Patience – Part 1

In 2 Peter 1:5, 6, Peter gives us characteristics which we are to diligently add to our faith. First we are to add virtue and to virtue knowledge. To knowledge we are to add self-control and to self-control perseverance. As I am studying through these characteristics, I wanted to take some extra time to delve into the meaning of perseverance.

Perseverance is a translation of the word “hupomone”, which means to remain under. The person who is persevering or enduring is remaining under some circumstance or pressure and he is doing so in such a way that his spirit is not crushed by the circumstances. Perseverance can be the result of remaining under the pressures which God brings directly in the form of discipline.  Hebrews 12:7 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Perseverance can also be the result of enduring the pressures inflicted by the world and its system of evil and persecution. Either way we are to remain confident and strong in spite of the pressures.

In the passage under consideration, Peter instructs us to be diligent to add this trait to the others that are being added to our faith. Diligence means that we will focus our attention on and work toward accomplishing this goal of adding endurance to our faith. Endurance is gained primarily by practice. In order to be diligent in adding it to our faith, we will have to go through various trials and be diligent about taking those trials patiently. Needless to say, that is not an easy task.

What does the New Testament teach us about endurance?  James 1:3 tells us that the trying of our faith produces patience. Similarly,  Romans 5:3 tells us that tribulation works patience and patience brings experience and experience hope. This is why James says that those who endure are to be counted blessed (James 5:11).  It is also why he tells us to count it all joy when we come under the various pressures because we know that these trials will produce endurance in us. Perseverance/patience/endurance is a tremendous goal to reach for. Trials bring joy because we know the result will be good.

The word “experience” in Romans 5:3 is an interesting one which would take an entire study of its own. In essence it means proof or evidence. So the patience that comes from tribulation brings about the kind of experience that proves the genuine nature of our Christian life. Experience is not the flimsy, superficial feeling-oriented concept that we have today. It is the documentation of our Christian faith. Tribulation brings about patience which gives rise to the documentation of our genuine faith which then provides hope. Someone has said that hope looks to the future while endurance helps us get there. You don’t get there if you don’t endure. We will see hope in close proximity to endurance throughout this study.

(This article was first posted to the Faithful Men Blog in October 2006.)

Basic Devotion Plan

Sometimes it’s hard for people to figure out how to have a regular devotional life when life is busy and time is limited. I’ve put together a 20 minute plan that might be helpful as a start. I’m not suggesting that only 20 minutes is ideal, but I’m trying to help get you started on a regular practice.

Basic Devotion Plan

20 minute quiet time; 10 minutes in the Word; 5-8 minutes in prayer; 2-3 minutes reviewing memory verse for the week. Do this at a time when you are alert, not just when you are ready to crash. If you have to, get up a little earlier, shower, eat a little something and then take time for this.

 

4 times a week. (You could make it 5 if you think you can). There’s no commitment as to which days, but by Wednesday night 2 should be done and by Sunday morning 2 more.

I’ve broken up Ephesians into small sections below. Do not read more than one section. Read and think about the same section for the full ten minutes.

Buy a small notebook to keep prayer list and notes in. Put your prayer list(s) starting in the back and use the front for writing down one comment or question or challenge or encouragement you got from the day’s reading. Every day write at least one sentence, comment, question or thought.

Don’t allow any interruptions.

Develop a prayer list – keep it simple: someone’s name and a word or two to remind you what the key point is. After you’ve added and crossed things out, create a fresh page.

 

Ephesians 1:1-6; 7-14; 15-23

Ephesians 2:1-7; 8-13; 14-22

Ephesians 3:1-7; 8-13; 14-21

Ephesians 4:1-6; 7-16; 17-24; 25-32

Ephesians 5:1-7; 8-14; 15-21; 22-33

Ephesians 6:1-9; 10-20; 21-24

 

Before you go to bed, read one chapter of Proverbs based on whatever date it is. On Nov 15th, read chapter 15. Then short prayer thanking God for the day’s blessings.

 

Let me know what you think.

 

Discipleship

I’ve been reading a book by Eusebius. He lived in the 300’s and wrote the first history of the Christian Church. What makes it very interesting is that he lived very close in time to the time of the apostles and those who heard them directly.

He tells of Ignatius of Antioch who was ultimately martyred by being devoured by wild animals in Rome. Ignatius wrote a letter to the church in Rome requesting that they not deprive him of his longed-for hope by asking that he be released from martyrdom. He wrote:

From Syria to Rome, I am fighting with wild animals on land and sea night and day, chained to ten leopards—a troop of soldiers—whom kindness makes even worse. Their shameful deeds increase my discipleship, but this does not justify me. May I benefit from those wild beasts that are ready for me, and I pray that they are prompt. I will coax them to devour me quickly, not as with some whom they have been afraid to touch. If they are unwilling, I will force them to do it. Pardon me, but I know what is best for me; now I am starting to be a disciple. May I envy nothing seen or unseen in gaining Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross, struggles with beasts, tearing bones apart, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, and tortures of the Devil come upon me, if only I may attain to Jesus Christ!

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And I thought I knew what discipleship was! May this short excerpt encourage all of us to be all that we can be for Christ our savior.

 

(Originally Published January, 2005)

Discipleship – Our Purpose

Discipleship is probably the most important task that we as Christians have. I suspect that we don’t emphasize it as much as we should. The commission God has given us is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). He also tells us to teach “them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). Faithful men are to commit what they have learned from others to other faithful men who will then, in turn, be able to teach others (2 Tim 2:2). It’s to be an ongoing chain of teaching that each of us is to be a part of.

 

With that in mind, I noticed this verse in my reading in Colossians:

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 1:28, NKJV)

 

The goal is to present every man perfect in Christ. Perfect doesn’t mean sinless. It means complete and mature. God has given each of us other people with whom we have an influence. I’m thinking especially of our wife and children to whom God has given us responsibility for ministry. God may have placed others in your life as well with whom you’ve been able to teach the things of Christ. Our goal is to be of spiritual help to these folks so that they become mature in Christ. That should be our conscious and intentional goal. When Paul observed that departing and being with Christ would be a great thing, he went on to say, ““And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,” (Philippians 1:25, NKJV).

 

As long as he was here on earth, he saw his role as helping others in their progress and joy of faith. That should be our aim as well.

 

Why “Go to Church”?

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus in chapter 4. Last time we discovered that we are to walk or live in a manner that is worthy of who we are as called sons of God. The last thing we talked about was the fact that the Spirit gives unity to the body.  We are to maintain this unity as we live and worship together. Just as our spirit pervades our entire body and gives unity to it, the Spirit of God does the same for Christ’s body, the church.

I have a concern that we have developed and maintained a cultural view of the church. We hear people ask, “Where do you go to church?”  Sometimes people will refer to someone who has stopped “going to church.” Church is more like a club to join rather than a living body that has the life of the Spirit flowing through it.

Let’s take a quick look at what Paul writes in Ephesians 4. In verse 11 he tells us that God has given gifts to the church, namely apostles, prophets, evangelists and teaching-pastors. Why are these individuals given to the church? He writes that they are given so that the saints are equipped to do the work of the ministry. This tells me that there should be no fringe members. By fringe members I’m talking about those who show up for a worship service and leave again and are not involved at all in the ministry to one another that occurs within the body of Christ. I’m not just speaking about ministry that happens in the church building but among the members of the body throughout the week. The kind of ministry or service to one another that should occur within the body requires equipping or training. We all need to be taught how to minister to one another.

In any area of life where there are skills that need to be learned, we need to be taught and shown how to do it by someone who knows how – the teacher. Sometimes there are things we don’t know we need to know and so we are coerced in some way to be trained. This happens for children in school and it happens sometimes at the workplace. In the church setting, we rely on the working of God’s Spirit within the hearts of his people to seek the opportunities for the equipping needed in the local church.

The purpose of this equipping is so that the body will be built up until we call come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God with the goal of reaching the stature of the measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). This is a lofty goal. And in this context it is not so much an individual goal as a body goal. He goes on to elaborate on this in the next couple of verses.

For our purposes today, let’s jump down to verses 15 and 16. Here we see in this edification and growing process we are to grow up in all things into him who is the head of the church, which means Christ.

But verse 16 I think is crucial for expanding our vision of the church and its functioning. The first words in verse 16 are “From whom.” The whom is Christ. From Christ, the whole body…. Now we need to access the English grammar part of our brain. What is the main verb of this phrase? And yes it is important to know this. From Christ the whole body causes the growth of the body, for the edifying of itself in love. So Christ, working throughout the whole body causes the growth of the body. The implication is that this occurs when the body is functioning effectively and properly.

How does it do this? First we notice it is the whole body, not just part of the body. That means everyone who is truly a member of the actual body of Christ, not those who simply gain membership in the local church. Next we see that it is “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.”  Each part of the body is described as doing its part. “Every joint” is a phrase used to stand for each member of the body. But Paul makes this more explicit as he goes on to speak of the effective working as each part does its share. It is this functioning of each individual part doing its share that enables the body to cause the growth of itself. This is analogous to our human body. When each part is functioning and doing what it was designed to do, the body grows and is strengthened.

When there are “members” of a church that are not functioning according to the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them, the church will not be building itself effectively. It might be possible for individuals who are members on paper not to actually be members of the body of Christ. They may be members by profession but not in reality and practice. It seems to me that one of the things we as church leaders need to focus on is building the understanding necessary and the patterns and procedures that will enable and encourage a biblical view of church life. In such a climate, easy church membership without actual functioning in that role would not occur as frequently as it does now in many churches.

I believe that part of this process is establishing an effective and church-wide climate of disciple-making. If a church were to have a dynamic, effective and ongoing practice of discipleship so that actively engaged Christians were the ones admitted into membership, perhaps those who don’t really have an interest in growing together in relationship with others and who don’t have an interest in serving together in the local church would weed themselves out. But if people continue to see church membership as meaning merely somewhat regular attendance at a worship service, we will continue to perpetuate a non-disciple-making climate and the body will not be edified and the glory of Christ won’t be displayed the way God would have it to be.

 

Walk Worthy of the Lord

I would like us to think through some of the things Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in chapter 4 of his letter to them. The first thing he does is to challenge them and us to “walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called.” In Colossians 1:10 and 1 Thessalonians 2:12 he says basically the same thing, “walk worthy of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is calling us to a walk that is worthy of God. That means we are to live a life that God himself could put his name on and it would fit! That is quite the challenge, isn’t it?

He goes on to give us the characteristics of that lifestyle: lowliness and gentleness; longsuffering; forbearance.  These traits are almost the complete opposites of characteristics that are valued in our culture today. These are godly traits and if we are to have a lifestyle that is worthy of God, they should be present in our day to day living. This means not only when we are out in public, but in our homes with our wife and children. The final point Paul makes in this list is that we should be maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We’re going to follow up a little more on this next time, but the Spirit of God has unified the body of Christ. The Spirit is the unifying factor. Our responsibility as Christians is to maintain that unity; we are to live it out. Jesus said that the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). The unity is there because of the Spirit, but it needs to be demonstrated in the world at a practical level.

So what does walking worthy of the Lord mean? It means to live as Jesus would live, were he living in your home or working at your job or attending your church.

Food from the Fallow Ground

As I was reading in Proverbs this morning I came upon Proverbs 13:23: “Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor.” We all heard the saying that it is better to teach a person to fish than to give him a fish. There is a lot of poverty in our world and in our country. The United States government has spent billions of dollars to tackle the poverty problem and the percentages are not much better now than they were 50 years ago. My purpose here is not to provide a naïve remedy for a complex problem. But I thought that this principle from Scripture was interesting.

There is a lot of fallow ground where the poor live, even in cities. What if people could be shown how to till up some ground for a small garden and be shown how to plant a few vegetables? What if several neighbors could get permission to garden on a vacant lot near their homes in a big city? I know this is being done in many places, but there is an underlying truth here in this proverb. There are resources available within reach of most poor people, but they may not know how to access it. They may not have the motivation to access it. They may just not want to do that much work. But whatever the reason, it would be worthwhile to continue helping, teaching and showing how individuals can be more productive where they are using the resources that are right around them.

Reading the Puritans

I don’t know when it happened, but early on in my Christian life, perhaps in my teen years and certainly in my twenties, I developed a taste for Puritan writings and more modern writers who themselves had been steeped in Puritan and Reformation thought. As a pastor, my dad accumulated quite a library which included many Puritan and Reformation works. Even though he was a dispensationalist, he gravitated toward Reformation works and was able, in his own mind at least, to mesh the teachings together in a coherent thought pattern. I think I inherited some of this from him.

What attracted me to these writings was the way the authors in that tradition focused on the greatness, glory and sovereignty of God. The God described in the churches I attended was the same God and the beliefs were the same, but the emphasis was more on us and what we should be doing in our efforts to serve Him and please Him. The God of the Puritans was in charge. His followers could trust Him completely and more than that, they were able to rest in His goodness and in His plans for His people. It’s hard to describe but there was a difference. The God that was described by many people I heard had made salvation available, but His hands seemed to be tied by the “free will” of man. The offer was made, but rather than being the God described in the Bible as the one who goes out to save with His mighty right hand, we were given a God who was somewhat impotent while awaiting the outcome of what everyone was going to do with His Son. I was impressed with the purposes of God in the intention of increasing His glory among the nations and in worshipping this God with the spirit of reverence which is due His great name.

So who were some of the people I began to read and/or listen to? Here are some of my favorites: John Own, Jonathan Edwards, William Gurnall, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, John Piper, Arthur W. Pink, J. I Packer, Martin Luther, R.C. Sproul, to name a few. Now I don’t want to write this disclaimer in every article I write, although I may I have to. But, I don’t agree with every single thing these men say or write and you probably won’t either, but I don’t agree with everything anyone says. So my recommendation to read these men means there is good, meaty substance here even if you don’t agree with every statement or conclusion.

What are some of the works I would recommend? Any of the commentary series by Lloyd-Jones are good. He has a great set of books on Ephesians and Romans among others. These are mainly transcriptions of his sermons which he preached in London to a regular group of folks so these are not the kind of works meant for a scholarly audience. In addition, there is a website dedicated to presenting his audio sermons. The site is http://www.mljtrust.org/. I highly recommend it. I can remember my dad listening to his sermons on the radio back in the 50’s and early 60’s.

A publisher I became familiar with early on in my adult life was Banner of Truth. This organization republishes Puritan works that had gone out of print. One of my favorite was a three paperback series called “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall. This is an excellent devotional read. This is a modernized version so it is easier to read than the original. But who would think this much could be written from Ephesians 6 and the armor of God? They also publish a book of Puritan Prayers and Devotions called The Valley of Vision. This book helped me see the difference between the way I pray and meditate from the way the Puritans did. What I saw in them was a deeper reverence for God than what I have and a greater distrust of the flesh and therefore our need for deeper repentance and dependence on God for the living of our lives.

Other good books include Indwelling Sin in Believers by Owen, Practical Christianity by Pink, The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards, The Pleasures of God by John Piper and any of the books and commentaries by John MacArthur. There is a very difficult book by John Owen titled The Death of Death in the Death of God. But the introduction by J.I. Packer is great if you can find it on line anywhere. Mark Dever and J. I. Packer quote this introduction in its entirety in chapter 4 of In My Place Condemned He Stood.

Some other good books include The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Plight of Man and the Power of God by Lloyd-Jones, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer, The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink and Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

Jonathan Edwards is sometimes hard to follow and Ben Stevens has done us a service by taking Edwards’ book Dissertation Concerning the End for which God Created the World, and simplifying it in modern English for the rest of us. Stevens’ book is entitled simply Why God Created the World. These are very important ideas to think about and I heartily recommend the time it may take to read and think about what Edwards through Stevens is telling us.

For those of you who, like me, are from a Baptist background I’ll mention one more book that was helpful to me a number of years ago. It is called By His Grace and for His Glory by Dr. Thomas J. Nettles. In this book Dr. Nettles shows us how the Doctrines of Grace prevailed in the most influential and enduring arenas of Baptist denominational life until the end of the second decade of the twentieth century. This is a book that traces theological history in Baptist life from Reformation teaching down to the present. So if you’re the type of person that likes history and theology, you might find this an interesting read.

Hopefully this hasn’t been too overwhelming, but I wanted to give you a flavor of the kind of books that were formative in my Christian life and were powerful in propelling me forward in my love for God and His word. Perhaps something in this article will trigger your curiosity and might deepen your love for God and your appreciation of His grace as well.