Us Four and No More

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Us Four and No More

1 Corinthians 4:5

I would not give my church upbringing for anything. I learned so much Bible there, and it is where I gave my life to Christ. It was a loving church, for the most part, but like all churches, it had its problems. My mom always jokingly said that church would be a great place if it weren’t for the people. One glaring problem with the church I grew up in was that it was an “us four and no more” kind of church. They believed that if you weren’t us, meaning their variety of their denomination, you weren’t going to heaven. Sometimes they would even preach entire sermons and even sermon series’ about why other churches were wrong.

When dealing with the subject of other denominations and churches, we must keep in mind what Jesus said. In Matthew 7:3-5, He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” We all get things wrong in scripture; we are human. That’s why I always encourage people to check everything I say against scripture because as I always told my kids, I could be wrong, I was once before. We can’t be so dogmatic about our beliefs that we are condemning others. I keep saying this because it is so important, the only doctrine that should divide us is that of salvation by grace, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, nothing else!

This is what the church at Corinth was doing, so Paul had to reprimand them one more time. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul said, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” A more literal translation of that first line would be, “Therefore do not go on judging anything before it’s time.” It’s not our job to judge the world. Let’s look back at the first three verses of Matthew, chapter 7, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-3. Many religious people would say that they are ready to be judged by the same measure, but are you…really? Are you so confident in your pre-tribulation view over their mid-tribulation view, or your dispensationalism view, or your predestination view that you would be willing to be judged on it?

Notice back in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that it says, “before the time.” There will be a time of judgment, and Christ will be the judge. We need to stop worrying about what others believe and start making sure our lives are straight, we need to get our house in order as the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1, “In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” We will all die, and after this, the judgment.

What does 1 Corinthians 4:5 go on to say? “but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” We keep trying to judge each other, but when Christ judges us, He will bring to light all the things we thought were hidden in the dark, He will even show the motives of our hearts. But here’s the beautiful thing, 1 John 1:9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” So, if we confess our sins, He will forgive them, but it doesn’t stop there. Look at Hebrews 8:12, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” We always say, “forgive and forget,” but there’s a problem with that. We can forgive each other, and we should, but we can’t forget. One of the many beautiful things about God is that when He forgives us, He can forget what we have done, it’s kind of like selective amnesia. He even tells us, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12. If you want to be encouraged today, stop and read all of Psalm 103, what a blessing.

Paul ends our text verse with these words, “and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. We often focus on the judgment of God, and we should, to some extent, but I love that Paul ended this verse about judgment with this line. We don’t need to praise ourselves; we don’t need to go around tooting our own horns, all our intelligence and insight comes from God, so we are nothing but His tools. My handsaw doesn’t praise itself when it cuts a straight line; it cuts a straight line when I guide it that way, so why do we praise ourselves when we do something great for God? James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” There’s a lot in scripture about humbling ourselves, that’s a blog in itself.

So, this all comes back, as so many things in the New Testament do, to unity. As the body of Christ, we must stop judging each other and start loving each other. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If we do not love each other, we don’t know God! That’s a pretty bold statement, but true. Stop judging your brothers and sisters in Christ and start loving them, and then, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.

Not Seeking Approval

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I’m Not Seeking Your Approval

1 Corinthians 4:1-4

I enjoy people. I like to talk with people; I like to interact with people. I enjoy just being around other people. I got my first management position when I was only 21 years old, and I wanted to be the best manager I could be. I showed up early for every shift, I stayed on top of the paperwork, and I got to know my employees very well. Now, here’s the thing, in my early days of managing I had a supervisor who told me, if my employees like me, I’m not doing my job. I didn’t agree with that philosophy then, and I don’t to this day but, in the early days, I went too far in the other direction. As I said, I enjoy the company of other people, and quite frankly, I like to be liked. As a result, I had a real problem with my employees taking advantage of me. If their productivity was down, I’d help them catch up; if they didn’t show up for work, I’d pick up the slack. My employees loved me, but it wasn’t long before I was doing most of their work. I even had two employees call off together one beautiful Spring day because “it’s too nice out to come to work today.”

I began to realize that my employees would like working with me and still respect me; it didn’t matter if they liked me as a person. I wasn’t there to be their friend. I began making them toe the line and would write them up if they didn’t. I began treating them the way I would treat my sons. If they did wrong, I would hold them accountable, but if they did right, I would praise them. I just began treating them fairly. As a result, they loved working for me. I would have employees call in sick, and when they realized I was the manager on duty, they would decide to come in because they didn’t want to leave me shorthanded. I was everyone’s favorite manager, even though I had fired more employees than any other manager. What it came down to is that I stopped caring what they thought of me and started caring about helping them do their jobs to the best of their abilities, things ran much more smoothly after that.

This is Paul’s point in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 4. In verse 1, he tells the church at Corinth to look at Apollos and him as servants of Christ. If you are a pastor, an elder, or a church leader of any kind, you must remember that you are just a servant of Christ who has been put in charge of those people. Far too often, church leaders let their authority go to their head, but if we think of ourselves as a doulos, a bondservant for Christ, we will keep that pride in check.

The first thing Paul tells us about being a leader is that we must be faithful. You see, in trying to make my employees like me, I wasn’t faithful to my company. I was trying to pick up their slack, but one person can’t do everything well. We must be faithful to Christ in our leadership. The writer of Hebrews even told the Church, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” Hebrews 13:7. If a leader is not faithful, the Church will have no example to follow. As leaders, we must remember our place. We are here for no other reason than to glorify God. John put it best when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

Paul goes on in verse 3 to say, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” I love this; he says that he doesn’t care what human authority might think of him; he doesn’t even trust his own opinion on matters of Christ. The Psalmist summed this up in Psalm 146:3-10 when he said, Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. 10 The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the Lord! We are to respect and pray for our human authority but don’t trust in them, their time on this earth, as well as their time in power,  is limited. Instead, put all your trust in the Lord, who created all things.

Paul finishes this thought by saying, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” 1 Corinthians 4:4. Paul’s conscience is clear, he knows that he is right beyond a shadow of a doubt, but he tells the church at Corinth not to take his word for it. We need to seek the Lord in everything! I say this all the time; I’m glad so many read my blog and listen to my podcast and have read my book, but don’t take my word for it, seek it out yourself. There are many pastors that I love to listen to and read, but I have a responsibility to check everything they say against scripture. God does hold pastors responsible for what they teach, but He also holds us responsible for what we do with it.

The Temple of God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Temple of God

1 Corinthians 3:15-16

It’s interesting that this verse came up now, right after the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In fact, it would have been posted last week, but I did the Easter blog instead. It never ceases to amaze me how many times things like this happen. When I right these blogs I do it expositional, going straight through a book of the Bible, so when the blogs line up with current events, I know God is doing something.

Now, I’m going to do my best to not be too controversial here. It is a shame to lose such an architectural masterpiece, especially since it is almost nine-hundred years old, but the Notre Dame Cathedral is not now, nor has it ever been, the house of God. That’s not just a statement about the Catholic church, our God does not live in buildings! Look at what Paul said in Acts 17:24, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples.” You see, these buildings, these cathedrals, are nothing more than exhibitions of what man can do. They are not the house of God and, quite frankly, were not built for the glory of God.

I’ve had people tell me that God commanded the Hebrew people to build a beautiful, ornate temple. That is true, but He had them do that because that temple is where the Holy Spirit lived, the Jewish temple of the Old Testament was the house of God, but your church building today is not. In fact, I challenge you to do a study of the New Testament and find where the Christian Church had a temple or building, it isn’t there.

Look at the crucifixion. Matthew 27:50-51 says, 50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart.” That curtain mentioned in these verses was the veil that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. That veil was eighty feet tall and as thick as your hand is wide, and it ripped from top to bottom. Why did it rip? Because the Holy Spirit was moving out, He was moving into us, His church. From that point on we didn’t need a building to house God, He was housed in us, that’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” These buildings are not for God, they are for the men who built them and paid for them. They are just more religion.

In this week’s passage Paul said, 16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. So, not only is your body the temple of the Holy Spirit, but all of us together make up the temple of God, that is why I named my book, Cathedral Made of People. We are His temple, not some of us, not just a certain denomination, but everyone who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ is part of that body. If we as the Church are ever going to be effective in this world, we must set aside our denominational differences and come together as one body with Christ as our head. Again, I am not suggestion ecumenicalism, I am saying that everyone who believes in salvation by lifechanging faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone is part of that Body. If you believe in a works-based salvation, or salvation by any other means, you are not part of that body, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6. But if you do believe, it doesn’t matter what denomination you are part of, you are my brother or sister, part of the Body of Christ.

Verse 17 of this week’s passage says that “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple.” God’s love for His Church is unfailing! He will defend us when others come up against us, Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” See that? He won’t have His angel armies fight for us, He himself will fight for us! So keep calm and trust God!

The end of verse 17 says, “For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God says that we are His holy temple, we are set apart for Him. That is a beautiful picture of God’s love. Our God, the God who created the universe and everything in it loves us so much that He will personally fight for us. That’s what a father does! God protects us because we are His holy temple, we are adopted into His family, we are His children.

Let’s work together to tear down the walls of denominational division. Steve Green wrote a song in the 90s called, Let the Walls Come Down. Take a minute, go on YouTube, and listen to the lyrics of that song. This is the only way that His Church will ever be effective in this world. I recently did a study of what the Bible has to say about unity of the Church. I found that the topic of unity is talked about in about ten percent of the verses in the New Testament, that’s significant! Of all the topics in the New Testament, ten percent are about the unity of His Church.

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!

Just Do Right!

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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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