Archives
Tag Cloud
: Mothers Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abraham’s Bosom Abuse Accounting Activism Adoption Adultery Affection Affliction Afterlife Alliances Altar America Analogy Angels Anger Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Apostles Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Baal Babylon Bad Baptism Belief Betrayal Bible Bitterness Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Book of Life Borders Born Again Bottomless Pit Bride Bride of Christ Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Carnal Celebration Character Childbirth Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Circumstances Civil Disobedience Clay Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Confidence Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Coveting Creation Creator Crisis Cross Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deceit Deception Decisions Defense Delegation Demon Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Endurance Enemies Enemy Environment Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Eternal Life Eternity Evangelism Everlasting Life Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Gods False Prophet False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Father’s Day Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Feasts of the Lord Fellowship Fig Tree Finances Fire First Coming First Resurrection Firstborn Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruit of the Spirit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles Gentle George Wood Giving Glorified Body Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly God's Will Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hades Hardship Harvest Hate Hatred Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Help Herod Hidden Holiness Holy Holy Spirit Home Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Idolatry Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Individuals Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Intermediate State Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgment Day Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kids Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lake of Fire Lamp Law Law of the Lord Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Life-Span Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Lowly Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Master Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Metaphor Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Minister Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Mystery Nations Natural Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Earth New Jerusalem New Man New Testament Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Covenant Old Man Old Nature Old Testament Omnipresence Omniscience One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paradise Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Path Patience Patriotism Peace Peer Pressure Pentecost People of God Perception Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Philosophy Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preach Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Prosperity Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Providence Provision Punishment Purgatory Purity Purpose Questions Racism Rapture Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Risk Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Sarcasm Satan Savior Schemes Science Scoffers Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Servants Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing She’ol Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Son of Man Sons of God Sorrow Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Birth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Storms Strength Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teacher Teaching Teachings Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Grave The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Throne Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Tragedy Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Tree of Life Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Triumphal Entry Trouble Trust Truth Unbelievers Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Victory Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Visiting Ministries Voice of God Volunteer War Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Water of Life Weary Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Witnesses Witnessing Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast YHWH Yoke Zion

Weekly Word

Entries in Honor (5)

Tuesday
May142019

The Expensive Gift

Matthew 26:6-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019.

Today is Mother’s Day and we want to honor each and every mom that works hard every day to take care of her family.  Today’s story is not necessarily about a mother, but it is about a woman who gives an expensive gift of love to Jesus.  I would say that a woman who gives expensive gifts of love to those around them is a very fine definition of what it means to be a mom. 

As we look at this story, I pray that all moms will find encouragement for their life of sacrifice, and I pray that the rest of us can also hear the call of the Holy Spirit showing us how to love in every situation.

She gives what she feels led to give

In this passage, the woman is unnamed, but we are told that it occurs at Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper during the week before Christ’s crucifixion.  This would make it highly likely that this passage is a parallel account of John 12 where a similar account takes place.  There we are told that this is Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus (the one who Jesus raised from the dead).  Simon the Leper is most likely someone who was healed by Jesus, otherwise he wouldn’t be receiving dinner guests.  Regardless, it isn’t important if we know the woman’s name for today’s purpose.  However, I will refer to the John 12 account from time to time.

Jesus seems to be at a meal that is interrupted by this woman who pours a small flask of expensive oil upon his head.  This is something that would not be very welcome in our society, but it would have been considered an honoring thing in this society.  The oil would smell nice, which would honor the person with both its costly value and its odor.  Also, anointing had the added social connection to the beginning of a priest’s service or the beginning of a king’s reign.  Israel would anoint their priests and kings as they launched their term of service.

However, we must recognize that the motivation behind the woman’s action is not made clear in the story.  One thing is certain; it is the Holy Spirit that is leading her to do this.  She loves the Lord and sought a way to show it.  Often our love for another person causes us to give things that cost us dearly.  In fact, the most costly thing that mother’s give is themselves.  What is it that stirs a woman to give herself to children, a spouse, and family?  I believe that it is the Spirit of God that stirs these things up in our hearts.

Others don’t understand her gift of love

We are told that the disciples are shocked that this expensive gift is being “wasted” in this way.  John 12 tells us that Judas the Betrayer was the one who led this rebuke, but clearly at least some of the other disciples joined in with him and voiced their disapproval.  The oil could have been sold and the money used for the poor.  Now, several things stick out with this objection.  It sounds very pious and also like good financial advice.  However, it doesn’t have the heart of the woman whose love is being spurred by the Holy Spirit.  In John 12 we are told that Judas was skimming money out of the treasury bag, which he carried.  Clearly his motivations are evil, but he masks the true intentions by mentioning the poor.  As for the other disciples, their motivations are not evil like those of Judas.  However, they are caught up in a wrong spirit that criticizes the woman’s gift.

People can often object to how we spend our time, our energy, and our money.  Those things that we do that are motivated by our flesh and selfishness are often deserving of such rebukes.  However, love often gives “wastefully.”  How much was Jesus worth?  In John 12 we are told that the oil was valued at 300 denarii.  This term is usually defined as 1 day’s wage for a common laborer.  That is ten months of wages!  In our terms today we would be talking about $20,000 or more.  That is a lot of money that might even make the most giving of us think twice.  Christ is not physically here for us to show our love like Mary was able to do.  How do we love Christ?  We do so by loving his followers as he loved us, selflessly and sacrificially.  We do so by obeying his command to share the Gospel with the world around us.  Now, there is no law of God that limits the actions of our love.  Yet, people will often criticize you when you love extravagantly.  They will tell you that you are forgiving too many times etc. and criticize your response.  However, don’t pay the critics any mind.  Just ask yourself this.  How is God leading me to love this person in this situation?  Then stick to what you believe He is saying.

Christ receives and defends her gift

It doesn’t really matter what others say about how you have loved those who are in your life.  It only matters what Jesus thinks about our love.  Christ not only receives her gift as a gift of love, but he also defends her before the other disciples.  Countering their “It should have been given to the poor” argument, Jesus states that the poor will always be there to help, but the opportunity to do this was quickly slipping away.  Jesus would be crucified within the week.

It is amazing that people will end up sacrificing the specific person or people that God has put in their life for the sake of the unnamed masses of humanity.  There is nothing wrong with loving humanity and giving to causes that touch them with compassion.  However, if I don’t actively love the specific people in my life then I am a hypocrite.  Another way to think of it is that, we can neglect our love of the human in front of us for the sake of our love of humanity.  It is almost impossible to love humanity in a concrete way, but it is possible to love the individuals in your life today.

God is not worried about waste in the same way that we are.  Sure, we should not waste our money and live on frivolous and selfish things, however, neither should we let others who have a vested interest in our time, devotion, and money, tell us how to use it.  Rather, let us ask the Lord each day how to give love to the people in our life, as well as what organizations to support that are reaching people who are not in my life.  Just know that God has your back.  He simply wants you to grow in your ability to love, to become more like Him.

Her gift of love is greater than she knew

Probably no mother has completely understood the full impact of their sacrificial love.  We should do our best to help them through countless thankful actions, but even we do not completely understand.  Yet, God does.  Jesus explains in our passage that she is anointing him for his coming burial.  We know from the Gospels that none of the disciples really accepted the idea or understood that Christ really would be rejected and executed.   There is no reason to believe that Mary understood any more than they.  Her significant sacrifice was doing something beyond what she intended.

It is important for us to quit analyzing our actions of love after the fact in such a way that we are left feeling worthless.  We may even judge them as worthless or wasted ourselves.  For every child who has squandered the love of a great mom, is a mother’s heart that wrestles with self condemnation and sometimes the condemnation of people around them.  Yet, we are in the worst position to judge the value of our love.  Only God knows the true value of the blood, sweat, and tears that you have poured out in love for your family.  And if it is done in devotion to Christ, it is infinitely more valuable.  Incalculable.  Priceless!   Don’t let the spirit of this world cloud up or infect your heart with fear and doubt.  Rather, keep asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and trust that He will lead you until you hear Jesus say the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

By the way, the actions of Mary’s love left the room smelling of a pleasant odor.  The attitude of the disciples, however, was stinking it up.  Is it a pleasing odor before the Lord?

The Lord honors her gift of love

Let me close by recognizing that Jesus said this woman would have the honor of being so connected to the Gospel that 2,000 years later her story would not only endure, but also be proclaimed alongside of the Gospel.  What an honor!  However, it is still only a temporal honor that is in this life.  If the world were to stand another 2,000 years, few of us would have the honor of having our story remarked about all around the world.  The greater honor is not the honors that we are given in this world.  The true honor is that which will be given to us in the New Heavens and the New Earth after our resurrection.  Let’s love one another, but especially today; let’s reciprocate some of the love that mothers have selflessly poured into our life!

Expensive Gift Audio

Friday
Dec282018

The Mind behind the Incarnation

Philippians 2:5-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 23, 2018.

It is easy for Christmas to be taken over by the things that our flesh likes.  We can become far too excited about the latest technological gadget that we are getting, or similar things.  We can bask in the nostalgia of family, big meals, and “magical moments.”  However, Jesus did not come to make us feel good about life and ourselves, although we will have those things from time to time.  Rather, Jesus came to save us.

Yes, God wants to save us from oppressive governance that sees itself as god.  Yes, God wants even to save us from those fellow citizens who seek to take advantage of us like a wolf does a chicken.   Yes, God wants even to save us from our own lower motivations and mistakes.  Yet, ultimately Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). 

Our sins affect our heart and our mind to the point that we can never feel or think our way out of their effects.  Yet, God so loved the world filled with humans that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life.  Today we are going to focus on the mind of Christ and the mind of God the Father who sent him to earth.  We are going to talk about the kind of thinking that can save us from all those things I mentioned earlier. 

Let’s look at Philippians 2.

The mind of Christ

In verses 1-4, Paul describes several issues that go to the heart of how we tend to think.  In verse 3 he says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or deceit.”  In verse 4 he states, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests.”  Later he emphasizes this more in verse 14, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.”  Also he says in verse 21, “They all seek their own interests.”  All of these descriptions flow from a heart and mind that is twisted towards self.  This is every single person who has ever lived besides Jesus.  If it was not for him coming to earth and demonstrating a different heart, a different mind, we would still be lost and without hope.

So, when we think about the baby in the manger, let us also think about the mind, or the thinking, that was behind what was happening that day.  Let’s remember that Jesus represented not just a clash of thinking between God and 1st century Jewish religion and philosophy.  Rather, he represents a clash of thinking between God and every generation who has ever lived, including ours today.

Thus starting in verse 5 Paul tells us that we need to have the same mind or thinking that Jesus had when he left the throne of heaven to be born in a lowly stable.  We should question ourselves this morning.  What mind have I been using and living by?  Have I lived by the mind of Christ or the mind and rationale that comes naturally to me?

So what is it about the mind of Christ that we need?  First Jesus did not cling to being in the form of God (vs. 6).  The KJV and the NKJV translate this verse to say that Jesus didn’t think it robbery to be equal with God.  However, the flow of the argument is not towards Jesus being equal with God, but rather away from that state.  He is leaving heaven in order to take on that which is lesser than God.  Thus the point is not that he didn’t think that he had robbed God to be equal with Him, but that His equality with God was not something to cling to or snatch at.  Jesus was willing to lay that amazing, incredible place with the Father aside in order to come down and save us.  So what am I clinging to that I need to let go of in order to experience what God has for me and others in my life?  Jesus wasn’t climbing the ladder and clinging to his place.  He was descending the ladder in order to help us.

Another part about this mind of Christ is that he was willing to “empty himself” in order to become a servant, in human form.  We are not told exactly of what Christ emptied himself.  However, we know that at the very least he emptied himself of his position and the rights or privileges that go along with it.  His mind, which is the same mind as that of the Father, does not cling to power and position, but rather lays it aside in order to serve others, at least if need be.  For you and I, we only have to descend out of the high and loft position of our inflated ego in order to be of service to God, but for Jesus it was truly a humbling of epic proportions.  We should ask ourselves today.  What do I need to empty myself of in order to serve those that God has put in my life?

Lastly in verse 8, we are told that Jesus laid down his human life in order to obey God’s will.  It is easy to focus on the sacrifice of Christ and the love for us that compelled him, and yet overlook his love for God the Father.  He chooses to obey the Father’s will by laying down his life.  Our impulse is to throw God’s commands and plans back in his face and shout, “You expect too much!”  Yet, Jesus trusted the plan of the Father, even when it led him to become a servant to serve mankind, and even to be crucified on a cross.

It is not easy to trust God, but Jesus did.  He also asks us to trust him, pick up our own cross, and follow him.  Do I trust him that much?  Am I refusing to follow Jesus because it costs me something, even my life?

After Paul shows us the mind of Christ that we need in order to be what God wants us to be in each other’s life, he then turns to the effects of this selfless obedience to God the Father.

The reward of God the Father

In verses 9-11, we are shown the response of God the Father to the selfless actions of Jesus. 

First of all God highly exalts Jesus and, I will add here, at the proper time.  The actions of Jesus are all the opposite of self interest and exaltation.  Jesus actually is humbling himself and doing a humbling work that leads to death.  Nothing he does is about trying to lift himself.  We can get so consumed with trying to get ahead, whether secularly or spiritually, that we neglect to think about what we may be risking.  What will God think of my thinking and the actions that it led me to do in this life?  Were they all about self promotion and seeking to be higher?  Or were they similar to those of Christ?

We are told that Jesus is currently at the right hand of the Father awaiting the signal to come back to earth and take control of the governance of this world.  However, that is his experience after the Father chose to exalt him.  Before this exaltation, Jesus is humbling himself and rejecting the temptation to make those things happen on his own.  Even now Jesus is not exalting himself.  He only accepts the exaltation that the Father has given him. 

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  Notice that God opposes the proud.  When we humble ourselves, we put ourselves in a position for God to exalt us at the proper time.  I would put before you today that this life is not the time for exaltation.  Our flesh can’t handle it.

Verse 7 highlights the big problem.  When we are humble we get worried and anxious about all that we aren’t getting.  We are counseled to trust God and his care for us.  Our flesh doesn’t like such an answer, but God does.  You can exalt yourself in this life and be humbled by God at its end, or you can humble yourself in this life and be exalted by him at its end.

Part of Christ’s exaltation is that he is given a name above all others.  The emphasis is not on some new name that is really cool.  A person’s “name” is equivalent to their reputation and standing among others.  Jesus is given a reputation and standing that is above all others, both on earth and in heaven.  This position is similar to that which he had before because it is once again at the Father’s side, but now he has an even greater honor and standing.  He is now the Redeemer and Savior of humanity.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  If we will take on the same mind that Jesus had, and if we will live out this life as the Holy Spirit leads, we will also join him in attaining great honors and standing at his side.

We are told that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether in heaven, or on earth, or in the grave.  This is not just about the physical position of bowing, but about the submission it represents.  Eventually even the enemies of Christ will have to recognize his true standing.

In that moment we are told that they will also confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  What Jesus lost by not seeking his own selfish interests, is given back to him in even greater portion by the Father.  What the religious leaders of his day gained through their self seeking actions, was taken away from them by the Father. 

Knowing that God is bringing all beings of creation to a place where they will confess that Jesus is Lord, what should we do?  To double down on being a rebel only ensures that we would die in our sins and stand before God, confessing that Jesus is Lord, but to no avail for our future.  However, if we will confess him as Lord in this life, and take on the mind of Christ, if we will humble ourselves and live in obedience to his commands, then our confession will lead to the reward of God the Father, who gives us a place at the side of Jesus forever.

So let us contemplate this Christmas season.  Am I following the thinking of this world, the thinking of the devil, or am I letting the mind of Christ lead me?  Let’s live according to the mind of Christ and truly find life!

The Mind behind the Incarnation audio

Tuesday
May132014

Mother’s Day: Honor

This weekend was Mother’s Day.  So, we are going to take a break from the Gospel of Luke and look at 1st Timothy 5:4-16.  But, first, let me remind ourselves of the 5th commandment in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”  Honoring our mothers is just as important to us as it is for our mothers.  So as we talk about honor today it would be easy to say that we are no longer under the Law of Moses.  However, just in case you might be tempted to think this is optional, I would remind you that we are under the Law of the Spirit.  Thus Paul in Ephesians reminds us of this commandment.  The Spirit is calling all believers to be people of honor in how we live, but also people who honor others.  Christians are those who follow the Spirit of Christ who makes it clear that he wants us to honor.  So this is not optional.

Today’s passage looks specifically at widows and how we ought to honor them within the Church context.

Churches Must Wisely Honor Widows In Need

The Scriptures tell us that the Church should be a place in which we all honor one another.  Now honor is one of those words that has both internal and external implications.  In this passage honor is being used for the specific, external action of financial support.  Financial support is a practical expression of the internal honor that we have for someone.

Now that brings up the issue of what Honor is.  At is root, honor means to value.  So how much do I value someone?  Do I value them at all?  This brings up a big issue because historically a woman who is widowed has little value to offer society, especially if she was older.  It has been said that the true test of a civilization is the way it treats its old people.  Keep in mind that the United States of America is beginning to experience a transition as the Baby Boomers become senior citizens.  By 2030 it is projected that around 25% of Americans will be over 65.  Add to this the fact that women, in general, outlive their husband.  So this might not sound like a big issue today, but it is, and it will only become increasing more important. 

Widowhood has always been a problem for women.  On one hand they are grieving and mourning the loss of a loved one and yet, their immediate financial situation may be in jeopardy.  They have often found themselves alone, unwanted, without finances, and uncared for.  If we truly value someone, we will do all we can to keep this from happening.  Even if the world around us doesn’t value them, Christians dare not turn their back.  In our current world there is an increasing mentality that if a person is old and cannot take care of themselves, or is in need of a lot of medical attention, it would be better for them to euthanize themselves.  We see this even on the opposite side of the age spectrum with babies who have illnesses like Down’s syndrome and the like.  In fact a twisted moral argument can be made that it is selfish for these people to use most our resources when they will not produce for society.  The problem in this thought process is how we define value.  God’s Word tells us that the helpless, weak, and even infirmed have great value because they show us what our strength and abilities are really for.

Now Paul points out that the Church should not financially support widows who have family that could do it.  Of course if the family members were not Christians and refused to help that would be a different story.  Here Paul’s concern is that care for a widow is primarily the responsibility of her adult children. 

Paul also points out that our piety or godliness starts at home.  In other words there is no room for a person to neglect this duty and then come to church and “praise the Lord.”  We need to be godlier at home than we are at church, otherwise, we are just pretending.  Even deeper than this is the fact that we need to be godlier in our inner life than in our home life.  Righteousness and godliness need to flow out of an inner life that is lived with the Spirit of the Lord.  Anything other than this is just fakery.  Can we really be in danger of doing good everywhere but in our own home?  Whether your mom moves in with you or not, you have duty before God to care for your mother and father in the years that they cannot care for themselves.  This is true religion.

In verses 5-7, Paul points out that a true widow is someone who is alone and trusts upon God for help.  This is contrasted to a widow who is tempted to use carnal means to help her situation.  Those who pursue a luxury do not have the things of God in mind.  Thus he tells Timothy to teach the widows to not pursue the passions of their flesh but instead turn to God in prayer.  In verse 10 he adds to this list that they give themselves to good works for others.  An example of this can be found in Acts 9.  A close reading of the passage will make it clear that Tabitha was a widow who would make clothes for the poor.  Thus being a widow does not mean God has forsaken you and your life is over.  This transition was a time that some widows would walk away from the faith and go into immorality.  The church should not support such widows who walk away from the faith.  It may sound like a cliché to tell widows to trust in the Lord and pray, however, this is exactly what the Spirit is saying to them through Paul.  God can give a grieving widow the inspiration to know how to move forward and the church should do its best to make sure they are cared for, even if that means meeting with some adult children and reminding them of their duty.

Now in verses 9 through 16 we need to give a little background.  Admitting widows into “the number” was something that developed in the early Church.  Widows would pledge to give themselves to prayer and ministering to others on behalf of the Church and the Church would feed, clothe and shelter them.  This pledge to not remarry and instead serve as ministers was considered to be a serious thing, not a “try it for a little while” type of thing.  We see this in Acts 6 where a complaint arose in the Jerusalem Church because certain widows were being neglected in the “daily distribution.”  Here we see that someone was in charge of distributing (food, etc…) daily to the widows who had no one to care for them.

Now not all widows are widowed at an elderly age.  Young widows would have two problems here.  They could be tempted to make a pledge to become a part of “The Number” to quickly settle the concerns for their future.  Yet, it would be most likely that they would eventually change their mind and desire to remarry.  To make such a vow and then want to turn against it would create a very negative spiritual condition within the widow.  Thus Paul says to not admit young widows into the Number.  Rather, encourage them to remarry.  This doesn’t mean the church couldn’t help them on a short-term basis.  What is being talked about here is an ongoing long-term commitment.

Let me just close this by speaking to widows.  Even if you have family, you most likely feel alone and wonder if God has abandoned you.  Please understand that God has a special place in Heart for you even though it doesn’t feel like it.  If you will turn to Him in prayer and petition Him daily, He will help you.  Part of that help will be in the form of a Church that values you, not because of your age and ability to produce as this world thinks of it.  But simply because you still have much to offer both in helping others and spiritually giving us a picture of one who is completely dependent upon God. 

In the USA many widows are not as helpless as they have been in the past and in other cultures.  However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to ensure that no one falls through the cracks and that all are valued.

Tuesday
Nov062012

The Virtue of Submission

Today we will be looking at 1 Peter 2:13-17.  In this section Peter goes on to instruct believers in the virtue of submission; especially in light of the previous point that we need to live honorably among unbelievers.  Now any virtue has its proper boundaries and priorities among other virtues.  Thus submission as a virtue is often rejected in the modern era because of evils done in its name.  Some Muslims will kill those who do not accept Islam out of submission to Allah.  There are Christians who have followed pastors into suicidal situations out of submission to the “man of God.”  Submission has also been used as a stick against women to endure physical and emotional abuse.  Thus for many it is a code word for unquestioning obedience.  When they hear the word they immediately shut down and reject whatever follows.

The meaning of submission is literally to take your proper place under an authority.  It is the opposite of rebellion.  With any virtue, it has its place and sometimes runs into conflict with other virtues.  Thus any virtue requires us to think.  We will do best when we think with the mind of Christ and according to the Scriptures because it will save us from the self-justification that is so prevalent with our own thinking.

Submit To Human Government

Because of the false accusations against Christians mentioned in verse 12, Peter goes on to teach believers to take their proper place under human government.  Some of these false accusations were that Christians believed that Jesus was king and were a rebel group against Rome.  There were other accusations as well, which is why Peter is telling them to live in such a way that those false claims will be counteracted.  Our representation of God and Jesus Christ calls for us to have an above board approach to how we live in this life.

Next he gives the scope of “every ordinance” or every human institution and at every level (King to governor).  Governments have laws and delegate authority out to different levels.  The king was the highest authority.  In light of other passages it is clear that "every" here does not exclude exceptions.  However it does apply to every kind of government humans design.  Within godly reason we are to submit to every human government that we find ourselves living under.  So our starting place is simply doing our part to cooperate with the government and obey its laws.

Peter mentions the legitimate function of governments and that is to restrain evil through punishment and encourage good through protection.  The Bible is clear that God allows governments to rise and at his timing causes them to fall.  Believers are to live with a baseline of submission to the human governments not out of agreement with all their actions, or belief that they are good.  Rather, to keep from giving the impression that God’s people are rebels.  God has not told us to take over the kingdoms of this world.  He has told us that he would do that and then hand the kingdom over to the saints.

In verse 16 Peter mentions that they should submit, but as free people.  What does he mean?  True submission should flow from freedom.  Submission is not about slavery.  If we turn it into slavery then we have prostituted what the virtue is meant to be.  Christians have been set free.  However, we are not set free to do evil.  Freedom must never be used to either openly pursue evil things, or secretly pursue them.  Thus believers freely choose to serve the interests of God rather than their own.  Is it not true that our actions sometimes have caused people to say that God is evil?  This is what Peter seeks to avoid.  God, who is the highest authority, asks us to serve these lower authorities as righteously as we can out of respect for how we represent him.

Perhaps it is time to deal with the obvious question, “Is there ever a time not to submit?”  The simple answer is yes.  However, our flesh can abuse the idea that there are exceptions.  When we look to the Bible there are two obvious exceptions that we should mention.  When Israel was in slavery in Egypt, Pharaoh had commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill any Hebrew boys who were born.  These women pretended like they were trying to do the job, but told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women kept having the babies before they could get there to help.  Here we see how virtues can conflict.  Submission is good but killing a baby regardless of its gender is worse.  Even the lie that they tell Pharaoh would be recognized as a lower priority.  This is not situational ethics.  Rather it is recognition that virtues have boundaries.  These ladies properly drew the boundary at taking the life of another or infanticide.  Another situation is found in the book of Acts with Peter and John.  They had been taken by the authorities and commanded to quit teaching and promoting Jesus.  They respond that it is better for them to obey God than men.  Here they have been given a direct command from Jesus.  Go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus.  They would have to disobey God in order to obey their “proper” human authorities.  Thus they refused to comply.  However, notice that they always submitted to the punishment.  Instead of stirring up a revolt against the Jewish leaders or Ceasar they stood and spoke firmly on Jesus and accepted whatever punishments they were given.  Thus submission requires us to think and have a clear understanding of what God wants from us.  It is not unquestioning obedience to human authorities.

Peter goes on in verse 17 to give a series of commands.  Honor all people.  Love fellow believers.  Fear God.  Honor the king.  Notice that honor begins the list and ends it.  Also that honor is directed towards “all people” and also “the king.”  Just because people are lost and do not know God does not mean that we are free to de-value them.  Honor basically means to value them.  We honor or value those in the world with two motivations.  Our actions can adversely affect our fellow Christians.  Love cautions us to not act in a way that would foolishly bring harm and hurt to our fellow brothers.  Thus we should be motivated by love.  However, we should also fear God.  God has often used evil governments or even evil people to chastise those whom he loves.  We are not above doing wrong and when we do God is not always going to use a Christian to rebuke you.  If we fear God then we will honor any authority that we are under knowing that we too need restrained from evil.  It is recognition that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God and that there is value even in fallen people and corrupted institutions.

Further Thoughts

Rebellion must never be romanticized.  There are some who are unable to take their place under any authority.  Their over-powering need to have no authority over them brings pain, suffering, and hurt to themselves and others.

Submission alone must never be the greatest priority.  In our own country men like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that we can properly refuse authorities for the right reasons.  They rejected violent methods often in the face of violent authorities.  By doing so they gave a clear public testimony that they were doing good.  Even in their “disobedience” they were submitted to the overall rule of law and authority.

Regardless what governance we live under we are to do our best to obey its laws without disobeying God.  We are in a better situation compared to many.  We have precious little excuse.

Lastly, we must beware self-justification.  Our justification must truly be from God himself.  We must operate with the mind of Christ and the direction of God’s Word.  Only then can we properly represent Him to this world.  Pick up your cross and follow Jesus!

Virtue of Submission Audio