Bible Study

Feb 2019
Right View of Ourselves

Even though I am a big fan of sports in general, one of the biggest hang-ups for me while I’m watching a game is to see or hear a player who is cocky.  I do understand that sometimes those actions might be more fooling around than anything else but certainly in most sporting events there is more than enough self-absorption and cockiness to make one nauseous.  Probably the athlete who comes to mind as the most boastful, at least openly, was the boxer Muhammad Ali.  One of his many boastful quotes was, “I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.”   In contrast, one of my favorite football players of all time was Barry Sanders, who would usually just calmly hand the football off to the referee after scoring a touchdown.  

Someone else who had a humble opinion of himself was the Apostle Paul, who writes in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  I love that phrase, “by the grace of God I am what I am.”   No self absorption, no patting himself on the back.  No, instead Paul wanted to give all of the glory and honor to God for what he was and was able to accomplish.  In fact, while Paul calls himself the “least of the apostles” in this passage, years later in 1 Tim. 1:15, he writes that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  Wow, he went from least of the apostles to chief of sinners.  His self-confidence is going the wrong direction!   Actually, it was going the right direction.  He recognized that in himself “dwelleth no good thing” and that any good people could see in him could only be attributed to God working in his life.  May we too have that proper perspective of ourselves.  

Feb 2019
Voices In Your Head

They say if you tether a baby elephant with a rope they often will stay within the parameters even when they grow large enough to snap the rope. The elephant is limited because it grows accustomed to the restrictions and comfortable with the environment.
“I don’t have enough money to be generous.” “My personality is not like so-and-so, therefore God can’t use me.””We’ve never done that before.”
These limiting beliefs replay in our mind over and over which hinder us from breaking through an imaginary barrier. Moses listened to the voice that said, “Who am I…that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). 
Following a burdensome law which was the reaction to Israel’s failure to obey God years earlier, the religious leaders believed the voice that told them stringent rules would protect them from disobedience. Jesus dismantled their system with one question: “Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9). 
The Corinthians were wishing their marital status was the opposite of their present reality. In summary, Paul gave them important instructions to help them stop yearning for their situation to change. “As God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk” (1 Corinthians 7:17). 
It’s funny to consider the voices we listen to in our minds. Think for a moment, you have three passages of Scripture where people think they are defeated, disciplined, or disadvantaged and it hinders their devotion to do God’s work. Yet, human nature listens to the voice that says you can get away with sin. One voice says, “You can’t do it,” but the other voice says, “Youy invincible!” Every person somehow believes the lie, “I won’t get caught.” Job’s friend gives an accurate biography of the wicked, “Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth…he hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again…He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter…This is the portion of the wicked man…appointed him by God (Job 20). “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?” (Job 20:5).
Does it seem like our wires are crossed? It is true, we are incapable on our own, but when God calls, he enables. Discipline keeps us from wrong, but when the law becomes our god we forget the essence of the law is to love God and love your neighbor. When we long for our circumstances to change, the current opportunities to serve the Lord slip through our hands like sand, never to be reclaimed. 
Stop listening to the voices in your head, and tune in to the still small voice of God. When you listen to Him, you are useful, you walk with Him, and you’re content in your state of life. 

Feb 2019
God's Temple

In the Old Testament, we see that God’s plans for the construction, materials, and service in both the Tabernacle and Temple were to be marked by purity. God’s earthly Temple was to be kept free from any form of defilement. The reason for that was the fact that God would fill the Holy of Holies within the Temple with His glory. God would not fill a defiled Temple. God’s standard for Temple worship and sacrifice was absolute holiness and obedience. God established very specific rules regarding service and sacrifice in the Temple. It was set apart for God’s glory. 

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Bible says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” In the Old Testament, God’s Temple was a physical building where God would dwell, and which served as a constant reminder of God to the people. God would dwell in the midst of His people in the Holy of Holies within the Temple. In the New Testament, God literally “tabernacled” among us in the person of Jesus Christ. God’s manifest presence took on a physical body of flesh and walked on the streets of earth. When Christ ascended back to heaven, the physical presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ was removed. However, God would not leave His people alone. God would dwell among His people in another way. The Bible says that the moment someone is born into the family of God, they are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13) and become the dwelling place of God. If you are saved, God lives in you. 

This truth should be a startling reality. When we got saved, the Bible says that we revoked the rights to our own body. Jesus Christ, our sinless Substitute, “hath purchased [us] with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). We have been bought with a price and that price was the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have no right to think that what we do with our body is up to us. We have given up our self-willed autonomy for His perfect and loving lordship.  The “it’s my body, I can do what I please” mentality is foreign to biblical Christianity. It may be your body, but it is God’s temple and He is the rightful owner. Therefore, our goal ought to be to bring glory to our God. We must not only render praise to God with our lips but also with the way we use our bodies. Just as the physical Temple of the Old Testament was a constant reminder of God, so our physical temples (i.e., bodies) are to be an ever-constant reminder to the world of the manifestation of the power and grace of our Mighty God.

Feb 2019
Hit The Road, Jack

Paul stepped to the plate as a disciplinarian with the church of Corinth. He received word of a serious problem. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). A man had married his mother/stepmother. Commentators are divided as to which one. I say, does it matter? Even in the licentious Roman society, this was verboten. You can bet the house, this is happening in some church somewhere. We must remember where we came from. We may be saved, but we still are sinners. At any given moment, our sin nature could erupt and carry us as flows of lava into sin. The church had grown tolerant. “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2).

Paul took the appropriate steps as a leader. He confronted the offender, and the church, for being lackadaisical. Too oft, this doesn’t happen in modern day churches. Think not that Paul, or any pastor, enjoys church discipline. I had a talented singer, whose church attendance was fair (he was not a member). If he was sober, he was not bad to be around. But when alcohol had him- look out! He sat in church a few times inebriated, but quiet. As long as he was quiet and respectful, I figured I would rather him in church under the Gospel than some saloon.

He made it his mission to rail against me. Progressively he got worse. I was patient (not my strongest suit). He put me in a 1 Cor. 5 situation and Biblically I had to act. I prayed on it and sought direction from God. Three days later, he forced my hand. He came to service torqued. As he sat there, he made the usual comments, but during the message he started disrupting the service. I asked him to be quiet, but he got worse. I had to stop the message, and literally pull him outside; after he had refused to leave. He tried to get physical but couldn’t. I remember telling him, “Richard, I love you, but you cannot mock God. I want you here, but don’t come back if you’re going to act this way.” In essence, he was given an express excommunication. “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). As harsh as this sounds, restoration was still possible and that was Paul’s and my motive. I prayed he would come back sober; but never did. The thought still bothers me. Let’s strive to be “good” so our Pastor doesn’t have to endure extra hardship and we tarnish the image of our church. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”  

Feb 2019
Keep It Together

Thomas Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Ministries, has a compilation of some of the funniest (and saddest) things that have caused divisions and/or splits in churches.  Here are a sampling of these wonderful reasons to disrupt the body of Christ:

1. A 45-minute heated argument over the type of filing cabinet to purchase: black or brown; 2, 3, or 4 drawers 
2. A big church argument over the discovery that the church budget was off $0.10. Someone finally gave a dime to settle the issue
3. Arguments over what type of green beans the church should serve
4. Two different churches reported fights over the type of coffee. In one of the churches, they moved from Folgers to a stronger Starbucks brand. In the other church, they simply moved to a stronger blend. Members left the church in the latter example
5. Some church members left the church because one church member hid the vacuum cleaner from them. It resulted in a major fight and split

While we can’t help but crack a smile at some of those (perhaps you could add a similar type story to that list as well), we also must realize how much Satan really enjoys seeing those types of things happen as well.  For that reason, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”   Paul says that he beseeching or begging the Corinthian church to stay united and to end the divisions that had started to take root in the church.  

From further reading in chapter 1, we see that the church had started to divide itself by who certain members looked up to as their leader/representative.  Some identified with Paul, some with Peter, some with Apollos, while others, certainly the most spiritual, simply stated that they were “of Christ.”  From verses 13-15 we can ascertain that some of the groups within the church were based on who baptized who while others no doubt had other reasons identify with a certain leader.  Either way, these cliques in the church were disrupting the unity that Paul and ultimately God Himself desired.  Paul wrote that this body of believers should be “perfectly joined together of the same mind”.  Wow, what a perfect way to describe the unity that should be evident in any body of believers, including Anthony Baptist.  Let’s not let anything, no matter how “big” or petty it might be, to get in the way of that type of unity.