Respect in the church and family

Respect reveals as much as it builds relationship.  The Oxford dictionary defines respect as; “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”  Respect is displayed in the differential behaviour we have to those we feel merit it. Respect also says as much about us as it does about those who we respect.  We respect what we value and admire.  Some  respect rich people just because they love the money they have.  The same goes for power, social status,  wisdom or integrity.  What we value we respect others for.3

The apostle Paul tells Timothy to respect his elders and peers; “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1,2) Sharp disapproval or criticism has no place in family relationships because they express a denial of close relationship and assert one person’s superiority over another. Jesus took the notion of ‘superiority’ to a whole new level with His disciples; “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25,26) Those who serve merit respect because of their service. Those who are served merit respect because they also serve others in turn.

test-for-loveJesus defined the fundamental character of relationship within His church.  We are His disciples and His friend if we are obedient to His Word and love one another; “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)  Jesus is the Head of His church, nationally and locally.  Jesus is the center of all Christian fellowship in the church and the family.  If He isn’t then something is wrong.

The Bible gives us good guidelines to keep family relationships holy; “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers,do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:18-21) It all starts with submission and not just the wife’s. For truly Christian family relationships and by extension a church family relationships everyone – husband, wife, daughter, son – all must submit to Jesus first. When this happens then family relationships are characterised by giving respect rather than demanding it.

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Take heed to your doctrine

What is ‘doctrine’?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines doctrine as; “a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true.”  Truth, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t something that ‘works’ for you, makes your life easier or generally agreed on.  Sometimes the truth makes stops things that are working well, makes life difficult, and met with great opposition. Truth can become very unpopular and voted down by the people.

Holy bibleThe apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy went to the heart of any authentic ministry. Believe the truth, preach the truth and live the truth;  “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:6,7) Jesus said; “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) The Truth is the only way to God.john832

It all comes down to trust. A preacher must trust God because a lack of trust shows. Not only does God see it but people can see the double-mindedness in a person who doesn’t really believe what they are saying. Eternal salvation depends on trust; “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.” (1 Timothy 4:10,11) Paul exhorted Timothy to pay attention to his preaching and his doctrine; “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (v. 16) And we need to know good doctrine so we can guard the fellowship from fakes – doctrine and doctrine preachers.

What’s at stake – Salvation eternally and freedom in the here and now. Jesus was very clear about the truth’s power to break the chains that bind us; “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31,32) Good doctrine isn’t fancy stuff preachers learn at seminary. It’s Jesus. Get to know Him and stick with Him. You’ll be saved and live free.

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The falling away

Apostasy is defined as; “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.”   It’s not good.  And it’s even worse if it becomes a mission to draw others away.  But  if you believe truth isn’t really a ‘big deal’ in that there are  many truths all depending on the particular situation and viewpoint then apostasy isn’t such a ‘big deal’.    You can’t desert a position if you haven’t taken any position.  ‘Wishy-washy’ people never ‘fall away’.  But they are easily taken in by passionate apostates.

wishy-washyPaul warns Timothy about passionate apostates; “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)  Deceiving doctrines always forbid and make rules to draw people from true holiness.

The Gospel that saves doesn’t have anything to do with marital status or dietary restrictions. Paul tells us; “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, . . . ” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)  Holiness is complete and utter faith in the fact that Jesus died for us, God raised Him up and by His sacrifice we are saved!my-rock

Sadly, today’s ‘wishy-washy’ popular mindset provides a ready audience for false doctrine.  Paul warns; “For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4) What’s the solution? Stick with solid preachers; “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. (1 Timothy 4:6,7)

Jesus promised; “Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12,13)

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Respect the occupant!

If you visit someone else’s house you behave respectfully towards the owner.  Your behavior reflects your regard for your host.  You are in their home and a recipient of their hospitality.  You wouldn’t dream of ignoring, disrespecting or denigrating your host especially in his living room.  You wouldn’t doubt who he was.

where-god-livesThe apostle Paul was concerned that those entering the ‘house of God’ respect the occupant for Who He really is; “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) Paul emphasized that God is not an abstraction or an silent idol. God communes with His people; “Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3) In His true church people are aware of His Presence.

The Truth of God is the Truth of His history; “God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16) God and Jesus are one; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, . . . ” (John 1:103,14) Jesus tells us plainly; “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Jesus was received up in Glory. His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Living Word is with us as He promised; “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26) His Word through the His Spirit’s teaching reveals to His church; “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) When we enter His house we are not alone. The Holy Spirit inhabits His people as God inhabits their praises and worship.members-in-particular

You see, the church is more than just a building and we are more than just our bodies; “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) The Pharisees of this world will always have trouble with the reality that the body of Christ is His people and is collectively – the church. (John 2:19-22) Paul also clearly says  Jesus is the Head of the church; “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:18)

If you’re in a church that doesn’t respect and preach this truth then your in the wrong house!

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I wasn’t qualified . . .

The word qualification means; “a quality or accomplishment that makes someone suitable for a particular job or activity.”  Qualifications are what you have before taking a job.  When employers seek people to fill positions they look at qualifications and when people apply for positions they present their  qualifications for the job.  That’s the way the world works.5186871_f520

When we read Paul’s list of qualifications for Bishops (senior minister) and Deacons (associate or pastor) we see a lot of good qualities that are needed in the applicants; “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence . . . not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, . . . ” (1 Timothy 3:2-7) And; “deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. . . . be tested; [and] found blameless. .. . . , their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” (v. 8-12) But we have to be careful not to look at these qualities as achievements rather than blessings.

qualificationsThe way the world works, a person has to have achieved these qualities on their own before they are qualified to take the position.  That’s not the way the Bible tells us God works.  God has prepared our work and calling since before we were born; “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) He equips us because he called us; “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ.” (Hebrews 13:20,21)  And the ‘qualifications’ that the world thinks come before the job are the result of the equipping when we chose God; “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:15,16)

I was never qualified to do God’s work and I’m still not.  It’s Jesus that qualifies me; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Without Jesus, I’m just another empty suit!

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When Paul speaks for himself

Quite often people who work for a company have opinions different from the ‘company line’.  In a free and open environment, people are not afraid to voice their own opinions but when they are representing their employer they must be careful to distinguish between their opinions and the official position on an issue.  Usually, it’s not that difficult to do.  You just say something like; ‘this is my opinion’ or ‘the company I work for takes this position.’

opinionThe apostle Paul being an honest representative for God did the same; “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, . . . ” (1 Corinthians 7:12)   For other examples see 1 Corinthians 7:25 and 2 Corinthians 11:17.  Paul was clear on when he was giving his own opinion by  preceding it  with the ‘I’ word.   Matt Slick points out; “Paul was able to distinguish between his own words and those of the Lord and, again, the Bible accurately records what was said — including the differentiation between what was Paul’s opinion and what was God’s word.”

Difficulties arise when people confuse Paul’s opinions with God’s position on issues.  Paul’s opinion on women being subservient and silent in the church is a case in point; “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:12) This includes his argument backing up his opinion; “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (v. 13-15) Some people will wrongly label God’s Word as misogynistic because of Paul’s opinions.eisegesis

What does Paul say God’s position is on the issue of equality? Scripture records Paul telling us; “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) What does Paul tell us about how all people are saved; “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9) Although it may come pretty close, not even childbearing is enough to save a person.  Only God’s grace extended to us by faith in Jesus Christ saves.

Scripture  must always be read in context – the context of the historical situation, the context of the author, the context of the audience to which it was written and the context of the entire Testimony of God’s Word – the rest of the Bible.  We can’t pull out a verse or section of verses and ignore the context.  If we do we come up with a disjointed and confusing message.

The Holy Spirit’s help is essential when reading God’s Word.  Jesus promised; “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

Always ask Him to teach you.

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Keep a low profile – focus on the Mission!

Keeping a low profile  is the best way to live in a noisy contentious world. Changing the world  through activism isn’t our mission as Christians.  The world has already been changed to its core 2000 years ago when Jesus said, ‘it is finished’ (John 19:30)  At that moment; ” . . . the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27:51-53) The world changed and people noticed.

follow-meToday, many Christians and their leaders seem to have forgotten that  Jesus changed the world and they try to change the world for Him. Christians are called to lead the charge in changing the world for the better. This is an unBiblical call; “No matter how commendable the goal of such tactics, there is not one example in the entire Bible of political or social activism ever being advocated or used by God’s people.” (Dave Hunt – CHRISTIAN ACTIVISM: IS IT BIBLICAL?)  Our mission was given to us by Jesus, Himself; “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20)  This mission comes with a promise; Jesus will be with us always if we stay true to it!  And how do we do that?

Paul’s letter to Timothy calls the church to pray for all and live quietly: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2:1,2) Elsewhere Paul tells the church; “. . . aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside . . . ” (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12) Our neighbors notice that kind of lifestyle.

Jesus told us to be examples not activists; “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Dave Hunt shows activism to for what it is; “There is much talk today about ‘changing the world for Christ.’ In fact there is no biblical teaching or example to support that popular slogan. Rather than persuading sinners to live like saints, we must call them to heavenly citizenship through ‘repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts:20:21).”  When we follow Jesus, He is always with us as we encourage others to follow Him (not us).

It’s all about Jesus and His action on our behalf not our activism!

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