Be Worthy of God?

25 11 2009

This article is adapted from the one I wrote for the church newsletter:

As you read through the New Testament, certainly you will come across some verses that are difficult to understand, particularly in the writing of Paul. (You can breathe a great big sigh of relief since this was Peter’s assessment of Paul’s writings as well [2 Pet. 3:16]!) Every once in a while, however, you come across passages in the Bible that make you do a double take and say, “What?!” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 is one of those passages. Paul writes, “[11] For you know how, like a father with his children, [12] we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Yes, he said “worthy of God.” The Greek word for worthy is axiōs and is derived from the idea of balancing something in a scale. But certainly Paul isn’t telling the Thessalonians that if God were on one side of a scale, they were to live as though they could balance out the other side! Who could live up to such a demand? Borrowing from the Old Testament idea of glory (Heb. kabōd; “weightiness”), no one is heavier than God!

Interestingly, the word axiōs is used throughout Scripture and is translated in a few different ways. The first (and expected) translation of the word is “worthy.” It is this sense of the word that one would typically understand the idea of worthiness. John the Baptist said that he was not worthy even of untying Jesus’ sandal (John 1:27). The prodigal son confessed that he was no longer worthy to be called a son (Luke 15:19). In the Book of Revelation, again as one would expect, the term is used to speak of God’s worthiness of worship (Rev. 4:11; cf. 5:12 where it is used of Christ).

The second translation of the word is “deserving” and it is translated thus frequently in texts dealing with deserving judgment or punishment (cf. Luke 12:48; 23:15; Acts 23:29; Rom. 1:32). In Luke 23:41, for example, the thief on the cross confesses that, unlike Christ, they were receiving what they deserved because of their deeds. It is not exclusively used in that context, though. For instance, in Luke 10:7 when Jesus is commissioning the seventy to preach about the kingdom of God, He says that the laborer is deserving, or worthy, of his wages. Paul also argues that elders are deserving of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17).

A third use of the word is where it is translated “worthy” in the sense of comparison. In Romans 8:18, Paul writes that the sufferings of this world are not “worth comparing” with the glory to come.

The fourth and final way this word is translated is the way it should be understood in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. It is the idea of “fitness” or “appropriateness.” In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul says that he should give thanks to God for the church because it would be fitting given the way they had grown in faith and love. In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees and tells them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (cf. Luke 3:8). The fruit would be consistent with true repentance. By the absence of fruit in the Pharisees’ lives, their lack of repentance was made evident. This was the same message of repentance that Paul preached to the Gentiles (Acts 26:20).

So, when Paul tells the Thessalonian church to live in a manner worthy of God. He is not saying that they need to balance out the scales. Praise God for that! What seems to be the best way to understand this passage is that if a person confesses that they have God in their life, there is a manner of living that is fitting with that confession. There should be a different look to that person because of the awesome fact that God is with them. This is the same idea behind Philippians 1:27 where Paul tells the church to let their manner of life be worthy of the gospel. He isn’t teaching salvation by human merit. That would go completely contradictory to his understanding that salvation is by faith alone and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). What Paul is saying is that if a person really understands the truth of the gospel (i.e., God has opened their eyes and illumined their hearts to see) so that they are saved, there is a lifestyle that comes with that saving truth and “salvific” understanding. It affects you so that you do not continue living for the world of the things of this world.

The same question should be asked of each of us: Are you walking in a manner worthy of God? Is your life fitting with the faith you profess? Are your choices in line with the truth that God has saved you by His grace? This sort of thinking and living is concomitant with Christ’s living in us (Gal. 2:20). We cannot accomplish this without His enablement. Still, we must not neglect our responsibility to walk circumspectly in this world. Paul understood this necessity to the extent that he would write it in the most provocative way: “Christian, be worthy of God.” Together, let us strive to look different, think differently, speak differently, and live differently.


Calling All Troops

17 09 2008

“Life is war.” John Piper expressed this thought in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad. In the calm comfort of San Diego living, oftentimes it is easy to be lulled into a numb passivity where we forget that war rages all around us. A good friend reminded me this week that Satan hates godly leaders and godly churches. The more Lighthouse strives to be a church that upholds a high view of God and His Word, we can be sure that spiritual attacks will abound. But are we in a state of readiness? Are our days reinforced with prayer to withstand the onslaught of attacks? Do we remember Christ’s instructions, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)? Please pray for the church, for one another, for the leaders, and for our pastor. Pray that even though we undergo serious times of spiritual warfare, Christ would see us through. Now is a particular time where the church can rally together in prayer, encouragement, and support.

Meditations from Proverbs 26

27 06 2008

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spoke on the connection between the heart and the tongue this past Sunday. Jesus, speaking in the context of exposing the Pharisees’ wickedness, gives some helpful insight about how the tongue works and how our speech reveals what is going on inside. In Luke 6:43-45, He uses the simple illustration that a tree is known for its fruit. Good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. This is not a deeply profound thought. It is well-known even today. Why would anyone go to a thorn bush looking for figs? Jesus uses this illustration to show, however, that by examining a person’s speech, you can actually see the condition of their heart. James uses a similar illustration in James 3:9-12:

9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

Our speech reveals what we are inside. If our speech is wicked, deceitful, slanderous, and malicious, it reveals the sinfulness of our hearts. We would do well to remember that sin is not just the behavior of our lives but begins as a condition of the heart. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

The majority of Proverbs 26 is devoted to describing the one who works evil with his tongue. The author writes:

18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death,
19 So is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “Was I not joking?”
20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
23 Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are burning lips and a wicked heart.
24 He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart.
25 When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
27 He who digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
28 A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

This passage has much more than can be covered in one post, but it does provide some helpful insights that cause us to examine our speech.

1) Verses 18-19 speak of the joker. This passage really hits home to me because of my tendency to find pleasure in the confusion of others. People who have spent enough time with me know that it is often difficult to discern whether I am being serious or joking in certain contexts. This kind of cruel deception does not serve to uplift the body but can actually tear down. Out of a desire not to be like the madman throwing about firebrands, arrows, and death, I need to put a guard over my mouth and consider the person I am deceiving before looking to the pleasure I might receive in deceiving them. It really does lend added meaning to the premise behind “April Fool’s Day.”

2) Verses 20-22 speak of the whisperer. This is the gossip and slanderer who spreads contention and strife through his words. In verse 20, the author makes a direct corrolation between whispering and causing contention. I mentioned this on Sunday, but many would probably dismiss gossip as a sin that “isn’t that bad.” The writer of Proverbs understands its damaging effect and how it really can work to tear down a person and cause contention.

3) Verses 24-28 provide some of the most insightful words in this passage because it reveals the hypocrisy of those who sin with their tongues. They disguise hatred with their lips because they are deceitful in their hearts. They speak graciously but must not be believed because their heart is full of abomination. But this deceit will be uncovered. The hatred will be revealed. Why? Jesus speaks of this in Luke 6:43-45 — bad trees are going to produce bad fruit. If this is what is going on in your heart, it will come out. Just give someone long enough to talk and they will reveal their heart. These are the people who dig a pit for others and then fall into it themselves.

This whole study on the tongue has been eye-opening. There is so much I need to work on myself. I talk a lot! There is no sense hiding what is going on inside in the heart. It will be found out. At the same time, there is no sense just trying to superficially change your speech. If the heart is the source of the problem, the heart is what needs to change. Praise God that He is in the business of changing hearts!

What Does Your Heart Look Like?

18 06 2008

This Sunday I’m going to be preaching on the connection between the heart and the tongue. I don’t want to spoil the whole thing by writing everything out here first, but this issue has really been on my heart for a long time now so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts.

Jesus says in Luke 6:45 that the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. If the heart is evil, the words will be evil. If the heart is good, the words will be good. You can understand the condition of your heart by examining the words that flow from your mouth. Are you a critical person? It is because of your critical heart. Are you a complaining person? It is because of your complaining heart. You cannot excuse yourself by saying you didn’t mean it or that it really isn’t you speaking. It is! The heart is the problem, so it is the heart that needs to change.

Without Jesus Christ in your life, your heart is incapable of true change. He is the only one who can change a person from the inside out. Our society has learned so well to deal with symptoms that I wonder if it cares about real problems anymore. Doctors will prescribe drugs that will treat symptoms but not cure the problem. Psychologists will give counsel that will treat the symptoms but not cure the problem. This is not how God operates. He is not interested solely in behavioral modification. When it comes to a person’s speech, He knows better than to give a person the right words if the heart is not right. God goes straight to the heart because He knows that’s what needs to change.

Once the Lord changes your heart, your words will follow. They can’t help but change because the heart has changed. What’s great about the change in the words is that it flows from an inner change that is lasting. It is not derived from self discipline. It is not just a matter of will power. Those things might change things temporarily, but the person from whom the bad words flowed is still the same person. God changes the person.

There is so much more to say about this, but I want to save it for Sunday. But if you’re reading this, please take some time to consider your speech. How would you honestly evaluate your speech? Is it critical, judgmental, gossiping, slanderous, complaining, or bitter? What is needed is a heart change and only Christ can provide that.

The Theology of Dating

22 05 2008

I know I’ve spoken on the theology of dating in the past in various contexts, but I thought I’d write a post on it in case it might be helpful for some. I posted this article on the church blog. Hope it’s helpful!

Good Fellowship

6 12 2007

I was able to enjoy some really great times of fellowship today with my small group guys and some others whom I meet up with regularly. Funny that I was originally going to cancel on everyone because I was pretty drained today. By God’s grace, I’m thankful that I didn’t cancel these meetings because I walked away from each refreshed, encouraged, and edified! Proverbs 16:24 is indeed true, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

For a long time I’ve held the opinion that if there was anything LBC could work on, it would be its genuine fellowship. Although I feel as though many of the relationships in the church are sweet and friendships close, still many of the conversations we have are shallow and focused on topics that are spiritually useless. (I’m sure all churches can improve on this.) However, I’ve seen this change within the last few months and it has been a huge encouragement. Of course, we are nowhere near perfect, but I have had and witnessed some really wonderful conversations with various members. These talks are focused on God and His Word and are coupled with prayer. As these kinds of conversations continue, I trust that the relationships within the church family will deepen further as we continue to encourage each other with those sweet, healing words.

Don’t Be an Injured Left Wrist Member!

5 12 2007

injury.jpgIt’s amazing how much a sprained wrist can debilitate your entire body. It’s my left wrist, too! I’m not even left-handed! As a result, simple things like washing dishes or picking up my backback have been made difficult. As I was thinking about my injury, it reminded me of Paul’s allusion to the church, the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul argues that a healthily functioning church body must have each of its members actively participating and exercising their gifts. This sense of belonging to one body promotes unity within the church (vs. 25). If any part of the body suffers, all suffer with it, and if any part is honored, all rejoice (vs. 26). Paul writes, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (vs. 27).

Because God has placed each member into the collective body, there are no parts of the body that are more valuable or less valuable for the healthy functioning of the whole. There is not to be a spirit of superiority from those who have greater gifts (vs. 21). And likewise there should not be a sense of inferiority from those who have lesser gifts (vs. 15-17). All parts are required for the body to work properly.

All this having been said, my injured left wrist reminded me of this principle. Not being left-handed, I really didn’t think this injury would cause much of an inconvenience. But because of this injury, I have to bat left-handed in softball since batting right-handed puts too much strain on my left wrist, I have to sit out from football practices since I don’t want to aggravate the injury, and if I need to pick up something heavy I typically need to ask for help. Individual members in the body of Christ that do not function properly likewise debilitate the body as a whole. Are you a member in the church? If so, how are you actively involved in the life of the body? How are you participating? How are you serving? Don’t be like my left wrist!