Spiritual Babies

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Spiritual Babies

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

 

In my day job, I manage people. I am the General Manager of a retirement community, so we provide housing, transportation, housekeeping, and three meals a day for 115 to 120 residents who currently range in age from 57 to 102. Yes, my residents can be trying at times, but many of them suffer from various forms of dementia and can’t help the way they are. I understand this and see my job as being able to help these people enjoy the final days of their lives. I am honored to have the opportunity to care for them.

So, my problem isn’t with the residents as much as with my employees. I oversee 30 adults, and I use the term loosely, in various aspects of the community. It never ceases to amaze me how juvenile people can be. I recently had an employee sitting in my office crying because the Chef got upset with her. She even admitted that he didn’t raise his voice, but she said, “he made me feel uncomfortable.” You don’t know how hard it was not to tell her that life can be uncomfortable and that she needs to grow up and deal with it like the adult she claims to be, but I didn’t. I was caring and concerned and transferred her to a different job, so she won’t have to work with the Chef anymore.

Some people have to be treated like children, and sadly, our society is creating more and more of those people. This whole political correctness movement coddles people and makes it impossible to correct an employee that is doing wrong. They expect a trophy for participating and think they are doing you a favor by just showing up for work. The problem is, when you can’t correct people, they will never learn and consequently will never grow up.

Paul ran into this same problem with the church at Corinth. He told them at the beginning of chapter 3, 1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. 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,for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

You see, Paul wanted to teach them, to correct them, to see them filled with the Holy Spirit, and to live fruitful and productive lives for Christ. Like he told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” He wanted to talk to them like adults and use the scripture to shape the rest of their lives, but all he could do is give them a bottle and spoon feed them strained peas. Notice what he said in verse 1, “I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people.” The church at Corinth was not spiritually mature; they were spiritual babies. He said he had to feed them milk because they weren’t ready for anything stronger.

Look what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:1-3, 1So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” Peter is telling these believers scattered all over the east exactly what they need to do. He tells them to get rid of all evil behavior. Don’t be deceitful, don’t be hypocrites, don’t be jealous, and even to stop talking unkindly. Then he tells them to be babies…for a while. He says to crave the milk of the Spirit of God and to grow. Then they can fully experience God’s salvation. He even says to cry out for nourishment.

This is the problem with the church at Corinth. They didn’t CRAVE that spiritual milk. They didn’t CRY OUT for nourishment. They were satisfied with being spoon fed. They would get just enough to stay alive, but never enough to thrive, never enough to grow up.

There are so many people today that are just like that. They don’t want to do the work, so they sit in their pew and let the pastor spoon feed them, then complain if they aren’t “getting fed” at their church. They accept Christ as their savior; then they go about their lives as usual. The only difference is, now they give up an hour of their Sunday morning to go to a building, drop a few dollars into the offering plate, and listen to a man tell them what the Bible says. These people live the rest of their lives as babies. They never grow, they never mature, they stagnate, and sadly, this is the majority of believers today.

If you are one of these people, you need to recognize it and start doing something about it. Stop playing church and start craving that spiritual milk. Spend time with God every day. Read His word daily, all of it! Reading about 3 chapters a day will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Reading it for about an hour a day will get you through it in 3 months. But don’t stop there! Also, take time to study it in the context of the entire Bible. Look at the original language and definitions to the keywords. When you have questions, ask your pastor or another spiritually mature Christian, make them do some digging with you, it will help you both. I love it when people bring me questions about scripture; it makes me dig deeper. Then pray! Pray for your spiritual leaders, pray for your country, pray for each other, and pray for me that God will use me and this little blog to bring the Church back to Him. Then you will start growing and becoming mature in Christ. For more help, check out my first blog series from about a year and a half ago titled, How to Put on All of God’s Armor. If you would rather listen, I also did a podcast on that one. You can also pick up a copy of my book, Cathedral Made of People, on Amazon. But always remember, if you are reading anything that is not scripture, test it against scripture.

Foolish Preaching

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Foolish Preaching

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

 

I have a friend who is older than me; we’ll call him Ron. I see Ron almost every day at work, and we have great conversations. We talk about the hikes that Michelle and I go on every week, about sports, politics, and the Bible. Ron is not a believer, although he is very religious. He is blinded by his religion as well as his intellect and thinks he knows more than everyone else, including God. He doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God; he believes that it’s a book written by theologians throughout history. He believes that the Old Testament is nothing more than a book about the history of the Jewish nation and has no significance. He says the God of the Old Testament was an angry God who was constantly destroying people and says he wants nothing to do with a God like that. I had challenged him to read the Old Testament, all of it, specifically paying attention to those times when God took out His wrath on His people and to look at how many chances, He always gave them first.

The last time Ron said this, I asked him if I could read my favorite verse in the Bible. When he said I could, I took him to Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” I then asked him, does this sound like an angry God to you?

But here’s the thing about Ron. No matter how many times he reads the Bible, or talks to pastors, or tries to reason it out, he will never understand the thoughts of God until he has been indwelled by God’s spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 Paul says, 13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” You see, when we speak by the Spirit, the world cannot understand us. Years ago, I knew two pastors in the same town who both pastored in the same denomination. One of them was a great man of God. He preached from the Word, discipled his people, taught them how to win souls, and ministered all over town. The other stood up every Sunday and read the sermon that had been sent to him that week. When I would speak about spiritual things with that one, he would stand there with a blank look on his face. You could see it went right over his head.

When I tried to speak with Ron or that pastor about spiritual truths, they both saw it as foolishness. As we just read in verse 14, that’s how the world will respond. 1 Corinthians 1:18 also tells us this when it says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” So, if people see spiritual things as foolish, how can they be saved? Paul goes on to say, just a few verses later, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. People will be saved through our foolish preaching. You see, we can’t save anyone! Throughout my life, I have heard so many pastors saying things like, “I saved 200 people this year.” No, you didn’t! If they were saved at all, it had nothing to do with you. God used your foolish preaching to reach people and bring them to salvation. When we preach, or blog, or do a podcast, or even witness to someone, we need to remember that all we can do is share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit does the rest.

Now, that doesn’t mean we say whatever we want and leave it up to the Holy Spirit; we must be prepared. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” And, then again in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” You see, the Lord will only bless our foolish preaching if we are prepared. We must study, work hard, and be prepared to give an answer. Look at the end of that last verse where it says, “who correctly explains the word of truth.” We must be ready to explain the word of truth CORRECTLY. The KJV says “rightly dividing,” and the NASB says “accurately explaining.” The only way you can accurately explain the word of truth is to know what it says. Read it, study it, meditate on it, and be ready to explain it. We must put aside everything men taught us and study the word by taking it literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to pastors or read commentaries. What I am saying is when you do, test it against scripture, even what I am writing. God doesn’t want any of us to sit back and coast. He expects all of us to do the work.

In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this subject. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. In this passage, Paul says that God has given a gift to the Church in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These people were given to the Church to equip them to build the body. A trainer for a bodybuilder doesn’t do the work for them. The trainer provides the proper equipment and teaches them to use it. In the same way, your pastor isn’t there to do the work for you; he is there to teach you how to use the equipment you have properly. So, let’s get to work and be prepared!

Plain Speech

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Plain Speech

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

In June of 1982, at the age of 19, I joined a Christian Musical Drama team. I was not particularly “sold out for Christ” at that time, but I was a Christ follower and loved music. We spent twelve weeks in the summer studying and learning programs. We studied music theory, voice, and drama, but also things like Bible, biblical fasting, prayer, and soul-winning. During summer training, God started tugging on my heart. Then, while we were on the road, traveling all over the country and ministering in churches, schools, malls, and even prisons, I gave into God’s call and started pursuing full-time ministry.

I spent a total of 3 years with this group doing full-time ministry. At the end of year one, I met Michelle, and we were married about 17 months later. We stayed with the group the rest of the year after we were married, then that spring the group disbanded, and we moved on.

For the next couple of years, we served in churches in central Florida as youth and music minister, but the words of the pastor I grew up under kept ringing in my ears. Pastor Humphries always said, “A call to serve is always a call to prepare.” Well, I had been spending all my extra time studying the Word, but felt I needed to go to Bible School. I found a job near a Bible College in Northern Florida, and we moved up there. When we arrived in town, we checked into a hotel with our 1-year old son, Joshua, and I went to the place where I was supposed to start working. When I got there, the manager apologized and said the person I was supposed to replace decided not to quit, so he didn’t have an opening for me. We stayed in town until we ran out of money, then moved to Indiana to stay with Michelle’s parents until I found a job. So, God shut those doors.

I tried several more times over the years to go to school, but God kept closing those doors, so I finally realized He didn’t want me to go to Bible school. My pastor was right, a call to serve is always a call to prepare, but that doesn’t have to involve some lofty diploma. I have been, and still am, preparing my whole life. Michelle and I read through the Bible every 90 days. I’m dyslexic, so I use an app called YouVersion, that reads it to me. We also do in-depth studies and pray over them that God will open our eyes to see what He is saying. Reading it in 90 days helps get the context of the entire Bible so we can study it literally.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says, When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” You see, Paul did have those lofty degrees. He was a Pharisee, but what does he say about that? I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” Philippians 3:5-9a. So, Paul counts the education he received from men as garbage, refuse, dung! It is like the things you throw to the dogs.

So, why does he think so lowly of his education? Look back at 1 Corinthians 2. He says that he came to them with plane speech because he didn’t want to impress them with his wisdom. Paul consciously decided to forget everything he had ever learned except Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. He came to the Corinthian church weak and trembling, with plane speech. He didn’t want them to look at him and think how great he is; he wanted them to look at him and see Christ. He said he relied on the Holy Spirit, not his own clever speech, and he did this so they would only trust in the power of God. We see pastors every day trying to impress people with their lofty degrees, their doctorates and such. They try to woo them with their clever speech and humor, but Paul said we need to rely only on the Holy Spirit.

I thank God that he kept me out of Bible College because I probably would have relied on my education and my own wisdom rather than on the Holy Spirit. We talked a little about this last week. I am weak, but He is strong. I am poor, but He is rich. I am powerless, but He is omnipotent, He is All-Powerful!

These Bible schools and seminaries teach what men think the Bible is saying instead of teaching men to study the Bible literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. This type of education is where all the division comes from in the Body of Christ. The Baptists say the Pentecostals are wrong and the Pentecostals say the Methodists are wrong. And, why do they say this? Because that’s what men have taught them. I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating; the only doctrine that should divide us is that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Literally nothing else matters!

Instructions to Children and Their Fathers

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Instructions to Children and Their Fathers

Ephesians 6:1-4

 

My father was a hard man. He was always a Marine at heart, even though he only served a couple of years in the reserves. He was demanding, loud, overbearing, and was never wrong. My dad loved to argue more than anyone I ever knew. For most of my life, including my adult years, I did not honor my father. I feared him as a child, hated him as an adolescent, and was apathetic toward him as an adult. Then one day I got the news that dad had brain cancer and only had one year to live, he was only 63 years old. I took my family down to see dad several times that year, even though we lived about a thousand miles away. During that last year of his life, I got a chance to get to know my dad. Sad to say, it took the brain tumor’s help, it softened his personality quite a bit. I got to hear about some of the struggles of his youth and some of the events that shaped his personality. In fact, it seemed that his lack of respect for his parents was partly what fueled his personality.

The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. It talks about the relationship between a husband and wife, as we saw last week, it talks about relationships between servants and masters, God and His Church, and many others. Today we are going to look at this relationship between children and their parents, as well as fathers and their children.

Paul starts Ephesians chapter 6 by saying in verse 1, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.” We often focus on the next verse, but let’s take a minute to look at this one. Why should children obey their parents? Because they belong to Jesus, and it’s just the right thing to do! When you truly belong to Jesus, you will want to do what is right. As Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Do right until the stars fall.”

After telling us that it’s just the right thing to do, he reminds us that it was the first commandment given with a promise attached. And, he rewrites that promise in verse 3, “If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” So, God told us from the beginning that, if we honor our parents, we’ll have a good, long life.

Take a minute to look at the 10 Commandments. Honor your father and mother is the fourth commandment. The first three commandments are all about honoring God, then honor your parents comes before don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, and don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff. Here’s the thing, if we honor God, and honor the parents He put over us, all these other things will fall into place.

In my day job, I employ several young people. Let me start out by saying that Millennials often get a bad rap and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in this, although many of them have earned that reputation. As a whole, they can be very demanding and quite self-centered and disrespectful, but I have to say that this doesn’t apply to all of them. I have a couple of teenage sisters who work for me and are a delight. They are extremely well mannered and very respectful to authority, and elders in general. So, what makes these two young ladies so pleasant, well in my observation I can only see one difference between them and the rest of the young people, their dad was career military, so I’m sure they were raised with some discipline.

Here’s the thing. Many people my age and a little younger were raised by parents who followed the advice of Dr. Spock and others who said that you shouldn’t spank your child, you should reason with them. These kids who were reasoned with by their parents have grown up to reason with their kids, and their kids have become entitled, demanding self-centered brats. These kids don’t honor their parents, they look at them as their friends, their equals, not their authority.

Now, look at verse 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Notice it doesn’t say for kids to honor their father unless he provokes you to anger, this is a separate thing. I justified my attitude toward my dad for many years by this verse. I said that I didn’t have to honor him because he provoked me to anger, but that is not at all what this is saying, I was taking it out of context to justify what I wanted to do…sound familiar? Paul has told us to honor our parents, now he is warning fathers not to provoke his kids to anger, then he goes on to say to bring them up in Godly discipline and instruction. Disciplining and instructing are not provoking your kids, it’s teaching them to do right. The Bible never says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” it says, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24. If you love your child, you will discipline them. If your toddler is trying to stick a fork into an electrical outlet, you will smack their hand, so they know not to do that.

Going back to my father, had I done the biblical thing and just honored him throughout my life I would have had a different view of him, and that could have changed his personality. My dad died at 64 years of age when I was only 39 and my boys were 12 and 16. Fortunately, my sons’ relationship with their grandfather was somewhat better. He would play pool with them and he taught them to shoot and use gun safety in his backyard shooting range. But, think how much better my life, as well as the lives of my kids,  could have been if I had just honored my dad.

Honor is not conditional. We are to honor our parents no matter what they do or how they treat us. If you are a Christian father, don’t provoke your kids, just lovingly discipline and instruct them in the ways of the Lord.

Submit To One Another

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Submit To One Another

Ephesians 5:21-33

This is the problem with doing an expositional study, you can’t pick your topics…that means you even have to do the ones you don’t want to. Because of that, I’m going to cover a lot more ground in one blog than I usually do. Normally I only take 3 or 4 verses at a time, but if I did that today, this blog would have been called, “Wives Need to Submit to Their Husbands”. Somehow, I don’t think that would have gone over so well in today’s society, and if we look at it in context that’s, not what it is saying here. So, let’s do that, let’s take it in context but please read the entire blog before you make any judgment.

In order to look at it in context, we need to go back to the beginning…literally, the beginning! Look at Genesis 2:18 where God said, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” The KJV uses the word “help meet” here. The Hebrew word used in this verse is the word, `ezer {ay’-zer} which means help, succor, and succor means, “A person or thing that gives help, relief, aid, etc.” So, although we have all heard it from some pastors, the truth is that the wife was not created to be the husband’s servant. She was created to be his helper, to aid him in leading. Now, I feel like I need to stress that men were created to be the leaders, but not at the expense of the woman, even if you are just looking at it physiologically. My degree is in biology, specifically human anatomy, and physiology, and the male body and emotions were created to handle the physical and emotional strains of leading. But we’ll go into that more a little later.

Now, let’s get back to our passage. Paul starts out by saying, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In Ephesians 5:21. You see, a lot of “those pastors” like to leave this verse out and skip right to verse 22 that says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” But, the fact is that he begins by saying we all need to submit to each other, husbands to wives and wives to husbands. He goes on in verses 23 through 24 to remind us that God did place the husband as the head of the home just as Christ is the head of the Church. I have heard many Christians try to say that this doesn’t apply to us anymore, but the truth is, there is no scripture to back that up. Some try to say that it’s because we are no longer under the curse but there are a few holes in that thinking. First, although the man being the head of the home was part of the curse of Adam, it was also set up that way from creation. Second, the Bible never says we are no longer under the curse of Adam, it says we are no longer under the curse of the law…two totally different curses. Look at Galatians 3:13, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, thirdly, if this didn’t pertain to us today, then why would Paul have written it to the New Testament Church? I know I sound like a broken record, but we need to stop trying to interpret the Bible, so it matches what we want to hear. We need to take it literally, in context, and as a whole.

These two verses also go back to the fact that the husband and wife are one body, as God said back in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Because, in verses 23 and 24, when he tells us that the husband is head of the wife just like Christ is the head of the Church he is saying that, just like Christ is the head and the Church is the body, so, the husband is the head and the wife is the body…we are one flesh.

The next section, verses 25 through 30 are all addressing the man, that’s right, 3 verses for the women and 6 verses for the men, we need twice as much direction. Paul reminds us men to love our wives the way Christ loves the Church, “just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” Notice it doesn’t say just that Christ died for the Church, it says that He gave Himself for her. You see, Christ didn’t just die for us, He gave everything for us. He left the splendor of Heaven and came to live as a pauper here on this broken earth for us. Yes, we should be willing to die for our wives, but we should be willing to do much more than that. With Christ as our example, we must live for and love our wives as He did the Church. And, why should we do this? To make our wives holy, that means set apart, and clean, and washed by God’s word…to lift up our wives, not to put them down.

As if that wasn’t enough, and knowing how self-centered we men can be, he hits us again. In verse 28 he says, “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” That’s right love your wife as much as you love yourself…ouch! And then he ends the section to the men by reminding us that we are all part of the Body of Christ.

Now, I would like to go back to verse 21 which says we need to submit to each other. Because, next it says in verse 22, “For wives, this means…” and in verse 25 he says, “For husbands, this means…” So, do you see what it is saying? Submit to each other! For women, it means you need to let your husband lead by God’s authority. And, for men, this means you need to love your wives.

So, why do you think Paul focused on these two things? As I mentioned earlier, part of the curse of Adam was “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain, you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16. By nature, women want to take control, but that isn’t how God intended it. Again, that doesn’t mean that men control everything, and women have no say in it. Women were given to us as our help meet. They are there to aid us in leading, but we men have to answer to God for how we lead our families. And, as for men, we don’t love naturally…not like women do. Most women love naturally, it’s like a second nature. You know, that motherly, nurturing instinct, but we men are pretty self-centered. We think that providing for the family is enough, but it isn’t. We need to step back and take a hard look at how we love our wives.

So, to sum it up, submit to each other, follow God’s plan, and love! It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

Figure Out What Pleases God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Figure Out What Pleases God

Ephesians 5:10-14

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. As Christ followers, we were created for one purpose and one purpose only, to glorify God! Isaiah 43:7 tells us, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” This is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:10, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” Because, this is our job, our only job. It’s like working on an assembly line. You have one job and one job only…don’t screw it up. If we are not pleasing God, we are not doing the one thing He has put us on this earth to do!

Paul started out chapter 5 of his letter to the Church at Ephesus by telling us to Imitate God because we are His dear children. He then goes on to implore us to stay away from all types of sin and to live as people of light. Now he is about to tell us what to do with that light. Look at verses 11-14, 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’”

He starts out by telling us to take no part in the evil and dark deeds of this world, but he goes so much further than that. He says, instead of participating in them, we need to expose them. This is a huge problem with our society today. We are all so afraid of offending someone, that we just say nothing. In fact, we would rather stay blind to it, we have that, “ignorance is bliss” mentality. I am currently working on two more books. One is a follow-up to my first one, Cathedral Made of People, titled, One Church, One Body. The second book my wife and I are writing together, it is titled Life as We Knew It. This book accounts Michelle and my awakening to what is going on in the world today and starts exposing some of it. There is so much darkness in our world that we as Christ followers often would rather stay blind to. But, that’s not what God wants, He wants us to expose the darkness.

Look what God told the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33:7-9, “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.” Do you see what God said? If we don’t warn them, and they die in their sin, their blood is on our hands. Believe me, I know, no one wants to expose that darkness of this world, in fact, no one really wants to know about a lot of it, but as Christ followers, it is our duty to know about it and to shine God’s light on it.

You’re probably asking, as I was, how can I expose this darkness? First, if we are going to expose it, we must recognize it. We need to ask God to open our eyes to what is going on around us. Michelle and I had things happen to us all throughout our lives that should have opened our eyes, but it wasn’t until a recent development that we started connecting all the dots.

Once you have started recognizing the darkness you need to stay away from it and start exposing it. Last week we looked at Living as People of Light. If you are a Christ follower, you have that light within you, now it’s your job to let it out for the world to see.

The verses go on to say that the things these people are doing are so wicked that it is a shame to even talk about them. And, trust me, you would not believe the things that go on among our politicians and celebrities…deplorable things. I won’t get into them today, but be watching for my book, I will be exposing a lot of it. Our passage then says, that “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.” You can’t help but see things when they are well lit. Have you ever been out at night in a dimly lit place, then passed a mirror and thought, “I look pretty good tonight”? Only to get home and realize your zipper had been down all night. As I get older I notice it more. I need more light to see things better, but it’s true of all of us. That’s why makeup mirrors are lit, so you can really see what you are working with.

Paul ends this section by saying, “This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” Friends, we need to Wake Up! We can’t keep living with our heads in the sand! We must know what evil is in this world so we can stay away from it, but also so we can expose it. None of us wants to be responsible for people dying in their sin.

I’m not going to tell you that if you start exposing the evil of this world, everything will be fine. Jesus told us, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Do you see that? We will have trials and sorrows on earth! In fact, Matthew 10:22 tells us that every nation will hate us, and we will be persecuted! But, I love how Jesus ended John 16:33, He told us to take heart, why? Because He has overcome the world!

If we start exposing the darkness of this world, we will be persecuted, but that’s okay because we serve the King of kings, the Lord of lords, The Great I AM!

Imitate God

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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!

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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!

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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.

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