5 Great Things: (#5) The Great Adversary

We come to the final chapter in the book of 1 Peter.  It reminds us that we have a Great Adversary, who seeks to devour us.  Let us notice 1 Peter 5:8-10.

Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We have an adversary.  He is compared to a hungry lion seeking its prey.  A male lion can stand 4 feet tall at the shoulders, be 10 feet long and weigh 330-550 pounds (Lion, nationalzoo.si.edu).

Imagine that you are in lion country, or that a lion is loose in your area (In 2021, there was a tiger on the loose in West Houston).  How would you conduct yourself?

Peter says: (1) Be sober (sober-minded ESV; self-controlled NIV).  The word (nepho) means “to be free from the influence of intoxicants” (Vine’s).  Figuratively, it means “be free from every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkeness… be well-balanced, self-controlled” (BDAG).  The word is being used to mean “clear-thinking, rational, alert.”  (2) Be vigilant (on the alert NASB; watchful ESV; alert NIV).  The word (gregoreo) means “watch… of keeping awake… of spiritual alertness” (Vine’s).  Figuratively, it means “to watch i.e. give strict attention to, be cautious” (Thayer).

Predators do not usually bring down the alert and healthy.  They get the inattentive, the distracted, those who stray from safety, and the weak.     

Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:9).       

 What if this adversary comes for me?  (1) Resist him.  One may not stand much of a chance against a lion.  However, this adversary can be resisted (James 4:7).  When I was in Alaska, I was told that if attacked by a brown bear, play dead; if attacked by a black bear, fight it with all that you have.  One should fight the great adversary with all one has.  (2) Remain steadfast in the faith.  “Steadfast” (stereos) means “lit. firm, hard, solid, strong… fig. of human character steadfast, firm” (BDAG).  “The faith” refers to the system of faith, God’s word.  Stay in the word.  (3) Remember that one is not alone.  Others in the brotherhood suffer for the same reasons, i.e. following Christ, and doing the will of God.  Christ also suffered (cf. 1 Peter 2:21; 3:17-18, 4:12-13).

Notice that the attack of the adversary is herein tied to suffering.  It is one of his means to bring us down.  Don’t let him bring you down.  When one gives up because of suffering, the devil wins.  We need perseverance of Job (James 5:11).

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).

God has called us to eternal glory.  He called us by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). 

Christians may suffer in this life, but something better awaits.  He will: (1) Perfect (katartizo).  The words means “to render fit, complete (artios) is used of mending nets, Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19, and is translated ‘restore’ Galatians 6:1.  It does not necessarily imply, however, that that to which it is applied has been damaged, though it may do so… it signifies, rather, right ordering and arrangement” (Vine’s).  (2) Establish (sterizo).  The word means “to make stable… to strengthen, make firm” (Thayer).  (3) Strengthen (sthenoo).  The word means “to make strong, to strengthen” (Thayer).  (4) Settle (themelioo).  Vine’s comments, “In 1 Peter 5:10, some texts have themelioo, ‘to lay a foundation,’ used metaphorically, and translated ‘settle’ KJV.”  This is looking beyond their current afflictions.  “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Do not give up.  Earthly afflictions are light and temporary when compared with the eternal glory which awaits the faithful (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1; Romans 8:18). 

                                 

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5 Great Things: (#4) The Great Name

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.  And daily in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42).  “They” refers to the apostles (Acts 5:39). 

The events leading up to this point are significant.  (1) Peter and John were arrested and were threatened (Acts 4:1-22).  There were commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18).  Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).  The were released after being further threatened (Acts 4:20).  (2) The apostles were again arrested (Acts 5:17-21).  This time they were released by an angel (Acts 5:18).  They were instructed, by the angel, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).  They did so (Acts 5:21).  (3) They were arrested again, and beaten (Acts 5:22-42).  The High Priest asked them, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?” (Acts 5:27-28).  Peter and the other apostles replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  Before being released, they were beaten and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40).  It is in this context that they rejoiced to be able to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41).  “And daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Peter writes the book of 1 Peter to encourage other Christians to have this same attitude.  1 Peter 4 speaks of The Great Name.  Let us notice 1 Peter 4:12-16, 19.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

The word “strange” (xenos) means foreign or unusual.  The world may think that Christians are “strange” because they “do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation” (1 Peter 4:4).  Christians should not think that persecution will be “strange” to the Christian life (1 Peter 4:12 cf. Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12). 

but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).

When we suffer for Christ, we should remember: (1) Christ also suffered (1 Peter 2:19-21; 3:17-18; 4:12-13).  He suffered for us (1 Peter 3:18).  (2) A glorious existence awaits (1 Peter 4:13 cf. Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Hebrews 12:1-2).  “This is a faithful saying: For if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12). 

If you are reproached for the name of Christ blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and God rest upon you.  On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:14). 

Others may reproach us, revile (NASB), insult (ESV), or speak against us for being identified with Christ.  When they do, they are actually blaspheming, or speaking against Christ and God (cf. John 5:23; 13:20; 15:23; 1 John 2:23; 13:20; 15:23; 1 John 2:23; 2 John 9; Mark 9:37). 

However, when we are willing to be identified with Christ: (1) We can count ourselves as blessed (cf. Matthew 5:10-12).  (2) Christ and God are glorified (cf. 1 Peter 4:11; 4:16; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:20-21; 2:9-11).

Moreover, Peter says, “blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and God rest upon you.”  Some believe that this reference is miraculous.  Jonathan Jenkins comments, “Having God’s Spirit ‘upon’ you places God’s word in your mouth” [(He references Isaiah 59:21; 61:1; Luke 1:35; 2:25; 4:18; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 4:14).  Jonathan Jenkins, God’s Prophetic Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 32-33].  Again, he comments on 1 Peter 4:14, “His argument is that they should know they were blessed in spite of suffering because the ‘Spirit of glory’ rested on them… (4:11)… the miracles of the Spirit are used to reassure the saints and defend their faith in the midst of trials” (ibid, 216).  Some understand this non-miraculously.  It is understood to mean that while others blaspheme, when you identify with Christ, the Spirit (and the Spirit’s message) is with you.  This point would still be true this side of the miraculous age. 

But let none of you suffer as a murder, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter [name ESV]” (1 Peter 4:15-16).

Not all suffering is due to following Christ.  Some suffer due to their own wrong-doing and sinful behavior (1 Peter 2:20; 4:15).  There is nothing commendable in this.

However, some suffer for doing the will of God, for righteousness sake, for being a Christian (Matthew 5:10-11; 1 Peter 2:19-20; 3:14; 4:14-16).  This is commendable (1 Peter 2:19).  One should not be ashamed to be identified as Christian (belonging to or following Christ).  Instead, it is in this name one should glorify God. 

The name “Christian” is “The Great Name.”  If we are Christians, how do we wear this name?  Do we properly represent Christ and His cause?  John Winthrop once told his fellow Puritans, in 1630, on board the Arbella, traveling to America, “For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us” (John Winthrop, Dreams of a City on a Hill, 1630, americanyawp.com).  General George Washington once said to his army, “The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us” (General Orders, 2 July 1776, founder.archives.gov).  It is claimed that President Robert E. Lee of Washington College told his students, “The eyes of the South are upon you” but such lacks a primary source (origins, Meanings and Debut eyesoftexas.utexas.edu).  President William Prather of the University of Texas was fond of saying on campus, “the eyes of Texas are upon you” (ibid).  Dwight D. Eisenhower said before the 1944 D-Day invasion, “The eyes of the world are upon you.  The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you” (Transcript of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s order of the Day, ourdocuments.gov).  Dear Christians, the eyes of the world are upon us!  We represent Christianity.  What a responsibility (Matthew 5:14-16). 

Furthermore, may we not forget God’s eyes.  His eyes are upon us (Job 34:21; Proverbs 15:2; Hebrews 4:13). 

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

This serves as a summary on the subject.  (1) One may suffer for being a Christian.  (2) The one suffering should commit his soul to God; that is, he should trust in God.  Jesus did.  He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).  Paul did.  He said, “I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).  “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

Let us continue doing good.  Let us glorify God in “The Great Name.”

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5 Great Things: (#3) The Great Responsibility

Johnny Ramsey was one of the instructors when I attended Brown Trail School of Preaching.  One of his classes was General Epistles (James – Jude).  He taught us to remember each chapter by one key point.  He provided the following key points for the book of 1 Peter: (1) The Great Salvation; (2) The Great Example; (3) The Great Responsibility; (4) The Great Name; (5) The Great Adversary.

In this lesson, we will consider 1 Peter 3, The Great Responsibility.  Let us notice 1 Peter 3:13-17. 

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of good?” (1 Peter 3:13).

This certainly does not mean that Christians will never suffer, in this life, for following Christ in doing good.  Jesus warned His disciples that they could expect persecution (Matthew 5:10-12; 10:16-39; Luke 6:26).  Paul taught the same (Acts 14:21-22; 2 Timothy 3:12).  So did John (Revelation 2:10).  Even Peter taught this (1 Peter 4:12-15).

What is meant?  There seems to be two reasonable understandings.  (1) Some understood this to be a general, proverbial statement (cf. Proverbs 16:7; 21:17; 23:21).  The NIV Study Bible comments, “As a general rule, people are not harmed for acts of kindness.”  (2) Others believe that Peter is saying that no one can permanently harm a Christian (cf. Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5; Romans 8:31-39).  The ESV Study Bible comments, “His point is that no one will ultimately or finally harm Christians, ‘even if’ they suffer now, for God will reward them.”  I hold this position.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:14a). 

In the end, the faithful will be blessed (Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:18, 31-39).  Remember that there will be a reward. 

’And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:14b-15a).

The words and thoughts are taken from Isaiah 8:11-13.  (1) Isaiah, do not give in and walk in the way of the wicked multitude (Isaiah 8:11 cf. Exodus 23:2).  (2) Do not be afraid of Syria and Ephraim (Isaiah 8:12 cf. 7:2).  Their alliance will not stand (cf. Isaiah 7:3-9, 16).  (3) Trust and fear the LORD (Isaiah 8:12-13 cf. 7:7-9).

The point is similar in 1 Peter.  (1) Do not fear evil men.  (2) Instead, sanctify God.  Set Him apart in your heart. 

Interestingly, several versions read “Christ” instead of “God.”  The ASV reads, “But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.”  The NASB reads, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”  The ESV reads, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”  The NIV reads, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”  Even the NWT (the Jehovah’s Witness’ Bible) reads, “But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts.”  There is a textual variant.  If “Christ” is the proper reading, then Christ is being called LORD or Jehovah (cf.  Isaiah 8:11-13).  Guy N. Woods comments, “Instead of being tormented with the fear which your enemies would instill in you, be concerned only with the enthronement of Christ in your hearts as Lord” (Gospel Advocate Commentary Series, Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, p. 97). 

And always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15b).

This is The Great Responsibility.  Every Christian is to become an apologist of Christianity.  Instead of being silenced by fear, we are to courageously defend what we believe.

Let’s notice the word “defense” (NKJV) or “answer” (KJV).  The original word (apologia) refers to “a verbal defense, a speech in defense” (Vine’s).  In the New Testament, it is used of making a legal defense (Acts 25:13-16; 2 Timothy 4:16) and of defending the gospel (Philippians 1:17).  The idea is that we should be able to provide a rational and reasonable defense for why we believe what we do.  Our faith should not be “better felt than told.”

Let’s also notice the words “always be ready” (NKJV) or “always be prepared” (ESV).  The original word (hetoimos) means “prepared, ready” (Vine’s).  It is used at times for preparations made in advance (e.g., weddings and meals cf. Matthew 22:4; Mark 14:15; Luke 14:16-17).  We need to be preparing ourselves in advance to give reasonable answers.

We should prepare in advance for the opportunity to defend our hope. These are great opportunities and should be viewed as such.

Let’s notice the words “with meekness and fear.”  Many believe that this refers to meekness (self-control) and fear (respect) we have toward others (cf. Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 4:6).  However, I believe, that in context, this refers to meekness and fear of God (cf. Isaiah 8:12-13).  Instead of fearing men, we should fear God (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5). 

having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:16).

This concerns conduct before others.  This book has much to say about personal conduct (1 Peter 1:14-15; 2:12; 2:15; 3:1-2; 3:16; 4:15-16).  Live your life in such a way that you do not help the opposition’s case against Christianity.  Live your life in such a way “that one who is an opponent may be ashamed having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:7-8).  May we be as Daniel whose opponents could find no fault in him except “concerning the law of his God” (Daniel 6:5). 

Let us be mindful that we are representatives of Christianity.  This should be remembered in all areas of life.  (1)  This should be remembered before the Gentiles (non-Christians) we encounter (1 Peter 2:11-12).  (2) This should be remembered in civic affairs (1 Peter 2:13-17).  (3) This should be remembered in work matters (1 Peter 2:18-25).   (4) This should be remembered in family relationships (1 Peter 3:1-7).  (5) This should be remembered in relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Peter 3:8-12).  (6) This should be remembered when dealing with opponents of Christianity (1 Peter 3:13-17). 

Christianity has opposition.  However, Peter’s words provide perspective. Moreover, they remind us that we have “The Great Responsibility” of defending and representing Christianity on earth.

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5 Great Things: (#2) The Great Example

Great persecution was coming on the early church.  Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange think happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  It is not always easy being a Christian.

The book of 1 Peter provides encouragement and perspective to Christians facing difficult circumstances.  Let’s continue our study of 5 great things set forth in this book.

1 Peter 2 speaks of The Great Example.  Let us notice 1 Peter 2:21-23. 

For to this you were called…” (1 Peter 2:21a).

The context concerns being willing to suffer for serving God and for doing good (1 Peter 2:18-21).  Guy N. Woods commented, “Verses 18-20 deal with the duty of servants to continue in well doing, and to submit patiently to whatever trials it is their lot to bear; verses 21-25 establish the motive which should prompt such a manner of life” (Gospel Advocate Commentary Series, Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John and Jude, p. 78).

The words “to this” (eis touto) could be rendered “into this.”  Guy N. Woods commented, “i.e., into such a life… had they been called (by the gospel) to do good and to suffer patiently” (ibid).    

Suffering comes for different reasons.  Some suffer for their own faults (1 Peter 2:20; 4:15).  There is nothing commendable in this.  Some suffer for serving God and doing good (1 Peter 2:19-20; 4:14-16).  This is commendable before God.  Wayne Jackson commented, “God is pleased when we have the courage to suffer at the hands of our enemies in order to glorify him (v. 19)” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 536). 

because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Peter 2:21b).

Christ did not merely tell us how to live.  He showed us.  He, Himself, was willing to suffer for doing the will of God (cf. Matthew 26:39, 42).  He was willing to suffer for doing good (cf. Matthew 12:9-14).  He was willing to suffer for us (cf. John 15:14; 1 John 3:16). 

He is our great example.  The word “example” in our text is hupogrammon.  It means, literally “an underwriting” (Vine’s).  It was used of “a writing-copy, including all the letters of the alphabet, given to beginners as an aid in learning to draw them” (Thayer).  Think about how we commonly learned to write.  Perfectly formed letters were at the top of the page.  We were to try to reproduce these letters, writing them in the lines below (Do you remember Big Chief Tablets?).  Christ is the perfectly formed letters.  We are to strive to reproduce such, as best we can, in our lives.

Peter points us to Christ throughout this book, when telling us to do something.  Consider: 1 Peter 2:18-20 cf. 2:21-25; 1 Peter 3:13-17; cf. 3:18; 1 Peter 4:12 cf. 4:13. 

His example is what we should consider when facing difficulties.  We should look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, let you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

“‘who committed no sin nor was deceit found in His mouth’” (1 Peter 2:22).

This is nearly a direct quotation from Isaiah 53.  Notice: “He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).  Peter used the word “sin,” rather than the term “violence.”

Christ’s suffering was not due to any personal wrong doing.  He committed no sin (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  He suffered for us, for our sake (1 Peter 2:24 cf. Isaiah 53:5, 11-12).  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). 

“Who, when He was reviled did not revile in return; When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

Christ’s sufferings are referenced many times in this book (e.g. 1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1; 4:13; 5:1). We should not feel alone, or sorry for ourselves. He has not asked us to endure more than He was willing to endure. “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4).

How did Christ conduct Himself when He was mistreated?  (1) He did not allow His enemies to lower Him to their same level.  Nor, should we allow others to do so to us.  We are not to be “returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).  Even the Old Testament taught this.  “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work’” (Proverbs 24:29). 

(2) He stayed focused on the Righteous Judge.  “He… committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”  The word “commit(ed)” is from the Greek paradidomi.  The word is defined to mean “to give over; to give into the hands (of another); to give over into (one’s) power or use: to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage” (Thayer).  Jesus was committed to doing the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39, 42; Luke 23:46).  He had not been sent to condemn, but to provide the means of salvation (John 3:17).  Instead of seeking revenge, He trusted God.  He left things to God’s time, and God’s plan.  He trusted that there would be a righteous judgment. He committed His Spirit to God (Luke 23:46). Paul did the same (2 Timothy 1:12). We should learn from this.  We too should give our lives over to doing the will of the Father.  We too should trust His plan.  He says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19 cf. Deuteronomy 32:35).

The message should inspire us and encourage us.  We have “The Great Example” to show us how to live.

              

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5 Great Things: (#1) The Great Salvation

The key word in the book of 1 Peter is “suffering.”  It appears in some form 16 times [suffer (2:20; 3:14; 3:17; 4:15; 4:16; 4:19); suffered (2:21; 2:23; 3:18; 4:1(x2); 5:10); suffering(s) (1:11; 2:19; 4:13; 5:1)].  It was not easy being a first century Christian.

The book provides encouragement and perspective to Christians in difficult circumstances and facing difficult circumstances.  Let’s consider 5 Great Things set forth in this book. 

1 Peter 1 speaks of The Great Salvation.  Let us notice 1 Peter 1:3-4.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3a).

God is worthy of praise.  The word “blessed” (eulogetos) is applied to God alone, in the New Testament (Vine’s).  The word means “blessed, praised” (Vine’s).

Why is He to be praised?  Let’s read farther.

Who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3b).

He has given us hope through the resurrection of Jesus.  The ultimate hope is eternal life with God (Titus 1:2). 

The resurrection of Jesus is what gives the Christian hope.  Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).  The core of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  Hope vanishes without the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19).

Notice the word “again.”   (a) Guy N. Woods thought that this had specific reference to the early disciples.  He commented, “The emphasis in this verse is on the word again… The reference here is… to the re-establishment of the faith of the disciples by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (G.A. Commentary Series, Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, p. 25).  Others believe that the word “again refers to being born again in conversion (e.g., John 3:35; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22-23).  (b) Wayne Jackson commented, “God… has been merciful to us in that he has granted us a ‘living hope,’ made certain by the resurrection of Christ from the dead and accessed by means of our being ‘begotten’ (i.e., the new birth process [John 3:3-5])” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, p. 532).  This seems to fit (1 Peter 1:3 cf. 1:22-23).  Either way, God is the one who gives hope. 

to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).

He has given us an inheritance in heaven.  This inheritance is: (1) “incorruptible” (aphthartos).  The word means “imperishable, incorruptible, immortal” (BDAG).  The things which await are enduring, unlike the things of this earth.  Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).  We will have an incorruptible, immortal body (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).  (2) “undefiled” (amiantos).  The word means “undefiled… pure” (BDAG); “not defiled, unsoiled; free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased or its force and vigor impaired” (Thayer).  In other words, heaven will be perfect and without flaws.  Nothing will enter into heaven to defile it (Revelation 21:27).  (3) “does not fade away” (amarantos).  The word means “unfading… lit. unfading flowers… fig. of eternal bliss” (BDAG).  Guy N. Woods commented, “The amaranth was a fabled flower whose bloom was perpetual, and whose loveliness never failed.  The inheritance which awaits the children of God will not deteriorate, nor will passing ages render it less desirable or attractive (Guy N. Woods, p. 27). 

The message is encouraging.  Yes, there are trials in life.  However, remember “The Great Salvation.”  How great it is.  It is reserved in heaven for you.

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Denominations: Unitarian Universalist Association

There are about 153,000 members of the UUA (UUA Membership Statistics, 1961-2020, uua.org).  The top three states by number are: (1) California; (2) New York; (3) Texas (Demographic and Statistical Information, uua.org).

History

The UUA was formed in 1961 when the Unitarian Church and the Universalist Church merged.  Let’s consider each.

3

1.  Unitarian Church

Unitarianism is a belief in one God which rejects the trinity.  They believe that Jesus was strictly human and not deity (Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 232).  The “Holy Spirit” is understood to be used two ways in scripture.  One is another name for the one God.  Another refers to God’s nature which He gives man (What is the Holy Spirit? biblicalunitarianism.com). Unitarian beliefs are found in early Christianity.  However, the origin of the Unitarian Church seems to be found in Protestant Reformation and later.  (a) It has a European connection.  “The movement spread from the independent thinkers and Anabaptist in Switzerland, Hungary, Transylvania, Holland, Poland, and Italy to England. There it found champions in such leaders as Newton, Locke, and Milton, but no attempt was made to organize the movement until the late eighteenth century” (Mead, p. 231).  (b) It has an American connection.  “American Unitarianism, however, developed independently, when members of the liberal wing of the Congregational Church in eastern Massachusetts, who asked that they not be required to subscribe to a creed, were branded as Unitarian.” (ibid).  

The first organized church to turn Unitarian as a body was the Episcopal King’s Chapel in Boston in 1785 (ibid).  A split occurred within Congregationalism in the nineteenth century.  The American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825.  It was a missionary society and publishing society.  A national conference was established in 1865 (ibid). 

2.  Universalist Church

A Universalist is one who believes universal salvation.  “American Universalism has its direct origin in the work of George de Benneville… John Murray… and Hosea Ballou” (Mead, p. 233).  (a) George de Benneville (1703-1793) was a physician and Universalist preacher in Europe and in America, preaching in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (George de Benneville, uudb.org).  He believed that the fire of hell would purify and lead to universal salvation (The Universalists: George de Benneville, reddit.com).  (b) John Murray (1741-1815).  He was once a Calvinist Methodist.  He did some preaching in Ireland and England.  He was sent to bring back a young woman who had come under the influence of James Relly, a Welsh Methodist preacher who was teaching Universalism.  Murray, himself, was converted to Universalism (John Murray, uudb.org).  He moved to America.  His Independent Christian Church of Gloucester (Massachusetts) became organized in 1779 (Mead, p. 233).  (c) Hosea Ballou (1791-1852).  He was a schoolteacher and a Universalist preacher in Vermont.  He too started out as a Calvinist but became convinced that Romans 5:18 taught Universalism.  He published, “A Treatise on Atonement” in 1805.  He also began to publish a weekly, The Universalist Magazine, in 1819.  These works greatly influenced Universalists.  He wrote against capital punishment and slavery (Hosea Ballou, uudb.org). 

Authority

1.  Sacred Texts

“While Unitarianism and Universalism both have roots in the Protestant Christian tradition, where the Bible is the sacred text, we now look to additional sources for religious and moral inspiration… we celebrate the spiritual insights of the world’s religions, recognizing wisdom in many scriptures” (Sacred Texts in Unitarian Universalism, uua.org).  They do not view the Bible as inerrant (Unitarian Universalist Views of the Bible, uua.org). 

2.  Six Sources:

(1) Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

(2) Words and deed of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

(3) Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life;  

(4)  Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

(5) Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

(6) Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature (Sources of Our Living Tradition, uua.org). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Seven Principles

   (1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

   (2) Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

   (3) Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

   (4) A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

   (5)  The right of conscience and the use of the demographic process within our congregations and in

society at large;

   (6)  The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

   (7)  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

          (The Seven Principles,uua.org)

2.  Jesus’ Role

They do not believe that Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God (God is viewed as too loving to be wrathful against man). Instead, Jesus is our Savior in the sense he showed us how to live (Hosea, Ballou, A Treatise on Atonement, archive.org; Tony Larsen, The Problem with Atonement, uufdc.org).  Jesus lived to call us to our better selves rather than dying to save us from our fallen selves.  They believe that it was Paul who changed Jesus’ role to saving man from the wrath of God (Steve Edington, Atonement and Forgiveness, fculittle.org).

3.  Diverse and Inclusive

“Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive… Unitarian Universalists believe more than one thing.  We think for ourselves, and reflect together about important questions” (Beliefs & Practices, uua.org).

“People with atheist and agnostic beliefs find a supportive community in our congregations… since the early 20th century, Humanism has been an influential part of our continually evolving religious traditions.  Many Unitarian Universalists who are Atheist or Agnostic also identify as Humanists” (Atheist and Agnostic Unitarian Universalist, uua.org). 

Organization

“Each UU congregation is autonomous” (About the Unitarian Universalist Association, uua.org). However, they do have a headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts (Headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association, uua.org).

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Turning The King’s Heart

The King’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).

What does this mean?  Does this mean that every action of a king (or country leader) is directed by God?  Was Solomon’s heart turned to idolatry by God (1 Kings 11:1-8)?  Was Ahaz turned to human sacrifice by God (2 Kings 16:1-4 cf. 2 Chronicles 28:1-4; further – Ezekiel 23:36-39; Leviticus 18:21)?  Was Adolf Hitler directed to do evil by God?  Surely not!  If God directs every action of kings, then why are kings instructed how to walk (e.g. 1 Kings 2:1-4; 3:14; 9:4-5)? 

(1) It means that God is powerful.  His doings humbled the heart of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-13) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-36).

(2) It means that God can turn the hearts of a king for his own purposes, and to accomplish His will.  He used Pharaoh (Exodus 7:2-5; 10:1-2; 14:17-18 – note, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart will be considered in a future writing).  He used the king(s) of Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-7, 12-14; Jeremiah 50:18).  He used the king(s) of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:6-11 cf. 25:12; 50:18; 51:24; Habakkuk).  He used Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-3).    

It should be understood that there is nothing in the wording, “He turns it wherever He wishes,” which implies that God does this directly, without means.  Hearts can be turned by means.  Solomon’s wives “turned his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).  Consider the role of John, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 cf. Malachi 4:5-6).

God has directed and turned kings by means.  He provided information to David (1 Samuel 23:2, 4, 9-13; 30:7-8; 2 Samuel 5:18-19; 5:22-25).  He provided the circumstances to humble Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-13) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-36).  He stirred Cyrus to allow the Jews to return home (Ezra 1:1-2).  How God stirred Cyrus, we are not told in Scripture.  However, there is no reason to believe that this was done by directly changing the heart, without means.  Josephus suggests that Cyrus was stirred to do this after reading his name from the book of Isaiah (Josephus Antiquities 11.1). 

(3) It means that God is ultimately in control.  His plans will be accomplished.  Certainly not every action of every king is approved by God.  Kings sin, and God allows this (e.g. Exodus 9:34; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; 1 Kings 12:28-33; 1 Kings 21:25-26).  However, God, not earthly kings, is ultimately in control.  His plans will not be thwarted.  This ought to give us comfort.

“Whenever I am afraid I will trust in You… In God I have put my trust, I will not fear.  What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:4).

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). 

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4).

“Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).

          

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Denominations: Community or “Non-Denominational,” Cowboy and Biker Churches

Community Church or “Non-denominational” Church refers to independent local congregations which have no affiliation with the major denominations.  Determining exact numbers is difficult.  A study released in 2010 by the Hartford Institute For Religion Research reported that there were more than 12 million adherents in the U.S.A. to nondenominational churches (Nondenominational & Independent Congregations, hirr.hartsem.edu). 

Cowboy Church is popular in Texas, Oklahoma and beyond.  I have been unable to find stats on total membership.  In 2012, Fort Worth Magazine stated, “Today, between 36,000 and 40,000 people are regularly attending Cowboy Church in Texas” (Boots on Hallowed Ground by Gail Bennison, March 5, 2012, fwtx.com).  There are more than 200 churches in the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches or AFCC (americanfcc.org). 

Biker Church numbers seem to be unknown.  Chris Marely, pastor of Biker Church USA in Bangor, Maine, said “Our mission – vision… was to have 10,000 bikers in the Bible every week… but we have far exceeded any of those numbers.  I can’t even tell you what they are today.  We’re in New Zealand now.  We’re in Africa.  We’re in Canada.  We are all over” (Bikers Get A Bad Rep, So They Started A Church Where They Feel Welcome by Robbie Feinberg, February 29, 2020, npr.org). 

History

1.  Community Church

Some trace the Community Church to nineteenth century America.  “The earliest origins of the community church movement are likely from the nineteenth century and the practical concerns of many small American communities: there was not enough members of individual denominations to each have a congregation, and many times such Protestants would come together to establish a community church of sort” (Community Church Movement, astudyofdenominations.com).

However, a real movement began in the twentieth century.  “The community church movement began in the early twentieth century alongside ecumenism and represented an attempt to aspire to the ideal of that movement: Christians, mostly Protestant and Evangelical, coming out of denominations and being unified in a community church concept” (ibid).  The International Council of Community Churches (ICCC) was formed in 1950 (About, icccnow.org).  Not all community churches are a part of this council

2.  Cowboy Church

The Cowboy Church Movement is relatively new.  Its beginnings are in America.  It developed in the twentieth century.  (1) In the 1940’s, Carl Stuart Hamblen, a country singer, began to host a radio show called “Cowboy Church of the Air” (Where Have All the Cowboy Churches Come From? By Maurice Cammah, July 23, 2014, texasmonthly.com).  (2) In 1972, Glen Smith, a professional rodeo clown, began to minister to the rodeo community (Boots, Blue Jeans and Bibles: the Truth About Cowboy Churches by Hannah Jones, May 17, 2019, smudailycampus.com).  “Glenn and his wife, Ann, were the pioneers and the first full-time ministers on the rodeo trail… The couple founded Rodeo Cowboy Ministries in the 1970’s, also known as International Western World Outreach Center with headquarters in Midland, Texas… He preached at the first cowboy service at the NFR (national finals rodeo) with the PRCA (professional rodeo cowboy association) Director’s approval in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Glen Smith, obituary, legacy.com; Published by Midland, Reporter-Telegram on February 12, 2010).  (3) In 1986, Jeff Copenhaver, a world-champion calf roper, started a regular meeting Cowboy church with a permanent location at Billy Bob’s Texas bar in Ft. Worth, Texas (History of the Cowboy Church, Cocolalla Cowboy church (Idaho), ccowboychurch.org).  (3) In 1990, Harry Yates and his wife Joanne Cash Yates (Johnny Cash’s youngest sister) started the Nashville Cowboy Church.  These seem to be the first permanent meeting sites in the U.S.A.  One source says, Ft. Worth (Texas) was the first, Calgary (Alberta, Canada) was the second, and Nashville (Tennessee) the third (ccowboychurch.org).  However, there appears to be some dispute of the order of these first three. 

 3.  Biker Church

This is a recent movement.  The history available seems to be scant.  In 2006, Frank Lengel, a Baptist, started going to Biker rallies.  He drew caricatures of bikers.  He said, “As a part of our biker ministry, 83 people made a profession of faith or rededication.”  However, as time passed he wondered “Where are those 83 people now?” (10,000 Bikers “in the Bible” is the goal of Biker Church USA, November 6, 2009, baptistcourier.com).  Lenger launched Biker Church USA in 2009, in South Carolina.

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Community Churches

It is impossible to summarize the beliefs and practices among Community Churches.  Some have ties to major denominations but have replaced denominations names, rebranding themselves.  Others have no ties to the major denominations.  Some are charismatic.  Others are not.  Some have traditional denominational worship.  Others are very non-traditional. 

While many of those churches are self-described as being “non-denominational,” the reality may at times be better described as “all-denominational.”  There tends to be de-emphasis on doctrine.  Unity has priority over doctrine.  One source says, “In many cases, these community churches were a true amalgamation of beliefs.  In a quest for unity, each group would compromise on some doctrinal or practical point that caused contention with the other group.  As a result, many community churches had very loosely defined beliefs and allowed wide variations of beliefs among their members” (What is Community Church?, gotquestions.org).  Another says, “As denominational particularities are ignored or hidden, what’s often left is a ‘lowest common denominator’ spiritually that is often little more than ‘worship’ and ‘discipleship’ devoid of cognitive content” (What Does the Growth of Non-denominationalism Mean? By Aaron Earls, August 8, 2017, lifewayresearch.com).

There is sometimes a trend to develop the church around what people want.  Before Rick Warren launched Saddleback Church, he conducted a community survey.  He writes, “I wrote down in my notebook five questions I would use to start Saddleback: (1) What do you think is the greatest need in this area? (2) Are you actively attending any church? (3) Why do you think most people didn’t attend church?  (4) If you were to look for a church to attend, what kind of things would you look for? (5) What could I do for you?” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, chapter 11).  While there is nothing wrong with asking questions, let us remember the church belongs to Christ.  The first consideration should be on what He wants, not what man wants.  Sometimes people want things that are not what they need.  Sometimes people want things that are unbiblical.

Rick Warren comes from a Baptist background.  Saddleback’s beliefs are very Baptist.  He does not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation and he believes in eternal security or once saved, always saved doctrine (What We Believe, saddleback.com).

2.  Cowboy Churches

Some Cowboy Churches are not affiliated with a major denomination; while others are.  “It would be a mistake to assume all Cowboy Churches hold exactly the same beliefs.  Originally the churches were independent and non-denominational, but that changed around 2000 when the Southern Baptist denomination entered the movement in Texas.  Other Cowboy Churches are affiliated with Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, and United Methodists (Cowboy Church Beliefs and Practices by Jack Zavada, updated July 3, 2019, learnereligions.com).  The largest Cowboy Church in the world is in Ellis County (Texas).  It is affiliated with Texas Baptist (This Texan Cowboy Church is the Biggest in the World, Hannah Phillips, June 22, 2017, culturetrip.com).

As stated, beliefs vary.  The statement of faith put out by the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches.  (AFCC) sounds very Baptist (Who We Are, americanfcc.org).  The Maxdale Cowboy Church (Bell County, Texas) sounds Wesleyan Holiness (“Entire Sanctification”) and Pentecostal (“Divine healing,” and “The evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost …witnessed by the physical sign of speaking with other tongues” Further, they declare “This ministry…declares itself strongly for the supernatural ministry and the operation of the ministry gifts in the assembly…).  It is also pre-millennial (see: About Us, Our Beliefs, dev.milmediagroup.com; previously, About Us, maxdalecowboychurch.com). 

3.  Biker Churches

Biker Churches, like Cowboy Churches, have differing origins and beliefs.  Some are independent, associated with no major denomination.  Some were planted and are associated with a major denomination – such as Baptists, the Methodist, the Assembly of God, and the Nazarene Church.  The Open Road Biker Church in Georgetown, Texas was founded with the help of the Baptists General Convention of Texas (Georgetown Biker Church Welcomes All, John Rutledge, July 16, 2015, baptiststandard.com). 

While there is nothing wrong with reaching out to a certain demographic, the church should not be about culture but the gospel.  The early church was composed of both Jew and Gentile. I have heard some ask concerning a church, even the local church where I preach (I am serious, these type things have been said): “Is this an old people’s church or a young people’s church?”  “Is this a city church or a country church?” (even, “You are changing us from a country church into a city church”) “Is this a black church, a hispanic church, or a white church?” (even, “They would be happier with their own”).  Such thinking is foreign to the scriptures and God’s plan.  It comes from man and not God. What we should seek is to be His church, the church of Christ. It should not be our club, but His church. There should not be needless divisions among us over race, age, or culture.  In Accra, Ghana there is a Ghana Police Church.  What is next, Farmers Church, Sheepherders Church, Bankers Church, Accountants Church, Teachers Church, Retailers Church, Oil workers Church, Railroad Workers Church, Steel Workers Church, Taylors Church, Cooks Church, Artisans Church, Rich people Church, Poor people Church? How many ways can we needlessly divide? Jesus brought together fishermen, tax collectors and even a zealot. The Gospel should draw us together in one body. There is room for all in the church of Christ.

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The Testing of One’s Faith

Make no mistake about it.  One’s faith will be tested, and tested again, in this life.  James writes of “the testing of your faith” (James 1:3).  These tests are common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We should not be surprised when tested for such is not strange or unusual (1 Peter 4:12).

Let’s consider some ways that James indicates Christians are tested.

1.  Attitude when life is difficult

James 1:2-3: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

“Godisnowhere” could be viewed as, “God is now here” or “God is no where” The same letters in each, even the same order, but different views.

Even so, the trials of life can be viewed differently.  Some see such as an opportunity for spiritual growth (James 1:1-2; Romans 5:3-4).  Others become discouraged and give-up.

One should not give up.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).

2.  Attitude toward prayer

James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally… let him ask in faith, with no doubting… for let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

When one has difficulty seeing how the difficulties of life can be used for spiritual growth, one should pray.  This is the context.            

Prayer is important to a Christian’s spiritual health.  Prayer is mentioned six times in this book (James 1:5-8; 4:2-3; 5:13; 5:14-15; 5:16; 5:17).  One’s prayer life may be a great indicator (or barometer) of where one is in his spiritual walk.

“Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?                                              When you met with great temptation, did you think to pray?                                               When your heart was filled with anger, did you think to pray?                                        When sore trials come upon you, did you think to pray?                                                      (Song: Ere You Left Your Room This Morning by M.A. Kidder)

3.  Attitude toward God

James 1:13-14: “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am tempted by God’… each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

The focus has changed.  The earlier part of this chapter concerned external trials and difficulties (James 1:2-11).  The focus now is upon internal trials or temptations (James 1:13-18).

Man often tries to mitigate or deny his responsibilities for sin by pointing the finger elsewhere.  Some blame environment.  Some blame parents or spouse.  Some blame God.  However, temptation itself starts with the desires one has within him.  Examples: The desire to preserve one’s life may produce a temptation when faced with persecution.

It is not sinful to be tempted.  Even Jesus was temped (Hebrews 4:15).  The issue is how we respond to this temptation.

“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin”                                                                            (Song: Yield Not To Temptation by H.R. Palmer)

4.  Attitude Toward God’s Word

James 1:19-22: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath… receive with meekness the implanted word… be doers of the word and not hearers only.”

When life is difficult, instead of being filled with wrath toward God or man, and instead of rashly opening one’s mouth and spouting angry words, one should be swift to hear God’s word.  When temptation comes one should meditate on the word of God.

Moreover, one should not hear only.  One should hear and do God’s word.     The word is to be lived.  Anything less is self-deception (James 1:22 cf. 1:26-27).    As with prayer, even so with Bible reading – such may be a great indicator (a barometer) of where one is in his spiritual walk.  Remember, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

5.  Attitudes toward others

James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…”

James 2:1-ff: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality… Listen my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.

James 3:9-10: “With it (the tongue – B.H.) we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessings and cursings.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

James 5:4-5: “Indeed, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in the day of slaughter.”

James 5:19-20: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways saves a soul from death and cover  multitude of sins.”

Some live their lives with little or no regard for others.  However, Jesus taught, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).  Paul wrote, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

James instructs: (a) One should care for the weak (James 1:27). (b) One should not disrespect the poor (James 2:1-ff). (c) One should be careful with our use of the tongue toward others (James 3:9-10 cf. 1:26).  The use of tongue is spoken of throughout this book, six times (James 1:19; 1:26; 3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:9; 5:12).  “Angry words! O let them never from the tongue unbridled slip; may the heart’s best impulse ever check them ere they soil the lip… Love is much too pure and holy, friendship is too sacred far, for a moment’s reckless folly, thus, to desolate and mar…  Angry words are lightly spoken, bittress tho’ts are rashly stirred, brightest links of life are broken by a single angry word… ‘Love one another,’ thus saith the Savior; children obey the Father’s blest command” (Song: Angry Words, by H.R. Palmer). Someone has written, “‘The boneless tongue, so small and weak, can crush and kill,’ declares the Greek/ ‘The tongue destroys a greater horde,’ the Turk asserts, ‘than does the sword’/ The Persian proverb wisely saith, ‘A lengthy tongue – an early death!’/ Or sometimes takes this form instead, ‘Don’t let your tongue cut off your head’/ ‘The tongue can speak a word whose speed,’ says the Chinese, ‘outstrips the steeds’/ The Arab sages said in part, ‘The tongue’s great storehouse is the heart’/ From the Hebrew was the maxim sprung, ‘Thy feet should slip, ne’er the tongue’/ The sacred writer crows the whole, ‘Who keeps his tongue doth keep his soul.'”(d) One should be fair in business (James 5:4-5); (e) One should seek to convert the lost (James 5:19-20).

6.  Attitude towards the world

James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: …to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Some love the sinful things of the world (1 John 2:15-17).  James warns, “Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).  Hebrews says, “Pursue… holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

7.  Attitude towards time

James 4:13-17: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

The end may be closer than one thinks.  This point is made in one of Jesus’ parables, where God says to one, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20).

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Christ is…

Paul, Silas, and Timothy evangelized Philippi, Macedonia in about 51 A.D., while on Paul’s second great missionary journey.  Among the converts were Lydia and her household, and a Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16).

This began a long relationship between Paul and these brethren.  They supported Paul’s work (Philippians 4:15-16; 4:10; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).  He visited Philippi again on his third great missionary journey (Acts 20:1-3, 6), in about 57 A.D..  He wrote to them while in custody of Roman authority in about 61 or 62 A.D. (Philippians 1:1, 12-14). 

The book of Philippians seem to serve several purposes.  First, it is a support letter (Philippians 4:15-18).  Paul is grateful for their support.  Second, it is a letter of commendation (Philippians 2:25-30).  Epaphroditus work as a messenger for the church is appreciated.  Third, it is an appeal for unity (Philippians 4:2).  He wants Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind and work together.  Fourth, it is an appeal to stay focused (Philippians 3:12-15; 3:20-4:1).  Fifth, it is an appeal to stay positive (Philippians 4:4, 8-9).

This book also makes Christ prominent in every chapter.  Let’s notice, Christ is…

1.  The purpose of life.

Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).

Paul is clear about his purpose in life.  He is here to magnify (make large) Christ in this world.  And if he were to die doing this?  So be it.  Death for the Christian is not loss.  It is gain.  

What about us?  Are we clear about our purpose?  We are here to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31). 

2.  The Pattern of Life

Let this mind by in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The context concerns our care and concern for others.  The previous verse reads, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  Jesus is our great example.  He left the glories of heaven, came to this earth to live as a man, and die on a cross for us (Philippians 2:5-8).  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). 

Are we following His example?  Christians should be concerned about others.  “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). 

3.  The Prize of Life

I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ… I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-9, 14).

Paul considers what he had given up to follow Christ worth it, in order to gain Christ and the prize which is in Christ.  This in context includes things in which he once placed his confidence for righteousness (Philippians 3:2-6).

What about us?  Are we willing to count all things rubbish that we might gain Christ?  Are we willing to set aside religious beliefs that stand in the way of gaining Christ?  Are we willing to set aside earthly pursuits, if needed, to gain Christ?

Do we desire to gain Christ?  “Oh I want to see Him, look upon His face, There to sing forever of His saving grace; On the street of glory let me life my voice; Cares all past, home at last every to rejoice (Song: Oh I Want to See Him by R.H. Cornelius).  “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see, And I look upon His face, the one who saved my by His grace; When he takes me by the hand, and leads my through the promised land, What a day, glorious day that will be” (Song: What a Day That Will Be by Jim Hill). 

4.  The Power of Life

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Paul is stating that he could cope with the situations of life.  He could handle poverty and riches (Philippians 4:10-13).  He could do this because Christ strengthened him.  Credit  belonged to Christ.

Do we have a “can do” attitude about the Christian life?  The Christian life is not impossible (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We can do it through Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Ephesians 6:10-17).

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