Life Together Under the Word

Sometimes something is so well said that it is folly to try and say it a different way. Such is the case with Bonhoeffer and the life of ministry in the fellowship. I’m going to just let Bonhoeffer speak over the next few weeks with very little comment as we learn about fellowship.

“An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46)

 We know who it is that sows this thought in the Christian community. But perhaps we do not bear in mind enough that no Christian community ever comes together without this thought immediately emerging as a seed of discord. Thus at the very beginning of Christian fellowship there is engendered an invisible, often unconscious, life-and-death contest. “An argument arose among them”: this is enough to destroy a fellowship. 

Hence it is vitally necessary that every Christian community from the very outset face this dangerous enemy squarely, and eradicate it. There is no time to lose here, for from the first moment when a man meets another person he is looking for a strategic position he can assume and hold over against that person. There are strong persons and weak ones. If a man is not strong, he immediately claims the right of the weak as his own and uses it against the strong. There are gifted and ungifted persons, simple people and difficult people, devout and less devout, the sociable and the solitary. Does not the ungifted person have to take up a position just as well as the gifted person, the difficult one as well as the simple? And if am not gifted, then perhaps I am devout anyhow; or if I am not devout it is only because I do not want to be. May not the sociable individual carry the field before him and put the timid, solitary man to shame? Then may not the solitary person become the undying enemy and ultimate vanquisher of his sociable adversary? Where is there a person who does not with instinctive sureness find the spot where he can stand and defend himself, but which he will never give up to another, for which he will fight with all the drive of his instinct of self-assertion?

All this can occur in the most polite or even pious environment. But the important thing is that a Christian community should know that somewhere in it there will be “an argument among them as to which of them was the greatest”. It is the struggle of the natural man for self-justification. He finds it only in comparing himself with others, in condemning and judging others. Self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together.” – Bonhoeffer

In reality, fellowship is not about us but about the other as Christ came not to be served but to serve and give himself as a ransom for many. This is the antithesis of our western culture and one of the reasons fellowship is a most difficult challenge. Do not be controlled by wine but be controlled by the Spirit, Paul said. May this become the norm. 

The Lord is my Shepherd

If you are like me, and I know that is a long shot because I’m from the “Creek” and not much of my growing up was “normal”, you may have memorized the 23rd Psalm.

Once I had that memorized I’ve never forgotten it. I can plow through it still today. Its easy to just say the words and miss the depth of glory here for us. The 23rd Psalm came alive for me yesterday morning as I read through my bible passages for the day. I’d like to share that with you.

Of first note, its vital to commune with the Lord over his word. The Triune God will truly meet with us. Holy Spirit dwells in us, if you have believed the Gospel and repented of the rebellion. So, linger over the word. Dissect each word. Hang on every phrase. Ask for insight and for communication with the Lord. Listen for that almost audible but not quite a thought “voice” and take in the Lord’s speaking with you. You and I both need this.

Second, when this happens, and it should not be rare, take in the glorious reality of who the Lord is and who we are to him. He is not silent. Just slow down enough to listen. Busyness is the deafening blast to communion with the Lord.

So, join me in Psalm 23 for a few minutes:

The LORD is my shepherd – The God of the universe, in his grace in kindness to me has saved me and seated me with him in the heavenly places and he is the one who hems me in and guides me for my good and to protect me from evil. The Lord is my shepherd.

I shall not want – “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” I will lack for nothing he deems good for me. I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures – The Lord will give me the needed rest for me and supply my strength in his grace.

He leads me beside still waters – The Lord provides peace for me, even if the world around me is not peaceful, he leads me to peaceful places on the inside of my very soul.

He restores my soul – The Lord will tend my soul. The Lord is the one who will care for me at the deepest levels of who he made me to be. He is my healer much deeper than my flesh.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake – I bear his name therefore he leads me to what is right. He has not left me to find it myself. He places his Spirit in me to speak and lead me. “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me – In the worst case scenario, walking into death itself, I do not have to fear evil. Why? He is with me!!! To be true to the new covenant, Spirit is in me! No evil shall befall me. He works for my good come what may (Romans 8:28). My Shepherd’s tools of defense are pointed in the other direction toward foreign invaders and he is my defender and shield. I fear no evil. I revel in his good for me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows – We are guests at the Lord’s table and even the enemies of the Gospel are powerless to prevent our enjoyment of all the delicacies of the Gospel and it’s work in us. We have food to eat that is not of this world. It is to do the will of the Father. Oh the joy in eating this kind of food. I am set apart, filled with the Spirit and have abundant life in Christ welling up to eternal life.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life – He will do nothing but good to me. I can trust that all must work for good to me. Even if it does not feel like it’s good I can trust that it is good. I need not fear the knife when it is cutting out cancer (Josh Pilgrim).

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever – I will never be taken from the Lord’s hands. His sheep hear his voice and they follow him. He gives us eternal life and we will never perish. No one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:27-30).

This is David’s inspired musing on what it is to be shepherded by the Lord. This is us. How deep the Father’s love for us!

Biblical Assurance of Salvation

Biblical assurance of salvation does not flow from a past decision or a prayer, but from the examination of one’s enduring lifestyle in the light of Scripture.
1. The evidence that we are born again is that we will live in the light rather than continue to walk in darkness. We will also enjoy fellowship with other Christians (1:7).
2. A true believer will live in constant confession of his sin by realizing the gravity and weight of his rebellion towards God (1:9).
3. If we love Christ we will keep his commandments. This also means that we will walk as Jesus walked (2:3, 2:6).
4. Christians should not love the world’s systems values, desires, or possessions (2:15).
5. True believers will endure faithfully until the end by continuing in fellowship with a local church where the gospel is being preached, God is worshiped, the sacraments are administered, and local and world evangelization occur (2:19).
6. No Christian can continue making a practice of habitual, willful sin and not continue to make growing strides in holiness (3:6).
7. True believers will not only enjoy fellowship with other Christians, but they will also LOVE them, even to the point of death (3:14, 3:16).
8. Christians should have compassion for the poor that is demonstrated by sacrificial giving of their own resources (3:17).
9. True Christians will love to hear the gospel proclaimed and God’s word taught (4:6).
10. True believers will be filled with the Holy Spirit which results in proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord (4:13, 4:15).
* The Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come.
* The Spirit confirms in our hearts that we know God.
* The Spirit guides believers in the truth.
* The Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ.
When is the last time you told someone else about your relationship with Jesus without them asking you first?

Providential Grace

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill,

He treasures up his bright designs

And works his sovereign will.

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.

 

Judge not the lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

 

His purpose will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

the bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain:

God is his own interpreter,

And he will make it plain.

I have referred to these lyrics before. But I do find great comfort in them.

I truly love this old hymn. Probably because, due to my life circumstances growing up, the bible’s teaching on providence is an anchor that keeps my soul from imploding. It’s even hard to type due to emotion that wells up as I think on the Lord’s grace to me to rescue me through his “bright designs”.

These words come from William Cowper (I’ll put a link in to a biographical sermon on his life that will be worth your time reading later) who wrestled through his life with deep bouts of depression.

Hey, I’m not depressed, but this has been one heck of a week already. Monday, ENT appointment to check on some throat issues I’ve had for a year or more, Jennifer’s grandmother died and Daniel comes down with some viral stomach thing. Now another one of the boys is coming down with the same junk. All of this when I am about to leave for Orlando on Thursday and the family has to drive to Columbia, SC for a funeral while I’m not there to help. Not to mention what to do with our dog…

Hey, I get that these are light issues in the global scope of things, but that’s a bunch for Monday. Today I could hear these lyrics in my memory and they mediated grace to me and I hope they will for you too.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:33

This is a great salve for my aching soul some days. Even seeming random and chance things are tools in the Master’s hands to work good for us who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

So, there is nothing that the beginning of this week has brought about for you or I that is not for our good and mediated through Father’s good grace to us.

Be strong and take courage!

Below is a link to a biographical sermon on the life of William Cowper.

Enjoy Father’s grace to you…

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/biographies/insanity-and-spiritual-songs-in-the-soul-of-a-saint