“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

From Ray Ortlund:

Humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, disapprove of one another, run one another’s lives, confess one another’s sins, intensify one another’s sufferings, point out one another’s failings . . . .

In a soft environment, where we settle for a false peace with present evils, we turn on one another.   In a realistic environment, where we are suffering to advance the gospel, our thoughts turn to how we can stick up for one another.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.   Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”   John 15:12-13

Life together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’sm Life Together:

‘Every day brings the Christian many hours of being alone in an unchristian environment. These are times of testing. This is the proving ground of a genuine time of meditation and genuine Christian community. Has the community served to make individuals free, strong, and mature, or has it made them insecure and dependent? Has it taken them by the hand for a while so that they would learn again to walk by themselves, or has it made them anxious and unsure?’ (92)

‘In their solitude they can shatter and tarnish the community or they can strengthen and sanctify it. Every act of self-discipline by a Christian is also a service to the community. Conversely, there is no sin in thought, word, or deed, no matter how personal or secret, that does not harm the whole community. When the cause of an illness gets into one’s body, whether or not anyone knows where it comes from, or in what member it has lodged, the body is made ill. This is the appropriate metaphor for the Christian community. Every member serves the whole body, contributing either to its health or to its ruin, for we are members of one body not only when we want to be, but in our whole existence. This is not a theory, but a spiritual reality that is often experienced in the Christian community with shocking clarity, sometimes destructively and sometimes beneficially.’ (92)

Tips to Deepen Your Relationship with God

We all want a deeper relationship with God and seek it in different ways though we don’t always feel as if we’re getting very far. Part of the problem is that often we’re focused on a feeling which is no real judge of our walk with God. Other things like sin keep us from getting closer to God. Barring sin though, if we’re not drawing closer to God, what can we do? Here’s some practical wisdom.

1) Pick a rich Bible theme and give some time to think about it over the next few weeks. The Bible is filled with verses telling us that meditating on God’s Word is a primary means of drawing closer to Him. The one who delights in God’s Word and meditates on it day and night is blessed and spiritually prosperous (Ps. 1:2). We are to mediate on all God’s work, precepts, and ways (Ps. 77:12; 119:15). We’re commanded to think about the things of God and are promised great wisdom for doing so (Jos. 1:8; Ps. 119:99).

You can pick a familiar theme like the salvation by grace, the work of the Spirit in a believer’s life, or the significance of the armor of God. You can pick subjects that you might not be completely familiar with such as the relationship between the Old and New Covenants, the doctrine of the atonement, or how the Old Testament prophets pointed to Jesus.

In all of this meditation, make sure you’re not just thinking what you want to think. Let’s say you want to meditate on the Sabbath. Try to lay aside what you believe about it as much as possible and let the Word of God speak. Take time to see what the Bible has to say about it.

Take your theme and search out different passages that speak to it. Think about each passage in context. Over time, as you put different texts together, not only will your understanding increase but your view of and love for God will grow and you’ll be on your way to developing a deeper relationship with Him.

2) Let the full implications of what you’re thinking about land on you. What God says about something is important; a matter of life and death. There may be something that seems minor or insignificant but it’s not. If God has spoken to the issue, He’s done so for a purpose.

Often we don’t take God seriously enough. We try to fit His words into our established attitudes and lifestyles when what we need to do is just the opposite; we need to change our attitudes and lifestyles to conform to what He says. When God says you cannot serve Him and money for example, that’s not just an ideal. He means that you actually serve Him or money and if you serve money you’re not saved (Matt. 6:24).

When the weight of God’s Word lands on you, make the change it demands. The only true joy and peace anyone can ever have is in glorifying God; we were created for that very purpose. Our goal is wrapped up in Christ. When we live with lesser goals and satisfactions, we miss out on the greater satisfaction God has for us in Him. When God’s Word prompts us to think and live differently, we’re going deeper with Him in joy.

3) Take what’s landing on you as you meditate and preach to yourself. David described his depression like this one time: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. . . . My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God'” (Ps. 42:1-3). You know what he did next? He preached to himself! “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (v. 5). He asked himself why he was so depressed, told himself to hope in God, and reminded himself why he could! He couldn’t have done so had he not thought long and hard about the fact that God never leaves us or forsakes us and that He’ll be our help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Take what you’re learning about God and tell yourself what to do because Satan, the world, and the flesh are strong. But now you have a spiritual weapon with which to fight off those attacks (Eph. 6:10f). As you resist the devil, he will flee (Jas. 4:7). When we’re depressed or tempted, we sometimes don’t know what to do or even care. But, when you preach God’s Word to yourself, you know you’re growing closer to Him.

4) Take your meditations and lift them up in spontaneous prayers to God. Getting closer to God is not about a feeling as we’ve said nor is it about a mere mechanical process. It’s not an “if I do this check list” then I’ll be closer to God. It’s about God doing a work and drawing you closer to Him by the Spirit as you take advantage of the means He’s given you like meditating on His Word. But, in the end, God must do the work. That’s where prayer comes in.

As you think about God, His will, and His ways, as you learn more about what He says about His world and the nature of all things, as you see things that need to be changed in your own heart and life, lift up spontaneous prayers throughout the day. God has given us prayer to make sure our dependence is upon Him and not some method, even a biblical method! He’s the one who must change us. That’s why Jesus said to the disciples when they couldn’t cast out a demon they needed to pray and fast (Mk. 9:29). They’d been given the authority to cast out demons but they’d become self-reliant. The Lord was reminding them that they couldn’t cast out demons; only He could; they had to be completely dependent on Him. We’re also dependent on Him and must therefore pray for Him to change our lives with His Word. That’s how He gives us a deeper relationship with Him.

5) Now, take what you’ve learned and share it with others. As you think on God’s Word, He’ll put people in your path you can help. Just last week someone asked me a question I’d been thinking about for the last two months! You may help someone to understand God a little bit better or it may be that what you share radically changes the course of someone’s life. God is the one who determines those things. He simply wants us to be faithful witnesses for Him.

Become a sage by thinking about God’s Word. Roll things over in your mind and draw out the implications for living. You’ll be able to help others far more than you ever dreamed. Share what you’ve learned that He might be lifted up in the hearts of others and that they might be lifted up by God in their own hearts. You’ll find that when you’re about the Father’s business, you’ll be closer to Him than ever.

Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author.

How to read the Bible

In order to understand the Bible, one must read it. One must read it like any other book. That is not to say that the Bible is only another book, but that the Bible is a book and should be read the way all books are read. The biblical authors expected their books to be read and understood in that way. They used the language and literary forms common in their day. Their books make sense and reward the patient reader with genuine understanding and insight. The meaning of the Bible is straightforward and unmysterious. Many miracles are recorded in the Bible, but what is most remarkable about the Bible is the Bible itself. In it God speaks through the miracle of human language. Through language, modern readers can understand the thoughts of biblical authors who lived thousands of years ago in a culture very different from our own.

– John Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch

Consider God’s holiness

By Bob Kauflin

It is impossible for us to rightly consider God apart from his holiness – his wrath against sin, his steadfast opposition to injustice, and his righteous judgment of the wicked. These aren’t exactly popular or seeker-sensitive topics, but they describe the God we worship. But the more we love “worship,” the more we should hate sin in all its manifestations. If God wasn’t fiercely opposed to evil in every form, including our sin, he would not deserve our worship. He would not be good. He would not be God.

God’s Word speaks of our being holy in numerous ways. In the first sense, it means we’ve been sanctified, or set apart for God. He has purchased us through the blood of his Son and we have no other Master (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Second, to be holy means we’re different from the world in our thoughts, words, and actions (1 Cor. 6:11). Holiness is typically not on anyone’s top ten list. People magazine will probably never run an article called “Holy People We Most Admire.” But holiness is precious in God’s sight. Third, holiness refers to moral purity. Negatively, it involves resisting sin, fighting temptation, and taking no part in the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). Positively, it means pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

That’s one of the reasons we occasionally confess our sins together as a church before God. It’s not that we’re trying to make ourselves feel bad or that we enjoy morbid introspection. It’s not that we’ve forgotten we’re saved. Rather, we’re seeking to counteract our continual attempts to justify, minimize, ignore, and neglect our acts of defiance against a holy God. We are seeking to cultivate what Scripture calls the “fear of the Lord.” The fact that God doesn’t kill us every time we sin leads us to think God doesn’t feel strongly about sin. But he does. He’s holy. That’s why it’s good to remember our sins together in the shadow of the cross.

The cross reminds us that the holiness that cannot dwell with evil is also the love that died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). Righteousness and mercy embrace in the perfect sacrifice of God’s Son. God’s love and holiness are not contradictory – they are inseparable.

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;

For thee all the follies of sin I resign.”

We are created to share God’s joy

Historian George Marsden makes a summary of what Jonathan Edwards thinks of why God created: “Why would such an infinitely good, perfect and eternal Being create?… Here Edwards drew on the Christian Trinitarian conception of God as essentially interpersonal… The ultimate reason that God creates, said Edwards, is not to remedy some lack in God, but to extend that perfect internal communication of the triune God’s goodness and love… God’s joy and happiness and delight in divine perfections is expressed externally by communicating that happiness and delight to created beings… The universe is an explosion of God’s glory. Perfect goodness, beauty, and love radiate from God and draw creatures to ever increasingly share in the Godhead’s joy and delight… The ultimate of creation, then, is union in love between God and loving creatures.”

~ The Reason for God, Belief in an age of Skepticism. Timothy Keller,) P.218

The really good news of the gospel

“What’s good news to us now isn’t just that He died for us, though that is good news. It isn’t just that He’s with us, though that is good news. It isn’t just that He’s in us, helping us, though that is good news. The really good news is that He is in us, living His life as us. He has joined His Spirit with our spirit. In the unseen and eternal, there’s Deity inside us. We are not that Deity, but we are containers of that Deity.”

From The Rest of the Gospel: When the partial Gospel has worn you out, page 62

From Idle musings of a bookseller blog:

<idle musing> The Church Fathers called it theosis. Watchman Nee called it The Normal Christian Life; Hudson Taylor called it the exchanged life.

There have been various names for it over the years, but I call it Life!

Rhino Evangelism?

David Alan Black:

It seems that confrontational evangelism is making headlines in the news these days. What do you think? Does it work? Can the lost ever be burned by our evangelistic efforts?

For what it’s worth, I’ve found that people tend to be wary of impersonal approaches to the Gospel. In my experience, you can’t go wrong by loving them. In fact, if we love them, we will evangelize them. I say that because the most loving thing we can do for the lost is tell them the Good News.

One thing is certain: Religion can never satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. Only Jesus can. Many people have never rejected Christ; they have rejected an ugly caricature of Him.

Someone has said that a Christian needs the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros. The greatest danger of confrontational evangelism is that along with toughening our hides we harden our hearts. I urge all of us who share Jesus’ love with others to let our Christ-like actions speak as loud as our words. You lose nothing by protecting the dignity of non-believers. In fact, you may even gain a friend — and ultimately a brother or sister in Christ.

As we evangelize, then, we should:

  • anticipate conflict
  • expect opposition
  • accept people in their lostness
  • not expect intellectual arguments to win the day
  • affirm people as valuable in God’s sight
  • cultivate the hungry soil of their hearts
  • plan on listening as much as talking
  • be accepting and gracious
  • look for opportunities to serve
  • model Christ’s humility
  • love, love, love!

What a tragedy that some Christians, while having a commendable zeal for evangelism, also display the sweet approachability of a rhinoceros!

Thou art fairer

Psalm 45:2
Thou art fairer than the children of men.

By Spurgeon

The entire person of Jesus is but as one gem, and His life is all along but one impression of the seal. He is altogether complete; not only in His several parts, but as a gracious all-glorious whole.

His character is not a mass of fair colours mixed confusedly, nor a heap of precious stones laid carelessly one upon another; He is a picture of beauty and a breastplate of glory. In Him, all the “things of good repute” are in their proper places, and assist in adorning each other. Not one feature in His glorious person attracts attention at the expense of others; but He is perfectly and altogether lovely.

Oh, Jesus! Thy power, Thy grace, Thy justice, Thy tenderness, Thy truth, Thy majesty, and Thine immutability make up such a man, or rather such a God-man, as neither heaven nor earth hath seen elsewhere. Thy infancy, Thy eternity, Thy sufferings, Thy triumphs, Thy death, and Thine immortality, are all woven in one gorgeous tapestry, without seam or rent. Thou art music without discord; Thou art many, and yet not divided; Thou art all things, and yet not diverse. As all the colours blend into one resplendent rainbow, so all the glories of heaven and earth meet in Thee, and unite so wondrously, that there is none like Thee in all things; nay, if all the virtues of the most excellent were bound in one bundle, they could not rival Thee, Thou mirror of all perfection. Thou hast been anointed with the holy oil of myrrh and cassia, which Thy God hath reserved for Thee alone; and as for Thy fragrance, it is as the holy perfume, the like of which none other can ever mingle, even with the art of the apothecary; each spice is fragrant, but the compound is divine.

I Was Never “Mentored”

This is a conclusion to a topic of discipleship that we all seem to neglect: Mentoring. This writer Dr. David Nelson, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Worth reading this, reading the followup and then read the earlier articles in the series.

Feb 8th, 2010 by David Nelson

This is the third installment of blogs I penned while spending time with overseas workers during the month of January. Not all of these blogs are specifically about “missions,” but are topics raised during my time spent with these workers.

Mentorship is all the rage. Everyone wants to be “mentored” and not a few people want to be a “mentor.” And mentorship has easily found its way into forms of discipleship among evangelicals. Fundamental to mentorship in Christian discipleship is the notion that a mature believer can pass on wisdom and help to shape the life of another.

None would (or should – I’m sure we’ll find some oddball who would) quarrel with the value of such a relationship between two believers. During discussions with overseas workers I found myself, however, confirming some of my suspicions that one-on-one “mentoring” relationships may not be the best form of discipleship.

The one-on-one discipleship movement is usually cast in the context of “Paul/Timothy” relationships, and no doubt there is something to be learned from whatever we learn of that relationship in the biblical text. But I wonder about the wisdom, not to mention the accuracy, of suggesting that the “Paul/Timothy” model is the model for Christian discipleship. I think not, and let me explain why.

The relationship of Paul and Timothy is largely unknown to us. We have limited information from the text itself, and are left to infer the nature of the relationship, the time they spent together, and the nature of the discipleship that occurred between them.

As well, there simply isn’t a singular pattern in the Scriptures that is monolithic or that is prescribed as the primary means of discipleship. Jesus taught the masses and discipled a group of men. And even when we find in Scripture those indications of more personal attention given by Jesus, it isn’t strictly in a “one-on-one” relationship. We should not, therefore, read too much into the descriptions of these relationships in the text. We should not draw too little, of course, but neither should we draw too much.

While overseas I listened to our workers talk about the task of discipling, and I learned more about what I had discovered in my work here in the states. That is, that discipleship is best done in the context of the community. The one-on-one model lacks the robust opportunities for the formation of life that is found when a believer is influenced by more than one person.

Put another way, the one-on-one model often highlights the strengths of the discipler, but may also unduly reproduce the weaknesses. I became acutely aware of this some years ago when I saw a person who had met one of my “disciples” (a young man I “mentored” for about two years) and our mutual friend commented, “Oh, I wasn’t with him ten minutes before I knew he was your disciple.” As I listened to him explain why I realized that the young man had not only been positively shaped by me, but had also picked up some quirks and peculiarities from me that I could only hope he would outgrow.

Granted, this sort of thing is inevitable in human relationships, but it leads me to ask if the Paul/Timothy model (or a distortion of it) doesn’t have some weaknesses that would lead us to value more highly the prospects of something like the relationship of Priscilla and Aquilla with Apollos, or the model of a mother and father with their child. And to realize that the longer one person disciples another, we might find the greater the possibility that they will absorb weaknesses from their mentor as well as strengths.

In 1 Corinthians we gain some insight into the problems that occur when disciples identify too much with a certain figure in the church. We don’t need anyone in the church to be “of David” or “of Bruce” or “of Nathan” or “of Danny.” We need them to be “of Christ” and our discipleship models should lead us to that end.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been some individuals who have clearly influenced my life – for the good. One older couple was a key influence on me when I was a young man, just starting university. A pastor helped to breed in me a love for the Scriptures and the discipline of theology. Another older man showed me the patterns of a disciplined life. And my doctoral mentor formed in me the desire to be rigorous and relentless in the pursuit of truth and the ministry of the gospel.

I am and always will be grateful for the influence of these men and women. But note that it was a variety of members of God’s church who formed my life as a disciple of Jesus. And among those examples, some of them influenced me concurrently – the body of Christ was used by the Spirit to shape my life.

The “Paul/Timothy” model may not be a discipleship “paradigm” at all. But even if it is, it is only one description of discipleship. It is not commanded, nor does it even appear to be a primary means of forming a Christian way of life.

Rather, life in the community of faith, the cultivation of a liturgical life, and the enactment of faith as a way of life is the stuff of real discipleship. And the church should be diligent and intentional about shaping the life of the community to allow for relationships that form mature disciples.

Perhaps in a subsequent blog I’ll flesh out what that may look like, but for now I’ll leave us with this little challenge to think more thoroughly about the nature of discipleship than we may have previously. And I’ll note that this is what happened to me the past month while joined together to learn with my friends from overseas. We together, in community – studying together, arguing together, eating together, living together – helped to form one another in Christ.

So thank you to my friends – you have made me a better disciple of our Lord.

This article is found at <http://betweenthetimes.com/2010/02/08/i-was-never-“mentored”-a-report-from-the-field-part-3/&gt;