Authenticity in Worship and Work

God hates hypocrisy whether done in the name of religion or done in the workplace.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 29-30; Ephesians 6

15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
16 You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:15-16

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Ephesians 6:5-8

Isaiah calls the people to worship with truth, not pretense, thinking that God cannot see their hearts and that He will be impressed by their phony professions of faith. Some think darkness is a safe cloak for their sin. These ideas are laughable. The prophet compares them to a lump of clay taking credit for its own existence and denying its maker. .

Laughable, but very real and very persistent. Jesus quoted Isaiah’s words from 29:13-14 (Matthew 15:8,9; Mark 7:6,7) in His indictment of first century Judaism. It could easily be applied today. People trust in their own works, but even religious works like baptism, Bible reading and church attendance are not able to deliver us from God’s wrath. Only the grace of God in Christ to those who repent of their sin and believe in Him is sufficient.

Paul addresses another kind of hypocrisy in his letter to the Ephesians. He tells bondservants to obey their masters as they would Christ. Their service is not for them but for Him. Some of these servants were only creating an appearance of work which the Apostle called “eye-service” and people pleasing. The Christian is always serving Christ, no matter who he works for.

In the gospel, we learn that through faith we become Christ’s own people. We are called to authenticity in our worship and in our work. Let it be so every Lord’s day and every work day.

Spiritual Multi-tasking

God’s people are called to walk and bear spiritual fruit.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 27-28; Ephesians 5

6 In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots
and fill the whole world with fruit.                                                           Isaiah 27:6

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

Paul has painted a glorious picture of the purposes of God in all the earth, uniting Jews and Gentiles in Christ. Christians are made alive in Him, made one with God and all other believers, and called to live in a way that is worthy of their high calling.

In today’s reading the apostle uses the image of walking to describe the Christian life, a life lived as imitators of God. That walk is to be characterized by love, reflecting the sacrificial love of Jesus for us. We are to walk as children of the light, fleeing impurity, and covetousness, and even talk that shows approval of such behavior.   Wisdom should be evident in our way of life and in our use of time. This does not mean we live in gloom, but we exchange drunkenness for the filling of the Spirit and praise-filled singing.

Isaiah foretold of the time when Israel would fill the world with fruit, perhaps, even more than he could have imagined. Jews and Gentiles united in the Messiah everywhere from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The kingdom has come in part and it will come fully when Christ returns for His bride, the Church.

I can’t wait, can you? Meanwhile, let’s fill the world with fruit as we walk in love, light, and wisdom. I guess you could call that spiritual multi-tasking.

The Grand Narrative

The plans of God for His people will be completed with certainty.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 24-26; Ephesians 4

1 O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

The “grand narrative” of the Bible, as Sinclair Ferguson calls it, was planned by God from eternity past. [1] We can summarize it by the terms: creation, corruption, conflict, and consummation. As Isaiah expressed it, these are “plans formed of old, faithful and sure.” Nothing that has happened, is happening, or will happen catches God by surprise. He is the Author of all of human history. He has planned it and His plans are sure to be completed.

Isaiah observes the chaos of the times, anticipates the coming judgment, but also promises that God will swallow up death forever, wipe away tears from all faces, and keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 25: 8; 26:3). “Trust in the Lord forever,” writes Isaiah, “for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (26:4).

Paul, too, has the big picture in view as he exhorts the Ephesians to live in the unity of the Spirit of God. What has God done for them? He has sent them apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip them for His service. Why? God has done this so that they may grow in unity and maturity in Christ. These two objectives go together.

We, indeed, still live in the middle period of the grand narrative which began with corruption (Genesis 3:1-13) and continues with conflict (Genesis 3:15), but Jesus Christ has come announcing that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). He told His disciples to pray that the Kingdom would come, so we know there is more to come (Matthew 6:10).

As you look at the ongoing corruption and conflict of this world, do you lose sight of the Kingdom and forget that God’s plans are being perfectly fulfilled and that they will be completed? Trust in the Lord, as Isaiah said. Seek unity and maturity, as Paul admonished. God’s grand narrative is unfolding and He will be glorified in His blessed people.

[1] Sinclair Ferguson, From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982, 2014, p. 76

The Purposes of God

God’s purposes include all nations, all peoples, and all times and result in the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord of all.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 22-23; Ephesians 3

8 Who has purposed this
against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,
whose merchants were princes,
whose traders were the honored of the earth?
9 The Lord of hosts has purposed it,
to defile the pompous pride of all glory,
to dishonor all the honored of the earth. Isaiah 23:8-9

11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Ephesians 3:11-12

It is not hard to see that the Bible reveals God who is over all the earth, over all mankind. It is true that He chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants, but even that covenant included all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3).

Through Isaiah (and other prophets) God gave warnings and instructions to the Gentile nations around Israel and Judah. Today we read about God’s purposes to bring down the pomposity of Tyre and Sidon. They were proud in their successes, congratulating themselves for their victories and prosperity with no thought for God.

What concern did the God of Israel have for Tyre and Sidon? The same concern He had for all the families of the earth. Their prideful arrogance offended Him, but also drew His mercy and grace as He purposed that His Son would be the Savior of the world, including those from Tyre and Sidon and a thousand other tribes and nations that would come and go through human history.

The mystery of God’s purpose was revealed to Paul and the other apostles and, through their writings, it was revealed to us.  God was working out His plan for the fullness of time “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This was Paul’s calling, to announce this mystery, the uniting of all in Christ. Jews and Gentiles in Christ are now one with God and with each other. Paul prays that his readers in Ephesus (and beyond) may grasp “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and that they “may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19).

Press on to know God’s glorious purposes through Jesus Christ. We have only scratched the surface on the eternal purposes of God.

Dead and Desperate

Desperation, a sense of total helplessness and hopelessness, is essential to a minimal understanding of the love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 19-21; Ephesians 2

5 Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast. And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?’” Isaiah 20:5-6

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6

Isaiah was sent to show Judah the folly of their trusting in Egypt and Cush for deliverance from the then-dominant power of Assyria. The prophet, under God’s direction, went about barefooted and naked for three years to show them how destitute they really were. God would have Egypt and Cush barefoot and naked before it was over.

Paul paints a vivid picture of lost people. They are not merely weak in spirit; not just sick. They are dead, stone cold dead in trespasses and sins. They may have been trusting that they were good enough to pass muster in a relative sense, that is, good enough to pass if graded on a curve instead of against the absolute perfect righteousness of God. They deserve hell, but instead God, who is rich in mercy and great in love, makes “them alive together with Christ” and saves them by grace alone. Then what? Does He send them back into the world to try to improve their future record? No. He raises them up with Christ and seats them in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And these were previously dead, hopeless people. They had nothing to offer God.   They could not earn their acceptance. They could not pay their debt. They could only believe and receive what God did.

How desperate are you? Do you hold out some hope that you will eventually measure up to God’s perfection? Or do you see your true condition apart from Christ: dead, alienated, condemned? It is not a good feeling to be desperate, but let us be desperate so that we can appreciate the great mercy and love of God for us.

Getting Re-purposed

Through Jesus Christ, you could say, we have been re-purposed for His glory.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 16-18; Ephesians 1

7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. Isaiah 17:7-8

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4b-6

The Bible is the story of creation, corruption, and redemption. The heavy emphasis is on the millennia-long work of God in human society to redeem His people from corruption. The battle lines were drawn in Genesis 3:15 when God told the serpent there would be enmity between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. Indeed, that enmity is played out every day in the global battle between evil and good, rebellion and righteousness.

Isaiah speaks of a day when man would look to the true and living God, the Creator, who is the Holy One of Israel. In looking to Him, man would turn away from his own feeble religious offerings, his own efforts to commend himself to God, his false gods and blasphemous altars. Only by looking to God will anyone find forgiveness.

Paul elaborates on this in the first chapter of his letter to the church in Ephesus. In a tightly packed paragraph-sentence, the apostle lays out in soaring words the purpose of God for the world and His means of accomplishing it. At the heart of His purpose is His glory. We are called to live for the praise of His glorious grace. But in ourselves, we are not able or qualified to fulfill that grand purpose. We need redeeming from our corruption. God has done that by giving His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to bear our sin and guilt. Through Him we have forgiveness of sin, are adopted as His sons (yes, male and female both enjoy the privileges of sons), and sealed with His Holy Spirit while we wait for all this to be completed.

Repurpose is a recent word that means “to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose.” Although, to be precise, believers in Christ have recovered God’s original purpose for us, it is not a stretch to say that we who were spiritually dead, and who were following the prince of the power of the air, have been repurposed for God. What a glorious purpose! It is the only purpose worthy of all our life, all our strength, and all our love. May God give us grace to grow in fulfilling His purpose for our repurposing to the end.

 

A Perspective on Beheadings by Rick Perrin

I rarely re-post other blogs but this one is different.  My former pastor, Dr. Rick Perrin, has written an insightful article on beheading and what the book of Revelation says about it.

Warning: this is not for the faint of heart.

Click here to read.  May this blog post serve as a reminder to those of us who believe in Christ that it is time to put on the full armor of God and to pray.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.  Ephesians 6: 10-20 (ESV)

Having the Mind of Christ

Today’s reading: Ephesians 6:1-Philippians 2:30

My selection: Philippians 2:5-7

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

My reflections: Paul commanded the Philippian Christians to have the mind of Christ among themselves. What is that mind? It is the mind of One who gave up the greatest glory in the universe to assume the lowest form of humankind, a servant. It is the mind of One who, after becoming a man and a servant, humbled Himself submitting to the most horrific death possible: crucifixion. Indeed, He was honored by God for all this and will be recognized by every person in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

That is the mind, says Paul, that Christians are to have.

My challenge: It should be a small thing for us to relinquish our position, prestige, and pride to serve others. We have so much less to give up than Christ had. We are already human so we are partly there toward being servants and dying to ourselves for the good of others. Why is this so hard?

Jesus modeled what He taught. He who loses his life will find it. Do you believe that? Have you learned that by experience?

Look for the areas of your life where you put yourself first. Look for the ways that you are liable to get angry or depressed when slighted or underestimated. Confess sin and pray that you may have the mind of Christ in your dealings with others. Actively seek to serve others as Christ did.

Tomorrow’s reading: Philippians 3:1-Colossians 2:23

Walking as Children of Light

Today’s reading: Ephesians 3:1-5:33

My selection: Ephesians 5:5-6

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

My reflections: Paul makes a powerful statement here of warning to the Christians in Ephesus and to us in the twenty first century. In this passage, we see:

1. Certainty. “You may be sure of this.”

2. Absolute terms. “…everyone who…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

3. Specificity. Sexual immorality and impurity and covetousness (aka idolatry) are listed. Even talk, that is foolish, and joking, that is crude, is condemned (vs. 4). Sin is defined by God’s law, not by the latest public opinion polls.

4. Warning. Paul tells them to beware of deceiving words. Someone out there is attempting to contradict this teaching.

5. Consequences. “…because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

How clearly is this truth being preached in American evangelical churches today? As the issue of redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships rages, many Christian leaders err either by caving in to public pressure to approve this new definition or by arguing against it based on historic traditions rather than Scripture. Some seem to have ignored the general level of sexual immorality in the church, refusing to discipline open fornication, while rising to condemn the equally sinful approval of homosexual conduct in the general society.

My challenge: As you have opportunity, seek to influence our society to respect the moral law of God. A vote against homosexual marriage is not the imposition of your morality on unbelievers, but the protection of our society against evil so blatant that it will bring down the wrath of God on us all. Meanwhile, work to strengthen a fear of God and His law in your home and church. Walk as a child of the light.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ephesians 6:1-Philippians 2:30

The Big Picture

Today’s reading: Galatians 5:1-Ephesians 2:22

My selection: Ephesians 1:11-14

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

My reflections: Here we get a glimpse of God”s great eternal purposes for mankind. God is uniting all things in Christ (vs. 10). His purpose is the praise of His glory (vs. 12, 14). Those who hope in Christ have an inheritance in all this that God is doing. The guarantee of that inheritance, of which we have not yet acquired possession, is the Holy Spirit. Those who believe have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

How should we respond to this? We should keep this great view of the purposes of God before us continually, lest we become discouraged with the depressing news of the day, man’s inhumanity to man, endless political corruption, war, deceit, etc. We should seek to grow in the knowledge of our ultimate hope in Him, as Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers (vs. 15-23).

My challenge: Walk in the Spirit with which He has sealed you. Do not lose heart. Keep the big picture before you, today, and every day. God has put all things under the feet of Christ and has given Him as head over all things to the Church. He will fulfill all His purposes to the praise of His glory. Never forget it.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ephesians 3:1-5:33