“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!