January, 2013

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The Beautiful Body

Monday, January 28th, 2013

And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15

358px-El_Greco_ApostlesImage found here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/El_Greco_Apostles.JPG/358px-El_Greco_Apostles.JPG

People sometimes imagine that Paul was a spiritual superman: an intrepid missionary, theological genius, and multi-gifted polymath, who never shrank from duty or danger in the cause of Christ. Doubtless, he braved hardships and opposition that would overwhelm most human beings – a survey of his multifaceted trials in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 makes this apparent (see also 2 Cor. 12:10 & 1 Cor. 4:9-13.) This, however, is only one side of the story; the apostle also depended upon the encouragement of the other parts of the Body of Christ – that well-known metaphor for the spiritual body composed of believing Jews and Gentiles who are indissolubly linked in the church.

“Remember The Prisoners As If Chained With Them”

Paul’s journey as a prisoner being transported to Rome provides an excellent window into the fellowship that he enjoyed with believers – even some who were heretofore unknown to him. When the ship landed at Sidon, the officer in charge of the prisoners permitted Paul to go to his “friends” for refreshment (Acts 27:3); they were probably Christians that he knew from previous trips. Upon coming to territory unknown to himself in Italy, Paul enjoyed the hospitality of local saints (Acts 28:14) and was further cheered by the approach of representatives of the believers from the imperial capital city. As verse 15 says: “…when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Though he relied on the Lord throughout his service, the Almighty also saw fit to use His people to comfort and strengthen His apostle to the nations.

“If One Member Suffers…”

So often in life’s hard times I have been similarly comforted by the Body of Christ. When by the bedside of a dying loved one, who can calculate the value of a fellow-believer standing by to pray and weep with those who weep? When in a sickbed, faithful saints who visit, write, or call often make the difference between sadness and circumstance-defying joy. At funerals, in times of family trouble, and even visiting Christians who are in prison, members of the body serve each other by their presence and their prayers.

Like Head, like Members

These activities bear the unmistakable mark of the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18.) He is a master at consoling the mourning (Jn. 11), visiting the sick (Mk. 1:29-31), and dealing with family dysfunction (Mt. 20:20-28.) As His people abide in Him they produce the fruit – righteous acts of beauty – that savor of the Lord’s mercies and goodness. In His Spirit’s power, believers use their time, talents, and spiritual gifts to edify and strengthen one another. Where would we be without such a beautiful body to aid us under the guidance of the perfectly wise Head, the Lord Jesus Christ? Thank God, we need not contemplate this possibility for long, for the Body is eternally linked to Christ and will be with Him forever in glory.

Losing The Theological Beauty Pageant

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Photo credit: http://webspace.ringling.edu

 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19

 For too long western Christians have cherished the comfortable fiction that Christianity can peacefully coexist with the secular and religious mindsets of the world. In North America a popular but insipid form of evangelicalism has carefully cultivated a “cool image”, focusing its energies on being appealing to the unbelieving public at large (aping the world’s entertainment industry, just to name one symptom of this malady.) Meanwhile, those who believe in the literal historical-grammatical exegesis of the Scriptures have been increasingly marginalized and laughed off as “fighting Fundies.” Indeed, biblical inerrantists are seen as obscurantists, who are somewhat akin to those who believe that the earth is flat. Accordingly, a vocal, media-savvy evangelical backlash has occurred, with many stepping forward to parade their academic credentials while simultaneously denying foundational truths like the historicity of Genesis 1-3.

 Trying Too Hard To Fit In

 The latest worldview skirmishes concern: 1.  one’s stance regarding homosexuality (e.g. Louie Giglio being disinvited from praying at the presidential inauguration) and 2. the public display of one’s Christian faith (e.g. wearing crosses at work such as the recent case of a British Airways flight attendant.) These episodes merely highlight the divergence of core beliefs between the world and the church. They are mutually incompatible and are locked in an inevitable struggle until the return of Christ to deliver His people and defeat His enemies. To paraphrase the Lord’s comments: “The world loves its own” – not matter how aberrant, morally warped, or unnatural – worldlings celebrate anything that is ungodly and antigod. Worldly religion that worships deities that are palatable to men who live for this age are feted. For example, the Dalai Lama is lauded by politicians, Hollywood moguls, and literary celebrities. Everywhere he goes in the west, he is received as a dignitary. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified at the hands of politicians and religious elites. Doubtless if He returned to earth today, the majority of the world would reject Him afresh and re-crucify Him, if possible. This is evident by the widespread rejection of His Word and the Gospel that it contains.

 Identifying With The Crucified One

 In light of the world’s repudiation of Christ, believers should not be surprised at their increasing unpopularity. Truly, the more their preaching and behavior conforms to our Savior, the more they shall be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12); the Lord predicted this (Jn. 16:1-4.) Rather than shun the reproach of the cross, His people must bear it for His glory (Mt. 16:24-27.) To put it bluntly, in the world’s eyes faithful Christians will not win the theological beauty pageant. But then again, as a cursory reading of the book of Acts shows, they never did. Of course, the church in the Middle East and in the developing world has long known this – persecution is an everyday reality to many of those dear saints. It is time for believers in the west to wake up to their real situation: forsake worldly popularity and its attendant compromise for biblical fidelity and  “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10.) The church must look to the Lord for her acclaim at the Judgment Seat of Christ, rather than seek the fleeting favor of a world that crucified Him.