A Stern Warning

37414238182_8cd4102a0e_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Stern Warning

Paul just finished telling us to imitate God and now, in the next 3 verses, he is telling us what not to do. Ephesians 5:3-5 says, Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

Look at the sins he lists here and the order in which he lists them: Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Greed. Then, after he tells us that we have no business doing these things, he continues the list with Obscene Stories, Foolish Talk, and Coarse Jokes. There are a lot of Christians out there today who believe that it is okay to cuss and use foul language. They say the Bible never says not to cuss, it just says not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Well, those Christians have obviously not read much of the Bible.

In this passage, it lumps dirty stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes with sexual immorality, impurity, and greed so I would say it is pretty important. The Greek word used here that has been translated as foolish talk isn’t used anywhere else in the Bible in this form, but the root words are. The root word translated as foolish is the Greek word μωρός mōrós, mo-ros’, which means, “Foolish, equivalent to impious, godless.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. So, this word could be translated as foolish, disrespectful to God, or godless talk, that opens the playing field quite a bit.

There are verses all throughout the Bible that warn about the tongue. Jesus Himself talked a lot about it. Remember the story when the religious leaders were trying to trip Him up and asked why His disciples didn’t observe the tradition of washing the outside of their cup before drinking from it? Let’s look at the last part of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 15:16-20, 16 ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. 17 ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’” Jesus told them straight up that what you put into your body doesn’t defile you. He is actually giving a little anatomy lesson here. You see, medically speaking, the digestive tract is outside the body. It is a hole that starts at your mouth and ends at your…well you get the picture. So, anything you eat is technically outside your body. Nutrients are absorbed into the body during the process of digestion, but the food itself is never inside the body. Therefore, what you put into your mouth could never defile you, it might make you sick, but it won’t defile you. Conversely, what comes out of your mouth can definitely defile you. I mean, look at the list, evil thoughts, murder, adultery, ALL sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. I know some are asking, how can I murder with my words? Well, what did Christ say about that? Look at Matthew 5:21-22, 21 ‘You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.’” In fact, we see this all throughout the Bible. What did John say in 1 John 3:15? 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” You see, what you say can and does defile you.

As Christ followers, we must watch what we say. The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Notice he starts out by saying, “For the Scriptures say,” this is because Peter is quoting from Psalms 34:12-16. In both of these passages the Word of God tells us that if we want to live a long and prosperous life on this earth, we need to guard our tongues.

James also had a lot to say about watching your mouth, as my mom always said. Look at James 3:2-12, Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” He makes it pretty clear, doesn’t he?

The Pastor I grew up underused to always say something that sums this up so nicely. He would say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people will ever open.” The simple fact is, why do you use foul language? Is it because you don’t want your friends to think you are different? We are called to be a peculiar people in 1 Peter 2:9. That doesn’t mean we should be so weird that people don’t want anything to do with us, we can’t win them if they don’t want what we have, but we also can’t be conformed to this world, Romans 12:2.

Imitate God

Good Friday Service 20120406
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Imitate God

Matthew 28:19 tells us, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Notice it doesn’t say to go make congregations or go make audiences. The word disciple was coined by the Pharisees. A disciple was a student of that Pharisee but was much more than that. They would follow the Pharisee around everywhere and imitate exactly what they did. If the Pharisee was studying the Torah, the disciple was studying the Torah, if the Pharisee was eating, the disciple was eating, if the Pharisee was going to the bathroom…well, you get the picture. So, when Christ said go make disciples, He was telling us to go make imitators of Him. If we are truly a disciple of Christ, we do everything that He would have done. Remember those WWJD bracelets and shirts? Of course, like everything else, it became more religion, just another Christian fad, but that is a true disciple. A real disciple would ask themselves in every situation, What Would Jesus Do?

So, it’s no surprise that Paul starts out the 5th chapter of Ephesians by saying, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2. Notice he doesn’t say to imitate God in some things, he says to imitate God in everything we do. Remember what he said in 1 Corinthians 5:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We must glorify God in everything we do, even eating and drinking.

Paul even goes on to tell us why we should imitate God, he says at the end of verse 1 that we should want to do this because we are His children. Remember back to Ephesians 1:5 where Paul says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” Notice he specifically says that we were adopted as sons. He doesn’t say sons and daughters, but that we are all, male and female, adopted as sons. The reason he says this it that at the time this letter was written to the church at Ephesus, the male child got all the inheritance. So, what he is saying here is that we are all equally adopted with full benefits. You see, there might have been some chauvinism among the people of that day, but not with God. Paul laid it out even clearer to the Galatian church when he said, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:26-29. You see, people can be prejudiced, sadly even God’s people can get that way, but God loves us all equally.

Verse 2 of our passage goes into the theme that is throughout the New Testament, the theme of Unity of the Body of Christ. I know this particular verse doesn’t say to be united directly, but that’s what this message of love is all about. Remember what Jesus said when the Pharisee asked Him what the most important law was? Matthew 22:37-40, 37 Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” If we love God and love each other the way that God loves us, we won’t be breaking the commandments. We talked a lot about love in a previous blog titled “A More Excellent Way.” Love is the one spiritual gift that all of us can have and the only spiritual gift that we can take to heaven with us because it is the only one we will need in heaven. Think about it, we won’t need prophecy because we will know things the way God knows us. We won’t need tongues because we will all be speaking the same heavenly language. We won’t need miracles because there will be no sickness or disease. And, as far as gifts of teaching and admonishing and service, we will be learning at the feet of Jesus…is not that beautiful?

Paul tells us to follow Christ’s example. He says that Christ’s sacrifice was “a pleasing aroma to God.” Jesus selflessly gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. He left the perfection of heaven to come to earth, be born as a man, live 33 years all the while being ridiculed and persecuted, then died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Paul says this was a pleasing aroma to God. The Old Testament talks a lot about the sacrifices being a sweet-smelling aroma to God and Paul is saying that Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, was a pleasing aroma.

He goes on to say that our love for each other is a fragrant aroma to God. Look at Philippians 4:15-20, it says, 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.” You see, the gifts that the Philippian church sent to Paul were a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God. By loving others, by helping others, by imitating Christ, we can present a fragrant aroma to God.

To sum it up, Imitate God, Love Others, and take what God has blessed you with, and use it to bless others.

Just Do Right!

40324059145_9a6c21a976_o (1)
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Just Do Right!

In our last 3 blogs, we talked about what a pastor’s job is and then what will happen when he does his job. The Bible tells us that, once the pastor trains us to do the work for ourselves, we will become mature and will not live like the heathens do. Paul finishes Ephesians chapter 4 by summing up what will happen once we all fall in love with Christ and spend our days studying His Word.

He starts out in verse 25 by saying, “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” This is one of the 10 Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor.” So, don’t lie to, or about your neighbor. Remember the name Christian means, “Christlike.” We are to be like Christ and love our neighbor as ourselves. Did you know that the Bible tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves 10 different times? The first time was in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Then we see it all throughout the New Testament. Remember in Matthew 22 when Christ said that the most important commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” He then went on to say that the second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Christ finished this in verse 40 by saying, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” You see, if we love God and love our neighbor like we love ourselves, we will be keeping all the commandments.

In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul goes on to say, 26And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” The reason “don’t sin by letting anger control you” is in quotes is because it is a quote from Psalm 4:4, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.” When we go to bed angry we are laying there stewing on the thing or person we are angry about. What did Jesus say about this? Matthew 5:21-22, 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Jesus didn’t mess around, He is saying that if you hate someone in your heart you are guilty of murder. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I wish they were dead?” Then, you are guilty of murder. He goes on to say the same goes for adultery. If you lust after someone in your heart you are guilty. Christ said all this to show us that we can’t get to heaven by keeping the law because the law is impossible to keep. Paul goes on to tell us throughout his writings, as you can see in Romans chapter 8, that the law was never meant to save us, it was meant to show us our need for God. That was just a side note…no charge. But, the point is that we shouldn’t go to bed angry, it will lead us to sin. So, if you are angry don’t hold a grudge, take care of it before you go to bed. You may be tired in the morning, but you’ll feel a lot better.

The next thing we see in our passage is “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” Ephesians 4:28. Paul doesn’t pull any punches, he hits it with both barrels. There’s no need to explain this one, just don’t do it!

The next verse is tough for a lot of Christians today. Many believe that it’s okay to use foul language as long as they are not taking the Lord’s name in vain. I have been told by many people who claim the name of Christ that the Bible never says not to cuss, it says not to take the Lord’s name in vain. These are people who haven’t read much of the Bible. Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” In fact, Jesus talked about it in Matthew 15. He said in verses 10-11, “Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.’” Then, after Peter asked what He meant by that, Jesus said in verses16-20, 16 ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. 17 ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’” The pastor I grew up under always said, “Your life may be the only Bible some people ever open” and that is so true. We are defiling ourselves before the world by claiming the name of Christ, then talking like the world. And, by the way, you can take the Lord’s name in vain without ever opening your mouth. If you are claiming to be a Christian and living like the world, you are taking the Lord’s name in vain. In fact, the next verse in our passage says just that, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30.

Paul ends this passage by saying, “31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. Look at this list. He says to get rid of ALL bitterness, ALL rage, ALL anger, ALL harsh words, ALL slander, then he says that while you’re at it, just get rid of ALL evil behavior.

What does Paul end it with? He says to just love each other and forgive each other the way that God has forgiven you. Bob Jones Sr. said it best when he said, “Do right until the stars fall.” Just Do Right!

Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!

14700754129_3c427fdcd4_z
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!

So, once our pastors start teaching us to study and do the work for ourselves as we discussed in “What’s a Pastor to Do,” and once we start maturing, as we saw in “Let’s be Grownups,” what happens then? Let’s move on to the next 8 verses of this passage. Ephesians 4:17-24 says, 17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Notice Paul starts out by saying that he is talking with the Lord’s authority. Paul is always clear when he is speaking from the Lord and when he is just saying what he believes is true. We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 7:6 where he says it is good to stay single but qualifies it by saying, “I say this as a concession, not as a command.” So, in our passage, Paul is saying this is actually a command from the Lord, he is speaking with the authority of Christ.

The first thing he tells us with Christ’s authority is not to live like the Gentiles do. The word here doesn’t just mean Gentiles as a nation or specifically non-Jewish people, the Greek word used here can be translated as Gentile, but also can mean heathen. So, what he is saying at the beginning of verse 17 is that we can’t keep living like heathens do. He says that they are “hopelessly confused.” The word he uses here is the Greek work, “ματαιότης mataiótēs, mat-ah-yot’-ace” which the Strong’s concordance defines as, “What is devoid of truth and appropriateness, perverseness, depravity.” So, he is saying that they are hopelessly confused, devoid of truth, and depraved…they are living without God and we don’t want to be living like them.

In verse 18 he describes it even further by explaining how their minds are full of darkness and they just wander through life far from the life God can give them. I won’t go into all the detail here, but if you read my book by the same title as this blog, Cathedral Made of People, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the walking dead in the Church. If we are not in Christ, we are not walking in life, but are the walking dead. Paul also says in verse 18 that this is because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against God. Does that last phrase ring a bell? It should, we see this all throughout scripture. Remember when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt? The Bible tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Then in Deuteronomy chapter 2, we see that God hardened the heart of Sihon, the king of Heshbon. In 2 Chronicles chapter 36 we see where Zedekiah stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against king Nebuchadnezzar. And, this theme carries on throughout the New Testament. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water in Mark 6 they were astonished because, “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Mark 6:52.

This term, hardened hearts, comes from the Greek word πώρωσις pṓrōsis, po’-ro-sis which means hardness or covered with callouses. There was a great worship song written by Keith Green called Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful. I have a recording of the first time he sang this song and when he was introducing it he told about this letter he wrote to God. In the letter, he asked God to remove the callouses from his heart and give his heart baby skin. He said that these callouses didn’t come from anything he was doing, but rather from things he wasn’t doing. You see, when we don’t spend time with God every day, when we don’t pray and study His word every day, our hearts get calloused, they get hardened and we fail to see what He is trying to show us.

Paul goes on in verse 19 of Ephesians chapter 4 to tell us how these heathens had no sense of shame and just lived to please themselves, they only did what felt good to them. Doesn’t that sound a lot like our world today? Nothing has changed in 2000 years, or for that matter since mankind first fell into sin. Then in verse 20, he says, “But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.” So, what did we learn about Christ? Philippians 2:3-8 says, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Christ was truly selfless. He was humble and always put the needs of others ahead of his own needs. Christ didn’t live for His own pleasure, He lived for others.

Paul goes on to tell us to throw off our old sinful nature that is corrupted by our lusts and let the Spirit of God renew our thoughts and attitudes. Remember what Paul told us in Romans 12:1-2, 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The Bible tells us over and over to be righteous and holy. The word holy means to be set apart, so what that means is that we can’t be conformed to this world. This doesn’t mean we should be so weird the world wants nothing to do with us. How can we win them unless they want what we have? We must be in the world, but we can’t take on the world’s values. Jesus was in the world, He even ate meals with sinners, but He never acted like them. Don’t get me wrong, if you live for Christ you will be persecuted just like He was, but who was it that persecuted Christ, was it the sinners or the religious people? Just a little something to think about.

Let’s Be Grownups

27192679750_0eb4786c55_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Let’s Be Grownups

Last week we looked at what our Pastor’s jobs are and how he is not there to spoon feed us but to train us to do the work for ourselves. So, what happens when the body starts doing the work for itself? The next 4 verses tell us exactly that, this passage says in Ephesians 4:13-16, 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

What is it this passage is saying will continue? The training from the Pastor will continue, and it will continue until we become united in our faith. This is the first goal of God’s work through these offices of the church, working towards the edification of the saints. This lines up with both the ultimate purpose of God, seen in Ephesians 1:10 which says, And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” and the mystery of God which was revealed through Paul in Ephesians 3:6, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

Notice that Paul calls it a unity of faith. He didn’t call it a unity of organization, but a spiritual unity around a common faith and knowledge of Christ. When I was 19 years old I joined a Christian musical drama group. I traveled with this group for 3 years, in fact, that is where Michelle and I met and married, the people we toured with on that team became our brothers and sisters in a very literal way and that is a spiritual unity that no one can break. We all went on with our lives and live all over the country. We all are from different backgrounds and denominations, but even though it has been over 30 years, if I find myself in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I know I can stop in on Dave and Sonja or Ken and Deb and it will be like we were never apart. And, the same goes for any other of the members of that group, there is a relationship there that can’t be broken. You see, when these spiritual leaders work together to train us to do the work for ourselves, we will become united in Christ and the result is an increased maturity and greater intimacy in our experience with God.

Paul goes on to tell us that, once we are mature and know how to study the Word of God for ourselves, we won’t be blown around by every wind of doctrine. You see, that is what has happened to the Church. We don’t know how to study the Word for ourselves, so we rely on what we are taught by men and accept whatever doctrine they are teaching. This is where all these denominations and divisions come from. We don’t have very many mature Christians anymore, there are a few mature Church leaders, but the Bible tells us that we all need to be mature.

Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 3, I won’t copy it here because it is the entire chapter, so stop and read through it before you read on. What does this chapter say? First Paul is rebuking the church at Corinth for not maturing. He said in verse 2, “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.” He goes on to tell them that the reason they are so immature is that they are controlled by their sinful nature. He said the proof of this is their jealousy and quarreling. He tells them in verse 4, “When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” Doesn’t that sound like today? Except, today it’s “I’m of Martin Luther” or “I follow John Calvin,” but isn’t it the same thing? Isn’t this just more spiritual immaturity? Paul goes on through Chapter 3 explaining to them that the men don’t matter, the only one who matters is Jesus Christ.

Going back to our main text, Paul says at the end of Ephesians 4:14 that, if you know the truth, you won’t be tricked by people who tell you things that just sound like the truth. He says that instead of being swayed by things that sound true, we will speak the truth in love and that, by doing this, we will become more and more like Christ. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did all throughout His ministry? He always spoke the truth in love. Paul goes on to remind us that we are all one body and that Christ is our head.

Paul ends this passage in verse 16 by reminding us that because Christ is our head, all of us different parts of the body fit together perfectly. Then he says, “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

You have your own special job within the body of Christ and we need each of us to be mature and do the job that Christ has assigned to us so the whole body will be healthy and grow full of love. So, let’s all get out there, put aside all our differences, get to work, do our special jobs, and grow in the love of Christ.

My Book is Here!

Front Cover Small
Available on Amazon

Well, it’s finally here. My book has been published and is available on Amazon in both paperback and electronic versions. My book is the same title as this blog and, although there will be some of the same content, it is different.

This book compares the early church we see in the New Testament to the Church today and looks at where we went wrong as well as what we can do to get back to where we should be. Together we are His house. Cathedral Made of People is a book to the Church and for the Church. Have you ever wondered why the Church today isn’t world changers like the early Church was? When studying to plant my first church, God led me to compare the Church today to the early Church of the New Testament. As I did this, I began to see vast differences that answered many questions for me. The first Church fought against religion, they focused on unity and were world changers, while the Church today is religious, divided, and largely ineffective. It is my goal through this book to awaken the Church to seek to be more like the Church of the New Testament.

Please read it and share it. If you are a pastor, share it with your church, if you are not a pastor, share it with your pastor. This is a message that we all need to hear and changes we all need to work on.

You can buy a copy by clicking on the link above, or contact me and I will ship you a copy. Also, and most important, pray for me and this book that the message will spread across the country and the world.

What’s a Pastor to Do?

2190402419_2ac79f6212_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

What’s a Pastor to Do?

Have you ever wondered why God gave us Pastors? Well, let’s look at Ephesians 4;11-12 and see what the Bible has to say about them. It says, 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

So, the first thing this tells us is that Christ Himself gave the Church 4 gifts; Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors. How often do you look at your Pastor as a gift from Jesus? If you don’t, maybe it’s time you start…just a thought. Anyway, let’s take a minute to look at these 4 gifts.

  1. Apostles, these are special ambassadors of God’s work, they provide a foundation for the Church as described in Ephesians 2:20, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.”
  2. Prophets are also here to provide a foundation for the Church, as we just saw in Ephesians 2:20. The Prophet is defined in the Strong’s Concordance as: “One who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence His organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as related to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation.”
  3. Evangelists are specifically gifted to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
  4. Pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers; the ancient Greek clearly describes one office with two descriptive titles). The role of a pastor goes far beyond just teaching, the word literally means shepherd. The shepherd is responsible for the wellbeing of the sheep.

These gifts of the Spirit are given at the discretion of Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

So, what does this passage say the pastor’s job is? We all know that he is to shepherd the Church, but what is his specific job? Verse 12 gets right down to the brass tacks, it says, “Their responsibility is…” that’s pretty clear, right? So, what is it? “to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” So, the pastor is a trainer for a bodybuilder, the Body of Christ. He makes sure we have the proper equipment, and that we know how to use it. But, even if the bodybuilder has all the best equipment available, and has been taught how to use it, but doesn’t put any work into it, he won’t be effective. Like in the movie Central Intelligence, Kevin Heart’s character asked Dwayne Johnson’s character, “What did you do?” referring to his muscles, and Dwayne’s character said, “I just did one thing…I worked out six hours a day, every day, for the last twenty years straight.” You see, the pastor is not there to do the work for us, he is there to equip us and make sure we are doing the work properly. And, by the way, that work can never end. I once saw an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he was asked if he will ever stop working out. His answer was that if he stopped, it would kill him. He said that he would have to keep working out for the rest of his life. We can never stop doing the work. One of my favorite stories was told by a former pastor of mine, Terry Larimore. He was talking about a visit to his 92-year-old grandfather, who was a retired pastor. He said that when he walked into the room, his grandfather was sitting at the table reading his Bible. He looked at Terry and said, “Come here Terry, let me show you what I learned today.” You see, we can never stop doing the work, we can never stop learning, we can never stop growing.

The next thing it says is, the pastor will keep doing this until we are mature and can measure up to Christ’s standard, and after that, we won’t be swayed by false doctrine. We will be so immersed in the Scripture that nothing or no one will be able to move us. We will be so filled with the Word of God that when those false teachers come, and they will come, we will speak the truth in love, and in every way, we will grow more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body…we will become Christians, Christ-like. I love the way he ends this passage. In verse 16 he says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Christ, being the head of the body is the glue that holds us together. Then, after we are mature and held together in Christ, we will work together to be healthy and grow and full of love. Did you see that? We are training so that we can work together as one body to become more like Christ. And, notice he is very clear that we all are different parts of the same body. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:17, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” So, we need to celebrate our different Spiritual Gifts and grow together in Christ.

You see, we were not called to be spectators, we were called to be doers of the word, James 1:22, and we were called to be disciples or imitators of Christ, Matthew 28:19. If we all would set aside our preconceived beliefs and what we have been taught by people, and study the Bible, in context as a whole, we wouldn’t need all the different denominations. If we all did this, I genuinely believe we would all believe the same things. Now, of course, we are human, and we will probably have some minor differences, but overall, we will see eye to eye. Overall, we will be united, we will be one body.

ONE!

6926571673_b052d39986_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

ONE!

You may be wondering what this week’s picture has to do with my topic. The birds pictured here are called Skimmers, and if you ever see them you will be left in awe of the way they fly. You see when they fly they move in waves as if they were one entity. It’s a beautiful thing to see. This week I want to speak again about Church unity. When the Bible speaks about unity of the Body, it isn’t talking about one local church body, it isn’t talking about one denomination, in fact, there were no denominations when the Bible was written, so when scripture speaks of the unity of the Body it is talking about the Church as a whole. As I’ve said before, the only doctrine that should divide the Church is that of salvation by God’s grace and through our life-changing faith, absolutely nothing else matters.

As I’m putting the final touches on my book I’ve been praying about whether or not God wants me to write a follow-up book and I feel He wants me to write one on Church Unity. While I was praying about this, just yesterday, God gave me a specific passage of scripture. I couldn’t remember exactly where this passage was found but planned on looking it up. As you may have noticed, I have been going straight through the book of Ephesians for a while now. Well, this morning I sat down to write this week’s blog, and wouldn’t you know, the next passage in the book is Ephesians 4:4-6, the very passage that God has been laying on my heart. It never ceases to amaze me how He puts affirmations in front of us every day. So, here’s that Passage, it says, For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”

Paul starts out this part of his letter by saying, “there is one body and one Spirit.” Do you see how important unity is? He starts out with unity of the Church. He says that we are one body, and there is one spirit. We have unity because we share one Spirit in Christ. Now, let’s look at each of these.

One Body, as we have seen many times before, the Church is often referred to as the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 describes it best where Paul compares the different gifts of the Holy Spirit to the different parts of the body. He starts out in verses 12-13 showing how even socioeconomic differences don’t separate us, 12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” It doesn’t matter where we are from, if we are rich or poor, if we are slave or free, we are all part of the same body.

He goes on to talk about how, if the foot or ear says it doesn’t want to be part of the body, that doesn’t make it any less a part. So, we are all part of the same Body whether we want to admit it or not. Then he emphasizes how, since we are all different parts, we can’t all have the same gifts, look at verse 17, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” So, if anyone tries to tell you that there is one Spiritual gift that we all should have, direct them to this passage.

Looking back at Ephesians 4, he goes on to say, One Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word is pneuma (pnyü’-mä) means “the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son. He is sometimes referred to in a way which emphasizes His personality and character (the “Holy” Spirit), He is sometimes referred to in a way which emphasizes his work and power (the Spirit of “Truth”), but He is never referred to as a depersonalized force.” So, there is no mistaking what Spirit Paul is talking about.

Next, he says there is One Hope of Our Calling. This is speaking to the unity or brotherhood, we have in the hope of our calling. The word “hope” here isn’t hope as in, “I hope this will happen,” this is an expectant hope, a sure thing. We have an expectant hope in our calling as believers; which draws us together and sets us apart from the world.

He then says, One Lord! Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something. In John 14:6 we read that Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” Did He sound “iffy” in that statement? Did He say, I am a way? No, Jesus is the one and only Lord. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Great I Am, the one who was and is and is to come. Praise God!

One Faith. This goes right along with one Lord. There is only one faith that will save your soul. Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” And, remember what Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” We must have that one faith and it must be a life-changing faith. James tells us in James 2:14, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” Then he goes on to say in verse 17, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” So, you see, it can’t just be lip-service, it must be life-changing.

One Baptism. This is not speaking about water baptism, it is speaking about Spiritual baptism. Just like water baptism, spiritual baptism is separate from the salvation experience, in fact, there are several instances in scripture where someone had been a Christian for some time and later was baptized in the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptizer said, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Acts 1:5 says, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And in Acts 11:16 we read, And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

One Father of All! Here Paul is showing the hierarchy of the Godhead. He is a triune God which means He is one God with three separate parts that have three separate jobs, but The Father is overall. He goes on to say, “who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Unity of the Body is paramount to the health of the Church. Jesus Himself said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Matthew 12:25. We must get this right if the Church is to survive and make a difference in our world today.

Am I Worthy?

27434801146_7d9907db69_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Am I Worthy?

This week, I would like to start looking at the 4th chapter of Ephesians. The first thing we need to remember is that Paul didn’t write the book of Ephesians in chapters and verses, it was a letter to the church at Ephesus. So, Paul starts out what we know as chapter 4 verses 1 by saying, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Notice that he starts out by declaring himself a prisoner of the Lord. The Greek word used here is not the same word used by James, Jude, Peter, and Paul in other locations, that we spoke about last September in our 2-part series on the word “doulos”, but this word means the same thing. It is a bondservant, a servant by choice. I won’t go into depth, but you can read the series on my website.

Let’s look at the first word in the verse, “Therefore.” I had a pastor that used to always say, if you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s there for. If you read last week’s blog, we talked about Paul’s prayer for the Church. He ended that prayer by saying that, as a result of Christ living in us and empowering us, we will be able to do infinitely more than we could ask for or ever dream of. Because of that power, Paul is begging us to live a life worthy of that calling. But what does he mean by this statement?

I see it all the time on Facebook and Instagram, people saying, “you are worthy.” But, what does the Bible say about it? John the Baptizer said, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11. So, John, the cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of the Messiah, said that he wasn’t even worthy of being Christ’s servant.

Look at the Roman officer who came to ask Jesus to heal his servant. What did he say? “But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.’” Matthew 8:8. This was a Roman officer, respected by everyone who had enough faith in Christ that he knew that all Jesus had to do is say the word and his servant would be healed, but he didn’t consider himself worthy.

There are many other instances, such as Peter in John 13:8 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9. Look at the parable of the great feast, which is a picture of heaven, where the master said, “The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.” Matthew 22:8. And, Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

So, who in the Bible thought they were worthy? Let’s look at Matthew 7:22-23, 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” These are people who think they are worthy of getting into heaven, but Jesus tells them to go away. He says He never knew them. Remember, pride was the original sin. What did the serpent say to Eve? He talked her into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by telling her that she would be like God. He played on her pride. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Saying that you are worthy is nothing more than pride. We are not worthy of salvation, we are forgiven. Salvation is a gift from God that cost His Son’s life, a gift that we don’t deserve.

So, we are not worthy, but Paul begs us to live a life that is worthy of our calling. And, what is that calling? Let’s look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In verses 19-20 it says, 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. A disciple is someone who imitates the one they follow. So, our calling is to imitate Jesus. What Paul is saying is to live a life that is as close to Christ as possible. That’s a high calling, but one we must strive for.

Going back to Ephesians 4, Paul tells us how we can live a Christ-like life. Look at verses 2-3, Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The instructions are pretty simple: be humble, gentle, patient, stay close to the Holy Spirit, and…you guessed it, be united as the body of Christ.

If you wonder why I talk so much about the unity of the Church, it’s because the Bible talks so much about it, and the Church today isn’t doing it. The body of Christ is more divided today than ever. My book, also titled Cathedral Made of People, addresses this as well as other symptoms of the Churches disease. The book is the same title as this blog, but it isn’t the same. It is a compare and contrast between the Church of the New Testament and the Church today. It will be available next month on Amazon and some other electronic sources and my goal is to have it printed by the end of the year. So, as soon as it is out I will let you know where to get it and if you would like to see some ideas of what we can do to heal the Church, buy a copy and share it with your pastors to see what they think.

But, to sum it all up. Since you have that power living in you, pray that God will help you live a life worthy of the calling of Christ.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑