Saturday Sampler: June 4 — June 10

Bertucci Sampler
Sampler plate at Bertucci’s

Clint Archer posts Running for the  Reward: Comrades Marathon and the Bema Seat in The Cripplegate. Sometimes we Christians forget that rewards await us when we finish this life.

Reprising a column that she originally wrote in 2011, Marsha West of Berean Research chronicles the Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity as  a testament to the many corrosive influences on the 21st Century church. Her comments on psychology particularly interested me.  In addition, she unmasks the resurgence of Gnosticism among evangelicals and explores Rick Warren’s affiliation with Robert Schuller.

Sometimes we ignore seemingly inconsequential sins, assuming the Lord also overlooks them. Tim Challies directs our attention to one such sin (grumbling about fellow Christians) in The King Is Within Earshot.

People commonly object to the doctrine of election because they infer that, if God elects some to heaven, He conversely elects others to hell. In The Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson writes Reprobation: Does God elect people to hell? as a way to demonstrate the logical fallacies of this argument. After you’ve read this piece, however, I strongly suggest that you read Reprobation Rejoinder by Mike Riccardi, also in The Cripplegate.

I’ve been disturbed, for the past few years, about the common perceptions professing Christians have regarding heaven. So it encourages me to read Heaven: The Biblical Version by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. I feel less alone in my understanding of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Denny Burk provides a sobering reminder that American Christians have already begun to face persecution. His article, Watch Bernie Sanders tell  a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office, reminds me that we can no longer expect to be embraced by our culture. But Jesus repeatedly warned us that the world would reject us, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to read something both fun and educational, look at The Mischievous Protestant’s Guide to Catholic Rome by Tim Challies. Now, why do you suppose my art history professor at Dominican University of California  (a school started by Catholic nuns) never mentioned the items in this piece.

In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Kendra Dahl shares The Lesson That Saved My Marriage to help us adjust our expectations of our husbands. I definitely needed to read her wisdom this week!

 

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Perspectives In Titus: Of Employees And Slaves

Titus 9 & 10Slavery is difficult to talk about, particularly for Americans who continue to live with shameful memories of our nation’s cruelty to black slaves. So I approach this weeks passage with a degree of reticence, not wanting to offend anyone.

At the same time, I don’t want to get sidetracked from our study with a lengthy discussion on the differences between 1st Century slavery in the Roman Empire and the early American institution of slavery. Nor do I want to spend time and blog space exploring possible reasons that Paul neither condemned nor condoned slavery in his culture. This study has been going slowly enough without that rabbit trail.

So, dear ladies, let’s read the first ten verses of Titus 2  before we zero in on verses 9 and 10, just to keep the context fresh in our minds.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.  ~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)

The best way to apply Titus 2:9-10 is to substitute the word “employees” for “bondservants,” even though its not an exact parallel. Employees are the modern-day equivalents to bondservants. At least, they should have that sort of attitude. Strictly speaking, the Greek word describes someone subservient to another. For that reason  Paul describes himself as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, although modern-day employees serve their employers voluntarily, they ought to have the humility of a bondservant.

Bondservants, says Paul in verse 9, should submit to their own masters. He has made similar pleas in Ephesians 6:5-6, Colossians 3:22 and 1 Timothy 6:1. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown assert that, because Christian slaves enjoyed spiritual equality with their Christian masters (Galatians 3:28), they might forget their rank on the social  level.

Submission means to recognize someone’s authority over us. In that sense it is voluntary; it involves our attitude toward that person.

Notice that Paul specifies submission to their own masters rather than to masters of other bondservants. A minor point, perhaps, but it would protect slaves from being taken advantage of by the public at large.

Paul continues by explaining what submission should look like. First, they must please their masters. Instead of performing tasks grudgingly, doing the bare minimum, they should try to work in ways that delight their masters. Barnes cautions that this pleasing does not includes submitting to anything that contradicts God’s Law.

Part of working this way necessitates that they avoid arguing and backtalk. This clause may even extend, as one commentator suggests, to the servant advancing his own opinions.  I’m not sure I completely agree with that point (and I’m an employer over my PCAs), but the idea here is that bondservants act in attitudes of submission.

Additionally, verse 10 tells us, bondservants must not pilfer from their masters. The idea here is that bondservants should not use the property of their masters for personal benefit.  Such pilfering could take the form of secretly taking money or material goods, but it might also mean taking time for themselves when they should be attending to business.

In contrast to pilfering, bondservants must show themselves trustworthy.  They should take care of the property and responsibilities entrusted to them. MacArthur states that the phrase, “showing all good faith,” indicates loyalty.

In summary, Paul commands this submission for one purpose. Like the other four groups he’s addressed throughout this chapter, he calls bondservants to behave in ways that are in line with the Gospel. As he puts it, their attitudes and actions must adorn the Gospel. The Cretans would scrutinize Christians, looking for signs of hypocrisy, which made it crucial that even bondservants show lives of integrity. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown conclude by writing, “Even slaves, low as is their status, should not think the influence of their example a matter of no consequence to religion.”

 

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Perspectives In Titus: Teaching Young Men

Titus 2 6 thru 8

Titus 2:6-8 seems like an inappropriate text for a women’s blog. I’d argue that, although the passage indeed specifically focuses on young men, women certainly can learn from the principles it lays down.

I’ll quote the passage in the context of the verses leading up to it, just to keep everything in proper perspective:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (ESV)

Paul has been showing Titus how to minister to various groups that make up a local church, explaining how each group best  demonstrates Christian behavior. For the past two weeks we’ve concentrated on the instructions aimed at older and younger women, but now verse 6 of the text moves our attention to young men.

In contrast to Paul’s instruction that Titus delegate the training of young women to more mature ladies, Paul charges Titus to directly work with young men. As we’ll see momentarily, Titus is specifically told to urge these young men to exercise self-control. Presumably, that term would include controlling sexual lusts (see 2 Timothy 2:22).

Paul’s word “likewise” refers back to the previous three groups.  Paul emphasizes self-control as a contrast to the self-indulgence that marked the Cretan lifestyle. This command, however, especially challenges young adults, who aren’t accustomed to restraining themselves. Fleeing  youthful passions, particularly while living in an environment like Crete, would demonstrate God’s power to transform young men.

Just as young men like Titus would be asking for trouble in counseling young women regarding sexual purity, so he would be the most appropriate person to mentor young men in maintaining self-control in respect to their sexual purity.

Verse 7 slightly shifts the focus from young men in general to one particular young man: Titus himself. Why? My personal opinion is because, since he is a young man at the time of this epistle, Titus could serve as a practical example of how young men ought to   conduct themselves.

The context of this verse leads us to  think that Titus was still a young man at the time Paul wrote this letter, and therefore Titus had to model proper behavior for young men to emulate. Consequently, he was to set an example of performing good works.

He would set this example largely through his conduct as a minister of the Gospel. In his ministry of teaching, Titus would need, first of all, to show integrity. Since Paul elaborates on how to show integrity in the next verse, let’s merely say here that his teaching must be free of any corruption.

By “dignity,” Paul means that Titus should teach in a manner that commands respect. Not only must his doctrine be grounded in truth, but he must deliver it in reverence and seriousness to underscore its importance as the very Word of God. Again, Paul expands on this idea in verse 8, but I want to quickly mention that it makes me think of present-day pastors who resort to gimmicks and theatrics to capture the attention of their “audience” rather than treating the pulpit with dignity.

Verse 8 continues Paul’s instruction to Titus by urging him toward sound speech. In his teaching, Titus would need to speak doctrinally sound words that no one could find fault with. By doing   so, he would silence his critics, proving that their arguments were ridiculous.

Sound speech needed to characterize Titus’ public and private conversations.  This point both reiterates and emphasizes the call to integrity in the previous verse. Barnes comments:

Such as cannot be shown to be weak, or unsound; such that no one could find fault with it, or such as an adversary could not take hold of and blame. This direction would imply purity and seriousness of language, solidity of argument, and truth in the doctrines which he maintained.

Barnes is not alone in his observation; The Believers Bible Commentary adds that sound speech “should  be free from side-issues, doctrinal novelties, fads, crudities, and the like.” As I mentioned earlier, many 21st pastors apparently disregard this call to sobriety in the ministry of God’s Word. Yet Titus, and by extension all representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, bear a responsibility to be faithful to God’s Word.

Paul insists on Titus exhibiting sound speech because of the opponents to the Gospel. He probably thought about the Judaizers in particular, who would be eager to discredit both Titus and Paul. He wanted Titus to ensure that no one could charge them with practicing evil (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).

As Christian women, we can learn from Paul’s instructions to Titus. Even though we don’t teach in mixed congregations, we do teach other women. Therefore, like Titus, we must model integrity, dignity and sound speech that silences the opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ. We represent Him, and consequently our deportment should reflect that fact.

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Think You’re Not A Sinner?

SanctimonyIt’s terribly easy, don’t you think, to look at people in the LBGTQ community and sanctimoniously sniff as we read Leviticus 19 and Romans 1. Obviously, their sin far exceeds anything that we do!

I definitely trust Scripture’s verdict that God condemns the sin of homosexuality. I believe that someone with same sex attractions must repent of all homosexual behavior and fantasies, trusting Christ to forgive her. Perhaps in future posts I can write about the wonderful hope He extends to those who are trapped in this sin.

But today I want to address those of us who are guilty of heterosexual sin. That would be every heterosexual on the planet, by the way. Jesus made that fact painfully evident in Matthew 5:27-28. We dare not pretend that we’ve avoided impure fantasies, even if we’ve never physically acted on them.

Yesterday, I quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, a common passage used to demonstrate that homosexuality is one of several very serious sins that requires Christ’s atoning blood. But I want you to notice the passage that immediately follows it.

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.   ~~1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV)

Verses 12 and 13 refer to common sayings in First Century Corinth used to justify sexual immorality. Those sayings mirror our modern rationalization that sex is merely a biological function on the same level as eating, so lust should be satisfied the same way we satisfy hunger. If we go outside the boundaries of heterosexual marriage, the argument continues, that’s permissible.

Beginning with verse 17, however, Paul puts the brakes on such thinking. Sexual immorality has no place in the life of a Christian, particularly since the Holy Spirit resides in each of us. This passage clearly addresses heterosexual immorality. Therefore, the reference to homosexuality in the previous passage is a minor point, introducing Paul’s primary point that sex must not go beyond God’s parameters. Chapter 7 continues the discussion by giving guidelines on marriage, divorce and singleness, clarifying the Lord’s position that sex belongs exclusively between husband and wife.

When you factor in Matthew 5:27-28, where Christ says that even sexual fantasies constitute sexual immorality, you see that everyone stands condemned unless they find shelter in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

As I said yesterday, Christians must love those in the LBGTQ community enough to call their fantasies and behaviors sin. By doing so, we offer them the same hope of grace that liberates us from sexual immorality. But the key to offering this hope is in remembering our own sexual sin and our consequent dependence on God’s grace. Sanctimony is not an attitude that Christians can afford.

 

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Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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