Hard Act to Follow

www.bible.com/1713/gal.5.25.csb

This verse has always intrigued me. I understand what it means to live by the Spirit, which living by the will and direction of God as revealed in His word. The Bible was written by the Spirit, so to live by the Spirit is to live by the Scriptures. I try to do that daily. It’s not easy, but it is a standard I’ve tried to live life by.

On the other part, well, have you have danced with a Bible? Or tried to keep pace with someone who is invisible? Yeah, well, I haven’t. And this is the part that intrigues me. ”Keep in step with the Spirit” should be something I can do, since Paul makes that a part of our Christian Living. But what does it mean?

Well, if you do a little word study, the Greek that lies behind this word has the sense of marching while other translations offer ”walk with the Spirit.” The word implies walking in ranks, or in rows. Soldiers march in orderly rows. To “keep in step” is to match your stride with the Spirit’s lead.

Something else I might mention. The verb in question is in the plural. The command isn’t to us individually, but to us as a group, which we might expect given the nature of the word. The command is to all Christians to march together, with the Spirit leading us in step. Now that makes much more sense.

That also makes this much harder in practice. My ability to walk in step with the Spirit now depends on my ability to keep in step with others who are also marching to His beat. This isn’t about my own ability to walk with the Spirit, as some translations may imply. This is about our ability to march together. I dare say we have had many problems with this.

Where I work, we have a number of religious designations. We have Jewish, Other, None, and about 13 brands of Christianity. I guarantee that these do not march in step with each other, and each would prefer to be in their own armies altogether. What happened to us? (That is a rhetorical question. I know what happened, and it is long and complicated.)

In the very letter Paul wrote these words, He was arguing against the Judiazers, a conservative wing in the Christian movement that desired to see new Gentiles convert to Judaism to become real Christians (because Jesus was a Jew?). From the beginning, the church has had challenges to its ability to march in step, with some falling behind and others moving too far forward. The orders of the Spirit become too faint against the rhetoric and argument we exchange with each other on the interpretation of those orders. It seems natural to me that not everyone will be doing the same thing, since we differ in gifts. But we all ought to agree on our general direction, the source of our authority, and who is giving the orders. When Spirit and man differ, who do we listen to? When a man calls a group away from the rest, is he following the Spirit? When the army no longer follows the Scripture, has it forfeited its leadership to follow something else?

Paul, and Scripture, has this way of showing us the mirror and the truth of who we are and what we’re doing. Getting into this Word means heeding the call of the Spirit. Thank you for joining me this morning on this little excursion. You may now resume the march. God bless.

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The Third Commandment

www.bible.com/72/jhn.13.34.hcsb

Jesus was once asked what are the greatest commandments in the Law. He said that the two greatest commandments were the Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. These didn’t change with the advent of Christianity. We are still expected to follow these commands under grace. But Jesus then added a third commandment, one distinctive to the Christian faith and experience. He said that Christians ought to love one another. Weird, huh? It seems like that should be a given. If I love God and love neighbors, wouldn’t I love my fellow Christians?

It seems to me that Jesus knows us better than we think. But what commandments have we violated more than this? And do you know what excuse we use to avoid obeying this commandment? They don’t believe like we do. We don’t associate with them. We don’t fellowship with them. We don’t do anything with them that might look like we love them. Hmmm.

Should there be recognition of doctrinal differences? And are there boundaries that denominations should not cross, boundaries of orthodoxy? Is there orthodoxy? Should the Bible have the final say on what we ought to believe, or should the Church? Because if we are going to disobey this commandment of Jesus, then we ought to have a really good reason. Is our reasoning strong enough to “tithe mint and dull and cumin, but avoid the weightier matters if the law”?

This is the tension between love and truth. Many churches exclude others based on truth. Other churches avoid truth and include everyone based on love. Is the “other” in one another a person also saved by grace, washed in blood through faith in Christ Jesus who must also live up to a code of conduct expected of the Christian?

It is very easy for us to dismiss “one another” when they don’t believe as we do, or their practices are different. We may stand and point fingers at each and declare “heretic”! all day long. But we forget that we are all fighting he same battle, the same enemy. And this enemy has enjoyed much success because he has us fighting each other instead of him. Are there greater evils in the world than a rival denomination? It seems we have bigger fish to fry than making sure everyone believes in exactly the same way.

I believe that every denomination has a problem in its doctrine somewhere. Nobody has it right. And I don’t know if this side of heaven we’ll ever figure it out. But I do believe some have it more right than others. Certain essential doctrines like the resurrected Christ, His atonement for our sins, the veracity of the Scriptures, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and a host of other things. But let us not turn on each other over petty things, like worship styles and architecture, crowd sizes and preaching styles. We have a bigger mission. Let us learn how to love one another, despite our differences, learn to combine our strength and defeat this enemy’s work among us.

God bless you all today.

Why did God ask us not to wear Wool and Linen mixed clothing? – Bible things in Bible ways

Why did God ask us not to wear Wool and Linen mixed clothing? – Bible things in Bible ways
— Read on www.google.com/amp/s/biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/why-did-god-ask-us-not-to-where-wool-and-linen-mixed-clothing/amp/

I saw this as a result of looking in on this topic. Interesting take.

Why go to Church to hear someone tell me how to live and believe?

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This is the response that we should and do expect from someone resisting attending Church. “Why do I need to go to Church? I’m a good person.” This is probably the most honest question of all of these questions, because it comes from the heart of an unredeemed man. This is the basic struggle we all have, Christians or not, but it is its most bare when asked by a non-believer. For Christians, the question takes on different forms, like, “I like my own interpretation of God and my own beliefs and my relationship with God.” But it’s the same question. It is the question of rebellion and submission. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Pro 14:12; 16:25 ESV, also Romans 3:9-18)

When Cain and Abel presented their offerings to God in Genesis 4, Abel brought a lamb, freshly killed, to be burned upon the altar. Cain brought the produce of his fields. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Many scholars have weighed in on the story, saying that Abel’s sacrifice was offering the life of the lamb in place of himself, a pre-Mosaic understanding that only blood is an acceptable offering for atonement for one’s own sins. These same scholars then turn to Cain’s sacrifice saying that because it was not blood, it was not acceptable. While certainly possible, I think it goes deeper than this.

In every other religion in the world, aside from Christianity, a man was earn his salvation, doing more good than bad, tipping the scales in his favor. Somehow, every man’s heart knows that if there is to be an afterlife, he must account for his actions today. Therefore, every man who does more good than bad, or even those who are saintly in this life have certainly “earned” their way to heaven and earned God’s favor by doing such good. This is the essence of Cain’s sacrifice and all human religions. We have just enough truth in us to know that there is an accounting that must take place. Like Cain, We invest in ourselves, in our work, producing the very best crops, the best life we can, and at the end present the very best of our own efforts to the Lord to gain His favor. Yet God isn’t impressed.

Rather what impresses God is the understanding that we are insufficient to save ourselves. We cannot, in whatever fashion we create, invent or perform anything that will gain His favor. God made the universe. We cannot top that. What God sees is the submitted heart. He sees the sacrifice of Abel, the “I can’t do this on my own” of his offering. God isn’t looking for pride, but brokenness.

In Steven Spielberg’s movie “Ready Player One” this is illustrated beautifully. In the challenge of the movie’s premise, everyone must run a course with the very best car they can afford and win the race. Time after time, defeat after defeat, no one can win the race. It is unwinnable. It is finally discovered by the hero that the only way to win the race is to run backwards. Instead of racing forwards with all the other players and going as fast as you can, you put your car in reverse, and suddenly you are the winner, because it is the way the game Designer built it to win. In the movie, it is the only way to win the race, by not racing.

Like those characters, everybody is trying to win by putting their own best efforts into it. They are piling up their good works and trying to impress God. In truth, the only way to gain His favor is by admitting you have no good works, and you depend on Him for salvation. He has freely provided this in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. The only way to win is to lose.

Again, prayer is an appropriate response. The Spirit of God convicts a man of his pride and sinfulness (John 16:8-11) and we must pray for that, for their defenses to be softened by prayer. He will not care who died for him. All he wants is his freedom to sin. If you have answered the objections above, then you can lovingly confront him with the gospel and God’s Word. An ongoing, loving relationship will bring the rebellious to the foot of the Cross. A caring relationship with you will establish a caring relationship with your church, because a Christian without a Church is like a sailor without a ship.

Does Religion Matter?

One of the first objections to Church and organized religion is this question; does religion really matter? Does it really matter what you believe? Does it make a difference? This question stems from our modern sensibilities regarding faith and tolerance. Tolerance simply means to allow others to practice as they please, without interference. But more recently, acceptance has been masquerading as tolerance. Now tolerance means that you accept, if not embrace, the beliefs of another person, because to resist such acceptance labels you as “intolerant” and a “bigot.” Take for example the homosexual agenda. The Homosexuals, their associations of political groups and so on, demand tolerance of their lifestyle, when in reality they demand acceptance. They don’t want straight people merely to tolerate their behavior, but to accept them as equals, with as much right to practice their brand of affection in the public square as heterosexuals. They demand celebration by those that don’t share their “beliefs” in allowing them to celebrate their “weddings” and their victory over the traditional family and decency.

But let me step back to the position of one who would just as soon have nothing to do with religion, thinking that all religions are bunk and worthless, if not dangerous. Remember 9/11? That wasn’t an inside job, it was a religious job. Remember Waco? That was a religious nut making trouble, and an angry government response. Remember 12/31/1999? A lot of people were afraid because they thought that was going to be the end of the world! Why? Because of their religion. How can religion be so dangerous? Because religion is about beliefs, and beliefs matter.

Organized religion is defined as a system of beliefs organized for the practice of its believers. Every religion has one. And anyone who tells you that he doesn’t do organized religion, but goes off to a mountaintop or hillside to pray is lying to you. If a person doesn’t buy in to a “organized” religion, he will make up one of his own. Religions inherently follow rules. It is built in to them. Even a person that says his religion doesn’t have rules just made a rule. “No rules!” is a rule unto itself. Why does the person who eschews organized religion have to go to the hillside to pray? Hmmm? Sounds like a rule to me. And it sounds like an organized religion.

Back to our original question: does religion matter? Using our above definition, let me re-ask the question. Do beliefs matter? Does what you believe about how the world works and how people act and react matter? A belief is anything that cannot be proven absolutely with evidence. I believe that the chair I’m sitting on will not collapse from under me. I can’t prove it, despite all the evidence of sitting down, because I know all things wear out (2nd law of thermodynamics), and one day, this chair will collapse. Therefore, I believe that this chair will not collapse as I am sitting on it.

I believe the world will always spin, that I will always be held to the earth, that my wife and my children love me, and that the sun will come up in the morning. Is that religion? You can make a religion out of anything. All religion requires is someone to put it all together into an organized structure. Atheism is a religion, just as any other system of beliefs is. But there’s one element I forgot that make the real difference between mere beliefs, and religion, and that is Faith. Faith is a devotion to your beliefs that is so strong, you cannot be shaken from them. And Faith usually finds the strongest belief and clings to it.

For the most part, when a person says, religion doesn’t matter, what they are really saying is, “I refuse to believe in Christianity” because Christianity demands change. Why is Christianity always the one that stands in everybody’s way? Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He makes the difference between mere beliefs, an organized philosophy, and Truth.

Religion does too matter. Don’t kid yourself. We define ourselves by our beliefs. We are who we because of our beliefs. If you choose to ground your self in loose and broken beliefs, that’s your own business, I suppose. But if you choose to ground your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not be disappointed.