Identifying with the Apostle Paul

Paul: Apostle of Christ (2018 Film)

Conflict in the church. A member caught in some sinful behavior. Church discipline. What does it mean to forgive? Is church discipline just a self-righteous way to hold a grudge? Or do we have a vendetta against the offender? What about taking the log out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck in the other person’s eye? What about letting the one who is without sin cast the first stone? What about, turn the other cheek? How many times must I forgive my brother, seven times? Jesus said not to judge others, so who are we to judge? He also said to forgive others or the Father won’t forgive you.

  1. In our local context, who are the ones giving the church and the name of Christ a bad name? Can we honestly say that the defenders of truth are giving Jesus a black eye? Or those who are acting ungodly? Are the deacons causing all this conflict by being unforgiving or are they the ones dealing with it? Do we have members masquerading as godly leaders? 
  2. Is the issue our lack of forgiveness of the unrepentant offender? Do we just let it go? Is that the most loving thing to do, just forgive, forget, and move on?
  3. Are we supposed to just accept deception and lying and ungodly behavior in our church leaders?

Why don’t we take a walk through the New Testament to discover what the apostle Paul did when he confronted sinful activity in the church…

What are Paul’s disciplinary steps in Corinth? What did he say about ungodliness? What is the church to do to maintain it’s witness and holiness?

  1. How do we explain 1 Corinthians 5:1-2? Did Paul just tell them to forgive the bad behavior? Are we supposed to rationalize this away as a misunderstanding? Do we just agree that nobody’s perfect? Do we quote Jesus and say, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” What other interpretation can there be for the phrase, “remove him from your midst”?
  2. I have already judged this offender (Wait a minute… Jesus said we are NOT to judge [Matthew 7:1]. I don’t sense a holier-than-thou attitude in Paul, we prefer the word “discernment”) – 1 Corinthians 5:3
  3. Deliver that person to Satan (this seems extreme but it is apparently in the realm of possibility) – 1 Corinthians 5:5
  4. Your boasting is not good (do we boast that we are not the leaven of which Paul speaks?) – 1 Corinthians 5:6
  5. A little leaven raises the whole lump (this is a reality that when we give an inch, the enemy will take much more ground. We must stand for the truth and godliness. One principle of relationships is that we become more like those people we pal around with, the same with leaven in dough) – 1 Corinthians 5:6
  6. Clean out the old leaven (we need the new leaven of godliness, positive peer pressure if you will) – 1 Corinthians 5:7
  7. Don’t associate with that immoral person (more than likely, that person will drag you down more than you will help that person to rise up, again, another principle of relationships) – 1 Corinthians 5:9
  8. Don’t even eat with this so-called brother (Paul is emphasizing the “so-called” brother, questioning whether that person has experienced regeneration) – 1 Corinthians 5:11
  9. We are to judge those inside the church (Jesus said NOT to judge, but this refers to dealing [Matthew 7:1] with internal matters inside the body) – 1 Corinthians 5:12
  10. What part of “remove the wicked man from among yourselves” is ambiguous? – 1 Corinthians 5:13
  11. Are there no wise men among you to settle disputes (godly people are called to act in the midst of conflict) – 1 Corinthians 6:5
  12. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (while we love to side with forgiveness and the blessings of everlasting life, the consequences of ungodliness cannot be overlooked) – 1 Corinthians 6:9
  13. The goal of church discipline is godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and restoration (not to kick anyone out of the church) – 2 Corinthians 2:3-4
  14. “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” (they did not just forgive and forget, they dealt with the sin in the camp) – 2 Corinthians 2:6
  15. Forgiveness follows repentance (we can personally let it go without repentance, but leaders need time to recover and rebuild trust) – 2 Corinthians 2:7-8
  16. We are not ignorant of the schemes of Satan (we know who is the real enemy here, and Satan desires to take down church leaders to discredit the gospel and the witness of the local church) – 2 Corinthians 2:11
  17. The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing, (they don’t see how their actions are wrong) – 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
  18. “This fight” may be momentary light affliction, producing an eternal weight of glory (so stand strong in the battle, don’t give in to the darkness) – 2 Corinthians 4:17
  19. In fear of the Lord, we persuade men to leave sinful activity – 2 Corinthians 5:11
  20. Cleanse yourself from all defilement (accountability is a great asset) – 2 Corinthians 7:1
  21. Paul did not regret his letter that brought godly sorrow, (the sinner must be addressed or nothing changes) – 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
  22. We are ready to punish all disobedience (“punish” appears to be quite a strong word) – 2 Corinthians 10:6
  23. Paul acknowledges there are Christian workers who are false apostles, deceitful workers, and even Satan disguises himself as an angel is light, and his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (apparently, this is not a new strategy of the enemy) – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
  24. Paul does not want to show up in Corinth only to mourn over those who have not repented of their evil, who were still acting like pagans (confrontation is for getting people back on track, moving toward repentance and restoration, it is not for condemnation) – 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
  25. Test yourselves to see if you are even of the faith (for those who so easily exhibit ungodly behavior, Paul’s challenge is to see if you are really saved) – 2 Corinthians 13:5

What about in Romans?

  1. Paul rails at those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness – Romans 1:18
  2. God and his truth are self-evident (primarily regarding the existence of God) – Romans 1:19
  3. People (primarily unbelievers) are without excuse and cannot say they have never seen God, didn’t know about him, or know that he is revealed through his creation – Romans 1:20
  4. Their foolish heart was darkened (the light of Christ was not shining. How can a member of God’s forever family walk in such darkness? Well, the short answer is that when someone is in the dark, they figuratively cannot see that they are wrong) – Romans 1:21
  5. Professing to be wise, they became fools (their arrogance was their downfall) – Romans 1:22
  6. They exchanged the truth for a lie (we know that the truth sets us free) – Romans 1:25
  7. God gave them over to a depraved mind (in our stubbornness, sometimes God lets us have our own way, and we suffer the consequences of our poor decisions and actions) – Romans 1:28
  8. They not only participated, they gave hearty approval to those who practice these things (don’t allow yourself to be dragged into the darkness with them) – Romans 1:32
  9. Because of stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself (Paul thought he was all about God’s work until he had the Damascus Road experience) – Romans 2:5
  10. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil (the issue may not be losing one’s salvation because perhaps, some church people have never experienced regeneration. Check out Matthew 7:21-23) – Romans 2:9
  11. The law is written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness; we know what is right and true (perhaps this can only be stubbornness in not allowing God total control over our lives) – Romans 2:15
  12. Shall we continue to sin? (Paul’s answer is in 6:2, that we are to live as people who are redeemed, not like the world) – Romans 6:1-2
  13. We are to walk in newness of life (if we are saved, act like it and live like it, or at least are on the road of sanctification; we are to look and talk and act differently than the world) – Romans 6:4
  14. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, or obey its lusts (exercise discernment, sin is a choice, this reminds me of James 4:8) – Romans 6:12
  15. The mind set of the flesh is death (in addition to “flesh,” we might include other things on which we set our minds, those things become idols in the true sense of the word) – Romans 8:6
  16. The mind set of the flesh is hostile toward God (or any idol that we create and becomes a barrier between God and the church, his people, his flock) – Romans 8:7
  17. Seeking to establish a righteousness of our own, we do not subject ourselves to the righteousness of God 9we discern proper behavior by reading the Bible. We cannot elevate our sanctuary furniture or leadership attire to the level of idolatry) – Romans 10:3
  18. Do not conform to the world’s standard (the Phillips translation: don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold) – Romans 12:1-2
  19. Resisting authority opposes the ordinances of God (the context here is governmental authority, but we are to also live as people under the authority of Christ and his earthly leaders) – Romans 13:2
  20. Let us behave properly as in the day (not living one way at church and another way in the world, on the golf course, or the marketplace) – Romans 13:13
  21. Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to sound teaching, and turn away from them (this reminds me of Titus 3:10-11, these people are enemies of church unity) – Romans 16:17

How about in Galatia?

  1. Paul is amazed that they are deserting Jesus for some other gospel (much of the problem is Jesus plus something else, like becoming a Jew first. What we might do today is more subtle; saved by grace through faith, plus a pulpit, a choir, pastor in a suit, an American flag in the corner of the sanctuary, a hymnal in the pew – Galatians 1:6
  2. There are some people who are disturbing those in the church and distorting the gospel. Trouble-makers in the church is nothing new – Galatians 1:7
  3. Let that person be “accused” (Strong’s G331 a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction, anathema, a (religious) ban or (concretely) excommunicated (thing or person):—accused, curse. In Romans 9:3 (this is equivalent to doomed and so separated from Christ) – Galatians 1:8
  4. By doing the right thing, am I seeking the favor of men or of God? (Peter and John dealt with this before in Acts 4:19-21) – Galatians 1:10
  5. Even Paul had to put up with those who would defame his character and accuse him of lying – Galatians 1:20
  6. False brethren sneaked in to spy out our behavior, but we did not yield to them – Galatians 2:4-5
  7. Paul opposed Peter to his face when he did wrong – Galatians 2:11
  8. The rest of the Jews joined in their hypocrisy (we cannot blindly follow a leader without exercising discernment) – Galatians 2:13
  9. Paul saw they were not straightforward about the truth (of the gospel, some believers can be deceptive) – Galatians 2:14
  10. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched (deceived) you? (it’s like Paul is telling them that they should know better) – Galatians 3:1
  11. Paul fears for them, that perhaps he has labored in vain – Galatians 4:11
  12. Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth? – Galatians 4:16
  13. Paul wished he could change his tone in their presence, but adds he is perplexed about them – Galatians 4:20
  14. Keep standing firm and don’t give in to compromise – Galatians 5:1
  15. The one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment – Galatians 5:10
  16. Would those who are troubling you mutilate themselves (the topic at the moment was circumcision) – Galatians 5:12
  17. If you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another (read that verse again) – Galatians 5:15
  18. The deeds of the flesh are evident (immorality, impurity, sensuality, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions) and are not to be tolerated – Galatians 5:19-20
  19. Those who are spiritual are to intervene when someone is caught in sin – Galatians 6:1
  20. Whatever a man sows, he will reap (actions have consequences) – Galatians 6:7
  21. As Paul and Barnabas spoke the truth, devout women of prominence and leading men of the city instigated a persecution against them – Acts 13:50
  22. Jews who were disobedient stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against Paul and Barnabas – Acts 14:2
  23. The multitude of the city was divided between the Jews and the apostles (apparently, factions are nothing new) – Acts 14:4
  24. In Lystra, they were accused of being gods, and Paul and Barnabas tore their clothing and had to set them straight (we must confront false teaching and false statements) – Acts 14:12, 14-15
  25. In Antioch, they appointed elders in every church (leaders to protect and strengthen the flock, and further the mission of the church) – Acts 14:23
  26. in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement, they parted ways – Acts 15:38-40
  27. in Galatia, Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos teaching errors, and they took him aside to explain the way of God more accurately – Acts 18:26

How about in Ephesus?

  1. Change your behavior, walk in a manner worthy of the calling (this is not optional) – Ephesians 4:1
  2. Be diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit (unity cannot be present when the church has divisive leaders usurping authority and control) – Ephesians 4:3
  3. No longer walk as the Gentiles walk (as believers, we have a new character, desiring to conform to the image of Christ) – Ephesians 4:17
  4. Lost people walk in darkened understanding, excluded from the life of God (as children of the light, we cannot be content to walk in darkness) – Ephesians 4:18
  5. Paul expects better behavior since we are saved, you did not learn Christ this way, if indeed you even know him (as believers, we should know better) – Ephesians 4:20-21
  6. Lay aside all falsehood and speak truth (deception has no place in the congregation) – Ephesians 4:25
  7. Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth (as believers, our speech is different than those in the culture around us) – Ephesians 4:29
  8. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (this is the result of believers behaving badly and the church gets a black eye from the culture, we are supposed to be different) – Ephesians 4:30
  9. Forgive one another (but that comes after one has repented; never exercising retaliation or vengeance) – Ephesians 4:32
  10. Do not allow impurity or immorality among you (as believers, we can’t just let sinning go on unchallenged) – Ephesians 5:3
  11. Don’t let others deceive you with empty words (many people talk a good game but believers embrace the truth) – Ephesians 5:6
  12. You are of the light, so walk like you’re children of light (live what you say you believe) – Ephesians 5:8
  13. It is disgraceful to even speak of the things done in secret, but need to be exposed to the light (above reproach is not being perfect, but we will not bring shame on the Lord or his church) – Ephesians 5:12-13
  14. Be careful to walk as wise men (let’s not embrace the opposite) – Ephesians 5:15
  15. Our struggle is with the forces of evil more than the other person (the enemy seeks to drag us down, taking the church’s credibility with him) – Ephesians 6:12
  16. The seven sons of Sceva are confronted by an evil spirit, knowing these men were not authentic followers of Jesus (I recognize Jesus and I know about Paul, but who are you?) – Acts 19:15-16
  17. Paul challenged the Ephesians elders to be on guard for the flock (elders or leaders of the congregation have a duty to protect the flock from ungodly influences) – Acts 20:28
  18. Paul tells them that wolves will come in to lead people astray (these wolves came into the congregation and deceived the people, they looked much like the rest of us but were in fact, wolves) – Acts 20:29
  19. Paul tells them men from among themselves will arise, speak perverse things, and drawing others away (our speech can draw people away from the gospel message or the church) – Acts 20:30
  20. Paul did not cease day and night to admonish them (this sounds like a lot of admonishment by Paul) – Acts 20:31

How about in Philippi?

  1. We must help fellow believers progress in sanctification, in being sincere and blameless at the coming of Christ – Philippians 1:10
  2. We are to be filled with the fruit of righteousness – Philippians 1:11
  3. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ – Philippians 1:27
  4. Don’t be alarmed at those who oppose you, which is a sign of destruction for them – Philippians 1:28
  5. You should prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation – Philippians 2:15
  6. Beware of the dogs and evil workers with false theology – Philippians 3:2
  7. We press on toward the high calling of Christ – Philippians 3:12, 14
  8. Have this attitude in you, and if you don’t, may God reveal that to you – Philippians 3:15
  9. Those who set their minds on earthly things are enemies of the cross of Christ – Philippians 3:18
  10. The things you have learned, seen, heard, and received, practice these things – Philippians 4:9
  11. Paul confronted and rebuked the slave-girl who was interfering with their ministry and was annoying them – Acts 16:18

How about in Colossi?

  1. Constantly bearing fruit and increasing – Colossians 1:6
  2. Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects – Colossians 1:10
  3. We are delivered from darkness – Colossians 1:13
  4. We are redeemed so we might be holy and blameless and beyond reproach – Colossians 1:22
  5. Paul says to admonish every man and teach every man that he may be presented complete in Christ – Colossians 1:28
  6. Paul wants no one to delude the church with persuasive arguments – Colossians 2:4
  7. Set your mind on things above – Colossians 3:2
  8. Your body must be dead to sin or expect the wrath of God – Colossians 3:5
  9. Don’t lie to one another – Colossians 3:9
  10. Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you – Colossians 3:16
  11. Whatever you do in word and deed, let it be for the Lord Jesus – Colossians 3:17
  12. He who does wrong will receive the consequences of that wrong – Colossians 3:25
  13. Let your speech always be with grace – Colossians 4:6

How about in Thessalonica?

  1. Our gospel did not come in word only but in power, with full conviction, proving what kind of men we are – 1 Thessalonians 1:5 – Our walk must match our talk or our credibility and reputation and witness suffers.
  2. You became imitators of us and of the Lord – 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – Paul expects behavior to be different than when we were in the world.
  3. You all became an example to all the believers – 1 Thessalonians 1:7 – Can people look at you and declare that you are their example to one walking closely with the Lord?
  4. We imparted not only the gospel but our own lives as well – 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – We are not all about theology and Bible study without our lives giving evidence that we are who we claim to be.
  5. We behaved devoutly, uprightly, and blamelessly before you – 1 Thessalonians 2:10 – This is the essence of being above reproach.
  6. Walk in a manner worthy of the God who called you – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 – When God calls us to be perfect as He is perfect, conforming to the image of Christ has to be our lifelong goal.
  7. Paul wants to present these believers holy and blameless to the Lord – 1 Thessalonians 3:13 – The longer we are in Christ, the less the world will be seen in our lives.
  8. God’s will is your sanctification, abstaining from sexual immorality – 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 – Sanctification is that churchy word that means becoming more like Jesus over a lifetime.
  9. If we continue in worldly behavior, we are rejecting the God who gave us the Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 4:8 – God means business when it comes to our sinful activity.
  10. Protect your heart and mind for when Christ returns – 1 Thessalonians 5:8 – We don’t just fall into sin. It enters through our heart and mind, so guard them both.
  11. Paul urges that we admonish the unruly – 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – Yes we forgive, but this command in instructs us to not allow poor behavior in the church.
  12. Examine everything carefully and hold onto what is good – 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – Let the Spirit of God guide you in the truth through examination and discernment.
  13. Let no one deceive you, the apostasy will come first – 2 Thessalonians 2:3 – This is true for today. Don’t believe all that you hear (even in the church) since Paul tells us that as the end time comes, people will leave their first love and listen to deceptive voices.
  14. God will send a deluding influence so they might believe that which is false – 2 Thessalonians 2:11 – How else can believers choose to believe and pass on lies over the truth?
  15. God chose you for sanctification – 2 Thessalonians 2:13 – Believers simply cannot act like the world around us, we are called to sanctification, acting like Jesus himself.
  16. Stand firm in what you have been taught – 2 Thessalonians 2:15
  17. Keep aloof from any brother who leads an unruly life – 2 Thessalonians 3:6 – Does this actually say to stay away from those who are behaving in an ungodly manner?
  18. You know that you are to follow Paul’s example, who did not behave undisciplined – 2 Thessalonians 3:7 – We must follow the example of our godly leaders and behave in a disciplined manner.
  19. If anyone does not obey our instruction, take special note of that person, and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame – 2 Thessalonians 3:14 – What part of “do not associate with him” is acting in unforgiveness, and therefore considered ungodly or unchristian behavior?
  20. Yet do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother – 2 Thessalonians 3:15 – We always pray that such drastic actions will lead to godly sorrow for the offender, which leads to repentance and restoration, and eventually reconciliation.

Paul addresses Timothy and Titus.

  1. Keep the faith with a good conscience – 1 Timothy 1:19 – the Holy Spirit will tell us when we are missing the mark, and we must listen, unless our conscience is seared.
  2. Some believers have rejected and shipwrecked their faith – 1 Timothy 1:19 – that’s right, some BELIEVERS have shipwrecked their faith.
  3. Paul names two guys that he delivered over to Satan – 1 Timothy 1:20 – this appears to be somewhat extreme, does it not? At what point is this the course of action?
  4. Paul must have again been accused of lying – 1 Timothy 2:7 – since the devil/Satan is the father of lies, even Paul was accused of lying, so those of us standing up for truth are in good company.
  5. Paul gives a standard of conduct and qualities for the church leader – 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (in particular, be above reproach and be of good reputation; don’t bring shame to the Lord or on his church).
  6. Paul talks about deacons (to have a clear conscience, be beyond reproach, first tested, dignified, have a high standing in the faith) – 1 Timothy 3:8-13 – this is something we all ought to strive for.
  7. Some will even fall away from the faith – 1 Timothy 4:1 – at what point does a believer walk away from the faith? I’ve heard it said, “the faith that fizzles at the finish was faulty at the first.”
  8. Some will have a seared conscience – 1 Timothy 4:2 – this may happen when sin does not bother us as it once did.
  9. Godliness is always profitable – 1 Timothy 4:8 – living out what we say we believe is always a good thing!
  10. Accusations against a leader should have 2 or 3 witnesses – 1 Timothy 5:19 – some would like to slander a leader but Paul emphasizes two or three witnesses, perhaps to inhibit those with an ax to grind, and choose to make up stuff (like in Nehemiah 6:8).
  11. The sins of some men are quite evident and are not concealed – 1 Timothy 5:24-25 – most believers can see the deception of a few when confronted with the truth.
  12. Godliness (plus contentment) is a means of great gain – 1 Timothy 6:6 – those who cause relational conflict are not content nor behaving in godliness. Let’s strive for these two qualities.
  13. Serve God with a clear conscience – 2 Timothy 1:3 – When you know God’s call on your life, when you know you are listening to the Lord Jesus, when you walk in obedience using the principles of the shared mission to which God has called his church, we can serve the Lord with a clear conscience.
  14. No soldier entangles himself in the affairs of the world – 2 Timothy 2:4 – when we are all about the mission, the enemy will throw out all sorts of distractions and chaos to sideline the effectiveness of the church.
  15. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed – 2 Timothy 2:15 – diligence means that we have to work toward being effective in ministry. Godliness does not come naturally, but comes supernaturally.
  16. The walk of some men will spread like gangrene – 2 Timothy 2:17 – we know that unchecked disease spreads. Poison will move from the snake bite and eventually damage or even destroy the limb, or even take the person’s life.
  17. The Lord knows those who are his – 2 Timothy 2:19 – we might claim to belong to God but God knows those who are his. One of the scariest verses in the Bible may be Matthew 7:21-23. MANY, on that day…
  18. Flee from youthful lusts – 2 Timothy 2:22 – when godlessness comes calling, don’t flirt with it, run away from it.
  19. Paul desires men to come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil – 2 Timothy 2:26 – we trust that one day those who stir up conflict will come to their senses, repent, and seek reconciliation and restoration. That’s what godly sorrow is meant to do.
  20. In the last days, Paul describe those in the church, concluding that they hold on to a form of godliness yet deny its power (so avoid such men as these) – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – how true is this statement in the world and also in the church. The Pharisees had a form of godliness but were actually working against Jesus and his mission.
  21. Some men will always be learning but do not come to the knowledge of the truth – 2 Timothy 3:7 – knowledge does not always lead to spiritual maturity; some will still not understand the truth even when they have experienced decades of Sunday School attendance.
  22. Timothy followed Paul’s teaching and conduct – 2 Timothy 3:10 – godly behavior is to be imitated; ungodly behavior must be avoided.
  23. Paul tells them that there are some in the church who profess to know God but their deeds deny him, so they are disobedient and detestable and worthless – Titus 1:16 – Lord Jesus, let this not be us, but, since Paul had to write this to Titus, there is a real possibility that any of us might also fall into this trap.
  24. Always show yourself to be an example of good deeds – Titus 2:7 – live out what you say you believe, let your walk match your talk.
  25. Reject a man who causes factions, after a first and second warning – Titus 3:10-11 (for such a man is perverted and sinning, condemning himself). Paul is talking about a person who is divisive and stirs up conflict.
  26. Paul in Cyprus: Confrontation with Elymas the magician – “You are full of deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness” – Acts 13:10 – Paul was not afraid to confront deception and fraud, speaking truth that needed to be heard.

Paul in Jerusalem:

  1. Don’t make it hard for people who are turning to God (like enforcing the traditions of men onto Gentile converts, just abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols, the blood of animals, and engaging in fornication) – Acts 15:19
  2. As believers, we must repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance – Acts 26:20
  3. Paul’s message was not popular but he told Festus that he spoke words of sober truth – Acts 26:25

So, in summary, we forgive personally, because that is what Christians do; but to hold someone accountable for their actions does not mean there is some self-righteous vendetta present. When the sin is against the body of Christ, sinful actions have accountability. We don’t just turn the other cheek, forgive and forget, or keep that person in a position of leadership. We cannot condone that sort of behavior in the church. 

Related Images:

Pursuing Excellence

I’ve read that leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and their lives striving for their best. No one wants to settle for second best. Check out what was said about Jesus…

They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything He does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” — Mark 7:37

I sense that Jesus was committed to excellence. We read in John 3:16 that God gave his very best–his Son. Likewise, as Mark reminds us, God’s Son gave his very best–his life (Mark 10:45). He prepared the best food (Matthew 13:19-20), made the best wine (John 2:9, 10), and the arms He healed were completely restored (see Mark 3:1, 5). Since we are to be in the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) we should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God gave us His very best.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we must strive for our best. The measure of our success is not attached to our career or what we earn but to our character and what we give back.

From my days as a basketball player in school, excellence does not mean you’ll always win, or being the best, but it means being your best. Just as sanctification is becoming more like Jesus every day, excellence is being better today than you were yesterday.

I’ve heard it said that some people have fame thrust upon them. Think about it, very few men have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved and earned. So, what changes do you need to make so that people may say of you, “Everything He does is wonderful” (Mark 7:37)?

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

When You Lose Your Way

Life can be hard, no denying that fact. We work all day, try to be a faithful and loving husband and good and nurturing father, a good employee or boss, a good neighbor and friend, a man of integrity… you try to catch a break every once in a while but then life still falls apart. We eventually ask a similar question as the disciples regarding the blind man, “Who sinned, him or his parents, that caused him to be born blind?” (John 9:2). What did I do to deserve this?

At times we feel as if God is out to get us. Why is that? Why do we not recognize that God is actually the one holding our lives together and the outright assault on our lives is really from our adversary and enemy (who is like a roaring lion ready to devour – 1 Peter 5:8)?

I listen to K-Love radio (when Bethany is in the car, 90.7 fm in Va Beach) and Toby Mac has a recent song with great lyrics (as usual):

You turned away when I looked you in the eye,
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright,
Seems like you’re fighting for your life, but why? Oh why?

Have we been there? Don’t turn away when someone reaches out to you. Remember that no man is an island. How often do we get asked the question, “How are you?” and we casually reply, “Fine” or “Good” or some other meaningless phrase that intends to dodge our hurting or the burning issues in our lives? The church is a community of believers who gather together not because we have it all together, but because we don’t. We gather to bleed together, and share each other’s burdens and pain (Galatians 6:2).

Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin’ but it hit you outta no where,
And there’s always scars, when you fall that far.

I love that phrase, there are “always scars when you fall that far.” Each of us has a past we are not proud of, and what I get from this song is just when you think you’re ready to stand, life comes out of nowhere to dash your hopes, dreams and plans. When it happens often enough, scars form, but scars are not always bad. They can remind us of where we have been, keep us from going there again, and help us to be thankful for the intervention that Jesus did in our lives (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20).

We lose our way, we get back up again
It’s never too late to get back up again,
One day you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down, but not out forever.

We all can get sidetracked and lose our way. We start each day with the greatest of intentions, like living pure lives, showing kindness to our wife, demonstrating more joy as we spend time with our kids, but then (as the Nationwide commercial tells us) life comes at you fast. Remember it is never too late to get back up and do the right and godly thing (1 Corinthians 10:12, Ephesians 6:11, Colossians 1:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, James 4:6). The call of Christ is to stand firm!

You rolled out at the dawning of the day.
Heart racin’ as you made your little get away,
It feels like you been runnin’ all your life but, why? Oh why?

You pulled away from the love that would’ve been there,
You start believin’ that your situation’s unfair
But there’s always scars, when you fall that far.

To love is to risk (John 3:16, 15:13, 1 John 3:16, Romans 5:8). We become vulnerable whenever we open up to another person or even to our wife. Perhaps we choose not to hurt today and we close up to those around us. We “pull away from the love that would have been there.” But if we never risk, we will never feel the joy of solid friendships and a rewarding marriage. Don’t pull away or feel that life is unfair or regret past decisions. Risk, open up, and become vulnerable, because it really is worth it.

Sometimes we lose our way due to a conscious decision. James tells us that we will give in to sin due to being tempted by our own lust, which gives birth to sin, which then brings death (James 1:14, 15). We know the darkness that dwells deep within. Don’t be tempted. Flee immorality. Seek to live a life of integrity at all times.

Sometimes we do all the right things and life still may get the best of us, but continue to stand firm. Remain strong, and steadfast, under submission to God, allow the Spirit to guide you in the way you should go (Proverbs 3:5-6). As always, when you lose your way… get back up again.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

A Classic Leadership Mistake

I have come to realize that we are the sum total of our decisions. Each of us can look back at the critical decisions we have made and see how they directed the course of our lives. Flash forward to the path we see before us. For better or for worse, our destiny is determined by decisions. Many times big decisions might seem like little decisions, but destiny can turn on a dime when we make a poor decision.

A great example in the Bible is found in 1 Kings 12:8. Solomon has died and is asleep with his fathers (1 Kings 11:43). His son, Rehoboam, was all set to be crowned the king over Israel (1 Kings 12:1). The people request an audience with the young king and they plead that they will serve the king if he will lighten the heavy load his father put on them (1 Kings 12:4). Rehoboam wisely delays his decision and seeks counsel from the elders (1 Kings 12:5).

The wise and experienced elders recommend that Rehoboam back off the hard labor on the people in order to gain their loyalty (1 Kings 12:7). Here is the decision that determined the destiny of the nation, Rehoboam abandoned the counsel of his parents’ generation and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him (1 Kings 12:8, 13). “If you thought my father was hard, you ain’t seen nothing yet” (1 Kings 12:14). These young men inherited something for which they did not work for or earn.

In politics today, how often do we read about our young national leaders forsaking the wise counsel of history in order to embrace failed socialistic policies of the past? Once the “new generation” is in power (Generation We) they will set the new course for America. As Solomon’s situation predicted, the Builders and Boomers who created a strong America will soon die off and leave it all to fools who did not earn it… all vanity and futility (Ecclesiastes 2:17, 18, 19, Psalm 39:6, 49:10). They will eventually learn that promoting and endorsing a utopian society will not make it so just because they claim to have the larger voting block.

But I digress, what about your situation? Who are you listening to?

I think Rehoboam made the classic mistake many young leaders make. He surrounded himself with “yes men.” By surrounding himself with the good-old-boys from his youth he limited his counsel and experience. It’s so important to have some people who can speak into our lives from a different vantage point. It’s so important to have counselors who have been there, done that and can speak from experience. It’s so important to respect those who have made more trips around the block and around the sun.

I believe that we only make a few major decisions in our lives and we spend the rest of our lives managing those major decisions. In context, this little decision by Rehoboam (to listen to the wrong crowd) split the kingdom in two! It led to civil war between the Israel and Judah (1 Kings 12:16, 19, 20). All of this sprang from a young leader’s arrogance. He even foolishly sent Adoram (the leader over the forced labor) to share the news, and the people killed him (1 Kings 12:18).

I think it’s important that we listen to the voice of innovation but we also need to listen to the voice of wisdom and experience.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Leaders and Bosses

Men, some of you guys are the boss, and I suppose the rest of you have a boss, but have you ever considered what the Bible teaches about the two. It appears that Scripture addresses the issue of leadership more than just being a boss. I guess the contemporary application of slaves and masters (Ephesians 6:5, 9, Colossians 4:1, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18) may resemble the employee/employer relationship, but I sense that Jesus would rather have leaders more than bosses. Many who think they are leading are really just lording over other people (Mark 10:42).

I think that many people confuse leadership with power and control. We tend to believe that a person in a position of authority or someone with a title has their position or title due to their leadership qualities. But, in many cases there is no connection between a position and that person’s leadership ability. Just having a title does not make someone a leader.

Years ago I taught a pastoral ministries course on leadership at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia and emphasized that leadership is all about influence. Everyone has the ability to influence others, no matter where you are in the organization. There is a huge difference between being a boss and being a leader. I recently read the following:

  1. The boss drives group members; the leader coaches them.
  2. The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will.
  3. The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
  4. The boss says “I;” the leader says “we.”
  5. The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace.
  6. The boss says, “Get there on time;” the leader gets there ahead of time.
  7. The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
  8. The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
  9. The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes it a game.
  10. The boss says, “Go;” the leader says, “Let’s go.”

– Author unknown

So, as you consider those over whom you have influence, how can you be a better leader?

Related Images:

Strangers in This World

All of us have experienced times when we did not fit in: arriving overdressed (or underdressed) for a social occasion, not knowing the language spoken around us, being in a setting as a minority race or minority, gender, holding a single dissenting opinion in a hotly debated topic. But underneath these embarrassing and painful moments sometimes lurks a pervasive sense that maybe we don’t fit anywhere.

  1. Think about a time when you felt out of place, like a stranger who did not belong.
  2. If you knew you were about to enter a difficult time in your life that would test your faith, how would you prepare yourself?

Early Christians were subject to many kinds of isolation. Although their faith originated in Judaism, the Jews rejected them because Christians saw Jesus as Messiah. Romans would eventually use Christians as scapegoats, blaming them for all sorts of political problems. Pagan Greeks saw Christians as atheists because they insisted on worshiping only one God rather than their pantheon of deities. Here comes Peter offering first-century Christians (and us) a different kind of belonging.

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12

1. Imagine you are one of the early Christians receiving Peter’s letter. After studying this opening section, what would motivate you to keep reading?

2. Study Peter’s description of the people who were about to receive his letter (1 Peter 1:1-2). How does his description of them help explain why they were “strangers in the world?”

Notice the source of our salvation (1 Peter 1:2).
The Father elected us – we still have responsibility (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Revelation 22:17).
The Spirit sanctified us – he convicts of sin (John 16:8) and points to Christ (John 16:13, 14).
The Son redeemed us – blood sprinkled signifies cleansing (Leviticus 14:1-7), ratification of a covenant (Exodus 24:3-8) and set apart holy items (Exodus 29:20-22)

3. How does the introduction to Peter’s letter help you appreciate the three persons of God? The word blessing is the same root word for eulogize.

4. Peter says that God has given his people “new birth.” What does he say grows out of that new birth (1 Peter 1:3-5)?

Notice the blessings of our salvation
A living hope (1 Peter 1:3) living word (1 Peter 1:23) living stone (1 Peter 2:4)
A lasting home (1 Peter 1:4) which is perfect (incorruptible), pure (undefiled) and permanent (does not fade away)

5. Peter says in verse 6, “Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” If you were to hear that kind of message, what information in this paragraph might help you through the suffering (1 Peter 1:3-9)?

Notice the trials of our salvation
Attitude – greatly rejoice (1 Peter 1:6)
Duration – for a little while (1 Peter 1:6)
Evidence – proof of authentic faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Blessing – belief in the unseen (1 Peter 1:8)
Effect – bringing salvation (1 Peter 1:9)

6. How does the future as Peter describes it here offer you hope in your own setting?

7. What did Peter believe to be true of genuine faith (1 Peter 1:7-9)? Proof of faith rests in the fact of the ability to give God praise, glory and honor in the midst of suffering.

Notice what Peter describes as precious:
Precious trials of faith (1 Peter 1:7)
Precious blood (1 Peter 1:19)
Precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4)
Precious spirit (1 Peter 3:4)
Precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)

8. Peter complimented his readers because they believed in Jesus and loved him, even though they had not seen him (1 Peter 1:8). What questions do you think people today have to cope because they have not personally seen Jesus?

9. When have you seen Jesus (through a person or event) in a way that increased your faith?

10. By what different routes did news of salvation come to the readers of Peter’s letter (1 Peter 1:10-12)? Old Testament prophets did not always understand their messages. Prediction would be understood at a later time (Matthew 13:17).

Notice suffering compared to glory (1 Peter 1:11)
Clothing (Luke 2:12 – Psalm 93:1)
Possessions (Luke 9:58 – Hebrews 1:2)
Rejection (John 1:11 – Isaiah 9:6)
Grief (Isaiah 53:3 – Hebrews 1:9)
Crown (John 19:5 – Revelation 14:14)
Appearance (Isaiah 53:2 – Psalm 27:4)

12. In what ways are Christians special, even when compared to Old Testament prophets and angels (1 Peter 1:12)? Angels don’t understand salvation!

13. Peter refers to new birth, or salvation, throughout this passage as a central difference between Christians and the world. What tensions have you experienced because of this difference?

14. How does God’s gift of salvation help you cope with these tensions?

Right now, thank God that you belong to him and that you have an eternal home with him and his people. If you have not yet come into God’s family, ask that he continue to guide you on your spiritual journey.

For Further Thought

Review some of the people who came to mind as you considered question 9, people who have increased your faith. Write a letter of appreciation to one of them. If this is not possible, write a prayer of thanks to God for that person’s influence in your life.

Suffering and joy are mixed in this section of Peter’s letter (a lot like right life). Consider the people and events that have brought you pain; consider sources that have brought you joy. Are some perhaps the same sources? In prayer, share all of this with your loving God, who understands the mixture far better than we do.

Read again 1 Peter 1:8-9. Meditate on love and joy as Peter describes them. Thank God for offering a joy that cannot be diminished by earthly events. Then, as much as possible, enjoy!

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Introduction to First Peter

We are finishing our study of the life of Peter, and decided to move right into the writings of Peter. First Peter is a wonderful book of hope for the hurting. Get the First Peter Chart. Here are a few facts about the book:

  1. Of the 12 original disciples, only three where inspired by the Spirit to write Scripture (Matthew, John and Peter).
  2. In Peter’s letters, he takes seriously the last command of Jesus to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17).
  3. Peter writes a lot about hope (1 Peter 1:3, 13, 21, 3:15) , whereas Paul writes about faith and John writes about love (Faith, hope and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13).
  4. A key theme in Peter’s writings is suffering (word used sixteen times) and grace (used eight times).
  5. The church appears to be affected by worldliness in the pew (1 Peter 2:11) and materialism in the pulpit (1 Peter 5:1, 2, 3).

Peter develops the doctrine of Christ in a remarkable way:

  1. Incarnation (1 Peter 1:20)
  2. Names of Christ: Spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:19), Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6) in relation to the Scripture, Precious Stone (1 Peter 2:7) in relation to the believer, Stumbling Stone (1 Peter 2:8) in relation to unbelievers, Bishop of our Souls (1 Peter 2:25), Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)
  3. Sinless Life (1 Peter 1:19, 2:22)
  4. Suffering and Death (1 Peter 1:11, 2:23, 24, 3:18, 4:1, 13, 5:1)
  5. Resurrection (1 Peter 3:21, 22)
  6. Ascension (1 Peter 3:22)
  7. Presence at the right hand of the Father (1 Peter 3:22)
  8. Second Coming (1 Peter 1:13, 17, 4:13, 5:1, 4)

Peter describes believers in a remarkable way:

  1. Obedient Children (1 Peter 1:14)
  2. Newborn Babes (1 Peter 2:2)
  3. Living Stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  4. Holy Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  5. Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5)
  6. Holy Nation (1 Peter 2:9)
  7. Peculiar People (1 Peter 2:9)
  8. Strangers and Pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. Christians (1 Peter 4:16)
  10. The Righteous (1 Peter 4:18)
  11. The Elect of God (1 Peter 1:2)
  12. The People of God (1 Peter 2:10)
  13. The Oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11)
  14. The Flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)

It is considered that Mark’s gospel reflects the teachings of Peter.

  1. Peter and John are the only NT writers who refer to Jesus as a lamb (John 1:29, 36, Revelation 5:6, 1 Peter 1:19).
  2. Peter was familiar with Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:15, 16).
  3. There is a similarity of teaching and wording between 1 Peter and Ephesians.
    Ephesians 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:3
    Ephesians 3:5, 10 and 1 Peter 1:12
    Ephesians 3:6, 21 and 1 Peter 4:11
    Ephesians 3:8 and 1 Peter 1:8
    Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:9
    Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 1 Peter 4:10
    Ephesians 4:13, 15 and 1 Peter 2:2

Next we will look at being strangers in this world…

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Christianity and Conflict

The Jews were by law separatists. You are likely familiar with many passages of Scripture where Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9) or were forbidden to enter the house of a Gentile (Matthew 8:8, John 18:28) so these events in the life of Peter are best understood when we understand the culture of Peter’s day. There was sometimes a volatile religious mix that required strong leaders like Peter and Paul to break down barriers. God blessed them with strength, faith, revelation, and lots of grace–because sorting out the truth among so many competing beliefs would usually lead to some mistakes and misjudgments. Peter, well familiar with all sorts of social missteps, would play a key role.

A Course Correction: Acts 10:1-11:18 (Primarily Acts 10:1-19, 44-48)
Peter will later be known as the apostle to the Jews, while Paul will become famous as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7). But it’s through Peter that God first chooses to swing open the door of salvation to the Gentiles. This vision on a rooftop is a radical departure for the early church and gives it a straight path to reaching Greeks and Romans with the gospel.

Cornelius was a man of considerable means, power, and authority. As a centurion, he was in charge of a fighting force of one hundred Roman soldiers. He was also what the Jews call a God-fearer, a Gentile who had accepted the Jewish God and faith but stopped short of adopting the practices, like circumcision and dietary laws, necessary to become an authentic Jew.

God gave Cornelius and Peter complementary visions. He told Cornelius to send men to bring Peter to his house, and he showed Peter that keeping one’s distance from Gentiles for dietary and other reasons is no longer necessary. Salvation is for the Gentiles too, and the church will generate a few gatherings where Jews and Gentiles fellowship together, work alongside each other, and eat together. They can’t do this while thinking a fellow believer is unclean. No walls should separate Jews and Gentiles, slave or free, male or female. The body of Christ should be a united whole.

At Cornelius’s house, Peter explained the gospel, and as he was speaking, the Spirit fell on everyone there. I see this as evidence that God is making no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and the only reasonable response is praise.

  1. How would you respond if God told you to do something that would violate one of your long-held personal values?
  2. If the Spirit dramatically manifested himself among people who had never been to church or read the Bible, would you be more likely to feel jealous or praise God? Why?

A Council Convened: Acts 15:1-35 (Primarily Acts 15:4-21)
Some Pharisees who had become Christians were finding the Gentile mission very difficult to accept. It was clear in the Law that circumcision was to be a sign God’s people (Exodus 12:48-49; Leviticus 12:3). Actually, all of the laws of God were to be a sign that set his people apart from the rest of the world. It isn’t possible for the Spirit to contradict himself, so, Gentiles who accept the Jewish Messiah should be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.

But salvation is by grace through faith alone, and neither circumcision nor any other work is a prerequisite of God’s grace, which was hard for the Jews to understand. So a council of church leaders convened in Jerusalem to settle the issue. Jew and Gentile believers, apostles, and elders offered their views. And then after much discussion, Peter stood up and laid out his simple, evidence-based argument: “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). In other words, if the Spirit isn’t keeping his distance from uncircumcised Gentiles, why should we?

In the end, James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, spoke up declaring new believers need not become Jewish before they come to Christ. He then added that the council strongly urges Gentiles to reject the rituals of paganism, like eating meat sacrificed to idols and rites of sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). Basically, the Holy Spirit will conform Gentile believers into the image of Christ and the character of God. This new freedom is not a license to sin, but the liberty to believe, worship and be filled with the Holy Spirit apart from Jewish rites becomes official church policy.

  1. How difficult do you think it was for Peter to advocate for Gentiles among his Jewish brothers?
  2. How difficult do you think it might have been for him to endorse the ministry of Paul, who was once an enemy of the disciples?
  3. How well do you think Christians today affirm ministries that employ unfamiliar methods? Why?

A Confrontation Commences: Galatians 2:1-21 (Primarily Galatians 2:11-21)
Peter’s conviction on the issue of accepting Gentile believers had wavered since the Jerusalem council. He had been accepting invitations to dine with Greek friends in Antioch, but when some disciples of James come to visit, he began to distance himself from the Gentile believers in order to appease the Jewish believers (Galatians 2:12).

The change in Peter’s behavior was noticeable; he had suddenly allowed the pressure of Jewish guests to intimidate him. Even Barnabas, Paul’s companion, joined in this “hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:13). Since it had become a public issue, Paul confronted Peter publicly. There is no evidence in the New Testament that Peter ever rejected the criticism. I suppose in his maturity, he had become correctable.

  1. How do we know where to draw the line between the absolutes of our faith and the freedom we’re given in Christ?
  2. When is it right to confront others who may be abusing their freedom in Christ?
  3. Paul was adamant that Peter shouldn’t avoid eating with Gentiles just to appease Jewish believers. However, he also taught that we shouldn’t use our freedom to offend others (Romans 14:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Why do you think Paul was less concerned about offending strict Jewish Christians in this particular case?

Think About It:
Suppose you grew up in a very conservative Christian area that discouraged all forms of interaction with the secular world except the most unavoidable. But new people within your community had recently begun preaching a new interpretation of the group’s principles, saying that the only way to impact the world is to mix and mingle with it (to get involved in secular organizations and to try to understand secular culture, including its media and entertainment and ideologies). Needless to say, there’s quite a conflict between the traditional faction and the contemporary one. Your concept of holiness is being stretched beyond your comfort level.

  1. Why is change, especially in matters of faith, so controversial and contested?
  2. How is it possible to know when a new direction is initiated by God and when it isn’t?
  3. How do we balance our faithfulness to long-held values with our willingness to be moved by God’s Spirit?
  4. What was Paul’s answer to this tension between old and new perspectives? What was Peter’s?

Related Images:

We Are Iron Men

People love superheroes, and this season brings back a long awaited sequel, Iron Man 2. This is easily one of the most anticipated sequels of all time, and Tony Stark is back and badder than ever.

Before becoming Iron Man, millionaire playboy/inventor Tony Stark simply cruised casinos, consumed alcohol and amassed sexual conquests as wildly as James Bond. Unlike 007, however, he didn’t stop warlords; he armed them. That is until a missile demonstration ended with Stark’s capture by a murderous Middle Eastern dissident who ordered him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He escaped by using the materials to make tricked-out battle armor. In the process, Stark had the Marvel Comics equivalent of a Damascus Road experience. He repented of his past and pledged to help the very people he’d been hurting, aided by a novel power source and high-tech exoskeleton that conforms to his body Transformers-style.

Something else about Iron Man’s unique origin story makes it special: No radioactive spider bite. No exposure to gamma rays. Stark wasn’t accidentally endowed with new skills. Rather, his heroic journey mirrors an arrogant sinner coming to grips with his own depravity, choosing to change and battle the forces of darkness.

The movie is full of cool gadgets, sarcastic humor, mega-explosions and special effects everywhere. I would just about give my right arm to suit up and dominate evil dudes in Iron Man fashion.

Obviously that is not going to happen, but there is an armored suit available to Christians that in many ways provides the same protection and weaponry, one that lights up the spiritual world like Stark in a village full of terrorists. Here is the description of the conflict we face:

    1. Put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11)
    2. Defending against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:11)
    3. The real struggle is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12)

      The war that Paul describes here is not against earthly terrorists, communists, or anything that is flesh and blood. This conflict is in the spiritual realm – and it is not for the weak or the wimpy. Every day the unseen forces of Satan and his army are arrayed against you. They are firing off the missiles of deception, discouragement, temptation, and opposition, so you’ll give up the battle and your calling.

      We need to make sure that we are properly fitted with this suit from the closet of your soul, so let me walk through the steps that Paul gave us:

      1. First, put on the belt of truth – which means speaking/ living truthfully and with integrity (Ephesians 6:12).
      2. Next, position the breastplate of righteousness – which is living in obedience to God’s will and his Word because He has completely forgiven you (Ephesians 6:14).
      3. Don’t forget the boots of readiness – which is a willingness to share the gospel message with anyone, anywhere, anytime (Ephesians 6:15).
      4. Raise up the shield of faith – which is hiding behind the promises of God when Satan sends a onslaught of lies and temptations your way (Ephesians 6:16).
      5. Protect your mind with the helmet of salvation – which is a constant remembrance that the penalty and power of sin is broken in your life, so don’t believe the negative messages from the devil that you are guilty and worthless (Ephesians 6:17).
      6. Finally, be sure and draw the sword of the Spirit – which is God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17).
      7. Along with prayer (Ephesians 6:18), this is your offensive weapon to strike the heart of the enemy with incredible force. So powerful in fact, that this is the result:

      We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

      Picture an army of believers who are protected with the very armor of God and armed with His living Word. God uses this mighty force to stop spiritual terrorism and start a revolution for His cause – making disciples who make disciples!

      We are Men of Steel, and we can choose to be Iron Men, choosing to leave the old life behind, and make ourselves battle-ready for the sake of God’s kingdom. Suit up and make a difference.

      [print_link] [email_link]

      Related Images:

      Inspiration, Faith & Integrity

      My Sunday morning Bible study is taking a fresh look at Peter and how his life often mirrors our own at various times in life. This week we are looking at the power of God that filled Peter’s life, and how that made a difference.

      Pilate’s wife warned him not to mess with Jesus (Matthew 27:19). The guards who stood at the tomb didn’t really know what happened that night (Matthew 28:11-15) but were paid to give false testimony. Right at seven weeks after these amazing events, the next Jewish feast had arrived. We find the disciples gathered in an upper room praying. They saw Jesus ascend to heaven but had not yet received what Jesus had promised, the Spirit, power, and they did not even know what to look for. Would they even recognize it when it came?

      Inspired Words: Acts 2:1-40 (primarily Acts 2:1-14)
      On the streets below the room where the believers are gathered, Jerusalem is busy. Jewish pilgrims from all over the world have come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. The believers have been in prayer (Acts 1:14), as instructed by Jesus, and waiting to see what he promised (Acts 1:8). Suddenly, a roaring wind fills the house and tongues of fire fall on each person. The visitation is unmistakable, and the promised power has arrived.

      Peter is filled with words to explain the amazing event. A miracle occurs as visitors in town for the feast hear the good news about Jesus in their native tongue (Acts 2:11). They are touched by the message and confused by the messengers (Acts 2:12-13). Then Peter takes the lead. He stands up and preaches the world’s first post-ascension sermon (Acts 2:14). He steps into the role he will fill for the rest of his life: a vocal leader of the Jesus movement.

      1. Peter’s regrets and failures are nowhere evident in Acts 2. It’s as though they never happened. He has “moved on” and gotten busy doing what God called him to do. Is anything from your past hindering your ability to be completely available to God?
      2. If so, how do you think God would want you to deal with it? Why is it so hard sometimes to move on?

      Daring Faith: Acts 3:1-26 (primarily Acts 3:1-10)
      Peter and John encounter a familiar scene on their way to the temple to pray. A crippled man is being carried to the gate so he can beg for alms from people (Acts 3:2). Today is different than most other days; the disciples are now filled with boldness in their faith, like they never experienced while Jesus walked in the flesh. They look the man in the eyes and offer him something far better than silver or gold. Peter grabs his hand, pulls him to his feet before seeing any evidence of healing, and tells him to walk (Acts 3:7). Only then do the man’s ankles and legs grow strong. He walks, jumps, and praises God vocally and visibly.

      It’s a very public miracle. People who have know this man for years are amazed at the sight. They are filled with wonder and awe, and Peter sees another opportunity. Again, he begins to preach.

      1. People all around you are hurting physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. How much of your reputation or your dignity would you be willing to risk to help them?
      2. How much faith do you have that your intervention can change their lives?
      3. Peter seized an opportunity to display the glory of Jesus. How diligently do you look for those kinds of opportunities?
      4. What is one act of faith you can do this week to help someone who’s hurting?

      Courageous Leadership: Acts 5:1-10
      Many believers are selling their possessions, pooling their resources, and sharing with each other so that no one would have any needs. It’s a remarkable reflection of the love of Christ in their lives. Though the generosity isn’t required of anyone, it’s a natural response to the Spirit’s presence.

      But there are always those who try to see how little they can get by with. In this case, it’s a married couple named Ananias and Sapphira who boast greater generosity than they actually have. They secretly keep a portion of a land sale for themselves (Acts 5:1-2).

      But there are no secrets with the Holy Spirit, and there is no room for a lack of integrity. The couple has lied to God, to Peter and the other leaders, and to the fellowship of believers (Acts 5:4). Unlike many later church leaders who would ignore the deception as a personal issue, Peter confronts the couple. When he bluntly exposes Ananias’ lie, the deceiver falls down dead (Acts 5:5). Later, his wife does the same when she is confronted (Acts 5:10). In these first days of the new church, integrity seems to be a vital issue both to the Spirit and to Peter.

      1. To what degree do you think the church today is known for its integrity?
      2. Do you think the Spirit does (or will) have as harsh a response to deception as he did with Ananias and Sapphira? Why or why not?
      3. How meticulous are you about your own integrity?
      4. Do you present yourself as more generous, loving, or honest than you really are? If so, why?

      Related Images: