Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: context

Contrast of Eternal Rewards

The goal of Bible study is to think God’s thoughts after Him and to better understand the one who loves us…both of these aims have the ultimate goal of deepening our relationship with God.  Whenever our reading of the Scriptures needs some focused studying to fully understand what God is communicating (as we have been doing with Revelation 21:7), the best next step is to zoom out and add our new understanding to the surrounding context of verses.

Revelation 21:6-8
Then He said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars – their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The focus of the paragraph turns on one simple word – but.

“But” is a critical term when studying Scripture.  It lets you know that a contrast is taking place in the text, and these contrasts are important to our understanding.

On the one hand, we have those who did freely drink from the water of life, and from within them, those who conquer.  On the other hand are those who have rejected God and lived life counter to His plan for humanity.  In contrast to the conquerors who inherit in the new Jerusalem, those who have rejected God have their share (other translations – their place, their portion, or their part) eternally separated from God in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur…which the previous context of Revelation 20:10-15 indicates is the eternal destiny of Satan and those who follow him.

This is a serious contrast of eternal consequences. 

Thinking about the original recipients of Revelation, the terms God uses – the cowards, the faithless, etc – would have been descriptive of those who were persecuting the first century believers.  While this contrast does give comfort that God will make everything right in the end, there is another application, one for the here and now:

Remember, we are called to be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world by holding firm to the word of life (Philippians 2:15-16).  After all, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us.  We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

For those around us, eternal destiny hangs in the balance.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Special rewards for those who conquer

When studying the Scriptures, it is always best to consider the context and author’s word choice with their writing before comparing how a word or phrase is used in another book of the Bible.  Within the English language we recognize that the same word can have different meanings…and the author’s intended meaning is conveyed by looking at the context of the word.  For example:

I ran a marathon.
I ran a meeting.
I ran for political office.

Same word, totally different communication – based upon the context.

Revelation 21:6-7
…I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

When we looked at the term inherit, we had to go outside of the book of Revelation for context…because in Revelation 21:7 is the only time John uses the word.  However, the phrase he who conquers IS used several times within Revelation, and primarily by Jesus himself.

At the beginning of the book of Revelation, John recorded letters that Jesus dictated to each of the seven churches.  These letters were written to believing Christians.  The contents in each letter deals strictly with the actions and choices of the people in the church, there is no mention of Jesus’ saving work on the cross.  These letters were focused on how these believers were living their lives in view of eternity.  In each of His letters, Jesus describes a specific task or obstacle that the church was currently facing.  He then followed up with an exhortation and a specific reward to those who conquer.

Let’s take a look:

Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7) – Jesus said they had done great things; however He also said: “but I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first…repent, and do the works you did at first…to the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”

Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) – They were warned that persecution was coming, but Jesus also told them to “be faithful to the point of death”, and as a reward for this, Jesus said “and I will give you the crown of life”.  Jesus also encouraged them through a figure of speech called a litotes – which is expressing an affirmative idea by negating its opposite (e.g. – “I am not amused” actually means “I’m really annoyed”).  Jesus said “The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death”.  The point of the Lord’s promise is that those who remain faithful will experience eternal life to the utmost in the life to come.  Even though the first death might hurt them briefly, the second death (eternal separation from God) wouldn’t hurt them at all.

Pergamum (Rev. 2:12-17) – False teaching had infiltrated this church, as some were teaching that you can live in sexual immorality and recklessness without consequence.  Jesus’ exhortation was just two words before explaining their potential reward: “So repent! …To the one who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29) – They also dealt with false teachers.  To those who resisted the false teaching, Jesus gave just one command, “Only hold on to what you have until I come.”  However, Jesus followed it up with an amazing promise: “The one who conquers and who keeps my works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations…just as I received this from my Father.  I will also give him the morning star.”

Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6) – Jesus warned them, “Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God.  Remember, then, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent…the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life (another litotes) but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels.”

Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) – Jesus said, “I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown.  The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will never go out again.  I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God – and (I will also write on him) My new name.

Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) – Jesus reprimanded them, “you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline.  So be zealous and repent…to the one who conquers I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

I love how Jesus used Himself as the example to the believers in Thyatira and Laodicea.  He completed His mission; He conquered the struggle placed before Him.  The world didn’t see Jesus as victorious, but God the Father certainly did – and in the end, His opinion of how we lived our lives is the only one that matters.

After looking at the rest of Revelation to how Jesus intends to reward the one who conquers, we need to be thinking: What is our God-given mission?  Do you have a plan on how you will be one who conquers?  Eternal rewards are available for us…but we must choose to pursue them in the here and now.

Revelation 21:6-7
…I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A believer's biggest choice, this side of Heaven

A key to understanding Revelation is to keep in mind that John assumes his readers know their Old Testament.  Oftentimes when a new concept or symbol is presented, an interpretation is immediately provided (like the explanation of the seven stars and seven lampstands in Revelation 1:20).  However, when describing the throne room of God in Revelation 4:3, John states that a rainbow…surrounded the throne.  He doesn’t interpret the rainbow’s significance; he expects that you already understand it from knowing Genesis 9:8-17.

Last time we started to look at this verse:

Revelation 21:7
The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.

Since this is the only time the word inherit is used in Revelation, to understand what is going on here, we’ll take a look back to the Old Testament.

Throughout the Old Testament there were two kinds of inheritance – an inheritance of God himself (e.g. – Psalm 16:5) or an inheritance was the right to a possession.  However, with this possession-inheritance, the ownership wasn’t automatic, there were conditions involved.  The land of Canaan was the nation of Israel’s promised inheritance.  However, the ability of a particular Israelite generation to actually inherit, or physically own, the land was dependent upon their obedience to God’s commands.

After God rescued the Israelites from slavery and bondage to Egypt, they rebelled and grumbled when they got their first look at the work to be done in order to possess the promised land of Canaan.  They even claimed that the Lord hated them and that they were better off back in Egypt.  Moses recounted this event:

Deuteronomy 1:34-38
“When the Lord heard your words, He grew angry and swore an oath: ‘None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh.  He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land on which he has set foot, because he remained loyal to the Lord.’

“The Lord was angry with me also because of you and said: ‘You [Moses] will not enter there either.  Joshua son of Nun, who attends you, will enter it.  Encourage him, for he will enable Israel to inherit it.’

The easy response to this passage would be to say that the generation of Israelites that died in the desert must not have been “saved”, or they weren’t “true believers”.  But…that can’t be the case, because these were the same people that trusted God and performed the first Passover.  They took the blood of a perfect lamb and spread it on the doorposts of their homes – doing so demonstrated their trust in God’s promise that they would be passed over when the destroying angel came by to take the life of the firstborn son.  The Passover prophetically foretold of Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice for mankind on the Cross.  This was also the same generation Paul later used as an example for other believers:

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness.

According to Paul, the people of the Exodus generation of Israelites were right (positionally) with God, on the basis of their faith in the foreshadowed Christ.  However, their disobedience later in life marred their relationship with God and prevented them from physically inheriting the Promised Land. 

Now that we have the Old Testament context for the word inherit, we can see that God takes possession-inheritance very seriously.  Fortunately, a believer’s potential inheritance is also discussed in the New Testament.  While there are many passages we can look at (and perhaps that’s a future study), the following selections help us understand what God is talking about in Revelation.

1 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

Notice that Peter says God the Father has given us new birth into two things – a living hope and an inheritance.  Some have argued that heaven will be a Christian’s inheritance; however, Peter is indicating that this inheritance is something found in heaven.  So this means that the inheritance can’t be heaven itself…either it is a part of heaven or something else, in addition to heaven.

Jesus also gave similar instructions during the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-20
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.”

Jesus states that the treasures are in heaven, and not heaven itself.  Also important is the contrast Jesus presents here (store up treasures on earth OR store up treasures in heaven).  He wouldn’t give us these directions if they weren’t necessary.  So from this we can conclude that it is possible for a believer to not store up treasures in heaven, and whether or not we have treasures in heaven is dependent upon our choices here and now.

So what is this inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade and these treasures in heaven that cannot waste away or be stolen?

Revelation 21:6-7
I will give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Having a relationship with God can be had without cost to us because Jesus already took the punishment for our sins.  Remember that to inherit these things refers back to the New Jerusalem.  And from looking at other scriptures, we understand that inheriting New Jerusalem is dependent upon the choices we make here and now.

Choose wisely.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

To stay eternity-focused, you must be free from this

Last time, we read the author of Hebrews’ warning about the significant consequence to sexual impurity in a believer’s life.  Unfortunately, that is not the only trap we must be aware of…there is something else that loudly clamors for our attention:

Hebrews 13:5
Keep your life free from the love of money.  Be satisfied with what you have


If the author stopped right there, we could nod our heads in agreement and talk about all the times we won and lost in our struggle with the priority of money.  The consumerism of our modern culture puts an especially tough spin on this topic.  We are constantly barraged with the mantras “You need this in your life.” and “You deserve to have that.”  Advertisers strategically manipulate our emotions to convince us that whatever someone else has, or whatever new thing comes along, we should have it in our hands.

However, the author of Hebrews didn’t stop with just these two statements.  Instead, he did as he has throughout the entire letter – he referred us back to the Old Testament, providing a map to the solution of our not-so-modern problem:

Hebrews 13:5-6
Keep your life free from the love of money.  Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said,

“I will never leave you or abandon you.”

Therefore, we may boldly say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”


Although his readers would have understood these Old Testament references, we need to step back and grab some context so we can fully understand his lesson:

The first quote is from Deuteronomy 31:6, where Moses is giving God’s marching orders to the Israelites as they get ready to take over the Promised Land.  They didn’t need to worry about having “enough” possessions as they went to the Promised Land, because they had God and He would take care of them.  This reassurance, I will never leave you or abandon you, is given to those Israelites who are going to enter “God’s rest”.  These are the ones that are going to partner with God to establish the future country of Israel.

The second quote comes from Psalm 118:6 and maintains the same idea.  Just like with the Deuteronomy reference, the author points to the psalm to show that we can confidently trust the Lord to come to our aid.  As the original recipients of Hebrews were Jewish Christians, they would have recognized the context of the first quote, and they would have known that Psalm 118 deals entirely with God coming to rescue and protect His own people when the entire world is against them.

However, when we love money, we are distracted from the reality of God providing.  We don’t trust Him with our future.  Our security becomes dictated by the size of the bank account and reserves.  Don’t get me wrong, saving money is extremely important, and God even tells us many times in Scripture that saving money for future use is a wise activity.  But it matters where we are getting our security from. 

A personal example: as our family finances have changed over the years, my wife and I sometimes catch ourselves worrying about how much is in the savings account.  We save for a while, make a big purchase, and then have to catch our breath when we look at the “little” remainder left.  However, one of us is always quick to remind the other that God has always provided, even when the savings was much, much smaller than the “little” we are currently fretting over. 

We all need regular reminders that our security in this life is not in the size of our bank account, but in the One who has entrusted us with the money in our account.

Perhaps we should refer back to Psalm 118 on a regular basis.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

How to clear the path

“But what does God want me to DO?”

Ever ask that question?  Yeah, me too.

We are now at the start of Hebrews 12.  From here to the end of the book, the author gives specific details about the doing of a Christian’s life.  And we’re prepared to fully understand what he recommends…because we have traveled with the author as he directed the orchestra of examples, warnings, and encouragement around the one central theme – the importance of our life choices now and how they affect our participation with Christ in the future.

We are ready to ask, “So what does this type of life look life?  What are we supposed to DO?”  Now that we have the context, the WHY behind the author’s direction to DO will make more sense than if we just plopped the Bible open to Hebrews 12 and began to read.  Even better, knowing the context always makes the text easier to apply.  So, let’s take a look:

Hebrews 11:39-12:1
All these [Old Testament heroes] were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us


The ancient heroes of the faith act as courtroom witnesses who testify that living for God now is worth the sacrifice.  We can, by our actions now, participate in the fulfillment of what the ancients longer for.  It is almost as if the author is asking:

If God sticks to His promises, why wouldn’t we want to avoid sin altogether…but also avoid anything that may hinder us in our pursuit of the life Jesus has laid out for us?

But that’s just hard, isn’t it?

Not only do we have to contend daily with the nagging desire to sin…there are a lot of things that clamor for our time, many ‘good’ things that can take up a lot of our day.

Social media, hobbies, app games on our phones, sports, TV shows, and movies can quickly take up our free time.  Let’s be honest – we watch a ton of TV, and if we’re not watching TV then we’re probably on our phones.  (Or maybe we’re doing both at the same time?  Yep, I'm guilty of this, too.)

We start ‘relaxing’ and oh-so-easily slide into indulgence.  Is it time to set a timer on our TV?  Is it time to delete that app? (You know the one.) How can we use our hobbies to invest in others and contribute to God’s purposes, not just our own?

It’s a mental shift.  It’s a purposeful decision.  It is a constant, day-by-day choice, which is why the author says to do it, we must run with enduranceEndurance is only needed for hard things, but he says that it is worth it in the end.  Even if I have to give up a ‘good’ thing now, in order to do the ‘best’ thing for eternity future.

But we’re not left hanging with a simplistic ‘you should do this’ statement, either.  Not only does the author give us that WHAT to do, but the HOW to accomplish this lifestyle:

Hebrews 12:1-2
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.  For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We end up where we look.  Our focus determines our direction.  We aren’t the first one to walk this path.  With Jesus as our example to imitate, we know what success looks like.  As we focus on Him – there is nothing that can deter us from our task, no earthly hindrance that will keep us from completing our race.

And as we are among those who complete this race, we will also participate with God when He fulfills the trust of the Old Testament heroes.

What an opportunity!

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

A warning, some encouragement, and a choice

Be careful here.  The author of Hebrews has an important warning to give his readers, but if these next 14 verses are taken out of context or read individually…not only would the reader miss the intended point, but it could cause significant confusion about God’s dealing with humanity.  HOWEVER, since we have traveled through the author’s major points of the letter, we are less likely to have a misinterpretation.  But we sill must approach the text with our thinking caps on and with the preceding context in mind…

Remember that the author is writing to eternally secure believers.  Also remember his previous warnings about what happened to the Israelites that disregarded their generation’s messenger:

Hebrews 10:26-31
For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.

Anyone who disregarded the law of Moses died without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, who has regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know the One who has said,

Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay
(Deuteronomy 32:35)
and again,
The Lord will judge His people.
(Deuteronomy 32:36)

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


Like any of us who selfishly choose to go against our parents’ directions, those of us in the “Holy family” who purposely choose to continue a sin-filled life are going to have a very angry Heavenly Father to deal with.  This is the same warning the author gave in Chapters 2 and 3 – the consequences of failing away, of having a sinful and unbelieving heart – but now we know the full ramifications of intentionally making sinful choices since we now understand the Greater Message that Jesus has delivered.

Recognizing the implication of their choices, the author then encourages his readers:

Hebrews 10:32-36
Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.  Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way.  For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, because you know that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession.

So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.


What Jesus has promised is the opportunity to participate in His future kingdom.  Just as they were confident in Christ’s authority to forgive their sin debt and bring them into the family, the author encourages them to put that same level of faith and trust in the future which Jesus has promised is available to them.  To do so, the author relies again on an Old Testament passage:

Hebrews 10:37-39
For yet in a very little while,
the Coming One will come and not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith;
and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him.
(Habakkuk 2:3-4)

But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and are saved.


These three verse require the most care.  Do not read our modern-day assumption that the words “destroyed”, “have faith”, and “saved” always mean “sent to Hell”, “saving faith”, and “eternally secure, going to Heaven”.  A look into the multiple Greek words that go into each of these three words reveals the following:

destroyed = into ruin, waste
have faith = trust, with implications that the one who is trusted will do actions because of that trust placed in them
saved = into gaining, sharing in life

Given that the author includes himself when he says “but we are not those who draw back” and also remembering the context of him encouraging believers, a good paraphrase of verse 39 would read:

But we are not of those who shrink back now into a wasted life, but we are those who trust and act upon the Greater Message now and will therefore gain the rewards in the next life that have been promised.

The same choice is available to us today…will we draw back rom the Greater Message, or will we trust Jesus and act on His word?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Understanding why God knows the number of hairs on our heads

God knows the number of hairs on your head.  So, He knows what best for you.

I’ve been in church as long as I can remember, and I’ve heard something like that statement more times than I can count.  The preacher means it as encouragement, implying that since God knows such crazy, insignificant details about us, then obviously He must know how to handle all the big stuff that’s going on in our lives.

It’s based on a verse from Matthew 10 (or Luke 12); and if the preacher really wants to drive the point home, he’ll include what Jesus said in the immediate verse before and after:

Matthew 10:29-31
Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.  But even the hairs of your head have all been counted.  Don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.

And that’s very true.  God does know everything about us, and of course He knows what’s best for us.  But the whole idea of me-being-more-important-than-insignificant-birds-because-God-knows-how-much-hair-I-have has never inspired me to not be afraid.  So I have just shrugged off the metaphor as something useful or motivating for first-century people and not given it much thought, no matter how many times I hear a preacher bring it up.

As I hang out more in the Psalms, one thing I’m learning is that Jesus quoted them – often.  He knew them very well, and the Jewish people did, too.  However, Jesus would also reference the psalms or present familiar passages in new ways.  Two of David’s psalms specifically mentions the hairs of my head:

Psalm 40:12
For troubles without number have surrounded me;
my sins have overtaken me; I am unable to see.
They are more than the hairs on my head,
and my courage leaves me.

Psalm 69:4
Those who hate me without cause
are more numerous than the hairs of my head;
my deceitful enemies, who would destroy me, are powerful.
Though I did not steal, I must repay.

David uses the number of hairs on his head to descriptively exaggerate how overwhelmed he was by his troubles, sins, and enemies.  In both psalms, David is seeking strength and rescue from God.  But how does this relate to Jesus talking about the value of sparrows?  When we pull back into the larger context we find Jesus saying this to His disciples:

Matthew 10:16-18, 21-22
Look, I’m sending you out, like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.  Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them.  You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations…Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.  Children will even rise up against their parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everyone because of my name.

Jesus foretelling of persecution, betrayal, and death for Christ-followers?  That’s some pretty heavy stuff.  But Jesus offers this encouragement:

Matthew 10:26, 28-31
Therefore don’t be afraid of them…Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.  But even the hairs of your head have all been counted.  Don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Jesus wanted to make sure His disciples understood that just as God has authority when the insignificant sparrows die, so He also has authority over when His disciples would die.  Knowing that their lives were in God’s hands – and not in the hands of their enemies – would give them the strength to carry on with the Gospel and God’s Love.  Even if they are outnumbered and feeling overwhelmed.

When trouble comes, and it feels overwhelming, we wrestle with fear.  It’s easy to become afraid in those moments when we are despised, cussed out, shunned, passed over, shouted down, and, in some parts of the world, physically tortured for being a Christ-follower.  When it seems like we Christians have more people against us than there are hairs on our heads and our very lives are on the line, God knows where we are and what’s going on. 

We’re never abandoned. 
God is still in charge.  
So be brave.  
Don’t be afraid.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Women and church leadership (part 2)

When coming back to a difficult passage, we need to remind ourselves of the three rules:
1.  Context is key.
2.  We interpret a passage we are unsure of in light of passages we are certain of.
3.  We let the author speak for himself

In the previous post, we discovered how important these rules are – because sometimes our first impression (i.e. – assumption) of what the author meant isn’t always the correct interpretation.  A couple of paragraphs after our subject verses, after Paul finishes his entire discussion regarding the qualifications of church leaders, Paul tells Timothy the following:

1 Timothy 3:14-15
I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon.  But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

As such, we need to keep in mind that Paul’s intention for this section of his letter was so that Timothy and the Ephesian believers will know how people ought to act in God’s household.

As a refresher, here are the verses we reviewed last time.  If you haven’t read Part 1, I suggest going back a reading it before going further with this post.  However, if you did read Part 1, reading the verses again will help form the context for the verses that follow:

1 Timothy 2:9-12
Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense; not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.

A woman should learn in silence with full submission.  I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.

Last time we discovered that the education system of Paul’s day held the expectation that pupils would receive instruction from their teachers in silence and with full submission.  We found that these two phrases describe a student who peacefully conducts themselves while they are respectfully under the authority of their teacher.  We also realized that Paul’s prohibition against a woman teaching or having authority over a man was only in regard to the official teaching and ruling ministry of the church.  His directions to Timothy are not a prohibition on women leading in business, government, or even other sub-groups within the church family. 

Now, let’s see how Paul supports these directions for the church:

1 Timothy 2:13-15
For Adam was created first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.  But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.

Paul notes that Adam was created first, then Eve.  God could have made them both at the same time, but instead, He created them at different times and in unique ways – with Adam being formed from the dirt and Eve being fashioned from Adam’s rib.  There were distinctions in origin and design from the get-go, from which God has specified a distinction in roles within the family and within church leadership.  God entrusted Adam with leadership responsibility over his wife.  Before God, Eve was not responsible for Adam in the same way that Adam was responsible for Eve.

God had an order and a plan for both men and women from the start, and Paul says the structure within the home-family should be the blueprint for the church-family.  Paul’s instruction here builds upon his previous teachings to the Ephesian church (see Ephesians 5:22-33).

Avoiding deception, especially concern against women being deceived, is frequently repeated in Paul’s communication with the Ephesian church (see Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:1, 5:15; 2 Timothy 3:6-7).  Paul was concerned that the women in Ephesus were in danger of being deceived by false teachers, just like Eve had been.

One last note, on Paul’s last statement.  The Greek word saved can mean to be rescued from something or can mean to be returned to a previous state.  Given the context here, saved clearly does not refer to eternal salvation from sin’s penalty; instead, Paul emphasizes that women can be restored to their pre-fall status, and find leadership fulfillment within her family, provided she continues to walk with God.  Additionally, I think it would be acceptable to apply this concept to both naturally born children or to those spiritual children that a woman directly mentors.

With this, Paul wraps up his discussion on what women should not do with something they alone can do.  It was pointed out to me recently that perhaps we put too much emphasis on the leader up front and we unfortunately minimize the influence and mentoring of those who got them to that point.  It’s been said that “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”, and there is a lot of truth in that statement.  In fact, before Timothy met Paul, his entire spiritual instruction came from his mother and grandmother.  Without them preparing Timothy’s foundation, he would never have grown into the influential leader he was in the first century church.

In short, Paul’s directions in this passage to the believing women in Ephesus is to take God’s design for their immediate families and extend those characteristics to the church family.  As we all live out the talents, opportunities, and roles God has designed for us, our lives will become the walking gospels that point others toward God – and not to ourselves.  Ultimately, though, we are responsible before God for how handle His instructions.  If God is who we claim Him to be in our lives, then we should be able to trust Him in all aspects of life – even in the difficult passages.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Women and church leadership (part 1)

When dealing with difficult passages, we need to remember three rules:
1.   Context is key.
2.   We interpret a passage we are unsure of in light of passages we are certain of.
3.   We let the author speak for himself

Much of Paul’s letter to Timothy talks about rebutting and correcting false teachers that were influencing the church in Ephesus.  He addresses topics and groups within the church that were being swayed by these teachers, including marriage, food, wealth, men, women, and church leadership.  In this next passage, Paul takes a moment to address the question of women in church leadership.

1 Timothy 2:9-12
Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense; not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.

A woman should learn in silence with full submission.  I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.

It’s statements like these, especially when taken out of context, that cause a lot of strife within the modern church.  However, before we dismiss Paul’s instructions as being old-fashioned or oppressive, let’s consider some context.

Paul’s direction here is for women who affirm that they worship God, and as such, this passage falls under the theme of the previous context.  Paul began this section with instructions for all believers.  He stressed the importance of living a quiet and tranquil life, one displaying godliness and dignity in such a way that our lives become a “walking witness” for the God we have a direct relationship with. 

Paul moves from how women who worship God present themselves publicly and then immediately moves to how she can be learning.  That may seem like an unusual transition, given the culture of the time.  There were not a lot of education options for women in the ancient world, as all of the formal teachings and instructions went to men.  When he says that a woman should learn, we can observe that Paul is counter-culturally giving the women of the church an equal opportunity with the men of the church to be learners of God’s Word.

Now let’s look at the ‘how’ a woman should learn.  The Greek word for silence doesn’t mean “not talking”; instead, it refers to someone with a stable quietness who doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others or act in an unruly manner.  Additionally, the Greek word translated as submission means to “rank under”.  Just like in military settings, rank has to do with order and authority, not personal superiority or inferiority.  In fact, the teaching style of the day held an expectation that a pupil would do all their learning with both of these two characteristics – silence and submission.  As such, Paul isn’t suppressing women here – instead, he is holding them to the same expectations as the male learners.

Understanding Paul’s word choice also helps us interpret why he says I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man.  The verbs teach and have authority are both in the present tense, which implies a continuing ministry rather than a single instance of ministry.  Additionally, the word for have authority over is unique in comparison to the typical Greek word chosen to describe someone in a higher ranking position.  Instead, Paul is describing a woman who acts without accountability, who domineers as an absolute master within the church family.  By recognizing that the context immediately after this passage gives specific qualifications for church overseers and deacons, we begin to see that Paul’s prohibition here specifically addresses only the official teaching and ruling ministry of the church.

While the current cultural and educational settings would have been familiar to the Ephesian church, Paul doesn’t appeal to those cultural norms to justify his instruction.  Instead, he looks back to God’s initial creation: 

1 Timothy 2:13
For Adam was created first, then Eve. 

We’ll get deeper into Paul’s reasoning for referencing back to God’s initial design for the family in the next post.  And in the text that follows, we’ll observe that Paul gives specific criteria for the men who want to be in the overseer or deacon roles.  We’ll see that God’s standard for those roles is quite lofty, and that they carry the risk of significant punishment for those who mishandle the position.

For now, though, because we took the time to examine the text, can see that Paul’s direction isn’t some off-the-cuff, all-women-are-slaves-to-all-men kind of idea.  Paul is addressing a specific leadership situation within the church family.  His directions are not a prohibition on women leading in business, government, or even other sub-groups within the church family. 

Instead, we’ve discovered how this passage fits into the theme of this section in Paul’s letter to Timothy.  Proper dress, a right attitude, and orderly church-family leadership are all ways that Paul directs women to flesh out their part of all believers’ responsibility to lead a tranquil and quiet life, with both godliness and dignity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How God sees us

As Paul is wrapping up the transition point in his letter to the believers in Colossae, he makes an incredible statement that reveals how God views believers.  Previously, Paul urged them to kill off their old sinful habits because they

Colossians 3:9-10
…have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man

For the rest of the letter, Paul is going to describe what the life and practices of the new man will look like.  Reading ahead, you’ll find that Paul describes a life of freedom, love, and thankfulness.  However, the beginning of this new section says something we need to pause and consider.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on…

These three descriptions – chosen, holy, and loved – come before Paul lists out the qualities that he wants the Colossian believers to put on and practice.  This means that God views us by these descriptions – regardless of how well we live life wearing the practices of the new man.

So what, exactly, do these descriptions mean?

Although some people assume that the word chosen means that Paul is talking about God choosing people out of the world to be believers, the context doesn’t allow for that interpretation.

Keep in mind that Paul wrote to those who already trusted Jesus as their Savior.  Also remember that in the previous sentence, Paul described the family of God, saying

Colossians 3:11
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

From this context, we see that all believers are chosen ones.  In fact, this entire section is only dealing with internal, family matters.  After Paul refers to the Colossian believers as chosen ones, the rest of sentence talks about the qualities of a maturing believer’s life.  Therefore, it is clear that God is choosing all believers to mature and become more Christ-like.  Not just some of us.  Not just the “good kids.”  God chooses all of us for maturity.

The word holy conveys the idea of being set apart for a special purpose.  A word that also embodies this idea is the word sacred.  Whenever we refer to something as sacred, we imply that it is in a category all to its own.  Sacred things are handled reverently and carefully…not because of weakness, but because holy and sacred things are considered to have a priceless value.  Notice that God sees us as holy, set apart, and He considers our relationship with Him to be a sacred one.

Lastly, Paul says that God sees us as loved.  We’ve heard that God loves us so many times that we can have trouble remembering the depth of His love.  Here, however, the tense of the verb loved helps to remind us.  Loved is a perfect passive verb in this sentence.  The perfect tense in Greek describes an action which is viewed as having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated.  A passive voice means that the subject is the recipient of the verb’s action.  Taken together, when Paul says that we are loved by God – it means that we are the recipient of His love, and His love for us was firmly established a long time ago.

God sees us as chosen ones, holy and loved.  Think about that.  Smile about that.  No matter what happens today, or how well you handle it, those things do not change.

God sees you as His chosen one, holy and loved.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Our identity in the gospel

The Bible wasn’t dropped out of the sky as a complete revelation of God to mankind.  Instead, the Scriptures were assembled from the writings of God-inspired authors over hundreds of years.  Through these authors, God revealed more and more of His plan for the world and the salvation of those who trust Jesus for eternal life.  This process is referred to progressive revelation.

Therefore, we must consider each section of Scripture in light of the larger context of the God’s story throughout the Bible.  Most of the letters in the New Testament are addressed to a particular group of believers or an individual believer to discuss specific topics.  Since the letters’ recipients have already placed their faith in Jesus, getting an “in a nutshell” explanation of the gospel doesn’t appear very often, as the author typically spends his time instructing his readers about the effects of the gospel in their lives or encouraging them to live their lives with eternity in mind.

Paul certainly wrote to the Colossians to give them instruction and encouragement.  However, after he reminds them of where their identity comes from, in verses that follow, he gives them a wonderful “in a nutshell” statement of the gospel message:

Colossians 2:9-10
For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Paul then uses two illustrations that his readers would have been very familiar with.  These physical examples had been previously used to confirm a person’s identification with a group of people.  Both illustrations contain the imagery of a permanent change that takes place in a person’s life. 

Colossians 2:11
In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah.

Circumcision was the physical removal of flesh that the Israelites performed as a symbolic indication of their identification with God and a separation from the surrounding nations and their gods.  However, a physical circumcision was no longer necessary after Christ’s death and resurrection – our identity with Him is a spiritual circumcision.  In Jesus, we have rejected, or put off, the selfish desires of our flesh.

Continuing with his next example, Paul says

Colossians 2:12
Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

The Greek word for baptism means “to be placed into”.  When we are physically immersed in a water baptism, we are symbolically demonstrating what has already happened to us spiritually.  We were set apart and placed into Christ the moment we put our faith in the working of God, who raised [Jesus] from the dead

The beauty of our salvation is that we don’t have to try and earn it.  The truth is – we can’t earn it.  God knew that, but still desired relationship with us.  As Paul reminds the Colossians, Christ took care of our sin debt while we were still rebels. 

Colossians 2:13-15
And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses.  He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.

While we were still sinners, Christ paid humanity’s sins.  Because of their faith in the working of God, who raised [Jesus] from the dead, God forgave all their sin.  Christ’s standing with the Father is credited to each person who places their faith in Jesus. 

We’ve all had times in our lives where we messed up and afterward we had the offense forgiven, but we still had to live with the consequences of our actions.  However, that’s not the case when it comes to our salvation from sin.  Not only has Jesus erased the certificate of debt but He has also erased…its obligations.  In Christ, we are free from sin – and its penalty.

Our salvation wasn’t secured by some back-door, secret deal, either.  Christ was publicly humiliated and crucified – the kind of death and separation from God that we deserved.  Jesus’ sacrifice was on display for entire world to see.  By His loving actions, He disarmed the rulers and authorities set against us, and, as Paul stated in verse 9, Jesus became the head over every ruler and authority

In these verses, we find that we have been set apart (11-12), our sins forgiven (13-14), and we have victory over forces of evil (15) – all because of Jesus.  That’s the gospel “in a nutshell”.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Love, in context

Love.  Love.  Love.

We are very fascinated by the word, and the implications of what we think it is supposed to do in our lives.  We write songs that say we could live on love instead of money, or food, or air.  However, I would challenge anyone to pay their light bill with “love” and see how well that goes over.  Or better yet, try to sustain your body on “love” and skip your next 10 meals.  Similarly, we already know what would happen if we gave up breathing air and tried to breathe only “love”.

Each of these examples demonstrate the importance of context.  Nothing can be correctly understood outside its proper context – and “love” is no exception.  In fact, nowadays, we use “love” to mean such a wide variety of things, that our intended meaning can be easily misunderstood:

“I love chocolate.”
“I love your hair.”
“I love my wife.”
“I love politics.” (sarcasm there)

So clearly, “love” is only understood within the proper context.  As you read Paul explain his desire to have all believers reach full maturity, look for love’s context in the life of a believer:

Colossians 2:2-3
I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ.  In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

When we in God’s family are encouraged and joined together in love, these actions and relationship characteristics are the riches of our assured understanding.  Growing in our own relationship with Jesus means that we grow in our understanding of who He is and what He means to us.  As this maturity happens, our actions will take on the love that He demonstrated.  The outpouring, or riches, of our understanding is found in the love we give to other believers.

And just to be clear…what is our understanding?  The Greek word used here carries the idea of a running or flowing together – much like the visual of two rivers flowing together.  What Paul is trying to convey is our assured understanding comes from our thoughts and choices merging with God’s flow and direction.

Paul’s words for the Colossians are also an echo of what Jesus told His own disciples:

John 13:35
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

In its proper context of our knowledge of Christ and our relationship with God, love brings forth an unmistakable richness in believers that is so unique that it is recognized by everyone.

Let’s make sure our understanding and knowledge are grounded in Christ, so we can keep the most important love of all in its proper context.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Saved from what?

As modern-day believers, we have a habit of over-spiritualizing everything we read in the Bible.  We tend to read our understanding of words and phrases from one section of the Bible into all other sections.  Instead, we need to remember that the meaning of a word or phrase is always understood based upon the context that word is used in. 

Take, for example, the word run:
I run for public office.
I run marathons.
Allergies make my nose run.

Same word – three totally different meanings.  However, what I am communicating to you in each sentence is clear, based upon the context of the surrounding words.

When we read the Bible, what is the word that we most typically ignore the context of and mis-read the author’s meaning?

It’s the word salvation or save.

In both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, the word for save simply means to be rescued or delivered.  What we typically assume is the New Testament concept of Jesus rescuing us from the consequences of our sin and giving eternal life to those who believe in Him for it.  And that is a proper use of the word save – as long as that idea is the author’s topic.  Other things that Biblical authors need saved from include: enemies, danger, circumstances, physical death, illness, captivity, and several others. 

So whenever we come across the word salvation or save, we need to stop and ask the question “Saved from what?”.

When David writes Psalm 57, he’s not asking God to rescue him for eternal life…even though it would be tempting for us to read that into the text:

Psalm 57:1-3
Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in You.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings
until danger passes.

I call to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
He reaches down from heaven and saves me,
challenging the one who tramples me.

God sends His faithful love and truth.

So how do we know that David isn’t talking about (or even alluding to) eternal salvation when he says that God reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me?

By looking at the context.

While the numbering system used for the Psalms isn’t original to the text, there are sometimes instructions or notes about the psalm left by the author.  The instructions can vary from what kind of instrument or tune is needed for the psalm, who wrote the psalm, or even give detail as to when the psalm was written.

In the case of Psalm 57, the notes tell us the circumstances which influenced David to write. 

For the choir director: “Do Not Destroy.”  A Davidic Miktam.  When he fled before Saul into the cave.

David was hunted by Saul for four years.  Saul resented that God had chosen David to succeed him as king, and Saul rationalized that if he killed David, then he could continue being King of Israel.  There were many tense occasions during those four years, several times where it looked like Saul had David trapped. 

Psalm 57 was born out of one of those times.  David was in trouble.  Like the text says, Saul was trampling David.  The grace, refuge, and salvation that David was petitioning God for was his physical rescue from Saul.  Based upon the Biblical account of those years, and that David did eventually become King of Israel…we know God’s answer to David’s prayer in Psalm 57.

We don’t have to find inspiration by reading eternal salvation from sins into the text…because a plain reading of what the text is actually talking about is plenty encouraging – from David’s example, we see how God cares enough about our current physical situations to protect us and to fulfill His purpose for us.

God keeps His promises.  He’s willing and able to protect us in this life, even in the times we feel completely trapped.  That great truth is there for us to see, as long as we read the text for what it says and resist the urge to read something else into it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Ask, Search, Knock

Here are some commonly quoted verses regarding how we should pray

Matthew 7:7-8 Keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find.  Keep knocking and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Pretty clear, right?  The text says everyone who asks, so all we have to do is keep pestering God, and he’ll eventually give us what we’re asking for. 

Honestly, we don’t think of praying quite in those terms, but we do convince ourselves (and others) of similar thoughts, such as

·        If I pray about a situation every day for 40 days, God will hear and answer my request.
·        God hasn’t answered my prayer yet…maybe I’m not praying “hard enough”.
·        If I get a lot of people praying about my request, then God will be convinced to give me the outcome I want.

However, our experience tells us otherwise…everyone doesn’t get everything they pray for.  Healing doesn’t always come.  There are relationships that never reconcile.  Opportunities are lost forever because in some situations there are no take-backs, no do-overs, no mulligans.

So then what is Jesus really getting at here when he tells us to persistently ask, search, and knock?

We never want to read a few verses from the Bible without considering the context of the other verses around them.  In our case, we’re still looking at what Jesus taught during his Sermon on the Mount.  In a few verses previous to the ones we’re looking at, Jesus was teaching about how to avoid the trap of worrying, and said this:

Matthew 6:31-32 So don’t worry saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Try to imagine life without a grocery store or clothing store.  The basic necessities of getting our next meal would be pretty high on our priority lists.  However, Jesus is instructing them to not get wrapped up in these kinds of questions…there is something more important than food and clothing, something else they should be pursuing.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

All these things – food, drink, and clothing – will be provided by God when we focus on his purpose, his right way of living.  That’s a fantastic promise in and of itself…but then just a little bit later Jesus says

Matthew 7:7-8 Keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find.  Keep knocking and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Now that we see these verses context, it’s clear that Jesus is urging his followers to ask for, seek out, and pursue entrance into the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Jesus is guaranteeing that his followers will obtain what they are after…the very thing they hold as more important than food and clothing…a relationship and partnership with the God of the Universe.

No other god, human, or religious system can fulfill a guarantee like this one.  Jesus claims that our Father in heaven will see us though.  Once again, Jesus’ teaching leaves us with the realization that the content of our prayers is much, much too small…and the relationship we’re being invited into is something much bigger and much better than anything in this life. 

That relationship is worth the effort it takes to persistently seek God.  Just like Jesus, I encourage you to keep asking, keep searching, keep knocking, and keep praying that God reveals the kingdom and His righteousness

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Forgiveness and prayer (part 2)

While looking at the text of the model prayer that Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount, we’ve found a challenging connection between God forgiving us and our willingness to forgive others:

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

The verses closely around the model prayer gave us better insight into what Christ meant when he said we should pray that, based upon our forgiveness of others, God would limit his forgiveness of us.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their wrong-doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrong-doing.

This is a challenging command for us, because we like to compartmentalize our relationships with others away from our relationship with God.  With Jesus teaching that these two areas affect each other, it forces us to look at others in the same manner that God looks at us.

However, part of me wants to argue that I should be able to just talk to God and resolve my issues with him before I worry about resolving any issues with others.  And a passage of Scripture comes to mind that appears to support that desire.

As Christians, we love to quote 1 John 1:9 as the remedy for when we stumble and sin:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is a verse that every believer should have memorized.  There is a great assurance of forgiveness found in this verse.  And all unrighteousness means ALL unrighteousness.  In addition to the sins that I confess, this verse tells me that God will also clear our relationship with him of any other sin or error – even if I forgot about a particular sin or didn’t recognize something as sin. 

However, nothing in 1 John 1:9 says I have to forgive anyone else before God forgives me.  So it appears that we have John, a disciple of Jesus, contradicting what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  How do we deal with this?

First of all, we need to remember who the immediate audience is in both passages.  Jesus’ teaching is directed toward those who view him as the Messiah.  John is writing to those who have already placed their faith in Jesus as Savior.  The kind of prayer that John and Jesus are teaching us about is not the “sinner’s prayer” where a person begins a relationship with God by placing their faith in Jesus…the kind of prayer that both are dealing with pertains to our on-going relationship with God as we live our day-to-day lives.

Secondly, the “cure” for this apparent discrepancy is the same skill we applied to understand Matthew 6:12 – we need to look at the surrounding context for 1 John 1:9

1 John 1:6-7 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

From these verses, we see again that when our faith-walk doesn’t match our faith-talk…our relationships with others AND our relationship with God is affected.  And if, by some chance, we’ve convinced ourselves that we couldn’t possibly be that hypocritical, John has a warning for us:

1 John 1:8-9 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we go to God in prayer and expect Him to forgive our sins when we haven’t forgiven others, we deceive ourselves…and are hypocritical before God.  This isn’t to say we can’t talk to God until all relationships are fully healed, rather the aim is to walk in the light as He Himself is in the light and be ready to forgive others, just as God stands ready to forgive us from ALL unrighteousness.

Our Father in Heaven…forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

Keep Pressing,
Ken