World War II the British had to deal with the problem of German bombers.
There was some debate as to what the average citizen was to do when the air
raid sirens howled. It was eventually decided that, with some exceptions,
most should stay where they were and continue with what they were doing. So
the instructions went out with the phrase, "Stay put."
Winston Churchill did not like this. First, it was American slang. More to
the point, they had not been "put" anywhere in particular. He chose the
phrase, "Stand Firm" instead. It expresses that quiet, continued stability
needed when endurance is required.
Perhaps James saw it like that. We as Christians are pilgrims; in the
spiritual sense, we are not to "stay put." James outlines for us the
essentials of facing the evils of the day:
The context is this: the vulgar rich have been stealing from their workmen,
injustice is everywhere—and the Christian says, "Where's God?" Be aware
that they will get what they deserve when our Lord returns.
In the meanwhile, do not give in to the corruption. The prophets had the
same problem, and they stood up to it.
This is the tough part for most of us today. We are sure it's somebody's
fault—and we do enjoy complaining about it.
does the Lord require such of us? Remember that those who oppress the poor
are people too. It is the desire of God that every human come to
salvation. By our patient suffering, by our refusal to join with "the
system," by our joy in Christ we show the world that there is an
Lord is compassionate and merciful. He understands quite well what it is to
live under oppression; recall that the Romans ruled in Judea throughout his
lifetime. He did not prescribe rebellion, but "rendered unto Caesar."
said that an anvil will wear out many hammers. The anvil of our patient
endurance will wear out the hammer of our foes. The prophets knew that;
many in Eastern Europe discovered the same thing about the hammer and
sickle. So will it be with our foes.
Lord, grant your people strength to be the anvil which destroys the hammer
of our foes. Give us patience, and in our endurance give us joy; in our
joy, give us peace.
have, by and large, lost the meaning of both blessing and curse in the old
sense. The concept was simple: by whatever authority or influence I had, I
could either bless you or curse you. This used to be done rather formally.
People would pay others to put a curse on someone. Remember Shakespeare's
Richard III ?
because we have lost the idea does not mean it is no longer valid. Paul's
readers would have understood this passage clearly. Because of the sin of
mankind, we are under the curse of sin. By that curse we deserve death, for
we have sinned not only against each other but also against Almighty God.
He, at least, is in a position to make his curses felt.
surprising it must have been to those who understood this to discover what
Almighty God has indeed done. The curse is there; sin must be paid for.
But that same God, coming in the flesh as Jesus, the Christ, took upon
himself that curse. He redirected it from us to himself. Only the sinless
One did not deserve to die; but only the sinless One could pay the death
penalty for all who deserved it.
puts the Christian in a very humble position.
we must concede that we cannot, by any method, remove this curse ourselves.
We are helpless. We need Jesus Christ.
Second, we must also concede that we deserved this curse; that we are
we must also show the world that the lifting of this curse is freely
available—it is so expensive it must be given away. None of us can afford
it or earn it.
last is something of a surprise. We might expect that God would set
conditions on becoming a Christian. Surely he would want us to be "good
enough." An entrance examination, perhaps. Many impose that on
themselves. But there is no exam; there is no person too evil to go to
might also expect that there would be a detailed set of rules if you wish to
stay in God's favor. But he tells us that this is not so; there is really
only one commandment: love Him. If you do that in truth, all the other
good and noble things will flow naturally from that.
Lord, your grace is amazing. You took the curse, you paid the price, you
gave us life—may we praise your name forever.
you ever envied the easy grace with which some saints seem to know God?
They speak so blithely of their "walk of faith" or their "walk with
Christ!" It can be very discouraging; what do they have that I don't? And
why don't I?
are good questions; they show that we need to have such a walk with God.
We now may look at a prime example: Enoch.
Enoch? The man is barely mentioned in the Bible. There are two by that
name; we are talking about the one who was the father of Methuselah. The
Scripture tells us that he never died; he walked with God, and God took
him. Only one other person had that honor, the prophet Elijah (swing low,
sweet chariot). We know a good deal about Elijah, but very little about
little we do know, however, gives us insight on what it takes to truly walk
Like the other man who was said to walk with God (Noah), Enoch is described
as a righteous man. God will not stay in the presence of sin. If you wish
to walk with him, you must continually seek repentance and forgiveness.
Perhaps you didn't notice, but Enoch walked with God after he became
the father of Methuselah. Could it be that Enoch's habit of walking with
God started because the baby wouldn't sleep nights? One aspect of maturity
is to be able to do more than one thing at a time. Rocking the baby is an
excellent time to walk with God.
tells us that Enoch was a prophet, who foresaw the Day of Judgment. The
common characteristic of the Old Testament prophet is his courage. He often
had to be the messenger bearing the news of God's punishment.
this would be useless except for one fact: God cherishes our
companionship. He is love, and love listens. Job is sure of the
resurrection of the dead. He gives us this reason: God will "long for the
work of his hands." Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to have
fellowship with us.
hold that Enoch and Elijah will be the Two Witnesses of Revelation—because
they have yet to die, and all must die. Perhaps so; if this is true, it is
because they walked so closely with God—and know him so well.
Father, we long for the sweet communion with you. Cleanse us, help us grow
and give us courage—so that we may walk with You.
Bible would be much poorer if it contained only the high and holy. We are
human beings, and we learn best from other human beings. God allows the
history of mortal, sinful men to illustrate his care for us.
the characters of the Old Testament, Abram (later Abraham) is one of the
best known. He is the patriarch of Israel, the one to whom the promises
were made. With this man the genealogy narrows to one particular family
line. The end result of that line is Jesus, the Christ.
induce Abram to move away from his family, God makes him a series of solemn
promises. We can examine these and see how they have been fulfilled—over a
period of around 4,500 years.
would father a great nation, and be blessed. Can you identify any people
group on the planet with a continuous 4,500 year history? But at any time
in that period, people would recognize the Jews as a nation.
name would be great. Christians, Jews and Muslims all honor him.
who bless him would be blessed; those who curse him would be cursed.
Consider the history of the Jews; those who have blessed them, and those
who have cursed them.
Through him, all peoples would be blessed. This was fulfilled at the coming
faithful; he has delivered on his promise to this one man of 4,500 years
ago. Why did he select this man? Because of his faith.
note one thing: he calls Abram to come out from among the idol worshiping
people into which he was born, to go who knows where at the command of
God—and to take all his things with him. He did as he was told. His
obedience was the result of his trust in God.
God did not do this just to demonstrate Abram's faith to us. There is
another purpose: separation. God called Abram out from among a people
mired in idolatry. He still does that today, calling his followers to be
"in the world, but not of the world." He makes wonderful promises to those
who follow. His track record on keeping his promises is 100%.
Lord, increase our faith! Teach us how to step out on faith, trusting in
Abraham, the Father
you ever considered what kind of father Abraham must have been? We know
practically nothing of how he raised Isaac—but we can see the result.
question the boy shows he knows there is a right way to worship God.
to the point of carrying the wood, this is a well trained and obedient
Abraham is taken as a picture of God the Father, surely Isaac must be the
picture of Christ the Son. It helps us see the terrible cost of the Cross.
We cannot stretch ourselves to the mind of God, but we can certainly
understand how Abraham felt.
was his only son—at least, by the wife he really loved.
than that, this son was obedient and trusting. How much more difficult to
sacrifice one who trusts you!
Abraham (and Sarah) are very elderly; it would appear this would leave them
telling of all: it took them three days to get to the site. Three days for
the anticipation to stew in the mind.
Abraham's character, especially as a father, is made clear to us in this
called the first time, he answers, "Here I am." When called at the
sacrifice, the answer is the same. Abraham is one who does not change with
learned that obedience by watching his father.
also learned what is right by the same method.
reading this story, it is easy to see the parallel to God the Father and
Christ the Son. The fact that Abraham loves God above all else is clear.
Let us see also how he became such a man: through obedience. The joy of
obedience to God is so ingrained in him that he would go even to this
result of this obedience? It is not that God could not know that Abraham
loved him that much. It is not even that Abraham now knew it too. It is
simply the relationship. God calls Abraham by name. When he does, Abraham
answers, "Here I am." This man is on a first name basis with God.
Lord, grant the we may grow in Christ so that we have the same trusting
faith—putting our love for you above all else.
Picture, for the moment, a typical automobile accident. You are in traffic
on the freeway, moving just fast enough to keep you there, and slow enough
that you will be late. From behind you hear a crash and feel a jolt. You
get out, he gets out and—if at all typical—you yell at each other.
Eventually cooler heads (usually from the Highway Patrol) prevail, and the
matter is turned over to your insurance companies. We take it as a matter
of course that we should have car insurance, among other varieties.
the ancient Israelite. The concept was completely foreign to him. He would
understand the risks that might come, but insurance—especially "no-fault"
insurance—would be a novel idea. He'd work with the framework given here:
the laws of restitution.
rules given here are somewhat detailed, but we can extract from them some
amount of the restitution depends upon the method of loss. The thief pays
back double; the negligent, single.
case where something is left for safekeeping, the restitution depends upon
importantly, restitution is to be made with the best of what you have.
well and good, one supposes; but what does this have to do with us today?
Especially if the insurance is paid up! There are still matters which
require restitution today; the Levitical Law is given to us as example.
Consider, for example, that thief of reputation—slander. Should not the
slanderer repair the damage? Of course. But this would imply not just
recanting, but amendment.
God given you a gift, and the responsibility to go with it? If you neglect
it, should you not make amends? Or do you think he will accept an excuse
instead of action?
when you make such restitution, do not do it grudgingly, or "only when I
have time." Make it your priority; restitution comes from the best.
matter then was ox and grain; the matter now extends far beyond that. But
the human heart is still the same. Make your restitution quickly,
proportionately—and from the best you have.
Lord, grant that our conduct be such that our restitution is rare. But when
it is needed, let us be swift and just to restore all.
a measure of the evil of the times: the translators cannot tell if the word
is "prostitute" or "innkeeper." It appears that little has changed . The
life of the road warrior includes the appeal of the prostitute. Some will
say it is the tang of forbidden fruit; others the ease with which they are
available. The distance to home certainly is a factor as well. Sometimes,
there is simple loneliness.
is that the prostitute becomes a feature of the road trip. The life of such
a woman would not lend itself to high moral theology. But she had a sense
of what was coming, and she wanted to prepare for it. Even a sinner like
this can see the whirlwind approaching. From this sinner, however, we can
learn a few lessons.
the lesson of obedience. Hanging the cord is a simple act—but without it,
she and her family die. Do we have such simple obedience?
seeks no miraculous sign—but she deals with God's ambassadors. Can others
do so with us?
cord would not be visible to the soldiers on the city wall—but there is
still a risk. What do we risk for God?
fitting that this would be a scarlet cord; it foreshadows the sacrifice of
the Cross and salvation. Rahab wanted to be saved; she needed the help of
the men of Israel. They too had obligations in this matter—obligations
which parallel our own today.
had the obligation to look for the scarlet cord. So do we; when a sinner
hangs out a sign looking for salvation, we should be ready to bring it.
that the two spies did not go back and get the committee's approval. They
committed the nation of Israel to her. God will honor that commitment. He
will honor ours on his behalf too; we need, therefore, to know his heart
put herself at risk, but so did these men. "Our lives for your lives," they
said. Do we take such personal risks in dealing with sinners we meet? Risk
is the measure of commitment.
takes a bit of searching, but you'll find that Rahab was an ancestress of
King David—and therefore of Christ. Even today, faith and obedience are
Lord, may we hold out your salvation with loving arms, turning no one away.
May all see your love in our lives.
often gives us strange instructions. The procedure described here was not
the one approved in the military manuals of the day. Prescribed tactics
would have been either an immediate assault or a prolonged siege. A siege
would have taken a year, as most cities of that time kept enough grain on
hand to support the population for a year. The invading army would have
starved out by then.
on the other hand, plans a quick victory. But see the methods he uses! It
seems absurd. But there is a clue to God's way in his instructions.
Everything in the city is to be devoted to God; Israel is to make Jericho a
sacrifice of devotion.
sacrifice seems extravagant and wasteful to the world. After all, there
were many valuable items in the city. Its residents could be enslaved.
sacrifice itself seems to have no earthly purpose. Which is correct; the
purpose is heavenly.
the sacrifice is very expensive to those who give it.
that adds up to devotion. Such devotion is an outward sign of great faith
in God. Indeed, the Israelites responded rightly, and the city fell on
schedule. We can learn from this too.
kingdom of God, things must be done in God's way. Our response to
his way is found in our obedience. The temptation is to give God some good
advice on how things should be accomplished (and then follow it ourselves).
kingdom of God, things must be done in God's time. If obedience is
difficult for the modern Christian, then patience must be doubly so. We
want it now! So often in our prayers we tell God why "now" is the right
time. Perhaps we should be listening instead.
kingdom of God, things must be done in God's promise. It is in his
power, his righteousness and his love that his kingdom will advance—not
ours. It is so easy for us to find a shortcut; we need to have faith in
suspect the warriors of Jericho were puzzled by the actions of the
Israelites. The world is often puzzled by the actions of those who love
God, too. Vengeance replaced by forgiveness; greed replaced by honesty;
God's way, God's time, God's promises.
Lord, teach us obedience, patience and faithfulness—and lead us from victory
the reporters "embedded" in a U.S. Marine outfit during the invasion of Iraq
came upon something which astounded him. He had a radio telephone, which
allowed him to make a telephone call from the middle of the battlefield to
any phone on earth. He offered two or three marines the chance to have a
two minute conversation with anyone they would like. The responses
astounded the man:
marine declined to call his parents; rather, he wanted to call the parents
of a buddy who was killed, to assure them that their son died with honor, a
credit to the Corps.
Another gave his time over to his company commander, whose wife was
momentarily expecting a child.
do they get young men like this?" the reporter asked.
reporter, like many of us, assumed that because they were young they would
be rebellious and selfish. We often make the same mistake; indeed,
sometimes you will see the opinion that such rebellion is both normal and
writer of Proverbs (and the United States Marines) know better. If you set
out with the idea that teenagers must be rebellious, and that this is good,
you are likely to get the rebellion, at least. But it need not be so.
you ask? By the Lord's method. The words used in this passage carry at
least three meanings:
Discipline—as in the phrase, "disciplined athlete." One who practices what
is right until it is second nature.
Correction—as in, coaching. One who listens to those whose task is their
Instruction—if one is to learn to be wise, one must be instructed.
not just the teenager that needs these; we all do. It sometimes is painful
to think so, but it is so. When the Lord disciplines you:
as quickly as possible,
not resent his rebuke; rather, accept it with joy, and
this is a sure sign that He loves you.
disciplines another family's children. When God disciplines you, it means
you are his child.
Lord, teach us not to despise your discipline but to embrace it.
a maxim of the faith that God will never let you be tempted by something
beyond your ability to resist. We forget the corollary to this: he
certainly will let us be tempted by something we can resist. The question
is, will we resist?
would God do such a thing? He's trying to help us grow in the faith.
Consider the three characteristics Peter gives us here:
Are you prone to anger? Or do you envy the material blessings of others?
Perhaps greed assails you. By giving you a little test, God will immunize
you against viler things.
Have you ever screamed at your kids, "Pay Attention!" Most of us have.
This applies in spiritual things; we are to be on watch. Look out for
trouble (it's usually where you last left it). Keep watch for the return of
your Lord—be ready when he comes.
We need to be firm in the faith. How? One way is to look at the example of
others. We have a lady in our Bible study whose prayers always include
thanks for simple things—a roof overhead, a meal on the plate. It reminds
me how generous my Lord has been to me, and sets an example in thanksgiving.
gracious; he allows these things because he loves us. We are called to
Christ; that tells us that we will have trouble in this world. For a short
while God will have you face it directly, learning to be strong, leaning on
him at need. He is looking for Christians who are:
therefore capable of helping others through the same types of trials.
upon whom the waves of temptation beat, but never wear away.
mind which has examined itself, knows itself, and will not be deflected from
the purposes of God.
faced with temptation, we sometimes wonder: "Could I possibly resist such a
thing?" The answer is yes; otherwise, God would not have allowed it to
come to you.
Lord, we know that Satan prepares great temptations for great saints. Give
us the vision to see that our temptations are smaller than the faith you
will give us.
very careful look again at this passage. At first it seems rather trivial;
if you're a hot tempered fellow, you're always in an argument. That seems
rather obvious. Look again. This is not about the trouble such a man gets
into. It's about the trouble he stirs up. The patient man intervenes in
quarrels to bring peace; the hot tempered man intervenes to make quarrels
rules the heart?
If Christ rules, then you should train your emotions to practice peace. If
the self rules, then you will practice passion—and you will expect it in
rules the soul?
If Christ rules, then you will imitate him—the Prince of Peace. If the self
rules, then anger feels good; even anger observed is better than no anger
rules the mind?
If Christ rules, then you will work to do his will: in all things, love.
If the self rules, you will see "divide and conquer" in every argument.
know such a man? Have you been his victim? Look around; you can find this
man by looking for the nearest argument. He started it, usually between two
friends. If this man is a Christian, you have a duty to perform. You are
the first step in church discipline. Show him this passage; rebuke him for
his habit. He may not even be aware of what he is doing; it simply feels
good, and he's fallen into a bad habit. To turn a man from this is a great
man is not a Christian, then (as much as you are able) avoid him. He does
you no good, nor anyone else. Do not treat him as an erring brother; only
Christians would recognize anger as sin in the world today. If you think
not, turn on the TV. Watch a wrestling match. It's passionate anger, with
what if you are such a man? Is there any hope? Hope there is indeed, but
you must take this to your Lord:
by recognizing your sin, repenting—and asking forgiveness from those you
the help of other Christians in holding you accountable.
Remember the Lord's prayer: "Lead us not into temptation." The phrase is
there for a purpose.
Lord, keep us from anger. Keep us from ruining ourselves with it, or
enjoying it in others. Give us strength and wisdom to deal with those who
are gripped by this sin.
Way of Holiness
is clearly a prophetic passage. But like many such passages, it has an
earthly meaning too. So let's examine the NPV—the Non-Prophetic Version.
note that we are talking about a highway. In Isaiah's time, this would be a
roadway which was raised above the surrounding territory—so that the
soldiers of the king could not be ambushed. Trouble would be seen before it
arrived. Those who walk the way of holiness in this life have the same
are those people? They are the ones who "walk in that Way." In other
words, true Christians. We know this because Isaiah identifies them
further. They are the redeemed, brought back to God. They are the
ransomed, paid for by the blood of Christ.
contrast is with those who do not walk on it; the unclean, for
instance—those whose life is always touched with sin they think is small.
Some go on to true wickedness, where no sin is too large. Indeed, the lion
here may refer to one who has become so sinful as to be like a beast,
gratifying only the desires of the flesh.
know that some of these will enter the church and attempt to lead others
astray. Even here Isaiah's highway gives us a clue. The wicked try to
"journey" - the road looks long and hard to them. The unclean "go about" -
never in the straight and narrow. But the holy are said to walk; more than
that, to return. That is the picture of the true believer: one who is
returning to God. It is a simple process; a matter of keeping on, walking
day after day in what the Lord shows you to be right.
are not meant just for the travel, but to take us somewhere. This road
leads to Zion, the holy hill of God. It also leads to a new life for us.
There are some big changes in store for us:
"Sorrow and sighing" will flee from us. There is a road that all of us
should love! God will wipe away every tear.
Everlasting joy and gladness will be ours. Indeed, joy is said to
"overtake" us—running up the road from behind just to be with us. The joy
of the Lord comes this way too.
is this road? The map has been given to you; it is the Bible. This road
is a spiritual one. There are many such roads, but only one leads home.
Look for the highway called out by God.
Lord, keep us on the highway to heaven. Until you return, let us not look
back, but keep our eyes on you.
Prisoner for the Lord
passage is often quoted starting at verse 5, with the seven unities of the
church. But to start there misses the point entirely. Read again verse 1.
Paul, the prisoner for the Lord, .
an honor this man has! Do you not see that he has been found worthy to
suffer for the Lord? Even to the point of martyrdom? Position enough to be
an Apostle; like them, he will die a martyr too. When our Lord returns,
look for those chains to be glorified and made a reward for faithful
service. This is one who is great in the kingdom of heaven.
someone of high position and authority tells you to do something, what is
your response? The higher the authority, the higher you jump, right?
Consider now the authority and honor of Paul—and see what he asks. He does
not order it; indeed, he "urges" us. The King James had "beseech"; the
Revised Standard uses "beg." And what does this man of great authority beg?
begs us to live a worthy life, keeping the unity of the church. He does not
beg us to volunteer as missionaries; to die as a martyr; to make great
material sacrifices. He begs us to keep the unity of the church.
By being, as he is, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with each
other in love. Somehow he has to beg us to do this, which should come so
easily to the Christian. It is plainly to our benefit to do this; it is
pleasing to God—and he begs us for it.
body, the church, with one Spirit, in one hope—the resurrection of the dead
upon Christ's return. Meanwhile we are to keep one Lord, Jesus Christ, one
baptism, one faith in one God.
are high and noble words. We would recognize them as essentials in our
daily walk if they had been commanded. How much more when the Apostle in
chains begs us to keep them?
do not keep them. It is not just the shattered glass of the fractured
church we see; even in our little shard we see pride splitting that which
should be one. How often have you seen those who are "church shoppers"
become offended at some minor thing, leaving to find a better place? Surely
you know they came from another place for the same reason.
Lord was gentle, patient and humble. He is the servant of all, bearing with
us in love. Let us consider the imitation of Christ to be our first call,
and so preserve the oneness of God's church.
Lord, grant that our anger will be slow and our love swift; our words
gentle and our bearing lowly—for the sake of your church.
Mention the word "identification" to most people and they will think of
their driver's license. We use it commonly as evidence that we are who we
say we are. So important has this become that our state, California, issues
an identification card (at the Department of Motor Vehicles) for such a
purpose to those who do not drive.
issue is trust. If I am who I say I am, the merchant can find out if my
credit is good. If the picture doesn't match the person, the deal is off.
It's important, because there is money involved.
if identification is important when there is money involved, how much more
important is it when we speak of eternal life? In this passage, Christ has
just been speaking about how narrow is the road to eternal life. Along that
road we will seek guidance from those who say they know the way. We need a
way to identify those who are true out of those who are false.
here gives us such a method. The life which is corrupt on the inside and
pious on the outside can be detected—by the results (fruit) it produces.
Let us be clear: this is not a matter of looking for someone who knows how
to pray in public. It is not a matter of Biblical knowledge. It is a
matter of results.
often make this decision on the basis of what people do. Let me give you a
surer sign. Look at their children. Children are just such a result; they
are the fruit of parenting. An elder is required to be one who rules over
his own household; just another example of looking for fruit. Are the
children believers in the truth?
about those who are around them? Do those who work with them reflect such
character? For example, do his coworkers refrain from profanity in his
presence? Especially when he has raised no objections? Does his character
at those who teach you: do their lives reflect the love, joy and peace of
Christ? Or do they have anger, envy, greed or lust dominating them?
might think that the good things of Christ would be easy to imitate. It is
not so; our Lord has made the way narrow and hard. Hypocrites are lazy.
They want the way without the work. Without the work they lack the fruit.
So by their fruit you will know them.
Lord, grant us clear vision: vision to see the narrow way; vision to see
those who are false; vision to see those who are true guides; vision to see
lessons of the Bible are sometimes obscured to us by the great changes in
culture since it was written. This story is thousands of years old. It
needs a little explanation.
story centers around a "birthright." In those days, a man did not have the
liberty of dividing his property however he liked in his will. His oldest
son, no matter what he thought of him, or which wife he came from, got the
birthright. This meant several good things to the oldest son:
it meant he got a double share of his father's wealth.
also meant that he inherited the position of head of the clan.
this instance, it is very precious—because of the promises made to Abraham
(Jacob's grandfather) and Isaac (Jacob's father). Jacob is not the first
born; that's Esau.
the story makes a little more sense. From this, we can pick up some idea of
the character of each man:
Jacob—the name itself means "deceiver" - is the kind of man who would
connive to get what is not rightly his. You'll notice an astute judgment of
character here; he makes Esau take an oath (just in case he decides not to
honor his word).
Esau—it means "red" - is a man who takes his father's things much too
lightly. Selling the birthright for a meal is not only a poor bargain but
insulting to your father.
end the matter turns out much like you would expect. Jacob deceives his
dying father and receives his father's blessing, leadership of the clan, and
the promises made to Abraham. Esau gets a few sheep and a pasture.
this story again; look at it from the point of view that God might take.
When he looks at Esau, he sees someone who thinks the birthright is
trivial. He'll trade it for a meal. Does he see the same kind of person in
took Esau only a few minutes to get rid of his birthright. We too have such
a birthright—we are born again. We are not to think that birthright trivial
either. Sadly, some of us do. We take lightly the grace of God, our
birthright. How? By our refusal to forgive, or by our continued sin. Our
birthright begins with forgiveness, given by God on the basis of Calvary.
If we despise his forgiveness and think it trivial, what then will He do?
Lord, may we know that your grace is a joy; may we treat it as a precious
jewel and never take it lightly.
the more awkward passages of Scripture is to be found here. It is awkward
because of the example it sets. No one gets too perturbed about prayer, or
the Lord's Supper. Miracles are fine too (as long as they're confined to
the Bible). The good news comes from the heart; the bad news comes from
is no getting around it. The early church took a very different view of the
word "mine." We consider possession of material items to be our right.
They considered possession of material things to be their opportunity.
just possible that we have it wrong, and they have it right? On the general
principle of "by their fruits you will know them," let's look at their
results. They increased in four things:
Knowledge of the Apostle's doctrine.
Fellowship with each other.
Praise to God
Numbers—they grew daily.
honestly say that we are increasing in these items? I think not. Doctrine
is seldom mentioned any more. Praise is confined to the sanctuary. Perhaps
we should ask why they had such good results.
wasn't the giving. It's pretty clear that the giving (to the Apostles and
to each other) was the result of the Spirit moving in them. The secret to
this is found in verse 42: devotion. They devoted themselves to four
Apostle's doctrine. A church that cannot get enough of the word is a power
Fellowship. A church that cares for those who are sick or elderly, that
makes it a point to share lives with lives, will never lack for the love of
Breaking of Bread. A church whose members examine themselves and repent at
the sight of the body and blood of Christ will be heard by God.
Prayer. The church on her knees is mightier than the world on its pride.
any wonder that this was a giving church? Every thought, emotion, plea and
prayer pointed to giving. When God blesses, you bless others.
Lord, forgive us our partial commitment. Replace our interest with
devotion, our daydreams with action.
not a typographical error. The first eight verses teach us about
sad that the church no longer teaches hospitality as a virtue. In ancient
times it was a necessity, for inns were few and most of them were also
houses of prostitution. As people traveled they would depend upon a network
of friends of friends. To have someone stay in your house for the night was
an honor of sorts; it also brought you news from other areas, and was
therefore welcomed. Hospitality is a neglected virtue and a neglected
course, it may be that Abraham knew how important his guests were. But from
the passage it does not appear to be the case; it seems this was typical of
Abraham's hospitality. Hospitality here cost Abraham one animal, some milk
and cottage cheese and a little water. But there are other sacrifices in
Hospitality calls for the sacrifice of the pleasant. It now consumes
the fatted calf.
Hospitality calls for a sacrifice of the present. When guests come,
our time goes.
Hospitality calls for a sacrifice of the private. Sometimes a guest
takes an impression with him.
Hospitality calls for a sacrifice of our priorities. The needs of
our guests now take center stage.
there is one guest remaining in this age of diminished hospitality—the Holy
Spirit. Examine your hospitality towards him; is it what you would have
for so important a guest?
sacrifice the pleasant for him? Do you give up pleasures so that his work
might be done?
sacrifice the present for him? Your time in prayer instead of watching
about the private things? Is there something in your life you'd rather not
Priorities—are they yours, or God's? Check your checkbook on this one.
indwelling of the Holy Spirit should be a welcome change in the heart of the
believer. The change will be welcome if the Spirit is too.
Lord, keep us mindful of our hospitality, particularly for you.
has a definite set of problems at the Corinthian church. This letter is a
corrective one; the first problem he deals with is the unity of the
church. That unity is constantly threatened by Satan. Since this is a
matter of high importance, the way in which Paul handles it seems out of
first thing he does is to remind them of their spiritual gifts. He points
out to them that they lack none of the gifts. In this way he gently reminds
them that they have the Spirit—which holds together the body of Christ.
Next, he invokes the name of Christ as the one who will sustain them, strong
unto the end when he returns. Then he reminds them that God has called them
into fellowship with Jesus Christ.
how meekly and quietly he begins? He does not respond with the authority of
the Apostle; rather, he approaches them in the spirit of telling the truth
comes the point: personality. Each of us, naturally, has a favored
preacher or teacher. This is not a problem while we see such people as
simply doing their part in the body. But when the personalities clash, it
can cause division in the church. There are dangers to being a successful
preacher or teacher! In this instance, Paul himself is the object of one of
these factions. Therefore, he must show them the error.
does so by recurring to first principles: Christ is one. His sacrifice,
and that alone, is our salvation. No teacher or preacher, no matter how
gifted, can replace that. There is no other foundation; any building built
on something else will fall.
beseeches them (and indirectly us) to be of one mind and thought. The
original phrasing means to be the same in our intellectual view; also, to
be united in our intentions, our will. Think it through carefully, then act
fashionable today in evangelical churches to sneer at anything
intellectual. Faith alone will save you, check your brain at the church
door! Paul shows the error in this. We are to be clear minded about this.
We must reason these things out in the mind. But we cannot stop there;
intellectual assent is not faith. Only when the mind moves the will can
there be faith. Let us be doers of the word—doing it together in one mind
Father, we know that the unity of your church is precious to you. Our Lord
asked that we might be one, even as You and He are one. Lord, unite your
word "quality" has a number of meanings. One of them, used in the business
world, is this: a quality product is one that meets your
is a little tough to grasp at times. We're used to the idea that a quality
car, for example, is expensive, well engineered and carries a certain snob
appeal. But what if the car you're looking for must be inexpensive and get
good gas mileage? The big Cadillac just won't do; for your purposes, it's
not a quality car.
have something of the same sort here. Many of us dream of being fabulously
rich; God knows there is a right amount of money for us. For most of us,
it fits the description here: enough so that I'm not tempted to steal and
little enough so that I don't feed my ego to the bursting point.
who has "just enough" also tends to be an honest one. If you are too poor,
the temptation to lie your way into better circumstances is very great. But
if you are richer than you should be, there is the temptation of "more."
Making money becomes a test of your true worth, and lying to do it becomes
at it this way: Suppose you're looking for a good auto repair shop. What
would you want to find?
want one where the owner has dirt and grease under his fingernails—enough
business to keep his hands under the hood, no temptation to create false
problems to be repaired.
want one who didn't have too much business, though—someone who looked after
you'd certainly want one you could trust. That's your car and your money
we're talking about.
turn that around. Suppose someone was looking for a person in your line of
work. They'd want the same kinds of things. We know what we're looking
for: an honest worker, wealthy enough to show that he's competent; not so
rich that he won't care.
what God is looking for in you: for you are the reputation of God, walking
the planet. When non-Christians look at you, what do they see? Do they see
someone who steals? Do they see someone who has too much money to be
honest? Is your word your bond?
Lord, keep us mindful of whose we are; that we are the Christ others see.
May their view of us bring you praise.
doesn't take long to run into this argument. People who are sure there
isn't a God—at least, not the one we know—argue this way about it:
tell me that God is omnipotent—do anything."
tell me that God is good; there is no evil in Him."
there is evil in this world. If He were good, He'd do something about it.
Since He's omnipotent, He would be done with it by now. Therefore, your God
are two key facts about this. First, the people who argue this way usually
up with this on their own (and they're proud of it). Second, the Christian
they're talking to has no idea how to reply.
answer is simple. You have left out an option. Either God is not
omnipotent, or He's not good—or He's not finished yet. God the merciful is
waiting, so that more might be saved by the blood of Christ.
the day is coming when his patience with us will run out. None of us knows
when that will be; it's one day closer than it was yesterday. When Christ
returns, he will judge the living and the dead. And he will do it with
justice. That's the point of this story: you and I will be judged on the
basis of what we know. The ignorant will get off lightly; the educated
will have it worse.
note one thing about this story. It is phrased in terms of a particular
individual; namely, the head servant who is in charge of feeding the
others. We must take this with a spiritual turn. It means that those who
are shepherds of God's flock are to be judged more strictly.
as any kindergarten student would know, is fair. God's judgment on us is a
reflection of his righteousness. The salvation he offers to us is a
reflection of his love. These two touch each other at the Cross, for the
Cross reflects two things:
horrible price that must be paid for our sins—the life of Jesus, the sinless
man, the Christ.
unfailing grace of God, who sent his Son to that Cross.
Father, we know that we cannot earn our salvation; it must be a gift from
you. May we always remember how much that gift cost.
Talk and Flattery
topic of obedience is much neglected in our day. It is quite rare to hear a
sermon that even mentions the word. A sermon devoted to the subject is
unheard of. But the New Testament rings with the word.
course, obedience is subject to abuse. This is especially true when those
abusing it are in positions of power in the church. Paul, in this short
passage, tells us how to deal with such people.
we must identify them. How do we know when someone is abusing the obedience
of the church? Paul gives us two simple tests:
they cause division in the church? Do they oblige Christians to "choose up
they put obstacles in the way, things contrary to or additional to the
Scripture? There are always things that must have slipped the mind of God
Interestingly, we have an alternate form of church discipline for them.
Rebuke is not mentioned—for rebuke leads to more division with such people.
No, we simply avoid them.
hard for them to deal with that. Paul makes it clear here that the reason
for such divisive behavior is their appetite. Appetite? Yes indeed; not
necessarily for potluck dinners but for their egos. How do we know that?
people have to have a technique that works—or this wouldn't be a problem.
The simplest technique is to use what works with yourself. In their
instance, the technique comes down to smooth talk and flattery. Flattery
makes them feel good; they will use it on you. The well oiled tongue works
worst part of this comes when you look at who such people are most likely to
disturb: the obedient. The Christian who in honest humility tries to
follow his Lord can be misled. What shall we do about that?
be aware of these people; watch out! Next, use your brains. Be as wise as
you can be concerning things which are innocent– but don't fall for Satan's
lie that evil is enlightening. Be innocent concerning evil. You need not
explore the dregs to know that they are in the bottle.
Lord, let us learn to be obedient—so obedient that we can honestly worry
about such a problem. Then, in our obedience, let us learn to follow you in
all humility, such as you have shown us.
a curious fact. When Jesus sent forth the seventy, he told them to travel
light. He sent them out depending upon the hospitality of others; if the
others were not hospitable, they would starve. Why would he do such a
be that such utter poverty induces a dependence upon God. We know that God
wants us to turn to him; if this is the way, then he will use it. But he
tells us that the laborer is worthy of his hire.
this passage he reveals another reason. It is so that the ordinary
Christian sitting in the pews may have the privilege of participating in the
growth of the kingdom of God.
many of us are capable (or called) to travel to foreign lands as a
missionary. For most of us, a short term missions trip of one to two weeks
supplies all the adventure and hardship we want. So, in a sense, we cannot
share the adventure.
can share the reward. The principle is fairly simple: if you show love to
my children, you show love to me. If you are kind to those I care for, you
are kind to me. If I would reward one who loves me and is kind to me, then
I would reward the one who cares for and loves my children.
when one of God's missionaries stops by, do not look upon the worthiness of
the person. Look upon the worth of the call God has placed on them. Look
beyond them; see their Master.
he reward those who care for his own? He tells us plainly that we will be
rewarded like those we care for. If we care for the righteous man (for the
sake of righteousness, not carnal ambition) then Christ will reward us as he
would that righteous man.
easy to see how caring for someone who is great in the kingdom would merit
this. But Christ extends the principle down to the lowest in his
society—little children. If you provide for one of them at the urging of
Christ, then the reward will still be there.
Indeed, whoever receives the disciple of Christ plays host to Christ, for
the disciples are his body. It is the worthiness of the calling, not the
man called, that counts. But note, please, that the disciple is to bring
peace to such a house—the peace that comes from Christ himself. For such
rewards, surely we should practice hospitality more than we do.
Lord, we have left the art of hospitality in our haste. Give us calm minds
and warm hearts, that we may welcome your children.
won't catch me repeating gossip," the song goes, "so you'd better listen
close and get it right the first time."
Christians defend such conversation by saying, "It isn't gossip if it's
true." That's not correct. If what you're saying isn't true, it's
slander. If it's in print, it's libel. If it's true—and being spoken
maliciously—it's gossip. This will come as a surprise to many Christians.
We seem to feel that as long as something is factually correct (well, with a
little of our wisdom supplying the missing facts) it's perfectly acceptable
for us to clack on, no matter how grievously we wound someone else. One
reason for this is that we seldom see the wounds inflicted; gossip is
usually delivered to its target by a friend. It is a bitter wound for that.
Solomon points out, hatred dies out when the gossip is silenced. So then,
how do we respond to someone gossiping?
that person is not a Christian, we are somewhat limited in our response.
Depending upon circumstance, we should do whatever we can to stop the talk
right there. Sometimes there is very little we can do.
that person is a Christian, then a sound familiarity with the Scriptures
will allow the Spirit to give you words both true and gentle. Gently
correct the talebearer; remind him that such conversation is hurtful, and
tears down the body of Christ.
is, of course, a worse case. You could be the gossip. There is a simple
test. When you hear something that sounds delicious and harmful, what's
your reaction? Do you want to hear more? Get all the details so you can be
an expert on the subject? And if details are lacking, your imagination
supplies them? You know exactly who should hear about this next?
Christian, if this is you, go to your knees and ask God's forgiveness. Ask
him for strength in keeping your eyes open and your mouth shut. Gossip
makes us feel important, in the know. We grieve our brothers and sisters
with words like arrows, all for the momentary pleasure of puffing ourselves
Christians, we know how we are to handle information. Whether it is good or
bad, we are to tell the truth—in love. If your words wound, shut up.
Lord, keep us from this sin, which does so much damage. Help us to remember
that we are responsible for our words.
writers of the New Testament attach a great importance to all that Christ
said and did during the last week of his ministry. About half of the
are taken up with that last week. This section is from Christ's prayer,
just before going into Gethsemane. This particular section is unique: in
it, Christ prays for us. We are those who believe because of what the
this penultimate prayer by the Son of God, what is asked of Almighty God?
That we—the church of today—might be one. This does not mean a union in
which we change the name on the sign out front. No, it is far more than
to be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. Different persons, but one
spirit. All of the mystery of the Trinity is brought forward here. No
matter; we are to be one.
can this be accomplished? Christ tells us here: we are to be in Him, and
in the Father, as the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. Confused
yet? It is a difficult concept, but there is an easy way to understand it.
way is the Holy Spirit. We are familiar with the concept that the Holy
Spirit is in us. At the same time, however, it is quite accurate to say
that a true Christian is in the Holy Spirit—for it is the Spirit who moves
the church. The true Christian is in the church.
Indeed, this is so much true that Christ tells us here that he has given us
(the church, that is) glory—the glory that the Father gave him. This glory
has a purpose: that we show the world that Jesus loves us, with the love
given him by the Father.
leads us to the fruit of unity: successful evangelism. If the world sees a
church that is fractured and divided; a church whose time is spent in
debating theological fine points incomprehensible to the average person; a
church worried over the sound of a guitar in the sanctuary, then the world
will see the church as trivial.
the world sees the church united, then the picture changes. But how can we
be united? He tells us here. We are united in this: we know (and believe)
that Jesus was sent by God, in the love of God, to bring that love to us.
The measure of that love is found at the Cross, for at the Cross the love of
Christ purchased our pardon. We are one in the Spirit, one in the Lord.
The man who names Christ as Lord and Savior is brother to me.
Lord, forgive us our squabbles and squeaks. May we be called to be one in
you, just as you are one with the Father.
don't get if you don't ask." It's the negative form of asking so it will be
given to you. But we should be at least a little cautious about our
requests. In the kingdom of God suffering and service go with high
and John are trying to get ahead. Seeing that the Teacher is unoccupied for
the moment, they decide to put in their request. After all, what's to
lose? From the world's perspective, this should be an astute move. How
does the world see it?
are the great key to advancement. People don't get promoted if no one at
the top knows their name. So it really helps to know the people at
second route. If you were unfortunate enough to have been born without
connections—it does seem to work like that, doesn't it? - then you had best
have qualifications. An MBA is useful in this.
is an absolute necessity. If the folks upstairs don't know your name, put
it in front of them—preferably in lights.
Way of the Cross
way of the Cross is quite different. There are still "moves to make," but
they have differing, surprising results. So surprising that Jesus tells
them plainly, you don't know what you're asking.
by the Spirit—this is a grand thing. He usually asks someone that the world
would overlook. If all goes well, the world will continue to overlook
him—and see Christ.
spiritual gifts by that same Holy Spirit. Do you not see that your place is
one of service? If service, will not the Holy Spirit bring "God's provision
for God's command?"
that same Spirit, our paths may look strange to the world. Anyone who is
consistently following our Lord will appear to be inconsistent to the
the Apostles were not permitted to choose their own place of service, but
were given wisdom to know where they should be. It is rather presumptuous
when we think otherwise.
Lord, grant that we may know that we are servants in your kingdom—something
which is given, not grasped. Teach us to serve as you came to serve and
are, I am told, people who are insane enough to purchase a jigsaw puzzle
which is totally red on both sides. When (or rather, if) assembled, it is a
circle. This passage at first seems to be something of the same sort. But
we shall sort it out.
Christ's relationship to the creation
four things about his relationship to the creation:
before all—He is the pre-existent Lord.
created all things, no exceptions. The universe is his by right of
Indeed, the purpose of this universe is Christ; he created it for himself.
the active sustainer of this universe. Gravity works because he says so.
relationship to us
two things here which describe his relationship with us:
the head of the church. All who claim salvation must acknowledge him as
the firstborn from the dead—the first to rise to the new body, our example
and guaranty of resurrection.
relationship to God the Father
here tells us two things; two precious things:
the exact image of God. If you see Him, you have seen the Father.
Father has placed his fullness—all that He is—in Christ.
Putting the pieces together
all these great attributes, so neatly summarized in so few verses, there is
yet one thing we see. Ours is a fallen world, a world of sin. Somehow this
sin has corrupted even the creation around us. We are part of that
creation, and we are sinners. There is always one piece in the jigsaw
puzzle around which the others must fit. In this puzzle, that one piece is
this: Jesus Christ has also reconciled all things to himself. He
has taken away the curse of sin, reconciling us to the Father by his blood.
That reconciliation redeems us, and ultimately all creation as well.
Lord, we cannot claim to understand all that is said about you and this
creation. We know that you will make all things new, and we await that
day. May we wait for it
in diligent service to You.
unfortunate that the concept of allegory has been relegated to the dustbin
in Christian minds. The ancient writers considered it a high form of
instruction, and perhaps we can learn a little from it even today.
story in Genesis, chapter three, is an allegory. That does not mean it is
fiction; it means that the characters in it stand for other things. The
serpent represents Satan. We do not therefore shoot all snakes on sight.
Adam represents men, Eve women. Indeed, we know that Christ himself is
called "the last Adam." So we can examine this passage using these symbols,
and do so fearlessly.
Prophecy is often cryptic. "Cryptic" originally meant something in a code.
God gives us such things so that we might be instructed without revealing
too much. Such prophecy is often much clearer in hindsight. Looking back
with the New Testament in hand much of the Old Testament prophecy becomes
quite clear. It is also true that we tend to overestimate how much of this
was clear at the time of writing—and thus underestimate the vision of the
passage is just such a one. It is clearly prophetic, given the use of the
future tense. It clearly involves Satan, the serpent. And for some
mysterious reason, it involves the offspring of women. Today, of course, we
recognize that as the virgin birth. Isaiah told it more clearly, but that
comes much later.
Looking back, we can see some clear implications from this prophetic
the Incarnation and the Crucifixion were planned from the beginning. Christ
is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. Indeed, other
sources present us the fact that this was the plan before time began.
Surprisingly, it holds that even the Christ, the Holy One of Israel, would
suffer from Satan's assault. It is a radical thought in the Old Testament.
We see Him as fully man and fully God.
Finally, there is the blessed assurance that Satan, and all that is evil
with him, will one day be destroyed.
Crucifixion was part of Plan A. So is the destruction of evil. Both these
things are certain.
Lord, how marvelous it is to know that Satan is defeated; give us the hope
of victory in our lives, too.
Testing The Spirits
Apostle John gives us, in this simple passage, the method for testing every
great new theory that comes along. The method is fairly obvious. Jesus of
Nazareth claimed to be both fully human and fully God. He did this amidst
the one people on earth who had a clear idea of the one true God—the I AM of
Moses. Since those days, the church has been assailed by those who deny the
person and mission of Christ. See if you recognize any of these (by no
means a complete list):
say that Jesus is not equal to God; he is a created being who is higher
than the angels. Not so, says Jesus of Nazareth; before the world was, I
say that his suffering on the Cross meant nothing; after all, how can God
suffer, being omnipotent? Not so, says Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man.
say that Christ only took over someone else's body at adulthood, and
therefore never was really completely human. His mother's birth pains
should answer for that.
say the Crucifixion was easy; since He is God, He would know how it would
turn out; it would be no problem. Not for the Christ in the Garden asking
his Father to let this cup pass from him.
say he had no trouble with temptation—as He is God, who could tempt Him?
With what? The Son of Man was led into the wilderness for just such
are many, many more. Some deny that Jesus was anything more than a ghost, a
disembodied spirit. These ideas keep coming up to defy the truth: Jesus of
Nazareth, born of the virgin named Mary, raised in the occupied province of
Israel in the Roman Empire, an itinerant preacher and teacher for three
years, executed under Pontius Pilate—that Jesus was, is and evermore will be
the God who created all things, sustains all things and will renew all
things when He returns.
test is a simple one. Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh fully human, but also
fully Divine—anything less is false. Test the spirits.
Lord, we know that those who bring forward such things are smooth of
speech. Give us both wisdom and courage to resist.
Testing the Spirits
Perhaps you haven't noticed this, but the Psalms are poetry of a high
degree. Some poems rhyme in sound ("the rain in Spain"); others rhyme in
their rhythm (Haiku) - but the Psalms rhyme in thought.
thought rhyme is Psalm 22. It is clearly prophetic of the Crucifixion—but
it also stands by itself as the plea of a man who is in desperate trouble.
Watch the rhymes; catch the ideas at play:
greatness of the Lord
The insignificance of man.
the world is treating me
How God treats me.
enemies are strong and numerous
I am weak and fearful
And I will praise you
poor will eat and be satisfied
All the earth will praise you
rich will feast and worship
A people not yet born will praise you.
you ever gone to God, asking to have him rescue you from some situation—only
to get no answer? Perhaps your poetry does not rhyme. Look at the thought
rhymes above; see how often the Psalmist praises the Lord. See how he
exalts the Lord in every thought. There is no sense that the Lord is "at
fault" for his circumstances; rather, the thought is that he is not worthy
to do anything other than praise the Lord.
Perhaps the rhyme in your personal poetry is gone. Do you balance your
please with his praises? Is the mercy of the Lord your counterweight to the
harshness of this world? Do you look to the time he rescues you—and commit
yourself to praising him then? Learn from King David, the writer of this
Psalm. For each request, balance it with praise befitting the Lord.
Lord, we so often fail to praise you when we cry out for help—and when you
deliver us, we forget to praise you. Pardon us this failing, and teach us
your praises as David learned them, so that we might be, like him, men after
your own heart.
wife's father is a wealthy man, by the standards of this world. He enjoys
the part of being patriarch of the clan (he is 88 years old, so I suppose we
might accord him that privilege). As such, he often takes us out to
dinner. He pays, as most of us do, with a credit card.
marvelous invention is the credit card. That small rectangle of plastic
moves the retail world. Many of us see it as simply a convenient way to pay
our bills; others, a loan at the ready. But note this: your credit
depends upon one thing: what the bank thinks is the likelihood that you
will pay your bills.
note, then, that my wife's father has on occasion trusted me with the credit
card in order that I might purchase some computer equipment for his
business. While I have the card, his is the credit.
does something like that with us. Paul here reminds us that Abraham
believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. It is as if God was
paying the bill.
Indeed, God has paid it. Look how:
wages of sin, we are told, is death.
Therefore Christ did not deserve to die.
die he did, laid in the tomb. He went willingly to it.
He did it for us.
Cross allows us to use the "credit" earned at Calvary for the sins we have
done. In effect, Jesus Christ died, and rose again, so that we might be
able to have that credit.
here the example of Abraham is most useful. The innocent atonement alone
could not be complete; we must apply for that credit. How do we apply?
Just like Abraham did: we believe.
use my father-in-law's credit card, I can buy far more than I would think
prudent on my own credit card. It doesn't matter; I'm not paying the
bill. With regard to our sins, the same is true for all who believe in
Christ. His credit—the atonement for sin—is now available to all who will
take it; He has paid the bill in full.
Lord, it is so wonderful to have your grace. So often we think we must do
something to earn it. Keep our minds attentive to grace: you alone made
the atonement. We cannot work our way into salvation, but we can let the
grace you give us be transformed into service for your church. You have
been merciful to us; help us follow your example and be merciful to all.
It is no
secret to anyone who has served in the Army—the Army loves a parade. But not
all parades. My own service in the Army included a number of parades, most of
which were thoroughly resented. But perhaps we can use a parade as an example
of what Paul is talking about here.
it seems that he is stating a doctrine of works. But it is not so. Look at
this in terms of a parade.
before the parade starts, the sergeant comes into the barracks and inspects each
man. All buttons must be polished; ribbons displayed in the right order. This
will not be the only inspection; the soldier comes to expect this. Christians
too have inspection. Each week at Communion; each night in prayer we are
counseled to examine ourselves and seek forgiveness quickly. In this way we
present the bright appearance of one made holy by Christ.
not come by waiting for inspection to point out the flaws; the soldier knows
what to look for. So should the Christian. Examine yourself!
of His suffering
soldier understands this; those you suffer with are friends for life. Every
soldier also understands that you do not let your buddies suffer alone; esprit
de corps requires that you help your buddy at need. Isn't that the same with
on parade your relationship with the next soldier in line is very important—the
formation looks good (or terrible) depending on how you are aligned with each
other. So it is with Christians too. We need to be aligned with our brothers.
It's called brotherly love.
of his resurrection
originated as a method of moving large formations into battle where desired. In
other words, the parade delivered you to the battlefield in the order needed for
victory. It doesn't matter how well you march if you're going the wrong
Christian's life, that is seeking and walking the narrow way. Victory lies at
the end of that narrow road; a victory guaranteed by the Resurrection of
grant us wisdom in this. Give us the sense to inspect ourselves, so that we may
get your help early. Teach us to love one another so that your church is in
harmony. Lead us home to the place you have prepared for us.