Be Careful How You Serve

With many new opportunities here in the US of ways that people can give of their time and resources to the hurricane victims in New Orleans it is important for us to pause and think about the assistance that is given. We live in a country of enormous wealth where there can be two television fund-raising specials and millions of dollars raised to buy supplies and such for folks. This is a marvelous thing.

However, I pray that we are not blind-spotted to the fact that there are many more people all over the world in need of such assistance.

When we give for such causes we need to think of the big picture – What do I want to accomplish by giving this money? The answer should not merely be to feed someone. It should be to give God glory by meeting the needs of people. If we merely feed people and do not share the saving news of the Gospel then we are only putting a band-aid on fatal wound. Yes, we should meet physical needs, there is no doubt. But to merely do this is to deny the fact that the most pressing need in people’s lives is to taste of the Bread of Life.

For a great article on this Andrew Myers has some provoking thoughts.

Five Distinguishing Marks

During the First Great Awakening many people rebuked the preachers by saying that it was a work of Satan. They cited 2 Cor 11.14 which says that even Satan can appear to be a minister of light. That is, even ministers can be workers of evil – looking like a shepherd, but being a slaughterer.

The same can be said about individuals who claim they are Christians…they can appear to be of the light, but they are children of the devil (1 Jn 3.10).

Although Jonathan Edwards wrote his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God to respond to the critics of the First Great Awakening at large, I believe the five marks can be used to distinguish a work of the Spirit of God in the individual as well.

I will just list them:

1. Raises people’s esteem of Jesus (1 Jn. 4:7)
        • embrace why God has done things the way he has
        • confessing Jesus is vital to this esteem
2. Operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom
        • 1 Jn 4:4
        • redirects men away from sin (which is Satan’s purpose for men)
3. Establishes in men a greater regard for holy Scripture
        • 4:6
        • it certainly must be from God if men heed the Word of God more
        • the devil would never want people to regard the Word of God because it glorifies God and sanctifies men
        • Lk 16:29
        • Satan hates the Word of God
4. Leads people to the truth
        • verse 6b: “spirit of truth and the spirit of error”
        • There are spirits that mimic God’s spirit but are false. A spirit of God confirms biblical truth: Hell is real, men need a Savior, Jesus is God
        • Leads you to embrace doctrines that are pervasive in Scripture.
5. Operates with spirit of love toward God and man
        • Verse 7, 12-13

If the fruit that is manifest in someone’s life looks like the marks above, more than likely his heart has been worked on by God. Edwards’ book is a detailed study of 1 Jn 4. As more and more people claim they are Christians (without any way to distinguish them from the world) it is important for ministers and the congregant to discern whether he is, in fact, a Christian – and to be able to counsel friends and family who speak with their lips but deny Christ with their loves.

[[These observations are taken from Dr. Thomas Nettles’ class on Jonathan Edwards]]

He Loves Other Christians {Entry 6}

This is the second to last post on this topic. Tomorrow I will write about Jonathan Edwards’ Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.

In light of all that I have said regarding the characteristics of the believer, this last one might be the easiest to identify and the hardest to practice. We live in a culture that exalts a nebulous spirituality that has its head in the stars and its hands clean from isolated prayer. The Bible paints a different picture for what true spirituality is.

I was talking with the lady I work for today about this very topic. She made the observation that many people say they are Christian, but do not seem to be any different than the world. This is in part why I began this series. The name “Christian” has become a very hollow term. It can mean religious person, or antinomian who is ruled by what feels right. or regular church service attender…but these are all far from what the Bible identifies as a Christian. I know so many people who say they are Christian, but there is absolutely no conviction in their life for what that may mean. They don’t read the Bible, they don’t pray, they don’t pursue God, and they don’t love other Christians. In fact, they despise them.

The Church is not without her blemishes. But it is these very imperfections that attest to the beauty of grace. The Church is full of ugly people…but they seem to be gorgeous because of the transforming work of grace in their lives. Instead of pursuing selfish desires and making themselves look good, they bend over and wash other people’s stinky feet. Not to make themselves look righteous, but because they love the people of God.

Notice the previous post: The Christian Obeys. He obeys from a gratitudinous heart, not begrudgingly.

Look at these verses:

• John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
• John 15:12   ”This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
• John 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
• Rom. 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
• 1Th. 4:9   Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
• 1Pet. 1:22   Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
• 1John 3:11   For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
• 1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
• 1John 4:7   Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
• 1John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
• 2John 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.

Especially the connection between Jesus new commandment and John’s definition of a Christian in 1 Jn 4.7, 11. We do not live in a bubble and should not pursue such kind of hermitage. Instead, we should pursue love and seek out new ways to serve the brethren. What a sad estate that the Christian prizes solitude as the highest virtue when true and undefiled religion is to care for the brethren (James 1.22-27).

The question remains for the recluse…How are you fulfilling Christ’s new command when you do not pursue love of the brethren? You can’t blame it on your introvertedness. You better find a way to pursue Christ in your active loving of the brethren. I say active because what is love if it does not take on flesh…it must be hate. How can you say you love the brethren and don’t take care of the physical needs? You cannot (James 2).

In fact, look at Jn 15.17 a little closer. The commandments serve to the higher end of loving one another. “These things I command you in order that you will love each other.” The commandments Jesus speaks to us should end in loving acts for the brethren. These loving acts serve to the greatest end of bringing glory to God (Jn 15.8). When we obey God and bear fruit that lasts it brings God glory. Therefore, we do not love to win favor with people. We do not serve to receive something from that person. We obey as God’s children from an overflowing heart so that God will receive glory from our acts and the love that overflows from the one receiving.

He Obeys {Entry 5}

This is the fifth post for my short series on what a Christian is…I will bring it all to a conclusion next week. I will also be posting some thoughts by Jonathan Edwards on the Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Although it was written specifically for the church at large regarding the Great Awakening that started in 1734, I believe it also relates to how we view conversion and the spiritual lives of those we minister with.

Okay. A Christian is one who obeys. You can see that the growing culture around us is anti-authority. Why is it so cool to talk evil of the president? I may not agree with things he says, but why should I pursue speaking ill of him? Why do kids think it is cool to back talk their parents or make fun of the elderly? Why are you called a prude if you don’t want to have sex with everyone in the world? Why is it that vice is the only virtue that is deemed valuable?

When a culture is not marked by the desire to know God, then it will be marked by disobedience – not only to his revealed will in the Bible, but also manifest against the authority he has placed over us in the government, law enforcement, etc.

I do not want to make a 1:1 correlation between law of the state and God’s Law. I merely want to draw attention to the fact that disobedience to the Law of God is characterized by an increasingly powerful witness to anti-authority pursuits.

Biblically: Why does the Christian try to obey the Law of God? Rehearse the last 3 and 1/2 posts regarding the characteristics of a Christian: 1) He is humble, because he knows that his salvation is not dependent on him; 2) He delights in the things of God because 3) He delights in God. The Bible is very explicit in what it teaches about those things that distinguish the Christian from the non-Christian.

Rom. 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed…Rom. 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed.

Col. 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord [it pleases the Lord because he has set parents over children as his authority and guidance in their lives…even more, it is an exhortation to the child of God…that he obey God from the heart, see 1 Peter 1.14].

Heb. 13:17   Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. [The Christian knows that God is not distinct from the authority figures in politics and law enforcement. The unbeliever seeks to oust them when possible because he is ultimately rebellious against God.]

This idea of obedience was the concept from the beginning:
Gen. 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
        nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
        until tribute comes to him;
        and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

God does not seek to merely save people, but that they bow their knees to him in humble submission from a heart of gratitudinous joy.

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and iif it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
[implication: those of the household of God obey, those preparing to be condemned are disobedient]

1) Repent for any and all disobedience to God and his authorities
2) Pursue opportunities to obey the Word of God
3) Understand that obedience flows from a heart of joy and gratitude for all God has done and will do for you
4) Pray that you will be convinced that you are not your own, but you were bought by the price of Christ’s blood (1 Cor 6.19)
5) Therefore, you are a happy slave to God – or you should delight to obey his Word