Reverence Through Fellowship…

Ephesians 5:19-20 (NIV)

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Verse of the Day looks into aspects of our fellowship and interaction with one another in the Church.  Paul spends considerable time discussing relationships Ephesians 5, so I thought it might be good to reprint this portion of his letter to provide the context for what Paul is instructing us. To me, several of his points are connected to the last few verses that we have recently studied:

Ephesians 5:1-21 (NIV)

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Notice that our conduct with one another is to be “imitators of God” and to “walk in love just as Christ has sacrificially loved each of us.” What we do … how we behave around and toward one another is to be marked with the utmost concern, reverence, and respect for the dignity of others – as contrasted with our former way of life and conduct when we were lost and without of the light of the Spirit. We have been redeemed (saved) from darkness and called to leave our lives of dead works and to be wise … to make the most of every opportunity to be instruments of light in this dark world. And where do we find this wisdom?  How do we attain it? “The fear of Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10)

Proverbs 8:12-14 (NIV)

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. 13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. 14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power.

Proverbs 14:26-27 (NIV)

26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

Proverbs 23:17-18 (NIV)

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Indeed, our lives are to be characterized by worship (reverence) for God – being filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. We are to sing and make music from our hearts unto the Lord; always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And note Verse 21 – that we are to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence for Jesus Christ. The NKJV translates this verse: “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Thus, we can see that submission to each other within the Body of Christ is an act of reverence for God; and humility is the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Proverbs 22:4) I think these verses also confirm that love for one another is “how” we can demonstrate our love (worship) for God. (Cf. 1 John 3:11, 23; 1 John 4:7, 11, 12)

As you begin your day, I encourage you to consider how your conduct towards others – especially those of the household of faith – reflects your relationship with God. These Scriptures indicate how we behave and interact with others is indicative of our walk with Jesus Christ. For we were once darkness, but now we have received the light of the Lord. Therefore, we are called to live as children of light and to find out what pleases the Lord. My prayer is that we will do so. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do What Is Right…

Amos 5:14-15

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

This is a good word for us! And I invite you to read the entire chapter of Amos 5.  The Prophet admonished the people to “seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.” In light of the current discord in our nation, it is imperative for believers to guard our hearts and our emotions; and to keep our focus on the Sovereign Lord. Paul, and the other apostles, lived during a time of excessive government control and oppression of people. Yet, he advised the following: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Cf. Romans 13:1-3) This might seem counterintuitive when we observe oppressive policies being promoted at the highest levels of government, and strangely, a large percentage of citizens insisting upon those policies. Yet, we are urged to trust God above all else and to do what is right….

When Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, the evils of Nero and the persecutions that his government inflicted upon Christians, had not yet reached their climax. Paul was later executed under Nero, and during his reign, Nero intensely persecuted Christians – especially within the city of Rome. The Roman emperors who succeeded Nero in the centuries following were even worse at times in their treatment of Christians until the conversion of Constantine. During this period, the atrocities of Diocletian also come to mind. So the trials and sufferings for following Jesus are nothing new; and as we look to the end of the age, we can expect the irrational hate toward believers to continue and intensify. Peter, also executed during the reign of Nero, wrote to believers and provided similar counsel to us:

1 Peter 2:11-17; 21-23 (NLT)

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world. 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s servants, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. Jesus is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. Instead, He entrusted Himself to God the Father, who always judges fairly.  (See Isaiah 53)

The point is that even in the face of great injustice, the apostles admonished believers to submit to the authorities over them and to reverence the sovereignty of God. This is not to say that believers do not engage in civic matters at all; rather, we are to hate evil, love good, and maintain justice in the courts. We are to be the light of the world! The light we have received from God is not to be hidden from the culture; nor should we be silent when the truth of God and His Word should be proclaimed. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) But we are to do so with grace and love. As Paul urged Timothy: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose the truth must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will change their hearts (grant them repentance) leading them to a knowledge of the truth. Perhaps, then, they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26 NLT)  Yes, this is why we PRAY for those in authority over us!

So in all this, we are to conduct ourselves as subject to the governing authorities just as we are subject to the throne of Christ Jesus – to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given.  So I join with Paul who wrote: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/07/19

Psalm 97:10

Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. (NIV)

You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. (NKJV)

I thought our Verse of the Day had some great key points for us to consider … and embrace.  As disciples of Christ Jesus, we have been called to love Him and to keep His commands.  We have been chosen by God to receive salvation through His Son.  He has promised us the inheritance of eternal life.  He has empowered us to walk in step with His indwelling Holy Spirit.  And God has enjoined us to love one another just as He in Christ demonstrated His loved toward us.  Wow! And yet, here we have another response to the love of God to consider: HATE EVIL. Look at the text.  If you love the Lord … you will HATE evil!  This is very strong language….

Now, perhaps we think that the “ability” to hate evil should be inherent in the hearts and lives of those who have received Jesus as Lord and been born again of the Spirit.  Yet, how many of us as Christians continue to struggle with temptation and fall short … fail … sin?  The Apostles James and John both addressed this spiritual challenge:

James 1:12-16 (ESV)

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my dear friends. 

John 1:5-10 (ESV)

This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

So my thought is that our “struggle” becomes complicated because we simply do not HATE evil.  We still allow evil thoughts within our hearts (Cf.  Genesis 6:5) to drive the desires and behaviors that lead us into sin….  The Psalmist indicates that if you love God … you should HATE evil.  But he states that the Lord “guards” the lives (souls) of His faithful ones (saints) and delivers them from evil.  Likewise, James assures us that God will bless those who remain steadfast (faithful) under temptation with the “crown of life” which He has promised to give those who love Him.   And John advises us that if we walk in darkness … we cannot have fellowship with God.  But praise God, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we CONFESS our sins to Him….

Yes, we need to recognize and realize that evil is ever present around us.  It is hostile to our souls whether inflicted from within or experienced from without.  Oh, we readily hate the sins of others and the evil their sin inflicts upon us and others.  But do we truly hate our own sin … in all of its variant forms, subtleties, and deception?  Jesus warned us to examine ourselves – to see if we sincerely hate all evil:

Matthew 23:25-28 (ESV)

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I gather from the tone of this passage, Jesus was quite passionate in His delivery of this message to the religious hypocrites.  The deception of hypocrisy is that it is truly darkness. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  So it is with hidden sin(s) … which is not ever hidden from God.  We are all exposed before Him … and He knows the truth.  He knows whether we truly hate evil … or if we are merely pretending … especially in front of others.

But I would like to revisit the assurance found in our Verse of the Day that I believe we need to embrace: “He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”  This message reminded me of another verse we have studied that offers a similar message of hope:

1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (ESV)

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability (what you can bear), but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

Well, I hope this Verse will challenge each of us to sincerely examine ourselves … our inner thoughts and convictions … to determine if we truly HATE evil in every form of darkness it manifests itself.  You who love the Lord – hate evil!  It is something that you must expressly and intently do in your thought life before it will ever manifest in your personal conduct or manner of life. Remember, God sees and knows the truth.  But know this: God is for us on this one!  He will guard our souls and delivers us from the evil one…. What a wonderful promise for those who love Him! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!