(PODCAST) DAVID’S STORY, ARRESTED FOR EVANGELIZING
SAYING YES WHEN WE SHOULD SAY NO
I guess you are a lot like me in at least one regard, and that is that you know of at least one person who has died within the past two or three years, not from disease, other natural causes, or even suicide, but from overdosing. Perhaps that person was in your immediate family context as it was in mine—hard stuff.
I have talked with various people throughout my workday who have told me their stories of addiction and how terrible it was, especially trying to get clean. The people I had talked with said how the journey down that dark road began with “prescribed” narcotics that were given to them for the pain they were dealing with due to surgery they just experienced.
They told me that the Vicodin or OxyContin worked great for a time, but then the prescription would have to be adjusted to a higher dose to achieve the same effect. Eventually, the doctors would want to stop the narcotic, but these people had now developed an addiction to it, and “quitting” wasn’t as easy a task as it sounded.
So bad became worse. Rather than saying no to what could eventually kill them, the pattern of saying yes had begun. Yes, to some other form of drug that would produce the same effect. Yes, to a behavior that would harm them.
But remember that using narcotics isn’t the only harmful activity or choice that can harm us, even kill us. Alcohol and pornography are up pretty high on the scale as well. Pornography may not kill us like a narcotic might, but it is “certainly lethal in its own way in that it kills relationships and deadens the soul.”
Hold on for a minute, just one minute, lest we begin to think this issue doesn’t relate to us. Sure it does. Our addictions may not be with a prescribed drug or an illegal one. It may not even be alcohol Or pornography, but ALL of us are dealing with some form of addiction: eating issues, social media, your particular brand of soda, coffee, etc. The list can quickly go on, but you get the gist. Like it or not-admit it or not, this problem of saying yes to what can kill you is more far-reaching than we’d like to admit.
“Saying yes to what can kill you” is the title of an article by Ed Welch. In it, he gives three aspects of our humanity that can help us with our addictive tendencies.
To be human is to say NO to temptation
“One of the first questions posed in Scripture is about temptation: When temptations come—and they will—will you trust in the words of the Lord and say no? The Wisdom Literature intends to help us with this question. The relentless message of the book of Proverbs is that our desires are not a reliable judge of which paths lead to life and which paths lead to death. In fact, our desires can suggest life is unexciting and that death can satisfy. Proverbs aims to sharpen our discernment. It helps us to consider the consequences of our decisions. We all need discernment and power to turn from temptations. We all need to see Christ as more beautiful than the beckoning trio of the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
- To be human is to turn to the Lord during suffering
“Temptations are more pronounced when we feel discomfort or pain. The pain is actual physical pain among those who fight against narcotics, yet this is joined by the pain of broken relationships, dashed expectations, and other miseries that create a jumbled mass of hopelessness.”
If you have been a Christian for any time, you have learned, perhaps the hard way, that being a Christian (in Christ) does not mean that you will have fewer struggles, trials, or hardships. We may have more of them because of our relationship with Christ and His kingdom. But, as Christians, we have something the world does not; we have Jesus and the certainty of all His promises for us!
Rather than turn away from Him amid our troubles, we need to be calling out to Him. He is the ONLY one that can manage all our struggles, fears, and despair in ways that will conform us more to His image! We don’t usually fare well when seeking to control them independently.
- To be human is to speak openly with each other about trouble and temptation
We struggle with this one, don’t we? I can write all I want to about it. Your pastor can preach many messages on the importance of it, but still, the thought of others knowing that we aren’t perfect, that we don’t have it all together, is just appalling to us, to our pride.
It’s hard to admit what we truly know about ourselves and everyone else-we are all broken! But God has instructed His people, His church, to be loving, compassionate, Christ-imitating people, which means that we need to open ourselves to God AND others. That truth is central to the scriptures (Romans 3:23, for example).
“We prefer to keep our struggles to ourselves, especially when they are shameful struggles. The kingdom of God, in contrast, invites us to be open before God and others. The challenge is that this is both alluring and impossible: to be known and accepted is peace, but who volunteers to talk about temptations and sins? And what if someone opens up to others and then is met with rebuke and unhelpful judgment?”
That is the challenge we face when being honest about ourselves with others. We need churches with pastoral leadership that understand these biblical teachings and work hard, with much prayer, to build an inviting and loving community of people who understand and care for the brokenhearted.
I hope this makes sense. I trust that if you are dealing with some form of addiction (saying yes to something that can kill you), you will follow God’s prescribed plan for overcoming it. Look to His Word. Call out to Him in prayer. Find a church where you can be open and honest with some mature Christians who understand brokenness and Christ’s compassion for the hurting.
THE NECESSITY OF WALKING BY FAITH AND NOT BY SIGHT
Many of you are aware that at 7waysfromsunday.com, I not only write a blog post each week, but I host the 7waysfromsunday podcast as well. I always end each podcast by saying, “we walk by faith and NOT by sight.” Why do I do that? Because you and I need a reminder that our Father in Heaven is BIGGER than the problems we face! Because amid our despair, we need to hope in God.
Psalm 42 is a beautiful example of this. This Psalm helps us understand that what our minds dwell on affects us spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially. One scripture that clearly illustrates this truth is Proverbs 12:25: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
I want to take us through a brief walk through Psalm 42 because we witness the psalmist, who is in distress, wavering between faith and sight, between a focus on God and a focus on himself. He longs deeply for the living God but is struggling with choosing to trust Him through faith. I think we can relate to him as well as learn from him.
As the Psalm begins, the writer expresses his deep longing (he pants) for God. “My soul pants,” “my soul thirsts for the living God.” He expresses this need while his enemies are taunting him “all day long” (v. 10). He compares this yearning for God to a deer panting for water. “*The animals need for water to sustain its life forms a fitting simile for a souls need of the living God the source of spiritual life.” In his longing, we are reminded of the truth that his soul expresses: Faith says hope!
Such faith and hope are not always easy to hold on to in times of affliction. In verses three and four, he shares how he cries all day long, longing for God’s presence and power to be revealed to his enemies. Constantly, they taunt him, “Where is your God” (v. 3). It appears that at this time, the writer was unable to be at OR worship in the “House of God” (v.4). He laments missing out on the joy and thanksgiving that always accompanied being in the house of God.
We notice that in verses three and four, his sight says despair. This is the first time we witness him wavering from faith to sight. We can relate to his suffering. Which of us has not walked through dark, uncertain, and lonely times without experiencing this tension? How did you handle that pull toward despair?
Thankfully we observe the psalmist returning to faith in verse five! He questions himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” And then, he encourages himself to continue to hope in God. Even though he is troubled, he expresses confidence that he would still be able to trust and hope in God. In verse five, we see again that faith says hope! This example is so essential for us to understand. We, generally, don’t like to examine ourselves. We don’t feel comfortable looking in the mirror because we fear the reflection. But I believe that realizing who we are and where we are spiritually is vital to a consistent walk of faith regardless of what is going on in our lives.
But still, that battle rages on. The pull away from faith to sight. This is what we read in verses six and seven. “O my God, my soul is in despair within me.” The writer is in deep depression. During that “dark night of the soul,” he prayed to God. He portrays his distress figuratively as “breakers and waves” because he feels this trouble has rolled over him like one wave after another. He is expressing how overwhelmed he is. This always happens to us when we take our eyes off our God; our sight says despair.
Yet again, kind of like a teeter-totter, he rises back to faith in verse eight. Notice how confident he sounds, “The Lord will command His loving kindness. . .” He is again optimistic in His love and song that they would comfort and protect him each day and night. We see faith rising to the top again in this verse! Over and over again, two facts stand out in this Psalm: Faith says hope, and sight expresses despair.
But once again, that teeter-totter dips down, and his mind focuses on the things going on around him and the emotions they excite inside him. In verses nine and ten, he expresses his sense of abandonment amid the “oppression “of his enemy. This persecution is very painful to him, “as a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me.” Perhaps the most painful to him is how his enemies constantly taunt him concerning the seemingly absent God this man worships.
This time sight not only says despair, but it also manifests doubt. Doubt in God’s promises. Doubt in His goodness, His power, and His compassion. This is such a dark, fearful, and lonely state of the soul. Is there any way out of this dark pit of despair?
I am so thankful that this Psalm did not end at verse ten. We are blessed to have this Psalm in our Bibles because we need hope to persevere. God, in His wisdom and compassion, included such writings for us because He knows us intimately. He knows we will struggle to hold on to faith and to be steadfast in hope when everything around us argues against it.
This Psalm ends on a powerful note of encouragement! Again we read of the writer’s challenge to his soul. “Why are you in despair, o my soul?” For a second time (v.5), he grabs hold of hope. He resolves to praise God, hopes in God, and have faith in God, no matter the struggle, because he knows that his only hope and help can be found in The living God. Once again, faith says hope! “The help of my countenance.”
Below I have added some scriptures to encourage us to walk by faith and NOT by sight.
Even though we may feel it’s so, He will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews. 13:5; Joshua. 1:5).
His love is an everlasting love (Psalm. 103:17).
He is our strength when we feel exhausted (Psalm . 28:7).
He knows what we are experiencing- “He knows your rising up and sitting down” (Psalm . 139:1–18).
“1As we meditate on the Scriptures, we will discover that hope is built on Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone (Romans. 5:1–5). Psalm 27:13–14 warns that we will despair unless we look for God’s goodness in our life circumstances. While we dwell on God’s goodness, attributes, and promises, He will strengthen, build, and mature us in our faith in Him.
Nothing is permitted in our life without purpose. Therefore, we can trust God’s goodness in all things, even death, because Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection shows us that He is the victory!
Ask God to help you walk by faith, not sight, today.”
For we walk by faith, NOT by sight.
*The Bible Knowledge Community, pg. 825
WHERE IS MY CHURCH FAMILY?
Feeling like you don’t belong.
“*I was just there to be with my friend.
As we grew older, we decided to move on to the youth service. It was during a youth camp that I had a personal encounter with God. A lady came up to me on the last night of camp and prayed for me. As she prayed, I felt God’s presence for the first time. At that moment, I decided to accept Christ. Since then, I have become more involved in serving at church.
Over time, I have experienced much spiritual growth, but there is something I continue to struggle with—feeling like a stranger in a place that was meant to provide a sense of belonging. For years, the feeling of loneliness never went away despite being surrounded by people. Often, I found myself thinking:
“Everyone seems to have a church family. Where is mine?”
Might this scenario describe how you are feeling today? Perhaps you have been attending a local church for a few months or have been a “member” for some time, and every Lord’s day is becoming harder and harder to justify even going through the effort to attend church. After all, “know one would even miss me.”
Most likely the sermons are very good and have played a role in your spiritual growth. The praise songs always seem to lift your heart in praise to God, but outside of those things, you constantly feel like you don’t belong; no one bothers, and no one cares whether you are sitting in your usual pew or not.
Oddly enough, it is the same feeling you experienced when you walked into that church for the first time. A new church, new surroundings, new order of worship, new people. Very intimidating.
In your discouragement, I want to encourage you and lay out some food for thought, if you will, along with some practical counsel to help you as you move forward. Sadly, you are not alone. Sometimes, I don’t feel “connected” at church either. Throughout the broad spectrum that we call the “church,” untold people are going through the same struggle as you are, so no, what you are experiencing is not abnormal, and neither are you!
That said, we need to recognize both sides of the coin, so to speak, and then be honest with ourselves regarding which side of that coin our situation fits into. So, let’s begin by focusing on why people don’t feel a sense of belonging in their local churches.
1. An unfriendly church
2. An unfriendly church attender
I know, it seems too simple, doesn’t it? But as we move forward you will quickly learn that there are many subgroups under each heading. Let s focus on the unfriendly church for now.
Some churches are just not friendly. Let’s be honest about that fact. I experienced some myself when looking for a new church home. I have been pulpit supply for one or two unfriendly churches over the years of my ministry. The church where no one engages you unless seemingly pressed to do so. When you finally work through the awkwardness of finding a place to sit, someone from the church tells you that you are in “their” seat. Even so, you put on a smile each Sunday and try to engage some people there. Time passes, perhaps a year, and not one friendship has been developed! A place where the overall environment is just not very welcoming to new people.
That’s one scenario, and the issues within that church body and leadership need to be acknowledged and dealt with prayerfully. But what about the type of church that is welcoming to you on your first weeks there? Greeters greet you at the door, and you are often engaged in superficial conversations as you enter and leave church each week. The environment seems friendly enough. The worship time is edifying, and the preaching is convicting and equipping. Yet, you do not “feel” a connection like you think you should. Relationships never seem to move beyond the superficial type, and the church “doesn’t even call or send me a ‘miss you’ note when I’m not there.” Could the problem possibly be with US more so than the church sometimes?
That leads us to the other side of the proverbial coin. What if our attitude is the problem? What if our “preconceived notions” about how the church ought to feel to us are getting in the way of actually experiencing the koinonia (the fellowship) we so desire?
The first simple fact we must consider is, what if the disconnect we feel, the problem we face, isn’t the church ministry or the people? What if it is the consequence of our selfishness and a persona of “isolation” that we exude from ourselves each Sunday? We must be honest with ourselves if we hope to continue experiencing the joy and fellowship we desire within our local churches.
I have known many “church people” like that. They would come in a bit late each Sunday and, therefore, not have any communication with others. They would sit down and go through the service but then get up and leave early (during the last hymn) before anyone could speak with them.
The Lord created us for community. The opportunity was there for them, but willingly or not, they seemed to isolate themselves from others. Yet, these same people would eventually leave the church without talking with the pastor or elders and tell others how unwelcoming or unloving that church was.
So, what are my words of counsel to anyone struggling with this issue? Below is some biblical guidance that I believe may be helpful:
- 1. Seriously consider why you feel like an outsider.
Honestly, there are many reasons that any one of us could feel this way. There could be one or two bad church experiences in your past that have gone unaddressed, and possibly the offenses you experienced have created a pessimistic or bitter spirit within your heart. Maybe you are experiencing some complicated and challenging life experience, and just getting by daily is trying enough, and that might make it even harder for you to feel like you’re a part of anything.
So, first, Make an intentional effort to recognize if a work of grace needs to be accomplished in your heart that will enable you to move forward with joy. Prayerfully lay out your plea to the Lord. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
2. Associate (be present)
Make every effort to be at church each Sunday. Regular attendance helps us feel more comfortable around people and them with us, opening doors for communication to happen! Just like anything else, the constant repetition of something makes it easier and more comfortable for us.
“Healthy and growing churches pay close attention to the people they count as members, as well as those who are not yet a part of the flock. These churches do not want to impair or cut off the flow of new people to the church.” New people are the “lifeblood” of a church and ensure its existence in the future.
But ironically, even though churches claim to be “friendly” on their signs or radio spots, many prove otherwise. The truth is that many church members are friendly to the people they already know but not to guests, so be prepared to make a conscious effort at consistent communication with others; eventually, the awkwardness fades, the walls come down, and friendships are established (Hebrews 10:24-25; Philippians 2:1-11).
- 3. Participate (be involved)
This point is vitally important for anyone wanting the sense of community the church should foster. Serve the church body! Ask the church deacons or elders what you can do to serve in the church, even while contemplating whether you will make this place your church home. The quickest way to “break the ice” and establish new and long-lasting relationships within the local church context is to serve alongside others.
Become a greeter, help serve meals to widows, help set up for VBS, and participate in VBS. Actively seek ways to serve Christ by serving your church, and you will find that the sense of isolation you are experiencing will fade away and be replaced with sweet fellowship (1 Peter 4:10-11; Mark 10:45).
- 4. Communicate (be vocal)
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). I mentioned earlier in this post about the sad reality of some people who don’t engage people at church and yet judge others for not engaging them. I remember the adage: “if you want to have friends, be friendly.”
If some people do not engage you, engage them. Be kind and gracious to others, and you might find out that they will be the same towards you (Proverbs 16:24). But remember that the church is a hospital for the broken and wounded, for sinners like you and me. Some people may not respond positively to you. First, that’s ok; that’s where grace comes in! “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
5. One more possibility needs to be contemplated: Does God want to place you somewhere else? This may be the hardest of all those mentioned to determine. This church may not feel right to you because God doesn’t want it to. Be honest with yourself and God, and double-check your motives for wanting to leave so you do not deceive yourself into thinking that you are doing the right thing when you aren’t.
Talk to the pastor; with other spiritually mature believers about what’s happening. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings. And if they prayerfully come to the same conclusion, leave with Grace and don’t burn any bridges.
“If you are struggling to belong in your church, the fact is, you already belong because of your identity in Christ. Being in church is not about being in your comfort zone, and sometimes disappointments with one another is inevitable. But it is also through these processes that we learn to love, forgive and build up each other, just as Christ did for us.”
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP, IS IT MORE THAN A FORMALITY?
I have been a member of various churches over the years and am currently one now! Sadly, most of the churches I was a part of over the years didn’t do very well at teaching the members of those churches how important being a “good” church member was.
Sure, they occasionally taught about the value of church membership, i.e., community, accountability, sacraments, and voting rights, but not so much how to be a faithful, engaged church member.
I feel cheated. Cheated out of so many years in which I could have prospered in my walk of faith personally as a member, I also feel a sense of loss for the opportunities I might have had to bless other members in fulfilling my proper role as a member.
I am not sure what your experience may have been like. Perhaps you are on the other side of the spectrum and have benefited from sound teaching on church membership. Maybe you have had good and faithful role models in your church that were outstanding examples of effective church membership. I hope so.
That is my motivation for this post. I want to discuss with you, the reader, what good and healthy church membership looks like in the life of a believer.
I will not be exhaustive on the topic; you’re welcome. But I hope what I share with you will be instructive and encouraging. I pray that we will take these truths to heart and prayer so that we will grow in this area of our Christian walk.
The first and most important aspect of being a good and flourishing church member is SALVATION!
Redemption creates a distinction between God’s people and not God’s people. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am NOT saying the church, any church, can save you. Only repentant faith alone in Christ alone can redeem a person from the depth of their iniquity.
What I am saying, however, is that the church was instituted for God’s people, redeemed people who have been justified by the blood of their Savior Jesus Christ.
It is not the gathering of the unredeemed but THE redeemed! The local church is the place where other redeemed sinners gather to worship, pray, participate in its sacraments (baptism and communion), and serve one another. It is where they are edified and equipped for their work of service to the Lord throughout the week.
So, for a Christian to become a member of a local church body, it should be observed is not a decision that he/she should take lightly.
“Church membership is about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church. It’s about “putting on,” “embodying,” “living out,” and “making concrete” our membership in Christ’s universal body. In some ways, the union which constitutes a local church and its members is like the “I do” of a marriage ceremony, which is why some refer to church membership as a “covenant” (9 marks).
So before we say “I do,” we must ensure we have the gospel right.
You and I live in a world God created (Genesis1-2). As such, He deserves and is worthy of glory and honor (Revelation 4:11). He made human beings in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27, 21-25) and put them in charge to be fruitful and multiply the earth and subdue it, they were created to live and rule the creators’ world under His loving authority. As the creator of mankind and all that mankind enjoys, He is the supreme authority over all His creation.
But sadly, Adam and Eve fell into sin. Eve bought into the lie of Satan and ate of the tree in the garden and then gave it to her husband, who did the same (Genesis 3:1-7). Now the sad testimony, ever since, is the fact that through our first parent’s sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). In rejecting God, Adam, and Eve made a mess of their lives (Genesis 3-4), and the lives of all those who follow after them. They rejected the loving creators’ authority and instituted one of their own. Sadly, we are all like this too. We all rebel against our loving creator and seek to do what we desire, not what He desires. And as a result, we make a terrible mess of our lives.
Even though we rebelled against Him and have sought our own way, not His, He is gracious towards us in that He will not let us rebel forever. God, our creator, will give us all justice, what each of us deserves. God takes our rebellion against Him seriously. He is not indifferent to the way we treat Him. It would be horrifying to fall under the sentence of God’s judgment. This reality all of us as sinners will face (Hebrews 9:27).
Because God so loved us and was not willing that any should perish (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:8-10), He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to pay the debt we owe; the righteous for the unrighteousness, the innocent for the guilty (1 Peter 3:18). He became our substitute, died in our place thereby taking on our punishment and purchasing our forgiveness with the Father, our creator (Philippians 1:5-11).
But the story does not end there. Jesus rose to life again, conquering death, and because He lives, we too will live, with Him, forever, our Savior (John 20-21; 1 Peter 1:3)! God accepted Jesus’ death as the total payment for our sins, and He is now seated by His right hand in power (Hebrews 12:2; Romans 8:34). So, now because of Jesus, we can have peace with God (Romans 5:1)!
Take Him at His word, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord, will be saved (Romans 10:13)!” Talk with Him. Acknowledge your guilt and ask for forgiveness.
This is the essential aspect of being a healthy church member. With this as our foundation, what should we consider next?
The second aspect of being a flourishing church member is YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH.
Really? Why does it matter whether or not I’m growing spiritually? It matters a lot. You are not the lone ranger church; you are involved with a group of people that make up your local church.
As the wedding analogy mentioned earlier, you have become one within your church body. The well-being of the church begins with each member.
Guard your heart against pride – this sinful pleasure will lead a person away from humility before the Lord and others. Pride stifles our ability to truly comprehend greater biblical truth while hindering us in our service to the church body. It gives us a false assurance that we “know” what we need to know while falsely judging others around us.
Apathy- “Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God.”
Guarding against apathy is vitally important. Such indifference will draw us away from faithful attendance. It will pull us away from acts of service to others within the church. But if we find such a coldness within our hearts, overcoming apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God.
Unconfessed sin- Proverbs 28:13
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
“We are called to live by the standard of Scriptures, walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). With the presence of the Spirit, we experience conviction when we sin overtly and neglect our duty. Often we are convicted for our attitudes and thoughts.
Sin always leads to pollution, disintegration, and perversion; worse, it hinders our fellowship with God. While we are disappointed and hurt when believers sin, we should not be surprised that it occurs. The Christian life is a struggle against the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the forces of Satan. We are all familiar with the internal war we feel as we seek to live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:13-21).
In short, the remedy is confession (1 John 1:9- Erwin Lutzer)
We may be tempted to hide our sins. Sometimes, we secretly hold onto a particular form of sin that we enjoy. “If we choose to remain in our sin, then we choose the consequences that go with that choice. Broken fellowship and lack of growth result. However, those who persist in sin need to reexamine their true relationship with God (2 Corinthiansofpture is clear that those who know God do not continue a lifestyle of unrepentant sin (1 John 2:3–6; 3:7–10). A desire for holiness is a hallmark of those who know God. To know God is to love Him (Matthew 22:37–38). To love Him is to desire to please Him (John 14:15). Unconfessed sin gets in the way of pleasing Him, so a true child of God wants to confess it, change it, and restore fellowship with God” (got questions.com).
Short, honest accounting with our Lord regarding our sins will be a blessing for us personally in our relationship with Him and our relationships with others!
A third aspect of being a flourishing church member is YOUR PRAYER LIFE
Our prayers shouldn’t be an afterthought, a last resort when nothing else has worked. Prayer should be our default mode, our day’s most crucial and sought-after conversations.
Prayer is how we converse with God and how our relationship with Him blossoms. Through prayer, our heavenly Father works in our hearts and lives, aligning them with His will.
Prayer strengthens us against temptation. Matthew 26:41
41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Our praying is being obedient to God.
18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Praying is the pathway to godly wisdom
“James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. Through prayer, we access God’s wisdom, which is unlike that of the world. It comes to us through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13).” Internet
In the local church, we are allowed to be obedient to the Lord in this way corporately! Praying together encourages other believers, comforts them, and plays a part in strengthening them thru their struggles.
For you and I to have a steady walk with the Lord; for the local church that you are a member of to flourish and be helpful in gospel ministry, it has to be a praying church. Prayer not only changes things, it is the main thing!
I hope these words will be found to be beneficial in your Christian life, especially regarding your life in the local church in which you are a member.
Much more could be added, but I leave that precious time to study for you. What may be some things that you have found necessary for a Christian’s life regarding their flourishing in the local church?
FEARING WORKPLACE EVANGELISM
We are all familiar with the scripture from Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd (wise) as serpents and innocent (blameless) as doves.” Luke expresses that same sentiment differently (Luke 10:3). Yet, that’s the beauty and power of the Word of God. The same counsel given to the disciples when Jesus sent them out to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” applies to us today as we go into our places of work as Christians. We need wisdom and innocence as we traverse the muddied terrain of workplace protocol!
We want to be faithful witnesses for our King, King Jesus, but it appears to be more complicated these days, right? After all, Human Resources (HR) seems to be systematically changing the rules we must follow regarding our interactions with customers, management, and other employees. Many laws are changing and becoming more “inclusive.” The woke culture has erupted onto the scene infiltrating every aspect of our society; its tentacles are far-reaching and relentless.
Scary stuff, right? Has our current climate hindered or perhaps even stifled your witness for Christ in the workplace? Your workplace? Are you confused about how to effectively evangelize your co-workers without being fired or, worse, thrown in prison?
“*The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) requires believers to spread the Gospel to the four corners of the Earth. We spend 8-10 hours a day at work, potentially eight hours or so sleeping, with the remaining eight hours divided between family, church, and other responsibilities. We are at our jobs 40-50 hours a week, that makes it our biggest ministry field for evangelism! Increasingly, people are realizing that this means that we are to be witnesses in our places of work.”
Even so, many Christians fear speaking about their faith at work. The fear of being ridiculed, scoffed at, ignored, or even disciplined or fired are powerful harbingers that tend to keep them silent among their peers.
The inescapable reality, however, is that “there will always be opposition to the spreading of the Gospel. Some in our society want religious people to keep their convictions to themselves and leave their religion at home. The law, however, does not require that religious employees and employers check their religion at the office door or the factory gate when they come to work.”
“Federal and State laws protect the religious freedoms of employees and employers. Employers can run their business in conformance with godly principles and employees cannot be forced to act in a manner that conflicts with their religious beliefs. For instance, Christian employers may hold and participate in voluntary chapel services and prayer meetings for employees, and employees can share their faith with co-workers during breaks or free time so long as it is not disruptive. In short, there is no law requiring the workplace to be a religion-free zone.”
That’s a breath of fresh air! You and I are not breaking any laws when we live out and share our faith in Jesus Christ while working. We are in full-time Christian ministry, no matter where we are or what our occupation is. As ambassadors for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we must be faithful messengers representing the King of heaven with the Gospel.
With all that being said, that nowhere implies that it will always be easy or without consequences. So, what principles can we apply here that will help us act with wisdom as we not only live out our faith but vocalize as well in the workplace?
As with building any solid, long-lasting structure, I guess you always begin with the foundation. The foundation holds everything that comes after it. Our foundation for workplace evangelism starts with our integrity as redeemed children of God.
“1 When you live out your faith, your life becomes convicting to those around you. Your words and actions can cause a non-Christian to ask, “I wonder what makes him behave the way he does. I’m impressed.”
Your witness at work includes anything, and everything people may observe about you — the integrity you exhibit by the promises you make and keep, the way you treat people you dislike or dislike you, and even the patience you show at meetings or during times of stress.
You don’t come to work at 8:15 if you’re supposed to be there at 8. You work just as hard five minutes before it is time to leave as you did in the middle of the morning. Your performance is the same when your employer’s back is turned as when he or she is facing you.
Here are some questions for reflection about your witness at work:
Are you a good worker? Your employer is God above, not a boss below. You should live and work each day with the knowledge that you are accountable to Him. This includes how you spend your time at work, even in evangelism. You are paid by your employer to work, not to witness. After-hours or break times can be great opportunities, but you need to be careful not to steal time from your employer.
Do you act and react with self-control? You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. The way you react to countless stresses and conflicts in the workplace is evident every day — in conferences, lunchroom conversations, client negotiations, budget planning, service calls and sales meetings and on the factory line. Your reactions catch people’s attention.
Do you tell the truth? Truth needs to be seen in sales reports, endorsements, expense reports, budget analyses, client negotiations and the way you repeat what others say. And not only do you need to speak the truth, your motives should be sincere.”
Without this solid foundation godly integrity, most, if not any co-workers will listen to you sincerely when you talk to them about the difference Christ makes in peoples lives!
Another principle to consider is what I underlined above: You are paid by your employer to work, not to witness. After-hours or break times can be great opportunities, but you need to be careful not to steal time from your employer. Please take all the opportunities you have during break or lunch, but recognize they will always be short-lived. Ten-minute breaks and thirty-minute lunches do not allow us much time to converse seriously with our co-workers.
Recognize that while your workplace produces some opportunities to share your faith, it comes with many limitations. My suggestion, although not original with myself, would be to consider fostering relationships with your peers outside the work environment. Invite them over for dinner. Go out for coffee or breakfast together, etc. In these venues, you will have more time to talk. During these times, you are outside the workplace environment and not under those rules of engagement; you are on your own personal time!
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Romans 10:15). This is not about our feet, dear Christian, but the message those feet deliver!
*ACLJ website, Christian Rights In The Workplace
1 Beliefnet, Witness in the Workplace
THE PRAXIS OF THEOLOGY
One of the first things you will notice on my blog site is the 7waysfromsunday logo. Directly underneath those seven fingers are these words: “Where theology instructs our daily walk.” Those words are at the very top of the page because they define the purpose of this website. That purpose is to take the “knowledge” of God gleaned from His holy Word and rightly apply it to our everyday lives.
That is the “praxis” you read in the title of this post. Praxis is the practical application of learned theology. “*The overall importance of Practical Theology is that the study of Christian beliefs as found in Scripture involves more than merely knowing what the Bible teaches but also how its teachings apply to life’s situations.”
This particular sphere of theology is most noticeable in the arenas of pastoral ministry, biblical counseling, and Christian education, to name a few. As well as blog sites, podcasts (like this one), and parachurch ministries that are constantly and purposely seeking to help the body of Christ (the church) actively live out in their lives and areas of influence the knowledge they have gained by studying the Word of God.
So then, my aim in all I do, whether written or in audio format, is to take what we learn in scripture from other areas of theology, such as Biblical theology, Historical theology, and Systematic Theology, and bring all of that down to a place that focuses on the everyday or modern day implications of Christian theological beliefs because theology is the application of theological truth to all of life, particularly the life and work of the church.
So how does that work? The answer to that question involves some level of understanding of the various aspects of theology. First, Biblical theology focuses on knowledge about God that is relayed to us in the Bible. Its focus begins by looking at scripture book by book. To say it another way, to gain a biblical theology, one has to study each particular book in the Bible carefully to learn its place in the unfolding process of redemption. We want to take careful notice of various distinctions that are present (Israel and the church), different vocabulary usage (John contrasted to Matthew), and the different genres (poetical, prophetical, historical, etc.) and so much more. All of these are interwoven, so by asking various questions relating to all these things, we can connect the dots, if you will, and form a cohesive biblical theology.
But along the way, we realize this book has many themes that run from cover to cover. Those need to be tracked and understood in light of the whole trajectory of the Bible. By doing this, we can see “1the wisdom of God in unfolding Scripture in these ways, and we sometimes, as we see these themes unpacked before our eyes, bow in worship as we begin to glimpse something of the mind of God in putting these stories together when individual writers along the line themselves could not see all that they were contributing to, even if they could see the current bit where God was using their words to speak with infallible truth.”
Second, Historical theology is the study of Christian history, the development of Christian doctrine, and looking at how Christians throughout history have understood and applied various biblical truths to their lives, such as the nature of God, the nature of man, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, government, and much much more.
Third, Systematic Theology takes all the parts (Christology, Pneumatology, Anthropology, hamartiology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Angelology, and Eschatology) and “systematizes” them. In other words, rather than studying each part (as referenced above), systematic theology focuses on bringing all the biblical teachings mentioned above into a self-consistent, coherent whole. This “bringing together” is not haphazard. Instead, it provides order and defense of these truths in a systematic, understandable way.
So what practical theology does is take all that was learned from the various elements above and exegete the theological significance of how we live our lives today in light of these truths.
These truths apply to every sphere of our existence. Our personal lives, relationships in and out of the church, work, and our relationship with government, employers, and other authority figures. Our view of life and death, the world and everything in it. They guide our thoughts and help form our opinions. They give us an understanding of the God who created and redeemed us so that we can walk in a manner worthy of Him. And so much more!
That is the praxis of 7waysfromsunday!
ACCUSATIONS AND DENIALS
The time in the garden has ended. Jesus’ petitions to the Father are complete. Betrayed by a kiss from one of His own, the violent crowd seizes Him and takes Him to the high priest. How crazy is all of this? Conflicted with thoughts and overwhelming emotions, the disciples fled the scene. Christ is taken to the first of two trials that He will face. The first is before the religious leaders; the second is before the political authorities. That is where we begin our study today as Christ is taken to stand before the high priest.
53 “They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes *gathered together. 54 And Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the [a]officers and warming himself at the [b]fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the entire [c] Council were trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many people were giving false testimony against Him, and so their testimonies were not consistent. 57 And then some stood up and began giving false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this [d]temple that was made by hands, and in three days I will build another, made without hands.'” 59 And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.”
FOCUS ONE: THE ACCUSERS
I want to zoom in on the two groups present at this mock trial: the high priest and all the chief priests, elders, and scribes (The religious authorities) and the false witnesses they brought to testify against Him.
The Council against Him gathers, which appears to have included the seventy-one members of the Sanhedrin. The religious trial, as well as the civil one, involved three stages. The religious trial we are discussing now began with the preliminary hearing before Annas (only reported in John 18:12-14, 19,23); the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin; and the trial before the same group just before daybreak (Mark 15:1).
Their sole purpose in holding this hasty trial was to obtain false testimony against Jesus to kill Him (v.55). The unexpected problem they faced was that the false witness’s testimonies were inconsistent (v. 56). That created a serious issue for these leaders. “*According to the law (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15), it was necessary in cases that required the death penalty to have two witnesses.” But these witnesses were inconsistent and thereby frustrated their malicious intent.
Eventually, a misunderstood claim of Jesus relating to “this temple” and “building another in three days without hands,” surfaced, and from this came a formal charge against Him. But in that particular instance, Jesus was not referring to the physical temple but to His body (John 2:19-23). That statement that the disciples remembered after He was raised from the dead caused them to believe Him! But, so disjointed were these testimonies that even they were not consistent! This leads the high priest to question Jesus directly.
60 And then the high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not offer any answer for what these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not offer any answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and *said to Him, “Are You the [e]Christ, the Son of [f]the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest *said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him as deserving of death. 65 And some began to spit on Him, and [g]to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists and say to Him, “Prophesy!” Then the officers took custody of Him [h]and slapped Him in the face.”
Based on the verses above, the situation had become very intense. When it became evident to Caiaphas that the false testimony of the witnesses failed to bring about any useful charges against Jesus, He interjected himself into the hearing. “Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?” What was Jesus’ response to this? “But He kept silent and did not answer” (v. 61).
What an unusual response, at least to us. You and I would feel pressure to say anything to vindicate ourselves. We might argue our innocence or scream accusations back at those accusing us. But our Lord did not respond that way. He gave no reply!
We might be able to say that He “pled the fifth!” that means that a person exercises his 5th Amendment right by refusing to answer a question, especially in a criminal trial, because you might incriminate yourself. I know this is America and not Jerusalem, but it does appear to me that this was His reasoning at the time. “*Caiaphas apparently wanted Jesus to respond to the charge made against Him in the hope of provoking an incriminating answer.”
“How do you respond when you are wrongly accused? We all have the identical natural response. We become extremely defensive; we seek to justify ourselves; we might lash back and attack our attackers; we marshal all the evidence that could possibly support our claims. But Jesus responded differently. He endured more intense injustice than we could ever imagine. But He never lost His poise. And He never lost His compassion” (Paul Apple).
There were several illegalities involved in these trials from the perspective of Jewish law:
No trial was to be held during feast time.
Each court member was to vote individually to convict or acquit, but Jesus was convicted by acclamation.
If the death penalty was given, a night must pass before the sentence was carried out; however, only a few hours passed before Jesus was placed on the Cross.
The Jews had no authority to execute anyone.
No trial was to be held at night, but this trial was held before dawn.
The accused was to be given counsel or representation, but Jesus had none.
The accused was not to be asked self-incriminating questions, but Jesus was asked if He was the Christ.
With no response from Jesus, the high priest again engages Him with another question (v. 61). 1 “‘The Blessed’ is a reverential circumlocution to avoid the pronunciation of the name of God and stands in opposition to the title ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah.’ ‘Son of God’ was understood by the Jews of Jesus’ time solely in a messianic sense; and since the Messiah in Jewish expectations was to be a man, the question of the high priest was about Jesus’ claim to messiahship and had nothing to do with deity.”
The high priest may have thought that since no useful accusation has come out against Jesus through the false witnesses, perhaps His testimony would condemn Him! This time Jesus answers the high priest, “I am.” With that short but direct reply, Jesus brings together Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1, Old Testament scriptures that speak of the Messiah and His “eschatological coming!”
This question from the high priest proved to be “a stroke of genius.” Christ’s answer leads the high priest to tear his clothes, and quite possibly out of relief that they finally have evidence (supposed) against Him, He asks, “what further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?
The gathered crowd responded by “condemning Him to death” (v. 64). And with that, it appears that they let out all their pent-up frustrations and hatred on Jesus (v. 65).
66 “And while Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the slave women of the high priest *came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and *said, “You were with Jesus the Nazarene as well.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the [a]porch.[b] 69 The slave woman saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them!” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “You really are one of them, for you are a Galilean as well.” 71 But he began to [c]curse himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak!” 72 And immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And [d]he hurried on and began to weep.”
FOCUS TWO: PETER’S DENIAL
We read back in verse fifty-four that Peter follows the crowd at a distance right into the high priest’s courtyard (v. 54). That is either very courageous or very stupid of Peter. Remember that he just used his sword against the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear (v. 47)! But here he is, “warming himself by the fire with the officers.”
“And he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire – Jerusalem is elevated about 2500 feet above sea level and it can become cold at night in the spring. Sitting with the officers was a daring ploy in a dangerous place as he would soon discover. These officers would not have been Roman soldiers but were the “Temple police” under Jewish jurisdiction. At the fire is literally “toward the light” (fire is the word phos = light) or facing the fire. This small detail means that even though it was dark, his face would be well illuminated which would lead to discovery of his identity described in Mark 14:67. Not smart Peter! But Jesus had given the prophecy and God took care of the details.”
“As Peter was below in the courtyard” signifies that the apartments around it were higher than the courtyard. As he stands there, a servant-girl recognizes him. So much for stealth! Some think that she might have been the same gatekeeper (John 18:15,16) who admitted Peter and was suspicious of him and so followed him to get a closer look.
What begins to unfold now is the very thing Jesus predicted would happen with Peter-he would deny Him. We see in these scriptures just how that unfolds:
Peter was questioned by servant-girl /1st denial (vv.66-68).
Peter questioned again on “porch”/2nd denial (v.69).
Peter was accused by bystanders/3rd denial (vv. 70-71).
The rooster crows a second time! (V. 72).
As bad as all this is, Peter’s response to what he had just done should stand out to us among all the horror of the events taking place.
- 1. He remembered how Jesus told him that he would deny Him three times.
- 2. He began to weep
In contrast to Judas Iscariot, who only felt “remorse” for what he had done and ultimately hung himself, Peter was deeply sorrowful over what he had just done and immediately evidenced a repentant heart!
Is there any application for us regarding Peter’s denial?
“*The importance and relevance of Peter’s denial for the church to which Mark writes is obvious. To a church under severe pressure of persecution it provided a warning. If denial of Jesus Christ was possible for an apostle, and one of the leaders of the apostles at that, then they must be constantly on guard lest they too deny Jesus.”
But it also assures us.
“If anyone did fail Jesus under duress of persecution, there was always a way open for repentance, forgiveness, and restoration” (Mark 16:7; John 21:15-19).
*The expositor’s Bible Commentary
1 William L. Lane, the gospel according to Mark