Monday, September 30, 2013

The Temptation of Jesus

In Luke 4:1-13, we have the section titled “The Temptation of Jesus by Satan”. This is a familiar passage that most Bible teachers (myself included!) have used to illustrate the importance of memorizing Scripture. Jesus is able to accurately quote Scriptures to successfully fight off Satan and his temptations. Interestingly, all three of the passages Jesus quotes are from the book of Deuteronomy.

I am sure Jesus could have zapped Satan with His finger, but that wouldn’t be an example that we could follow. Instead, Jesus uses the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, to do His fighting! (Ephesians 6:17). This is the Christian’s defensive weapon; we are to wield the word of God in such a way as to fight off Satan and keep ourselves from temptation and sin.

However, in Luke 4:9-12, Satan speaks to Jesus, quoting Psalm 91:11-12. Here we find that Satan has accurately quoted this Psalm, he doesn’t take it out of context, and he doesn’t try to make it say something it doesn’t mean. In Luke, Satan says these verses talk about the angels caring for Jesus and, if you turn to the Psalm and read it, you’ll find it talks about the angels caring for Jesus. In other words, Satan has picked up the sword of the Spirit and is using it as a weapon to tempt Jesus to sin!

Here is an important teaching to be on guard against people using Scripture. Even if they are accurately quoting the Bible, we still need to be fully engaged mentally and think through the message they are giving us. Bathe everything you intake with prayer! Sometimes it is easy to be gullible and think, “Hey, if that’s what the Bible says…” But here we’re shown to always be cautious. You’ve got to really know the Bible; a casual acquaintance is not going to cut it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Live in Peace with One Another

Let’s take a look at Paul’s statement, “Live in peace with one another.” (I Thessalonians 5:13b). In my Bible, this verse falls into a section titled, “Christian Conduct”. Here we find several quick “do this” and “don’t do that” sort of statements. To properly understand Paul’s meaning, I want to examine the word “peace”.

First, let me quickly dispel whatever wrong notions you may have of this particular word Paul has used. The Greek word translated here as “peace” is used only four times in the New Testament. This is not the peace of being reconciled with God in regards to our sin. This is not the inner peace and tranquility that comes from the Holy Spirit as a result of that reconciliation. This is not peace in the sense of the absence of civil wars or government armies marching into battle with each other.

The peace Paul speaks of here is peace with other individuals, not between governments. This peace means living in harmony and Paul’s statement is a warning against divisiveness, quarrelling and bickering. Furthermore, this is not a command to make peace with all men or at all cost. Paul here speaks of living in peace “with one another” – within the Body of believers, between those in Christ.

However, there are limits to seeking peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s next statement makes that quite clear – “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly” (I Thessalonians 5:14a). Biblical living in peace is not about tolerance of sinful behavior. In fact, all of I Corinthians 5 rebukes believers for boasting of their tolerance of rather than the disciplining and correcting of an errant brother.

Such a “peace” is no peace at all, and is instead actually quite evil because it comes directly from Satan. To avoid confrontation and decide to not “rock the boat” is to fear men more than God. Furthermore, “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith” (I Timothy 4:1). Therefore, Christians desperately need admonishing and rebuking when they are sinning to avoid such falling away from the faith!

Yet our goal is to “live in peace with one another”. Our Lord prayed for unity in His Church while He was here on earth (John 17). But neither Jesus nor Paul is proposing sinful compromises within the Body of believers for the sake of unity and peace. John 17:23 says, in part, “that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me”. It is our faithfulness to this teaching – “Live in peace with one another” – that we represent Christ to the world. As we grow in our unity with each other, we are perfected and matured into true Christ-likeness.

II Corinthians 13:11Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seek Good for One Another

Today’s one another comes from the last half of I Thessalonians 5:15, “always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” Paul has been speaking to the church at Thessalonica about the need for personal holiness in preparation for the Day of the Lord. Here he continues to speak concerning our Christian conduct.

The Greek word used by Paul here for “good” means benevolent, profitable, useful, and beneficial (Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary). From this definition, we learn that seeking after someone’s good is more than just the absence of malice; “good” is actually beneficial to the other person. Psalm 118: 68a says both “God is good” and “God does good”.

As we seek good for those around us, we need to keep in mind that God’s ultimate good for us is to be reconciled to Him. Therefore, when we seek after good for others, we witness to the lost and we admonish and rebuke our errant brother or sister in Christ.

The Greek word translated as “seek” is a very interesting choice. There is another more common Greek word used over 70 times in the New Testament translated as seek or seeking. But here Paul chose a word that is most commonly translated as persecute, persecuted, and persecuting. In fact, this is the same word used 10 times (mostly in the book of Acts) to describe how Paul, as Saul, persecuted Jesus Christ and His Church.

But let’s take a quick look at other examples using this same Greek word in a positive sense. Romans 14:19 says “pursue the things which make for peace”. Philippians 3:14 says “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” II Timothy 2:22 says “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace”. When we “seek after” good for someone, it is in this sense of pursuing and pressing onward.

According to Zodhiates, this Greek word means “to follow or press hard after, to pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain.” It would seem then that Paul’s use of this particular word in I Thessalonians 5:15 speaks of the unrelenting passion and zeal we should use when seeking God’s goodness for one another. It is the same passion and zeal that young Saul used when persecuting the early church. But here he wants that energy re-focused on doing good, being beneficial to our fellow believers as well as to all people.

Galatians 6:10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Serve One Another

Today I want to look at two similar “one anothers”. The first is written by Paul, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13). The second is written by Peter, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (I Peter 4:10).

In our first verse, Galatians 5:13, the Greek word for “serve” is speaking of the kind of service performed by one who is enslaved. According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, such a slave “conducts himself in total service to another…in complete devotion to his or her master.”

This same Greek word is used by Jesus when He says, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Since total and complete devotion is required, it is truly an impossibility to serve two masters. Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary further explains that such a person is not merely “in the position of a servant”, but also acts accordingly! Zodhiates’ lists two antonyms (opposites) for this verb – “to be idle” and “to be at leisure”. It would seem that such service is a full-time job in the extreme sense.

A couple more thoughts before moving on to Peter’s statement, the freedom Paul speaks of here is our freedom from sin and the Law that we now have in Christ (Galatians 5:1). The “flesh” he warns us about is enslavement to our selfish desires and the results are spelled out as “the deeds of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Both of these ideas speak to our motives when serving one another. We are not to be legalistic, adding rules, making a long list of “shoulds” that are burdensome and rob us of our freedom in Christ. Neither are we to selfishly serve others with the hopes of personal gain.

Lastly, let’s take a quick look at Paul’s phrase “through love”. The love spoken of here is agape love, the most devoted kind of love possible. This is the love referred to in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Agape love gives what is best and what is most needful. As for the Greek word use for “through”, it can also be translated as “on account of…” and “because of…” Therefore, our service to one another is to be on account of and because of the agape love we have found in Christ and it is that same sort of love we pass on to others. I John 4:19 says simply, “We love, because He first loved us.”

In I Peter 4:10, the Greek word for “serving” is the verb diakoneo, it literally means to be a waiter of tables. According to Zodhiates, the word generally means, “to care for someone’s needs, bringing advantage to others”. The antonyms he lists are “to harm, to cause loss, to destroy, to corrupt”. Clearly, the word means a lot more than serving food if the withholding of such service would bring destruction or corruption!

Historically, seven diakoneo table waiters were chosen in Acts 6:1-6 to help ensure the fair treatment of widows. The men selected for this job were to be of “good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Later we find Paul instructing Timothy on similar requirements for choosing Deacons (diakonos) to help with church administration (I Timothy 3:8-13).

The thing I find most interesting about Peter’s statement “serving [diakoneo] one another” is that he is not speaking to just a few Deacons put in charge of this or that. His letter is addressed to all the believers living throughout Asia. Furthermore, I Peter 4:10 says “each one” has received a gift to be used in serving (diakoneo) others. In other words, every believer has been given the responsibility of serving as a deacon, whether they hold that title or not.

Notice also that Peter says we each have “received a special gift” (I Peter 4:10). Therefore, the way I serve will not be the exact way you serve; we are uniquely gifted and are intended to also uniquely serve.

Peter goes on to say our serving is to be done “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Peter 4:10b). Stewards are managers put in charge of distributing and apportioning the goods on behalf of the owner. In Genesis 39:4, we find Joseph serving Pharaoh in this manner and later he is put in charge of distributing the grain during Egypt’s famine (Genesis 41:38-57). Likewise, Peter teaches that as we serve, we are stewards put in charge of distributing God’s many forms of grace to others.

To summarize, let’s pull all these various terms together and paint a biblical portrait of what it means to “serve one another” –

Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
•    Service is a by-product of our freedom in Christ
•    Biblical serving is not motivated by selfish desires of the flesh
•    We serve because of God’s agape love and we share that same love with others
•    Our serving shows an all-consuming devotion to our Master, Christ Jesus

I Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
•    Each believer is uniquely gifted to uniquely serve the Body of Christ
•    Such service is required of all believers, not a select few
•    Biblical serving demands we actually help someone, “bringing advantage to others”
•    We are stewards in charge of distributing God’s grace to those we serve

Ephesians 5:15-16Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Be Like-Minded

Today I would like to discuss two very similar sounding English phrases which, upon closer inspection, actually turn out to be quite different. Romans 12:16, in part reads, “Be of the same mind toward one another” and Romans 15:5, again in part, reads, “Be of the same mind with one another.” We might be tempted to use these phrases interchangeably, but I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul never meant that to happen.

In the first verse, the word “toward” is the Greek word eis, it has the general idea of motion, and specifically here it means changing the direction of one’s mind. However, in the second verse, the word “with” is the Greek word ev, it has the primary idea of rest, being in a fixed position, and remaining in a particular place. With regards to our minds, you might even want to say this is a reference to being stubborn!

So why would Paul give two such very different commands in the space of just three chapters? The answer is clear when we examine the context of each phrase.

First, let’s look at Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” The beginning of the very next verse contains the motion-related “be of the same mind toward one another.” Paul wants us to set aside whatever emotions we have at the moment and move towards like-mindedness with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A few days ago I resolved a personal 6-month old problem; I was so giddy, humming as I did dishes and laundry. But then the phone call came that a good friend was hospitalized with a life-threatening condition. My mind “moved” instantly! This “like-mindedness” is how we should relate emotionally toward one another in the Body of Christ.

Now let’s examine the stubborn, fixed-position “one another”. Romans 15:5b reads, “be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus”. Using my Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary, I found that the Greek word translated as “according” means having “conformity of a norm, rule, or standard, conformable to the will of someone…”

So who is the standard, whose will should we be conformable to? “Christ Jesus”! Paul here tells us not only to be conformed to Christ, but to be fixed in that position, and stubbornly remaining there. When each member of the Body of Christ adheres to this Standard, we automatically have “like-mindedness”.

As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes we need to change our minds and sometimes we need to stand firm. But in either case, we are commanded to be like-minded.

John 17: 22-23 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Let Us Not Become Boastful

Today’s “one another” is the final verse in Paul’s explanation of the difference between the “deeds of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-26). “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26). This verse has three key words that I chose to investigate: boastful, challenging, and envying.

The Greek word translated as “boastful” is a compound word like bath-tub or sun-flower. The two words making up kenodoxos are kenos meaning empty or hollow and doxos meaning praise. This word has at its core the idea of foolish conceitedness, self-glorification, and a wanting to be admired by others. Paul says here, let us not do this! According to Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary, the hollow aspect of this word also implies “meaningless, aimlessness, and when used of persons it predicates not merely an absence of goods, but also, since a vacuum does not exist in man’s moral nature, the presence of evil.” Interestingly, the only antonym (opposite) given here by Zodhiates is “humble”.

The next word Paul warns us about is “challenging”, the Greek word he uses here means to irritate, to provoke, deliberately inciting anger in someone. A biblical example of such provocation and challenging is found in I Kings 14:22-24, which teaches that we “provoke God” when we practice idolatry by giving the glory to people or things that rightfully belongs to God alone. By contrast, rather than be anger-makers, Jesus has said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9).

Finally, Paul says to not become “envying of one another”. Synonyms for envy are covet and jealous. God has given us the 10th Commandment which speaks against covetousness, therefore, this is no slight thing in His eyes (Exodus 20:17). Furthermore, Scriptures teach that such envying led directly to our Lord’s crucifixion. “So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.” (Matthew 27:17-18). With regards to envy, Zodhiates says it is “malignity conceived at the sign of excellence or happiness” and the word envy “is incapable of good and is always used with an evil meaning. The antonyms he lists are to rejoice with and to congratulate.

When we look at these three words together, we see quite a list of sinful behaviors and attitudes. It is no wonder that Paul would say, “Let us not become…” However, in conclusion I want to turn these negatives into positives using the antonyms discovered in today’s study. Let us become humble, peacemakers, rejoicing with one another!

Galatians 5:24-25Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Clothe Yourselves with Humility toward One Another

I’m always eager to investigate when a Greek or Hebrew word ends up being used in Scripture only once. Today’s “one another” contains just such a word. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (I Peter 5:5). The English word “clothe” is used several times in the Bible’s NASB version and means pretty much what you’d expect it to mean: to put something on to wear for clothing.

However, Peter chose to use a completely different Greek word, one which means to put on a particular type of garment, namely an egkomboma, the garment of a slave. This word choice speaks volumes with regard to our “humility toward one another”.

As I sought for an adequate definition of humility, I kept coming face-to-face with the word “meek”. Interestingly, the word “meek” is linguistically related to both “muck” and “mucus”! The primary sense of the word is a thin, flowing liquid… Yes, I was just as surprised as you. However, this knowledge does help me understand how a humble and meek person is to have a yielding spirit, not be easily provoked, and be forgiving when injured.

There are two notable biblical examples of humility. The first is in Numbers 12:3, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” The second is found in Matthew 11:29, where Jesus says of Himself, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”.

By looking at these two examples, we see that such humility is neither contrived nor self-degrading. Biblical humility comes from recognizing one’s complete dependence on God and, therefore, being in complete submission to God’s will. This humility finds its expression in submission (yielding or bending without murmuring) with willingness to serve others, even at one’s own expense.

John 13:3-5Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Speaking to One Another in Psalms

Today’s “one another” is found in the middle of a long sentence and so it is important to look at this phrase in its proper context. The three previous verses speak of using care to not foolishly waste our time. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:5-17).

The next verse begins the sentence containing our “one another” – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation” (Ephesians 5:18a). I used an English dictionary to check the meaning of dissipation and found “wastefulness”. So this thought is still very much tied into the previous verses on God’s will for us being to not waste time.

Now Paul uses the word “but” to offer us something that is not a time waster. He says, “but be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b). According to The MacArthur Bible Commentary,

“Paul is not speaking of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Romans 8:9) or the baptism by Christ with the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13), because every Christian is indwelt and baptized by the Spirit at the time of salvation. Rather, he is giving a command for believers to live continually under the influence of the Spirit by letting the Word control them (Colossians 3:16), pursuing pure lives, confessing all known sin, dying to self, surrendering to God’s will, and depending on His power in all things. Being filled with the Spirit is living in the conscious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, letting His mind, through the Word, dominate everything that is thought and done.” (Page 1700)

Paul’s thoughts continue on, next stating that one result of such filling of the Holy Spirit is, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20a).

Paul has taught here that wasting time in any sense is 1) not part of God’s will and 2) not being filled with the Holy Spirit. He also has taught that when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning He dominates everything that is thought and done, you then have a spiritual song in your heart and on your lips, extolling the praises of the Lord. Lifting melodies of praise and thanksgiving heavenward is definitely not a foolish waste of your time; it is one of the evidences that you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

Acts 16:25 tells us that as Paul sat in prison he and Silas “sang hymns of praise to God” while the other prisoners listened. The result was that the jailer and his whole household became Christians and were baptized. That joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit bubbles out of us in the form of worshipful song and the lost people around us take notice. Our true, heart-felt worship is a strong witness to the world that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is!

Psalm 40:16 –
Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let those who love Your salvation say continually,
‘The Lord be magnified!’

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Be Hospitable to One Another Without Complaint

In I Peter 4:9 we find these words: “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” I must admit this morning I was looking for an easy “one another” when I chose this one. But I have once again been reminded that the Bible contains infinite wisdom from an infinite God and so “easy” just isn’t going to happen…instead, what you get is wow, wonderful, and amazing!

I began with using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, looking at the Greek word translated in this verse as hospitable. It is a compound word like cup-cake and head-rest. The two words making up the word for hospitable are philos meaning beloved, dear, friendly, and xenos meaning alien, stranger, not of one’s family. Therefore, biblical hospitality means to treat aliens and strangers as if they were our dear, beloved friends.

Next, I looked for other verses using the same word, and found Hebrews 13:2 by simply using my Bible’s cross-reference column. This verse says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Just such a thing is actually recorded as happening twice in the book of Genesis. Abraham is hospitable to three strangers who pass by his tent. One of these men is the Lord Himself who makes the promise of Isaac’s birth (Genesis 18:1-33). The other two men turn out to be angels who then go on to the city of Sodom to rescue Lot and his family prior to the city’s destruction (Genesis 18:22; 19:1-29).

Turning to the story in Genesis 18:4-8, we find Abraham making lavish preparations to entertain his three guests. He begins by offering to wash their feet and bring them a piece of bread. But ends up instructing Sarah to “quickly” prepare 33-quarts of flour for bread cakes and gives a choice calf to a servant to cook. I suppose some of this exuberance might be just cultural, but I think this example is here for us to follow in the sense that what we give to our guests should be of the best we have to offer. Abraham did not choose the lame calf; this would be like picking out all my expired food cans for giving to the homeless shelter.

So, looking back at our key verse, we see that when Peter instructs his readers to “be hospitable to one another”, he isn’t really talking about sharing lemonade on the porch with your best friend. As Abraham’s example shows, the kind of “giving” required here is sacrificial. A gift which costs you nothing is no gift at all. Also remember the xenos part of hospitality means we do this for aliens and strangers, not our best friends. Yes, it is quite OK to kill and eat the choice calf with friends and family, it’s just that to do so isn’t part of biblical hospitality.

Now let’s consider the requirement Peter has added to the end of this “one another”. He expects that we would carry out this extreme sort of entertainment for complete strangers “without complaint”. Turning back to my Strong’s I found the Greek word translated here as complaint can also be translated as grumbling, muttering, and murmuring. But Peter isn’t talking about simply putting on a smile while you serve your guests. This idea of “not complaining” is really quite serious in the eyes of the Lord. In I Corinthians 10:10, we find that the Israelites grumbled in the desert after the exodus and God judged them. I recommend you read the actual account of these events in Numbers 16:41-50. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary says, “Such grumbling is sin, for it does not accept what comes from the hand of our good God.”

To better understand the true meaning of “complaint”, I used Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary, looking at the antonyms (opposites) provided. 1) eulogeo, this is where we get our word for eulogy and it means to speak well of or to bless and to praise. 2) eucharisteo, this where we get the word Eucharist, it means to give thanks and the gospels use this word to record that Jesus “gave thanks” during the Last Supper for the bread and the wine. In case you may think eucharisteo might mean just a polite thank you, let me show you to Luke 17:16. Here we find the story of a leprous Samaritan who was cleansed by Jesus. The man then “fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks [eucharisteo] to Him.”

Armed with this information, let’s look back at our key verse once again, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” Peter is telling us to be sacrificially gracious to our unknown (alien) guests while blessing and praising them as if we were giving a eulogy or like they had just cured our leprosy! Yes, this is way more than a polite smile with a cup of tea between good friends.

As a final thought, several words in this study have reminded me of the Choice Son who was slain for me when I was lost in my sin and still alienated from God and outside His family. The Perfect Example of biblical hospitality was given us in the life and death of Jesus Christ, Who was without possessions and home, yet gave His all, His life, for a world full of strangers, and without complaint. You see, there it is: wow, wonderful, and amazing!

Romans 5:8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Do Not Lie to One Another

Paul is here again giving believers a commandment on how we are to interact; he says, “do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:9). On the surface, this statement looks quite simple and I thought today’s “one another” would be as easy as quoting the 9th commandment from Exodus 20 and calling it good. But the Word of God has both infinite wisdom and infinite meaning, so this simple statement really isn’t simple at all.

First, let’s look at the context. The previous verse tells us to put aside all “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech” (Colossians 3:8). In one way or another, each of these kinds of speech can be a form of lying. Next Paul gives us a reason to not lie, “since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” (Colossians 3:9-10). Here Paul teaches that you’re a new person and you’re being remade into the image of Christ; therefore don’t be like that old person!

Jesus Christ is not only our Lord and Savior, He is also our Example. Jesus said of Himself that He is “the truth” (John 14:6) and that He came “to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). We also know that the nature of God the Father is such that He cannot lie (I Samuel 15:29). By contrast, Satan’s nature is to deceive, “for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). Therefore, we see that lying is in direct opposition to the character of God and it must not be part of our new character in Christ.

In a similar way, the Apostle Peter teaches us to put “aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and evil and all slander…if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (I Peter 2:1-3). Again, each of these kinds of speech can be a form of lying, and the reason for not practicing such behavior is because you now know the Lord. Using Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary, I found that the Greek word used in Colossians 3:9 for “lie” has many shades of meaning: deceive, betray, cheat, untruth, falsehood, defraud, and exaggerate. What I find most interesting about this list of terms, is that some of these go way beyond just our speech. To betray, cheat, or defraud someone will often times involve actions, as well as words.

So now we have a better understanding of the biblical sense of lying and why this command is so important. But let’s turn our attention back to the “one another” Paul has given us here. He says specifically to “not lie to one another”, meaning other believers. I can imagine wanting to lie as a form of self-protection when confronted with enemies, but why would someone lie to like-minded comrades? I suppose the reasons are many, but two come to mind. First, lying may have been a habit before becoming a Christian and habits can be hard to break. We’re all re-born as babes into Christ and we need time to develop mature, Christ-like character.

Second, I see that fear is always a motivation for lying. We don’t want to let others see the “real” us because we fear rejection. Perhaps we’ve been hurt in the past by another believer. But this does not mean we should automatically put up our defense mechanisms and resort to telling a lie. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18a).

Sadly, I know of another form of lying that is spoken both within our churches and to the lost and dying world around us. When we fail to speak the truth of the Gospel of Christ, we are behaving like false prophets. Jeremiah 23:17 puts it this way – “They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, You will have peace’; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’

As Christians, we are ambassadors of Christ and witnesses of His message. It is wrong to promise peace to those destined for hell. It is wrong to promote a false gospel of health, wealth and prosperity. It is also wrong to smile, pretending everything is fine and dandy, when what you actually see is stubbornness of the heart. Jeremiah 23:14 says the prophets who walk in falsehood “strengthen the hands of evil doers”. It is not enough to “not lie to one another”; we must also speak the truth to one another.

I John 2:6The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

Discussion Questions:

What other forms of lying are there? What happens to the Body of Christ when we’re deceitful towards one another? What are some ways to break the “habit” of lying?

Friday, September 6, 2013

We Have Fellowship with One Another

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:6-7

This is not a “one another” in the sense that it is not a command or admonishment to do fellowshipping; this is the result of being in Christ and having been truly re-born. Those who “walk in the Light” have fellowship with one another. It is one of the many proofs given in the New Testament that you are indeed walking in the Light. John goes on to say in I John 2:9, “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.

How then can we explain that some “Christians” don’t like going to church? I can’t help but say they are deceived by that great deceiver, Satan. Those who feel completely safe with regards to their salvation and have absolutely no desire to have fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ are, in truth, not walking in the Light and not having fellowship with either the Father or the Son (I John 1:3).

Yes, some folks balk at the idea of having membership rolls, but that is not the issue. The important thing is that we are members of the Body of Christ and that means to be part of a community of believers. “Ignore one another” is not a Bible verse!

The Greek word used in this passage for fellowship is “koinonia”, in other passages of the New Testament it is also translated as contribution, participation, and sharing. This word is a verb, it means much more than thinking nice thought of other believers. True “koinonia” requires action.

Without active participation in a body of believers, how does one carry out any of the New Testament “one anothers”? Where do you contribute your tithes and offerings? How do you observe the communion aspect of the Lord’s Supper? Who do you teach? Who do you serve? Who do you pray for?

Except for Philemon, every New Testament epistle was written to a group of believers, or to the leader of a group of believers. How can you hope to carry out the spirit of these writings and not also belong to a group of believers?

I have heard John MacArthur say there is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” Christian. In I John 1:7, the Apostle John is saying the same thing, “if we walk in the Light…we have fellowship with one another.”

Acts 2:42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Discussion Questions:

How important is your local church body to your walk of faith? If there has been a time in your life when you were not connected to a group of believers, what was the result?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Give Preference to One Another in Honor

Romans 12:10b states that we are to “give preference to one another in honor.” This “one another” has been like an onion for me. As I dig deeper into my Bible study, this phrase is taking on a rich new meaning; one that is changing both my mind and my heart.

I began by simply thinking about “honor” and how nice it would be to honor those folks who were instrumental in giving me such a firm foundation for my Christian walk by sending them a nice note of thanks. At this point, I understood “honor” to be something I chose to give away and then only to very outstanding individuals.

Within a few hours I was jotting down various thoughts on how “honor” was used in the Bible. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abed-nego were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to honor King Nebuchadnezzar over the Lord. I then made a note that “this” is where to draw the line at honoring someone; biblical honor never requires us to sin.

Next came to mind the idea that we are to honor God through the giving of our tithes and offerings. Proverbs 3:9-10 reads, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.”

There is also the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12. Then I reflected on honoring those in authority over us – spiritual leaders (I Timothy 5:17), government leaders (Titus 3:1), and masters or employers (I Timothy 6:1).

By now, my understanding of “honor” was shifting. I began to realize that no where does the Bible mention or even hint that these commands are optional or conditional. We are simply expected to be obedient, giving honor to those over us, in all these various positions. These commands are clear and unequivocal. Furthermore, it truly does not matter if you feel that person is worthy of honor. But even as I type that sentence, I am seeing that to feel like those folks don’t deserve honor is nothing more than prideful sin lurking within me.

Finally, I decided if I were to start practicing biblical “honor”, I should find out the actual biblical meaning. I used Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary and found the definition of the Greek word translated as honor. The overly simple definition surprised me: to value. I paused to reflect on what it would mean to “value” someone, what would that look like…? The dictionary’s long list of antonyms (opposites) brought this into sharp focus: to despise, treat contemptuously, to reject, to disapprove, to regard lightly, to care little for!

As I turned my attention back to the original phrase I realized I had missed a large part of its meaning. I was focusing on a single word, “honor”; but the command is to “give preference to one another in honor”. Giving preference means “putting first” and the “one another” are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore this phrase is really saying, put your fellow believers first by assigning them a greater value than yourself, and it applies to all fellow believers, not just our parents or various sorts of leaders. In other words, this command boiled down to humility!

I soon realized that if honoring someone in the biblical sense is to value them, then we aren’t to honor a person based on how we view the job they’re doing. A person’s biblical value comes from being made in the image of God. Period. That being the case, one must ask, shouldn’t we value everyone, even those outside the Body of Christ? The answer of course is yes, and I Peter 2:17a leaves no room for doubt – “Honor all people”.

Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

Discussion Question: Now that we understand what biblical honor is all about, what are the practical ways we can put this into action?