The Attacks Of The Devil

The Israelites never saw it coming!  By the time they realized what happened 24,000 souls were dead, Numbers 25:1-2.  Things seemed to be going well for Israel, but all of that would change.  How did this happen?  The devil attacked them.  He used Balaam and Balak to help God’s people to fall, Numbers 31:16.  The devil wants to defeat us, 1 Peter 5:8.  Sexual immorality is just one way that the devil will attempt to beat us.

Let me give you four other tactics that the devil has used against the church in the first century that he will use against us.  Let’s also consider how God’s people overcame those attacks.

    1. FEAR FACTOR:  Satan wanted to silence God’s people from speaking about Jesus, Acts 4:1-4; 5:17-23, 33, 40-42; 7:54-58.
    2. FAKE FACTOR:  Sadly, the devil achieved his mission with two Christians, Ananias, and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-5.  They lied to the Holy Spirit.  They were fakers.  While the devil won a battle, he had not won the war.  The people of God continued in their pursuit of spreading the good news, Acts 5:12-14.  They continued and so did the devil with his attacks.
    3. FUSS FACTOR:  The devil’s opportunity came in Acts 6:1-3.  Some complaints arose.  Certainly, the brethren would devour one another.  However, the devil’s plan didn’t work, Acts 6:7.
    4. FALSE FACTOR:  A controversy in the church occurred regarding salvation, Acts 15:1-11.  Some Jews believed the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved.  The truth prevailed.  God’s people prevailed.  But how did they do it?  Here’s how.

They kept their focus on Jesus.

    1. This is how they overcame the fear factor.  They prayed for boldness to stand firm during persecution, Acts 4:29; 5:40-41.
    2. This is how they overcame the fake factor.  The punishment that Ananias and Sapphira received was death.  Discipline was given.  It had an impact among the brethren, Acts 5:11.  Discipline is necessary today.  Being honest is still necessary today.
    3. This is how they overcame the fuss factor, Acts 6:1-6.  The apostles were concerned about God’s work.  They devised a plan to preserve unity.  It worked!
    4. This is how they overcame the false factor.  They stood on the apostles’ doctrine, Acts2:42. This must be our attitude.  The devil never stops his attack toward God’s people, Luke 4:13.  Therefore, we must always be on the defense.

Laodicea: The Church Who Didn’t Need Jesus

Jesus was kicked out of His own church! The church at Laodicea was gathered together, but Jesus was on the outside knocking to get in His own church!

Studying the background of the city of Laodicea brings some valuable insights. I have a few links below of some resources I used to write this article.

Laodicea was known for:

  • Legendary wealth – When the city of Laodicea was destroyed by earthquakes, they did not accept or receive assistance from Rome to rebuild the city.
  • Self-sufficiency and independence – The city was named after the wife of Antiochus III, but the word itself is derived from two words: laos, meaning “people” and dike, meaning “decision” (Strong’s Concordance). This city made their own decisions. They didn’t accept Nero’s help to rebuild Rome, they were going to go it alone.
  • Lukewarm water – According to Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “A six-mile-long aqueduct brought Laodicea its supply of water from the south. The water came either from hot springs and was cooled to lukewarm or came from a cooler source and warmed up in the aqueduct on the way. For all its wealth, the city had poor water” (comments on Revelation 3:14-22).
  • Black wool – Laodicean black wool was world famous.
  • Eye salve – Laodicea had a famous school of medicine. They also were known for a special ointment known as ‘Phrygian powder,’ which was famous for its cure of eye defects. One of the most famous graduates of the medical school was a man who was very influential in the field of ophthalmology.

Considering all of that, listen to how Jesus addresses the congregation in Laodicea.

Revelation 3:14-22 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. (15) “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (21) The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (22) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”

The church in Laodicea in Jesus’ eyes:

  • Wealthy, yet poor.
  • Clothed with designer clothes, yet naked.
  • Great vision, but blind.
  • Self-sufficient, but pitiable and wretched.
  • And just like the lukewarm water of the city, was their heart and character to Jesus. They made Jesus sick to His stomach.

What they needed:

  • Was to “buy” Jesus’ gold which is refined by His fire.
  • Get clothed in white garments from Jesus.
  • And get Jesus’ eye salve so that they could really see!
  • To be “zealous” (hot) to repent to Jesus.
  • To let Jesus in the door of His own church! Stop being self-sufficient.

So, here is food for thought – What does a church look like today that doesn’t need Jesus? If we were like a Laodicean church today what would that look and sound like? And if that was the case in our church, how do we turn things around? On a practical level, how does a church start putting eye salve on its eyes and buying gold from Jesus? What does it look like and sound like when a church starts letting Jesus back in the door?

Here is another contrast to add to yesterday’s article: Ephesus was in danger of Jesus leaving its fellowship, Jesus was trying very hard not to leave Ephesus. Laodicea had already kicked Jesus out and He was trying very hard to get back in!

Resources:

Laodicea – Life, Hope, and Truth Website

Laodicea on the Lycus

Padfield.com – The church at Laodicea in Asia Minor

The Seven Churches: Contrasts

At our congregation we are studying through Revelation and right now we are in the seven churches section of chapters 2 through 3. Last night we had a discussion about some of the contrasts that existed among the churches.

The Seven Churches: Contrasts

  • Ephesus could not tolerate the “deeds of the Nicolaitans,” while Pergamum was tolerating those who held this doctrine (Revelation 2:6,15).
  • Smyrna was poor, yet rich, and Laodicea was rich, yet poor (Revelation 2:9; 3:17).
  • Smyrna faced the tribulation from men because of doing what was right, and Thyatira would face the tribulation from Jesus because of doing what was wrong (Revelation 2:9-10,22).
  • Thyatira was patiently enduring, serving and working for Jesus, but they had love as well, even though they were tolerating false doctrine and immoral behavior. Ephesus was patiently, enduring, serving and working for Jesus, but they had left their first love. In Ephesus they did not tolerate false teachers and tested every teacher to see if what was spoken was the truth (Revelation ).

With those contrasts came a few observations about Jesus and the seven churches:

  • There are not several standards for different churches, there is one standard for all churches, and that comes from Jesus Christ.
  • Each congregation had issues, problems, and sometimes even sin to correct, but Jesus was lovingly giving them time to repent.
  • What makes a “sound church” is much more than standing on the right side of a few issues.
  • All was not lost for a church that was dead, or tolerating false doctrines. Jesus was standing at the door, knocking and waiting for them to open and come to repentance.
  • There were faithful brethren standing strong and pure in the midst of those congregations with all those problems. These faithful few were told to influence, hold fast and strengthen the church, not flee and go to another group.
  • Jesus, not you or me, decides when a church loses fellowship with Him.
  • Our hearts must be like the Lord’s heart. He is not as quick as humans to write people off.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”
(Revelation 3:19-22)

Their First Love

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
(Revelation 2:4)

Ephesus would have been considered by most of us as a “sound church.” From the outside they were doing all the right things. They were facing persecution and standing firm against the devil. The congregation would not tolerate false doctrine and were testing any teacher to make sure the things said were directly from God. They were patiently enduring for Christ, but Christ said that they were about to lose their fellowship with Him. He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. They were in need of repentance!

Why? Because they had left their first love. Maybe if we were in Ephesus we would be shocked to hear these words from Jesus. We are doing all the right things, why would Jesus tell us to repent? They were doing works, indeed, but Jesus said they were not doing the “first works.” Whatever they were like before, they were not like that now. On the outside all appearances looked like this was a strong, Bible-teaching congregation. But to Jesus, He saw a congregation that was now going through the motions. The love they had at first was not there anymore.

This is true in churches, organizations, marriages, sports teams, etc. At first the fire is there. We know our “why.” A young couple is just full of energy, love, passion and all things are new! But after time, years, struggles, pain, stress, busy-ness, etc., the couple just starts going through the motions. That couple may even seem to many others like they have a great marriage, but to each other they know the “first love” is not there anymore. What happens in marriages, teams, businesses, and churches is that we forget where we came from and how we were when we got started.

We have to get back to those beginnings! Jesus told the church at Ephesus to “repent.” But how is that done? He told them to, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Remember. Do the first works.

For a married couple it may mean going out on dates again. Getting out the wedding videos and watching them. Do you have those old love letters in a box somewhere? Read them. Remember when?

For Ephesus, they could do the same thing. They could get out the old love letters and read them again. There was this great letter called “Ephesians” sent to them by Paul decades before. It’s time to get that letter out and dust it off. Read the first half of Ephesians and you will rekindle the old flames once again. Remember what it was like when Jesus saved you from your sins and covered you in His grace and His blood. Remember where you came from. Think of the newness, fire and zeal you had when you were a new Christian. It’s time to get back to the beginning, back to the basics. Read the old love letters and rekindle the fire.

Euodia and Syntyche, Part 3

Today is the final part of the series on Euodia and Syntyche. Here are the links for first two articles.

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:1-4).

Help these women who labored with me in the gospel. Euodia and Syntyche were women of the best intentions, and they had servant hearts. The church at Philippi began with strong women (Acts 16:11-15). Of course, by the time of the writing of this epistle, Philippi had elders and deacons, but they still had strong women. These women aren’t to just fade away into inactivity because they now had elders and deacons. Paul tells the congregation to help these women in their work as they are fellowshipping in the gospel. Whatever these two sisters were doing, whatever work they were involved in, Paul tells the brothers and sisters to be an encouragement and support to them in their work for Christ.

The kingdom needs strong, servant-hearted women. Strong-minded is not to be confused with always going around giving people a piece of your mind. Nor does it mean being stubborn and unwilling to consider other viewpoints. However, we must not also confuse “meek and quiet” and “submissive” (1 Peter 3) with being a doormat that sits still and never uses the talents, voice and strengths God gave to the woman. This balance comes when we become “one mind” in Jesus. Our strengths, our talents are tempered and guided by the love and humility of Jesus.

God’s work, not mine. Paul’s letter to the Philippians often mentioned joy and rejoicing, but that is not what the letter to the Philippians is primarily about. He often used words like “mindset” and “mind” in this letter, but Paul was trying to get at more than the power of positive thinking.

If you go through this short letter, and underline or highlight all the times Paul says Lord, God, Jesus, Christ, or Savior then you will begin to understand the theme of Philippians. Why did Paul endure such cruel suffering and harsh treatment? Because it is all about Jesus (Philippians 1:21,29-30; 3:10). Why did Jesus leave heaven’s glory to die on the cross? Because it was God’s work and God’s glory that would be accomplished (Philippians 2:4-11). Why did Timothy put his own interests aside and sincerely care for the brethren? Because Timothy sought the things of the Lord Jesus, not his own things (Philippians 2:19-21). Why did Epaphroditus come close to death? Because he did everything “for the work of Christ…not regarding his own life” (Philippians 2:30). Why did Paul want to stay on earth and help Christians when he would much rather die and be with Jesus? Because he was all about serving Jesus and doing His work for His people (Philippians 1:19-26).

It is God’s work that He begun in the Philippian disciples, and it is God that continued to work in them and through them (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). Paul considered himself just an instrument in the hands of the Great Physician. Euodia and Syntyche needed to be reminded of this valuable principle. It is not our ministry, nor is it our church. The money isn’t ours. Those Bible classes are not our Bible classes. It is not our worship service. Those people being taught are not our people. It’s all about Jesus. This is His work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

My mother, Linda, shared with me some very simple yet powerful words as I began my first full-time preaching position in Columbus, Ohio. She said with tear-dimmed eyes, “Remember who your Master is.” How right she was. Once we fully grasp that, and once we as individual Christians own that concept, then we can begin to view ourselves as merely instruments and servants of the Master. We see the value in others walking along with us as partners, sharing in the work together, side by side. We stop looking for ways to get the credit for teaching someone or having the best ideas, and we look to lift up other brethren and point out their great worth and their ways of contributing to the family and body of Christ. We will listen to other ideas and consider other ways of doing things instead of saying “This is the way we’ve always done such and such.”

Being of one mind. This means we are focused on the same purpose. We have the same Lord and we belong to the same team. Our goals and purposes are the same. We have the same enemy and we are on the same side in the conflict against the Devil. Look for the word “same” in the letter to the Philippians – it is very instructive.

This requires listening to each other. Being of one mind requires valuing other’s input. That means I have to stop and consider the feelings of others. We have to take the foot off the accelerator sometimes and remember that the task is not as important as our relationships with each other.

If we accomplished the job, but we hurt people and alienated them along the way, then was it worth it? Of course not. If we finished the task, but did it alone when it would have been better to join with others, then we missed the greater purpose. If we finished the task, but stepped all over another brother or sister’s feelings, then what did we really accomplish? God doesn’t want individuals living to themselves. He wants a body. He wants a family.

Let us be of one mind, serving together side by side for Jesus, as Paul encouraged these two sisters in Philippi to remember.

Euodia and Syntyche, Part 2

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:1-4).

We continue where we left off yesterday in discussing Euodia and Syntyche from the book of Philippians.

Synergy.

Euodia and Syntyche were called “fellow workers” by Paul. He used the Greek word sunergos, which simply means to work together. This word is the basis for our English word synergy, which means “the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects” (thefreedictionary.com). Many good brothers and sisters in Christ were called fellow workers by Paul – Paul did not spread the gospel to the whole world by himself. There were many selfless servants of Jesus Christ who risked their necks, sacrificed their lives and material goods, and devoted themselves to the high purpose and calling of living and sharing the good news of Jesus. Synergy. Many souls joined their energy, resources and talents together so that through their cooperation, the combined efforts resulted in a greater harvest of souls. “Each part doing its share” (Eph. 4:16).

These ladies were strong-minded workers determined to work as hard as they could for Jesus and for Paul. They are going to heaven – their names are in the Book of Life. Paul tells the congregation to assist these two sisters in their work. It tells you a lot about these two women, doesn’t it?  They wanted to do great things for Jesus, and they were working tirelessly in their work. However, Paul is telling them that doing great things for Jesus is not enough. They must be united as a team, joined together with one mind, as they served the Lord Jesus.

In the same way we considered Priscilla and Aquila’s “synergy” for Jesus, we must also consider the way brothers and sisters work for Jesus. Way too often we work as individuals doing our own thing, going our own way, focused on our “ministry,” but we are not together in spirit.  As long as I work on my task for the Lord and you work on yours, we do just fine, but what happens when we cross paths? When you and I are working on the same task, then your strong opinions cross my strong opinions, and then what? What happens when you don’t teach a class the way I think you should? What happens when we don’t agree on which Bible curriculum we should use for the kids’ classes? How do we handle our disagreements on how to raise our kids, how to educate and discipline them? We both have ideas for how the classrooms should be decorated and furnished, now what?

When we worked independently and left each other alone, everything was great, right? Wrong! It was not okay, because Christ did not save us and leave us to be individuals operating independently. He placed us within a body, both in a universal and a local sense. All Christians everywhere in the world are part of one body of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:21-22), but Christians are to work together locally with Christians, assembling as one body and one family to worship, to build each other up, to reach out to save souls, etc. Paul tells the local body of believers in Philippi to be of the same mind, just like a body with hands, feet, eyes and ears working for the same purpose (1 Corinthians 12:11-27).  Euodia and Syntyche were not doing that, even though as individuals they were doing good works for the Lord. My brother, Mark, has said that a “pile of body parts doesn’t make a body.”

Paul doesn’t have to correct their servant attitude, he doesn’t have to tell them to get busy for Jesus, but he has to exhort them apparently to stop butting heads, forsake the opinionated junk, and work together for Jesus as a unit. We must be reminded of the words of God through Amos when He asked, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

When you have two very strong people with strong minds and strong wills laboring for God, they sometimes will lock horns because of various differences. As that happens, everyone else is affected because we are a body and family and the true work of God is side-tracked. However, when those strong-minded brothers and sisters put aside their differences and humble themselves and submit their minds to the real work of Christ, it is a powerful and unstoppable force for good. The church at Philippi was doing great things for Jesus and Paul, but they will be even greater when they work as one mind, in harmony of spirit.

More to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Euodia and Syntyche, part 1

This is an article I wrote years ago, and I’m going to divide it up over the next few days for your consideration.

Euodia and Syntyche

Philippians 4:1-4

A long-awaited letter. Picture yourself back in New Testament times when the congregation in Philippi received a letter from the beloved apostle Paul as he sat in a Roman prison. As the congregation assembled together, they are filled with excitement and great anticipation as the letter is read publicly. This is every saint’s first time to hear Paul’s special words from God for them. They did not have a copy machine, so this was the only copy available for the whole church until someone could hand copy the letter. Today we can freely and quickly send information to outer space and back, and we can turn on our smartphones or tablets and have a live video conversation with someone thousands of miles away. We can see them and they can see us in real time. It seems to be no big deal anymore for most in Western Civilization to communicate across the globe; in fact most of us probably take it for granted.

We may not be able to grasp how incredibly valuable this letter from Paul was that traveled by land and sea from Rome to Philippi. They had been waiting for news and encouragement from the man who is responsible for their beginnings in Jesus Christ (see Acts 16).

Philippians 2 indicates that it was Epaphroditus that hand-delivered this letter to the brethren.  He was the messenger that the brethren at Philippi had sent to Paul to bring things to aid Paul with his necessities. We also know from chapter 2 that the brethren heard that Epaphroditus was sick and almost died, and they were greatly concerned about his welfare.  Paul sent this letter in the hands of Epaphroditus as a way to comfort and encourage the brethren even more.

These Christians at Philippi, “from the very first day” of their salvation, supported Paul’s ministry in multiple ways, especially by sending him funds “once and again” as he was in other locations preaching the gospel (Philippians 1:5; 4:16).  They were hard-working, loving, dedicated servants of Jesus. Paul loved them dearly (Philippians 1:3-9).

A letter all about the mindset of Jesus Christ. So now the church is assembled, and the letter is read. Paul’s short letter is jam-packed with teaching and examples concerning having the mindset of Jesus Christ. This letter is all about mindset and it is all about Jesus as the foundation for that mindset. Paul had that mindset (Philippians 1 and 3). Timothy and Epaphroditus had that mindset (Philippians 2). Jesus demonstrated the ultimate example of that mindset by leaving heaven and coming down to die on the cross (chapter 2). Some did not have this mindset and they became enemies of the cross of Christ, and it made Paul weep (chapter 3).

As they near the conclusion of the letter, Paul singled out two women in the church at Philippi for a special exhortation about their own mindset and he also addressed the congregation about their responsibility toward these two sisters.  Let us consider what these sisters heard from Paul as this letter was read in front of the whole congregation.

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:1-4).

Are your ears burning? Can you imagine sitting in the assembly and hearing your name singled out by the apostle Paul in this letter? Even more, can you picture sitting there as Paul in his letter tells you and the other sister to get along in the Lord? How did he know? Would your face turn red? How would you respond to being singled out for this exhortation by God’s apostle?

I’m begging you! Paul used this verb “implore” twice, once for each woman. The word is parakaloo, which means to call near to one’s side; it is also translated “urge”, “plead”, “beseech”, “entreat.” I like the word “beg.” I beg Euodia…I beg Syntyche. Whatever was going on between Euodia and Syntyche is unknown to us, but just like the situations in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11; 11:18) it was a matter that had come to Paul’s attention, and required his Spirit-led input to guide them.

As I teach often, “the issue is never really the issue.” Christians get bent out of shape over something and think that some issue, decision, or course of action is worth the fight.  Because of that determination to win or to prove ourselves justified, we end up severing relationships, hurting feelings and slowing down the work that we should be accomplishing for Jesus. The issue or decision that was supposed to be the thing we were discussing was forgotten long ago, and it becomes about personalities, long-held resentment and bitterness, who is more involved in the church, who has been here longer, who knows more, etc.

Did you notice in the text that Paul never addressed the specific issues between Euodia and Syntyche? He didn’t say, “Euodia, you were right on this topic concerning helping the widows.” Or, “Syntyche, your way of doing things is better suited for teaching the young women than the way sister Euodia really wants to do it.” No, because the issue was not the real problem. What really mattered was that Paul begged them to keep working for the Lord, but to do it joined together in unison.

Part 2 to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Grow in the Grace

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18).

I heard a lesson last week that referred to this passage about growing in grace. The preacher talked about how we do not grow in condemnation and guilt, but we grow in grace. Grace is the fertile soil in which our souls will flourish and grow.

This is just as true for our kids, our spouses, our friends, etc. If we seek the growth of others, we have to remember that people grow in an environment of grace. Many of us, if not all of us, have experienced a relationship based upon guilt, shame and condemnation. Whether that came from a parent, from the pulpit or from people in authority at work or school, that kind of condemnation crippled us and stunted our growth.

If you are walking around afraid to mess up because of how those around you treat you when you fail, then you understand what condemnation and guilt will do for you. The apostle Paul understood the agony of seeking perfection in law-keeping and the guilt and condemnation it brought with it. He cried out, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). That’s how a lot of us walk around, and sadly that’s how a lot of us treat others. Shame. Guilt. Condemnation. Follow the rules…perfectly. Don’t mess up.

Read the next verse, where Paul again cries out, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord!” (Romans 7:25). Also read what Paul wrote just a few verses later, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Does God expect you to grow in fear that if you mess up, He is going to zap you? No, He holds you in His embrace as you grow, as you stumble, as you fall and as you get back up. His assurances and promises are there with you that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). He has begun a good work in you, and He will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6). That is not a shame and guilt-based relationship, that is love, mercy and grace-based relationship.

It would be helpful if we took out a “legal” pad, and write down as many verses as we can find in the Bible about Gods’ love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and longsuffering. Remind yourself that you are in a relationship of grace, security and mercy. You are safe in the arms of Jesus because of His blood. If we are safe in Jesus, then others around us will be treated the same way (Romans 15:7).

Let No One Cause Me Trouble

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
(Galatians 6:14-18)

“From now on let no one cause me trouble…”

Let’s think about what Paul just said to the Galatian Christians and why it was so significant.

I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. What had Paul gone through? I’m not sure when Galatians was written, but I do know that Paul is addressing the new Galatian Christians. We see their conversions in Acts 13-14. And then we see the conflict about circumcision and keeping the Law that arose in Acts 15. This is the foundation for Paul’s letter.

The point in bringing this up is…Paul had to deal with these new Christians who were fighting among themselves. He had to bring them back to the one Gospel. Apparently some were taking some very nasty shots at Paul, and had now become his enemy because he was telling them the truth. So, Paul lovingly deals with them and leads them through all of this, which really would have been unnecessary if they all just focused on the Gospel.

But after all of that, Paul tells them, “From now on let no one cause me trouble,” but why? He said that his body couldn’t handle much more of what they were throwing at him. I want you to take time to look at what Paul went through just in Acts 13 and 14. Please don’t just read the facts, listen and think about what Paul went through physically, spiritually and emotionally. He had been argued with every step of the way. In fact, the heat of persecution must have been pretty intense, because John Mark bailed in chapter 13. Wherever Paul went, envious hypocrites were following him from city to city to oppose him and stir up trouble. People went from worshiping him to trying to murder him. He was stoned almost to the point of death, dragged out of the city and left for dead. Many times Paul didn’t know if he was going to be received well or be beaten and killed. Tons of uncertainty on a daily basis for Paul.

But Paul doesn’t quit, does he? No, he got up, went back into the city after just having been stoned. He continues to preach Jesus. He’s going back through those same cities and encouraging the Christians to keep going. Elders are appointed in each church. I believe when Paul leaves the Galatian region with stable churches with elders that he thinks they are in a good state. We learn from Galatians 1 that Paul was surprised and marveled that they so soon had left from their focus on the one Gospel. After everything that Paul had done for them and went through for them, now he has to deal with all of this fighting and falseness among the Galatians.

Please consider this just as a human being. What had he been through? Was it traumatic what Paul endured in Galatia? Absolutely! He had suffered trauma at every level. When Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” that was no exaggeration. His body was literally broken. I’m sure he was filled with scars all over his body. But those were not the only scars. Friends, we have to understand that what Paul went through did not just affect his body. It was no small thing that he went through. Someone cannot go through what Paul did and it not drastically injure his emotions and brain. Physically, Paul was a broken man. The man needed a break and some rest.

So, how could these brethren help Paul? Leave him alone. Give him a break. Get along. The best thing those Christians could do is to focus on the Gospel and get busy in the kingdom saving souls.

More to come later, Lord willing.

Are You Hungry?

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.
(Proverbs 27:7)

In this proverb, like a lot of the Proverbs, there is a contrast. There is someone who is full. They have stuffed their bodies so full, that even the taste of the sweetest substance on earth is not appealing to them. Then there is the other person who is famished. He is starved. This guy will take anything you give him and he’ll love it. Raw brussel sprouts with lemon peels? Yum, I’ll take it! Do you remember the woman who described herself as a dog who was happy to eat the crumbs from Jesus’ table (Matthew 15:27,28)? That’s the image of a truly hungry person.

So here are two quick observations for today:

  1. The “hungry” people have a different perspective on life. When we are so full in our minds by being consumed with the things of this world, we really have a hard time being grateful. Even the sweetest things in life just don’t bring us pleasure. We can be so full of stress, worry and busy-ness in this world that even a sweet baby playing can be annoying. But then spend time around someone who has faced serious disabilities from birth. I find a lot of those men and women see even the bitter things as sweet. They are so grateful, joyful and have a wonderful perspective on life. It might be good for you and me to spend more time with folks like that. We can learn to develop a “hungry” attitude that appreciates life and any blessing.
  2. The “hungry” people have a different perspective on the Word of God. They will listen to sermons, read the Bible, dive into the difficult stuff. Even the “bitter” things of the word are sweet because they are so hungry for drawing closer to God. The full person can’t even stomach the sweetest things of God. There is just no room in the tank for it. It might be that you have to put aside some of your regular entertainment, and shut off the devices more often. Start “tasting” the word, and with the Holy Spirit’s living power in that word you will develop a hunger (Hebrews 6:4-5; 1 Peter 2:1-3).

“And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!'”
(Luke 15:16-17)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6)