Category Archives: Knowing Christ

Jerusalem

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Luke 9:43-51, (NLT)

Jerusalem would be the site of a cosmic event that would change everything. Luke strategically places Jesus’ resolve to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) squarely in the middle of three waves of messengers in Luke 9:1-10:24. Luke is preparing us for a series of parables, teachings and incidences in the life of Christ that go way beyond the teachings of a new religion. These unique accounts in the gospel of Luke go straight to the heart.

WHO IS THIS MAN?

With the first wave of messengers, the 12 disciples, Luke tells us of King Herod’s quest, asking, “…who is this man about whom I hear such stories?” (Luke 9:9). Herod never discovers the answer to his question, even when Jesus is brought before him in court (Luke 23:6-12, NLT). The multitude is satisfied after being fed; but, Luke does not say much more than that (Luke 9:10-17, NLT).

THE DISCIPLES

Tracking the disciples through this section, however, we soon realize that they are the focus of Jesus’ attention as He resolutely sets out for Jerusalem. With Peter’s declaration that “You are the Messiah, sent from God” (Luke 9:20) we now watch them wrestle with the reality of that observation through the remainder of this section.

Three times Luke mentions Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (Luke 9:21-22, 31, 43-45). Meanwhile the disciples try to formulate their own solutions to the challenges they face. For example, they tell Jesus to send away the crowds (9:12), they equate Jesus with Moses and Elijah (9:33), they try to determine who is the greatest among them (9:46), they stop their ‘competition’ (9:49-50) or they suggest destroying a Samaritan village for rejecting them (9:54).

JESUS: THE SON OF GOD

Satan's Fall From Heaven 
"Like Lightening" Luke 10:18
Satan’s Fall From Heaven
“Like Lightening” – Luke 10:18

Finally, Jesus speaks to His disciples from His eternal perspective as the Son of God who gives power and authority to whomever He chooses. This is what the kings and prophets of old longed to see and hear about (Luke 10:22-24).

But, reaching back even further, Jesus tells them about being at His Father’s side as Satan was ejected from heaven (See Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12). The warning he gives the disciples is clear: “…don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

POWER WARNING

The danger the disciples face as they emerge from their world to see the world from God’s perspective is mistaking their authority and power as their own. “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” (Luke 10:17) sounds a lot like they were starting to take credit. Jesus’ warning to them is a sober reminder to us as well.

Beware, as God’s authority and power begins to transform your life and strengthen your faith! The evidence of His hand in your life is neither something you have earned nor deserved. As we will be reminded in the middle of the next section of Luke’s gospel account (Luke 10:25-19:48), there is only one appropriate response: ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty’ (Luke 17:10).

Ephesus

Sunday, July 14, 2019

1 Timothy 2:1-15

INTRODUCTION TO THE CONCLUSION

Getting to know Christ certainly involves learning about Him. For those of us who have been doing this for a while, it is easy for us to settle into what we know…at least, what we think we know. As we grow in knowledge and mature in wisdom about Christ it is important to both refresh and renew our understandings periodically.

There is no doubt that the apostle Paul illustrated this belief in the importance of coming to know Christ (Philippians 3:7-11, NLT). So, it only makes sense that we spend time in Paul’s letters as a path to knowing Jesus. However, if this is the beginning point in our quest we are vulnerable to distortions.

A METHOD TO KNOWING CHRIST

In my opinion, the way we perceive Paul’s writings must be shaped by a knowledge of the Old Testament, paying particular attention to those passages that pointed to the coming of Jesus (1 Peter 1:10-12, NLT). Our perceptions of Paul’s writings must also be understood in the light of the four gospels (Luke 1:1-4; John 21:24-25, NLT). Then we will be equipped to more accurately grasp the reflections of Christ as He is further revealed in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, John and James and the other books of the New Testament.

THE METHOD APPLIED

This focus upon God’s equality of relationship to men and women in the Old Testament that is powerfully illustrated in the life of Christ has been out touchstone for studying Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. With 1 Timothy 2 we, thus, conclude this study on men and women’s roles ( Image, Servants, Corinth) for now.

1 TIMOTHY 2

Paul’s letter to Timothy was a personal correspondence between the two of them about the church in Ephesus where Timothy was serving as a minister.  The cultures of Corinth and Ephesus were very similar. So were the challenges faced by the Christian community with subtle differences that are easy to miss.

CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING

Context is everything to, first, understand what Paul was addressing in Corinth and Ephesus. Secondly, how do we apply these letters to our world today, almost 2,000 years later. Last week we focused upon the context for the church in Corinth. This week we centered our focus upon part of Paul’s message to Timothy. It’s all about Christ and the relationships of the Christian men and women in Ephesus.

Just the use of the word ‘silence’ is particularly interesting. The subtlety of meanings between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are challenging to communicate. The difference can be highlighted in Luke’s account of Paul’s address to the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem in Acts 21:40 and 22:2. Here the same root words are used respectively between 1 Corinthians 14:34 and Acts 21:40 in contrast to the same root words used in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and Acts 22:2. Subtle but significant understandings that are clarified by their respective contexts.

VALID OPTIONS

At least three factors in this passage are significant in our understanding of Paul’s message to Timothy. First, Paul’s use of the word translated “peaceful” and “quiet” in verse 2 should give insight to his use of the same word later in verses 11 and 12. The word ‘silence’ in the New King James version does not recognize the subtle contrast, for example.

Second, it is a valid question to ask whether or not Paul is referring to ‘women’ in 1 Timothy 2:11 and ‘woman’ and ‘man’ in verse 12 or, more probably, ‘wives’ and ‘husbands’ in 1 Timothy 2:12. Once again, context is everything as Paul follows up with the first husband and wife (Adam and Eve) in verse 13 to make his point.

Finally, the reading that makes the most sense of the enigmatic statement that “women will be saved through childbearing” in verse 15 is a reference to ‘the childbearing’ of Mary giving birth to Jesus, thereby reversing the curse “if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (NIV). Including the article ‘the’ is important in helping us understand what Paul is saying in this verse; yet, it is omitted in most of our translations. An exception is found in the God’s Word translation: “However, she and all women will be saved through the birth of the child, if they lead respectable lives in faith, love, and holiness.”

CONCLUSION

Concluding our understanding of the passages in 1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40 and 1 Timothy 2:1-15, I would suggest the following, believing both statements to be true at the same time:

  1. Wives need to honor and respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), especially in public worship (1 Cor. 11:2-14:40; 1 Tim. 2:1-15).​
  2. Men and women should respect each other’s complementary roles in Christ as God calls men to provide spirit-led servant leadership.​

As an extension of this observation, based upon this entire portion of our study, Knowing Christ, we have concluded that the following statements represent our understanding of these passages thus far:

  1. As servant leaders, men should ask women to exercise their God-given gifts to serve, sing, pray, read and speak to edify the body; not to compete but to complement.​
  2. When women accept the invitation to use their gifts, they are quietly supporting their leaders, complementing their efforts to edify and care for the body of Christ.​

My conclusion is that this approach is upheld by God’s relationship to men and women in both the Old Testament Scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is the difficulty of translating subtle shades of meaning in words and respecting context that has contributed to many misunderstandings over the years. Freedom in Christ is so much more than freedom from law. It also means that we, as God’s children, can appreciate and celebrate each other’s God-given roles and gifts equally (Galatians 3:22-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18).

Ephesus – Silence and Quietness

REFERENCES

On a personal note, it seems to me that the roots for much of our struggle with the text in 2 Timothy 2:11-15 are found in translating the subtleties of the original language into English. For a more surgical analysis of this challenge I would refer those who wish to probe further to the following resource:

Geer, Thomas C., Jr. “Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim. 2:8-15.” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1993), Vol. 1, Edited by Carroll D. Osburn, pp. 281-302.

I heartily recommend the two-volume set! <>< steve

Corinth

Sunday, July 7, 2019

1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40

Paul addressed some pretty significant challenges in the church in Corinth: a large metropolitan city with incredible diversity.  A first-century world filled with diverse religious beliefs and practices, international cultures and traditions, wide gaps between the rich and the poor, polarizing social and political convictions, and so much more. Sound familiar?

SIMILAR WORLDS

“…few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.

1 Corinthians 1:26

Almost all of the issues in Corinth can be traced back to the contrast between rich and poor. Many of the wealthy and powerful of which Paul speaks were likely well traveled, versed in the latest trends, educated, influential among the elite and familiar with the best foods, latest styles and current events. The poor of the day, just like today, illustrate a stark contrast between lifestyles and experiences.

CHURCH OF CONTRASTS

Now. bring these wise, rich, famous and powerful people together with a number of poor people and slaves–and every point in between–and you have the first-century church in Corinth. Here, the rules change because all are equal before the cross of Christ. Just look at 1 Corinthians 11 with men and women wearing the latest fashion and hairstyles (vss. 1-16) and what was happening during the Lord’s Supper (vss. 11:20-22). Mix this with the cacophony of voices competing for attention in chapter 14.

Key to those challenges was keeping their focus upon Christ and not upon the differences between each other.   This truth lies at the center of our study about the roles of men and women in the church.

Corinth – Cosmopolitan Church

SERVANTS

Genesis 1-3 – Sunday, June 30, 2019

Being servants does not come naturally for many of us. When we reflect upon our own hearts it is not long before we realize that selfish motives stand behind our service to others. Perhaps we desire recognition or praise (pride). Or we want or need something someone else possesses (envy). Maybe we just want to feel good about ourselves so we serve others (co-dependency). It is difficult to check our motives at the door and selflessly serve someone else because it is the right thing to do.

In our quest to know Christ we are examining His example of service and His teachings about servanthood. Particularly as this challenge relates to grand-scheme ideas, we are looking at the creation and fall of mankind at the beginning, tracing themes through the Old Testament and looking at Christ. This way we set our quest’s compass for navigating the ways of God’s kingdom people for treating each other; particularly as it relates to men and women.

IN THE BEGINNING – GENESIS 1-3

“Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. ” (Genesis 1:26, NLT). From God’s perspective, the only difference between the sexes was a matter of birth order. Adam was born first (2:7), he was placed in the garden to tend and watch over it (2:15), God told him about the 2 trees in the garden (2:16), and he named all of the animals (2:18-20). Then God created Eve from Adam’s rib (2:21-25).

So, of course, the serpent approaches Eve, not Adam (3:1) who had likely told Eve of God’s warning (3:2-3), and, with Adam standing there with her, she reaches for the fruit, takes a bite and hands it Adam, in his silence. And Adam goes along, taking a bite from the fruit, himself (3:6-7).

The consequences of their choice to become their own gods come swiftly as God individually addresses the snake, the woman and the man. In addition to the pain of childbirth, the woman is told that her desire will be for her husband and that he will ‘rule over’ her (3:16). And, so it starts with this idea of male leadership and what it is supposed to look like as Adam, now, names Eve and God banishes both Adam and Eve from the garden with specific instruction to Adam who is sent out of the garden to cultivate the land (3:23).

GOD’S ADJUSTMENTS

History is replete with cultures who have supported male dominance, power and control while imposing lesser status and worse upon women. The Jewish nation was not immune:

“…the second creation account [in Genesis 2-3] was used in later Judaism to support the principle of female subjection to men and to condemn woman as the first sinner.”

Edwards, R. B. “Woman”, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1988, Vol. 4, pp. 1090-1091.

Nonetheless, God continued to point towards equality with differing roles, in spite of mankind’s bent. And so, for example, we have God’s instructions for male leadership to provide (Genesis 3:17-19), to lead (Deuteronomy 24:5) and to protect (Malachi 2:15-16).

CHRIST: THE SERVANT LEADER

We would expect Christ’s teaching and example to continue God’s perfectly balanced approach to men and women as he talks about leadership. For me, this is the crucial hinge that prepares us for the writings of Paul as he addresses the differences between men and women in church. We simply ask, how did Jesus define leadership in God’s kingdom?

When Jesus spoke of the glory days when those who are ready and waiting for their Master’s arrival will be rewarded by their Master putting on His apron, pulling out their chairs for them and waiting on them at the banquet table (Luke 12:35-38). Servant Leadership.

Other examples sandwich the Passover meal transformed into the Lord’s Supper as Jesus, who “…knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.” takes upon Himself the role of a slave and washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-5). Then, amazingly, after the supper, Jesus’ disciples begin to argue about who was to be the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus’ instruction is clear:

Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

Luke 22:24-27, NLT

PAUL POINTS BACK TO CHRIST

This approach to biblical leadership is validated by the apostle Paul himself as he looks for a metaphor to describe Christ’s relationship to the church. Naturally, of course, Paul appeals to God’s design for the relationship between husband and wife in 1 Corinthians 11:7-8, 11-12, NLT) and men and women in the kingdom of God (Galatians 3:27-29, NLT). They have differing roles and the male is the leader; but, what kind of leader does Paul paint?

THE SERVANT LEADER

Ephesians 5:21-33 sets the stage as Paul describes Christ who “gave up His life” for the church as he points to husbands to make it clear: this is how you do it. In this passage Paul tells how Christ, in laying down His life for the church, honors it, cherishes it and lifts it up in wondrous ways by serving her (5:25-27). This kind of servant leadership reaches back to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, the Old Law and the Prophets, right up through Jesus’ teaching and example, culminating in the cross.

Servnats

IMAGE

Sunday, June 23, 2019 – Genesis 1:26-29

When God created human beings in His Image, he did not distinguish between men and women. Each was created in God’s Image and given the command to ‘rule’ the earth (Genesis 1:26, 28).

Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image equally with equal responsibilities. God also makes the point that man is isolated and alone, in need of another person to complete him (Genesis 2:15-22). When they come together they are unified as one (Genesis 2:24).

IMAGE TRANSITIONS

This is the beginning point for any discussion of roles for men and women in the kingdom of God. It is from this point that we move, next, to the curse of the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden.

It is worth noting that Satan approached Eve instead of Adam. Further, Eve acted unilaterally, and chose to take and eat of the forbidden fruit first while Adam–who was with her at the time and could have stopped her–remained silent, accepting the fruit from Eve (Genesis 3:1-7). The curse upon Eve was very specific:

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
    and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
    but he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16, NLT

IMAGE & CURSE RAMIFICATIONS

I do not feel it is exaggerating to state that mankind’s efforts to understand the nature and function of this hard-wired curse in real life has created problems. Indeed, it seems safe to say that this tension between men and women exists universally because of the very nature of the curse itself.

Indeed, in the United States, for example, it was just shy of 100 years ago that women were finally given the right to vote in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Male dominance, power and control over women characterizes so many cultures and religions of so many parts of the world that we need not list them. That to which we can be certain, however, is that this social order was not the intention of God in the beginning and, I would contend, even after He declared the curse in the garden.

GOD’S IMAGE INTENTIONS

In the Jewish literature of the Bible itself we realize the tension that existed in contrast to other sources of archaeological evidence from the world around them. It is in the midst of this that God identifies gifted people to accomplish His will without regard to gender. Download the .pdf file below to track God’s use of women in spite of the culture’s limitations.

Willis, John T. “Women in the Old Testament,” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, Vol. 1, Ed. Carroll D. Osburn, (College Press Publishing Company, 1993), pp. 25-40..

GOD’S IMAGE AND JESUS

Of course, Jesus blew past cultural norms in so many ways that it seems to be just sort of assumed by the disciples. For example, John notes that Jesus had to go from Galilee to Judea so, he had to go through Samaria (John 4:3-4, NLT), totally disregarding the animus between Jews and Samaritans. In fact, in this story the Samaritan woman at the well is amazed that Jesus, a Jewish male, would be talking to her, of all people (John 4:9, NLT). This is only one of a list of encounters that showed Jesus’ continuation of God’s intention towards people, male and female alike. Click the link below for a list of passages studied for today’s lesson:

Shelly, Rubel. “From Property to Partnership”, in A Jewish Savior Through Gentile Eyes: Studies in the Gospel of Luke, 1990, pp.33-43.

IMAGE CONCLUSION

When we examine the interaction of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ with women throughout history, we do not see the cultural biases of the times. Certainly, they would work within those boundaries but not in a conforming way; rather, they–of course–lead the way in dealing with people.

Could it be that the main problem for us is not women and their role in the church; but, rather, men and their understanding of leadership in the kingdom of God?

Image

WORSHIP

Sunday, June 16, 2019 – John 4:1-26 (NLT)

Jesus said that God’s true worshipers would worship Him in spirit and in truth. Jesus would state clearly that “God is Spirit” (John 4:23-24, NLT). Therefore, the logical conclusion is that we are called to worship Him in His realm to which He has called us when we were ‘born from above’ (John 3:3, GW) or ‘born again’ (John 3:3, NLT). The key to worship God in His element is not something learned or generated in this world; it comes from God Himself.

How can we know of God’s spirit’s resonance with our own spirits? Jesus told Nicodemus that it is like the wind. While we cannot see the wind, we can certainly discern it’s effects (John 3:5-8, GW).

HE NEVER SAID ‘STOP!’

The Gospel accounts provide multiple incidences where people would be suddenly overwhelmed with the divine nature of Jesus’ presence. Some examples include the calming of the storm on the lake of Galilee (Matthew 14:33), the ‘sinful woman’ who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 6:36-50), the Gentile woman who worshiped Jesus and begged Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15:21-28), and the blind man, sought out by Jesus, who could now see but was excommunicated from the synagogue (John 9:35-38).

Jesus never asked anyone to stop in their worship of Him; although, He did ask Mary to stop ‘clinging’ to him because He had not yet ascended (John 20:17, NLT). Worship was always appropriate when Jesus was in the presence of people who were overwhelmed by His divine might, power and love. Resonance. Wind. Spirit to spirit.

WORSHIP JESUS ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

We conclude that worshiping Christ is always the right thing to do. Any time, wherever we are and whatever we may be doing is always the appropriate time and place to worship Him.

As stated by John Piper:

“All the world worships something. From the most religious to the most secular, all people value something high enough to build their lives around it—even if unconsciously. Jesus demands that every person in the world build his life around the infinite worth of God in Jesus. Consider what you are worshiping. Then ask Jesus to open your eyes to the truth of God’s supreme worth and to awaken your spirit to treasure him above all.”

– John Piper, What Jesus Demands From The World, 2006, p. 104.

	

Jesus

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sermon: “Jesus!”Matthew 10:37-39 (NLT)

Children play a game called “Simon Says”.  It is a game where players must do exactly what they are told to do.  Players who fail to correctly follow directions are disqualified.

In man-centered religion we play a religious version of Simon Says.  When Jesus says “Follow Me” we think that He means, “Follow the rules.” But, as Jesus told Nicodemus, all who have only been born in this world are already condemned before God (John 3:18).  Following the rules may come naturally for us, but it does not save us.

To be saved we must be “born from above” or “born again” by believing in God’s Son.  Our lives become Christ-centered (John 3:3), not man-centered. 

When we believe in Jesus, we follow a Person Who Is God.  Christ is not a rule-book.  When Jesus says, “Follow Me” we believe that we are called to follow Him!

Knowing Christ: Jesus!

Resources for Sermon Videos

Acappella.org

Faithful God Series: “Jesus, Only Jesus”

SkitGuys.com

Wind

Sunday, May 19, 2019

John 3:1-21 (GWT) – Nicodemus

Knowing Christ is a heavenly activity that moves into our lives as we are born from above. Like the unseen movements of the wind it is a great mystery directed by God Himself.

When we are born again into a new awareness, our flesh and blood hosts heavenly influences. We grow as we interact with God’s word, His people, our daily experiences, our suffering and so much more. Everything in our lives is transformed as we see the evidence for God in every aspect of our lives. Every experience. Every encounter.

BORN FROM ABOVE & BORN AGAIN

The Greek word John uses here can be translated as either “born from above” in contrast to “born again” (vss. 3, 7). As in so many other instances in John’s gospel, each translation wonderfully enriches the conversation. Both are correct at the same time! Like the wind that invisibly envelopes us Jesus speaks of a total and complete transformation of our lives in every aspect, every detail leaving no part of our lives untouched by the Holy Spirit.

The evidence of God’s transforming power in our lives is in the works He produces in us that demonstrate His power and love (Jn. 3:21). What a tragedy to believe that our works or ‘correct thinking’ have anything to do with earning a place in God’ s kingdom! The works we do and the things we say are the evidence of God’s influence in our lives which have been born from above.

NICODEMUS

The story of Nicodemus is one of those watershed stories. Here Jesus lays out the infinite realities of our lives of flesh and blood transformed by the new life that comes from above. The following Skit Guys video beautifully draws the contrast between ‘flesh and blood’ and the Spirit’s transforming work.

CONCLUSION

The conclusion of the matter is found in John 3:21 where Jesus teaches that our works that point to our being ‘born from above.’ This is because our mission is found in living out the transformation that is taking place in us.

Wind

KNOWING CHRIST

On Sunday, May 19, at 11:30 a.m. we will begin a new series entitled “Knowing Christ”. The apostle Paul tells us that knowing Christ is the most important thing in life (Philippians 3:7-9). 

Yet, rather than letting God’s word show us how this is done, we are often drawn to what comes naturally for humankind: traditionalism and legalism.  If we are not careful, we, too, can fall victim to this tendency towards traditions, laws, and rules. These are the primary markers for any other religion in the world created by men. 

But in Jesus Christ, we follow a person, not a rule book.  We worship a living, active God, not a set of commandments etched in stone.  We are hosts to the personal, indwelling Holy Spirit, not a list of unyielding traditions.