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Category Archives: Fellowship of believers

Boasting vs. Honoring

In our modern lives we see a lot of boasting. Some is blatant, and other forms are more subtle. But what we don’t see as much of, is true honoring of another person.

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People tend to gravitate toward people that are like themselves. This is how cliques are formed. There are a number of social divisions that are formed that are not often crossed. Young and old. Rich and poor. Popular team sport kids and more reserved intellectual kids. White collar and blue collar. But if you ‘honor’ someone who is like yourself, is that really honor? Or are you really honoring yourself because of the similarity?  For instance, if someone were to publish widely their kids’ accomplishments, isn’t that kind of like honoring yourself, for making them possible? Some of this is just normal human celebrating, but habits of boasting can definitely go too far.

What about parents and elders? Do we celebrate them the same way as we would our kids or certain peers that we want to build alliances with? After all, few people can take credit for their parents’ accomplishments. There are cases of terrible parents — but in many cases — we owe about everything to our parents who brought us into the world and brought us up.

I have gone to several 50-year anniversary parties over the years. Two of them were thrown by adult children who weren’t even married at the time. One of the party throwers had never married his life partner following an initial divorce to the mother of his adult child. Similarly, the other had a grown son from a relationship, was divorced from a marriage to someone else, and didn’t have a great track record in dating selections. But even though they weren’t alike in this accomplishment with those they honored, each took the time to honor their beloved parents. The one man said he would never achieve what his parents’ achieved. He had taken them on a cruise and then the party was to be a surprise. It was sweet and touching. This recent anniversary party I went to was fun with food, celebrating memories, playing games, and old friends connecting and visiting. The tone was set in a perfect, natural way.

We should think about those things more. While reciprocity is important in friendship – do we do what we do for quid pro quo purposes and to gain advantage or admiration?  If I had been married 24 years, and ‘honored’ someone who had been married 25 – is that an amazing thing? Probably I would expect an equal honor the following year. Or if hypothetically I had 4 kids, and publicly ‘honored ‘someone with 5 — would that be some kind of a stretch for me? Really, it can be a kind of way of putting down people who aren’t in that situation for whatever reason.

I love picking up patterns of behavior in the Bible. What did Jesus do when it came to honoring others?

  1. Jesus was morally pure and perfect — but he honored the sincere honor and true hospitality afforded by a woman of disrepute, and not the Pharisee who hosted him poorly. (Luke 7:44, Luke 10:42)
  2. Jesus was a Israelite, a Jew and a descendant of David — but he chose to honor the faith of a Gentile – the Roman Centurion. (Luke 7:1-9)
  3. Jesus was the Creator of the universe and of unlimited riches and power — but he pointed out and honored the generosity and pure devotion of a poor widow who no one else noticed. (Luke 21:1-4)

Jesus took the time to honor those who were not like himself. Jesus taught a different way. Jesus showed how to be truly perfect – perfect in love.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. –Matthew 5:43-48

On earth, Jesus modeled servanthood, specifically in following His example. Christ’s disciples certainly did do that – they learned this lesson both in living for Christ and the many who died for him as martyrs. Here Paul, who was later martyred himself, speaks to the young man Timothy that he mentored. Who did Paul honor? He put on personal humility and meekness, and he honored Christ.

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;

That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

-I Timothy 6:11-19

 

 

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Common Sinners and the Common Salvation

I have been noticing a lot of modern-day Pharisees lately. Who were the Pharisees of Jesus’ time? The Pharisees had artificial moral constructs, in which they added to God’s law. The Pharisees were anti-evangelical, they did not seek to save the lost. The Pharisees only did works to be seen of men, not private works to be seen by God. The Pharisees were prideful and hateful. And most significantly — the Pharisees rejected Jesus.

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Pharisees are like cult leaders, they don’t want to help create converts to Jesus, they want to create followers of themselves. They want admirers and mini-clones of themselves.

Jesus’ harshest rebukes were for Pharisees — the ones who were likely to discourage his true followers.

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” –Matthew 23:13-14

Some people think it is a compliment if you compare them to a Pharisee, but as the passage indicates, the Pharisees were not saved! The Pharisees were prideful, having not the spirit of Christ. In trying to inflate themselves, they led people away from Christ.

Who does the Bible say is a sinner?

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” –Romans 3:23

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” – I John 1:18

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” —
 –Proverbs 20:9

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” –Romans 3:9

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” –Galatians 3:22

The example of Jesus’ Brethren – what did they preach?

The brothers of Christ perhaps had some reason to feel special or privileged. But no, James and Jude were some of the humblest servants of Christ following their conversions. James and Jude continually pointed Christians back to the source of their salvation, to the Lord Jesus.

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” –James 2:10

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation,

it was needful for me to write unto you,and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares,who were before of old ordained to this condemnation,ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,and denying the only Lord God,and our Lord Jesus Christ”. –Jude 1:3-4

Justification and Salvation

The Justification of sins comes only through Christ. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles consistently pointed people to Christ.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. –Romans 3:21-26

 

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The Fellowship of Believers and the Breaking of Bread

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Pentecost signifies the giving of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the Church, also known as the body of Christ. The below passage records the result of the Pentecost kept after Christ’s ascension:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

–Acts 2:38-42

Did you notice what it said happened after so many were baptized? The newborn church continued to meet together, fellowship together and eat together. Why is this even important?

It is important because brethren not only worship together – they talk, they pray for each other, and they eat side by side. Growing up, brothers and sisters eat and talk together at their parents’ table. Hopefully they pray together at the same table. This is the way it should be. There is inherent equality in this. Whomever we meet in our congregation, it is implied that that person is our brother or sister. We should attempt not to treat anyone differently, or to show partiality to any.

More than just the church that was created and given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – it is obvious that Jesus had the common practice of breaking bread with many people. When the risen Christ walked with two men he formerly knew on the road to Emmaus, there was a single thing that gave his identity away to the two men who were still in shock about recent events. This came after the two men invited Jesus to eat with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

–Luke 24: 30-35

Interesting. Perhaps Jesus did something that the Pharisees did not do. He broke bread with common people that you might meet.

You might even say that Christ’s disciples enjoyed each other’s company. They did not even need a special occasion to get together and learn about God. Paul obviously followed Christ’s example in breaking bread with many, and on a certain occasion there was a miracle performed after a mishap during a very long fellowship session. Read about it in Acts 20:7-12.

The breaking of Unleavened bread represented Christ’s sinless self and pure sacrifice. This is commemorated in the Passover observance. The leavened bread represents God’s church, not specifically for the attribute of sin, but the leavened bread represents the growth and love of the church. Passover itself is supposed to be a time of humility for the followers of Christ. Christ freely gave and served us, so are we to humble ourselves and serve each other.

“And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.” – Luke 24:30

And finally, we have the miraculous story of the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus and the disciples were going to a remote place to rest and eat, and yet the multitudes followed them. Jesus taught them “many things” and also healed them (Luke 9:11). But as the Good Shepherd – it was against his nature to send them away without food. Read the account below.

And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

–Mark 6:30-44

Jesus Christ himself takes joy in providing for us, eating at the same table with us, and fellowshipping with us. Since He is our standard in all things, this is very important!

More to come on this later, God willing.

 

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