Good King Jehoshaphat!

-In The Eyes Of The Lord!

Over and over, in the Old Testament books of the Chronicles & the Kings, the authors identify each new king as “good” or “evil”— this king “…did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord” and that king “…did what was good in the eyes of the Lord.” As I read it I find myself asking, “what makes a good king good?” In what way does the text describe him that would cause God to declare him “good”? In fact, the Scriptures often do tell us what good kings do; and, in turn, we find for ourselves a godly example to follow! In His Word, God does tell us, often, to follow the godly examples of those individuals who are being led well, by the Spirit, to follow Jesus!

-Imitate Me As I Imitate Christ!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, “Be followers of me, even as I follow Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  Some of your translations say, “IMITATE me as I IMITATE Christ.” And, that’s NOT prideful as some unbelievers have claimed! That’s actually humility! That’s a disciple, of Christ, helping other disciples follow Jesus well! There’s another godly example, to follow, in Israel’s “good” King Jehoshaphat! His story is mostly told in 2 Chronicles, chapters 17-20. In summarizing his reign, as king of Judah, it says, “…he did what was right in the LORD’S sight” (ch 20, v. 32).  So, what did he do that that statement would be his legacy? What does it look like to live your life in such a way that God would declare, “…he did what was right in My sight”? I hope to answer that question over my next couple posts!

-Dependence On God For Everything!

What we find is this general principle:  “God calls the life ‘good’ that depends on what God can do & not what you can do.” It was the pattern of King Jehoshaphat’s life to live in utter dependence on God for everything! That was his manner of life. And, while he didn’t live that out perfectly, no one does! We’re all broken and depraved! But, he modeled a dependence on God both in his victories; and, in his failures! Here’s what Scripture says about him:  “Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the former ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals but sought the God of his father and walked by His commands, not according to the practices of Israel. So the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. Then all Judah brought him tribute, and he had riches and honor in abundance. His mind rejoiced in the Lord’s ways, and he again removed the high places and Asherah poles from Judah” 2 Chronicles 17:3ff. What encouraging words!

-He Sought His Father’s God!

After reading all the horrible stories of so many of Israel & Judah’s kings, before him, Jehoshaphat is like a breath of fresh air entering your lungs, isn’t he? So, what made him a good king? The writer is inspired, by God’s Spirt, to write that, “…he followed in the ways of his good father…” And, the reference is 1st to King David, isn’t it? Interestingly, it says, “…he walked in the FORMER WAYS of his father David…”  What does that mean? Literally, it means, “…the FIRST WAYS of his father David…” BEFORE his sexual sin with Bathsheba! And, then it refers to his father, Asa:  “…he sought the God of his father…”  David was his great grandfather 5 generations back; and, Asa was his biological father! I think it’s worth noting that following in the ways of your father is not common among sons! But, to Jehoshaphat’s credit, he obeyed the Word of God—he HONORED his father! And, he recognized & appreciated his godly heritage!  A great quality!

More Lessons From Israel’s Ark!

-A Symbol Of God’s Presence!

In my last post, I talked about Israel’s Ark of the Covenant that God instructed Moses to build as a reminder of the Covenant which God had made with Israel. It symbolized God’s presence with His people; and, that’s why it was so devastating to Israel when King Saul & the army was defeated by the Philistines & the Ark was part of the plunder they stole away from Israel. After succeeding Saul as king, David’s first priority, after securing the nation militarily,, was to retrieve the Ark & bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13). 

-The Disturbing Story Of Uzzah!

That’s where we find the disturbing story of Uzzah. As all Israel joined King David, in celebration, as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen, who pulled the Ark, stumbled! And, it says that God “…struck him dead…” because he touched it (v.9).  Doesn’t that seem harsh to you? Well, it did to King David. It says, “David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is still named today. David feared God that day and said, ‘How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?’” (13:11) But,  to David’s credit, his fear of God was that Holy kind of fear that drove him back to God in confession & repentance!

-Back To God’s Word!

And, ultimately back to the Word of God; where, we all need to go when we’re confused by the events that Sovereign God choreographs into our lives! Two chapters later, we read, “David built houses for himself in the city of David, and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, ‘No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before Him forever.’” (1 Chronicles 15) There’s only one place where David would have learned that— the Word of God! David returned to God’s word.  If you flip back, in your Bibles, to 1 Chronicles 13, you’ll see David’s fatal mistake, in v.1, when it says that David consulted “men” rather than God’s Word. And, Uzzah paid for David’s mistake with his own life!

-The Wrong Kind Of Worship!

There’s an incredibly important lesson here, when it comes to worshipping God! God is never pleased by our worship when we’re disobedient to His revealed will. In other words, there is a right way to worship God & there is a wrong way to worship Him. And, the only way we can know that we’re worshipping God rightly is to compare our worship with the Scriptures!  Jesus said: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit & truth.” John 4:24

-Worship In Spirit And Truth!

The correct posture, for Worship, includes our spirit AND TRUTH! David had the right spirit about bringing the Ark of God to Jerusalem; but, he wasn’t operating in the truth of God’s revealed will! And, let’s remember that David wasn’t in defiance of God’s Word! He was ignorant of it! God has revealed His Word to us & He makes us responsible for knowing it! Again, I can’t emphasize enough how desperate we need to be to carve time, out of our schedule, every day to read a portion of God’s Word! We’re responsible for knowing what He’s said! You and I need to learn the same lessons that David learned; and, in the truest sense it really wasn’t about the Ark at all! It’s about our attitude toward God when He speaks! It’s about elevating the message of His Word and obeying it! We need to apply, to our own lives,  the lesson David learned: “God is never pleased by our worship when we’re disobedient to His revealed will

Lessons From The Ark Of God!

-Indiana Jones!

So, have you ever seen the move, “Indiana Jones & The Raiders Of The Lost Ark”? Were you aware that the movie was actually based on the Old Testament story of Israel’s Ark of the Covenant? It was a 1981 Steven Spielberg film that starred Harrison Ford as an archaeologist who battled a group of Nazis searching for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. If you’ve never watched it, you need to! It’s iconic! Not that the movie is Biblically accurate; although, it is correct in a couple of ways— First, there really was such an item as the Ark; and, second, it really is lost!

-The Ark Of God

Back in Exodus, chapters 36 & 37, we read how God gave the dimensions for the Ark or “chest” to Moses! And, Bezalel was the skilled craftsman who actually built it from Acacia wood; and, overlaid it with gold! It’s ultimate significance was the “mercy seat” or cover of the Ark; where, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial lamb to atone for Israel’s sins. Obviously, the act foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make for sin on the cross.  It’s in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings that we read how King Solomon built the first temple, in Jerusalem, to actually house the Ark.

-Where Is It Now?

But, somewhere during the years following Solomon’s reign— in all  chaos of a split nation & a whole lot of evil, wicked kings— the Ark vanished; and, no one knows where. Much of Jewish tradition believes that it disappeared some time before or while the Babylonians sacked the temple in 586 BC and took many of the Jewish leaders into exile in Babylon. An interesting twist, however, is the claim of Ethiopian Christians that the Ark rests in a chapel in the small Ethiopian town of Aksum. They say it arrived nearly 3000 years ago; and, has been guarded by a succession of Monks who are forbidden to step outside the chapel until they die! These Ethiopian Christians believe that once the temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, according to Bible prophecy, that they’ll return the Ark as a gift to Israel (NOTE: They make a compelling case from Isaiah 18).

-Don’t You Love A Good Mystery?

Now, while I love a good mystery like that, I suppose God only knows for sure where the Ark is. So, just by observation, we’d conclude that the Ark was kind of a big deal to Israel! Perhaps you recall, from a reading in Exodus, that, after God had made a Covenant, with Israel; and, written the 10 Commandments on stone tablets, that He instructed Moses to have the Ark built and to place the stone tablets inside.

-God Struck Him Dead!

The Ark symbolized God’s presence with His people; and, that’s why it was so devastating to Israel when Saul & the army was defeated by the Philistines & they took the Ark away with them as they plundered Israel. But, after humiliating Dagon, the Philistines false idol; and, causing numerous plagues to strike several Philistine towns, they finally returned the Ark to the Israelite town of Kiriath-Jearim where it was when David is installed as King in 1 Chronicles, chapter 11. After securing the nation militarily, David’s 1st priority was to retrieve the Ark & to bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem (ch. 13).  That’s where we find the incredibly interesting story of Uzzah. As all Israel joined King David, in celebration, as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen, who pulled the Ark, stumbled! And, it says that God “…struck him dead…” because he touched it (v.9).  Harsh? Let’s come back to that next week!

Renewing Our Commitment!

-Our Entire City Needs Revival!

In preparation for a meeting, in a large city, Evangelist Billy Sunday wrote a letter to the mayor, of that city, and asked him for the names of various individuals that he could pray for that needed spiritual revival. The mayor surprised Mr. Sunday by sending him a city phone book!  “Our entire city needs revival,” he told him.  And, so does ours! And, so does yours! Every day I need God to revive my heart; because, left to my natural tendencies, in my flesh, I will choose the path of least resistance spiritually! I will remain apathetic! And, be honest with me— so will you, right? We all need a fresh outpouring, of God’s Holy Spirit, every day!

-Remove The Spiritual Indifference!

That’s revival! We need God to revive us daily, by removing our spiritual indifference & renewing our commitment to live for Him! Only as God revives us will we willingly rebuke ourselves— and, beat our chests in repentance— over our indifference toward God & His Word! Only then will we renew our commitment to crucify self daily & offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. In 2 Kings, chapters 22-23, we find that nation of Israel in a really bad place spiritually. They’ve drifted far away from the Lord God. They’ve given themselves over to idolatry & the worship of vile, heathen gods! They’re stuck in a deep sinful hole & they’ve been warned multiple times, by various prophets of God, that they were in danger of the imminent judgment of God!

-An 8-Year Old King!

And, it’s with that background that we’re introduced to an 8-year old boy, named Josiah, who becomes king of Judah. Scripture says he “…was eight years old when he became king and reigned 31 years in Jerusalem… He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left” 2 Kings 22:1,2.  And, there’s a great verse of Scripture, in 2 Chronicles 34:3 that parallels the story of King Josiah, here in 2 Kings. It says, “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a youth, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherah poles, the carved images, and the cast images.” I hope you can get a picture, in your mind, of what’s going on there; because, this was a GOD thing! In the 8th year, of his reign, while he was still a youth, he “…began to SEEK God…” He was 16 years old! And, in his 12th year, at age 20, he began to “clean house.” Please take that to heart if you’re a high school student or young adult! You can make a difference, in this world, for the Lord!

-Difference Makers!

We desperately need young leaders— both in the church & in the world— who will take their faith very seriously! Who will be intentional about reading & studying the Scriptures! Who will be intentional about prayer! And, about making disciples! And, for those of us, who belong to an older generation, let’s not be too harsh or quick to judge the younger generations! Let’s humble ourselves & admit that much of the Church, that we’ve led, is a mess! It’s a far cry from what Jesus intended for us to be! Let’s listen to those who are younger! Let’s dialogue with them so that together we can seek God’s help in correcting the mess we’ve made of Jesus’ Church! That was King Josiah’s dilemma! He was 8 years old & he inherited a nation the older generations had messed up! So, he sought the Lord God for help to lead a nation to revival!

Signs Of Revival!

-A Shipwrecked Man!

The story is told of a shipwrecked man who somehow managed to reach a small, uninhabited island. To protect himself from the elements & to safeguard the few possessions he had managed to salvage, from the wreckage of his boat, he builds a small hut from which he constantly scanned the horizon, looking for a ship that might pass by and rescue him. One day, after searching for food on the other side of the island, he returned to find his little hut completely engulfed in flames! Nearly everything he had left had perished inside of it! Devastated, his sorrow was turned to joy the next day when he awoke to find a small ship anchored off the island! When the captain came ashore, he told the man, “We saw your smoke signal & came to help!”

-Loss Leads To Rescue!

Ironically, it was the destruction of everything that the marooned man had left that led to his rescue! And, after the fact, he gladly gave up all his stuff in order to be saved from his plight! That story, in many ways, illustrates what it feels like when you’ve experienced a spiritual revival in your life. Like that man, you think you’ll lose some things, that have become precious to you if you agree to give up control & give it all to God.  But, in reality, holding onto all those things, that keep you from giving your life in total to God, has left you shipwrecked, marooned & impoverished. Spiritual revival is different from salvation! Salvation is to make someone alive who was dead, spiritually! That’s what God does, for us, when He saves us! We were “…dead in our trespasses & sins…” Ephesians 2:1-3.  But, God makes us alive when we admit our sinful brokenness & trust Jesus’ work on the cross to save us. If you made that decision, you probably still remember how alive you felt at that moment.

-Have You Lost Your 1st Love?

Over time, however, you may have lost that “1st Love”— to use the phrase, from Revelation, that described a backslidden church (Rev. 2:1-7).  Perhaps you were once on fire for Jesus! He was you “1st Love.” But, other things— perhaps college & careers & marriage & kids & houses & stuff—began to crowd Jesus out of that 1st place position, in your life, that He once held! So, you live with a divided heart & divided loyalties! The vibrant life you first experienced has been replaced with a sort of “dullness” toward spiritual things that you were once “alive” over! If that describes you then you are in need of REVIVAL! You need to be “restored” to the spiritual fervor you previously enjoyed! You need to be REVIVED spiritually!

-Revivals Are Nothing New!

Revivals are not a new thing! Because God’s people have always been prone to backslide in their faith— dating back to the Israelites under Moses; to, the times of the judges and the kings; and, to the Church today— God has found it necessary to bring revival to His people! We are sinfully depraved & broken & incapable of doing God’s work without the help of His indwelling Holy Spirit! We regularly need His reviving work in our hearts! All of us! We all need a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit! Daily! We need God to revive us by removing our spiritual indifference & renewing our commitment to live only for Him! Only as God revives us will we willingly rebuke ourselves; and, beat our chests in repentance over our indifference toward God & His Word! Only then will we renew our commitment to crucify ourselves daily & offer ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice” Romans 12:1-2. We’ll say more about this next week!

When Someone Betrays You

-It Can Be Devastating!

Betrayal can be one of the most devastating experiences anyone can go through! But,  just try and imagine if that betrayal came at the hands of your own flesh & blood. That was Israel’s King David’s experience when his own son, Absalom, turned against him (2 Samuel 15).  Absalom had the appearance of a movie star! Scripture describes him as having a handsome appearance from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head. And, the conditions, in Israel, were ripe for a rebellion. David was living in seclusion; perhaps, over the public guilt of his sin with Bathsheba & the subsequent murder of her husband. Domestically, David’s home was a mess.

-Setting The Stage!

When another of his son’s, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar, it was Absalom who came to her defense & murdered Amnon (his own half-brother). So, David banished Absalom and refused to see him; until, circumstances forced David to bring Absalom home. But, there was no fellowship between them! It was a very broken father-son relationship between them1 So, the rift grew & Absalom became committed to a plan to betray his own father & usurp the kingdom away from him. Every day he got up early & sat at the gate of the city to undermine the authority of his own father, the king, who was consistently a no-show when it came to judging the people—  “How sad the king won’t see you! If only I were king I’d rule with justice over your case.

-He Stole The Hearts Of Israel!

And, the text, of Scripture, says he, “…stole the hearts of Israel.” He masterminded a coup to overthrow his father, the king! And, how did David respond? He experienced a personal revival of his faith! As he’s forced to abandon his throne & run for his life, something inwardly beautiful begins to happen in David’s heart.  I wish I had more time & space to develop this; but, let me just show you one example. When David realized that Zadok, the priest, had brought the Ark of the Covenant with them, in their mad scramble from the city, look at David’s response:  “Then the king instructed Zadok, ‘Return the ark of God to the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, He will bring me back and allow me to see both it and its dwelling place’” 2 Samuel 15:25.  He wouldn’t make the same mistake the previous King, Saul, had made when he turned the Ark into some kind of “good luck charm”, brought it into battle; and, lost it to the Philistines! Saul used the Ark as an idol!

Confident In God’s Sovereignty!

No, David’s confidence was in God’s Sovereignty & providence! The next verse David says:  “if He (God) should say, ‘I do not delight in you,’ then here I am—He can do with me whatever pleases Him.” With God’s help, David is getting his spiritual act together again! This is a spiritual revival! He’s revisiting God’s grace! Absalom didn’t know about “grace.” He assumed that because David let God down, that God would let David down as well! That’s how every religion, based on works, thinks! But, that’s NOT how God works! He may discipline us— and, He was disciplining David— but, He never forsakes His own! So, when someone betrays you, how do you respond? Do you get angry with God & blame Him for your circumstances? Or, do you trust God’s intentions & His Sovereign control? Do you trust His promise that He will never leave you? When people disappoint you; and, they will, use it as an occasion to return to the Lord!

It Just So Happened!

-It Was No Coincidence!

So, the Old Testament book of Ruth begins with the sad story of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. Because of a severe famine, Naomi’s family moves away from Israel, their homeland. But, when her husband and 2 sons die, in a foreign land, Naomi decided it was time to return home! Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, determined to go with her! When it was time to look for work, Ruth found a job gleaning barley for a farmer, who just “coincidentally” happened to be one of Naomi’s relatives!  It reads, in ch.2:3, that “…she happened to be in the portion of land belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s (Naomi’s deceased husband) family.”

-Speaking Tongue-In-Cheek!

Whenever you come across a phrase like that—  “…happened to be…”— that’s the Bible speaking kind of tongue-in-cheek because there are no coincidences in the universe! None! God is Sovereign & Providential over everything that happens in our lives. So, this is just part of God’s “emptying” of Naomi in order to “make room” for Him. To fill her with Himself! Naomi says this about Ruth’s “chance” meeting of Boaz:  “May he be blessed by the Lord, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living or the dead.’ Naomi continued, ‘The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers” (2:20).  Now, a “family redeemer” sounds foreign to us because it’s not part of our culture; but, it was a provision that God put in the Law of Moses.

-The Family Redeemer!

In the book of Leviticus, the “family redeemer”— or, the “kinsman redeemer” some translations say— was a male relative who had the responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble; or, in danger; or, had an urgent need! So, here in Ruth’s story, Boaz was the family redeemer who steps into Naomi’s life! He redeems or buys back everything she had lost because of her husband Elimelech’s death. That included the land her family inherited when they entered the promised land; and, it also meant he would care for all of Naomi’s needs & he would marry her daughter-in-law, Ruth; and, raise up a family to pass on the inheritance to! That was the law, custom & culture of Israel’s family redeemer!

-Better Than 7 Sons!

So, Boaz marries Ruth; and, they have a child, Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered Israel’s King David, who’s genealogy ultimately included our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! The story of Ruth ends with these words spoken to Naomi by her friends: “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel.  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

-God’s Providential Blessings!

At the start of the story, Naomi said she was empty! Then, God emptied her of all the competing loves, in her life, that had become idols. But, God didn’t leave her empty! He never does! He fills her back up! That’s one of the great truths of Ruth’s story—God fills us up through His providential blessings in our lives! He’s always blessing us! Even, like Naomi, when we don’t see it! Sometimes, He has to empty us first of all the competing loves & interests  before He can make room to fill us with His blessings! We see His blessings only after we’ve emptied ourselves of all self-interests and quit making demands of God! When we submit to His Sovereignty & we humble ourselves & admit He knows best, then we are ready to receive His blessings! Only then will we see that Jesus is our “family redeemer” ready & able to save us!

Bitterness Toward God!

-What’s Right In Your Own Eyes?

The opening line in the Old Testament book of Ruth reads like this:    “During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land.” So, Ruth needs to be read, in the context, of the book of Judges. In other words, the events take place at that time when, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes…” Literally, people did whatever they wanted! They lived by the popular philosophy, of our day, called “moral relativism”; which, means that the famine was about more than a lack of food, water & the necessary provisions of life! There was a famine of “faith” in God & there was a famine of “moral character.” That’s the backdrop of Ruth’s story!

-A Redemption Story!

It’s a story about redemption! That is the overarching theme in Ruth’s story. In the opening verse, of the 1st chapter, we see that the famine prompted a man, named Elimelech, to leave Israel— with his wife, Naomi, and their 2 sons— and, move temporarily to the land of Moab. It appears, from the story, that Elimelech died shortly after their arrival; but, for whatever reason (perhaps because the famine raged on) Naomi continued in Moab & raised her 2 sons, who married Moabite women. Sadly, both her sons died; and, Naomi is left with only her 2 daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Naomi heard that God had provided for the needs of His people, Israel, and the famine had ended (v.6).

-Wherever You Go, I Will Go!

So, she set out to return to Israel by herself, encouraging her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab. But, Ruth was determined to go with her. In v.16, Ruth speaks those famous words to her mother-in-law, Naomi:  “For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” When Naomi & Ruth return to Naomi’s home town, everyone recognizes her:  “Is that you, Naomi?” But, notice her bitter response:  “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…” (v.20).

-Struggling With Bitterness?

If you’re struggling with bitterness, over the circumstances in your own life, Ruth is the book for you! If you look at all the junk going on in the world & you want to blame God, Ruth is a good book for you to read. Ruth was bitter with God:  “…the Lord has brought be back empty…” What the story reveals is that Naomi had competing gods in her life! So, God has to empty us of all our competing gods in order to break us & make us willing to bow to Him alone! Left to ourselves, we fill our lives with competing gods, from birth.  And, what are some of our false gods?

-The False Gods We Worship!

We are prone to worship the false gods of “safety” & “happiness” & “leisure” & a “pain-free life.” We worship the “gods” who make our lives bright & cheery; and, become satisfied with those things which will not last! And, like Israel, we choose those temporary pleasure gods & reject the God who offers eternal life! So, God has to remove some of those “other loves” in our life to create the space & capacity necessary to genuinely love Him! To truly worship God, with our whole heart, we have to denounce all the competing loves & interests; and, trust God’s Sovereign providence over all areas of our life! Naomi had some competing gods in her life from which she need to be delivered! At the end of the 1st chapter, they arrive in Israel at the time of the barley harvest. So, Ruth gets a job, working to glean the barley for a farmer who “coincidentally” was a relative to Naomi! Come back next week for the rest of the story!

The Church: Designed To Change Us!

The Local Church Community Sanctifies Us

Jesus never intended that we would “lone wolf” the Christian life as an individual! Rather, it was His plan to use the local church “community” to sanctify and change us! Read Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus; especially, chapter 4. It was clearly NOT his intent that we view “the Church” as some “universal body” out there somewhere! He spoke to the body of faith that made up the local Church of Ephesus.

The Body Ministers To The Body

In v.16 he tells this church that it’s the “WHOLE BODY” that ministers to the “WHOLE BODY” & spiritual growth happens in the corporate life of the church when all the individual members are working together properly— “In LOVE, building each other up!” Clearly, the “each other” referred to the believers in the Church of Ephesus; not, some “universal church” on the other side of planet earth—we can pray for believers on the other side of the planet; but, it’s simply impossible to build up believers with whom we have no contact!

Jesus Uses Other People To Change Us

Jesus intends to use all the different people, with their diverse personalities & traits, to change us! He uses the difficult people, the annoying people, the “special grace” people, and, the sinful people to smooth out our rough—and, sometimes sinful—edges! “From Him the whole (“local church”) body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the (“local church”) body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part (of the “local church”)” v.16.  It is by our unique, diverse, spiritual experiences, with God, that together—as a “local church”—we have the opportunity to provide rich counsel & support to each other! For the one struggling with alcohol addiction, there are believers, in the body, who’ve been delivered from it! For the one struggling with sexual sin, there are believers, in the body, who are winning that battle with the Spirit’s help! So, there’s someone who will stand with you & encourage you in the fight! For those who admit they are a gossip; or, a liar; or, have anger issues; or, a cursing tongue; or, they’re bitter—someone in the local church body has been there; or, they’re fighting the same battle; and, together there’s mutual support!

There’s An App For That

Jesus designed the Church to be that community, or family, that meets one another’s needs! Someone, in the local church family, has either overcome the sin your struggling with; and, can offer support; or, someone is fighting the same battle & together you can keep each other accountable & see God do a sanctification work in your lives!  In summary, here’s what Paul is telling the local Church of Ephesus: God makes us stronger “collectively” than we will ever be “individually.” It’s the lone ranger sheep, not engaged in the community life of the Church, that the wolf goes after! He’s easy prey! Now, perhaps your wondering where you can find this kind of church! I’m afraid they are few; and, far between! Pray! Ask God’s Spirit to direct you! Search out this kind of church; and, BE that kind of church member! God Bless!

 

 

I Am Not The Church! We Are!

-Jesus Sanctifies Us Through His Church!

Jesus uses His Church as a significant means to produce His intended changes in our lives.  Now, for many professed believers, in America, that is dissident because the Western Church has been such a huge disappointment & embarrassment. The problem has never been with Jesus’ Church; but,  with the human operation of His Church! We’ve “institutionalized” it when Jesus created it to be “communal.”

-What The Church Should Look Like

The Apostle Paul sets up what the Church should look like in his letter to the Church of Ephesus—I think we forget that this is written to a specific, local Church! He writes to “…the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus…”; and, 9 times in 6 short chapters he refers to them as the “Church”—“ekklesia” is the original Greek word; and, it literally means a “called out assembly.” God calls out His Church of Jesus-Followers from the people of the world; and, the point of their being “called out” is to “assemble” in “community”; or, “communally” like a family; and, to meet each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

-The Church Does Life Together

Just take the time to read through ch. 4 of Ephesians; and, don’t read it through the glasses of your “American Church culture.” The “you’s” are NOT to be read as individual “you’s”—it’s “YOU”, the CHURCH, the community of believers doing life together! “I urge YOU (the Church of Ephesus),” Paul says, “to walk worthy of the calling YOU (the Church of Ephesus) have received…” It’s a corporate calling—YOU, the Church of Ephesus, have this calling TOGETHER! Paul says they ought to be so entrenched in their calling, TOGETHER, that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in the way they do ministry as a BODY—v.2 “with…humility…gentleness…patience & love…”; v.3 there should be unity in their community that’s Holy Spirit driven “…with a peace that binds US.”

-The Local Church Is One Body

Read it in context—the “US” is the Church of Ephesus! And, the Church of Ephesus is ONE BODY (v.4); and, Paul doesn’t break the body down to it’s “individual” parts until we get to v.7, “…now grace was given to each one of us…” And, this “grace” came to each individual—in the Church of Ephesus—in the form of a GIFT (v.8) from Jesus, our Messiah & Savior, to build up their local Church in Ephesus!

-Jesus’ Goal For His Church

In ch.4, v.13, of Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus he writes, “…that we (the Church of Ephesus) reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of Jesus growing in maturity…” Because of our “American Church Culture” we read into that our “individual” walk with Christ; but, that’s NOT the context of Paul’s words! Their individual spiritual maturity was not to be a “solo” act! Paul is saying that the goal was a spiritually mature “Church community”—a Church no longer resembling a bunch of immature little brats (v.14); but, mature believers speaking the truth to each other in love (v.15).  In the next verse, Paul tells them it’s the “whole body” (the Church of Ephesus) that ministers to their “whole body.” So, here’s the application—Jesus intends to use our local churches to sanctify us as individuals! We grow spiritually in the BODY!