Friday, October 28, 2011

Rebuking Others – 1 Tim 4:11-12

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (ESV)

Command and Teach
That is a pretty strong opening. Here is the seasoned Apostle Paul telling the young pastor to command and teach. What kind of person do I have to be in order to command anyone else? It makes it sound very heavy handed and controlling. A couple of verses come to mind as I think about this.

1 Peter 4:11. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (NASB) There are certain conditions placed on commanding anyone anything. I would need to recognize that in this situation (being a pastor, leader, or teacher) if I were to command anything, I should consider it as speaking on behalf of God. Yuck, that sounds cultic or mystic. Cultic would be trying to control others and using God as justification. Mystic would be claiming to have a direct line from God that others don’t. This is really serious business. I don’t want to be anything like that. Therefore, I need to make sure that whatever I command lines up with what God has already said.
I think the Lord provided a wonderful balance in this when He instructed Israel in Lev 19:11-17. In these verses, He gave a lot of don’ts that expand on the Ten Commandments. Things like not stealing, lying, swearing, slander, and doing other things. He also provided a couple of things to do that deal with this topic of commanding and teaching. In verse 15, He said I’m supposed to judge my neighbor fairly. If I’m to judge fairly then the only way to do that is to judge according to His standard and not my own. If I command someone to stop or start doing something, then I better have all the facts and not work from hearsay. In verse 17 He says, “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” (NKJV) This came after commands not to be gossips or hate others in our hearts. So what must I do if my brother slanders another or gossips? I must rebuke him. This is a command and not an option. If I don’t rebuke the person, then I am participating in the sin by letting it go.

By the strength that God provides, not in my own strength, I should command others. When I do that, God will be glorified. Commanding others out of a sense of control and executing personal power over them is certainly not going to bring glory to God. Commanding others to do things contrary to God’s Word and claiming it is will not bring glory to God either.
Youthful Example

So Timothy was a young guy. Have you faced this kind of situation? An older Christian (both in terms of age and years as a Christian), one who certainly should know better, says or does something that is clearly out of line. What do you do? How can a person who is younger in both age and years as a Christian rebuke an elder? It’s even harder if the person is a pastor or an elder in your church. This is really hard to do. I would like to avoid conflict and just let it go.
However, this isn’t the instruction that Paul gives Timothy and I should follow the same example.  The way I’m living my life sets an example for all to see and can’t be denied. This is a putting practical advice to Jesus’ instruction in Matt 7:3-5 where He tells the hypocrites to remove the log from their own eye before helping other. If my speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity are all of good report, then the older person should note that and consider it when I approach him. If I’m not an example of holy living, then the rebuke, no matter how right, will probably fall on deaf ears.

There are some other things to remember when I have to rebuke my neighbor, whether he is older or not. Some people are simply not going to accept it. Unfortunately, some of us tend to think we have it all together and any rebuke is nothing more than criticism, my opinion verses his opinion. In this case, I have to remember some proverbs.
Prov 9:7-9 He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. (RSV)

I need to face the fact that I may very well end up on the person’s bad side. If the person was being rebuked for slandering another, then he may very well hate and slander me after I attempted to rebuke him. On the other hand, if the person is a Christian, I will first of all believe that he is a wise man and will welcome the rebuke and become even wiser. With this confidence I will approach him but also be prepared to be ignored or worse.
Rebuke hurts. Hopefully, it is hurting because I’ve grieved the Holy Spirit and I’m feeling the pain of knowing that I’ve failed to bring glory to my Lord. When I’m rebuked, I pray that I’ll be able to handle it correctly by repentance and thanking the person who brought it to my attention.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Toiling and Striving - 1 Tim 4:9-10

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (RSV)

God’s Work
I left off with Paul’s comments that training in godliness is of better value than physical training. He then emphasizes this by assuring us that what he said is a trustworthy statement. To prove just how trustworthy it is, he tells us that he has toiled and strived. However he isn’t doing it to gain a better life now, but in eternity because he has his hope set on God.
However, it is interesting that while training in godliness has eternal consequences, bodily training sometime is required to accomplish the work that God has provided for us. In many areas, a weak body can’t serve as well as a strong one. Paul is a great example of someone who must have been physically fit despite his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7) as he endured much physical abuse. While he gave all the glory to God, it is inspirational to see what happened to him.
2 Cor 4:8-11 We are  afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but  not forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (ESV)
I can’t say that there has ever been a time in my life when I was afflicted in every way. Sure, I’ve had problems as every person does. I can see in Paul’s comments that even though he was afflicted, he was physically spared. This is certainly not by his own strength. In Acts 14:19-20, he was stoned and dragged outside the city, yet he was able to get up and walk back into the city. Many of us have had to suffer disease and injury simply because we live in a fallen world. Few of us have suffered these afflictions because we were serving the Lord. If Paul could be so focused on eternity and the work that was before him that he could say he wasn’t crushed, who am I that I should complain when physical suffering occurs?
Sometimes we simply don’t understand what God wants or what He is doing. It is perplexing. Added to that is trying to deal with imperfect people. It can be very perplexing, especially when brothers and sister in the faith don’t live up to our expectations for the name, Christian.
What kept Paul from being driven to despair especially when some were intentionally trying to antagonize him while he was in prison (Phil 1:17)? Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (NKJV)
To Live is Christ
I read that well known verse and nod my head in agreement until I stop to ponder what Paul meant when he said, “to live is Christ.” It isn’t exactly good English to put a proper noun after the verb is. I expect a verb or adjective would normally be here, but Paul is attempting to convey a meaning of life that surpasses all the adjectives he could throw at it. It is much more profound that he stated to live is Christ. Everything that Jesus is, all that He represents, all that He commands, all that He has done for us, is what makes living as a Christian worthwhile.
Paul could suffer all the things that happened to him because His life had become Christ living through him. Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV) If I’m to say that to live is Christ, then I have to have the same attitude that Paul expressed. I have to be able to say that I’ve been crucified with Jesus. I have to consider all my personal desires dead. Anything that I want to do has to be what Jesus wants to do. That’s extremely radical. That can only be done by faith in Jesus. That is a radical faith.
My struggle is knowing what Jesus wants to do. It isn’t as if He has taken over my body and I’m just going along for the ride. I have to make decisions about everything from when to get up in the morning to what kind of toothpaste to use. What kind of work am I supposed to be doing or what ministries should I be doing? Fortunately, Paul also gave some instructions. 1 Cor 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (NASB)
Jesus needs people to live and work in this world not only as missionaries like Paul, or Pastors like Timothy, but also as common people who go to work every day. The way I live must glorify God. I can do that when I do it for Him or unto Him. If I’m doing it only for my own needs, then He is robbed of the glory and I’m robbed of the reward.
I don’t have a problem with the “to die is gain” part. The benefits there are overwhelming. However, there are many who can’t see this. Their life on earth is far more important to them than eternity with Christ. This is a reflection of their walk with the Lord here. I don’t think they can say, “To live is Christ.” To live is to get married. To live is to have a career. To live is see children married or graduate or have children. When all of their life is tied to things of the world instead of Christ, then death means an end to what gives them pleasure and meaning.
We need to get it in the right order and make sure that to live is indeed Christ. When we have our hope set on the living God, Jesus, then we not only say to live is Christ, but we will also be able endure the hardships that come in this world. Paul faced things most of us will never see in our lives. However, his attitude was completely wrapped up in giving glory to God.
2 Cor 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (NASB)
He didn’t just put up with hardships, but was content with them. When was the last time you were content with an insult? Sometimes, the hint of an insult can bug me. It’s very hard to live up to being content with everything from weakness to persecution. I don’t think we really consider this verse very often. When James says that we need to consider our trials to be joy, I think about severe, life-threatening, painful stuff. I don’t think about simple weakness, insults, or minor problems as trials. Because of that, it makes it too easy to grumble about them.
I just need to keep my eyes set on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, my Savior, my Lord. When I do that, then I can strive, toil, and do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Col 3:17).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What is Arrogance?

Do you think people who confident of their faith in Jesus Christ are arrogant? Have you been called arrogant because of your faith in Jesus Christ? If so then read on and decide for yourself who is arrogant.

I recently witnessed a two-sided conversation that started out with a person who said that Susan B. Anthony distrusted people who know so well what God wants them to do, because it always coincides with their own desires.

The second person responds that the statement is rather offensive to those who actually believe that God directs their path.

The first person says that feeling and believing that personally is one thing. He then adds that when a person claims his God is ordering the path of others, it is the height of arrogance as well as other adjectives. The other adjectives were not expressed but conjure up the worst.

That effectively ended the conversation and left the second person realizing that some people are so anti-God that any expression of faith will be called arrogance or worse.

I would like to note that Susan B. Anthony’s quote is in keeping with the same debate style as the first person. She used the word always to describe a behavior, which by her distrust, puts it in a negative light. Always is an all-encompassing word that should not be used instead of generalizations. That means that Ms. Anthony had never seen anyone like William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, who knew what God wanted him to do and did it. It has resulted an immense benefit for thousands if not millions of people. She had never seen a person of faith give up everything he had ever wanted to serve others in his own or other countries. The second person may have understood this and therefore correctly assumed that Ms. Anthony distrusted all Christians who have a good understanding of God’s will as expressed in the Bible.

The first person then rebuts the second and brings up his own issue with people of faith that has nothing to do with Susan B. Anthony’s quote or the second person’s comment. It is as if the first person is lashing out to make sure that any statement of faith will be duly suppressed in his presence.

Using the dictionary definition of arrogant, an arrogant person is one who is proudly contemptuous, i.e. feeling, or showing self-importance and contempt or disregard for others. I would ask you, which person above is showing arrogance?

I have personally been called arrogant for my faith. The first time was when I expressed that I knew for sure that I was going to heaven. I was told that it was arrogant for a person to presume to know something that no one can know.

To be arrogant about going to heaven, I would first have to be proud about it. Pride in getting into heaven can only come if I were able to do something that would earn my right to get there. Unfortunately for many, the Bible is clear that heaven can’t be attained by doing a bunch of good things (Eph 2:8-9). It can’t be earned by sacrificing animals or myself (Ps 49:7). It can’t be attained by belonging to the right church or the right family (Matt 3:9). I could be the very best person in the world and still not be good enough to stand before God and expect Him to let me into His presence based on any of these things. The Bible is very clear about that.

Instead the Bible is clear that the only way I can get into heaven is by faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on my behalf (John 14:6, Rom 3:21-26,  5:17, 21, 1 Cor 1:30, Phil 1:11). There is no room for pride or self-importance in that. It means that I have to recognize my sinfulness and a need for Jesus to pay the penalty for that sin since I can’t do it myself. Again, the Bible is clear on this as well.

Finally, I can know that I will go to heaven because that is what the Bible tells me when I believe on the name of Jesus Christ (1 John 5:13). My confidence in knowing this is not based upon me but on what God has said.

Who is arrogant? Is it Is it the one who presumes to know how God works without knowing what He has said in the Bible or is it the one who has studied the Bible and believes what it says? Is it the one who presumes that people with faith in God can’t know what God wants or is it the ones who have determined that God wants people to place their trust in Jesus and have done that?