31 August 2011

The Savor of His Knowledge

Came across a passage that piqued my interest this morning. 

2 Corinthians 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

I still have some questions about the verses that follow (15-16), where the Bible says that we are a sweet savor unto God of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish (the unsaved), to the one the savor of death unto death, and to the other the savor of life unto life. 

I have some thoughts on these verses.  I’ve read some thoughts on these verses.  And I’d like your thoughts on these verses.

But back to verse 14, notice three things.

1.  The savor of His knowledge is made manifest by us.

Savor is defined as the taste or smell of something.  A savor is a distinctive quality of something; or that which renders something valuable. 

Basically, the statement serves as a reminder that you, Christian, are the only Bible that some people will ever read.  Your life, your testimony, your witness will be the only taste of the knowledge of God that many people ever get.  You are a representative of Jesus Christ in every place that you go.  What the people you know (lost or saved) think about Bible Christianity will in a large part be determined by what you say and what you do.  Everywhere you go, you’re giving off an aroma for people to associate with the knowledge of God. 

And so the question is this: What kind of odor are you giving off?  What taste have you left in the mouths of those that know you represent Jesus Christ?  What is the distinctive quality of your witness, of your testimony, of your preaching?

2.  God wants us to make Him known in every place.

The statement is that we manifest the savor of His knowledge in every place (point # 1).  That’s the reality of the situation, and a great responsibility.

But is it not also true that God has commanded us to make Him known in every place, and is that not also a great responsibility?  Two applications here.
First of all, missions.  God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).  God is willing that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).  Our commission is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).  Our calling is to teach all nations (Matthew 28:19).  Our commandment is to be His witnesses unto uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).  God wants the savor of His knowledge made manifest in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14).  So what are you doing to reach the world with the gospel?

And secondly, our personal witness.  Paul made some amazing missionary journeys and made Christ known in a lot of places.  But He didn’t personally go to every place.  The statement here is that every place Paul went, He gave people a taste of the knowledge of God.  So the challenge for us is to be a 24/7 Christian.  To be a round the clock witness.  To take the knowledge of God everywhere we go.  To take the knowledge of God to the school house and tell the people there about Jesus.  To speak up for the Lord at the workplace.  To leave the clerk at the counter with a gospel tract.  To be His witness in your neighborhood.  To never go off duty.  To never miss an opportunity to give someone the gospel. 

3.  We need the power of God.

In light of this great responsibility – making manifest the savor of His knowledge in every place – the Bible says, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (verse 16).  The answer is in chapter 3, verse 5: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”

Looking more closely at 2:14, the wording points to the fact that only does God cause us to triumph in Christ (hallelujah) but that God is the one who makes manifest the savor of his knowledge.  He just uses us to do it.    

So I’m not dependent on my own ability, my own strength, my own power.  And good thing.  Because I am terribly insufficient.  I have a great responsibility, but I also have a great God who works in me both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13) and always causes me to triumph in Christ (verse 14). 

Verse 17 says, “but as of God…speak we in Christ.”  I am to be a powerful witness.  I am to have a powerful testimony.  But God supplies the power.  So I need to walk with Him.  I need to yield to Him.  I need to trust in Him.  I need to obey Him.  And He’ll give me the power I need to represent Him properly (Ephesians 3:16-21).

23 August 2011

Not Many Mighty

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 is a great passage to read when you’re having a Galatians 6:3 moment (and we all go there from time to time). 

Verse 26 says that not many wise, not many might, not many noble are called.  The wording does allow for the reading that there are a few wise…mighty…noble who are called.  But just in case you think that’s you, verses 27-28 basically imply that you’ll never amount to much for the Lord.  Because God chooses the foolish to confound the wise; the weak to confound the mighty; and that which is base and despised to bring to nought the things that are.

But why?  For this reason (verse 29), “That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

That sounds awfully similar to one of the main reasons that a man’s good works can’t save his soul – because God doesn’t want anybody in heaven bragging about what they did to get there.  (See Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 3:27.)

And it’s the same reason that the Lord is not likely to use someone who thinks they have something great to offer Him.  He doesn’t want us to “glory in his presence.”

Colossians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.”  How did you receive Jesus Christ?  In humility.  Knowing you could do nothing to save yourself.  How did you receive Jesus Christ?  By faith.  Trusting what He had done not what you could do. 

The Lord wants us to take that same attitude into Christian service.  He wants us to own our complete dependence upon Him.  He wants us to recognize that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  That we are insufficient of ourselves; that our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5).  That it’s not by might or by power but by the spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6).  That it takes God working in us and working through to accomplish anything that will matter (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 13:20-21). 

The Lord wants us to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Believing His word; obeying His word; seeking His will (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6).  Depending not on our strength or ability but on the power of the indwelling Christ (Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 3:16-20).

The Lord will reward us for that kind of service (1 Corinthians 3:14; Colossians 3:23-24; et al), but we’ll cast those crowns right back at Jesus’ feet because all the honor, all the glory, all the power, all the praise – it rightly belongs to Him (Revelation 4:10-11).

17 August 2011

The Great Commandment

Joshua 23:11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.

Does it not strike you as an amazing thing that you and I have to WORK at loving God?  That we have to do it on purpose?  That we have to “take good heed” to ourselves to make sure we keep the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37)?  It seems so simple and at the same time so daunting a charge.  But in light of everything we know about God, doesn’t it seem loving Him supremely would just be automatic?  Doesn’t it seem like it’d just happen naturally?  How could we HELP but love the Lord!

1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

To me, Joshua 23:11 serves as a sad statement on human nature.  A sad reminder of our tendency to lose sight of the amazing love God has for us.  A sober warning on how quick we are to forget.    

In the context and into chapter 24, Joshua recounts all the wonderful things that God had done for the nation of Israel – from the call of Abraham, to deliverance from Egypt, to protection and provision in the wilderness, to victory and conquest in the land of Canaan.  And right in the middle of all that is this directive to take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.

I know I should love God.  I know I have all the reason in the world to do so.  And I do.  Definitely not as much as I should, but I do.  And I realize that based on the word of God, living life in this mortal flesh on this sin-cursed earth, it’s something I had better continue to work at.  Something I had better cultivate.  Something I had better grow.  A choice I had better make on a daily basis. 

In these last days, iniquity abounds, and the love of many has waxed cold (Matthew 24:12).  Many have gone the way of the Ephesians and have left their first love (Revelation 2:4).  May the Lord help us continually kindle in our hearts a constant and genuine love for Him.

11 August 2011

Evil Surmising

The initial accusation given by the Jews against the apostle Paul in Acts 21 provides an interesting glimpse at human nature.  But first of all, let’s back up to his greeting by the elders of the church at Jerusalem. 

Acts 21:18-21 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

A number of points:

1.       If this is what Paul was teaching, he would have been right.

2.       At least the elders did the right thing in taking what they had heard about Paul to Paul instead of spreading if further.  That’s a good example for us to follow.

3.       I need to research the timeframe of these events in relation to Paul’s writings a bit further, and perhaps somebody can help me with this: Was Paul backsliding on what he said to Peter and what he wrote to the churches of Galatia?   What he wrote in Romans 6:14?  He counters the elders’ charge by agreeing to purify himself with 4 men that had a vow on them, as a testimony to the Jews that he walked orderly and kept the law (vv. 22-25).

4.       So the conclusion of the council in Acts 15 – that the law was in no way binding on believers – at this point was seen, at least by these, as being limited to Gentile believers (vv. 22, 25).

5.       Some excuse Paul’s actions with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, becoming all things to all men.  I believe this excuse is invalid, especially in light of the Holy Spirit’s continually directing Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4 vs. 20:22; 21:10-14; even when he made it there, 22:17-21).

Interesting.  Now,

Acts 21:27-30 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

1.       So the Jews who had heard and opposed Paul’s preaching in the cities of Asia (during Paul’s previous missionary journeys) are in Jerusalem for the feast and see Paul go into the temple. 

2.       The first part of their accusation is extremely negative – that Paul taught against the Jews, against the law, against the temple (cp. 6:10-14).  This is how they heard Paul’s preaching for Jesus Christ and for salvation and for forgiveness and freedom from sin.

3.       The last part of their accusation is pure conjecture.  And this is really what stuck out to me about the passage.  Mankind has this tendency to “put two and two together,” only to find out later that part of that equation was off because the situation didn’t add up to four.  The Jew’s logic was as follows: Trophimus was with Paul in Jerusalem + Paul was in the temple = Paul polluted the temple by bringing in a Gentile.  That’s quite a leap.  But that’s what we do.  We suppose that if this is true and if this is true then that means the other must be true, and we convince ourselves that it is, and we act upon it.  The Bible calls it “evil surmising.”  And we need to be really careful about that.  Because a lot of the time we end up being wrong.  And in this case, it just about got Paul torn in two.

4.       What we need to be careful to do is make sure we diligently enquire about a person or situation before we act on mere supposition or accusation (Deuteronomy 19:18).  What we need to be careful to do is Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.   What we need to be careful to do is Proverbs 25:9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:  Don’t just assume something is true because you heard it or you thought it up in your mind.  Find out the truth; go about it the proper way; and respond accordingly. 


03 August 2011

The Danger of Men-Pleasing

Pontius Pilate is an interesting character study.  Here’s what the Bible says about him. 

He received witness from Jesus Christ Himself (1 Timothy 6:13).  He was warned by his wife not to have anything to do with that just man (Matthew 27:19).  He knew the chief priests had delivered Him for envy (Mark 15:10; Matthew 27:18).  Three times he told the Jews he found no fault in Him at all (Luke 23:4, 14; John 18:38; 19:4, 6).  Called Jesus a just person (Matthew 27:24).  Was willing to release Him (Luke 23:20).  Was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Refused to change the writing, “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19).  Marveled that He had died (Mark 15:44).  Didn’t seem surprised at the prospect of Christ’s resurrection or convinced a watch could do much to prevent it (Matthew 27:65). 

And yet – in spite of all this – he authorized the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

Why?!  Two reasons:

Mark 15:15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

John 19:12-13 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

Pilate gave the order for Jesus to be put to death because (1) He wanted to be Caesar’s friend, and (2) he was willing to content the people.  Amazing. 

So it doesn’t matter how much you know about the Bible.  It doesn’t matter how much you know about how rotten the world is.  It doesn’t matter how much you know about the Lord.  It doesn’t matter how much you say you love Jesus.  If your desire is to please the crowd; if your desire is to find acceptance in the eyes of this world; if your desire to be somebody’s friend, you will sell out the Lord.  There’s no doubt about it.

Paul said that if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).  Jesus said that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Since Jesus Christ loved me enough to lay down His life for my sins…
Since God’s ways and God’s thoughts are so much higher than my own…
Since I’ll stand before Him and no one else on the day of judgment…
And for so many other reasons…

Let’s forget the crowd and follow Jesus. 

The world behind me; the cross before me.  No turning back; no turning back.