What’s Behind A Church’s ♥able Reputation?

Last week I said if people are going to say “I ♥ That Church!” it has to be a ♥able church. A ♥able church has a ♥able reputation that compromises what Luke captured about the very first Church—internal unity, sincere piety, supernatural results, and practical help.

Once a church has this kind of reputation, how is it sustained? 

First, let me tell you how it’s NOT sustained: A church’s ♥able reputation isn’t sustained by that church focusing on it’s ♥able reputation. 

A ♥able reputation must flow from the constant development of godly character. Otherwise, we substitute what sounds good with what is actually sound, and we substitute what looks good with what is actually good. 

That’s what the Pharisees did—they were more concerned about how their religion looked to others, and not how it aligned with God’s heart. In fact, Jesus told two stories about people that thought they were “in” with God because of their reputation, but God actually says to them, “I don’t know who you are” (see Matthew 7:21-23; 25:1-12). 

Matthew Henry reminded us, “Men may go to hell with a good reputation!” 

But D.L. Moody got the order right when he said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”

I believe the first Church shows us three components of a maturing godly character. 

  1. Our source must be pure. The Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. In other words, they grew with sound doctrine, not with things that sounded like doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3; Acts 17:11). 
  1. Our daily disciplines must be productive. The Christians saw “church” as an every day thing. They didn’t view studying the Scriptures, prayer, fellowship, and other maturing activities a merely something to be checked off their To Do list. 
  1. Our accountability must be in our fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship (koinonia) means an active involvement with the “one anothers” in the Church. What’s especially important is maintaining the highest levels of accountability with each other so that the growth of godly character can continue (see especially Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16). 

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, everything is lost.” —Billy Graham 

My church’s ♥able reputation will be sustained as I am committed to growing in godly character. 

So… are you committed to that continual growth? 

Alien Friendships

As Peter wraps up his letter, he reminds us of his purpose in writing to us aliens and strangers

    • encouraging you = speaking encouraging words to your heart.  
    • testifying that this is the truth = speaking thoughtful words to your head. 

But Peter also says that he wrote this letter “with the help of Silas”—some translations even say “by Silas”—indicating that Peter needed someone to come alongside him with words of encouragement and strength, as much as he needed to deliver those words to fellow Christians. 

Peter mentions three people that were alongside him. These folks are instructive for us too:

  1. Silas 

Peter called Silas a faithful brother. The Greek word he uses for brother is adelphos, a word which usually meant someone who shared the same parents. But Peter modifies this to mean a Christian brother whose heartbeat with the love of Jesus the way his did; someone who shared the same Heavenly Father.  

Silas was a recognized church leader and a companion of Paul (Act 15:22, 30-32, 40). He had quite an extensive and impressive resume, and he also had the full endorsement for such notable people as James, Paul, and Peter. 

  1. She who is in Babylon

Babylon is a code word almost universally agreed to be Rome, but there is some debate as to whom the “she” is. Some think this is the church-in-exile in Rome, and some think this is Peter’s wife (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). 

Whether the church or Peter’s wife, they/she are anonymous servants of God, but never for a moment forgotten by God, nor is their reward going to be lacking (Matthew 6:1, 4). 

  1. Mark

Peter calls Mark my son. Again, he takes a word that originally meant “my offspring” and changes it to mean Mark was his protegé. 

Mark had traveled with Paul, then left Paul mid-journey, and was eventually reconciled to Paul (Acts 13:5, 13; 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). 

Mark listened to and recorded Peter’s accounts of Christ’s earthly ministry and wrote the first Gospel that was produced. His Gospel became one of the main reference documents that Matthew and Luke referred to in writing their Gospels. 

Here’s the point—There are no dispensable people in the Church! 

You may be like Silas with many talents and an impressive resume and references. Or you may be like the “she” who is an anonymous helper to others. Or you may even by like Mark who made mistakes but was given a second chance to make good on your commitment. 

You need a Silas, a she, and a Mark in your life. And you just may need to be one of those to someone else. 

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.” —Andrew Murray 

So let me ask you to consider something vital: Are you remaining faithful to your Christian family? 

Battle Ready

The Bible says that satan prowls around like a lion, looking for an opening to devour Christians. Are you battle ready? The Apostle Peter gives us all of the battle preparation that we will need to be victorious!

One of the most important things we need to do is prepare ourselves before the battle even begins. Peter lists two key components: (1) self-control and (2) alertness (1 Peter 5:8-11). 

This Greek word for self-control is only used six times in all of the New Testament. Peter uses it three times in his first epistle, and the Apostle Paul also uses the word three times. It’s amazing to see the similarity in uses between the two of them. 

Both apostles use self-control in the context of the value of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; 1 Peter 4:7). In other words, Christians don’t wear armor to fight; they wear armor to pray. We have to be self-controlled enough to stick to the business of prayer. 

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight 
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright 
And satan trembles when he sees 
The weakest saint upon his knees. —William Cowper

Then both apostles use the Greek word for self-control in the context of using God’s Word as a spiritual weapon (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Peter 1:10-13). Jesus used this same strategy in his battle in the desert against satan (Matthew 4:1-10)—Jesus was praying before the devil came to tempt Him, and then He defeated the devil’s temptations by quoting Scripture. 

Peter says the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion.” Notice that important word: like. The devil has always been an imitator—trying to be like God, he was expelled from Heaven, and then he deceived Adam and Eve by telling them they could be like God too. He’s using the same strategy now. 

Augustine pointed out, “Christ is called a Lion because of His courage; the devil because of his ferocity. The Lion comes to conquer, the other to hurt.” 

So Peter encourages us to “resist him, standing firm in the faith.” You resist the devil when you… 

  • …stay submitted to God 
  • …remember the blood of the Jesus—THE Lion of Judah—that won your victory 
  • …stay self-controlled in prayer
  • …remain alert in the Scriptures

Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you battle ready by helping you to develop the self-control and alertness you need. 

9 Prayers From “Praying The Promises”

In Praying The Promises, Max Lucado gives us valuable instruction on how to turn Scriptural promises into powerful prayers. Here are a few of those prayers (the biblical reference in brackets is the passage that helped form the prayer). 

Thank you for being a God who wants me to know You.… Your wisdom surpasses all wisdom on this earth. Your ways are so much higher than mine. I could study You and Your Word for the rest of my life and still only scratched the surface of the depths of who You are. You are at once knowable and unknowable.… Deepen my knowledge of You, God. [Psalm 19:1-2; Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 1:19-20]

Help me rely on Your promise of grace because I have been found righteous through Jesus. When trouble comes, use those troubles to increase my faith and draw me nearer to You. [Hebrews 7:25]

Father, sometimes I convince myself that I need to earn Your salvation. I feel like I should do more, be more, and achieve more. But You simply want my faith. Help me let go of my striving and this need to perform for You and for others. [Romans 4:5; Philippians 3:4-7] 

Guide me during the difficult times. Give me hope as I pray and wait. Remind me of Your power and authority so that I will trust Your ways, even when I can’t see where the path before me is going. [Genesis 50:20-21; Ephesians 1:11-12; Romans 5:3] 

Forgive me when I look for guidance outside of Your Word. When I ask friends what to do before I open my Bible. When I am resistant to reading Your Word because I want to guide myself rather than be guided by You. Renew my desire and passion for reading the Bible. … May I learn something new about You and Your character each time I read it. [Psalm 32:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17] 

When a worry arises, remind me of Your presence so I will turn to You and not fear. [Psalm 23:1, 4]

Gracious Father, nobody is beyond Your redemption. Because of Your love and mercy, You provided a Redeemer for us in Christ, who graciously stopped us while we were on the path of sin, gave us refuge, and pointed us toward the road of redemption. [Galatians 4:4-5]

Forgive me when I try to fight my own battles. … If I try to fight for myself, I end up feeling exhausted and defeated by my own efforts. You have said You are fighting for me. Help me believe that truth even when I am so tempted to fight for myself. Go before me this week as I face temptation. Go before me as I face anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Protect me in every spiritual battle. Fight for me and help me surrender each battle to You. [Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; Psalm 20:7-8]

As concerns and questions come up, remind me to turn each of them over to You in prayer. I lift up my family to You. I lift up my work to You. I lift up my to-do list to You. Cover each worry with Your peace. Prioritize my day so that it aligns with Your will and not mine. [1 John 5:14]

You can check out my review of Praying The Promises by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Dealing With Spiritually Stupid People

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Dealing With Spiritually Stupid People

     I would like you to notice what the word “stupid” means. It does not mean ignorant, but anything formed or done without reason or judgment. Ignorance is being without knowledge “and the times of this ignorance God winked at [‘overlooked’]” (Acts 17:30). Do distinguish between ignorance and stupidity! … 

     [Passages to consider—1 Samuel 26:21 [I have acted like a fool]; Titus 3:3 [at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved]; 2 Timothy 3:6-7 [silly and weak-natured and spiritually dwarfed women, loaded down with the burden of their sins and easily swayed and led away by various evil desires and seductive impulses]; and Hebrews 5:12 [you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word]]

     What are we to do when we come across stupid souls? Ignorant souls we can deal with, they need knowledge; the stupid soul does not need knowledge; the stupid soul needs to have the Word of God until it is worried by it. … 

     Never water down the Word of God to the understanding of your people. … “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The Word of God is “a lamp” and “a light,” but when people get off on the “stupid” lines, it is all instincts, impressions, vague ideas—“ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

From Workmen Of God

I know the word “stupid” seems like an inflammatory word, but don’t get distracted from Chambers’ pertinent point on account of this word. The Bible makes it clear that we will come across people who are stupid in regard to the things of God. Our course of action is not argument or persuasion, but—as Chambers says—“the Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God, first second and last; no sympathy, no help, only the Word of God.”

Handling Tough Texts

How do you handle a hard passage in the Bible? Peter wrote this about Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….” But if we don’t take the time to wrestle with that passage, Peter says this is what happens next: “…which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

So here’s a 5-step plan I use when I am working through a challenging passage of Scripture.

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you

All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), and the same Holy Spirit lives in a Christian (1 John 2:20). Think about that: the same Holy Spirit that inspired an author to write the words of Scripture is the same Spirit that will illuminate them to you!

  1. Read the difficult passage in context

We will make our task much easier when we “zoom out” from the difficult text and read the whole passage surrounding the difficult verse/phrase. Perhaps we need to “zoom out” even farther to understand why the whole chapter or book was written.

  1. Identify the parts that are clear

Start off by identifying the parts that you do understand, and then see what light that shines on the tricky text.

  1. Cross reference with other Scriptures

Never, ever, ever draw a conclusion from just one passage of Scripture. Paul reminded his audience that he used the “whole counsel of God’s Word” (Acts 20:27) in forming his sermons. If the challenging passage contains an Old Testament passage, look it up; if it references an historical event, read that history. I also like to use biblegateway.com’s excellent search feature to find cross references.

  1. Draw conclusions on what appears to be the main point

Only after you have done step #1-4 should you attempt to draw some conclusions. You will set yourself up for error if you draw a conclusion first, and then try to find other texts in the Bible that agree with you.

The Apostle Peter writes something rather challenging in his first letter. In fact, Martin Luther said this about 1 Peter 3:18-22: “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” If you would like to see how I walk through the 5-step plan on this “obscure passage,” please check out the video below.

The Mystery & Meaning Of Marriage

John Piper’s insight of both the Old Testament and New Testament meaning of marriage is profound!

Here are the links to the Scriptures he references:

Piper’s conclusions:

  1. God modeled marriage on the covenant love between Christ and the church.
  2. Therefore, marriage has always been a witness (or a drama or a parable) of covenant love between Christ and the church.
  3. Therefore, the roles of husband and wife derive from the roles God designed for Christ and the church.
  4. Therefore, confusing or minimizing these roles obscures the meaning of marriage as a drama of the covenant love between Christ and the church.
  5. Therefore, let every husband seek to love and lead and nourish and protect like Christ, and let every wife love her husband and honor his Christ-like role, joining hands in Christ-exalting mission as God meant for the church to do.
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