Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Christian living

A Look At First Thessalonians. Part 6: Living As A Christian

In this Series on 1 Thessalonians we have seen that Paul visited and preached in Thessalonica and a church was established. Because he couldn’t visit them for some time, he wrote a letter of encouragement. From 4:1 to 5:11 Paul reminded them how to please God – avoid sexual immorality and excel in holiness and brotherly love. Instead of grieving for those who had died, they were to look forward to being reunited with them and to be awake and sober as they looked forward to the Lord’s return. Paul ended his letter with practical guidelines on Christian living. He addressed godly attitudes and behavior in relationships with the elders, other believers and God.

Living With Church Leaders
“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 NIV

These verses address leadership in the local church. The Bible teaches that each church is to be led by a group of qualified elders who share this responsibility. Several characteristics of elders are mentioned here. They are to “work hard” at caring for people. They are to be “over” the congregation, meaning that they are to maintain or rule. In other letters Paul said that they “direct the affairs of the church” and “lead” (1 Tim. 5:17; Rom. 12:8). Both Paul and Peter likened their care to spiritual parents caring for a family (1 Tim. 3:4,5,12; 1 Pet. 5:2-3). Elders are also to “admonish” or gently reprove the congregation. Paul used the same word when he told them to warn anyone who didn’t obey his instructions (2 Th. 3:15). Elders are to remind the church of God’s truths and the dangers of living a self-centered life.

In this passage, the congregation was given two responsibilities with respect to the elders. It was to “respect” them. This Greek word is translated as “acknowledge” (TNIV), “know” (KJV), “recognize” (NKJV), “appreciate” (NASB) and “honor” (NLT). The congregation needs to know the elders if they are going to trust and follow them. They are also to “hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” This means to value them because of their important work, not because of their personality, spiritual gifts, wealth or anything else.

In this context Paul encouraged Thessalonians to “live in peace with each other.” Harmony should be characteristic of all Christian relationships, as peace is a fruit of the Spirit and we follow the God of peace (1 Th. 5:23; Gal. 5:22). There is a need to value all the elders, as favoring one divides the congregation. Also, elders should serve the whole congregation, not just part of it. Paul wrote elsewhere that we should “make every effort to do what leads to peace” and “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 14:19; 12:18).

Living With Believers
“And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

Here Paul shows us how we are to live with three types of people. We are to “warn those who are idle.” Apparently, some Thessalonians had stopped working in order to prepare for the second coming of the Lord (2 Th. 3:10-11). They lived off others, were disorderly and became busybodies disrupting the local church. Paul’s solution was that they get back to work to support themselves and their families. He warned that “anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Paul said don’t help them by feeding them; instead let them experience the consequences of their behavior (2 Th. 3:10-13). This admonition is followed by two examples of caring.

“Encourage the disheartened.” Those who are disappointed with life are to be encouraged by individuals coming alongside and empathizing with them. Circumstances can cause people to think they don’t belong and have nothing to contribute. But we all have God-given gifts. We need to help such people find their place in the church and encourage them in their work.

“Help the weak” refers to those who may not be sure of their salvation because of their past, or who may doubt God’s power. Paul also taught that we shouldn’t stumble those who are weak in the faith (Rom. 14:1-15; 1 Cor. 8:13). They need our encouragement, friendship and help.

Paul then mentioned three attitudes required when warning, encouraging and helping others: First, “Be patient with everyone.” This means trying again and again even though there may be no response from those you are warning, encouraging and helping. Second, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong.” Christians are called to forgive, not retaliate (Mt. 18:21-22; Rom. 12:17). When someone hurts us, we should not get angry and retaliate, but rather seek reconciliation (Mt. 18:15-17). Be patient and continue to show Christian kindness and love. Third, “Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” The goal of warning, encouraging and helping others should be to achieve what is best for them in the Lord.

Living Before God In All Circumstances
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It is God’s will that believers be characterized by joy, prayer and thanksgiving. Paul began with “Be joyful always” to encourage us not to let things get us down. In Philippians 4:4 he added that our rejoicing should be “in the Lord.” This joy is to be shown in all circumstances including suffering and persecution (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 4:13). The Thessalonians were persecuted (1 Th. 1:6; 2:14; 3:3-4). Paul sang while in prison (Acts 16:22-25). How can this be? Their joy was an internal attitude that was not overtaken by external circumstances; it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), with Christ as its source and subject. He controls our circumstances and through Him we have victory. We develop joy by focusing on God’s promises and spending time with joyful believers. Joy is contagious.

Then Paul urged them to “pray continually” – at regular times and as needed. When trials come we need to pray our way through them. For example, when Peter was in prison, the believers prayed and he was released (Acts 12:1-19). We should “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests … and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18).

Paul also told believers to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Believers should be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:7) even in the trials and difficulties which mature us. We don’t have to give thanks for everything that happens to us; it says “in” our circumstances, not “for” them. But we shouldn’t complain or grumble. Thanking God is not a feeling, it’s a choice. Daniel prayed three times a day, “giving thanks to his God” even though his life was in danger (Dan. 6:10-12). We can develop an attitude of praising God in all circumstances.

Living Before God As He Guides
“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” is a metaphor for hindering or extinguishing the operation of the Holy Spirit in an individual or the church. This may be caused by sin, disunity or suppression of the Spirit’s gifts. Instead, we are to keep the Spirit’s fire burning by following Paul’s instructions to be joyful, prayerful and thankful, and by following the Spirit when He prompts us to do what is right or stop doing what is wrong.

“Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything.” The early Church did not have a completed Bible so the gift of prophecy was God’s way of getting His message to His people. Now that the canon of Scripture is set, this takes place as His Word is taught and preached. Instead of despising prophecies, the Thessalonians were to evaluate them. Paul also said that those listening to prophets should discern or “weigh carefully” what they say (1 Cor. 14:29). They were to test them against the apostles’ teachings. Then they could accept what was good and reject what was bad. In Acts, Luke told the Jews in Thessalonica to learn from the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

Paul’s Prayer
“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

The Thessalonians couldn’t live like this in their own strength, so Paul prayed for them as only God could make their efforts successful. There are different aspects to sanctification (holiness), and here he addressed progressive sanctification. Paul prayed that their sanctification would extend to their whole being – spirit, soul and body. The spirit is our link to God, the soul is our mind, emotions and will, and the body is the physical part housing the spirit and soul.

It is God who makes us holy, and Paul was confident that He would complete what He began (Phil. 1:6). He is faithful to keep His promises. The end of this progression is the coming of our Lord, at the judgment seat of Christ, when each Christian’s life will be reviewed as he/she stands before Him.

In Conclusion
“Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:25-28

After he prayed for them, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him. The kiss was a normal greeting of that day, similar to a handshake in western countries. It expressed friendship with fellow believers. Paul wanted “to have this letter read to all” brothers and sisters, a statement not found in any of his other letters (5:27); he thought it was that important. We should read it with this in mind.

Three keys to living together as Christians alluded to here are prayer, fellowship and Bible reading. Paul ended this letter with a benediction of grace for the Thessalonians – God’s unmerited favor through the saving work of Christ.

Lessons For Us
Let’s develop godly attitudes and behaviors in our relationships with church elders, with other believers and with God. Get to know the elders of your church, and value them because of their work. Obey them and encourage them in their work. The same principle applies to ministry leaders within the church. Believers should serve one another through encouragement, practical help, patience, peaceable living, and by treating everyone as equals in Christ. Our attitude toward God should be one of joy, prayer and thanksgiving in all circumstances. We should not stifle the work of the Holy Spirit in an individual or in the church. The standard by which we should test all preaching and teaching is the Word.

May we use the resources God has provided to live for Him until the Rapture when Christ returns to take us to be with Him forever.

Published, June 2009

See the next article in this series: Encouragement during trials and suffering (2 Thessalonians 1)

See the first article in this series: Model believers (1 Thessalonians 1)
Also see summary of 1 Thessalonians: Encouragement for tough times


A Look At First Thessalonians. Part 4: Living To Please God

In this Series we have seen that Paul visited Thessalonica and established a church there. These new believers were a good example for all in Greece. Paul was also a good example: he loved them, and was a bold, honest, hard worker who followed up by encouraging and supporting them. He had instructed them how to live to please God; now he tells them to avoid sexual immorality and to love one another. Many today say that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t hurt anyone. But this philosophy is wrong because it is not consistent with Scripture.

A Way Of Living
“We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Th. 4:1-2 NIV).

Living in order to please God is the theme of 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12. The word translated “live” (4:1) means “walk” in Greek; it is a metaphor for our progress in life. Paul addressed their behavior when he was with them. Their top priority should be to please God. Two things hinder this: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), and “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8).

Elsewhere Paul gave two reasons why Christians should live to please God. First, because of what the Lord has done for us: “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:15); “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Believers are under new ownership and should live to please their divine Master, not to satisfy their sinful desires.

Second, because all believers will give an account of what they have done when they get to heaven: “We make it our goal to please Him … For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9-10). Here all our works for the Lord will be revealed. While our salvation is by faith, our reward is based on our good works for the Lord. Elsewhere he wrote that we please God by our good works (Col. 1:10).

Although the Thessalonians were pleasing God, Paul urged them to do so more and more (4:1). The Christian life is one of continual progress. Each day there are new challenges and opportunities to please God.

The Greek word translated “instructions” (4:2) means a “command” or “order.” It was used by the Sanhedrin when they commanded the apostles not to preach the gospel (Acts 5:28). These are important instructions for those who claim to follow the Lord. They show us the way to live for Him.

Self-Control And Respect
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him” (1 Th. 4:3-6).

God’s will was that the Christians in Thessalonica be sanctified. Sanctification means being set apart for God. There are three phases to sanctification – positional, progressive and perfect. Believers are positionally sanctified when they are saved (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11); they become progressively more godly in character through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Heb. 2:11; 1 Pet. 1:15-16); when they get to heaven they will be sanctified perfectly like the Lord (1 Th. 5:23; 1 Jn. 3:2). In this passage Paul addressed progressive sanctification in daily living – a process over time, not a single event.

Paul then gave two examples of sanctification – avoiding sexual immorality and pursuing brotherly love (4:4-10). And he gave them three steps to avoid sexual immorality: control sexual desires (4:4); respect the rights of others (4:6); and listen to God and love one another (4:7-10).

Control Sexual Desires
This passage addresses the sin of sexual immorality in the Christian community. Because sexual immorality was a problem in Corinth, Paul wrote to them: “Since there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” The marriage relationship is the right place for sexual activity. Any other sexual relationship is sinful (1 Cor. 7:2, 11).

Paul also wrote: “Flee from sexual immorality … he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:18-20). We are indwelt with the Spirit and our bodies belong to the Lord.

We live in a world where many don’t know God’s biblical guidelines. Sexual immorality is promoted in movies, television and magazines. But a Christian has a different standard: “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity … because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph. 5:3). This includes our desires and thoughts (Mt. 5:27-28).

Because our natural functions need to be controlled, the Thessalonians were urged to control their sexual desires (4:4) instead of indulging in “passionate lust like the heathen” who don’t trust God. The phrase, “who do not know God” (4:5) refers to those who refuse to recognize Him (Rom. 1:28; 2 Th. 1:8; 2:10,12). Such people considered few activities as immoral. This should be one of the areas where a believer should differ, or be set apart from an unbeliever.

In Romans 1, Paul described what happens when people reject the Creator: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:22-25). All kinds of sexual immorality are the outcome of such unbelief – idolatry is mentioned before and after “sexual impurity.” In fact, sexual immorality is an act of the sinful nature and Christians should not be controlled by such desires (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5). Those who practice such sins are not Christians (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Respect Rights Of Others
Our behavior affects others, so there is a need for boundaries if we are to continue to be friends. Paul wrote, “No one should wrong or take advantage of a brother” (1 Th. 4:6a). Sexual sin harms others besides those who engage in it. Outside of marriage, there is no such thing as safe sex. In adultery, the spouse is wronged. Premarital sex wrongs one’s future spouse. Believers should respect others and not harm them by the consequences of sexual sin. “The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you” (1 Th. 4:6b).

The Bible says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4). Any sexual relationship outside marriage is sin, which God will judge. This sin will affect one’s character, family life and relationship with God. Sex outside marriage ruins people’s lives. For example, adultery ruins marriages and the devastation of AIDS in Africa is largely caused by the transmission of the HIV virus via sex outside marriage. Those who commit such sins can be restored by turning from sin and accepting God’s forgiveness (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 11:2).

Listen To God And Love One Another
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit. Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more” {1 Th. 4:7-10).

We need boundaries if we are to maintain a good relationship with the Lord. Paul reinforced that this instruction was given by God and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. These are not Paul’s words, but God’s. He wants us to control ourselves and not fall into sin. The Holy Spirit lives within us to help us please God. Believers should follow His instruction about sexual sin.

Paul now changes the topic to love, and mentions two types of love. The first is the affection shared by brothers and sisters in a family – a heart love (phileo). The other is a deliberate decision to act in the interests of another – a love of the mind (agape). The relationships between believers should be driven by both loves. Our care and concern for each other is a Christian obligation, but it should be expressed with affection. It holds us together and attracts others to Christ. Both types of love are also mentioned in Romans 12:9-10.

Jesus commanded us to express “agape” love to each other: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). Christians are to love as Christ loved us. His unconditional, sacrificial love was shown by His death on the cross. Such love seeks what’s best for others, does not draw attention to itself, persists despite the cost and seeks to serve rather than be served.

Although the believers in Thessalonica loved one another and all believers in Macedonia, Paul urged them to do so “more and more.” The same phrase was applied to “living to please God” (4:1), where we saw that the Christian life should be one of continual improvement. Here this principle is applied to agape love. Paul had already mentioned this earlier: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Th. 3:12). Each day there are new challenges and opportunities to love one another. But how can we “love one another” daily?

Love In Action
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Th. 4:11-12).

Paul gave these believers three examples of loving one another. First, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Some who misunderstood the promise of Christ’s return were restless and panic-stricken. Others retaliated against persecution. He told them not to seek the limelight, live a life of selfish ambition or clamor for recognition, but to lead a peaceful life.

Second, he said, “mind your own business.” Some idle Thessalonians were taking undue interest in other people’s lives (2 Th. 3:11). He told them not to be busybodies who interfere in the lives of others in unnecessary, unhelpful ways. Idleness and meddling in the lives of others is incompatible with love.

Third, he said “work with your hands” to provide for your families (1 Tim. 5:8). Paul, Silas and Timothy had worked hard while they preached in Thessalonica so they wouldn’t be a burden to others (1 Th. 2:9). Because of their belief in the imminent return of Christ, some in Thessalonica stopped working and relied on others for support. But Christians have dual citizenship – in earth and heaven (Rom. 13:1-7; Phil. 3:20) – and should not neglect their practical responsibilities. Two reasons were given by Paul for working: “to win the respect of outsiders” who were watching and judging Christianity and God’s Word by their behavior; to “not be dependent on anybody.” In Ephesians Paul gives a third reason: to “have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). Living quiet lives, minding our own business and earning a living are all acts of love.

Lessons For Us
Because our mission is to please God, we should avoid sexual immorality as it destroys the beauty of a sanctified and holy life. Sexual purity is the key to holiness. The three steps to achieve it are: controlling sexual desires, respecting the rights of others, and loving one another.

Don’t follow your feelings; instead engage your mind and don’t give in to society’s sexual pressures.

Published, April 2009

See the next article in this series: The Rapture and the Day of the Lord
Also see summary of 1 Thessalonians: Encouragement for tough times


Pleasing God

It’s never too late to start walking with God

God’s message in Malachi’s day was, “I am not pleased with you” (Mal. 1:10 NIV). What an indictment to people claiming to follow God! Their behavior was unacceptable; it dishonored God. So, how can we please God today?

Enoch Pleased God
“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years … Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:21-24).

It is mentioned twice that “Enoch walked with God.” This phrase replaces the word “lived” in the other verses and reminds us that there is a difference between walking with God and merely living. It’s figurative for saying he was going the way God was going. They had an ongoing relationship. It means not letting sin rule in our life, moving at God’s pace and seeing things as God sees them. It seems like Enoch started walking with God after the birth of a baby; a new life caused him to remember the author of life (Gen. 5:22, Acts 3:15).

We learn more about Enoch in Hebrews: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away … he was commended as one who pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). Like Elijah, he did not experience death; he was transported to heaven. Two reasons are given: he was faithful, and he pleased God. Enoch pleased God by his faith which was shown by his walk with God. What an example for us!

Jesus Pleased God
“As soon as Jesus was baptized … heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’” (Mt. 3:16-17). God proclaimed that He was well pleased with Jesus. One of the reasons was because Jesus chose to do the Father’s will and not His own (Mt. 26:39,42; Jn. 6:38). He was not selfish; He obeyed God instead of pleasing self (Jn. 5:30). He had a lifetime desire to finish His mission and said, “I brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do” (Jn. 17:4).

This message was repeated at the Transfiguration, when Peter, James and John saw Jesus’ appearance change so that His face shone like the sun and His clothing became dazzling white. “While He was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’” (Mt. 17:5).

God’s message to the disciples was to listen to Jesus. On one occasion He told them to do God’s work while there was opportunity (Jn. 9:4). On another He stressed obedience to Him (Jn. 14:15,21,23; 15:10). He is our best example because He followed His Father’s commands “exactly” (Jn. 14:31).

We Can Please God
So how can we please God? First, we can become a disciple like Peter, James and John, and follow His guidelines in the New Testament. The Bible says “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 8:8). Second, we can offer our bodies to God. “I urge you … to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom.12:1). A sacrifice is an offering to God. The greatest example is Christ offering His life on the cross. Third, we can offer praise to God. “Through Jesus … let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:15-16). God loves worship from those who “confess His name.” Fourth, we can offer our possessions to God (Heb. 13:16) by sharing our resources with those in need – the opposite of accumulating things for ourselves.

Let’s walk with God like Enoch, do God’s will like Jesus, and offer to God our bodies, our praise and our possessions.

Published, September 2008


The path to maturity in the family of God

In his first letter, the apostle John described those he wrote to as follows: “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 Jn. 2:12-14 NIV).

This passage was written to believers. John used a term of affection – often used by a teacher to his disciples – when he referred to them figuratively as “dear children” (teknion 2:12). Indeed all believers are children of God (Jn. 1:12-13; 1 Jn. 3:1). He noted why they were enabled to be called children of God: “because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.” It’s important for us all to realize, know and remember what Jesus Christ has done for us. By trusting in His work on the cross our sins are forgiven. What a joy to be liberated from the guilt and penalty of our sins!

John mentioned three stages of Christian growth in these verses: young children, young people and fathers. These stages are like infancy, adolescence and maturity. Let’s look at each of them.

Childhood
The Greek word translated “dear children” in verse 14 (paidion) is different from that in verse 12 (teknion), as it means the youngest believers – those immature in the Christian faith. As babies recognize their parents at a young age, infants in the Christian faith knew “the Father” (1 Jn. 2:13). In fact, the Holy Spirit within them recognized God as their Father (Gal. 4:6). They may not have known very much, but they knew that God was the Father who loved them by sending His Son to die for them. As spiritual children, they experienced God’s forgiveness.

But spiritual infants can’t distinguish between good and evil, or teach others, or apply the Bible’s teaching to their lives (Heb. 5:11-14). Instead, they rely on others to help them through life. Like babies they are still selfish, needy and dependent on others. But a prolonged childhood is not healthy and leads to problems and difficulties. As children need to grow physically into young people and then into adults, so believers need to grow from infancy in the faith towards maturity. One of the reasons John wrote this letter is that we might turn from the sinful ways of immaturity (1 Jn. 2:1).

Adulthood
The fathers knew “Him who is from the beginning” (1 Jn. 2:14). Elsewhere John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). So this reference is to knowing Christ. This knowledge is different from that of infancy – it’s the experience gained over a lifetime. Mature believers know the Lord well through their life experiences, and have enjoyed knowing Him for a long time. They have learned to obey God’s commands (1 Jn. 2:3). Their relationship with God, which is given top priority, is their security in life. The only thing that matters in a world where we eventually lose everything else, is our relationship with and knowledge of God.

Youth
Adolescence is the period between childhood and adulthood. John mentioned three things about the spiritual youth: they were strong, the word of God lived in them, and they had overcome the evil one (1 Jn. 2:14).

They were strong. Youth is a period of energy and enthusiasm. Paul wrote, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10-11). The weapons for spiritual battle include the Bible (Eph. 6:14-18). These young people were spiritually strong because they used these weapons daily.

The Word of God lived in them. This was why the youth were strong and had overcome Satan. When God’s Word lives in us, we are equipped for God’s work: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Also, our motives are judged: “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). In addition, our lives can be pure: “How can those who are young keep their way pure? By living according to Your word” (Ps. 119:9). Furthermore, there can be spiritual growth. When Paul said farewell to the elders of the church at Ephesus, he said, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

The Bible can build us up to further maturity when it is studied and applied to our lives. It is the means of spiritual growth from infants to young adults and then to mature adults in the Christian faith. If we desire to grow to spiritual maturity and to be spiritually strong, the Scriptures must live in us as well. That’s why God’s Word must be uttermost in our lives. It offers eternal principles for every area of life, and with the Holy Spirit’s help the Bible provides power for living and for overcoming Satan and sinful desires.

They had overcome the evil one. Youth is a time of conflict and wrestling with Satan. The goal of Satan is to separate us from God and to use sin as the tool to accomplish that separation. But Jesus promised that believers can overcome the sinful world (Jn.16:33; 1 Jn. 5:4-5). The presence of sin and evil will be a constant reality as long as we live in this world, but the Lord has assured us that in Christ we have the strength and power to overcome them. Here the spiritual youth learned the secret of victory – it’s through Christ. The Lord defeated Satan in the desert by quoting the Scriptures. This emphasizes the importance of constantly reading the Bible and having it ready to repel the attacks of Satan.

God’s Word Is The Key
Let’s move on from immaturity and strive for spiritual maturity in our lives. The secret of growth along the path to spiritual maturity is assimilation of God’s Word, which makes us spiritually able to overcome Satan’s temptations.

Published, July 2007


Peace In A War Zone

Since the conflict in Iraq began, we hear about war and peace every day. Of course, conflict has existed on earth since the days of Cain and Abel; Lamech was known for his violence and in the times before the Flood people were “full of violence” (Gen. 4:1-8; 23-24; 6:11,13 niv). In fact, the history of our world is marked by wars. Likewise, today there are many barriers to peace with God, peace with each other, and peace with self.

How can we have peace in a world of strife? The Bible says that strife is due to envy and selfish ambition – seeking pleasures, possessions and prestige (Jas. 3:16; 4:1-3). But it also says that Christians have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). This is consistent with the promised Messiah being called the “Prince of Peace” and the angels proclaiming “peace on earth” at Christ’s birth (Isa. 9:6; Lk. 2:14).

Peace Is Possible
Did you know that Christians can have peace in a war zone! Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). The disciples were about to face persecution and suffering (Jn. 16:2, 32). The purpose of their conversation with Jesus was to help them experience peace with God internally while they faced “trouble” externally. The source of the peace was “in Me” – that is, Jesus.

Similarly, we live in a world where trouble is inevitable, but peace is possible in Jesus. The purpose of God’s message to us in the Bible is to explain how we can have this peace. Through Jesus’ destroying the barriers to peace, we can have victory over the problems we face in the sinful world (1 Jn. 5:4-5). It’s like having peace in a war zone. This peace is only possible through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (Eph. 2:16).

A Lasting Peace
After telling His disciples that He would be betrayed, and that Peter would deny knowing Him, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). They knew the religious leaders planned to kill Jesus, and they feared the future as they had left their jobs to follow Him. How could they face life without Christ to lead them?

How did Jesus reassure them? He promised peace and security through a place and a person. First, He promised them a future place with Him in heaven (Jn. 14:1-4). Second, He promised that they would not be alone, but the Holy Spirit would always be with them (Jn. 14:15-18). Both are consequences of Jesus’ destroying the barriers to peace. So rather than despairing of the uncertainty of facing a future that was not according to their expectations, they had peace of mind. This was not a temporary peace based on circumstances, but a lasting peace based on their relationship with Christ. They knew God was with them and they had hope for the future. This is the only real peace that is possible in a war zone.

There can be no lasting peace without the Prince of Peace. God made peace with enemies through Christ’s death on the cross (Col. 1:20-23). As rebels and sinners, we are all separated from God. Peace with God is only possible through Jesus; He has removed the barrier between us and God. We can be forgiven and reconciled to God through confession and repentance. Confession reveals a changed heart, being genuinely sorry for letting the barrier of sin develop between us and God. Repentance is changed behavior; living a life in which the barrier has been destroyed.

Destroying The Barriers
What about the barriers between us and others? Peace can only be restored if these barriers to peace are destroyed. For example, West Berlin was isolated from East Germany, from 1961 to 1989, by a concrete wall, 13 feet high and 103 miles long. There was jubilation when the Berlin Wall was demolished and the people of Germany were reunited.

There was also a “dividing wall of hostility” and animosity between the Jews and Greeks in New Testament times (Eph. 2:14). They despised each other. This barrier was caused by the Old Testament Law that made promises to the Jews based on their nationality (Eph. 2:11-13). The Gentiles were excluded from these promises.

Paul taught that Jesus abolished the Law, and now both Jews and Gentiles could be reconciled to God; there was no barrier between them (Eph. 2:14-19). Jesus had “destroyed the barrier” to peace. These great enemies could be reconciled with each other because they both had equal access to God, and were “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” They were now to express the unity of the body of Christ. The old distinction between Jews and Gentiles was now obsolete and they could both be members of the Church (1 Cor. 10:32).

So Christians are all one family. When Christ removed the barrier between us and Him, He also tore down the barriers that we build between ourselves and others! The Church is to be a place where all people can come and share together (Gal. 3:28-29). It is a place of reconciliation, where barriers are destroyed and real relationships are formed.

Believers are encouraged to “live in harmony with one another” and “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Pet. 3:8,11). This requires recognizing barriers to peace, removing them and being reconciled through confession, repentance and forgiveness. Confession reveals a willingness to remove the barrier. Repentance is living as though the barrier has been removed. Forgiveness keeps the barrier removed. Although barriers may be caused by either party, both must be involved in the process of reconciliation. It takes two to form a relationship, and two to restore one.

The Message Of Peace
While conflict is inevitable in our sinful world, peace is possible through Jesus. Christians should be ready to spread the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). “Peace” summarizes the gospel message: “You know the message God sent … telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). The good news is that you can have peace with God, because the barrier to lasting peace has been removed! And you can be a peacemaker for Christ in a world at war.

Published, May 2005


Worship Like The Thankful Samaritan

Jesus healed many people while on earth. Once ten men with a skin disease like leprosy sought His help (Lk. 17:11-19). They stood at a distance and called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Jesus rewarded their faith by telling them to show themselves to the priests. In Jewish society, the priests confirmed when someone was healed of an infectious skin disease (Lev. 14:1-32). As they went towards the priests they were miraculously healed.

Then one of them returned to Jesus. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet, thanked Him and praised God in a loud voice. He was humble, grateful and thankful. This is surprising as he was a Samaritan, and despised by the Jews (Jn. 4:9). Jesus called him a foreigner (Lk. 17:18), a term also used to describe rebels (Jn. 8:48). Before He responded to the Samaritan, Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine men who were healed?” They didn’t return to thank the Lord.

Likewise, Jesus pitied humanity and came to rescue us from our sins (Mt. 1:21). He said that sin was like sickness (Mk. 2:17). Using this illustration, believers have been healed of the consequences of this disease. What is our response? If we have trusted in Christ’s miraculous work, are we like the thankful Samaritan or like the nine who forgot the Healer?

Christians should be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). This means being thankful in all circumstances and “overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:7; 3:15; 4:2; 1 Th. 5:18). We should also praise God for the transformation in our life (1 Pet. 2:9). This is to be offered to God as a continual “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15).

Published: January 2005


SAFETY FIRST: Protecting Yourself From Danger

Let’s resolve to put on God’s safety equipment to protect us against all the dangers of life we face each day.

Before I could work at an electrical power station, I had to be inducted in the safety requirements designed to protect the health and safety of workers. They are a part of the occupational health and safety requirements that apply at all work places in Australia. The power station has many potential dangers with operating machinery, chemicals, flammable materials, electrical cables, deep pits and dams. After the induction, all workers are given a Safety Handbook and an electronic “Smart Card” that’s required to enter and exit the power station.

The safety equipment at these sites includes: helmet, eye protection, ear muffs, safety boots, protective clothing, fire-fighting equipment, communication devices and first-aid kits. This equipment reminded me of the illustration Paul used of the armor of a Roman soldier (Eph. 6:10-18). In the case of the Christian, Satan, his demons and the sinful nature are the dangers. They can be obvious, “like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” or they can be subtle, like an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14; 1 Pet. 5:8 NIV). In this article we’ll look at how this safety equipment can illustrate important aspects of Christian character.

Helmet
The first piece of equipment is a safety helmet to protect against head injuries. The head contains the brain which controls the body via the nervous system. The brain is the body’s nerve center. Our mind controls our actions. But what controls our mind?

Christians have a renewed mind, the mind of Christ, that should be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:6; 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:16). They have a new attitude when they think from God’s perspective (Eph. 4:23; Phil. 2:5). Our mind is protected when we remember that our salvation and victory is certain through Jesus. This is the “helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17), our ultimate security. It helps our minds to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Peter urged believers to “prepare your minds for action” by being self-controlled, optimistic, obedient, holy and God-respecting (1 Pet. 1:13-17). According to Paul, we can control what we think (Phil. 4:6-8). Prayer replaces fear and worry with peace, which protects our minds. We should focus our thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Our thoughts should also be single-minded, friendly, considerate, submissive, kind, helpful, impartial and sincere (Jas. 1:5-8, 3:17-18). So there is power in positive thinking.

Eye Protection
Safety glasses are designed to protect our eyes from damage in hazardous situations, such as when working with battery acid, grinding wheels or welding equipment. Our eyes help us see the world around us and have the vision to know which way to go. Sight is also important for reading written messages. Imagine what it would be like to need a guide dog to get around.

We should “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). This means imitating Jesus and growing more and more like Him (Rom. 13:14). It’s an important part of looking forward to the things that are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).

Those on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus until “their eyes were opened” (Lk. 24:31). Like the Laodicean church, we need the Holy Spirit’s light to provide spiritual vision (Rev. 3:18). To help others we need to remove the blind spots in our spiritual lives (Lk. 6:39-42).

Ear Plugs
Ear plugs are required near noisy machinery, because excessive noise can damage hearing. Hearing is important for listening to audible messages. When our family toured a power station years ago, the guide used a radio transmitter to speak to us through our ear muffs. The muffs shielded the message from the noise. Do we hear God’s messages over the noise of the world? Jesus said that His followers listen to His voice (Jn. 10:16,27).

Ear muffs and ear plugs are made of materials that reduce and absorb noise. They are a shield like our Christian faith (Eph. 6:16). Through our faith we are shielded by God’s power (1 Pet. 1:5). When Satan attacks us with temptation, doubt, disappointment, discouragement, difficulties, persecution, and tragedy, we need to remember God’s promises. This is when it’s important to have faith in God and His Word. After hearing His voice, its important to “do what it says” (Jas. 1:22).

Safety Boots
Steel capped boots protect feet from injury. Our feet are important for walking. If they are damaged we may need a walking stick, crutches, a walking frame or a wheel chair to help us move around.

The desire to tell the good news of peace with God should be like wearing shoes on our feet (Eph. 6:15). Jesus said that His followers would tell others about Him everywhere in the world (Acts 1:8). This means walking to where the people are. The Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (Rom. 10:15).

Evangelists and missionaries are sent to preach the gospel all over the world. It is like the wedding invitation sent out to “all the people they could find” (Mt. 22:8-10). We should also be ready to spread God’s good news as His ambassadors. This means that we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).

Protective Clothing
Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts are required to protect against sunburn and skin cancer. Sunburn can be painful and skin cancer can be fatal. These clothes protect the limbs and body.

In the Bible white clothes symbolize the good things done by believers (Rev. 19:8). They were recommended for those in the church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:18). Some of these good things are honesty, sharing, kindness, forgiveness and love (Eph. 4:24-5:1). Paul wrote that we should, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love” (Col. 3:12-14). Peter wrote, “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Pet. 5:5). How is this possible? Jesus promised that Christians would be “clothed with power” by the Holy Spirit, which includes power to live a godly life (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8).

Fire-Fighting Equipment
There is a diesel powered fire-fighting system at the power station, which pumps water onto any fire. Fires can destroy property and life. There are also special precautions for “hot work” (welding, grinding, oxy-cutting, etc.) that has the potential to ignite flammable materials.

This reminds us of how Jesus used the Word of God to repel Satan’s attacks (Mt. 4:1-11). Each time He was tempted, Jesus said “it is written,” and then responded with a quotation from the Bible. Likewise, we should know the Bible so we can recall it when we are tempted. Also, the Church is cleansed and made holy “by the washing with water through the word” (Eph. 5:26). As we hear and obey God’s Word, our lives are cleansed from the pollution of sin, like water can be used to wash us clean.

Communication
When there is an emergency, staff are required to call the emergency phone number immediately. The emergency controller coordinates incident response. If the danger is severe, a site evacuation may be called when all staff must report to the muster point. The emergency alarm is tested weekly.

Prayer is like a phone call to heaven. Regular prayer is essential for the believer – in fact, it is commanded (Eph. 6:18-20). Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God. We should keep praying for each other, but especially for evangelists and missionaries who declare the gospel.

First Aid
First aid is the initial care of the injured until medical aid arrives. It involves managing the casualty and preserving life until an ambulance crew, medical practitioner or nurse takes over. Life-threatening conditions such as lack of breathing, lack of circulation, severe bleeding, and shock must be treated immediately. At the power station there is staff trained to use the first-aid equipment.

First-aid can be a life saver. It can be used to resuscitate a casualty whose breathing and circulation has stopped. Jesus can be an eternal life saver too. As “the author of life,” Jesus is a great life saver who has rescued us from eternal punishment and given us eternal life (Jn. 3:16; Acts 3:15). People suffering an injury or illness should be grateful to those who aid them. Like the Samaritan who was healed, we should be thankful to God who gives us the victory through Jesus (Lk. 17:16; 1 Cor. 15:57; Heb. 12:28). Our attitude should be one of always giving thanks to God for everything, in Jesus’ name (Eph. 5:20; 1 Th. 5:18).

Put On Your Safety Equipment
There are two parts to protecting ourselves from danger: having the correct safety equipment, and using it. We have seen how the safety equipment can illustrate important aspects of Christian character: The helmet reminds us of our salvation, and that we should prepare our minds for action; Eye protection reminds us to imitate Jesus; Ear muffs remind us to exercise our Christian faith and trust God’s promises; Safety boots remind us to spread the gospel; Protective clothing reminds us to live a godly life, be humble and rely on the Holy Spirit’s power; Fire-fighting equipment reminds us to know the Bible; Communication reminds us to pray regularly; And first-aid reminds us to be thankful to God.

God has provided this “safety equipment” and we need to use it before Satan attacks (Eph. 6:11,13). The believers in Ephesus were told how to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Eph. 6:10). They had to “put on the full armor of God” to “stand against the devil’s schemes” and “stand firm” like a soldier (Eph. 6:11,14). This means putting on your safety equipment daily as you live for God in the world (Rom. 13:12).

We need God’s help to do this, and we need to help each other. That’s one of the reasons why the Church exists. As the induction training at the power station is reviewed annually, we also need to recall these things often. So let’s resolve to put on God’s safety equipment to protect us against all the dangers of life we face each day.

Published: November 2003


Participating In The Divine Nature

Using the resource that God gives us

There are two natures present within believers – the sinful and the divine. The sinful nature is inherited by everyone and powered by Satan (Rom. 5:12; Jas. 3:15). In some Bible translations it is also referred to as “earthly,” “the flesh,” “the world” or the “old man.” Sin is evident every day of our lives, causing many of the struggles in the Christian life.

The divine nature is a consequence of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers, giving them a new attitude and godly behavior (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23-24). This becomes evident when one is controlled by the Holy Spirit and obedient to God (Rom. 6:16; 8:6-9). The divine nature is sometimes referred to as “godly,” “heavenly,” “spiritual” or the “new man.” The divine nature is beneficial now and for the future (1 Tim. 4:8).

Purpose Of The Divine Nature
Second Peter 1:3-11 tells why Christians should express the divine nature in their daily lives. Its development is essential for a useful life and it is God’s provision to counteract the sinful nature. He has given us “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3 NIV), so we have the resources to live a life that pleases Him.

Through God’s power and promises we should “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Pet. 1:4). His promises include His living among His people, in the person of the Holy Spirit, and treating us with parental care, as His children (2 Cor. 6:16-18). So, the power to express the divine nature is divine, not human (Jn. 15:5). The Greek word translated “participate” is “koinonos”, which means “partakers,” “sharers” or “having something in common,” and is described elsewhere as partners and companions. This implies that God shares His nature with us, and our active involvement (“make every effort” in 2 Pet. 1:5) is conveyed in the New International Version by expressing this as the verb “participate.”

An important reason for participating in the divine nature is that it helps us combat the sinful nature (2 Pet. 1:4). If we follow the Spirit’s guidance, we “will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:16). Also, replacing activities of the sinful nature with those of the divine nature helps stop giving Satan a foothold in our lives and reduces our double-mindedness (Eph. 4:22-27; Jas. 4:8). The more we participate in the divine nature the less time we’ll have for the sinful nature.

Therefore, we are exhorted “to make every effort to add to your faith goodness … knowledge … self-control … perseverance … godliness … brotherly kindness and … love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). The Greek word for how to do this is “spoude,” meaning “eager, earnest, zealous, diligent.” We should “make every effort” to express these characteristics of the divine nature.

This is followed by a promise of effective and productive lives if these qualities are increasingly present (2 Pet. 1:8), as in our growth towards Christlikeness (Eph. 4:13-15). Failure to develop these virtues leaves us spiritually blind and forgetful (2 Pet. 1:9).

Also, there is this promise: “If you do these things you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom” (2 Pet. 1:10). The Greek word for fall is “ptaio,” meaning “to stumble.” It is used metaphorically in this verse meaning to stumble into sin. Similarly, Christ has been described as “Him who is able to keep you from falling” (Jude 24). But of course, James said, “we all stumble in many ways,” so this means that the more we are occupied with the divine nature, the less likely we are to fall into sinful behavior (Jas. 3:2).

Images Of The Divine Nature
Fortunately for a generation that thinks visually, the Bible teems with illustrations. Scriptural examples of the divine nature in believers can increase our understanding of this gift from God.

The fruit of the Spirit is well known: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Paul urges believers to clothe themselves with: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness. “And over all these virtues put on love” (Col. 3:12-14). Furthermore, we are exhorted to flee sinful behavior and pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness, and peace (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). Finally, the wisdom that comes from heaven is: pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (Jas. 3:17). This results in a “harvest of righteousness” (v. 18).

The symbols used in these examples provide a further impression of the divine nature. It increases, grows, sustains, protects, is a worthwhile goal, and is true wisdom. What attractive and desirable images!

Attributes Of The Divine Nature
The main features of the divine nature, summarized from the Bible, are listed at the end of this article. These are the characteristics of God and Christianity. They are seen in creation (Rom. 1:20), in Christ (Jn. 14:9-11) and should be evident in believers before a watching world. Christ told His followers to love one another so that others would know who were His disciples (Jn. 13:34-45). Fruitful lives are also evident in His disciples (Jn. 15:8). Similarly, the divine nature should distinguish believers today, as God communicates through them (2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Jn. 3:7-10).

Enough Evidence To Convict Us Of Being Christian?
Christianity changes people, transforming their attitudes, desires and values. For example, the dramatic changes to Peter and John were explained by the fact that they “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). By participating in the divine nature, believers are changed by the Holy Spirit to become more like Christ: “transformed into His likeness” (2 Cor. 3:17-18). Then there is our final transformation: “When He appears, we shall be like Him” (Phil. 3:21; 1 Jn. 3:2).

After advising Christians to be occupied with things that are: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, Paul urges them to put into practice what they have learned (Phil. 4:8-9). Who controls our lives is largely up to us. We can make choices on how we live our lives more often than we think. This is why we should “make every effort” to let the Spirit replace our sinful values, attitudes and desires with godly ones.

So, let’s get involved in the divine nature, making the most of every opportunity to be God’s fellow-workers, recognizing the divine nature in others and encouraging other Christians in it as well (2 Cor. 6:1; Eph. 5:16).

The Divine Nature Is:


Active
Bold
Compassionate
Considerate
Consistent
Contented
Dedicated
Encouraging
Enthusiastic
Evangelistic
Faithful
Forgiving
Generous
Gentle
Good
Gracious
Helpful
Holy
Honest
Hospitable
Humble
Impartial
Joyful
Liberty
Longsuffering
Loving
Obedient
Opposed to sin
Patient
Peaceful
Persevering
Praising
Prayerful
Reconciling
Repentant
Respectful
Reverent
Self-controlled
Submissive
Thankful
Unifying
Visionary
Wise
Wonderful

Published: September 2003


Keeping A Clear Conscience

How to develop your sense of good and evil

The conscience is like a monitor or an alarm that God uses to remind us when something is wrong. Everybody has a conscience, but when it comes to registering what is right and wrong, different consciences may come up with different readings. Sometimes the alarm does not ring when it should; at other times there is a false alarm.

God made us with a conscience, an inborn sense of right and wrong. Remember, Adam and Eve felt guilty and hid from God after they sinned. The conscience is like a law written in the human heart, an inner voice that accuses us if it thinks we are wrong; or defends us if it thinks we are right (Rom. 2:15). If we heed these promptings we have a clear conscience; if we disregard them we should have a guilty conscience (1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 10:22).

However, the conscience is linked with the mind. What is fed into the mind concerning right and wrong will eventually influence how the conscience works. It is like a computer in that it only comes up with the right answers if it is fed the right information. If our conscience is working right we will be aware of our sinfulness as Adam and Eve were.

Since the conscience can fail to operate when it should and can give a false alarm, it is not a perfect guide of right and wrong. We need to allow for the fact that our conscience can be wrong and we need to recognize that God is the ultimate judge of what is right and wrong (1 Cor. 4:4). The Bible refers to three kinds of conscience: guilty, corrupt and clear.

A Guilty Conscience
Since we have all sinned and fall short of God’s standard, we all should experience a guilty conscience from time to time (Rom. 3:23). Consider these three examples from the Bible. First, when Jesus asked the accusers of the woman caught in adultery if any of them was “without sin” (Jn. 8:7), He exposed their guilt and they departed.

Second, after Peter denied knowing Jesus for the third time, he broke down and cried because he remembered Jesus’ words: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown Me three times” (Mk. 14:72 NIV). Convicted of his failure, he confessed, was restored and then was used mightily by God in the early Church.

Third, after Judas betrayed Jesus, he was seized with guilt, returned the money he had been paid, and then committed suicide. (Mt. 27:3-5). In each of these cases the alarm sounded when it should, showing us that people can respond to a guilty conscience in a positive or negative way. They either deal correctly with the alarm or try to escape it.

A Corrupt Conscience
If we set our alarm at night but ignore it in the morning, the time will come when we will sleep right through it. In the same way, if we keep ignoring our conscience, it will become ineffective. Because of this, many people have little sense of sin. Their consciences are described as being either “seared as with a hot iron” or “corrupted” (1 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:15). These two illustrations involve being burned and injured, or polluted and contaminated. These consciences are insensitive to sin; they do not work properly. This is one reason why evangelism of adults can be difficult.

A Clear Conscience
The Bible says that Christ’s death can change a guilty conscience to a clear one (Heb. 9:14). This kind of conscience is also called a good or clean conscience. In this case, the alarm is set and ready to sound at the right time, and we respond to it. The first step to a clear conscience is to become a Christian.

The Holy Spirit can use our consciences to make us feel guilty of sin (Jn. 16:8). The truth of the gospel enlightens our conscience and brings about conviction of sin, which is the first stage of repentance. For example, when Peter spoke at Pentecost, the people “were cut to the heart” and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent … for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:37-38). Believers are cleansed from a guilty conscience in order to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14; 10:22).

Salvation sets us free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). But if we do not keep our conscience clear, this will show in our daily life by affecting our fellowship with God and our prayer life. We won’t enjoy God’s presence if we have a guilty conscience – just like we do not feel comfortable around our parents when we have a guilty conscience. A guilty conscience will also affect our faith and love. As a good conscience is linked with strong faith, a guilty conscience leads to weak faith (1 Tim. 1:5,19). As love is an outcome of a good conscience, it is diminished by a guilty conscience. A guilty conscience affects our desire to read the Bible. As a troubled conscience can decrease our appetite for natural food, it can also decrease our appetite for spiritual food.

Caring For Our Conscience
Just as alarms need power, maintenance and correct settings to operate properly, we need to care for our conscience to keep it operating correctly. One thing we must do to keep our conscience empowered and calibrated is confess sin: “If we confess our sins He … will forgive us” (1 Jn. 1:9). He promised through Christ’s death to “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death” (Heb. 9:14). But it’s not enough just to confess; we must also change our behavior (Jas. 1:22). We must also stop doing what we shouldn’t do. This is called repentance. We must begin to live by our convictions (Rom. 14:5,14,23).

We must train our conscience to be strong. This takes time just like it takes time to train children for adulthood. Those who are mature have trained their senses “to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14). A conscience marred by a sinful nature needs to be transformed (Rom. 12:2).

Paul said, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and mankind” (Acts 24:16). Confessing to and praying for each other are effective ways to keep a clear conscience between each other (Jas. 5:16). Maintaining a clear conscience in our marriage, family and local church, and with neighbors, friends and business associates is important.

As we grasp more and more truth about God’s will, our conscience becomes more enlightened. This does not necessarily mean we should feel guilty about more and more things, because sometimes we feel guilty when we should not. Remember the false alarm. Paul referred to believers who felt guilty for no good reason as having a “weak” conscience (1 Cor. 8:7,8). He referred to those free from this false guilt as having a “strong” conscience. They were more mature, like deacons who “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9). How important it is to be filled “with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). We have the Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide us towards this maturity (Jn. 16:13).

Different Consciences
How do we act toward other believers when their behavior doesn’t meet our standard? What do we do when we see a believer engaging in what we consider a questionable activity? How do we react when people try to force us to follow their convictions?

The Bible distinguishes between essentials and non-essentials in the Christian faith. The essentials or fundamentals are things which all believers should agree on. They are the tests the Bible sets forth for recognizing false teachers and false ideas about such things as: the person and work of Christ; the good news of salvation “by grace … through faith … not by works” (Eph. 2:8-9); and the inspiration and authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to us.

Apart from such foundational truths, there are many other things in the Bible that are not as clear, and not as easily understood. In these matters we must allow for differing opinions. This includes “disputable (debateable) matters” (Rom. 14:1), where the Bible allows for differences of opinion. This is illustrated in Romans 14 by two examples.

The first concerns eating meat: “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables” (Rom. 14:2). When the book of Romans was written, the situation among Gentile believers (those with no Jewish ancestry) was an interesting one. Most had participated in pagan worship which included animal sacrifices to pagan gods, or idolatry. The animals that were sacrificed were usually sold as meat on the open market.

So for those who had been saved out of this lifestyle the question became whether they should eat the meat sacrificed to these idols. By eating that meat, were they participating in the idolatry of pagans? This was a hard question for many. And desiring not to participate in idolatrous practices, many of these Gentile Christians became vegetarians. Only in that way could they assure themselves that they were not eating meat sacrificed to idols.

Paul said that the weak believer ate only vegetables, whereas the strong believer’s faith allowed him to eat this meat because he understood that the idols to which the meat had been offered were not gods at all – only pieces of wood, stone or metal. Therefore, if they ate the meat with that understanding, they were not participating in idolatry.

The second example has to do with observing special days as holy days: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike” (Rom. 14:5). Those who had been saved out of the Jewish tradition of Sabbath days and festivals were apt to make a great deal out of those observances. However, others not coming from that background felt that every day was the Lord’s day, and none were more special than others. This created problems in the early church. How were believers to live together who did not agree in every detail? How are we, today, to deal with other believers whose opinions differ from ours?

Instructions For Living Together
Those scriptural principles which instruct us to live together in harmony and love with other believers often involve the conscience. It is clear that they are important because of the numerous references to them in the New Testament.

One such principle is that we accept one another: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable (debatable) matters” (Rom. 14:1). The Christian is to accept other believers without passing judgment on every opinion they hold. We are to allow for differing opinions, because they do not necessarily mean a differing faith, but a faith that is weak.

Another principle is that we respect another’s conscience – regardless of whether it is more strict and scrupulous or more tolerant and easy-going than ours (Rom. 14:3). In other words, we are to allow for the differing conclusions of honest believers who are seeking the mind of Christ. And further, we are to allow for them without criticism, contempt, and judgment (Rom. 14:10). We should not put others down (Rom. 14:13). We should respond with love rather than criticism. Remember, God has accepted them and so should we. He is judge in these matters, not us.

A third principle is that we don’t allow another’s conscience to override ours (Rom. 14:16), and that we don’t force our conscience on others (Rom. 14:22). We can share our opinion, but it is important to give others space to grow and to allow for the possibility that we may be wrong.

A final principle is that we be careful that our behavior does not stumble others and cause them to sin by not following their conscience (Rom. 14:20-21; 1 Cor. 8:13). Don’t let debatable matters destroy the work of God. Paul stated, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the Church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:32-33).

Repairing The Alarm
Let’s be like Paul and always strive to keep our conscience clear before God and one another, so that it sounds an alarm at the right time and is silent at the right time. If our conscience is guilty, let’s respond to the alarm like Peter who confessed his sin and was restored to God. If it is corrupt, let’s get our alarm repaired so it can recognize our sin.

Also, let’s endeavor to become more mature by training our conscience to be strong. Those with legalistic viewpoints have consciences that are stricter than the Bible; those with liberal viewpoints have consciences that are more lax than the Bible. Both are weak. Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to constantly use the Bible to develop, exercise and strengthen our conscience so we can readily distinguish good from evil — and live accordingly?

Published: July 2000


Three Commitments For Married Life

From The New Zealand Landscape

We enjoyed a family holiday in New Zealand last year. Most of our time was spent as tourists travelling around the countryside and admiring the scenery. While I took photographs and did some hiking, my wife made teddy bears and visited craft shops, and our teenage children socialized and did some in-line rollerskating whenever possible. We also renewed friendships with our relatives and other Christians.

In many areas of New Zealand white wooden crosses along the roadside mark the site of fatal accidents. These are memorials to those who have died, but they can also remind drivers of the dangers they face. For example, upon seeing a cross, drivers may check their speed and drive more carefully. Of course, vehicular accidents happen despite road safety campaigns and warning signs. Similarly, couples and families have accidents in life despite warnings in the Scriptures.

The landscape of New Zealand is characterized by mountains, lakes and sheep. These three features remind me of three things that healthy marriages and families need: enduring partnerships, power for each day, and Christian fellowship. We can also view these three needs as commitments – to our spouse, to God and to a local church.

Enduring Partnerships
New Zealand’s Southern Alps feature snow-capped peaks and glaciers. At Mount Cook National Park climbers prepared to scale the alpine peaks. Some advertised for climbing partners as the terrain was too dangerous to explore alone. Those climbing alpine mountains require reliable team mates and proper equipment. Connected by ropes for hours each day, this is not a place for weak commitment. In such situations, if you stopped and did your own thing you would be endangering yourself and others. In this way, climbing reminds me of marriage.

Paul referred to Titus as his “partner and fellow worker” (2 Cor. 8:23), which is an ideal description of the relationship between husband and wife. At times those who are married will need to depend on the endurance, strength and patience of the other partner. But if both are committed to Christ, then He is part of the team and promises to help through difficult circumstances (Mt. 11:28-30).

God invented marriage (Gen. 2:24-25), and Jesus endorsed the importance of marriage between one man and one woman when He said that no one should separate a couple that God has joined together (Mt. 19:4-8). Christians are commanded to always be faithful to their marriage partners (Heb. 13:4). This means that marriage is a lifelong commitment, which is consistent with God’s command that the love between a husband and wife be like that between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-23). Therefore it is wise to count the cost beforehand rather than to leap into such a commitment too quickly. Do not be deceived. The idea of a marriage only lasting as long as it “works” or until one finds a more attractive partner comes from Satan not from the Scriptures. Similarly, the idea of living together as a couple outside of marriage shows a lack of commitment to each other and lack of obedience to the Scriptures.

Two other great dangers that can destroy a marriage are sexual immorality and selfish ambition (Gal. 5:19-20). It is good to have ambitions as long as these are shared and agreed upon. But when little regard is held for the views and/or the welfare of the spouse, then the marriage is in danger of breakdown. Likewise sexual immorality or unfaithfulness always hurts the marriage relationship. One reason for this is that unfaithfulness to one’s spouse indicates unfaithfulness to God. Building a lasting, faithful partnership with your spouse improves your relationship with God as well as with each other.

Power For Each Day
New Zealand has many lakes that have formed as a result of volcanic and glacial activity. Much of the water in these lakes is harnessed to generate hydro-electric power. Because electricity cannot be stored, the power generated must, on a moment-by-moment basis, exactly match the power demanded.

Similarly, God’s power and strength for the believer cannot be stored; it needs to be available for use on a day-by-day basis. This power comes from the Holy Spirit as we participate in the divine nature (Acts 1:8; Eph. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). It relies on God-given faith, the truth of the Scriptures and prayer (Eph. 6:10-18).

In a Christian marriage the order of priority should be God first, spouse second and children third. Do not neglect your relationship with God as you need His divine power in your marriage and your family. Those who pray together are more likely to stay together. When both partners are committed to God, they have a solid foundation for their marriage. It also shows children what is really important in life.

According to the Old Testament, parents should remind their children daily about God’s promises and how He is working in their lives (Dt. 6:6-7). This can help children realize that God cares for them.

Our top priority should be to build a strong, lasting relationship with the Lord. Communicate with Him daily. Read and apply the Bible to your life. Ask God for guidance by praying about the needs in your marriage and family. Share the vision God has given you and help others in your family to develop their gifts. If God has put you together, then you should complement each other. He wants you to work together as a team in your mission for Him. Know what you are to do day by day and God will provide the power for you to do it.

Christian Fellowship
New Zealand has lots of sheep. They are kept in flocks and follow one another as they move around the countryside. One day we spent about five minutes attempting to drive through a flock of sheep that was travelling on a road. This reminded me that God sees us as His sheep (Jn. 10:11; Heb. 13:20). He puts us in local churches (or flocks) because we need ongoing relationships with other believers. Just as children are to grow up within families, believers are to grow up within local churches.

The local church is where we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Th. 5:11). We are to talk regularly with local believers and not be isolated from them (Mal. 3:16). God said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Likewise, neither couples nor families are meant to be isolated. Instead we should “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24-25). Unfortunately, some give up the habit of meeting collectively with other believers, which leads to a lack of mutual encouragement, and increases the likelihood of being deceived by sin and hardened against God (Rom. 1:12; Heb. 3:13).

Marriages fail when communication ceases and people who once worked together as partners begin to lead separate lives. Some believers also give up on Christian fellowship and choose to isolate themselves from other Christians. For various reasons they may drop out of the local church, not realizing the importance of ongoing fellowship for their spiritual health. Did you know that statistics show that married people are physically more healthy than unmarried people of similar circumstances? This research not only promotes marriage, but it also indicates the benefits of companionship and fellowship.

Some couples and families stop attending a local church when they move to another city. Since one of the purposes of marriage is to raise children to become believers (Mal. 2:15), if the family does not attend a local church, the children will miss out on Christian fellowship. It is clear from Scripture that parents should endeavor to pass on the Christian faith to the next generation. For example Timothy’s mother and grandmother were believers (2 Tim. 1:5) who passed on their “sincere faith” to him in such a way that it was evident to Paul. To hear that their children are “walking in the truth” should give parents great joy (2 Tim 2:2; 3 Jn. 4).

Communication of the Christian faith should begin in the home and be supported by the local church. Is your home used for Christian fellowship such as Bible study and prayer? When Peter was in prison “many people had gathered and were praying” in Mary’s house (Acts 12:12). This kind of home fellowship is a great witness to your children and to the community.

Couples and families should build lasting relationships in a local church. This means sharing your lives with your Christian brothers and sisters (Mt. 12:49-50; Jas. 2:15) and praying collectively about your situations and needs. Stay where you can experience spiritual growth; where there are those you can learn from and follow and those you can help and encourage. How can you expect to have a lasting relationship with God if you cannot have a lasting relationship with other Christians (1 Jn. 4:20-21)?

Healthy Marriages And Families
Hopefully, New Zealand’s mountains, lakes and sheep have reminded us of the foundations of strong marriages and families. The health of your marriage and family depends on the strength of your commitments to God, your spouse and believers in the local church. These are important in a day when it seems difficult for many to make and keep commitments.

Keeping your marriage together affects your spouse, children, co-workers, friends, neighbors, fellow Christians – your whole life!

We began this article by mentioning the white wooden crosses that mark the sites of auto accidents in New Zealand. You may drive carefully to survive, but do you live to survive? Don’t back out of your commitments. God doesn’t want you and yours to become another marriage/family accident statistic along life’s highway.

Published: May 2000


Living In A Material World

In the beginning God created the universe and it was excellent in every way. But Adam and Eve’s disobedience affected God’s creation. Today all creation groans with pain, and longs to be released from its slavery to decay and death, and to live in a world free from sin. In the future, God will judge the ungodly, as He did in Noah’s day, but this time by destroying His creation with fire not a flood. Then He has promised to replace it with a new creation that is perfect and free from sin (Gen. 9:15; 2 Pet. 3:7-13).

That’s the big picture of the material world made up of atoms and molecules that we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. It is essential for living, providing such things as air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and materials to use from farms, mines, forests and factories.

We can have three possible attitudes toward the material or physical world: we can idolize it, despise it, or use it to honor God. Let’s look at each view and its consequences.

Idolizing The Material World
Ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun and the Nile River as gods. There were also sacred animals such as the cow and the crocodile. Remember Aaron’s golden calf (Ex. 32:4)? There have also been sacred mountains and trees, and some people have even worshiped images and shrines.

Most of us do not idolize such things today, but materialism dominates the thinking of many. For example, many believe that the physical world made itself; so there was no separate Creator. Also, many consider possessions and pleasure to be their goals in life.

What does the Bible say about this? According to the Epistle to the Romans, people who worship idols have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” It also says that “although they claim to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:25,22 NIV). This means that rejecting the Creator-God is a lie, and living for possessions and pleasure is a lie. Such people are “worshiping” creation instead of the Creator, and adoring what is made instead of the Maker. They are foolish, living for something they cannot keep (Mt. 6:19).

We should not “run after” material things nor live for money and possessions; instead we should be content with what we have (Mt. 6:31-32; 1 Tim. 6:8, 17; Heb. 13:5). God knows our needs. As our time on earth is short, we should not be taken up with the things in our lives (1 Cor. 7:31).

What is the consequence of this way of life? Living for possessions makes it difficult to follow Christ (Mt. 19:23-24). Such people use excuses to reject the gospel (Lk. 14:16-19). It also crowds out the Christian’s chance of maturing (Lk. 8:14). Unfortunately this is evident around the world today. As in life we reap what we sow, these behaviors are often a result of being devoted to the material world (2 Cor. 9:6).

Warnings about our attitude toward money can also be applied to the material world: “The love of money (or the material world) is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). So idolizing the material world is a great source of evil. Christians should always remember that Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money (or material things)” (Mt. 6:24).

Despising The Material World
The opposite view, that of despising the material world and looking down upon it, can be traced back to Plato, the Greek philosopher who lived about 400 b.c. He valued the soul and mind much more than the body and nature. Then in the first few centuries a.d. the Gnostics thought that all matter was evil. They only valued the unseen spirit and believed that the body was worthless. They minimized contact with the physical world.

Christianity in the Middle Ages also concentrated on the heavenly realm, so nature was absent from their art. This view of the world has crept into some forms of Christianity today, where the only interest is in heavenly things, in saving the soul and getting to heaven. Little emphasis is placed on the proper pleasures of the body or the proper use of the intellect. Bodily senses and pleasures are despised and regarded as being evil.

What does the Bible say about this? Colossians 2:20-23 describes such people as living under many rules and regulations. They have long lists of don’ts: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (v. 21). These are merely the wisdom of sinful people (v. 22), not God’s intention for us today, as the New Testament gives us general principles, not detailed rules. Remember, the Jews had the best set of rules in the world, but they couldn’t follow them! These rules may seem good. They may appear to make you love God more and to be very humble and to have control over your body. But they don’t really have any power over our desires (v. 23). They only result in pride.

The consequence of this way of life is a list of useless rules. We are driven internally, not externally. It is the attitude of the mind that is evil, not the material world (Mt. 15:10-20; 1 Tim. 6:10). Remember, everything that God created is good (1 Tim. 4:4). “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood (the material world) but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Eph. 6:12). So the material world is neither evil nor against us; it is with us, sharing both our suffering and our longing to be released from the influence of sin (Rom. 8:18-23).

Using The Material World To Honor God
If the material world is not an idol to be devoted to nor an evil to be despised, then how should we view our material world? As created by God, it was very good; and although now spoiled by sin, it still belongs to Him. So it shows God’s unique power (Rom. 1:20). Also, it is sustained by God: “In Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

Adam was to work the material world, take care of it and receive food from it (Gen. 2:15-16). As a consequence of the fall into sin, this work is difficult and many struggle to survive (Gen. 3:17-19). The thought of needing to work for our food is repeated in the New Testament (2 Th. 3:10). Paul thanked God for food before he ate; likewise we should be thankful for the physical resources that God provides for us (Acts 27:35).

People still have some of God’s image, which gives them extra value (Gen. 9:6). God loves all people (Jn. 3:16), body, soul and spirit. In fact, God loves people more than anything else in the material world, and to demonstrate this Jesus healed their diseases (Mt. 4:23) and died for their sins.

Jesus had a body and lived in the material world (Heb. 2:14). Our bodies and the physical world will be transformed one day, like Jesus was after His resurrection (Rom. 8:18-23; Phil. 3:21). The believer’s body is like a temple where the Spirit lives, and which God bought with the blood of Jesus. So we should use our bodies to honor God (1 Cor. 6:20). The same principle can apply to the physical world of which our bodies are a part.

We are urged to give our bodies to God (Rom. 12:1), and are told, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God … and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). Here we see that the body can be viewed as an instrument or a tool which can be used for good or bad purposes. Again, the same principle can apply to the physical world.

This means we should honor God in our way of living in the material world. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we need to work out what this means in the various areas of our lives such as: work, housing, transport, care of our bodies, recreation, sport, how we use our money and possessions, nature and the environment, art, music, literature, movies and TV. What are our dreams and goals?

“Nothing in creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). When God replays the video entitled “This is your life,” our lives will be shown for what they are (1 Cor. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10). Will we be assets or liabilities for Him? Will there be much evidence that we honored Him in our material world? Will His life be obvious in ours? (2 Cor. 4:11).

How Christ Used The Material World
It is instructive to be reminded of how Jesus Christ used the physical world in what He said and did, teaching spiritual principles and helping others. Parables, metaphors, similes, and illustrations from the material world were used liberally in His teaching of the disciples and the people. In this way, people had a visual impression of the truth being taught and they would have been reminded of it whenever they came across the object or situation in everyday life.

Christ healed diseases, calmed the storm and fed the hungry – for the benefit of people. He taught that God knows all about our circumstances and will provide our material needs (Mt. 6:33; 10:30). Likewise, we should remember to use the material world and life’s circumstances to teach spiritual principles. Helping to meet others’ physical needs is part of being Christ’s ambassadors on earth (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Material World Is Not The Sinful World
Sometimes the Bible uses the words “earthly” and “world” to describe the sinful nature. For example, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2,5). “Do not love the world or anything in the world” is explained as referring to sinful craving, lust and boasting (1 Jn. 2:15-16). Also, “earthly” wisdom is described as “unspiritual, of the devil” (Jas. 3:15) and “jealousy and quarreling” as “worldly” (1 Cor. 3:3).

This is an example of metonymy – the rhetorical technique of using one thing to represent another thing to which it is related in some way, such as “crown” instead of “king.” It is a figure of speech, like a metaphor, where words do not take their literal meaning. Here the words are linked because sin entered the world via Adam and Eve who were created from the physical world (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:47). So when “earthly” and “world” are used in this manner they mean “sinful,” not “material.” They are contrasted with “heavenly” which is used metonymically to mean “divine,” as Christ came from heaven to bring divine life (Phil. 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 15:45-49). Confusion regarding this distinction can lead to falsely despising the material world and considering it evil.

Dual Citizenship
Although the Bible says believers are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), we presently live on planet Earth. Our time here is relatively brief and our planet has a finite future (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:10-12). Considering our destiny, we can be pictured as strangers visiting Earth (1 Pet. 2:11).

The physical world is not an idol to be devoted to; this is a lie that results in evil behavior. Also, it is not an evil to be despised; this attitude results in a list of useless rules. The Bible shows us that the material world should be valued and used to honor God.

Published: September 1999


Practicing Scriptural Principles

Why is the Bible, a book written thousands of years ago, still relevant today? Because it contains universal principles that apply to everyone regardless of circumstances. God actually caused the writers of the Bible to address all the essential issues needed by us to live on this planet.

So how do we apply the principles in the Bible, originally expressed in a society foreign to ours, to our circumstances today? Fortunately, God has not left us alone. The Holy Spirit has been with believers since our Lord’s ascension (Jn. 14:16; Acts 1:8), and provides all the guidance we need through the Word (Jn. 16:13). As a result, we have God’s wisdom, “the mind of Christ,” revealed to us by His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16 NIV). This is just as true for today’s situations as it was for events that occurred thousands of years ago.

Faith And Action
James 2:14-26 shows the relationship between what we believe (our faith) and what we do (our actions). Our faith is shown by what we do, so faith that does not result in appropriate action is dead (Jas. 2:17-18). As scriptural principles are the foundation of our faith, they should be expressed in our actions. Otherwise our faith is not based on the Scriptures and we are acting as if the Bible is no longer relevant today. God is interested in what we do and how we do it. For example, we are urged to “speak … the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).

Wineskins And Clothes
An incident recorded in the Gospels helps to show the relationship between what we believe (scriptural principles), what we do (practices) and the present circumstances. In Luke 5:33-35 the religious leaders criticized Jesus because his disciples did not fast (go without eating) as was their custom. Jesus gave a reason for this and explained it further with a parable of the wineskins (Lk. 5:36-38).

Jesus said that “no one pours new wine into old wineskins,” but “new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” The wineskins contained the wine and protected it from the environment. Without an effective container, the wine would be spilled out and the wineskin would be useless. The application of this illustration was that the “wine” of the gospel of Jesus Christ could not be contained and expressed by the practices (or “wineskins”) of Judaism. New practices were required in order to preserve the Christian faith: “Put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Mt. 9:17).

From the diagram it can be seen that the wineskin is the point of contact between the wine and the world (or the surrounding environment). Similarly, our practices are between the principles we follow and the circumstances we face. The practices are a result of the application of divine principles to human circumstances.

In the above parable, Jesus taught that if the principles (wine) changed, then the practices (wineskins) should change. What if there are changes to the circumstances we live in? Biological organisms respond to changes in their environment, otherwise there is no evidence of life. We should also address changes that occur in our environment (or circumstances).

It is interesting that Christ used wineskins and clothes in his story. These are items that wear out and eventually must be replaced. Likewise, our practices will need replacing from time to time as no society or culture is stagnant. Of course, for us it is a case of the circumstances changing rather than the principles, or it could be due to a new understanding or application of the principles. This means that our practices must be based on scriptural principles and relate to the present circumstances we face.

Traditions And Circumstances
Human behavior is influenced by past experiences and present circumstances. An example of inappropriate behavior is given in Mark 7:1-9. Here Jesus calls the religious leaders hypocrites for placing more importance on ceremonial washing than on God’s commands. Jesus accused them of “setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions” (v.9). So their practices were dominated by traditions, which were contrary to scriptural principles. Similarly in Luke 6:1-11, Christ opposed their regulations of what was allowable on the Sabbath day. In both of the above situations the religious leaders were treating a tradition as though it were a scriptural truth.

A good example of how behavior can be influenced by circumstances is Paul’s visit to Athens (Acts 17:16-34). While waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive he “walked around and looked carefully at” their “objects of worship” (v. 23). This gave him an insight regarding these people which he was able to use when he spoke to them. Paul was like the men of Issachar who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chr. 12:32). Note that it was essential to understand the times (or situation) in order to know what should be done.

Likewise, Christ recognized the needs of the people – “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36) – and responded to their needs and was willing to be their Shepherd (Jn. 10:14).

A Framework For Action
Christians are called to be active representatives of Christ today (2 Cor. 5:20). It is helpful to visualize the relationship between what we believe and do, as shown in the diagram. This shows that when scriptural principles are put into practice, the way they are expressed is influenced by both past practices (which are now traditions) and the present circumstances. Circumstances change in families, communities and nations, because life is a dynamic process. Practices which were once appropriate may become obsolete, but if we persist in their use an opportunity is lost to demonstrate the principles in present circumstances.

The principles are important because they provide divine guidance and purpose. We need to distinguish between scriptural principles (which are fixed) and our practices of them which can change according to present, local circumstances.

In order to discern biblical principles and apply them, consideration is required of the culture, way of life and language at the following periods of time: Bible times (to interpret the Bible); previous generations of family, church, community and nation (to understand our traditions); and the present (to understand current circumstances). This will help to distinguish the relevant principles and the most suitable practices to meet the circumstances we face.

Our practices are important because they are the visible aspect of our faith. Jesus said that people will recognize His disciples if they love one another (Jn. 13:35). After Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” he noted, “and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:16-17). Following the example of Christ, our traditions should always be evaluated by scriptural truths and current circumstances, replacing those traditions that are no longer appropriate with more relevant practices.

Like wineskins and clothes, our Christian practices only exist to serve a purpose. They are human expressions of divine principles within a given historical, social and cultural context. We should know the purpose behind our practices, and periodically consider whether other methods would be more appropriate. There is a tendency to perpetuate long-established practices, but our security should be in the principles, not in the practices.

So, when evaluating our practices we need to consider each of the following, under the Spirit’s guidance: scriptural principles, present circumstances, and past practices or traditions. In a sense, the Scriptures only live and survive as we believers apply them to all the circumstances of life – otherwise we are living as though the Bible is merely a history book that is not relevant today.

Published: June 1999

See application to the local church:
The local church in a changing world


What’s The Use Of Trials?

Opportunities for spiritual development

God can seem so distant when we are going though difficult times of trial and trouble. Yet the Bible teaches us that God is always at work for our good (Rom. 8:28).

The Christian faith, like the human body, requires exercise in order to keep healthy. Otherwise it will grow weak and useless (Jas. 2:14-26). The trials in our lives can be viewed as opportunities to develop our “spiritual muscles” in four areas of our lives.

Trials Develop Patience And Maturity
Besides prayer, the most common theme associated with suffering is that of developing patience, perseverance and endurance. In such times our faith is being exercised and tested and we become more mature (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7).

God does not want weak Christians who give up when they face difficulties. Instead, Paul says “we do not lose heart,” and he reminds others, “you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering” (2 Cor. 4:16-17; Heb. 10:32 niv). The illustration in these verses is that of a contest or a battle. Near the end of his life Paul stated, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Christ is the greatest example of perseverance: “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3).

Patience is a characteristic of the divine nature (Gal. 5:22). Paul told the Thessalonians: “We boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring” (2 Th. 1:4). He also urged them to continue to persevere: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Th. 3:5).

Another illustration is that of training and discipline within a family. Here God is viewed as a parent disciplining a child: “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:10-11).

So God uses trials and hardships to mold and refine our character, like metal is refined and molded in a furnace. Through these we learn what is most important in life, and our values, priorities, attitudes and behavior are developed. We are transformed and God’s image and likeness are more evident in us (2 Cor. 3:18). This vision of maturity enables believers to joyfully endure trials and suffering (Rom. 5:3-5; Jas. 1:2-4).

For example, David faced adversities in preparation for being king of Israel. His perseverance in facing the opposition of wild animals (like the lion and bear), enemies (like Goliath), and countrymen (like Saul and his men), gave him the experience which developed his skill to lead his nation.

Trials Increase Reliance On God
Paul saw that the reason for the hardships that threatened his life in Asia was, “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). He knew that God supplies all our needs (Phil. 4:19).

The Bible also states that: “He who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:1-2). Physical suffering makes us realize that we are accountable to God and we need to live for Him.

Paul understood that he was given the “thorn in the flesh” so that he would acknowledge Christ’s power rather than take the credit himself and become proud. As Christ’s power is more evident in times of human weakness, Paul delighted “in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Similarly, Paul could write that our bodies are likened to “jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:7-11). Due to physical weakness we learn to persevere by God’s power and not our own strength.

Trials Encourage Care For One Another
God calls on His people to support those facing trials and troubles through helping, praying and comforting.

°Helping: We are to “share with God’s people who are in need” (Rom. 12:13; 2 Cor. 8:13-14; 2 Cor. 9:12). In fact, “if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,” then he is not behaving as a Christian should (1 Jn. 3:17).

Paul thanked the Philippians for sharing in his troubles and sending him aid (Phil. 4:14-18). He also remembered those who helped him when he was in prison (Phile. 12-13). The principle is to “remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3). This could include standing side by side with those who are being persecuted (Heb. 10:33).

°Praying: When Peter was in prison, “the church was earnestly praying to God for him,” although they were surprised by his miraculous escape (Acts 12:5). And Paul was confident that the Corinthian church’s prayers helped to deliver him from hardships and suffering (2 Cor. 1:10-11). He also asked others to pray for his struggle against unbelievers (Rom. 15:30-31).

°Comforting: We are told to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). As God comforts us in our troubles, we in turn can comfort those facing trials and difficulties (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Trials Strengthen The Church
Christianity has flourished under persecution. For example, when the early Church was being persecuted, the Christians left Jerusalem and evangelized wherever they went (Acts 8:1,4). This resulted in Christianity being spread across the Roman empire.

When Paul was imprisoned he was glad that the gospel was being preached by others and that his Christian faith was widely known (Phil. 1:12-18).

The Church is also strengthened in difficult times as more believers grow towards maturity and realize their dependence upon God and express this through prayer and praise. There is also an increase in care for each other by helping, praying, and comforting.

Finally, we must keep in mind that our troubles are insignificant when compared to eternity with Christ (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We always need to view the present in the context of a vision of the eternal.

Also see – Facing trials

Published: May 1999


Hope For The Future

How our view of the future can influence the present

Some people are optimistic about the future – they see advances in science and technology, so they hope for the best that can happen. Others are pessimistic – they see damage to the environment and social and economic breakdown, so they fear the worst that can happen.

The bad news is that there is a lot of evil and despair in the world and some people are frightened by the future. But there is good news as well: it is clear from the Bible that God offers hope for the future if we follow Him.

Let’s consider some facts about the future, their consequences, and the impact they can have in our daily lives.

We All Have A Future
How can those facing death due to a terminal illness or an accident have a future? Like a criminal facing execution, they seem to be in a hopeless situation. But Jesus actually told a criminal facing execution, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43 NIV). This gives us a clue – no matter what the circumstances, there can be a bright future for those who trust in God.

The Bible teaches that there is a future beyond our current lives. Death is not the end of our existence, but a doorway between this life and a future destiny. So in this sense, we all have a future.

This is illustrated by the example of the rich man and Lazarus, whose lives are shown to continue after death, with consciousness, communication and memory (Lk. 16:19-31). They were in two different places – heaven and hell – and the rich man wanted his brothers warned so they would not end up in the place of torment. This wish was denied, illustrating that decisions made on earth can have eternal consequences.

Also, God will raise everyone from death (Acts 24:15). In fact, there are two resurrections, the first for God’s people and the second for the judgment of those who have rejected God (Rev. 20:5-6).

Paul looked forward so much for this future that he considered dying better than living, because it meant he would be with Christ (Phil. 1:21-23). Elsewhere he wrote, if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world (1 Cor. 15:19). This is because it would mean that there was no raising from death and no hope beyond death (1 Th. 4:13).

Lasting Hope Comes From God
The Bible was written so “we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). In the Old Testament God promised this to His followers: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And again He says, “There is hope for your future” (Jer. 29:11; 31:17). So, if they followed God and not false prophets, they were assured of a future filled with hope.

In the New Testament, He is described as “the God of hope” because He is the source of hope, and those separate from Him are said to be “without hope” (Rom. 15:13; Eph. 2:12). The believer’s hope is in God because He has given them a hope that lives on, and an inheritance that awaits them in heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-5,21).

The “hope” of the Scriptures is a confident expectation of a future event, not just a possibility or a desire. This is because God has a perfect record for keeping His promises.

A New Heaven And A New Earth
The eternal inheritance of Christians is to be “with the Lord forever” in paradise, and they will all be transformed to be like Christ (1 Th. 4:17; Phil. 3:20-21). Their main purpose in heaven will be to celebrate, praise and worship Jesus Christ and God – it will be like a great wedding feast (Rev. 19:6-9). At this time they will receive rewards, they will see God glorified, and they will reign with Him (Rev. 22:12; 1 Jn. 3:2-3; Rev. 20:6). God is in the business of destroying the effects of sin such as decay, sadness, evil and death. He wants to renew all His creation. At the end of time He says, “I am making everything new” (Rev. 21:5).

One of my favorite verses is: “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). It is described as a place where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). What a great prospect to be a part of this!

It is important to realize that this aspect of the future of believers does not depend on their efforts or their success in life. It is a gift to be accepted from God (Eph. 2:8-9).

The Fruit Of Hope
Our view of the future affects our daily lives by influencing our attitudes, feelings and behavior. Hope is a vital attitude for the Christian that is associated with faith and love and that should result in encouragement for the journey of life (1 Cor. 13:7,13). Its fruit include security, strength, perseverance, holiness, an eternal perspective and joy.

  • Security: The hope that God offers us is described as being like “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:18-19). It is also likened to a helmet and believers are “shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Th. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:5).
  • Strength: The Old Testament promised, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:31).In the New Testament Paul wrote: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19). So God’s great and mighty power is available to believers.Those whose hope was in the Lord remained strong in the faith. For example, when everyone deserted Paul, he said, “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” This was his hope: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:16-18).
  • Perseverance: Paul praised the Thessalonians for their “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th. 1:3). Then, after considering the resurrection body he wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).Knowing some of God’s plans gives us purpose and motivation to persevere and to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Believers are urged “to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Heb. 10:23,36).
  • Holiness: After writing about the hope of eternal life, Peter urged believers to live a holy life: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”(1 Pet. 1:14-15). This means purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body or spirit and working toward complete purity out of reverence for God (2 Cor. 7:1).The hope of being like Jesus when He appears makes us keep ourselves holy, just as Christ is holy (1 Jn. 3:2-3). In view of our heavenly home, “we make it our goal to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9).
  • Eternal Perspective: Since heaven is the believers’ home, they are to live as foreigners on earth (1 Pet. 1:17). They are urged “as foreigners and strangers on this earth, to abstain from sinful desires” and to live such good lives that others will come to glorify God (1 Pet. 2:11-12).Similarly, the Old Testament people of faith lived as strangers on earth as they were looking forward to the heavenly place that God had promised to prepare for them (Heb. 11:9-10, 13-16).So, we are to put our hope in God and not in idols such as money (1 Tim. 6:17-18; Mt. 6:19-21); and we are to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18). This means focusing on eternal things rather than those that are only temporary.
  • Joy: Consideration of the believers’ lasting hope and eternal inheritance leads to great joy even if they are enduring trials. Christians are said to be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” because they can see the end result of their faith, their complete salvation (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
  • Your Future:Is there hope for your future? The Bible says if you are without God, you are without hope for the future. In this case, your only hope is in this life, which can be very disappointing. Why not make heaven your eternal home? Then you will be with Christ when He returns, and will share in the coming new world.If you are a believer, are you letting the fruit of hope grow in your life as you anticipate what God has in store for you? This should be evident as security, strength, perseverance, holiness, an eternal perspective and most of all joy. Are you always ready to explain your hope to others (1 Pet. 3:15)? You should be.

Published: January 1999


Responsibilities in a Christian Marriage

“This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” Genesis 2:24 NLT

As marriage was God’s idea from the beginning (Gen. 2:24), it’s appropriate to see what else He says about it in His Word, the Bible. We’ll look specifically at three aspects of Christian marriage – a new home, sacrificial love and mutual respect. It’s important to be aware of these topics whether you are married or about to be married.

A new home

The Bible says that a marriage occurs when a man leaves his parents and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. This definition – taught by Moses, Jesus Christ, and the apostle Paul (Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31) – has applied since the time of Adam and Eve. By inference, the woman also leaves her parents and is joined to her husband, to be united into one. They are no longer two individuals, but one new entity. A husband and wife become linked together and interdependent in a way that requires cooperation and unity.

A wedding is a celebration of a new relationship, a new allegiance, a new identity, a new home and a new family unit. The old relationship with their parents is now superseded by their new marital relationship. They should no longer be physically or emotionally dependent on their parents. Next to God, their top loyalty is to be to their spouse. This means shared goals, shared budgets, shared experiences in life and shared plans for the future. If one rejoices, the other rejoices. If one is hurt, the other is hurt.

Sacrificial Love

First Corinthians 13 is a chapter about how Christians are to love each other in the local church. This kind of love (Greek: agape) is referred to by Paul six times in Ephesians 5:22-33, and is the same love essential to a Christian marriage.

What is agape love like? According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, it is patient, kind, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting. It is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, irritable, evil-minded, or unjust. Such love is an ongoing commitment and an act of the will, not just a feeling or an emotion. It is a giving love, not a getting love – an unselfish love that is ready to serve. Elsewhere, we learn that it comes from God who demonstrated it when He sent Jesus to be our Savior: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Also, this love is an aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is available to all believers (Gal. 5:22).

How does the Bible describe what agape love is like in a Christian marriage? First, “you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the Church. He gave up His life for her” (Eph. 5:25). Husbands, do you love your wife enough to die for her? Is it reflected in how you spend money? In how much time you spend with her? In how you talk to her? In your prayers for her? Jesus is the example for a husband’s love for his wife.

Second, “Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28). You are to care for your wife and put her needs before yours. It’s like your wife is a part of you. It’s the closest relationship you can have with another person. Husbands, when you show this agape love in your marriage, it provides the emotional security that your wife needs and it creates a happy atmosphere in the home.

Leadership and Respect

In Ephesians 5:22-33 the husband and wife are given complementary roles. The husband is the leader in their relationship, just as Christ is the leader of His Church (Eph. 5:23). He is to love his wife with the same love that Christ showed His Church (Eph. 5:25). As all believers are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21), “wives will submit to your husbands as you do the lord” (Eph. 5:22). Also “the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33).

What kind of leadership is this? It’s a cooperative relationship (Jn. 5:17-23; 1 Cor. 11:3), one that consults and listens to the viewpoints and desires of the wife and meets her needs. A benevolent leader acts in the interests of his wife and children, and delegates responsibilities when and where this is appropriate. He is a wise, prayerful and caring leader in physical and spiritual matters. Husbands, it’s your responsibility to show this kind of leadership in your marriage and family. Don’t shirk your responsibility or seek to dominate, dictate or control your wife.

What kind of respect and submission is this? As Christians commit their lives to the Lord, wives are to commit their lives to their husbands. They submit to Christ’s authority through their husbands. Wives, adapt yourselves to your husband; be loyal and respect your husband’s leadership; be a helper and companion like Eve was to Adam (Gen. 2:18,20). Encourage your husband to take responsibility and lead the family. Showing respect and submission in your marriage provides what your husband needs.

Marriage is about commitment – giving ourselves to our spouses. It is about teamwork – husband and wife working together. Marriage is a journey – husband and wife travelling together. May godly leadership and mutual love and respect flourish in our homes as we follow God’s plan for marriage.

Published, March 2011