Whoever Has Ears…

Revelation 3:14 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God.

We have a timely word for us this morning, and I want us to really consider all that has been said in this prophetic message to the Church in Laodicea.  Before we begin, I think it might be interesting to have some geographical and historical information on Laodicea:

Laodicea was an ancient city located on the Lychus River in the Hellenistic regions of Caria and Lydia in Asia Minor (now modern-day Turkey). It was one of three cities in the Lychus River Valley (the other cities were Colossae and Hierapolis); and we know that churches were founded in each of these three cities, probably by Paul’s convert named Epaphras (Cf. Colossians 1:17; 4:12-13). It was founded by the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II, who named it after his wife, Laodice, in 250 BC. In 188 BC, the city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamon.  After 133 BC, it fell under the Roman Empire and later became the Roman Province of Phrygia. It was located on a major east/west trade route and noted as a banking center. The surrounding area was a fertile agricultural and pastoral region, especially suited for raising a special black sheep for which it became famous worldwide. It was Antiochus III who transported 2,000 Jewish families to Phrygia from Babylonia, so Laodicea had a very large Jewish population. It, like Pergamum, was a center for the worship of the healing god Asclepios. The city was the site of a medical school which was noted for its ear and eye salve.

With its large Jewish community, very early Laodicea became a seat of Christianity and a bishopric The Epistle to the Colossians mentions Laodicea as one of the communities of concern for the Apostle Paul. It sends greetings from a certain Epaphras from Colossae, who worked hard for the Christians of the three Phrygian cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hieropolis. Asking for greetings to be sent to the Laodicean Christians, Paul requests that his letter be read publicly at Laodicea (Cf. Colossians 4:16) and that another letter addressed to the Laodiceans (a lost epistle of Paul) be given a public reading at Colossae. Some Greek manuscripts of the First Epistle to Timothy end with the words: “Written at Laodicea, metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana”.  So the historical and scriptural manuscript records confirm the existence of Laodicea, the church that was founded there, and give us additional context for the prophetic message to this church community found in the Revelation 3.

I do not pretend to be an eschatologist or a trained scholar of church history; but what I do contend is that the words in this passage from Revelation 3 reveal truth for us to consider in the light and context it has been presented to us by the Apostle John.  As he instructed in another epistle: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” (Cf. 1 John 2:26-27) And so I pray the anointing of the Holy Spirit will fill us with wisdom, discernment, truth, and understanding of what John has recorded in this revelation.

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)

14 “To the Angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 

We have already learned about the historical church founded in Laodicea.  What I simply wish to draw our attention to is the author of this passage: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS the “Amen.”

The word “Amen” is derived from the Hebrew word which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily”.  “Amen” is often used at the end of a prayer to mean “so it is” or “so be it”. It is a declaration or affirmation of what has been spoken. So, I believe in this context the word can be understood as “truth”.  These are the words of “The Truth”.  Jesus claimed, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “The Faithful and True Witness”.  This is understood and supported by the “testimony” Jesus gave of Himself:

John 5:36-38 (NIV)

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, 38 nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent.

John 8:12-19 (NIV)

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees challenged Him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19 Then they asked Him, “Where is your father”? “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

John 10:35-37 (NIV)

35 If He called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the One whom the Father set apart (sanctified) as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.

John 12:48-50 (NIV)

48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “the Ruler of God’s Creation”.  The NKJV translates this sentence: “the Beginning of the Creation of God”.

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

So we find in this list of “attributes” a clear description of the Lord Jesus Christ as the author of the words and the message being communicated through the Apostle John to the Seven Churches – and specifically to the church at Laodicea.  He is the Truth … He is the Faithful Witness … and He has power and authority over all creation. This means Jesus is sovereign over us! So now, let’s look deeper into the message:  

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Here we understand the omniscience of Christ … “I know your deeds.” And Jesus describes their state of ministry as neither cold nor hot … but lukewarm. It is probable that there is no “love one another as I have loved you” going on with the people in this church. To me, it is clear that Jesus is referring to their works … their ministry; and His displeasure with them is quite evident from the tone. The language used is the Jesus would “vomit” them out of His mouth.  The metaphor indicates that lukewarm, apathetic, indifferent followers make Jesus sick to His stomach.  If you and I are not “on fire” for Christ and being witnesses of the Gospel in both word and deed, this warning of “rejection” should catch our attention for sure….

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

As we discovered in our background above, this could be an allusion to Laodicea as a center of banking; a center for black wool; and a medical center for eye salve.  The tragedy of their prosperity was that they thought they had so much when, in reality, they had so little in terms of the true riches of Christ (Cf. Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2). The same judgment was made of the Church in Sardis when Jesus admonished: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” (Cf. Revelation 3:1-2) Again, the issue is dead or nonexistent works (deeds); works that are unfinished and should be fulfilled.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

This is an interesting statement: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire….”  The metaphor may be an allusion to Isaiah 55:1-3, and it brings to mind another passage as well:  

Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV)

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These (all kinds of trials) have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Perhaps, the gold refined in fire is FAITH….  And to possess faith in Jesus Christ is to possess the true riches.  I am reminded of the counsel Jesus had already given through His teachings:

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 13:22 (NIV) – From the Parable of the Sower

22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Luke 16:10-12 (NIV)

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

James 2:5 (NIV)

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?

Jesus counseled them to “buy from me white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful wickedness”.

Revelation 19:6-8 (NIV)

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready.Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Revelation 19:11-8 (NIV)

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his Head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God14 The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Cf. Psalm 2:9) He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Jesus counseled them to “buy from me salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”.

Psalm 146:6-8 (NIV)

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— He remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Mark 10:51-52 (NIV)

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

John 9:24-25 (NIV)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:39-41 (NIV)

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Jesus counseled His Church to examine themselves and to consider their lack of fruitfulness. Though members of His Body, deception of their true spiritual condition had drawn them into idleness, indifference, and attachments of darkness.  The shame of nakedness (the sinful human nature) refers to our spiritual poverty and defeat. But Jesus wants His people to be victorious over our sinful nature. He wants us to come and obtained from Him the true riches of faithfulness and steadfastness; perseverance in love and care for one another; and the joy of His salvation. There is no other source for what we truly need to live effective and productive lives in Him. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Cf. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6)

Jesus declares His affection for the Church.  He has rebuked them in righteousness and judgment.  He has spiritually disciplined them.  So He is expectant of prompt repentance from the people!  The members of His Body there need to receive what Jesus revealed and give full consideration to what Jesus has exposed in the condition of their hearts. While this message was for the Church in Laodicea, I think it could be directed at the modern church of our generation … especially the Western Church … the American Church … which has said, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But we do not fully realize how this spiritual attitude has rendered us wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked….  Indeed, in this present hour, we are being called to humble ourselves and to repent … to turn from our wicked ways and to seek His face … and then Jesus would restore and heal us.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus said to the Church: “Here I am!”  I am available to you … even standing at the door of your heart and knocking. The implication is potential but not certain action.  The person or the church must respond! So, we need to hear His voice … as the voice of a Shepherd.  We need to open our hearts to His rebuke and disciple.  For Jesus does so because He loves us and wants us to stay the course of faith and to do the good works which God prepared for us in advance to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If we open our hearts to Him, He will enter and initiate fellowship with us. Eating a meal together has long been a sign of covenant, friendship, and fellowship. Yes, we will experience the intimate relationship with Jesus that He desires for us to have with Him but we must respond to His invitation….

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on His throne.

This concept of being victorious is repeated through the messages to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.

Church in Ephesus:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Cf. Revelation 2:7)

Church in Smyrna:

The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the Second Death.” (Cf. Revelation 2:11)

Church in Pergamum:

To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Cf. Revelation 2:17)

Church in Thyatira:

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nation – that one will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery” – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. (Cf. Revelation 2:26-28)

Church in Sardis:

The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels. (Cf. Revelation 3:5)

Church in Philadelphia:

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Cf. Revelation 3:12)

Church in Laodicea:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Cf. Revelation 3:31)

When I look at this list, those who are victorious are those who have kept their first love; those who have endured hardships; those who have overcome afflictions and poverty; those who have persevered in suffering and persecution; those who have not denounced the faith or followed false apostles; those who have served God and others. These will receive the rewards Jesus has promised to them in these messages to the churches, and there is great reward in faithfulness with God, and Jesus wants us to know so….

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NIV)

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:3-5 (NIV)

In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This phrase is repeated within the message delivered to each church as well. It is an invitation to take note and to heed the rebukes and disciplines administered.  It is a call for repentance and the renewal of faith … even in 2020 as we observe the signs of the times.  He knows our deeds … our works … any many of us are found “deficient” because faith without works is dead faith.  It is through our deeds that we profess and live out our faith in Jesus. There are warnings against idolatry and sexual immorality … to which we will be held accountable. So Jesus wants us to wake up … pay attention … and listen to the Spirit of Truth.  He is our Advocate:

John 16:13-15 (NIV)

13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”

Well, I know this has been quite lengthy, but I just felt led to expound on this message … to this particular church.  I believe in some ways the lukewarm church in Laodicea reflects the modern church of our generation. We need to heed the rebukes Jesus spoke to this church and to repent if we individually and communally want to be effective witnesses in these latter days.  I hope this study will prompt us to dive deeper into the Word of God and allow it to penetrate even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) We should not be deceived, but be reminded that God will not be mocked. A person will reap what they sow. (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Because as we have seen, there is nothing in all creation hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Cf. Hebrews 4:13) And as Paul wrote: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5)

So let us be earnest and repent! Let us get on fire and make a difference in these days that God has granted us to live! Let us each complete the works God prepared in advance for us to do! Let us be faithful and true witnesses ourselves! Let us open the doors of our hearts and invite Him into the intimate place of our souls.  Let us persevere and be victorious in our confession and practice of faith! And let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches!  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

No Divisions Among You

1 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Paul had to deal with matters of division within the church at Corinth; and it is one of the first issues that he addresses in his epistle to the Corinthian believer.  I read the entire chapter to find context for our verse, and I found the broader theme of Christian living and relationship building presented.  Paul opens his letter with enduring words for these recipients of his apostolic writing; and for all believers everywhere who have responded to the Gospel message. Paul continues … expressing thanksgiving for believers and for the grace they have received through Christ Jesus; and then he assures them of the faithfulness of God to preserve them in fellowship with His Son – Jesus Christ our Lord.  His message is one of great encouragement not only for believers in the First Century, but also for us in this current generation.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (NIV)

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him (Jesus) you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

I could mediate forever on the faithfulness of God … how He will keep me “firm to the end”.  Notice that it is work of God that accomplishes this result … this outcome … “to stand without fault on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  That day is coming soon as we can surmise from all that is happening in the world around us.  That God is faithful is a recurrent theme of Scripture:

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong; upright and just is He. (Deuteronomy 32:4)

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 57:10)

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 71:22)

Who is like You, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and Your faithfulness surrounds You. (Psalm 89:8)

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. (Joel 2:23)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Oh, indeed, we serve a faithful God!  We should join with the Apostle Jude in his benediction: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without fault in the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25) God is faithful to those who believe and trust in Jesus … the One whom the Father sent. And it is important for us to cultivate and grow our faith in Him. For Jesus is the Head of His Body – the Church!  It is in Him we are united! It is in Jesus, our most faithful High Priest, that we find redemption and resurrection … reconciliation and restoration.  It is His work in us that bring us together … to unite us in thought and faith!  This is why Paul exhorts believers to not allow divisions among ourselves.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (NIV)

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The point Paul is making here is that leaders appointed by Christ to serve His church should not be the focus of attention; rather, they should be recognized as servants to His church.  Yes, we are to submit to those in authority over us in the church.  Yes, we are to follow their example of faith and righteousness. But the purpose of this “submission” is to train and facilitate the same mindset toward Christ our Lord and Savior!  The role of the church is to serve one another in love … and through unity to become a mature, vibrant outreach to unbelievers. Paul explains this purpose in further detail in his Letter to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The Preeminent One of the Church is Christ Jesus Himself!  Those appointed to serve the church and to equip believers for works of service are ordained by Him specifically to bring unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus.  Their role is to facilitate maturity so that each believer (each part) does its work.  The key concepts here are maturity and unity.  Any believer who places a church leader above Christ Jesus (the Head) has misplaced “allegiance” for sure.  Further, anyone appointed by Him to serve in offices of leadership to the church should serve in all humility … not arrogant in spirit … not boastful or puffed up … and not to be seen and praised by people. Even the angels who minister to us will not allow us to worship or pay homage to them! (Cf. Revelation 19:10; 22:9)

Remember that to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  And for everyone to whom much is given (entrusted), much will be asked and required. (Cf. Luke 12:48) The Five-Fold ministry leaders have been ordained to serve in a manner that equips and facilitates believers to worship Jesus Christ … not to promote themselves.  In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul admonished, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peaceThere is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  To be sure, there is only one Lord and one Faith … one God and Father of all!  It is all about Him!

For unity to be effectuated in the church, the command to have a humble spirit cannot be dismissed at all.  ALL have turned aside; they have together become corrupt.  There is none who does good; No, not one. (Psalm 14:3; Psalm 53:3; Romans 3:12) For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) All people are subject to the same judgment which came from one offense and resulted in condemnation. (Cf. Romans 5:12-16) In fact, all that we have in Christ: all mercy and grace … all wisdom and knowledge … all favor and blessing … redemption and forgiveness … light and life … ALL have been given to us through Christ Jesus.  Paul challenged, “Think of what you were when you were called.”  Think of it!  Recall the moment you were called … when you surrendered your rebellious heart to the Spirit of God … when you encountered Jesus and came to faith in Him … the moment you were born again through the power of God.…  Think of what you were … who you were….  It should humble you deeply….

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before Him. 30 It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

But, “Let the one who boasts … boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Cf. Jeremiah 9:24) Yes, we ought to humble ourselves because God chose you and I to believe in the One whom He sent!  God chose you and I for redemption … for salvation in Christ.  It is because of Him that we are in Christ Jesus! Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (Cf. John 6:39) How amazing is that knowledge … that promise? Oh, it gets better! “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (Cf. John 10:29) And, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (Cf. John 17:9) Finally, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (Cf. John 17:24) Oh, our God is faithful to us because He chose us … He gave us to Jesus! Let this Scripture be embedded in our hearts:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

No one can boast!  No sinner made saint in Christ can boast in anyone or anything except HIM….  We humble ourselves through the obedience of faith; and we take our place in His Body as He has appointed us … according to the grace He has apportioned to us.  And the anointing given to each one of us (as determined by the Holy Spirit) is for the edification of the church not for ourselves as individual parts.  As Paul explained:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common goodTo one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.

Our Verse of the Day addresses the need for unity within the church … peace and single-minded among believers who form the body of Christ.  There should be no divisions … no one who elevates another believer above Jesus, the Head of the Church.  In Christ Jesus, there no denominations … no denominators or divisors! Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. Oneness can only be realized in Christ. So let us be open to the personal expression of grace given to each believer.  Let us embrace and encourage the work of each member (part) to serve and glorify our King.  The diversity of the Spirit we have received was given for the common good.  As long as we seek the common good and the bonds of peace … we will be seeking the unity of the Spirit. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Cf. Galatians 5:13) “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Cf. Romans 15:2) “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Cf. Psalm 133:1)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Suffering For Christ

Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him…

There are some powerful theological considerations for us in our verse today.  Let’s put our verse in some additional context:

Philippians 1:22-30 (NIV)

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

In this chapter, Paul has been recounting the struggles and suffering he has endured on his missionary journeys in the preaching of the Gospel.  As a prisoner, most likely in Rome at the time this letter was written, Paul shared his thoughts about all that had happened to him; and he wanted to encourage the believers at Philippi to have courage as they faced the same tests of their faith.  Uncertain of his future physical survival (as we all are), Paul contrasted his potential demise with the hope of restoration from the current isolation and suffering imposed on him.  So Paul instructs the believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ … no matter what happens.  And then he makes an interesting statement:  “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

God “grants” … God gives you and I two things: the hearing of faith and the suffering of faith.  And both have been granted to us on “behalf of Christ.”  In English, this translation has a profound application.  It does not say “in behalf of Christ” … which would mean “helping for the benefit of” or “acting in the interest of” Christ; rather, it states “on behalf of Christ” … meaning “in place of” or “as the agent of” or “as representing” Christ.  It follows that our faith and suffering is not meant to “manifest” in the interest of Jesus Christ; rather, I believe the implication is that our faith in God and the suffering that accompanies faith is now “in place of” or “a continuation of” the sufferings of Christ. We are enduring the struggles of faith and suffering now as Christ in the world … as His Body … as His Church.  I think Paul is saying that both faith and suffering should be viewed as a “privilege” given to us by God! In His sovereignty, God granted us the privilege (the grace) not only to believe in Him through Jesus Christ … but also the privilege (the grace) to suffer as Christ did in order to refine and mature our faith.  As Hebrews 5:8 points out: “Though Christ was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Likewise, the obedience of faith will be formed in us through hardship and suffering….

Did not Jesus Himself explain this would happen? You can find context for the suffering that comes with faith in Matthew 10:16-26 when Jesus sent out His disciples and followers into the towns of Judea to proclaim the Gospel.  In Matthew 24:3-14, we can see the suffering that comes with faith in the latter days should be expected as well. In John Chapters 15-17, when Jesus speaks about His imminent departure from the earth, He prays not only for the disciples to remain steadfast in faith, but also for those who will come to faith based on their testimony,

Matthew 10:21-22 (NIV)

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:9-13 (NIV)

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

John 15:18-21 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Reference John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

John 16:1-4 (NIV)

1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

John 17:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

What these passages indicate is that suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ is inevitable.  And I believe the suffering we will experience “on behalf of Christ” is the suffering that He said we would endure in the world.  We are in His place now … in the world.  We are His Body … the Church.  We are His agents … His ambassadors.  And like Jesus, we will suffer ridicule, persecution, hate, violence, and even death for our faith in Him. So, I think it is important to note that as believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us so that we can persevere in faith and hope.  Through Scripture, we are exhorted to persevere:

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Cf. Isaiah 26:20) 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

James 1:12-18 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose (granted) to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created.

Verse 17 states that “Every good and perfect gift is from above….”  You see, God has granted those He chose in Christ Jesus to believe in Him for salvation. And He granted the gift of suffering as well … to test our faith and to produce perseverance.  We need to recognize that “the cross comes before the crown”.  Both faith and suffering work in tandem to produce in us the kind of faith that God desires … a sincere faith that will remain steadfast when tried and tested.  Why?  Because that kind of faith will grow to the size of a mustard seed.  It will be empowered to move mountains!  Nothing will be impossible for us! (Cf. Matthew 17:19:20) Indeed, God wants us to be effective and productive through an ever-increasing faith. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:1-9) God wants our faith to grow so that we can accomplish the works He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And a faith that endures all things is necessary for us to accomplish the will of God!  Truly, it is His divine power at work to heal the sick, to mend broken hearts, to free those who are captives, to release people from darkness, and to proclaim the Gospel! But most often, the Holy Spirit works through us … through those who believe in Him and suffer for His Name sake!  That is our purpose … our role as the Church!

David reflected: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8) So, my prayer is that we will see and understand the “privileges” we have received from God.  Let Him be praised for His grace … for His gifts!  May these truths from His Word penetrate our hearts and equip us … empower us … to be His Church in these latter days! For it has been granted to us, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

God Is Faithful….

Isaiah 25:1 (NIV)

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.

This verse from the Prophet Isaiah is a call to praise and worship … exalting God for His “perfect faithfulness” toward His people.  We first find this gratitude for the faithfulness of God in the Book of Genesis – so this understanding of His nature has been affirmed at least since the time of Abraham.  Let’s look at that passage and some others:

Genesis 24:27 (NIV)

26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned His kindness and faithfulness to my master. 

Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulnessmaintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Psalm 57:9-11 (NIV)

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. 10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

Psalm 71:22-23 (NIV)

22 I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel. 23 My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I whom you have delivered.

So I think you get the point.  The earliest believers recognized and praised God for His manifested love and faithfulness toward them.  So I think we need to be mindful and grateful ourselves.  As you look back on your life and all of your relationships and experiences … can you see the hand of God in your life?  Can you see the faithfulness of God in sustaining you through all the challenges, hardships, and sufferings of life … creating the unique story of you?  I know that I can.  In fact, without the faithfulness of God to guide me through the pitfalls and challenges I have faced, I would not be here to share this testimony. I have absolutely no doubt about the faithfulness of God in our lives.  So the question is whether we have been faithful to Him.  Ask yourself, “Have you been as faithful to God as He has been to you?”

I’m sure we all feel indicted by that question.  None of us have lived a perfect life.  All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Even after we came to a knowledge of the truth; received Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior; and experienced rebirth through the Spirit; most of us have stumbled at best to walk the narrow road and to love one another as He has loved us. I think of Peter who boldly and rashly proclaimed that he would die for Jesus at the time of His arrest … only to swear that he “did not even know the man” just a few hours later. (Cf.  Matthew 26:74-75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:60-61; John 18:27) So zealous was his boast and so vehement was his disownment.  And note how every Gospel writer recorded what happened! Oh, I’d say each of us has wept as bitterly as Peter at some point in our life because of our own unfaithfulness to God….

What amazes and encourages me, though, is that Jesus takes the initiative to comfort Peter and restore him to fellowship.  You can read about it in John 21.  And when we find ourselves in despair over our sin and unfaithfulness to God, the Apostle John shares with us this word of encouragement: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) John reminds us of that timeless truth: God is Faithful.  And so I repeat that message here because someone needs to hear it.  Someone needs to know that the discouragement and despair of unfaithfulness that has been defeating their life can be overcome.  Yes, you ARE forgiven! Your life and fellowship with God will be restored! God is faithful even when we fail….  Like Paul, I am convinced that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)

One thing that caught my attention about this passage was the phrase “things planned long ago.”  I thought about that a moment.  I thought about the plan of salvation that was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world.  I wondered, “What other things did God plan long ago?”  Well, He planned my birth.  He determined the date, the generation, the place, the nation, etc.  God knew when and where He wanted me for His plans and purposes.  And despite a time of rebellion during my youth … in spite of the disobedience, failures, and unfaithfulness in my life … God planned my reconciliation and salvation.  I am His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And each day of my life becomes another revelation of the things He planned long ago for me.  Yes, God is faithful over your life and mine….

So I am certain there is someone who needs to know that God is willing and ready to restore your life just like He did for Peter – a man who disavowed even knowing the Lord Jesus … just like He did for Paul – a blasphemer and a murderer … just like He did for me – another wretched sinner saved by grace through faith.  God planned your day of reconciliation long ago.  God knew just the right time … when you would bitterly weep … and open your whole heart to Him.  God knew your moment of confession would come, and He is faithful and just to forgive your sins because you have called on Him.  He is at the door of your heart … knocking.  And I can assure you, it is an indescribable feeling to experience the great love and faithfulness of God poured out in your life!  I urge you to open the door and bid the Lord Jesus to come in … and let your healing begin!

Father, I thank you and I praise you for your perfect faithfulness.  You have done wonderful things … too many to count as well look back over our lives.  Each one is a testimony of your surpassing kindness and your steadfast love.  Help, Lord, each one of us to embrace that you have been faithful to redeem us … to give us a hope and a future … to give us eternal life.  These promises were established long ago … and we can receive them by placing our faith in you.  You have proven yourself trustworthy, and I pray any person who has questioned the deep of your love will see the truth found in your Word.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  Great is Thy Faithfulness.  Morning by morning new mercies I see.  All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.  Great is Thy Faithfulness … Lord unto me. ~ Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/05/19

Psalm 33:4-5

For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.

Sometimes we just need a reminder….

His Word is right and true … it is most trustworthy!  He is faithful in all that He does … even when we are not faithful.  He loves righteousness and justice … and calls us to follow Him to administer the same to one another.  The earth is full of His unfailing love … His deep, passionate, and everlasting love! I pray we will all meditate on these things….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/19/19

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Our verse continues with the theme of holiness we have undertaken … so the Spirit must want us to truly examine ourselves and focus on what it takes to consecrate ourselves to God.  I think He is looking for a holy people who desire more of Him to empower their lives for ministry. Fasting and prayer are key disciplines we can follow in this endeavor … but our verse today challenges and warns us to exercise self-control to a broader extent.  Let’s look at the context of our verse closer:

1 Corinthians 10: 1-13 (NIV)

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” (Cf. Exodus 32:6We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord (Jesus) as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

What Paul is developing here is a parallel for NT believers to understand.  He observes that the Israelites, when led out of Egypt, were all saved from their life of bondage in Egypt. The “cloud” refers to the unique symbol of the presence of God – also known as the shekinah cloud of glory which meant “to dwell with”. We should easily recognize this parallel to Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us). They all passed through the Red Sea on dry land because God had parted the waters for them. It was a “baptism” in effect because the waters closed in behind them.  There was no going back to slavery of Egypt (symbolizing the bondage of sin). God was giving them a new life on this side of the divide.  They had been separated from Egypt (from sin) and chosen by God to be His people.   They all ate the same spiritual food which refers to the manna and to the quail – both supernatural provision by God. Likewise, Jesus is the Bread of Life. And they all drank the same spiritual drink – from a spiritual rock that followed them – refers to the supernatural provision of life-sustaining water.  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst; indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) This use of “all” is a way to emphasize the inclusion of all Israelites in the experience of God’s grace and judgment during that time of “testing” called the “Wilderness Wandering Period”.

But notice Verse 5 states, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”  This verse implicates the humbling of His people and the judgment for unbelief and rebellion as their bones were scattered along the wilderness route to the Promised Land (Cf. Numbers 14). Think about it.  They were God’s chosen people.  He had redeemed them from the land of Egypt. But He judged their unbelief and their rebellious attitudes. These OT believers saw the miraculous provision of God for their lives. They knew His will through their God-ordained leader, Moses. And yet, as we read through the narrative, they still acted in unbelief and rebellion….  Do you think there are Christians today who have a similar display of unbelief in their lives?  Do you think God is pleased with them?  Have you ever considered that there might be a parallel with Matthew 7:21-23?

In Verses 6-11, Paul implies that the Old Testament Scriptures continue to have spiritual relevance for us today. You can cross-reference the following passages regarding this applicability in Romans 4:23-24; Romans 15:4; and 1 Corinthians 9:10. We can readily conclude the revelations of God are eternal and the principles imparted are significant. So Paul points out how the redemptive history of Israel is applicable to us today … “so that we would not crave (set our hearts on) evil things as they did.”  The term translated “crave” is a strong compound Greek term epithumeō, which is made up of the preposition “upon” and “to rush.” It refers to a strong feeling or emotion overtaking and controlling the mind and heart of a person. Paul chooses specific issues for his contrast: idolatry; immoral sexual conduct; provoking or testing God to “prove” Himself; and grumbling in the sense of showing displeasure with God. These are all relevant examples and can be seen within the world and even the Church in our day….

Paul concludes that these things (judgments of God) happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. The message is that the salvation effectuated for us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has been given to us – but if we do not receive it through faith in Him … if we wander into unbelief and rebellion … we will be judged as the Israelites were judged in the wilderness.  So Paul brings us to the point of self-examination in Verse 12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (Cf. Romans 11:20-21; 2 Peter 3:14-17). God has and will judge His own people. Here are some great references for you to consider in this regard: Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:7-10; and 1 Peter 4:12-19.  I highly encourage you to read Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4.  The parallels to what Paul is preaching here are quite impressive.

This leads us to the Verse of the Day and its call to godliness in response to the salvation God has granted us in Christ Jesus.  Paul asserts that personal holiness is possible. We can overcome temptation. First of all, we have to realize that temptations or tests will happen. The text makes this clear: “But when you are tempted….”  Temptation in any form is common to the human experience. But God uses it to “refine” our souls and to perfect or complete our faith.  Remember, Jesus was tempted in all points as we are … yet He remained without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) So, Jesus is experientially familiar with our weaknesses as discussed in Hebrews Chapter 2. Of special comfort to me in this regard is Hebrews 2:18 which reads, “Because He Himself (Jesus) suffered when He was tempted (tested), He is able to help those who are being tempted (tested).” To me, this verse indicates that dealing with temptation is a form of suffering … and that Jesus is ever present through His Spirit to help me in that moment of temptation or trial.  It also reminds me that, like Jesus, my own obedience will be learned through the process of suffering. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8-9)

The key point from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that God is faithful.  WHEN you and I are tempted (tested) … HE provides a way out so that we can endure the temptation or test.  It does not say that He will remove the temptation; rather, He provides an “exit” from the thought, feeling, situation, or circumstance that provides the platform or context for our temptations.  A specific temptation may not ever go away.  It may be a “thorn in the flesh”. Victory through one temptation, test, or trial does not assure the same outcome WHEN the next temptation comes.  But we learn obedience through the things we suffer; and that is achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is praying in the Spirit … it is walking in His anointing … that gives us the strength to endure the temptations we will face. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. It means we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5) And these spiritual disciplines are sufficient because God will not let you or me be tempted beyond what we can bear.  No, there is an endpoint of victory for every temptation, test, or trial if we but persevere under the trial. God has assured that we can endure the hardship of discipline because He disciplines us for our good … in order that we may share in His holiness. (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-10)

Well, I hope that these thoughts and references I have shared will help you and encourage you in your times of temptation.  As Pastor Steve would say, “We need to reset the mindset!”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!