Resurrection not just Reanimation

pexel zombieSo Zombies are kind of a big deal lately.  There are many TV shows and movies related to zombies.  There was even a youtube video that went viral recently about a couple of brothers who pranked their younger sister on the way home from having wisdom teeth surgery.  They got her to believe that a zombie apocalypse was beginning.  Last I saw it had almost 14million hits.  According to Wikipedia “A zombie is a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse.”

Today zombies are potentially more popular than they have ever been.  If you go online you will find all kinds of information on zombies, including many sites that focus on the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse.  I even came across articles on this subject on the websites for The Center for Disease Control, US News and World Report, and The Washington Post.

Recently I was asked by someone in my church, “What does the Church mean by bodily resurrection?”  This person referred to the apostle’s creed which refers to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  They were wondering if this means that when we go to Heaven we will have a body like we have now?  In other words, will we be resurrected back into the body we had before we died?  And if so, then at what stage?  Does a person just end up with the body they had right before they died, or is it from like when they were in their prime?  And what about someone who was missing a limb or had some major problem with their body, is that fixed?  And what if you were cremated?  Does that mean you can’t be resurrected?  The person who was asking these questions didn’t specifically connect this to zombies, but they are trying to figure out what to make of the idea of bodily resurrection.

Well, first of all let me point out that we are not talking about reanimation we are talking about resurrection.  That is a significant difference.  Scripture may not give us a definitive picture of what these resurrected bodies will look like, but in I Corinthians 15 Paul gives us enough of an image to recognize we are talking about something a whole lot better than zombies.

Paul begins that chapter with a very succinct outline of the Gospel.  In a few verses he reminds us that Christ died for the sins of the world, that he was buried and that he rose again and appeared to many people.  It is kind of like the Gospel in Cliff Notes fashion.

These first six verses provide an important foundation and then Paul moves on to connect Christ’s resurrection with our own. It is important for us to realize that Jesus did not just die as a sacrifice for our sins, he rose again in victory over death and sin and paved the way for our resurrection.

There were apparently some in Corinth who were suggesting that there was no resurrection for the dead.  In these verses Paul lays out a very logical argument that reminds them of the completeness of the Gospel.

Paul then moves on to talk a little bit about what this will be like.  Paul doesn’t give us an exact picture of what to expect, but he gives us a few images to think about to help us consider the idea of a resurrection body.

The first analogy is of a seed in verses 36-37. A seed that is planted in good soil germinates.  Basically the seed itself disintegrates or dies, but out of that seed grows new life in the form of a plant.  And what comes up out of the ground is not the same thing that went into the ground, but something new and different.

So we can understand the analogy to the seed.  A person dies, they are even planted in the ground, and a new body comes up out of the ground at the time of resurrection.  We should not expect it to be the same as it was when it went into the ground, but rather something new.

Paul moves on to the analogy of different kinds of animals in verse 39.  We know and understand the difference between a human being, an animal, a bird and a fish.  Their bodies are designed for very different purposes that are right for the environment where they will exist.  Our resurrection bodies will be different than our earthly bodies and will fit the needs of the new environment awaiting us.

And then Paul moves on to compare earthly and heavenly bodies in verses 40-41.  Right now we live in earthly bodies.  They are fine and work for here on earth, but God has something different in store for us in Heaven.  These bodies were not meant for Heaven.

Paul then goes on to make some comparisons in verses 42-44.  First he talks about how our bodies will be imperishable compared to perishable.  That means that our resurrected bodies are not going to fade away or be temporary.  It is a body that will be built to last.

He then talks about how when we die, that is the low point for our earthly bodies.  They finally run out of strength and fail completely.  And when they do our bodies are at their weakest and most dishonorable.  But out of that weakness and dishonor of death our new bodies will rise in glory and power.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but it sounds pretty good.

The last comparison Paul points out is that our resurrected bodies will not be natural, they will be spiritual.  This is an important distinction.  I don’t know exactly what that will mean, but I would image that a lot of the limitations we know now, will not be limitations then.

Then in verses 45-49 Paul talks about how we will be born in the image of the man of heaven.  We started life with earthly bodies.  Adam was made out of the dust of this earth and so were we.  Our earthly bodies reflected Adam.  But our new bodies will be more reflective of Christ and that doesn’t mean we will look like he looked while he was on this earth, but more in the image of who he is in Heaven.   We will all finally have heavenly bodies.

Then Paul ends the chapter by telling us of the victory that is coming.  For those of us who believe in Christ, death is not the end.  Death is a result of the fall.  It Is because of sin.  In Christ we are set free from that curse of sin and have victory over death.  For most of the world death is seen as the biggest defeat of our lives.  But Paul is turning things upside down and saying that it is not defeat.  Death has been defeated and victory is ours in Christ as we are raised to new life with imperishable, glorious new spiritual bodies.

We may not be able to picture exactly what that means or looks like, but the specifics don’t matter.  Paul gives us enough information here to recognize that we have a lot to celebrate.

Paul’s final verse ends with a good note of encouragement for us in light of the resurrection.  He writes: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

There is a confidence in this resurrection that allows us to get on with our daily lives.  We can be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, because we know that our future is secure.  In Christ, we know that one day we will rise again to spend eternity with him, and that understanding of our future allows us to have confidence here and now for whatever we are facing today.

We are looking forward to a glorious life in Heaven and while we are here on this earth we can stand in that victory even though we have yet to experience it.  I know life is not always easy here on this earth, but understanding this chapter can give us strength to stand immovable, knowing what is to come.

 

Why Blood?

pexel crucifixion stained glassHave you ever asked yourself why there is so much of a focus on blood in the Bible?  Between the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and Jesus’ death in the New Testament there is a lot of blood.  In church we read about the blood, we talk about the blood and we even sing about the blood.  Some people probably question why the Church seems so infatuated with blood.

In chapter 9 of the book of Hebrews the author spends a lot of time talking about blood and does a good job of connecting the blood we read about with Old Testament sacrifices to the blood we read about with the story of Jesus on the cross.

First, he reminds his readers of the Mosaic covenant that existed in the Old Testament.  This was a covenant God had with Israel that they would be his people and he would be their God.  It consisted of a system of rules like the 10 commandments and others that taught them how to live and what it looks like to follow God.  This covenant also included animal sacrifices for them to offer when they messed up.

The system was not bad, but it was temporary, pointing forward to what would be completed in Christ.  And that is what the author is focusing on throughout the chapter.

He talks about the tabernacle, which was set aside as the place for God to dwell with his people.  And that tabernacle included the Most Holy Place, which was located behind a curtain that separated it from the rest of the tabernacle.  In this Most Holy Place was the Ark of the Covenant which represented the very presence of God.  Nobody went behind that curtain except the high priest and he went back there only once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  On that day he would make atonement for his sins and the sins of the community by way of animal sacrifices and sprinkling the blood on the cover of the ark.

In Hebrews 9:9 we find out that this was symbolic.  The word used for symbol is a word that means comparison, from which we get our word parable.  And then verse 10 ends with the phrase, “until the time of reformation.”  That is not referring to the reformation time period in history, the word means to set or make right.

So the old covenant was like a symbol of what was to come.  It was a system that God put in place that signified repentance and God accepted it as a way of purification.  It was a system that was temporary and incomplete but pointed the way to the time things would be set right and become perfect in Christ.

The author of Hebrews then moves on to connect Jesus to that old system of sacrifices.  He points out how Jesus became the perfect sacrifice.  In the old covenant the sacrifice of animals symbolized cleansing from sin, but in Christ those sins are truly atoned for and there is no further sacrifice necessary.

In verse 15 the author calls Jesus a mediator.  Our sin separates us from God, but Jesus came between us and God and made it possible for us to be reconciled.  And not just us but everyone, including those who made those sacrifices in the Old Testament.

Notice in verse 16 the word covenant is used and in verse 17 the word will is used.  In the original Greek that is actually the same word.  The old covenant looked ahead to the death of Jesus, the promise of what was yet to come.   Hebrews 9:15 says, “since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Jesus completed or perfected what was begun with the first covenant.

The animal sacrifices that were offered in the OT had to be offered again and again.  It was not enough for them to just be done once.  It was over and over again.  But Christ’s sacrifice was complete.  What he did on the cross was perfect and atoned for the sins of all people, past, present and future, once for all.

And the author points out at the end of the chapter that Christ is coming again.  This same Jesus who died for the sins of the world and rose again is coming back and when he comes he is going to raise all those who believe in him to a new eternal life.  That is what we are looking forward to and the way we have access to that new life is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

So that gets us back to the original question, why blood?  My answer is, I don’t really know.  We can trace animal sacrifice back to the sacrifices of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis and how the animal sacrifice of Abel was accepted while the fruit and vegetable sacrifice of Cain was not accepted.  And some even trace it back to the Garden of Eden when God clothed Adam and Even with animal skins after they sinned and realized they were naked.

But the closest answer I can find is in Leviticus 17:11 where we read: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”

So while that is not an exact answer for why the blood, it does point out the importance of blood.  Blood represents life.  We need our blood to survive.  With the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament it is not like they just took blood from the animals and then set them free.  They killed the animals.  Using their blood cost them their life.

And the word for atonement means to cover or appease.  In the Old Testament the people would sacrifice animals to atone for their sins.  They would take one of their animals, that they had raised, or one they had bought with their own money.  An animal who had done nothing wrong, and they would sacrifice it to atone for their sin.

It wasn’t literally the blood of the animal that saved them or washed them.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the penalty or wages for sin is death, the life of the animal was sacrificed in place of the life of the person.  And the life was represented in the blood.

It might seem cruel today, but I think it is important for us to recognize that dealing with sin costs something.  We too easily blow off sin today, and it is good for us to recognize that there has always been a cost.  Back in the OT they saw that cost.  They recognized that an animal would be sacrificed for what they had done.

But we don’t live under the Old Covenant anymore.  God made a new covenant with his people when he sent his Son Jesus to this world.  Jesus became the perfect completion of the Old Covenant.  He died on the cross as a perfect, sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world.  His blood covers our sins.  And it is important for us to recognize the cost.

Now that we don’t regularly offer an animal as a sacrifice it is easy for us to forget the cost of sin.  We take sin lightly and therefore we take grace lightly. We forget how great a price was paid for our sin.  We tritely pray “forgive me for this or that mistake that I have made today” as if it is really no big deal.

I may not know exactly why blood, but I do know that it is good for us to remember that sin costs.  There is a price that was paid.  When we ask for forgiveness for our sins it is not like God says “oh it’s ok, don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal.”  When we ask for forgiveness, God says, “it is a big deal, it separates me from you, but I sent my son as a sacrifice for your sin, because I love you and I don’t treat you as your sins deserve, I choose to show you grace and mercy, you are forgiven.”

Let’s not ever take sin or grace lightly.  Let’s always remember that sin costs and be thankful for what Christ paid for us.

 

Footwashing

pexel feet waterIn John 13 we find a well-known story about Jesus washing his disciple’s feet.  In Jesus’ times people walked around all the time in sandals or barefoot and picked up a lot of dirt and other grime along the way.  Footwashing was essential, but it was a menial task that someone usually did themselves or had a servant do for them.  Yet in this story we see Jesus washing his disciple’s feet.

In verse 8 Peter objects saying, “You shall never wash my feet.”  Why was Peter so appalled by the idea of Jesus washing his feet?  Because it was a task reserved for servants or slaves.  Jesus was their teacher, their master and their Lord.  And yet he put himself in a subservient position, stripped down to his skivvies, grabbed a bowl of water and a towel and went around on hands and knees washing their feet.

Should somebody else have washed the feet?  Maybe.  It was customary at the time for the host to have a servant wash the feet of those who were guests.  That doesn’t happen here.  No host or servant is even mentioned in the room at the time.  But it does seem that there was a pitcher and a bowl and a towel readily available.  Any one of the disciples could have offered to wash the feet of the others.  But I would imagine they all that task was beneath them.  Knowing the disciples they were probably looking around at each other figuring that one of the other guys should do it.  They did after all get caught on multiple occasions arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

In reality, one of the disciples should have done this footwashing.  If there was one person in the room who should not have done it, based on the customs of that time, it was Jesus.  And yet he is the one who did it.

This would have been an emotional, powerful, jarring image for the disciples.  And that is probably what Jesus was going for, because the lesson is not just about serving one another.  This is a lesson in humility.  Jesus is saying, if I would wash your feet, then whose feet could it possibly be beneath you to wash?

Jesus then goes on to challenge them to follow his example in verse 17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Jesus wants us to serve one another, but I think we can serve others without really getting the lesson that Jesus is giving here.  We can approach this almost like a boy scout approaching getting a service merit badge, but I don’t think that is the point.

I believe Jesus is challenging them to a brand new way of viewing their lives.  I believe he is calling them to a radical self-abasing, others-focused kind of life.  It is the kind of life that Jesus himself exemplified in the way he lived and died.  He didn’t just sacrifice his life on the cross, he sacrificed it every day he lived on this earth by the way he cared for and served those around him.

I don’t think that Jesus is calling us to acts of service.  I think he is calling us to heart change.  He is calling us to a heart of humility and servanthood and that is harder than just volunteering for some service projects.

This is a lesson or us to have different view of our lives.  It is for us to humble ourselves to look at our lives with a different perspective recognizing that we are servants of Christ and therefore servants of one another.  Remember, as followers of Christ, we are to be becoming like the one we are following.  Well, this passage is who Christ is.  He lived a life of humility and servanthood.  And I believe the only way for us to become like this is for him to work supernaturally in our lives to make us more like him.  The question is, do we want this and are we willing to yield our lives to someone who wants this for us?

 

Guilty Pleasures

pexel pizzaThere are many things that I love that I am somewhat embarrassed to share with people.  For instance, I love Totino’s froze pizza.  It is one of my guilty pleasures.   I enjoy it, but I don’t tell everyone.  I want them to believe that I have a more refined palate.  Sometimes I do.  But I also still love a good Totino’s frozen pizza from time to time.

I am willing to confess that to you in this blog, because it is funny and quirky and interesting.  But how willing would I be to confess more than that?  how willing would I be to go deeper and share some of the deep, dark things that I don’t want anyone to know about my life?

James 5 contains an excellent passage on healing ministry within the church, but sometimes we pay so much attention to what James is saying in verses 13-15 on healing, that we miss out on what he says in verse 16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV)

James says to confess our sins to one another.  That idea seems somewhat foreign to us.  We are okay sharing things like our silly love for Totino’s pizza, but we don’t really want to go any farther than that.  We don’t want to be that vulnerable.  We don’t want to let others know the stuff we struggle with.  We don’t want to air our dirty laundry.  We are more comfortable letting others think that we have our act together.

But James is telling us to not hold that stuff in.  We are to confess to one another.  There are many benefits to this type of confession.  It allows us to welcome and invite accountability into our lives.  It allows us to publicly recognize our struggles.  It brings dark things out of the shadows and into the light.   It invites others to get involved in our brokenness and to pray for us and help us in our spiritual journey.

Also, it is interesting to note that verse 16 is part of this passage on healing.  Sometimes when we have unconfessed sin in our lives, it can eat us up from the inside out.  We can literally be stressing about our unconfessed sin to the point where it is causing physical problems and sometimes we don’t even realize what is going on.

It is also a benefit for the church as a whole.  I believe the church over the years has done a disservice in that we have hidden sin, and pretended that we all have our act together.  Confessing to one another breeds intimacy, and helps others be open to sharing what is going on in their lives.  It allows those who struggle with similar things to recognize that they are not alone.  It allows us to reach a new level of authentic community.

In order for this kind of confession to happen, we must not be judgmental and we need to be trustworthy.  We have to be a safe place where people can be vulnerable without worrying that it will be used against them in some way.

James then goes on to challenge us to pray for one another.  It is a natural progression for us to go from sharing with one another about our sins, our struggles, our failures, and our needs and then to simply pray for one another.  And that also is good for both the individual and for the church as a whole.

But for this too we must be vulnerable.  We have to stop asking for prayer for our neighbor or our great aunt, and start asking for prayer for ourselves.  We need to let other people know of our struggles, our failures, our hurts and our pain.   And then we can really pray for one another.

It doesn’t seem natural for us to be that vulnerable with one another.  We are more comfortable sharing about the things that don’t really matter.  But if we are going to become the church that God is calling us to be, then we need to put aside those barriers that get in the way and confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.

 

Ultra-Marathon Life

malcolm mcA few weeks ago at Crown College I had the opportunity to meet Malcolm Mcloughlin. He is an Irish author who was at Crown to speak for their Missions Fest. He shared about running ultra-marathons of 40, 50 and even 100 mile races and compared that to the endurance of a lifelong journey with Christ.

Hebrews 10:19-39 is a powerful passage about recognizing who we are in Christ, drawing near to God and having endurance in the faith.  This call to endurance reminded me of what Malcolm Mcloughlin was talking about at Crown College. He referred to how someone could fake a 5k or a 10k race. You don’t have to be a runner to run those races. Malcolm also said that you could even train for a bit and fake a half marathon, or maybe even a marathon. But ultra-marathons are different. They take a different amount and level of training and endurance that you can’t fake. And then, he likened that to the Christian life.

This theme of endurance seems to be central to what the author is talking about. But what jumped out at me is that right in the middle of the passage there are a couple of verses that are focused on our relationships with each other. In verses 24 and 25 the author writes, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)

That word spur is actually a word whose meaning is more along the lines of irritation or exasperation, contention or argument. The overall wording would direct us toward the idea of provocation and it is used with one another to denote the idea of like mutually provoking one another.

It brings to mind that training buddy who pushes you to go on even when you think you can’t do anymore. The one who challenges you to do one more push up, or to do one more weightlifting rep, or to run one more mile.  And in the midst of those times when we are being pushed to continue on, we may even become annoyed with that training buddy, but we know that we need them. If we are going to run this race, we need them in our lives.

In these verses the author says do not neglect meeting together as is the habit of some. We need to realize how important we are in one another’s lives. When we come together it is not just about singing a few worship songs and listening to a sermon.  The times that we get together are opportunities for us to connect with one another and become a body, so that we can be in position to speak truth into one another’s lives and encourage each other, and correct one another’s theology and help each other stay strong in the midst of weaknesses and hold each other accountable, because enduring through a life long walk with Christ is hard.

If all we look at church as is a place to sing some worship songs and to hear a sermon, then church hopping, or occasional attendance, or staying on the periphery, or even just catching sermons online and listening to worship songs in our car can take the place of that kind of church.

But this passage is telling us that there is more to church than that. We need each other. We need the relationships within the church to help us endure. We need to recognize that we are running a marathon, not a sprint. And while it may seem easy today, there will be days ahead that will not be as easy.  So let’s not give up meeting together, but rather let’s intentionally develop the kind of relationships with one another where we can encourage each other and spur one another on in this ultra-marathon of life.

Bear With Me

pexel bearIn Colossians 3:13 Paul writes, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

When I think of bearing with one another, I tend to think of putting up with someone.  When I was growing up and we had to do something that I didn’t really want to do, I was supposed to grin and bear it.  And when someone is talking about or doing something boring or tiresome they might say “bear with me.”  So along those lines, when I hear the phrase “bearing with one another,” I get the image of putting up with one another.

However, I think Paul is challenging us to do more than just put up with one another.  I think he is challenging us to choose to be in relationship with one another regardless of how comfortable or easy that relationship might be.  I believe that “bearing with one another” is a choice to make the relationship important enough that we will work at it.

I think in typical church society today it is easy for us to have the kind of relationships where as long as things are good, we are good, but as soon as things get tough we drop the relationship.  We do that because it is easier to drop the relationship than to bear with one another and make it work when it is no longer easy.

And that means that we need to forgive one another.  We need to be willing to let go of the stuff that separates us, and stop being offended so easily.  Sometimes we can be so petty that it seems like we are just looking for people to offend us.  We need to have thicker skin and assume the best about one another.

And then when real problems come up or when there is a legitimate complaint, we need to be willing to make things right.  We need to seek and grant forgiveness and do everything we can to work things out so that our relationships stay intact.

Let’s face it, if we are really going to go as deep with one another as we are talking about.  If we are really going to develop that level of intimacy, then we are going to annoy one another and step on each other’s toes.  And if we are not committed to making this relationship work, or if we are not willing to forgive, then we are going to just give up and walk away.

And notice also what Paul says in verse 16: 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

There is something incredible that is happening when we are together.  It is supernatural.  As followers of Christ we have the Holy Spirit alive inside of us and so when we talk with one another, we have the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to allow us to communicate on a whole different level.  When we share our struggles with someone else from church we are not just relying upon their ability to understand our problem or give us advice from some great life lesson that they have learned.  We are providing an opportunity for God to speak to us through one another.

We need to understand that church is God’s gift to us.  He has brought us together to make our lives here on earth better as we help one another follow him and walk through this life together.  Let’s put a priority on these relationships and be the church he is calling us to be.

Stop Lying

pexel tape mouthIn Colossians 3:1-17 Paul is talking about putting off our old lives and putting on our new life in Christ.  He challenges us as followers of Christ to focus our lives on Christ rather than on the things of this world.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t live in this world or we don’t partake of the things this world has to offer, but we are not to look at the things of this world in the same way anymore.  Christ is to be paramount in our lives.  If we are followers of Christ, our focus should be on following him.

And so in verses 5-11 he then begins to unpack that idea by talking about things that should no longer define our lives.  Since we have been made alive in Christ, there are some things that were part of our old life that should no longer be part of this new life that we have in him.  So he is challenging us to recognize those things and get rid of them.

Christianity is not just about receiving a list of things that we are not supposed to do anymore.  Rather, I believe, God has a better life, a deeper life in store for us than whatever defined our old lives.  However, that old life is still there for us to choose, so Paul is calling us to choose to turn away from that old life and to embrace what God wants for us.

With that in mind Paul moves on to talk about the new life and what it should look like in us in verses 12-17.  This list has some similarities to the Fruit of the Spirit from his letter to the Galatians and overall it is pointing us in a direction of what new life in Christ should look like.  Hopefully we are growing in these areas.

Overall Paul’s emphasis is on putting off our old self and putting on the new self in Christ, but he makes several significant points that specifically revolve around our relationships with one another.   Right now that is where we are focusing as a church.  We want to learn and grow in this area of our relationships with each other as a church.

For instance, look at what Paul writes in verse 9: 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.  (Colossians 3:9, ESV)

Now notice that Paul doesn’t just simply say stop lying, but specifically addresses the issue of lying to one another.   Lying amongst ourselves is divisive and leads to distrust and disunity.  We are called to be one body, and lying to one another directly attacks that unity and harmony within the body.

Considering the context, this could be referring to false teachers and lies they may be spreading.  That is definitely a problem that needs to be dealt with.  We need to treat God’s Word well and there is no room for false teaching.

However, what this verse really brings to mind for me is when we put on our church faces and go to church and tell everyone that everything is fine and that we have no problems.  We lie to one another all the time to hide what is really going on inside, the sin and temptations we deal with, the struggles we face, the failures we’ve had, and the pain we feel.

We also sometimes lie to one another because we don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings.  So when we see something in their life that we know is contrary to God’s will, we are afraid to hold them accountable on it.

We need to be real and authentic with one another.  And that means being both brutally honest and completely vulnerable with one another.  That is scary, but if we work hard to build those kind of relationships with one another where that would work, then imagine how good it would be for us.  Imagine if this was the kind of place where we could stop lying and just be real with one another.  That would be refreshing wouldn’t it?

Kiss One Another

pexel kissDid you know that there are about 59 one another statements in the New Testament that specifically deal with how we are to be in relationship with each other?

Some of the verses overlap so that there are more than one verse about the same instruction.  15 of the 59 verses specifically talk about how we are to love one another.  That is the most talked about one another topic.  The next two most referenced one another instructions are tied with 4 each.  One of them is to encourage one another and the other is the instruction is to kiss one another.

In 2 Corinthians 13 we read: 11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  (2 Cor. 13:11-14 ESV)

In these verses Paul instructs the church to greet one another with a holy kiss.  That instruction is mentioned four separate times in the New Testament making it one of the top three most talked about instructions among the one another passages.  We find it mentioned in Romans 16, I Corinthians 16, and I Peter 5 as well as here.

Paul actually gives us several instructions in this passage about how we are to relate to one another.   He is probably summing up what he has said in this letter with a few perfunctory statements about how they were to live.

He tells them to rejoice, to be restored, to comfort one another, to agree with one another and to live in peace.  Overall there seems to be a common theme of unity that is to exemplify the way they treat one another.

And then he tells them to greet one another with a holy kiss.  Apparently the early church used that method to greet one another.  In the ancient world this was not uncommon and actually today in many societies it continues to be a tradition.  However, in the early church it appears that the kiss was meant to signify the special union that they had with one another in Christ as part of one family.  Notice it is a holy kiss.  It was not meant in a sexual way at all.  It is devoid of that kind of emotional desire or intent.  It is a different kind of kiss that symbolizes the unity and intimacy that they have with one another in the Lord.

So is this something we should do?  I am not suggesting that we should start this practice, but when I read this and picture the early church greeting one another the image I have is of a church that was excited and happy to see one another.  I picture a church that was so invested in one another’s lives that they were like family.  I picture a church that had gone deeper into an intimate relationship with one another than we would typically consider with the church in our society today.  I picture a church that truly loved and cared for each other.  I picture a church that had authentic, real relationships with one another.

So while I might not be that interested in beginning a tradition of kissing one another, I do like that intimate family like picture of the church.  I like the depth of intimacy I see in this passage.  And I would love to see that at The River.  That is my challenge for us as a church family.

Emptied

pexel pourIn Philippians 2 we find a somewhat well-known passage that is often referred to as the kenosis passage, referring to the Greek word for “emptied” that is used in verse 7.   It is an important Christological passage that reveals a lot to us about who Christ is, although it also opens up a lot of theological questions about what it all means.

One thing we find out from this passage is that Jesus’ existence did not begin with his birth in Bethlehem.  He was with God before coming to earth as a baby.  And not only was he with God, but this passage points out that he was equal with God and shared the same nature.  In other words we find out that Christ and God are one.  We also find out that rather than holding on to that equality with God, he chose to humble himself, leaving heaven to come to earth as a servant for us.

This is a deep theological issue that is very difficult to understand.  Biblical scholars have spent a lot of time and a lot of words diving down deep into the Christological ramifications of these verses.

However, because it is so theologically significant, when we look at this passage, we tend to focus so much on the theological underpinnings that we sometimes miss an important point that Paul is making.  He is not just teaching us doctrine.  He is actually making a practical point.

First of all it is important to understand that what Christ did in leaving heaven and coming to earth for us is a big deal and that he did it in humility and servanthood out of love for us.

With that in mind, notice the beginning of verse 5: 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus

Paul is saying that this example that we see in Jesus, leaving his lofty position and humbling himself to the position of a servant for us is the same kind of attitude we should have.

Actually, if we look at the verses leading up to the kenosis passage we find that Paul is talking about our relationships with one another.  He is talking about how we are supposed to take our eyes off of ourselves and start living for the good of one another.  Instead of my job to be to take care of myself, it is my job to look after your interests.  My role is to be your servant, just like Jesus showed me.

He is not saying that we are to have a low self-image or to think poorly of ourselves.  He is talking about putting others needs ahead of our own and being others-focused rather than self-centered.

When we consider the surrounding verses, we recognize that the kenosis passage is still theologically significant; but, it is also extremely practical.  Paul is teaching us about how we are to live with the kind of humility and servanthood that Christ exemplified to us.

Instead of each of us looking out for ourselves, what if we all looked out for one another and served one another in true humility?  That sounds like the kind of community that I would like to be a part of.  How about you?

Discerning the Body

pexel churchWhen we partake in communion at The River, I typically quote these words from I Corinthians 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

Just about every time we partake in communion at The River I use those verses before we partake of the bread and the cup.  But rarely do we ever look at those verses in context.  When we examine the context of the passage as a whole we find that Paul is confronting the church in Corinth about a problem with the way that they come together for communion.  In the early church coming together for communion involved a whole meal called the Agape or Love Meal.  This was probably somewhat similar to what we do with potlucks today.  The problem with the Corinthian church was that when they came together it seems like the food was being divided unequally with the rich getting plenty to eat and drink while the poor were going away hungry.  This implies that the rich were so focused on themselves that they were missing the needs of others in the church.

Considering this overall context there is a phrase that we find a couple of verses later that I believe is often overlooked and yet very important.  A friend of mine, Dr. David Fitch, first pointed this phrase out to me in a lecture at a pastor’s conference.  We find the phrase in verse 29: For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (I Cor. 11:29, ESV)

The phrase is “discerning the body.”  Now that is a bit of a strange statement.  I think typically we tend to just lump this verse in with the two verses before it which talk about examining ourselves and not eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.  Those verses are important, but think about the context of this passage as a whole.  Paul is spending a lot of his time dealing specifically with the issue of the way that when they got together some were getting fed and some were going hungry.    And in the midst of that, we find this verse.

It is also important to note that in the both the chapter before this and the chapter following this one Paul talks about how the church is a body.  We are the body of Christ.   God has brought us together and made us a church family.  We have a role to play in one another’s lives, to encourage one another, challenge one another, carry one another’s burdens, hold one another accountable, disciple one another, and also to just make sure that we are all doing okay.

I believe that in this passage Paul is talking about how important it is for us to discern the church.  Do we know how each other is doing right now?  Are we so focused on ourselves that we are missing the needs of those around us?  Do we know the specific needs that others might have?  Do we care about those needs?  And if people are hurting or needing help, are we doing our best to come alongside one another and help out in whatever ways we can?  We may not have the resources to meet every need, but maybe we can do something.  That is what it means to be a body.  That is what it looks like to be the family God has called us to be.  That is what it means to “be the church.”  #bethechurch

 

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