of the shorter books of the New Testament, the Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy.

A couple of impressions —

1. There will be spiritual deserters! Don’t let that take you by surprise!

2.  Focus on healthy truth, godly desires, Scriptural facts!

3.  Relationships are important!  Encourage those who are staying true to the Lord!

4.  Get prepared for persecution!

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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in unit-reading

 

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Seven Lessons for Suffering Saints (a study of Hebrews): Part 3

I recently preached the last message in our church’s series on the book of Hebrews.  Screenshot 2015-12-11 05.49.35My assignment was the question, “What do we learn about suffering from this book?”  If you are interested, you can access that message here:

.  In part 1, we saw Principle #1- The Lord Jesus suffered the worst life can bring — DEATH! (2:9).  We then asked the question, “How dare I ever feel that Jesus can’t understand my suffering?”

We saw in our second installment Principle #2 – God used suffering to perfect the Pioneer of our salvation! (2:10).  There we read, “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.”  We then asked the question, “How dare I resist His using suffering to perfect me?!”

Screenshot 2015-12-16 06.10.35The third principle I see in the book of Hebrews is simply this: Principle #3:  Remembering our sufferings brings believers together to support & encourage each other! This principle comes out of Hebrews, chapter 10:  “32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.”  The question we would ask is: How dare I waste my suffering by forgetting the past or not standing with those suffering in the present?!

Let me ask you to do three things this morning:

(1) Reflect on some suffering in your past — and thank God for His seeing you through that time.  Perhaps you would describe that time as “a great conflict full of suffering” (v. 32).

(2) Have you recently been insulted or persecuted for your living for Jesus?  I think those days are coming when there will be more and more public scorning of God’s people and the truths which they hold (v. 33).

(3) With whom are you standing “side by side” in their being so treated?  The church is not a social club for sanctified saints, but a hospital for suffering, redeemed sinners!  As one American revolutionary put it (I think it was Patrick Henry), “If we do not hang together, we will hang separately!”

Your thoughts?

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in suffering

 

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