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: value

Your new family and your new name

Building on what he established last time…that Christ is superior in both name (identity) and message, the author tells his readers:

Hebrews 2:1-3
We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.  For if the [previous] message spoken through angels was legally binding, and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Greater value requires greater care.  We know this from our own lives – when something is of great value to us, we handle it differently then something we consider common or of low value.

Since Christ’s message is superior to all previous messages, even the ones delivered by angels, we are encouraged to give it the elevated level of attention it deserves.  The previous covenant between God and Israel contained severe punishments for Israel whenever they deviated and disobeyed either individually (they were excluded from the community, some received the death penalty) or disobeyed as a nation (they were inflicted with plagues, experienced military defeat, and even mass deportation from their homeland).  How much more serious will God be when those within the new covenant drift away and treat Christ’s message as something common or of low value?

But Christ’s superior message is more than a contract between two different parties:

Hebrews 2:11
For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.  That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers

When an adoption occurs, the child enters the family and receives a new last name.  Therefore you share a last name with the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of [God’s] being (Hebrews 1:3).

You now belong to the “Holy” family.  Your brother is Jesus Holy.  As an example, instead of being Ken Clouser, my name has become Ken Holy.

Put your name in there.  Let it sink in.  Try saying it out loud.

How did you feel saying that?

If we paid more careful attention to this, I don’t believe we would drift away.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Getting specific

Sometimes when I am presented with an important teaching, I need a little help to flesh out exactly how this new concept applies to where I’m at.  As such, I love it when a speaker moves from the theoretical to the practical. 

Paul has just given Timothy instruction on the importance of the believers in Ephesus to lead a tranquil and quiet life, a life that is characterized by both godliness and dignity.  This kind of life will stand out to those outside God’s family and will serve a launching pad for telling others about Jesus.  (see 1 Timothy 2:1-7).

Thankfully, Paul moves quickly to give Timothy instruction for how the believers in Ephesus can display these characteristics.

1 Timothy 2:8
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.

The first task for the men is to lead in prayer.  The importance of this task in each family and within God’s family cannot be understated.  Since the men are to act as the leader and High Priest for their family, as well as provide leadership within the church, their individual connection to God must be a top priority.

Paul’s practical instruction also comes with specifics about their posture and attitude in prayer – both of which reveal the focus of their heart toward God and others.  While lifting up…hands in prayer was a common “prayer position” in ancient days, it was more of a symbolic gesture meant to convey the person’s inner openness to God.  Throughout Scripture, a person’s hands are also symbolic of their activities, and Paul description of lifting up holy hands suggests that as the men pray, the offering of their daily actions are undefiled by sin and free from wickedness.

When a man focuses on devotion to prayer and godly conduct, and does them without anger or argument, the world will plainly see the difference God can make in a man’s life.

Paul also has specific instruction for the women in the Ephesian church so that they, too, know how to best represent God to the culture around them.

1 Timothy 2:9-10
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.

Keep in mind that these instructions were written to believers.  These women, especially the wealthy ones, would set an example within the church family.  If an unbeliever comes in with little means, they could begin to wonder if you have to be rich in order to be saved.  Another potential issue could arise if another believer has little means, they could conclude that they aren’t favored by God because others have so much more to display.  Additionally, there is a risk of division among even the affluent believers.  The exorbitant displays of wealth among them will cause problems as egos rise as they try to outdo one another in dress, hairstyle, and jewelry.

Paul’s contrast here is really between works and wardrobe.  How is a woman displaying her understanding of value within God’s family?  The ancient upper class women would spend an excessive amount of time on their elaborate hairstyles and expensive apparel; these things would draw attention to themselves rather than to the God they claim to serve.  Paul says that a woman’s value isn’t in the perfection of her outward appearance, rather her beauty comes from her decency and good sense.  Both of these lead to a reputation of good works and point others toward God.

Paul’s directions to both groups cut against our natural, self-promoting tendencies…which is precisely why the world will notice the difference God makes in a person’s life.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Shadow vs Substance

There have been many ways that man has tried to relate to God throughout the centuries.  Even though the Jewish people were given God’s law, over time they added layers of additional rules to “help” their people know exactly how to (and how not to) interact with God.

However, these “helps” did not rescue the people from their sins.  They could not rescue themselves.  They needed a Savior.  Talking about Jesus, Paul told the believers in Colossae:

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.

Now that Jesus has made you alive, how should we worship God? 

The trouble with all these additional, specific rules was that they had become the measuring stick of how “godly” a person was.  The Israelites compared themselves with each other and judged one another’s “spirituality” by how well the 600+ rules were maintained. 

They were getting hung up on the ritual – the action that was supposed to help them look forward to the Messiah – rather than using the ritual to help them recognize the Messiah when He arrived.  Ritual observance and proficiency had become their focus.  It had been that way in Jewish communities for hundreds of years before Jesus came.

However, now that the Colossians believed on Jesus for eternal life, they needed to know that their previous ritual activities no longer held the same level of importance.

Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a sabbath day.  These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.

A shadow can give us an idea of what an object is like, by revealing the outline of the object.  However, a shadow can never tell us the true value of an object.  A ball made of styrofoam and a ball made of gold will cast the same shadow.  Therefore, a shadow is ultimately just a representation of the object, and the only value a shadow has is in how well it represents the substance.  Even then, the true value is found in the object itself.

All the historical rules about food and drink, the yearly festivals and feasts, and special days had come to a close.  Their purpose was fulfilled in Christ’s work on the cross.  It was time for the people to stop staring at the shadow because the substance responsible for the shadow had come into view. 

Going forward, everything they would do to worship God would be Jesus-focused, not activity focused.  They needed to look to the person, not the ritual.

Rituals can be helpful, but only as long as they point us toward Jesus.  We would be wise to do an inventory of our lives and worship service preferences to make sure that we’re keeping our focus on the substance of the Messiah and not getting hung up in the shadows.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The Trinity in action

Did you know that there are some words common to Christian discussions, which are not found in the Scriptures?  Two examples include the words “Atheism” and “Bible”.  Try to find them in a concordance (a dictionary-type book that alphabetically lists all words used in the Scriptures), and you won’t find them.  However, the concept of both Atheistic beliefs and the collection of God-inspired books forming the Bible are clearly taught within God’s Word.

Atheistic beliefs:
Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

God inspires the Bible:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Another Christian term that critics like to point out as being “un-Biblical” because it is not found in the Bible is the word Trinity.  Many believers struggle to understand, let alone explain, the concept of a 3-person/1-being God.  God has always been “one” in direction, purpose, and essence. 

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

However, we do find throughout Scripture that each person – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – are identified as God (Galatians 1:1, Titus 2:13, Romans 8:14), and each person relates to the others in specific, unique roles and actions (John 15:26, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:3).  There are many other Scripture references that could be used to further these points, but the ones cited are a good starting place.

While we may not fully understand all the particulars of how God is like this, we can certainly recognize the Trinity when we see it in action.  Paul brings up the concept of the Trinity as he instructs Titus to teach the Cretans.  Look for the actions of each member:

Titus 3:4-6 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior

When we read these verses, we find that Paul refers to both God the Father and Jesus Christ as Savior and also states that it is the actions performed by the Holy Spirit that saved us.  The fullness of the Godhead, all three persons of the Trinity, were involved with our rescue from the penalty of our sinful living. 

You can easily tell the importance of a project based upon the rank of the one who leads it.  A project led by a Manager has a different emphasis from a project personally led by the CEO.  Given that all three members of the Trinity participated in our salvation…the value that God placed on us and our rescue cannot be understated.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit acted in concert to redeem us, and not because of righteous things we had done, but because of [God’s] mercy.

When I stop, take a deep breath, and let that one truth sink in…it blows my mind.  Literally makes my head hurt.  I struggle to fathom it.  It’s almost too good to be true, right?

Gifts are like that.  Spend some time thinking about it, you’ll be glad you did.  When you’ve fully wrestled with it, when you’ve accepted his gift that none of us deserve, there’s only one thing left to say:

“Thank you.”

Keep Pressing,
Ken