Stop Acting Like Satan

For the next 5 weeks the attention of our bulletin articles will be to support our readings from Immerse: Messiah. If you haven’t decided to join us for Immerse yet, it’s not too late. We have 5 groups meeting on 5 different days in 5 different locations. Hopefully you can make one of them fit into your schedule.

This week what really stood out to me was from Romans 14 (Immerse pg. 198). After talking about differing views about food between Gentile and Jewish Christians in Rome, he also talks about calendar differences between the two. Coming from very different backgrounds means they obviously have very different practices. Yet Paul’s goal is not who is right and who is wrong. Instead his goal is unity. Each group should be fully convinced they are right before God (even though they are not practicing the same things!)

Again, Paul is concerned with their unity, not uniformity!

He then summarizes his argument, and gives us some clues as to what might be happening in Rome.

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, 

“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, 

‘every knee will bend to me, 

and every tongue will declare allegiance praise to God.’ ” 

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.

Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

Romans 14:10-13 NLT (emphasis added)

Apparently these Roman Christians were spending a great deal of time accusing and attacking each other. That’s acting like Satan, not Christ. (FYI – “satan” means accuser)

Paul isn’t concerned with matters of opinion, he’s concerned with infighting that might ruin someone’s faith in the Lordship of Christ. Specifically in the context, don’t appear to be worshipping idols (which are demons – see Deut. 32:17 & 1 Cor. 10:20) and in doing so cause another person to fall into this practice.

The history of the Church is full of those who excelled at accusing and condemning other Christians. Sadly this is not just a sin of the past. It still happens today, and people lose their faith as a result. This is exactly what Paul is telling us not to do!

Disagreements will happen. God knows that. Paul tells us to seek unity, not uniformity.

But the moment we let these disagreements turn into accusations and mud slinging, we’ve joined team satan. (Rev. 12:10)

And that’s simply not a team I’m willing to be a part of. How about you?

Daily Psalms – Psalm 133

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 131-135

Today we conclude the psalms of ascents, and continue toward the end of book 5. Have you noticed how this portion of the psalter focuses far more on praise and worship than lament? Psalm 133 has been a favorite of mine since the first time I encountered it. Let’s look at it together.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1 NIV

Unity in God is a blessing that descends to us from our God. Keep in mind this is a psalm of ascent, so this is sung as people from all over go up together to worship. In the context of ancient Israel, this is a reminder, or a pleading for the whole of Israel to be unified. Today all of Christendom needs to hear this plead. As Paul would remind us:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

Our English translations miss a little theme here in verses 2-3. NIV uses “running down”, “running down,” and “falling on” throughout this Psalm. It’s the same Hebrew word each time , “yarad” which is “descending.”

The imagery of mountains could either be people of high standing (Mt. Hermon the highest mountain) and Mount Zion (much lower in elevation but obviously of great importance to God), or people from the northern kingdom (Hermon) and people from Judah (Zion).

Whatever the psalmist intended, it is clearly a blessing from on high when all who follow our God are one. This blessing is like an anointing that descends to lower places from the head to the beard to the collar. The same blessing descends on the elevated like Mount Hermon and also descends on the lower Mount Zion.

Don’t forget that God blesses the high and the lowly. Our churches are not to be country clubs or exclusive holy huddles/cliques where the select few get to hang out. It is for everyone, high or low, to come together in unity.

“For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:3 NIV

Blessings to you.

“He is Not One of Us”

Our Gospel reading this week is Luke 9. Let’s begin by looking at verse 46-48.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” – Luke 9:46-48 NIV

Why would an argument break out over who was the greatest? It could possibly be a result of the three who went on the mountain with Jesus (Lk. 9:28-36). But if we’re honest with ourselves, we all want to be the greatest, right? Our society is set up this way. We are taught to look up to those who are “the greatest” and try to be like them. Our school systems are set up this way where we honor those from the earliest age who are “the greatest” in grades, attendance, sports ability, and the list goes on and on. We are taught that earthly success, standing high above everyone else in your field, is the most important thing you can do.

Jesus doesn’t say that. In fact, he says exactly the opposite. I like how William Barclay summarizes this passage:

Jesus was saying, ‘If you are prepared to spend your lives serving, helping, loving people who, in the eyes of the world, do not matter at all, you are serving me and serving God. If you are prepared to spend your life doing these apparently unimportant things and never trying to be what the world calls great, you will be great in the eyes of God.’”

I think this same thinking is involved with the very next thing Luke tells us.

49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” – Luke 9:49-50 NIV

It seems that John viewed this person as competition. He was more concerned with who was doing the work than what was actually being accomplished. Notice he says “we saw someone driving out demons…” This guy was actually casting out demons, not just trying. God had given him the ability and desire to serve these needy people by casting out demons, and John tried to stop him.

Have you ever done this? Have you ever seen someone doing good works in Jesus’ name but had a problem with it because they were “not one of us?” I know people who refuse to support local efforts to feed the hungry, or clothe the poor because the group doing it are “not one of us.” In light of this passage, how do you think Jesus would handle this? Would he support the good works being done in his name, or would he refuse to join them because they are “not one of us?”

Years later, the same John that tried to stop this man would record for us this prayer of Jesus.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:20-21

The “Promise”

I love Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It seems no matter how deep I dig into the text here I find something new every time. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to write this letter in such a beautiful way, truly showing that in Christ we are all one! (1:10, 16, 18, 3:6, etc.)

Here’s another way he does this. Paul reminds his Gentile audience that they used to separate from God and his promises.

…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without home and without God in the world.” – Ephesians 2:12

Later he reminds them that they now share in these promises with Israel.

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 3:6

Sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. It’s in Jesus that we get to share in the promises made to Israel. Though there are many promises God made to Israel (that now Gentile Christians are included in), I want to focus on only four. These are known as the Passover promises and they are found in Exodus 6.

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will save you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD you God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” – Exodus 6:6-7

In case you didn’t catch the four promises, let me list them here:

– I will bring you out…

– I will save you…

– I will redeem you…

– I will take you…and I will be your God. (This is marriage language…God entering a marriage covenant with Israel)

Now watch what Paul does in the letter to the largely Gentile Ephesian church.

– I will bring you out…

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… All of us also lived among them at one time…” – Ephesians 2:1-3

– I will save you…

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

– I will redeem you…

“In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” – Ephesians 1:7-8

– I will take you…and I will be your God. (remember, marriage language)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:25, 28-32

God brought us out of the sinful ways of the world we once lived in and gave us new lives in Christ. God saved us from the sin we were slaves to through Christ. It is by grace we have been saved. God has redeemed us through the blood of Christ, and forgiven our sins. And Christ has taken us…married us, his church.

“For through him we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:18-19

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” –  Ephesians 3:6

We are ONE in Christ. Praise God!