Must-read: Rick Kelley’s article on his blog, “50 shades of rationalization.” Don’t miss a single word of it.
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Scripture: “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Colossians 1:2)
Thought: The saints in Colosse were of the faithful brethren as much as the faithful brethren were saints. Sainthood has nothing to do with achievement or accomplishment or merit; sainthood is not “climbing” the heavenly ladder of success in God’s eyes; nor is sainthood a “class” of Christian designated by a “church hierarchy.” Paul was not recognizing two “classes” of Christians any more than he was saying the Colossians “only” loved a certain “class” of Christian in 1:4. Rather, Paul was reminding all of the Christians at Colosse about who they had become, and who they were continually called to be in Christ Jesus as citizens of God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:9-14), much in the same way that Peter told his readers to be holy in all of life’s conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Prayer: Father, help us to remember our calling as your saints. Help us to see our citizenship in Heaven and help us to live our lives here in accordance with your standards of holiness. Help us to trust your restoring and reforming grace that has been made available through the blood of your son. And may we, as your people, reflect in our heart, hands and feet what the beauty of your holiness is able to accomplish with our simple clay.
I had the chance last week to attend the “Leadercast” event which is held in Atlanta but then broadcast live throughout America and other parts of the world.
This was the second time that I was able to attend the event, and if my mind’s not slipping me; maybe it is, I want to do as I did last time and share a few thoughts about my experience.
Most often, especially in Middle Tennessee, the simulcast events are held at church buildings due to locality and other logistically related issues such as seating. So as the case was last year, this year’s venue was a church building in a neighboring county.
The thought that I would like to share this morning comes from something the church’s pastor said to the people in attendance. He invited everyone to visit the church and then added this caveat: if you’re not messed up don’t visit our church, we don’t want you here, cause we’re a bunch of messed up people.
My first reaction to that was, “That’s messed up.” My feelings had nothing to do with a self-righteous, high-horse, better-than-you attitude. It had to do with the fact that if a person is looking for some spiritual guidance then they need to find it from others who have it together – not from people who are messed up.
This has nothing to do with believing that I’m sinless (outside of the sinlessness that the blood of Jesus provides). This has nothing to do with believing that I’m perfect (outside of the perfection that is found in Jesus). This has nothing to do with with believing that I’m a “holier than thou” individual (outside of the holiness attained and provided through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Jesus as the provider of the church). It has everything to do with the responsibility of the church’s membership to be distinctly and inherently different from the world (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). You know, the very things than an apostle of Jesus Christ corrected the church at Corinth for doing – they were messed up and Paul said that that was messed up!
But before you say Paul was messed up (as it seems a whole lot of religious people like to do), I would like to remind you that it wasn’t only Paul who felt that way – so did Peter (1 Peter 1:13-17), so did John (1 John 2:15-17), so did James (James 1:27, 4:1-4), and so did Jude (Jude 16-18). That doesn’t even include the recorded words of Jesus in the gospels that call us out of our messes and into his light. I can’t resist (Luke 13:1-5).
When I’m having car troubles I don’t want to take my vehicle to someone who has never had car problems. But then again, I don’t want to take it to someone who doesn’t know how to keep their car in good running condition! That doesn’t mean their car never has problems, but it does mean that when the problems come up they know where to order the parts from to fix them.
I’m not looking for a church that’s full of messed up people and neither should you. I’m looking for a church where the people have it together, and doesn’t mean…well, back up three paragraphs because I’m not going to rehash that hot-potato.
Am I messed up for feeling this way? Share your thoughts if you think so, or even if you don’t.
In my previous post, I reflected on how God’s forgiveness and discipline intertwined in our lives, gleaning principles from Psalm 99 and Hebrews 12. Psalm 99 also teaches some powerful truths about holiness and the sovereignty of God in connection with prayer by heroes of faith. Psalm 99 has universal perspective: People from every nation (and even the earth itself!) should tremble at the realization that God rules. While, especially in Western society, people cherish autonomy, Psalm 99 reminds us that even rulers, priests, and prophets are accountable to God. The psalm mentions Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. Each of these three had a connection with priesthood; Moses and Samuel also functioned as rulers and prophets in Israel. The role of prayer in the ministry of all three is noted when the psalm’s writer observes about Samuel, “…Samuel also was among those who called on his name,” in a literary structure that equates the service of Aaron and Moses with that of Samuel. While all three were spiritual leaders of the people of God, Moses and Aaron especially were held accountable for sins committed in the course of leading Israel. Even Samuel had to answer for the unethical behavior of his sons after he delegated some of his responsibilities and authority to them.
Psalm 99 emphasizes the holiness of God in its call to worship him: “Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!”(verse 5) and “Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy” (verse 9). We know the LORD is holy because he is a “lover of justice” and has “executed justice and righteousness”(verse 4). In regard to the prayers of Aaron, Moses, and Samuel, verse 8 observes, “O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.” The psalmist also notes that this trio of faith heroes “kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.”
God’s holiness is to be reflected in the lives of his worshipers; passages like James 3 underline that teachers and leaders of worship especially should live holy lives. The lives of the three leaders named above reveal that even flawed leaders can lead God’s people well, but that there is a personal cost for their sins. Psalm 99 applies this truth to leaders, but also to all in our world who call on God’s name in prayer. Prayer is not a glib conversation with a friend, but a dialogue with the holy Creator of life and our world. As Hebrews 12:28 states, “Therefore, since wee are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.” When we “call for fire” in prayer, we must pray with awareness of the power of the One to whom we cry.
Christians at Thessalonica were encouraged to “abound more and more” in holiness. The same encouragement is needed by the church of Christ today. God’s people must live a holy life. You must devote your life to following Christ.
“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) (More …)
“Hyperbole” is a common figure of speech. We use it all the time. Oops — I just used one! Hyperbole is exaggeration used on purpose for the sake of emphasizing a point. Here are some examples of hyperbole: * “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times.” * “She is older than the hills.” * “He’s strong as an ox.” * “She’s quick as a cat.” * “That suitcase weighs a ton,” etc., etc. Hyperbole stresses a point by exaggerating. It is the verbal equivalent of a highlighted section of text in a bold and brilliant color.
Jesus used hyperbole in Matthew 5:27-30 to issue one of the most startling and challenging demands in all His teachings. In that passage He is illustrating that true conformity to God’s law goes further than outward obedience to a list of “Thou shalt not’s.” The passage reads this way: You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Do what, Jesus?! Those are graphic images — take a scalpel or a knife and remove an eye if that eye is influencing you to sin; or take a saw and amputate your hand if that’s what it takes to keep from sinning. What goes here? Would Jesus have us be into self-mutilation of our physical bodies?
The answer is no, No, NO, NO, NO, NO! In no Bible passage does Christ call followers to physically maim their bodies. The passage is a powerful example of hyperbole. In this case, holy hyperbole, because what Jesus demands of His true disciples is to take temptation and sin seriously, especially the sexual kind. By means of holy hyperbole Jesus reminds us that adultery does not begin in a bed or the back seat of a car. It begins with a look that lingers. The look then turns to lust. The lust leads on to adultery with the one who is the object of our lust — if not in an actual motel room or physical hide-away, at least in the secret and unseen chambers of the heart and mind. Back to the passage quoted earlier, Christ warns that we should get serious about sexual sin. The greatest threat of adultery, actual or mental, is that those who practice it will ultimately be ‘cast into hell.” That’s an outcome our sexually liberated, sex-saturated culture has all but completely air-brushed out of its sexual mentality. Be that as it may, Jesus demands His disciples to pluck some things out and cut some things off. A voluntary amputation, not of physical eyes and hands, but habits and behaviors and places and maybe even some people who pressure us to sin sexually, whether in our minds or with our bodies. Maybe cutting off some TV shows or internet sites or some magazines or music or movies. How serious are you about avoiding the sin of adultery, even in your heart? Christ warns us to avoid it at all costs — and He uses holy hyperbole to stress the point. Is there anything or anybody in your life you need to pluck out and cut off to avoid adultery? Think about it.
Dan Gulley – Smithville Church of Christ, TN
“but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
So what does Peter say should be our motivation as Christians to live a holy life?
- Is it so we can justly have a “holier than thou” attitude?
- Is it so we can “throw the first stone” at others?
- Is it so we can thank God in our prayers that we’re not like “other sinners” when it comes to our faults?
- Is it so we can earn our way into Heaven?
- Is it so we can get the “credit we deserve” from others?
The answer to the above questions should be a loud and clear, “NO!”
Our motivation (in the context) for striving to live a holy life is so we can draw closer and closer to God through His grace and the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus. Our motivation (in the context) for striving to live a holy life is so we can more easily leave our old life behind in order to embrace the new life that God has made available through Jesus.
Mark it down – along with the pursuit of peace with others, without holiness no one will see God! At least that’s what Hebrews 12:14 says. But at the same time we need to remember that if it were not for the grace of God we could not attain the righteousness that God’s holiness requires in our life (1 Corinthians 15:10; Romans 3:23-26, 5:17-21). Holiness is a call that we can’t ignore, but at the same time we can’t ignore our mistakes or holiness is exactly what we’d be missing out on. This is the very sobriety mentioned by Peter in 1:13 that diverts our focus off of the earthly things and keeps it on the heavenly things.
God wants us to desire a holy life not for selfish ambitions and worldly gain, but rather for the sake of the heavenly benefits that we receive now and for the ones that await us in Heaven in the presence of God. And it is something that we must do; it is something that we can do by God’s grace. Be holy!
1 Peter 1:15-16 is what I thought of when I read this great article by Josh:
The longer I am a Christian, the more keenly aware I am of my need for God’s grace. We are supposed to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and I believe this to be my greatest failure as a follower of Jesus. We are supposed to have a filter—a kind of screening process our minds use to dismiss material that is not going to be healthy for us to think about. Philippians 4:8 describes the standard: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Using this set of requirements, we should probably dismiss MOST of the things we encounter on a daily basis as food for thought. I struggle to do this. There are images or ideas that enter my mind at times, and I know immediately that they are unhealthy for my spirit, yet I allow myself to follow them out. And, just like a mature tree is harder to remove from the ground than a sprout (and leaves an uglier spot in the ground once removed)—or just like the cooking dish is harder to clean after it has dried for hours—a thought process is harder to avoid once you have allowed it to take root in your mind. Once those neurons carve out a new path, they like to return and travel it again.
God, help us to apply the filtration process in Philippians 4:8 to keep our brains free of the kind of trash that tends to lead us away from Christ. – Joshua Gulley
Josh is a member of the Smithville church of Christ and he teaches music at the High School level.
The extreme goodness of God towards us — he gives us “an unshakeable kingdom” — must not make us overlook his greatness and his holiness. To forget it would be to lose contact with him.
—Albert Vanhoy, A Different Priest: The Epistle to the Hebrews, 2011, 397
Some won’t like my FMag article today, since I name names—something I do rarely. This is happening near us, so we’ve taken care to warn the faithful. Names are not the big issue, truth is. But Jesus did not separate the fruit from the wolves. On the contrary, by what they do and say, you will know who they are.
• Remember that the most dangerous threats to the saints appear as the most benign and attractive friends. This is true in morals and doctrine.
• On the road, I saw gas prices for $2.98 in N. Little Rock yesterday, on the other side of the highway from me. I bought it for $3.03. May it fall even more!
• Why are there not more alternatives for inexpensive housing? Even with housing prices in the tank, the dream of owning one’s own home seems even more distant. In the race for status and size, housing construction has become the most expensive item in the family budget.
• Christians avoid being swept along by social and cultural values. They are, ought to be, the ultimate adversaries to cultural currents that reflect materialism and other godless attitudes. They seek alternatives that glorify God, permit their full attention to his mission in the world, and allow them to express godliness in every movement.
• There is a point beyond which we can keep saying that Christians ought to do this or that while admitting that they don’t. If they don’t follow the Lord, they aren’t his followers. How long have we preached about the necessity of obedience? That translates beyond baptism into the daily cross-bearing of the disciple. And if they don’t? Discipline is the Lord’s solution. When was the last time your congregation disciplined someone? Someone once called it the forgotten commandment. Now, perhaps it might best be styled the snubbed commandment.
• TV commercial for Hebrew National hotdogs says, “O. M. G.” This from Jews who used to think God’s name so holy that they wouldn’t speak it on their lips? Let us be sure we speak the name of the Lord always with reverence.
- Respect for the law, but not for the lawmaker (forthright.net)
Satan has no interest in banishing Christianity. Read C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters.”
Satan is perfectly content with having a form of religion around to lull people to sleep. However, he must make some changes until it is leading people down the road he has prepared (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan changes our language, re-defines our words and alters our focus from Christ to ourselves. We become more worldly when Satan tells us that the world can’t be converted by holy people.
Satan discredits Scripture and destroys God’s meanings for words such as grace, holiness, preaching, faith and repentance, replacing them with secular definitions.
Satan creates a faux Christianity without God that focuses on slick promotions, incense, clothes, hairstyles, poetry, emotion and entertainment. His religion is empty and shallow, appealing to a worldly view of “spirituality.” Satan would rather us connect with a tree than with God.
The Christian Chronicle published an article about a “Christian” movie called “Blue Like Jazz.”
My April 3rd article at Forthright was entitled, Grace and Conversion as a follow-up to my March 27th article, Holy by Grace. In the Conversion article, I clearly established that we are saved by grace.
The death of Jesus was full of grace, being something that we have no right to be offered. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). His love, grace and mercy is solely responsible for the availability of salvation.
Later in the article I wrote:
Finally, we will be saved by works, indicating our allegiance and commitment (Revelation 20:11-15). Yet, when our lives are over, no matter how obedient we have been, we will still need grace to be saved (Luke 17:5-10).
A reader commented and focused on the first sentence and overlooked the second. I established without any doubt that we cannot save ourselves. While obedience is a necessary part of salvation, we will still enter heaven solely by grace. However, the reader demanded to know how I could say we were saved by works.
It is always troubling when someone’s doctrinal mindset is beset by blindness. If we have to ignore entire passages of Scripture in order to reconcile our own beliefs, we have serious problems.
Simply put, either the same Holy Spirit wrote both Ephesians 2:8-9 and Revelation 20:11-15 or they didn’t. Either they are both inspired or neither are (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can either accept both as true and keep studying until we figure out how they work together or we simply dismiss one or both of them. However, ignoring Scripture puts us at great peril (John 12:48).
Revelation 20:11-15 is Scripture and inspired. Therefore, it is true. God said:
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
We study and obey or we dismiss it and call God a liar.
In Romans 5, the text says we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1) and we are “justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9). Just like before, we can either accept both or pick and choose whichever one best suits us.
I prefer to keep studying and reconcile them since I believe Scripture is inspired by God.
We are justified by the blood of Christ so that we can approach God for salvation (Romans 5:6-11). When we stand before God, we are justified because we have the blood of Christ on our souls. However, we are also justified by faith.
Our faith and our works show our allegiance and commitment to God (James 2:20-26). We remain with Christ because we are serving Him. However, these works do not ultimately save us because that can only happen by grace and the blood of Christ (Luke 17:5-10).
It is simple and complicated at the same time. The reader needs to see the larger picture rather than blindly focusing in one thing and ignoring everything else.
As is the case in dealing with Biblical matters, we want to have authority for what we believe and teach we must look for a “thus says the Lord.” We must not rely on tradition, opinions, church history and the like as a basis for believing in and eating the Word of God.
We read in Psalm 119:89 “Your eternal Word stands firm in Heaven.” (NLT) It must be our aim to be like the “Bereans” in Acts 17 who were commended because “they searched the Scriptures…” So, what is the authority we have in God’s Word that Jesus is coming again?
Should Christians be looking for the return of the Lord Jesus? Can we know when He will return for His Church? The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. On the second question posed, the Bible says we cannot know the time He will return.
There have always been those in the history of the Church who have tried to pinpoint the time of the Lord’s return. Those who have done so have brought reproach and ridicule upon the Lord’s Church by their actions.
In light of the fact that we cannot know the timing , what should be our attitude be in regards to the fact He is coming again as He promised? The Bible is full of many promises of the return of Jesus for His own.
We have the testimony of Jesus Himself, the testimony of the holy angels, and the testimony of the writers of the Epistles to validate this promise; He is coming again! Just one verse and one instance of testimony should and would be enough for a faithful Christian, but the fact that there are numerous accounts in the New Testament of this hope, reality, and promise should reinforce our faith in the Word of God.
Jesus IS Coming Again! This is not just a “hope” as the world defines hope. It is not just “wishful thinking.” It is not a far-fetched fantasy for faithful believers. We don’t know when the Lord Jesus is coming back for His Church, but we do know for a fact that He is coming again!” I want to talk about the following 2 points:
- How do we know that Jesus is coming again? (Authority)
- How are we to ‘live’ while we are waiting for His coming? (Application)
If someone were to ask you: “How do you know that Jesus is coming again?” how would you answer? What do we mean when we say that His coming is “imminent?” We mean that it could happen at any time. Critics will point out 2 Peter 3:4: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
When we say that we believe in the “soon or imminent” coming of the Lord Jesus, what we mean is that He can come back at anytime, even right now. Are your ready!
We will be dividing this article into several parts.
The next articles will be titled “How Do We Know He is Coming Again?”
Today I begin a series of articles examining what it means to be in Christ. We need to talk about this more often because it clarifies so many doctrines. Being in Christ means that we are a partaker of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
“The concept of being in Christ is one of the most powerful in all of Scripture. It will answer many questions about salvation, sanctification and unity. We will have a greater, more complete understanding of God’s plan of salvation if we understand what it means to be in Christ.”
What does being “In Christ” mean to you?