LOVE NOT THE WORLD (part 3)

UntitledDo you know any scripture that contradicts this command which says we can love the material things of the world but are not to love “worldliness” or the “evil” things which are in the world?  At first glance Colossians 2:20-22 appears to give permission to love the material things in the world, but let’s see if it does.

  • Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men (Col. 2:20-22)?

In Colossians 2:20-22, what are we dead to?  We obviously are dead to the old man (Rom. 6:6) and the things of the old man which would include the rudiments of the world that the Gentiles seek after (Matt. 6:32).  Yes, we are to leave the rudiments and principles of this world.  So what are the rules the world has?  What do we touch?  We touch material things.  What do we taste?  We taste the material things.  What do we handle?  Again it is material things.  What will happen to all material in Colossians 2:22?  Is this not the same command as in 1 John 2:15, because all these things will perish (1 John 2:17).  Who gives commandments regarding these material things?  God commands Christians not to love these things, but men make new laws which say do not eat it or touch it.  God does not command us not to eat or touch it; he says not to love it.  What should we do?  How can we not love these material things?  We must focus on and love eternal things.  If we love the world and then die, our chief love is gone.  What if we love purity, holiness and goodness?  We can carry that with us and not suffer any loss at all.  What does he want us to love?  Will it be the physical man or the spiritual man, which is renewed day by day?

  • While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).

What is Paul not looking toward?  Did he go around with his eyes covered?  What does he mean?  Those earthly things were not valuable to him.  He was not concerned with the outward things.  Did he love them?  They are neither eternal nor important to him.  Is there any command that tells us to love the material of the world?  Jesus did nothing without specific authority from his Father (John 5:19, 30) and we should follow his example.  How much did Jesus have when he died?  We know that Jesus was satisfied with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:7-8).

LOVE NOT THE WORLD (part 2)

UntitledWhy is 1 John 2:15-17 unacceptable to most people?  Almost everyone I know changes the words in this passage to say: do not love the evil in the world.  Is that what it says?  Is this talking about the people?  Who is in the world?  We have neighbors, friends, enemies and brethren.  We are commanded to love our neighbor.  We also are commanded to love our brethren, enemies and friends.  Who else is there in the world?  Is this a contradiction in the Bible?  Is He talking about souls or things?

Loving the “people” of the world is loving ones’ neighbor, which is commanded and good.

  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Though the world hates us, we must love them (even our enemies).

  • “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).
  • “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:44-45).

We were born into this material world, not into worldliness. 

  • “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:6-7).

The word “world” is used in the sense of the physical world much the same as Romans 1:25 uses the word creation.

  • “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature (creation) more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:25).
  • NT:3844=para, which is a primary preposition; properly, near; i.e. (with genitive case) from beside (literally or figuratively), (with dative case) at (or in) the vicinity of (objectively or subjectively), (with accusative case) to the proximity with (local [especially beyond or opposed to] or causal [on account of]:

The verse (if translated exactly according to the Greek words God inspired) would literally read, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie and worshipped and served the creation (what God created) along side of (or as well as) God.”

The cares of this physical world are what choke the word.

  • “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).

The word world in the Greek language is kosmos—literally orderly arrangement—the same word we use in English for the universe.  What is he saying?  What does he mean when he says, “Do not love the kosmos?”  What about the things around us in the world?  Do not love “the things that are in the world.”  He has to be talking about the world itself and the material things in it.

Do you know any scripture that contradicts this command which says we can love the material things of the world but are not to love “worldliness” or the “evil” things which are in the world?  At first glance Colossians 2:20-22 appears to give permission to love the material things in the world, but let’s see if it does.

ARE YOU A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?

“Go therefore and teach (make disciples of) all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

The above statement was made by Jesus to His apostles shortly before He ascended to heaven. Commonly called “The Great Commission,” notice the main thought of Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” To “make disciples,” therefore, is the GOAL of evangelizing the world for Christ.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? More than likely you believe in Jesus. You might even be one to attend church services regularly. But is that what it means to be His disciple?

The purpose in this study is to make clear what is involved in being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. To begin, let’s define the word “disciple.”  The word “disciple” literally means A LEARNER, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. It denotes “one who follows another’s teaching.” But a disciple was not only a learner, he was also AN ADHERENT. For this reason disciples were spoken of as IMITATORS of their teachers.

So what is the goal in being a disciple?  As stated by Jesus himself: discipleship is to be like the teacher (Luke 6:40). “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.”  To be Christ’s disciple, then, is to strive to be like Him!

According to the apostle Paul, this coincides with God’s goal in the redemption of mankind, that they be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Do you have a strong desire to follow Jesus and become like Him? Unless you have that goal, it cannot be said that you are truly His disciple! There are also some “identifying marks” of discipleship given by Jesus which can help us to further identify a true disciple of Jesus.

What are the marks of a disciple? A disciple is “one who abides in Jesus’ words” (John 8:31).  This would imply being a diligent student of the teachings of Christ. It also requires one to be a “doer” of the Word (Matt. 7:21-27; James 1:21-25). In view of this, a true disciple would not fail to study the Bible diligently or willingly refrain from opportunities to study with others (e.g. Bible classes, church services, gospel meetings).

A disciple is also “one who loves the brethren” (John 13:34-35) with a love patterned after the love of Jesus (“as I have loved you”). A disciple would love the brethren with a love that is visible to the world (“by this all will know”). Therefore, a true disciple would make every effort to get to know his brethren, take advantage of occasions to encourage and grow closer to them (e.g., attending services on Sunday and Wednesday nights). Remember, a disciple is one who wants to become like his teacher. Was Jesus willing to sacrifice time and effort for His brethren? Of course, and so will we… IF we are truly HIS disciples!

A true disciple is also “one who bears much fruit” (John 15:8). Notice the word “much” (also found in verse 5). Jesus is not talking about an occasional good deed, but a lifestyle which prompts people to glorify God! (Matt. 5:16). This is so important, that failure to bear much fruit will result in being severed from Christ (John 15:1-2). How can one be a disciple if he or she is cut off from Christ? The point should be clear: to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means more than just a casual church member. It requires COMMITMENT, especially in regards to: the teachings of Christ, the love of brethren and bearing fruit to the glory of God.

The kind of commitment involved is seen further when we consider the “high cost” of discipleship demanded by Jesus in (Luke 14:25-33). Jesus must come first (Luke 14:26). Jesus must come before anyone or anything else, including members of our own family (Matt. 10:34-37). Jesus must come first—before one’s own self. (Luke 9:23-25).

We must be willing to suffer for Christ. (Luke 14:27). Trying to live godly lives in an ungodly world, we may find that following Christ sometimes involves enduring ridicule and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Even if we are blessed to escape such things, we must still be willing to expend time and effort in promoting the cause of Christ in positive ways.  Putting it simply, we must forsake all to follow Christ. (Luke 14:33). In other words, Jesus must be KING and LORD of our lives. Nothing can take precedent over Christ and His Will for us. This kind of “high cost” of discipleship demanded by Jesus caused many people to turn away from following Him. But Jesus wasn’t trying to attract large crowds, He wanted disciples!

Is the COST worth it? I believe so, for consider some of the REWARDS of discipleship. There is the promise of “future blessings.” We shall be saved from the wrath of God which is yet to come upon the world for its sins (Rom. 5:9). We can look forward with joyful anticipation of eternity with God, free from sorrow, pain and death (Rev. 21:1-8).

Not only do we have these to look forward to, but there are also “present blessings.” Jesus offers a PEACE the world cannot give to calm the troubled heart (John 14:27). His words inspire JOY to lift our spirits out of any depression (John 15:11). He also offers to those who follow Him the ABIDING LOVE OF GOD, which can cast out fear (John 15:9; 1 John 4:18). And he makes it possible for us to be members of the family of God, which is able, if need be, to replace our physical family (Mark 10:28-30). There are many other blessings we could mention that are enjoyed by disciples of Jesus; but these suffice to demonstrate that though discipleship is costly, the rewards far exceed the cost!

Now that we understand the nature of discipleship, its cost and rewards, I hope that we want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. But how does one begin? For the answer we return to our beginning text—Matthew 28:19-20. According to Jesus, the beginning of a disciple involves baptism (Matt. 28:19).

Why baptism? Remember the goal of discipleship: to be like Jesus. He was holy and sinless, yet we are to be like Him. Fortunately, baptism is described as an act of faith which puts us in contact with the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ so we can be forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4). It is also the means by which one “puts on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). So baptism is the logical starting place for true discipleship!

But what is baptism? It is an act of submission which must be preceded by faith in Jesus and repentance for our sins (Acts 2:36-38; 8:36-37). This precludes infant baptism, for infants are incapable of believing and repenting. It is also an act of submission which involves a burial in water, in which one then rises to walk in newness of life through the power of God (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). This precludes sprinkling or pouring as a mode of baptism, because neither of these involves a “burial” nor an immersion (which is the meaning of the Greek word “baptidzo”). When done according to the Word of God, baptism then becomes an act of faith on our part which results in a wonderful working of God in our lives! Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:25-27). We are “regenerated” and “renewed” by the Spirit of God so we can now live for God! (Tit.3:5-6). It is truly a “rebirth” involving both water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

Baptism is only the beginning. Teaching and obedience must follow (Matt. 28:20). This brings us back to the very definition of discipleship, for Jesus clearly states that we are to be TAUGHT (that is, to be LEARNERS), and we are to OBSERVE (that is, to be ADHERENTS or DOERS). In this way we embark on a life devoted to learning and doing all that Jesus has commanded us to do.

In conclusion, we note that only those scripturally baptized and demonstrating the “marks” of discipleship, despite the “costs,” can truly be called disciples of Jesus! Only they can realistically look forward to the “rewards” of discipleship, and take consolation in the promise of Jesus: “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then the prospects of “A Closer Walk With God” and more fruitful service as a disciple should be of great interest to you. My prayer is that this lesson will help spark that desire in you.

DON’T DROP THAT BATON!

At times I have wondered if some of the world’s church related statistics have not been worded in such a way as to discourage parents—especially Christian parents.

“They’re leaving!”

It’s hard to miss that ugly declaration in bulletins and periodicals everywhere. One such report from George Barna’s stats proclaimed that an average of 70% of teens will leave the church after high school graduation.[i] Should we be frightened? What should be our response?

One blogger testifies that families and the church are dysfunctional and that kids want to get away from both. They want to find their own “functionality” for their lives without the problems they see around them.[ii]

Not only are the children leaving, but scores of women are said to have already left the church for institutions where their voices may be heard from the pulpits and stages. Supposedly even preachers are leaving for systems where they are not so restricted by laws.[iii]

My husband and I have given birth to three strong-willed, independent-thinking children, beginning with our firstborn in 1963. Later we adopted two more equally strong willed children whose families were not there for them. While I was a public school teacher, my husband was a full time minister, and after more than a half-century of investing our lives in our children’s spiritual development, supplementing their education, eventually beginning to home school, we have learned a whole lot about what it means to transfer the baton to the next generation.

Passing the BatonEarly on we learned that home educators are particularly blessed with an edge. They have the benefit of access to their children 24/7, leading by example and exercising a powerful influence, primarily because they have the luxuries of time and togetherness. Yes, after I became a homeschooling mom, my thoughts have often been occupied with pencils, papers, and curriculum, but my overriding mission and passion has always been more about imparting spiritual concepts to our children than simply pursuing an academic agenda.

The average Christian parent whose children are sent out to be educated doesn’t get to see his school-aged child for seven to ten hours of each weekday, because during those hours children are on the way to school, being influenced by the world in school, or on the way home from school. That same child may spend about as much time sleeping in his bed at night. The hours left for meaningful parent-child interaction are not only few, but they also are chock-full of stressed carpools, debriefing, dinner preparations, chores, homework, and assorted extracurricular activities. The fact is, the world’s formal schooling holds families hostage to a system that dominates their days, nights, and weekends. Within that system, only crumbs of time are left for directing the children toward discipleship.

Worse yet, while the vice of secular academia grips these vulnerable kids in its jaws, they are likely to be exposed to all manner of negative influences during their countless hours on campus. In public schools it’s no secret that their course of study will be permeated with secular humanistic philosophy,[iv] while at the same time they could be dodging bullets,[v] bullies,[vi]blatant sexual perversity,[vii] and peer pressure, to name a few of the dangers they could encounter daily. And let’s be honest, private schools cannot guarantee a child exemption from such hazards.

On weekends (if there’s time after soccer, hockey, band, and football), this same parent may drop his children off to attend church programs designed to save them from the deplorable indoctrination experienced while engaged in their educational institution. Crazy, wouldn’t you say? Such programs are just one more way for the world to take the children away from the influence of the parents.

Local churches too often offer elaborate décor, Wii games, basketball, air hockey, and other age-appropriate amusements. These folks are serious about impacting the youth, but in my decades of experience, I have learned that providing myriad special youth nights and extravagant pleasure for teens doesn’t keep the teen sheep in the fold. Institutions will not save our kids. It’s up to parents to create our own revolution in our homes for our sons and daughters.

I said “home educators have an edge,” but I didn’t say “they have it in the bag.” Many enthusiastic homeschool parents are smugly touting their youngsters the “signs and wonders following them,” but a word of caution: babes under your wing aren’t yet adults who’ve decided to follow Jesus.

I’ve met many disappointed parents and heard much debate related to this topic. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found what I think is the non-negotiable in this all-important matter of getting—and keeping—our kids in the race (Heb. 12:1-2, KJV).

It begins with us. The good news is that we are the models! Wow! There is so much power in our very own hands to impact the next generation! The bad news is that we are . . . the . . . models. Sigh! What a huge responsibility we have before God to make right choices for the sake of our children.

It’s my conviction that we pass on to our children far more than our physical DNA. Our sons and daughters will reflect what we are. We establish the standard and cast the mold, and that’s serious stuff. We can preach truth day-in-and-day-out, but if we aren’t living it, kids know that. You can’t get anything past them.

So . . . what are you? I’m not asking if you’re a church member, a homeschool parent, how much money you give, or what good works you do. What we are and what we do can be two very different things.

Are we simply religious followers in systems, attending to those duties prescribed by the church or traditions of men, or are we decidedly dedicated disciples of Christ, recognizing that “…he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15, KJV)?

As Christian parents, we are far more than educators equipping our students for a future vocation; we are the primary ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our impressionable youngsters. Isn’t that sobering?

If we believe Jesus’ statement that “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40, KJV), our mission is paramount. We cannot deny that our toughest job is to first lead ourselves strongly (with the baton firmly in hand) to grow into the image of our Master (Eph. 4:11-13). Let’s be done with lesser things and “. . . So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor. 9:24, KJV)!


[i]www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/534-fivemyths-about-young-adult-church-dropouts.

[ii]http://thegospelbeacon.blogspot.com/2014/01/why-do-young-people-leave-church.html

[iii]http://www.thepalmerperspective.com/2013/10/31/its-you-not-me-why-more-more-minister-are-leaving-churches-of-christ/

[iv]http://secular-humanism.com/

[v]http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777958.html

[vi] http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/school-bullying.html

JESUS RAN THE RACE BEFORE US

Jesus went “on unto perfection” (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 6:1).  We noted before that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).  How did Jesus run the race? Many imagine that Jesus continued to be 100% God on earth and 100% man at the same time. Jesus was God when he was on earth in the sense that he created all things (Col. 1:15-18); however, God has all wisdom.  When Jesus was born in the form of man he did not have all wisdom. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Jesus could not have had all wisdom when he was born as a man because he grew in wisdom after he was born physically.

Second, when he came to earth he was no longer in the form of God.  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-7). Jesus was not 100% God in the sense that he took on the form of man and was no longer equal to God in form.

God cannot be tempted with evil, while Jesus was tempted in all points as we are. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13). “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was not 100% God in that God cannot be tempted but Jesus was tempted in every way.

Jesus was made our high priest because he was able to become like his brethren in all things. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).  Jesus was made like his brethren in ‘all things.’  He had to be tempted so that he could run the race ahead of us.  Like his brethren, Jesus “…learned obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8).

Jesus ran the race ahead of us. He attained perfection in the same pathway God has set out for us.

First, Jesus fulfilled the Father’s purpose by going on unto perfection. The Father was the one who made Jesus perfect. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10).

Jesus was made perfect by suffering all of the temptations that we must also endure (Heb. 2:18). That was the same way that Jesus learned to obey. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). The trying of our faith is our pathway and Jesus “…was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Jesus did not suffer for us so that we don’t have to suffer. On the contrary, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

Jesus suffered for us so we would know how to run. This is the very mind that with which we are directed to be armed. “For as much then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1). We are to have a mind that is determined to suffer when it is necessary to obey God the way Christ obeyed Him.

Not just any kind of suffering produces spiritual growth. The Lord designated certain kinds of suffering that lead to the perfect man. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?” (1 Pet. 2:20). We do suffer when we are disciplined for doing wrong, but that is not the kind of suffering that causes spiritual growth. “…but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Pet. 2:20).

It is only the suffering of Christ that makes us grow, not the suffering of diseases, physical maladies and ailments, etc. Paul testified that his suffering was the suffering of Christ. “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (2 Cor. 1:5).

Jesus’ suffering was of a special kind. Peter describes the suffering that comes when one had a froward employer (1 Pet. 2:18-9).  Suffering patiently when we deserve it does not help us grow. It is when we do well, and patiently suffer for it, that we can grow. Jesus left us an example that we should follow in his steps. When did Jesus ever suffer for his faults? He never did anything wrong to be worthy to suffer. Thus, when Jesus suffered, he suffered for righteousness sake. This is the kind of suffering that the prophets endured.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).

This is the point that Peter made immediately after he described how we are to walk in Jesus steps. “…Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). If he did not sin and never had guile in his mouth, when did he deserve to suffer? He suffered when he did not deserve it.

He knew the pathway and was not pleased that his disciples did not recognize it. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26).

The prophets of old “…inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11).

Yes, Jesus was made perfect by the things which he suffered through running the same race that is set before each of us (Heb. 2:10, 12:2-3) and is thus set forth as our example to follow (1 Pet. 2:21).

Jesus ran the race ahead of us!  He won.  Will we?