Do you know the love that arises from being a disciple-maker?

How I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

It is ten or eleven years now since Paul first shared the gospel with a group of women on the riverbank outside Philippi, a Roman colony. Lydia, an apparently wealthy woman, a seller of purple cloth, was his first disciple in Philippi to become a follower of Jesus. Planting this church in Philippi was different from earlier church plants because there was no synagogue in Philippi. It was a pagan Roman city but did have some God-fearers, people who, while not Jews, did believe in the God of the Jews and did pray to him. Such was Lydia. (more…)

Who sets an ambush for his own life?

Would you sabotage your life?

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
    and pendants for your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
    do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
    let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
    and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we shall find all precious goods,
    we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot among us;
    we will all have one purse”—
15 my son, do not walk in the way with them;
    hold back your foot from their paths,
16 for their feet run to evil,
    and they make haste to shed blood.
17 For in vain is a net spread
    in the sight of any bird,
18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
    they set an ambush for their own lives.
19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
    it takes away the life of its possessors. – Proverbs 1:8-19

While this exhortation in Proverbs 1 is aimed at young people who are establishing their values and worldview, the concluding proposition applies to us all.

That which is particularly applicable to young people is the recognition that listening to your parent’s wisdom isn’t just some old-fashioned idea; God says it is something that will bring you honor. The imagery is that of a graceful garland on your head (a crown) and pendants for your neck. These are emblems of honor, and they are earned by youth who accept parental-wisdom and do not rebel against their parent’s godly wisdom.  Picture the Olympic champion with the garland on his head and the gold medal around his neck. If you are a young person who has submitted to the Lordship of Christ, understand that this is a matter of being a disciple of Christ.  In Ephesians, Paul states it this way: (more…)

Who else wants true wisdom?

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:1-7

 

In my last post, I shared insight into the various types of parallelisms in Proverbs as an aid to understanding them. Today, I want to apply some of this to the mission statement or purpose statement if you will of the book. (more…)

Possessing the potent power of prudent proverbs

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:2-7

This is the mission statement for the book of Proverbs. Based on this mission statement, the book is for everyone. Regardless of how wise one may be due to lots of life experience or from unusual insight given by God as in the case of Solomon, we can always profit from reading and meditating in the book of Proverbs.

Wisdom literature, which includes Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of  Solomon, and Job, is a unique genre of literature. It is different from the historical narrative in which we get the Bible stories that are the fodder for children’s stories, and different from the epistles of the New Testament or the imagery of apocalyptic literature like Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel. These Wisdom books are also known as Poetic literature because they all contain lots of Hebrew poetry. When reading Proverbs, it is important to keep in mind the type of literature we are reading.

One key to help understanding Proverbs is to understand parallelism. Here are some examples of parallelisms of different types.

In synonymous parallelism, a second clause repeats the thought of the first clause using different words.

The evil bow down before the good,
    the wicked at the gates of the righteous. – Pro. 14:19

A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
    and his lips are a snare to his soul. – Pro. 18:7

In antithetical parallelism, the second clause presents a contrast to the first clause.

The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
    but the belly of the wicked suffers want. – Pro. 18:25

A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. – Pro. 17:22

In synthetic parallelism, the second clause continues the thought of the first clause.

Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense. – Pro. 19:11

Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
    open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. – Pro. 20:13

There is also parallelism of comparison in which one clause resembles the other.

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
    so is the sluggard to those who send him. – Pro. 10:26

A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. – Pro. 25:11

Occasionally a verse will be composed of three clauses instead of two.

Do you see a man skillful in his work?
    He will stand before kings;
    he will not stand before obscure men. – Pro. 22:29

When your eyes light on it (wealth), it is gone,
    for suddenly it sprouts wings,
    flying like an eagle toward heaven. – Pro. 23:5

When reading and meditating on Proverbs (this book is to be meditated on, not just read) ask yourself what kind of parallelism you are reading. The answer will help you to interpret what the proverb is communicating correctly. Today’s devotional is not so inspirational, but if this knowledge of parallelisms is new to you and you apply it, you will find yourself mining more nuggets of the gold of Biblical wisdom from Proverbs going forward.

Never forget, Jesus is the wisdom of God. You will find him in this book as well. Before meditating and studying Proverbs, don’t forget to ask the Lord to open your eyes to see wondrous things out of his word, including the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in the Proverbs. He is there.

God bless your reading and meditating on God’s word.

How to overcome a divided heart

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11

Every Christian has a problem, the same problem, we are torn between the love we have for the Lord and the love we have for this world.

The world is this system of life in which we live. It is the water we swim in like the goldfish. Everything around us is water, and it seems to be normal and just the way things are. But then, we become a Christian and realize that this world is upside down. The way of the Lord is frequently the exact opposite of how life is lived in this world system. (more…)

Love is the fulfilling of the law. But how?

The paradox of loving a law that condemns me.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  – Galatians 5:13-14

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. – John 14:15-21

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” – Mark 12:28-34

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. – 1 Corinthians 9:21

As I have worked my way through the book of Galatians, a question has presented itself to my mind about the Law and the love of God. It seems to me that most of the time in my life when these two subjects have been put forward, they have usually been juxtaposed as conflicting with one another. I believe that idea is wrong. The two are beautifully compatible and mutually supportive. I am considering the moral law primarily since it is the portion of the law that is enduring to the end of the age. (more…)

New creation, the only thing that really counts

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. – Galatians 6:11-18

Legalistic Christians are hypocrites according to Paul’s description. He says, “even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.” When I was much younger and didn’t have a broad grasp of the gospel, I too had rules that I inherited from some Christians around me. I was quick to impose those rules on others and found myself becoming a judgmental person. (more…)

Can a legalist really be hot for Jesus?

The incompatibility of legalism and love.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Galatians 6:1-10

Remember that the main thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians has been that we are not justified by the works of the law of Moses, but by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus. He has been emphasizing our freedom from the human effort to obey the law of Moses and our freedom to walk in the Spirit and grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Now he is getting really practical with it. (more…)

What works to overcome sin since human effort fails every time?

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:16-26

Every Christian has a struggle. It is a struggle that will, in this life, never go away completely. It should become lessened as we grow in the grace of Jesus Christ, but we can not let our guard down, or it will come roaring back. It is the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. (more…)