Christian Living

Love, Faith and Power

How powerful are love and faith?

Most Junior High girls who are involved in a Bible-oriented church will opine that their favorite chapter is I Corinthians 13, “The Love Chapter.” Few of us would challenge the beauty of the Paul’s eloquence in these verses, especially his crescendo in verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The view that love is central to all things, however, is not a given, as some assume. Of the three virtues—faith, hope and love—love is the greatest (for it is built upon faith and hope and thus the highest virtue attainable). When most people in the English speaking world use the word “love,” its image is often disconnected from faith or hope. Such love is not the type of love Paul envisions. Christian love is founded upon Christian faith and hope. Compassion, on the other hand, is commonly practiced throughout the world by people who may have no inkling as to who Jesus is. Lost people often put us to shame with their compassion and willingness to sacrifice.

Despite the glories of love, love is no competitor when contrasted with God. Love is one of God’s many attributes, but expressing love has no power to change people apart from God’s decision to use it. The fact that God can use love—just as God can use our witness to reach the lost—does not mean that the power is in the love itself. Nor is our evangelistic efficacy a result of our witness in itself.

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Legalism and the Insecurity of Our Times

Legalism and the Insecurity of Our Times

Legalism is an ugly thing to those outside it, but often a beautiful thing to those within it. Legalism is any system whereby the merits of man contribute in any way to his standing with God. For those who have been delivered from the works-righteousness mentality, legalism is bondage, an oppressive system that distorts the grace of God and often turns out neurotic believers who wear themselves out trying to keep up. But to those within legalistic systems, legalism is a refuge from the insecurities of life and the uncertainties of our world.

This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to talk someone out of a legalistic church. There is so much “certainty” and comfort in knowing exactly what one must do to remain in “right with God.” Legalism requires so little faith, because every aspect of life is defined and mandated. In contrast, the concept of grace and Christian liberty is a scary wilderness of uncertainty. Better to stay in the fortress (or prison).

This is not a new phenomenon. At the end of the Middle Ages, the predominant concern of Europeans was the fear of death. After years of bad weather and widespread famine in the 14th century culminating in the Black Death, life in the 15th century was bleak. As Carter Lindberg notes, “The shortness of life was never far from people’s minds” (The European Reformations, Blackwell, 1996). This situation fueled an obsession with concern for the afterlife. Enter the Catholic Church.

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will evaluate us some day, not only on the basis of our motives, but also on the basis of how much we knew of His will and Word, because “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48, NKJV). Therefore, “that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47).

But if we did not know His will, are we not completely free of any consequences? No, for such ignorance is culpable: we should have done everything possible to learn His will for our lives through reading, believing and obeying His Word! Here is an earthly illustration: what would happen to me if I were stopped by a traffic officer for driving 90 miles per hour though the city on my way to a conference? Would I be completely excused if I told him that I didn’t know what the speed limit was? His answer would be: “Sir, you are driving a dangerous machine! You should have found out what the speed limit is here. Explain your case to the judge!”

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Spin Cycle

My daughter was born with rhythm. From the time she could hold her head up, she would sway, bop, and wave her arms to anything remotely musical. Jackhammer? You bet. The wum-wum-wum of the ceiling fan? Sure. Someone clicking a pen? Yep, that too. It is hilarious to be at a restaurant and look over to see your baby boogying to the beat of a gal clanking her spoon on a bowl as she refills the mashed potatoes at the buffet. As a matter of fact, Kate seems to have an archive of tunes in her mind that she simply nods her head to from time to time.

This morning I had some celtic hymns playing, and Kate was twirling happily, gleefully around the family room. Made me wonder: when was the last time I felt like doing that? Now, I am not an advocate for dancing in church worship services, or even in public for that matter. But I think what was filling Kate’s heart as she frolicked around my computer desk was simply pure joy. “My tummy is full; Mama loves me; I slept well; this music makes me feel happy…life is good.” Perhaps what David felt as he danced before the ark of God—only on baby scale: exult in God’s goodness, His provision, His greatness, His care, His love—and that He loves me.

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Believers Before the Bench

Reprinted with permission from Paraklesis (Winter, 2007) courtesy of Baptist Bible College

Should a believer take another believer to court? Should a believer initiate a lawsuit against another believer to regain that which his brother owes him? These are relevant questions in today’s world. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, Paul answers that a believer should not take another believer to court; instead, they should appear before the church. We will look at Paul’s response to a specific problem in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:1-6), Paul’s rebuke concerning this problem (1 Cor. 6:7-8), and Paul’s reminder because of this problem (1 Cor. 6:9-11). We will also address the significance of this passage for our present time.

Before looking at the meaning of this passage, let us begin with these premises: the Corinthians are members of a redeemed community, which means that their behavior within the community should reflect their transformed nature. They are also members of aneschatological community, which means that their future destination should also affect their present behavior within the community.

Paul’s response to the problem (6:1-6)

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

The Judgment Seat in Paul, Peter and John

The Apostle Paul used the term “bema” when he wrote to the church at Corinth about our final confrontation with Christ to determine the gain or loss of rewards: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat (bema) of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad [phaulon, worthless]. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:10, 11, NKJV).

The Corinthians were very familiar with this word, for it was inscribed on the front of the large marble judgment throne where judicial issues were evaluated by the supreme judge, such as Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, before whom Paul stood one day (cf. Acts 18:12, 16, 17). It was my privilege to see this bema during a trip to the ruins of ancient Corinth on Aug. 21, 1952. Amazingly, it was before the bema of Pontius Pilate that our Lord took His stand (cf. Matt. 27:19, John 19:13).

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Beware Every Kind of Greed

WealthPosted previously at SI on June 13, 2008. Reprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

It is now some dozen years, perhaps more, since I heard a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Dr. Green as I recall, preach at a missions conference in Wichita. His text was the famous parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), who planned to tear down his barns to build bigger ones for his surplus crops. He supposed that with his material needs abundantly provided for, he was on easy street and would enjoy a long and relaxing retirement, only to face death that very night. But rather than making the usual application of the passage to those lost persons who are preoccupied with this world’s goods to the neglect of their own soul’s eternal welfare, the professor made a pointed application to the life of believers, an application that after more than a decade I cannot drive from my mind. It was as follows:

We believers know Christ and know in theory the completely transitory nature of all our worldly goods and the express command from Christ not to focus our energies on amassing possessions in this life, but rather to focus on accumulating an ever-growing treasure in heaven. For all that, we nevertheless for the most part act exactly like the rich fool! We set before us as our chief aim the piling up of wealth and possessions with a preoccupation with houses and lands, with cars and fine clothes, with bank accounts and 401k’s. And whenever God blesses us with an increase in income or an inheritance, we automatically assume that God intends for us to spend all the increase on ourselves with yet more luxury; more vacations; and a yet larger, more palatial dwelling. “Let us tear down our barns and build bigger!” When is enough enough? When does our self-focused spending become that greed of which Jesus warned? When does it become sin?

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 2

Read Part 1.

In spite of having a sin nature like all of us, the Apostle Paul struggled valiantly, through Christ (“I do not count myself to have apprehended; but…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Phil. 3:13-14; cf. 4:13, NKJV]), to be ready for the great day when he would see his Lord.

Precious indeed are his final words to his closest disciple, Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7, 8).

The Apostle Peter had the same anticipation when he encouraged pastors to be “examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:3, 4).

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