Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Did Paul Shame People?

Shame is a sense of guilt, disgrace, loss of favor with God. Shame is something that Christians aren't to have, Christ took away our shame at the cross and He makes us righteous. Shame is also not to be used to manipulate people, it is not to be a motivator. But there are two places in the New Testament where Paul seems to shame people.

1 Corinthians 6:1-6
"Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the assembly? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?"

The word translated shame here is defined as "a turning in upon oneself." It is not the usual Greek word translated "shame."
In 1 Corinthians 6:5 the issue is that Christians are turning to non-Christians or so-called brothers who are immoral to settle their problems for them. Understanding the correct definition of the word we can easily see Paul saying, "I say this so you will turn in upon yourselves and look for some wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren." Paul is telling them to look at themselves and amongst themselves to find a wise man to judge their matters. Paul is not shaming them with guilt. It is the opposite, the normal word for shame means disgrace but Paul encourages their competence as saints (which they are by grace) and communicates, "Look at yourself. Are you able to help settle these matters?"

1 Corinthians 15:34
"Become sober-minded as you ought, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
The word translated shame here is the same as the one above and is defined as "a turning in upon oneself." These are the only two places this word appears in the New Testament. Paul tells them to "Wake up, become sober-minded." Understanding the correct definition of the word we can see that Paul is saying "Wake up, take a look at yourselves!" The NLT puts it this way "To your shame I say that some of you don't know God at all." Meaning "look inwardly, examine yourselves to see if you know God." This scripture is about realization not shame and guilt. Even if we took the word shame here to mean guilt or disgrace, which it doesn't, it is still aimed at non-Christians and Paul is not shaming Christians. "To your shame I say that some of you don't know God at all." Meaning "To the some who don't know God I appeal to the presence of your shame to help you realize that you don't know God."

Related Posts
Judges in the Assembly Part 2:  A closer look at the context & intent of 1 Corinthians 6

Monday, November 28, 2011

Surrender or Submission? Defeat or Victory?

Surrender is not a term used in the New Testament. It is used in church circles usually referring to the biblical concept of submission or yielding. Using the word surrender, I believe, has a subtle impact on how we view God. The term surrender makes it out as though we are at war with God and we give up when He beats us down enough. But God is loving and in no way punishes His children (see 1 John 4:18). Scripture never uses the language of surrender of us in relation to God.

In some contexts the Greek word for "submit" is translated as "be subject" and may have the idea of being subordinate to God in a military fashion. Even there the idea of surrender does not fit because we are on God's side. He is for us, He is never against us. We are not at war with Him and we are not to surrender to Him as if we were.

Prominent Definitions of the English Word "Surrender"
acceptance of despair; the act of admitting defeat; to relinquish to the control or possession under threat, compulsion, or demand; to give (oneself) up, as or as if to an enemy

"Submit to God" -James 4:7
The Greek word translated "submit" in James 4:7 refers to "a voluntary attitude of cooperation." Cooperation is "working or acting together; agreeing." Biblical submission is a loving trust. It does not have the attitude of "because I have to.." or "since you're forcing me too.." Biblical submission says "I trust your desires are good and loving. I love you so I agree to work with you to fulfill your desires." This is how we are to obey God. Obedience is not merely an outward action in accordance with an instruction. Obedience is an inward trust based on God's love and guidance that results in outward action. There is nothing in the Christian life that does not involve God's love for you and your trust of Him.

The Christian does not need to "surrender daily" but to cooperate with what the Spirit of God communicates over the course of each day. Submission is a situational decision not a blanket declaration. You cannot submit your day to God. You can only submit as life rolls on throughout the day, anything else is pretending. Submission is relational cooperation done in the present tense. Submission is not tapping out because God twists your arm, it is tapping in, into the life, love, and relationship that God has given you with Himself. You cannot give your life to God. As a Christian God gave His life to you. He is your life (see Colossians 3:3-4). We are to simply walk with Jesus in newness of the new life He has given us. There is no promise to make or achievement to grasp just trust God and His love for you as you live in Him and with Him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Family of God

In John 20:17 Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. And go on to My brothers, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father, and to your Father, and to My God, and to your God.’”
After His resurrection Jesus calls the disciples His brothers and says that God is their God and Father. Jesus shows us that His resurrection brought us into the family of God.

Jesus said in John 14:1, "Do not let your heart be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me." Jesus' cure for a troubled heart is trust in God and Himself. Just as when we were children we trusted our parents to take care of us and comfort us when we were troubled or afraid so we are to trust God enough to go to Him when we are troubled because we realize that He is the safest place to be. The problem with using the word believe in John 14:1 is it leaves the impression that we have to muster up some sort of feeling of confidence. But we are to trust God which is relational. It means we go to Him during our troubles.

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, "Be perfect as God is perfect." We don't expect children to be as mature as adults. In keeping with your development in Christ God can look at you as perfect not just as being made perfect in His Son but perfect in the place you are in your life. God isn't stupid. He doesn't expect a 3 year old to be like a 30 year old. He knows you fully and He doesn't expect you to be able to do or be more than you are today. God is satisfied with you.

Living with Siblings
When power enters into a relationship submission is about power and where you fall in hierarchy instead of submission being what God intended which is mutual respect and love for people we have a relationship with. Whenever you deal with relationships that are about power the relationship is selfish. It is all about the person with more power. The servant loves by serving and the master loves to be served. Jesus came as a servant even though He is the only master. None of us are to put ourselves above others.

So why do we think that being something other than a brother or sister to someone is what is superior? Brothers and sisters share the life of their Father. The older help the younger learn to grow. That is what a biblical elder is. An elder (older) brother or sister that helps you learn and grow. An elder is not a surrogate parent. We have only an inkling of how deep the family of God parallels to blood families. Just as our older siblings may try to manipulate and control us to make us obey them so it is with the family of God where men elevate themselves above others and claim authority they do not have over others.

Another thing to realize is that children who have the same parents can be wildly different people. It is the same with God and His family. With God's family being as large as it is there is tons of variety. I'm talking about individual personalities and behavior. I'm not condoning the segregating denominations which put the family in competition with or at odds with each other. Church institutions promote a sort of sibling rivalry. Anyone who claims to have everything right is automatically wrong and worse off than the humble person who realizes that all of God's children are in a process of growth and maturing. "If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know." (1 Corinthians 8:2)

Christians and Christian groups often bicker over who God loves most when the Father loves all of His children just as He loves Jesus who gave us the privilege of being children of God (see John 17:23 & John 1:12). We have the ultimate older brother in Jesus and He is the first born in Father's family. All of God's children are equally loved, equally clean, and equally righteous.

My Thoughts on Jesus Washing the Disciple's Feet in John 13

John 13:1-14:1
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will trust that I am who I am. Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me."

My Thoughts
A reason Jesus washed their feet was that everything He had the Father gave to Him.

Jesus said Peter could have no part with Him if he did not let Jesus wash his feet. Peter then tells Jesus to wash his hands and head also. Jesus tells Peter that a man is totally clean if only his feet are washed. I think this pictures our response to God's grace and forgiveness. He makes us totally clean but we think that He needs to clean us even more.

I also see an idea of "Ok God since you are going to serve me then I want you to do this, this, and this too. I don't want you to serve me just how you want. I want you to do it my way too." But we can see by Jesus' response that He knows what we need when He serves us. We ask for things that are unneccessary at best. Peter had good motives and strong desire but good motives and strong desire do not equal wise motives and wise desire. That wisdom comes from God.

Another interesting thing is that Jesus says "You don't what I am doing now but you will know.." How often does Jesus "clean" us, meaning change our character and heart, and we have no idea what He is doing? When we get out of the circumstance then we see how God was cleaning us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Walking Under the Yoke of Jesus

The true meaning of faith is trust. Trust is a relational word. Trust means we deem Jesus as trustworthy and we put our security in Him. Trust causes us to "take His yoke upon us and learn FROM Him." The result is that we work with Him. It is 100% about walking with, relating to, Jesus in the Spirit.

His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and His commands are not burdensome because they don't consist of all the commands in scripture. The commands are the ones He gives you as you walk with Him. Some of the commands are the ones in scripture but the beauty is that He tells you when and how to keep them. Instead of heaping His commands upon you He guides you during your walk with Him. Jesus does not give me the burden of keeping the whole law. Jesus gives me the rest of having a love relationship with Him.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. I will walk alongside you. We will be yoked together but I will pull the weight and carry the burden." (Matthew 11:28-29)

"Everyone who trusts that Jesus is the Christ has been fathered by God, and everyone who loves the father loves the child fathered by him. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commands.
For this is the love of God: that we keep his commands. The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commands and his commands are not burdensome, they do not weigh us down because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. Our trust in God is the power that conquers the world. The person who wins out over the world's ways is simply the one who trusts Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:1-5)

Related Posts
Yoked or Unyoked is The Issue of Life

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shame, Guilt, Grace, and Motivation

“Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame.”
(Isaiah 28:16, Romans 9:33, 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6, Joel 2:26-27, Isaiah 45:17, 54:4)

Shame means disgrace, dishonor, disfavor. It is being out of favor; a loss of favor. Shame is literally the opposite of grace.

Shame carries the idea of "turning in upon oneself" thus guilt/shame is like a pity party where you devalue yourself or think that God devalues you based on your behavior/actions. From my experience that type of guilt does not result in positive motivation or actions. That guilt does not produce hope or peace. It makes you not want to go to God. That shame barrier is what Christ removed on the cross.

The people of the Old Testament always lived with shame.
"The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin would have disappeared." (Hebrews 10:1-2)

People in Christ are free from having that shame. "Behold, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for" (Isaiah 6:7). Now that Jesus has been the perfect sacrifice He provides for us "perfect cleansing & purification once for all time." He makes it so our feelings of guilt and our consciousness of sin are no longer absolutes. We are free from them.

Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never lose grace, they will never lose favor with God. A Christian cannot be out of favor with God. When you feel shame, when you feel guilt, you feel like you have lost favor with God but that is absolutely not the case! Once you are saved God will never put you to shame.

There is also a practical reality here. Everyone who trusts Jesus, with a personal present tense trust, will never feel shame. As long as you are trusting Him and His love you will not feel shame. Why? Because you are living in the reality of God's love and grace. From my experience this is completely true. If I am not trusting God I am susceptible to feeling guilt and shame by believing in the lie that I have lost favor with God. While I am trusting that God only gives me grace (loving kindness) and never gives me disgrace (shame) I will never feel shame.

Are You Motivated by Guilt?
Shame is what caused Adam and Eve to hide from God in Genesis 3:8. Before they ate from the tree in Genesis 2:25 it says that they were not ashamed. In Genesis 3:10 Adam says they hid from God because they were afraid of God. Shame/guilt causes you to hide from God. If you have "bad" feelings that do not cause you to hide from God or devalue yourself I would not call those feelings guilt. Shame and guilt lowers a person in their own estimation, weakens them, and causes them to yield to sin more.

If I don't want to feel bad (guilt) I am going to try to do better so I won't feel bad (guilt) anymore. Being motivated by that idea of guilt is not love or compassion based, it is for the selfish removal of my negative emotion. It isn't about benefiting the other person (love). It is about me feeling better about myself. If I do something because I'm going to feel guilty if I don't then it is still about me, its not about others.

When the result of your emotions, even if they feel negative, is care for and the benefit of someone else I would say you are motivated by love and compassion and not by guilt.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We Are Always Able to Grow in Truth

If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2)
This means we never fully arrive at a truth from God in this life. There is always more to learn from God on any given thing and we should humbly learn from God.

I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:12)
Peter knew the importance of God's truth and that even if we know and stand firm in the truth we still need to be constantly reminded of it. Because of the infinite value of God's truth we can always benefit from it in all ways.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Are Loved as He is Loved

In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed, "I am not praying only on their (the apostles) behalf, but also on behalf of those who trust in me through their testimony (us, all Christians throughout time), that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will trust that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them (God does share His glory, with us), that they may be one just as we are one – I in them and you in me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me."

Jesus explained in John 17:23 that God the Father loves you just as much as He loves Jesus. Jesus prayed this as He was pouring out His heart to the Father just before He went to the cross. Jesus said that He wants the world to know that the Father loves you just as much as He loves Jesus. So certainly He wants you to know that also.

God's purpose for us all is to grow in the understanding of how much God loves you. You can pray to God daily something like "God make me aware of how you are loving me today and what you are giving me today. Show me yourself so I can get a grip on what your love looks like in the middle of whatever I am doing."

God intends for you to experience His grace both for your salvation and daily for your life. His grace is His permanent disposition of love for you and His gracious kindness towards you. Grace is the basis for the way we live in Christ. It is understanding that He is loving toward us and that He is giving. When we look for His loving and His giving that is the best way to be living.

Do We Really Live For God?

"If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s." (Romans 14:8)
This is the only time Scripture clearly says something about "living for God." Here it means "we live because of God." It does not mean "we live for the purpose of attempting to please God" nor "we live on behalf of God." When scripture says that Jesus died "for us" the word used indicates that He died "on our behalf." Even if we take "for" to mean something else than "because of" the scripture clearly says "if we live, we live for the Lord." The condition is being alive. The condition is not our behavior. We cannot try to live for God because, if we are alive, we already do. You always live for God because He is your life, He always lives for you, you live because of Him.

"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life." (Colossians 3:3-4)
Saying "I live for God" is like saying "My heart and brains live for me." Without them there is no life. Without God there is no life. When we say we live for God we separate Him from ourselves. The truth is He is in us and we are in Him. The same ideas go for our own self-efforts. "I try to live for God." Is like saying "My heart tries to live for me but sometimes the dumb thing just don't work right." You are either alive or you are dead. If you are alive your heart is living for you and if you are alive you are living for God.

"Jesus died for all. He died so the living would no longer live life alone but with Him who died for them and rose up for them." (2 Corinthians 5:15)