The Culture of Jesus – It Matters

Culture. You hear this term a lot, especially lately. The culture of a country, a police department, a business, a church, a family, a sports team, etc.

I understand this term to mean the collective mindset, personality and approach of a particular group.

Here’s a great quote I found about church culture:

Culture is the most crucial component of the church. If a good steak is the vision, then the plate on which it is served is the culture. If the plate is dirty then the steak (vision) is devalued. From churchexecutive.com

Culture matters. Mindset matters. The approach a group takes to handling a problem matters. This is not just a buzz phrase found on the news cycle or in a business manual. Look in the Scripture to see how Jesus or Paul addressed the collective mindset of a congregation.

Culture matters to Jesus. Did the collective mindset and approach of a group matter to God? Look at Revelation 2-3. What was the general mindset in Ephesus? A lack of love. How about Laodicea? Arrogance, materialism and self-sufficiency. You can see how Paul spoke to churches at Corinth, Philippi and Thessalonica about the culture and personality of each congregation.

The mindset of an individual is important, but so is the group mindset. An individual can pile up good works, but lack love, so it profits nothing (1 Corinthians 13). A church can also pile up good works, like Ephesus, but not have the love as they should, and Jesus will not be among them (Revelation 2:5).

Culture matters to Jesus. How we think and approach things as a group is very important to Jesus.

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.

One Body

Today, I would like to give some ideas and verses about our place in the Body of Christ and invite you to pray and meditate on how your role as a leader and servant within the roles you are given.

A body is a living organism and is made up of many parts.  This is true of the Church.  We are the body of Christ on earth:

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:22-23)

Christ is the head of the body.  “…He is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18)

There is one body.  “…you were called in one body…” (Colossians 3:15)

This one body is composed of many members.  “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30)

The people of God are individually members of one another.  “…for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25)

As you consider this, I invite you to read John 15 and consider the imagery Jesus gives us of the Living Vine, the Good Gardner, and the branches.  The imagery is very similar and as where with the Vine the braches (that’s us) are to abide…what are we to do in the Body?

Hold fast to the Head!  “…holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments…” (Colossians 2:18).  Therefore, let our prayer be “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and build up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Be Holy!  “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…For God did not call us to uncleanness but in holiness…”  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).  Therefore let our prayer be that God would help us to “…cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”    (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Grow!  “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”  (Ephesians 4:15-16).  Therefore, let our prayer be that God help us to “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  (2 Peter 3:18)

My hope is you will join me today in reading, thinking about, and praying about the Body of Christ, what it is, what our role is and how we might grow so that the whole Body benefits.