Monday, July 18, 2011

God’s Household – 1 Tim 3:14-16

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (NIV)

Indoor Voice
Paul’s reason for writing (so that I will know how to conduct myself in God’s household) reminds me of times I’ve heard people tell children to use their indoor voice. There is conduct that is acceptable outdoors and a different set of rules for indoors. Likewise, there is conduct that is appropriate for Christians and different behavior that the rest of mankind believes is appropriate. While there are times that I need to protest against some of that behavior, I must also recognize that it will never change.

Rev 22:10-13 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy."
"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” (ESV)

An angel told John that the evils of this world will continue right up to the end time. Then Jesus made it clear that He will judge my behavior, along with everyone else’s. The evildoers will find that His recompense will deal harshly with their behavior, but I, along with all Christians, will find forgiveness and mercy at the judgment seat of Christ.
However, if I’m emulating the world and using my “outdoor voice” (doing evil and being filthy) instead of my “indoor Christian voice,” (being righteous and holy) I will suffer loss of rewards. 1 Cor 3:14-15 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (NIV) All the instructions that Paul has given and the ones yet to come have the same goal. My behavior should result in bringing glory to God when I receive my rewards instead of losing them.

Paul already listed qualifications for elders and deacons and this confirms to me that these qualities are for every Christian.
Household of God

There are many references to the family of God in the Bible. As I review them, I’m quite awestruck that I’m included in that family. The book of Ephesians is a great place to study and understand the family of God. It starts in Eph 1:5 when I’m told that I’m an adopted son of God. Ladies, don’t be concerned that this is a male image. In Paul’s day, you would be much better off adopted as a son than a daughter. As a son, I have an inheritance waiting for me (Eph 1:11, 14). Jesus is the head the household, the church (Eph 1:22) and that we are the body (Eph 1:22, 23).
Before I was adopted, I was a child of wrath (Eph 2:3). That means I belonged t a different family, the family of Satan. I don’t have to imagine that family and how dysfunctional it is; I was a part of it. I thought right was wrong and wrong was right. I was headed down a slippery road and didn’t even realize it. It was a spiral that slowly pulled me deeper into sin. However, by grace I was saved and rescued from that family and brought into God’s family. I was a dirty, ragged, poor waif totally undeserving God’s mercy. Instead of being treated as I deserved, He raised me up and seated me with Jesus (Eph 2:6). I’m now clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and rich in every way.

The household of God comes from every imaginable group of people in the world. Originally, the Jewish nation had a special relationship with God. They were the ones who received His laws and ordnances. They knew how to have a relationship with Him that the rest of us didn’t know. That changed with Jesus. We Gentiles now have access to God the Father through the Holy Spirit. We are now called citizens of heaven as well as being part of the family of God. This eliminated all racial barriers so that the Gospel has been freely preached to all people. In the past, some people considered others as sub-human and therefore not capable of being part of God’s family (Eph 2:15-3:6). That is not how the family of God should behave.
As God’s family we have been called His Body and we are also called His temple. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer and joins us all together. All temples need a firm foundation and that is what the prophets and the apostles’ teaching provided. I’ll cover the foundation and pillar in more detail shortly.

As an adopted member of God’s family, I now bear His family name, Christian. Every person who has been born again carries this name because Jesus lives in our hearts by faith. Not everyone understands this. Not everyone lets the Holy Spirit empower them to love as Christ loved us, but that is what families should do, love one another. We don’t always put off our old dysfunctional nature and live by the power of the Holy Spirit. I need to have my mind renewed if I’m going to live and act as one of God’s children (people who imitate God) and be called by His name.
I may be adopted as God’s son, but my future is to be Jesus’ bride. Guys have a hard time imagining what this really means just as some women have a problem thinking of themselves as sons. In Eph 5:21-33 Paul tried to put it into words that we would understand. I think the biggest issues are subjection, holiness, purity, and relationship.

As a member of God’s family, I willingly submit myself to Jesus’ leadership. This is the first and primary response to the good news of the Gospel. Without this, the family structure breaks down. If I’m not submissive, I may very well be proving that I’m not really an adopted son but a pretender.
A bride used to be pure, or at least they were supposed to be. This is not the way it is in the current world but it is the image that God has given us when Paul described the bride without a wrinkle or blemish, indicating holiness and purity. If I have no desire to holy and pure, then I am again proving to be pretender. As an imitator of God (all children imitate their parents) I will want to live a life of holiness loving my brothers and sister.

As a bride and a groom have a relationship with each other, so I must have a relationship with Jesus. That relationship is marked by sacrificial love. Jesus already showed His love by sacrificing Himself to take away our sins and make us holy. My responding love must be leaving the world and joining myself with Him in the Church. That means forsaking the pleasures of this world to become one who seeks to bring pleasure to Him.
Purpose of the Church

In thinking about the family of God, the Church came up many times. The Church, the Body of Christ, and the Family of God are all different ways of explaining our relationship with our Lord.
Some people want to make sure they get all these images correct otherwise they feel they aren’t being accurate in their Christian faith. As an example, I came across this name of a church on the internet, “The First Glorious Church of God in Christ of the Apostolic Faith House of Prayer for All People.” I can’t confirm that there is really a church named this way but it illustrates what some congregations do.

It isn’t what we name our church that makes it a body of believers who please God. It is what the body of believers does and what the elders, deacons, and pastors teach. Paul described a purpose of the Church in this way, Eph 3:10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (RSV) As he stated above the Church is to be a pillar of truth. That truth is first of all proclaimed in the spiritual realm. It serves to notify the powers of darkness that they are defeated and on the way out. The angels who have remained faithful to the Lord are notified that mankind is redeemed and at the end of the ages we will be victorious.
This pillar of truth plays a very important part in today’s world where people have their own individual versions of truth. The Church stands as the one place on earth where I can rest assured that truth isn’t relative but is based on God who does not change. It is one of the reasons that Christians are vilified. Because we are unwavering in our belief of the truths of the true Church, we stand directly in the path of those who want to believe the things that lead them away from God, holiness, and righteousness. In this sense, the Church judges the world and that makes them very, very uncomfortable and even angry.

Mystery of Godliness
Some of the foundations of truth are summarized in this mystery of godliness, which is all about Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God in a human body. The world doesn’t like this truth because it means they have to believe what Jesus said. He said there is only one way to get to heaven and that is through Him and that just doesn’t make sense to those who have no faith in Jesus.

He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit as proof that Jesus wasn’t a liar or a fraud. The world has tried to deny and disprove His resurrection ever since the first Easter Sunday. His resurrection also proves that our sins are forgiven and that He has taken them all on Himself. The world considers His resurrection foolishness because it isn’t scientific. But the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Him gives us the ability to life a holy life.
The angels testified to His resurrection the very first day. Angels are very popular in the world as long as they don’t talk about or point the way to Jesus. When they point to Jesus, they encourage holy living.

Read the book of Acts and you will find Jesus preached to the nations.
·         God’s plan was Jesus’ crucifixion
·         Sinful man put Him to death (and we are include in putting Him to death by our sins)
·         God raised Him from the dead
·         He is Lord and Christ
·         We need to repent of sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins

These points are also a mystery to those who don’t believe. They refuse to believe any of these points, especially the need to repent. However many believed then and still do today. The world doesn’t understand how people can change and live godly lives after they believe in Jesus.
Jesus was taken up in glory. Since He ascended, He will also return just as He promised. When He comes back again, He will take His Church up in glory. The Church is the godly followers of Jesus. There are many who claim to follow Jesus but are not living godly lives. Will they be taken up in glory also? It’s a mystery but I don’t think so.

Today is the day to respond to Jesus and seek Him before He comes back and it’s too late.

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