Equality of the Genders

John MacArthur supports the “traditional view of women,” but he has a nice summation of the equality of the genders before God, in his book Different by Design.

The prevalent Jewish tradition about women did not come from the Old Testament, which makes it clear women are spiritually equal to men in that:

They Had the Same Responsibilities as Men: To obey God’s Law (in Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments are given to both men and women), to teach God’s Law (Deuteronomy 6:6–7 and Proverbs 6:20 indicates both are responsible to teach the Law to their children, which means both must first know it), and to participate in religious festivals (e.g., Exodus 12 and the Passover).

They Had the Same Protection as Men: Penalties given for crimes against women are the same as those for crimes against men (e.g., Exodus 21:28–32). God equally values the life of a man and the life of a woman.

They Took the Same Vows as Men: The highest level of spiritual commitment available to an Old Testament believer was the Nazirite vow, which was an act of separation from the world and devotion to God. Women as well as men could take that vow (Numbers 6:2).

They Had the Same Access to God as Men: God dealt directly with women in the Old Testament; He didn’t go through a man when He wanted to communicate with a woman. For example, the Angel of the Lord (a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ) appeared to Hagar (Genesis 16:8–13) and Samson’s mother (Judges 13:2–5).

The New Testament, like the Old, teaches the spiritual equality. Galatians 3:28 teaches the absolute spiritual equality of men and women in Christ. The New Testament does not treat women as spiritual inferiors:

They Had the Same Responsibilities as Men: All the commands, promises, and blessings of the New Testament are given equally to men and women. We have the same spiritual resources and the same spiritual responsibilities.

They Had the Same Access to Jesus as Men: The first person Jesus revealed His messiahship to in the Gospel record was a woman (John 4). Jesus healed women (Matthew 8:14–15), showing them just as much compassion as He did men. He taught them (Luke 10:38–42), and allowed them to minister to Him personally (Luke 8:3). The first person to see the resurrected Christ was a woman (Mark 16:9; John 20:11–18).

He goes on to explain that roles between men and women were different, but I do not agree with his position on leadership and ordination being limited to men alone. When a woman is called by God into the ministry, she has an obligation to follow that leadership and calling as much as any man.

Patrick Morley, in his book Man in the Mirror has a chapter on how to be happily married and brings up roles.

If a man’s greatest need is to be respected, then submission is the appropriate response to a husband since the opposite of submission is resistance. The main problem with marriages on this topic is that men don’t know what it means to love as Christ loved the church. Biblical love is a decision, not a feeling. He adds four types of marriages in in a submit/resist and love/hate matrix:

  1. Love and Submit (Ozzie and Harriet Nelson): these couples share life together and share responsibilities. Biblical examples could be Abraham and Sarah or Mary and Joseph.
  2. Hate and Submit (Edith and Archie Bunker): this may be the most common type of marriage that is not working. The husband does not get it (Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 5:28-29).
  3. Love and Resist (The Lockhorns comic strip, or the BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances): this is about a wimpy little guy dominated by a strong willed and screechy woman. Perhaps this has grown out of the feminist movement, but even a “housewife” is not immune to this. It is the man’s responsibility to love her irrespective of his wife’s response.
  4. Hate and Resist (JR and Sue Ellen Ewing): she nags him, idles the day away, contends with his authority, disrespects him, she is sarcastic towards him. He treats her harshly, doesn’t consider her feelings, and disrespects her. More than likely those in this type are already divorced, except for one partner hanging in there to make it work.

I’m not an expert on marriage but have been with the same godly woman for over 30 years.

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From More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine (Bruce Wilkinson), teaches about every believer going from bearing more fruit to bearing much fruit. The debate is between “Being vs. Doing.” Doing more I run into a brick wall, so I must abide. This involves being. John 15:4-5, 7, 9-11.

Passage: John 15:5

  1. “Abide” means to continue, live and remain – John 15:4, 14:2, 14:23
  2. “Abide” occurs on the vine where the branch connect:
    1. Abiding is the primary method to bear much fruit.
    2. Abiding is dependent on how the branch relates to the vine.
    3. Abiding increases the sap that flows through the branch.
  3. “Abide” occurs in believers as they connect to Christ more deeply.

Pitfall:

The moment that you are saved, you automatically abide.

Misconception: Abiding is the same as salvation and therefore I am already abiding.

Truth: Christ abides in you, but you decide how deeply you will abide in Him.

  1. You are placed “in Christ” when you accept Christ by faith – Ephesians 2:8-9
  2. You remain “abiding in Christ” when you fulfill the requirements – John 15:4, 1 John 3:24a
  3. You can be “in Christ” but not “abide in Christ” at the same time – 1 John 2:28

Principles of Abiding:

The key is not working more but abiding more. Abide is a command, it is active. Salvation is passive, it happens to us.

  1. Abiding Principle # 1– Abiding in Christ in an ongoing relationship is the secret to bearing much fruit – John 15:5
    1. Much fruit cannot be achieved by working harder or longer.
    2. Much fruit requires less work for, and more time with, Christ – Luke 10:39-42
  2. Abiding Principle # 2– Abiding in Christ is directly related to your attitude toward Christ – Genesis 3:4-5
    1. God’s personality is full of mercy, grace and love – Exodus 34:6, Jeremiah 9:24b
    2. God wants a relationship with you so much, He sent Christ to die – Romans 5:7-8
    3. God wants you to abide so deeply, He adopted you into His family – 1 John 3:1a
    4. God wants you to abide so much, He sent His Spirit to cry out Father – Galatians 4:6
    5. God loves you with the same love as He loves Jesus – John 17:26
  3. Abiding Principle # 3– Abiding in Christ enables you to experience Christ’s greatest Promises. If you abide…
    1. You will bear much fruit bringing God glory – John 15:5b, 8a
    2. Christ will answer your prayers – John 15:7, 14: 13-14
    3. Christ will make you experience His love – John 14:20-21a
    4. Christ will reveal Himself to you – John 14:21b, Acts 23:22, Hebrews 11:14
    5. Christ will place His joy into your hearts – John 15:11, 17:13

The Process of Abiding: Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 John 1:3, 2 Corinthians 13:14

The Lord reveals that knowing Him is your life’s greatest glory
The Lord reveals that He wants us to understand Him
The Lord reveals that He wants us to know Him

  1. Abiding Process # 1– To abide, you must meet Christ’s requirements: the Three Abiding requirements
    1. Abiding won’t work if you are living in darkness – 1 John 1:5-6, 9
    2. Abiding won’t work if you hate another person – 1 John 2:9-11
    3. Abiding won’t work if you can’t keep His commandments – John 15:10, 1 John 3:24a
  2. Abiding Process # 2– Abide with God through Five Spiritual Disciplines – Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 42:1-2a
    1. Build the lifelong habit of regular morning devotions (set the alarm, select a comfortable place, set up a schedule) Not just quiet time, but becoming a more devoted person.
    2. Read and meditate in the Bible (read for wisdom, relationship, set an annual plan, read more if you are receiving less) Not reading about the Bible or just for information; physically we eat until we are full; spiritually we eat God’s Word and we become more hungry.
    3. Experience victory through your Notebook of prayer (pray a daily calendar, number your requests, review prayers that are answered).
    4. Cultivate meaningful praise and worship (worship through music, a posture of humility, through the Daily Ten).
    5. Interact with God in your life journal (write notes to God, journal, write problem, dreams, confessions).
  3. Abiding Process # 3– Abide with God more and more throughout your life: Three Fruit-bearing Seasons.
    1. Fruit-bearing Season 1 – God’s discipline (you are not too concerned about sin, not much thought about serving God, devotions are boring and almost impossible).
    2. Fruit-bearing Season 2 – God’s pruning (cleaned up much sin, service brings fulfillment, devotions 2-3 times each week).
    3. Fruit-bearing Season 3 – Your abiding (committed follower of Jesus, serving with all your heart, Jesus is Lord and best friend).

Precept:

God desires all believers to develop a vibrant, intimate relationship that glorifies God by bearing much fruit.

Conclusion: Revelation 21:2-3

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Surrendering Control

This is one of the critical evidences that one is an authentic follower of Jesus; do you just believe the right stuff about Jesus, like you have your ticket to heaven, or do you genuinely desire to conform to His image. Do you allow the Holy Spirit control over your life, including your decisions, your ambitions, your marriage, your family, your leisure time?

Quotes:

Do we have any inner resources at the moment when we are accosted by the Holy One…? Immediately our credentials of independence vanish, and we cease to carry ourselves with the swagger of the executive who knows what’s up and has all under control; we become aware of innate poverty, our next-breath dependence, and a numbness that invades the roots of our littleness and realness. — Brennan Manning

God plays a game with the soul called, “the loser wins;” a game in which the one who holds the poorest cards does best. The Pharisee’s consciousness that he had such an excellent hand really prevented him from taking a single trick. — Evelyn Underhill

Top 10 Ways to Relinquish Control:

  1. Make frequent use of Jesus’ prayer, “Not my will, but Yours.”.
  2. Meditate on Jesus’ attitude in Philippians 2:1-18, being a servant, humble and obedient.
  3. Read Roy Hession’s book, The Calvary Road for a new perspective on brokenness and surrender. (Get the Book)
  4. Make a habit of not making important decisions alone.
  5. Live by a schedule that allows for spontaneity and reflection.
  6. Experiment with fasting one day a week for a month.
  7. Make a list of potential addictions in your life.
  8. Ask your best friend if you have any controlling habits.
  9. Commit yourself to not motivate people through guilt.
  10. This month give away both some money and some time.

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Why Me, Lord?

My Sunday School class has just finished the book of First Peter, which has a lot of great teaching. While the major theme of the book is suffering (which I’ll get to in a moment), here is a sample of many significant verses:

  1. A definite reference to the trinity (1 Peter 1:2)
  2. Suffering is proof of your faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, 9, 4:12)
  3. The prophets predicted the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 1:11)
  4. We are called to be holy, fear God and love others (1 Peter 1:15, 17, 22, 4:8)
  5. The Word of God abides forever (1 Peter 1:24-25)
  6. We are to be hungry to understand God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2)
  7. We are to be living stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  8. Live with integrity while passing through this life (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. We are to submit to the authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14, 18)
  10. We find favor with God when we suffer for doing what is right (1 Peter 2:20, 3:14, 17, 4:14, 16, 19, 5:10)
  11. Jesus is our example, we are to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21)
  12. Lifestyle evangelism really is in the Bible (1 Peter 3:1)
  13. God doesn’t hear your prayers if you don’t treat your wife right (1 Peter 3:7)
  14. Always be ready to tell others why you are a believer (1 Peter 3:15)
  15. Jesus preached to the spirits now in prison (1 Peter 3:19)
  16. Just where is Jesus right now? (1 Peter 3:22)
  17. Live for God, not the pleasures of today (1 Peter 4:2)
  18. Exercise your spiritual gift (1 Peter 4:10)
  19. Judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17)
  20. Pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)
  21. Younger men need older mentors (1 Peter 5:5)
  22. We are to humble ourselves before God does it for us (1 Peter 5:6)
  23. We have a spiritual enemy ready to devour us (1 Peter 5:8)
  24. We are told to greet each other with a kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14)

Back to the topic for today:

When we suffer in our lives, we often will think that we did something wrong to deserve the suffering, as if it were some sort of punishment; sort of a cause and effect relationship. While the law of sowing and reaping is very true (Galatians 6:7-8, 2 Corinthians 9:6) and God will at time discipline those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6), the universe would be quite an unreliable place if God shot us a lightning bolt for every evil deed and triggered some pleasure sensor for doing good. Let’s consider the story of the man born blind in John 9:

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:2-3)

A common belief in Jewish culture was that bad happenings or suffering was the result of some great sin, but Jesus used this man’s suffering to teach about faith and the glory of God. We live in a fallen world where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior is not always punished. Therefore, innocent people sometimes suffer. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).

On a larger scale, think about the reason that people follow God. Do they believe and follow God because of what they get out of it, or because He deserves our devotion and it’s the right thing to do? Think it over. Do you follow Christ because He promised heaven at the end of this life? Would you still follow Him even if you knew hell was your final destination? If God took suffering away whenever we asked, we would follow him for comfort and convenience, not out of love and devotion. Regardless of the reasons for our suffering, Jesus has the power to help us deal with it. We don’t go through this life alone.

So, when you suffer from a disease, tragedy, or disability, try not to ask, “Why did this happen to me?” or “What did I do wrong?” Instead, ask God to give you strength for the trial and a clearer perspective on what is happening. First Peter tells us that you will be blessed and rewarded.

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As Christ Loves the Church

I’ve been leading a study through the book of First Peter, and we recently took a look at 1 Peter 3:1-7, some pretty interesting words for wives and husbands. Paul sums up pretty well in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus:

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. — Ephesians 5:25

Men, it looks like we have it easy. After all, our wives have to “submit” (Ephesians 5:22), whatever that means, but we just have to “love” them. What could be simpler? Flowers from time to time. Chocolates on special occasions. Perhaps even a power tool or two she can claim as her own even though we store it on our work bench. We might even manage to mumble “I love you” just to make it clear. Submission sounds hard. It involves yielding to someone else. That someone would be the husband. Does that mean what it seems like it means? We’re in charge? We call all the shots? We give the orders? Let me know how that goes for you.

The movie, My Big fat Greek Wedding, had an interesting analogy about who’s the head in the marriage or family. The bride’s mother says that the husband is the head, but the wife is the neck who is able to turn the head in any direction she chooses. I thought that was too funny.

Let’s go back to Ephesians 5:21. Wait a minute, there’s something here about “submit to one another.” Seems like that could be a problem. Ephesians 5:22 tells her to submit, and Ephesians 5:25 tells me to love.

Take a look at that little phrase “just as Christ loved the church.” It tells us that my examples of loving (in my paragraph above) don’t really apply. Jesus never sent flowers to the church. He never picked up a box of chocolates on the way home from the carpentry shop as a peace offering. He never mumbled “I love you” through a mouthful of hamburger. Jesus loved by dying. He loved by suffering, hurting, and sacrificing. His kind of love sounds hard–almost as hard as submitting. Maybe even harder.

Loving that way might just take everything we’ve got, but here’s the deal. I believe that one of the primary reasons our wives struggle with submission is that they often have little real confidence in our love. Genuine love paves the way for submission (not the other way around). Jesus died for the church before the church was around to submit.

Real dying love doesn’t come naturally for men, face it, we’re selfish. If you figure out how to love your wife, you probably won’t have to bring up the issue of submission.

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Holy Living and Submission

The topic of Submission and the command for holy living may not be very popular these days, but this Sunday we will take a look at both, from 1 Peter 3:1-7.

  1. What have you admired about your grandparents’ marriage, or some other older couple? Think of someone who displays inner strength and beauty. What have you learned from that person?
  2. How do you define submission by wives (1 Peter 3:1)? How are husbands to live “in the same way” (1 Peter 3:7)?
  3. In a society where wives were rated among the slaves, what can you find that is progressive about Peter’s marriage principles in 1 Peter 3:1-7? This is a topic that is hard for many Americans to grasp. Note the phrase in 1 Peter 3:1, “in the same way.” How does that help us understand submission (refer back to 1 Peter 2:23)? Can it be that a wife entrusts herself to her husband in the marriage vows, submitting herself to her husband’s care? This does not allow any form of cruelty, emotional or physical abuse, since Peter’s instruction to husbands is to treat them with respect. Submission and respect go together. A husband who respects his wife cannot make her a doormat. A wife who commands respect will not allow it.
  4. What reasons did Peter give for acting according to these principles? For wives (1 Peter 3:1). How can believing wives win their unbelieving husbands to Christ? What may be difficulties spouses of unbelievers encounter? For husbands (1 Peter 3:7). That you prayers will not be hindered?
  5. Why is inner beauty precious to God? List some ways we can cultivate inner beauty.
  6. What can we learn from women, like Sarah, who lived long ago (1 Peter 3:5-6)? Key passages on Sarah include Genesis 12:1-5. Name some of the difficulties Abraham’s obedience may have caused for Sarah. She had to leave her home, her friends, her family; suffer hardship and even risk her life because her husband obeyed God.
  7. In what general ways do other people benefit when believers live holy, pure lives?

An Inspirational Thought:

The holiness we are to exhibit is not our own, but the holiness of Christ in us. We are not holy, and we will not become holy humans. Christ in us can manifest His holiness if we will yield our flesh to Him. This is not a human operation; it is a spiritual one. Jesus installs His holiness in us by grace. Not a once-for-all-time transaction, this is a daily, moment-by-moment striving to live more by the Spirit and less by the flesh.

… A friend bought his daughter a new car, but it must sit in the garage until she reaches the legal driving age. Until her sixteenth birthday she only has partial use of the car, when accompanied by an adult. Similarly, holiness is like a gift already purchased for us (by the blood of Christ), but we cannot have full use of it until a certain date in the future (our glorification).

Becoming holy is a process which includes God’s part and our part. On one hand, our part is to stay out of God’s part—to yield, to surrender, to stop seeking God on our own terms. But our part also is to obey. It is to enter His rehabilitation program.

When you put yourself under a doctor’s care, he cannot help you if you don’t follow his instructions. As the patient surrenders his own good ideas and obeys the doctor’s instruction, he becomes well. The same is true in sanctification. If you and I want to be made holy, then we must willingly surrender ourselves to His care, and we must also actively obey His instructions.

We have no more power to make ourselves holy than a dying man has to save himself. We are weak and tired, and we cannot offer much help. However, we can submit to His rehabilitation program—sanctification. The key to our part is faith—to seek Him in obedience.

(From Walking with Christ in the Details of Life by Patrick Morley)

  1. How can we demonstrate holiness with our lives? Some additional verses you may want to include are Ephesians 4:22-24 (put off the old self and put on the new self) and Paul describes what holy living looks like in Ephesians 4:25-32); 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (prayer, quiet living, godliness, dignity); Hebrews 12:14 (pursue peace, and sanctification).
  2. Why is it important to realize that becoming holy is a process, not a one-time event?
  3. What is God’s part and what is our responsibility in the sanctification process (Philippians 2:12-13)?
  4. Walking in his steps often leads to submission, and even to suffering. In spite of hardship, how might you choose this route?
  5. What is one area in the foreseeable future where you could practice Christ-like submission? And how will you do that?

If There’s Time:

  1. Why do we pay more attention to what people do than to what they say?
  2. List some ways we focus more on enhancing our outward appearance than developing our inner character.
  3. What about our lives will attract people to Christ?

More Bible passages on holy living, see Leviticus 11:44–45; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7; 2 Timothy 1:8–9; Hebrews 10:10–14; 1 Peter 1:14–16; 2 Peter 3:11.

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Will You Lay Down Your Life?

I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning and was fascinated by this observation… “Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him.” During the instruction time after the Last Supper, Jesus brings up the topic of his departure which prompted Peter to declare, “I will lay down my life for You” (John 13:37). Peter usually had an affinity for the dramatic and speaking up for the group (Mark 9:5, 10:28, 29, 14:47, John 18:10, Mark 11:21, Matthew 14:28, 15:15, 18:21, Luke 12:41), but I sense there is more here than just a willingness to die for Jesus.

We should be able to make that very same statement, because Jesus is still asking, “Will you lay down your life for Me?” (John 13:38). The point is that it is much easier to say we will die for Christ or for the sake of the gospel than it is to lay down our lives each and every day. I see a picture of surrender and submission to His will and authority. We must walk in the light in our everyday activities. He calls us not necessarily to die for Him but to live for Him.

For 33 years Jesus was on this earth and laid down His life to do the will of His Father. I see an interesting parallel in Scripture between John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16. The first mentions the passion, purpose and provision of the Father (He loved, gave and offers life). In the latter we have our Christian mandate, model and mission, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us, we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (we love, give to others, and lay down our lives). It is not easy because it is contrary to our human nature to do this.

We are selfish and self-preserving, but if we are friends of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him; love Him, learn of Him and live for Him. Salvation is easy for us, only because it cost God so much, but exhibiting salvation in our lives is quite difficult. It’s good that we don’t go through this life alone; we need His strength and have the Spirit to guide us. Involvement in a solid Christian community is also a wonderful benefit to living a meaningful life in the world.

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