Sacred: Part 3: Growth and Maturity

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 (ESV)

“All in favor of impeaching J. J. Parker as the senior pastor of Nickel Grove Free Will Baptist Church say Aye.”

A chorus of ‘ayes’ and it was done.  23-year-old J. J. Parker was no longer the pastor of the small church that had voted him in a little under a year ago. What was the reason? Was it financial infidelity? Was it sexual promiscuity? Did he preach heresy? Did he have a hidden problem with drugs or alcohol? No. Even worse. He voluntarily paid for the church to have new carpet. Not even a new carpet color, just new carpet. And when he moved the pews back, he forgot put Brother Taylor’s pew back in the third row. This wasn’t just any pew. This was a pew that Brother Taylor had placed there in memory of his father who had been a deacon at this church for 32 years. This careless act of forgetting to place that pew back in the third row had gotten him voted out just as quickly as he was voted in.

This story is based on true events that happen in churches all across the country all the time. Why does this happen? Why can’t a church keep a pastor for more than a year or two at a time? Immaturity. That’s all it boils down to. People are immature in their faith and they begin to identify themselves with a person or a movement other than Christ. It’s okay to be fans of some theologians or follow some movements to see what God is doing through them, but it’s never okay to place your faith in that person or movement because they can fail.

Churches often place their identity with a pastor that catered to their every whim and did things exactly the way they wanted them to be done and as a result they handicapped that church and left them to wallow in their immaturity when it came time for them to leave that pastoral position. This is a disadvantage not only to the congregation, but to the new incoming pastor that has to clean up the mess that the old pastor left behind.

What Paul addresses in this passage is maturity and growth. He is writing to them a second time (1st Corinthians is actually the second letter to the Corinthians because the first letter was never recovered, thus 2nd Corinthians is actually the third letter), and he’s not perfect people by any means, but he is expecting a people that have grown since the last time he wrote to them. He’s thoroughly disappointed.

Parents, imagine you’ve potty-trained your baby. They are now independently going to the bathroom on their own. Then one day you’re in the living room and your child is play with his/her toys and you see that familiar look on their face and that all too familiar odor creeps into the room. After once going to the bathroom on their own. They’ve pooped their pants. This is no accident. This is a regression back to days gone by when making the effort to go to the bathroom was even an issue and someone else could clean up the mess. This is exactly what Paul is feeling at this point when the Corinthians are exhibiting immaturity and lack of growth.

Ultimately, what is happening is that these people are attaching their faith to a person rather than putting their faith in Christ.

“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:4 (ESV)

The Corinthians are forgetting that guys like Apollos and Paul had to be trained in godliness just like they are being trained in godliness (Acts 18:24-28). We idolize people instead of worshiping, loving, and receiving instruction from Jesus. In the end, when we truly submit to God’s Spirit we allow Him make us mature and grow us in the beauty of His holiness.

Our Only Comfort

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – [Romans 14:7-8 ESV]

“What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.” – [The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1]

When I was a boy, my grandmother made me a refrigerator magnet out of plastic material and yarn with a picture of a boy  holding a satchel over his shoulder and sub-caption read, “You can’t run from God.”

I believe that everything preaches a sermon and the sermon that this refrigerator magnet preached was one of the omnipresent love of God.

As I read these verses and this quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, I am reminded of the words of Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance:

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
O What foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

What a thought that we belong in life and in death. Our family and friends can go with us but when we pass from this life to the next, Jesus will still be with us.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In our last post we talked about the Christ Hymn found in Colossians 1. In this post we’ll discuss the Praise Hymn found in Ephesians 1 and we’ll compare the two. While the Christ focused more on His preeminence in the cosmos through the church, this hymn focuses for more the redemptive work of Christ for the elect. I believe it’s important that we, as believers, know exactly what it is that we are entitled to through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. There’s nine things are shown here that God has done through Christ’s atoning work.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get into the details of what each of things mean to us I want you to see the use of the pro noun ‘He’. It is God who has done all of these things for us. It was of no effort of our own that God saved us and made us the elect. If you read in Ephesians later it says:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– …For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – [Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV]

Going into this study it’s important to realize that our Salvation has nothing to do with our works. I need grace every day. I mess up a lot. I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. As sinners, we were never meant to have any kind of inheritance in God’s kingdom but God did these nine things for us and now we have fellowship with Him.

1. He blessed us (Ephesians 1:3)

The verse says that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Paul was specific in using the term ‘spiritual blessing’. It supposed that he meant ‘spiritual blessing’ as opposed to a ‘temporal blessing’. We know that God can and will sometimes bless us temporally but what Paul is referring to here are the kind of blessings that never fade. Before I get into specifically what those blessings are I believe that it is worth mentioning where they are and how we get them. If read the verse carefully you notice that Paul said that we have these spiritual blessing in Christ. That’s how we get them, in Christ. Which leads us to the next question where are they? Since we get these spiritual blessings from God in Christ we must remember that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. Our Freedom under the new covenant, as New Testament believers, tells that we may boldly come before the throne of grace. What happens is when we pray we have access, by faith, to Jesus who intercedes on our behalf to the Father according to Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1:

“Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – [Hebrews 7:25 RV]

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – [1 John 2:1 ESV]

As far as what the blessings are, we know that they are spiritual in nature. The word for spiritual in the Greek, pneumatikos, is used a lot in the New Testament in reference to the Holy Spirit. This tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one that makes these blessings manifest in our life. So the spiritual blessing is our fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – [Galatians 5:22-23 RV]

In his Commentary over this passage one writer says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit – That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence – the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Albert Barnes

2.      He has chosen us (Ephesians 1:4)

This is where it gets hairy to say the least. This is Calvinists and Arminians will fight to the death over the issue of Limited Atonement. I do not hold to that position but I will try my best to present you the facts as the word of God makes it clear. The word that is used here for ‘chosen’ in the Greek is eklegō and it implies an active choice as seen in this verse:

“but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – [Luke 10:42 RV]

This word implies an active choosing and the whole debate has been over whether Paul meant that God chose us individually or whether the church is the elect and by choosing to follow Christ, God makes us one of the elect. The Bible doesn’t really harmonize this paradox. Honestly, from studying this subject as long as I have, I ‘ve come to the conclusion is that it’s irrelevant just as long as your saved. I’ll probably have Arminians and Calvinists that will send me emails over this issue but it’s just another day at the office for me. What matters though is that whether it is in general or in particular, either way we are chosen and predestined for a restored relationship with God that will lead to an unbroken fellowship with Him in Heaven that only comes through Jesus Christ.

For the sake of time and energy I’m going to stop right here and continue this thought throughout the week. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed this week!