May 14, 2011

Do we really treasure Christ?

In Matthew 13:44 Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." 
What is the kingdom of heaven?  Jesus many times refers to it as His kingdom, essentially it is where believers dwell with God.  And Jesus says that this is so valuable that he compares it to a treasure we would sell all of our possessions to obtain.  
Is this how we value our relationship with God?  Are we so caught with Him that we would consider Him our highest treasure?  Would we be willing to forsake our jobs, our money, our lives, our reputations, our friends, our family, our popularity, etc for the sake of gaining Christ?  Can we say with Paul in Philippians 3:7-8, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ."  
Paul was a highly educated dude, he had power, had prestige, and very likely had a good financial situation.  He calls himself a "Jew of Jews".  And he says all of this is rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.  Now a lot of us would say that, too.  But would we walk it like Paul did?  Cause all those things he had before...he lost.  He was beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, accused of being a liar and a swindler, and ultimately was beheaded-why?  Because he valued Christ and His kingdom and preached the Gospel.  
How do we value Jesus?  We treat our faith in Jesus as a "private matter."  We walk in habitual sin and call it "freedom."  Even our "church lives" are centered on satisfying our needs, we want to feel spiritual, we want to feel good, we want to know how God can help make us better people, we cry out "don't judge me!" when someone calls us to holiness.  We don't give to churches or missions because we don't want to lower our standard of living.  We don't give our time because we are too busy watching Sportscenter or our favorite sitcom.  We don't disciple others because there are "professional" ministers to do that.  We don't study our Bibles because it's too much work and besides, it is confusing anyway.
Really?  That's our treasure?  Sounds to me like it's a part of our lives, and a small one at that.  Is Sunday Morning Christianity compatible with Jesus radical call to discipleship?  Jesus says people were going to hate us for following Him...are we?  If no one can tell the difference between us and the world, are we really following Jesus?  And if we aren't following Jesus, do we really believe He is who He claims to be?  It seems pretty difficult to reconcile the idea that someone who claims to be God Himself could have followers or believers in Him who didn't treat Him as God and obey Him and live life the way He tells them to.  In fact when the Apostle Paul writes his letter to the Romans, he addresses the issue of claiming to be saved by Jesus and continuing in our old lifestyle.  His response?  "May it never be!"  James, the brother of Jesus, would call such a faith "dead."
So my question for you is this:  do you follow Jesus with your life, or only with your words?  And if your life does not reflect your words, do you really believe what you're saying?  


Let me be clear: our actions cannot, have not, and will not ever save us or earn us favor with God.  That is purchased for us solely by the blood of Jesus on the cross and made certain by His triumphant resurrection.  Ephesians 2:8-10 would tell us, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  He saves us by grace, for His glory.  And what does He call us to?  The good works He has prepared for us to walk in.  Not to earn favor.  Not to merit salvation.  But to model to the world that this Gospel is real.  To proclaim that Jesus is my greatest treasure.  To present my body as a living sacrifice, acceptable to God.  He has already accepted me in Christ, showing me His love..  I now offer myself to Him in love, not to earn what He has already given, but in response to it.  
If you believe Jesus, if you trust Jesus, you will follow Jesus.  Follow Jesus.

May 01, 2011

Paul's Theology of the Church.

This is a little paper I wrote for our BTC class over in Missoula.  Not super thorough, being as it is (sans the footnotes) under 500 words.  I do think it covers some things that are important to keep in mind though, so I thought I'd post it for y'all to take a look at, perhaps I will elaborate on it at some point.


Paul's Theology of the Church
A short summary of the writings of the Apostle Paul concerning the nature and function of the church.
Will Dole


-What is the church?
Paul states in Ephesians 5:25 that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Following this line of thought, the church would consist of all those for whom Christ died; “the community of all believers for all time.”[1] Paul uses several terms to describe these people throughout his epistles. These include (but are not limited to) saints[2], the called[3], believers[4], and collectively, the body[5] and God's dwelling place[6].
We may conclude from Paul's writings that the church is both universal and local in nature. We see in places such as Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 that Paul refers to “churches” meeting in homes; we also see in the above quoted Ephesians 5:25 that the “church” that Jesus died for is wide reaching both in terms of time and geography as His sacrifice was “once for our sins[7].”


-What characterizes the church?
Paul tells us the church, or the body of Christ, will be characterized by a number of things. Three of these are worthy special note, those being:
1)Love, which is to be genuine[8], focused on others and their well being[9], and unifying[10]. This love is not something that is natural to us, but rather is something that we are taught by God Himself[11].
2)Unity, which as seen above, is made possible by love. The root of this unity is in the fact that we serve the same God, have the same Savior, share the same baptism, and believe by the same faith[12]. Further illustrating the importance of unity is Paul's repeated use of the term “body” in reference to the church[13].
3)The exercise of spiritual gifts, which is for the common good[14]. These gifts are diverse in nature[15], vary from believer to believer[16], and are to be exercised with the unity of the body and love for other believers in mind[17].


-What is the function of the church?
Before any specific discussion of the church's function is entered into, it is important to note that whatever the church is doing, it ought to be with the intention of bringing glory to God[18]. Paul tells us that the gathering of believers should be orderly[19], and led by elders[20], some of whom labor in preaching and teaching[21]. It will also be marked by singing[22], baptism of believers[23], and partaking of the Lord's Supper[24].
Ultimately the body is to do more than the simply gather together. Believers also ought to be lights in the world[25] seeking to reach others with the Gospel[26].


-In Summary.
God is creating for Himself a people, grafted together of both Jew and Gentiles[27], loved and predestined by Him before the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of His Son[28], to the glory, and for the praise of, His name[29].




Footnotes:

1-Wayne Grudem, “Systematic Theology”, page 1238
2-Romans 1;7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2
3-Romans 8:28; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:14
4-1 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 1:6
5-1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 3:6; Colossians 3:15
6-1 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 2:22
7-1 Peter 3:18
8-Romans 12:9
9-1 Corinthians 13:4-7
10-Colossians 3:14
11-1 Thessalonians 4:9
12-Ephesians 4:5,6
13-Romans 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:12
14-1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 10:32-33
15-1 Corinthians 12:4-5
16-Romans 12:4,6; 1 Corinthians 12:14
17-1 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Corinthians 13:1
18-1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 1:5; Ephesians 2:12
19-1 Corinthians 14:40
20-1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5
21-1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:1
22-1 Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3:16
23-Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12
24-1 Corinthians 11:26
25-Philippians 2:15
26-Romans 10:1; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Philippians 1:18
27-Romans 11:17
28-Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4-5
29-Romans 16:25-27; Galatians 1:4-5; Colossians 1:18

About Me

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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com