Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: James 5:13–16; Colossians 4:2–4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5; Hebrews 13:18–19
“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you…” (1 Thessalonians 3.1)
We should never be trite in saying, “I’ll pray for you.” Prayer is a powerful and effective in our work of faith (James 5.17). We are encouraged to do so with devotion (Acts 2.42), both steadfastly and earnestly (Colossians 4.2; Hebrews 13.18-19; Acts 12.5). It is not a last resort or a way to excuse ourselves from involvement with others. To truly pray for one another is a the most meaningful work that we all should do.
In scripture, the prayers of the saints brought unity, direction, encouragement, and wisdom (ex. Acts 2.42-47; 6.1-6 13.1-3; 16.25). It moved God to save (Acts 12) and settle their hearts in the fear of him (Acts 4.23-31). The outcome of prayer is always in God’s court, according to his purposes and for his glory. But it is our efforts of prayer that position us to receive his mercy and align ourselves with his purposes. When we pray for one another, it knits us together in one mind and heart. In Christ, I grow when we grow. God is glorified as we become closer knit together as a single body, working in harmony and love (Ephesians 3.10, 4.11-16; Colossians 2.2). We need to constantly pray for one another towards this end (Colossians 1.9).
For this reason, Paul often sought the prayers of the brethren in his work of faith. He trusted in the power of God’s Spirit to align their thinking according to God’s plans and not his own. In his request to the Thessalonians, we see his intentions: To speed ahead God’s word and honor him. Paul understood it was the Lord’s work to move his efforts forward. He had seen it happen among these very brethren. But he also knew that it would come according to God’s timing and purposes. Their prayers to this end would be encourage him and honor God’s work in their efforts.
When we pray for each other, we become more aware of God’s will. We learn more about his desire for all people to be saved and come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9). We recognize the need for his people to grow into maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4.15; Colossians 1.28). We gain confidence in his love towards us and through us (1 Thessalonians 3.4-5).
We must never see prayer as a wishful incantation or an easy out. It is a powerful tool for fellowship and direction from God. We pray because we believe God hears and acts. We don’t presume to tell him what to do, but we trust that when the righteous cry out, the LORD hears them and delivers them out of their trouble (Psalm 34.17). So, let us be earnest to serve one another with this work of faith.
BIBLE READING: Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3.23)
We should be encouraged that in God’s kingdom there is work that we all can do. But we must also understand that Jesus expects us to work, and to work hard. This general admonition applies not just to specific efforts of faith, but (as Paul showed in the context of Colossians 3) to every moment in life (see Colossians 3.18-24). God’s people are known for making the best use of their time (Ephesians 5.16) and treating every opportunity as an occasion to serve the Lord.
For some, this verse is an admonition to set aside laziness and get to work. Our culture has conditioned us to seek comfort which can lead us to apathy rather than urgency. We must see that idleness is inconsistent with the example of Christ, the New Testament believers, and the teaching of scripture (see 2 Thessalonians 3.6-12). The wise man emphatically said, “Go to the ant you sluggard and learn his ways” (Proverbs 6.6-11). In other words, laziness is unwise and unacceptable. There are seasons of rest where we enjoy God’s grace, but we must never stop working for the Lord. In fact, the scriptures encourage us to become more determined to work as we mature in faith (Philippians 3.12-16; 2 Peter 1.12-15). As Paul would say, “Let those of us who are mature think this way” (Philippians 3.15). Our calling is to be devoted to good works (Titus 3.8, 14), and not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6.9).
For some, this is an admonition to pursue proper approval. There are many who work hard because they want to be seen by others. They want the recognition for their actions. “Beware of practicing your righteousness to be seen by others,” Jesus would warn. “For then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6.1-2). Frankly speaking, men can be appeased by mediocrity or deceived by one who gives the occasional appearance of industry. But God sees and expects us to work from the heart and not simply for pretense. Do your work in a way that God would be pleased and not just those who will see you.
For all, this is a call to be diligent in what we do regardless of the circumstances. Our life has purpose and value, even in the most mundane moments, because our service reflects greater truths about God and Christ. “Even though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled himself taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2.6-7). It is not the magnitude of our efforts but the determination of our hearts that God honors. Just like Christ, if we submit ourselves to service in this lifetime, we have the glory from God before us to live in for all of eternity. And so, let us have this mind in ourselves, to work hard as for the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain (Philippians 2.3; Colossians 3.23; 1 Corinthians 15.58).
BIBLE READING: 1 Peter 4.7-11; 1 Corinthians 15.58; 1 Thessalonians 5.15-22; Titus 3.4-8; John 6.26-29
The New Testament calls us to work, and our bible reading this week is a snapshot of this calling:
- “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4.10)
- “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15.58)
- “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” (Titus 3.8)
God, through Christ has called us to himself and given us abundantly what we need for life and godliness so that we can work for him. Through his generosity, there is not a single person in Christ who lacks what they need. Therefore, our focus should not be on my perceived value or the difficulty in front of me, but his grace to me and making the most of what I’ve been given. That’s the parable of the talents (Matthew 25.14-30) and that’s the motivation for why we MUST work in our faith. We are called and equipped for service in every good work.
So, we must appreciate that in the body there is work that we all can do. This is a critical thought for all of us because there is such a vast spectrum of people composing the body of Christ. Some have very evident roles while others may never be seen. Some people are naturally confident, while others are more reserved. Some struggle with pride as they practice their faith while others insufficiency. These factors affect how we view others, ourselves, and the body as a whole. But what makes the body thrive is when each member is aware that 1) their function is given to them by grace and 2) has an attitude that ‘I MUST use my gift to serve the body.’
To do this, we must settle our attention on the right things. We must see people and their needs. We must see opportunities matching our abilities. We must open our hearts to the tug of God’s calling even when we are afraid or feel lacking. We must believe in Jesus, recognizing his grace is sufficient in every circumstance to allow us to serve him for the glory of his name. We may feel inadequate or limited but it is not my power that secures his promise. It is my faith in his completed work, trust in his direction and determination to follow Jesus that settles my spirit in obedience to do the work he has planned for me.
We must not get caught up in simply meeting our needs in the present. As Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat… drink… wear… is not life more than food and clothing? Besides that, your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6.25-34). We must set our minds on things above (Colossians 3.1) and realize that true fulfillment comes from believing Jesus and doing the work of God has planned for us (John 6.26-29).
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15.56-58)
BIBLE READING: Galatians 5.25; Ephesians 2.8-10; Ephesians 5.1-21; 1 John 1.5-2.6; 3 John 1.2-4
Several weeks ago, I took my girls to see “Mary Poppins” at the Opera House in town. It was a favorite of mine growing up and my kids have recently come to love the music. The girls were thoroughly impressed by the actress who played Mary Poppins; but it was the actor who played Bert that impressed me the most. If you’re familiar with the movie, Bert is peculiar but likable. From the thick British street accent and animated facial expressions to his lanky dance style, the original character is utterly unique. And yet somehow this actor managed to capture the essence of Bert. It was obvious he had put in hours of practice to perfectly emulate the iconic character in the way that he walked. I specifically remember one scene when he strutted across the stage with his chimney sweeper in tow, and hand in his pocket where I did a double take to see if that was actually Dick Van Dyke. This man had become his character and it gave the story vibrance and life.
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; but as a believer, I would suggest that it is the sincerest form of faith. “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children…” (Ephesians 5.1). We are on a journey to not only learn from Christ but to become like him, even adopting the way he walked (1 John 2.5-6). In the context of 1 John 2, he tells us what that looks like: Exposing and repenting of sin (1 John 1.5-10) and practicing obedience to the commandments of Jesus (1 John 2.3-4). It is understanding that Jesus was utterly obedient to the Father’s will his entire life and has called us to do likewise (1 Peter 2.21-23).
We must remember that faith is not defined by single event. We crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5.24); but then we continue to take deliberate action day by day (Romans 12.1-2; Galatians 2.20). “If we live by the Spirit, we must also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5.25). Our walk is more than just our witness to faith in Jesus. It is what determines the outcome of our life. The way that seems right to us will not work (Proverbs 14.12; Ephesians 2.1-3). So, we must daily be directed by the word of God, the example of Jesus and the encouragement of the Spirit to walk the path to God.
Imitating Christ is not an addition to our lives, but an endeavor that will shape who people see when they look at us. We must observe our lives and ask the question: Will people know Christ by the way I walk? Do I promote him through my speech? Do I participate in the things he did? Does my pattern of life reflect where he went, whom he was with, what was important to him? Would others do a double-take because my life looks so much like Jesus?
“…whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2.6)
BIBLE READING: Galatians 2.20; 5.24; Ephesians 4.17-24; Romans 6.3-14; Colossians 3.1-10; Mark 8.34-38
The cross is so flippantly portrayed in ‘Christian culture’ that we can forget it was a torture device. Those subjected to the cross were typically the worst of society, whom the Romans deemed ‘worthy’ of suffering and humiliation. As documented in gospels regarding Jesus, the process meticulously stripped away dignity and flesh little by little. He was mocked and abused, stripped and flogged to the point his human form was unrecognizable (Mark 15.16-20; Isaiah 52.14). In this weakened state, many were forced to carry the cross to the place they would die. Jesus did so with help, only to be nailed to the cross and hung up as a spectacle for everyone to see.
Crucifixion gave no mercy to the condemned. The process ensured that death was excruciating, humiliating and total. This is the kind of death Christ suffered for us. But not only that; he calls us to put ourselves to death in the same way:
- “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8.35).
- “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5.24)
- “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6.6)
- “Put to death what is earthly in you…” (Colossians 3.5)
We must not take lightly the intentional use of this metaphor. Jesus doesn’t tell us to work on ourselves and rest on his grace as we struggle with sin. He calls us to crucify our passions and desires. We must take an active and deliberate role to totally eradicate our former life from existence. To do so…
- Our activities must be meticulous. We must evaluate our behavior, take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10.5) and make the best use of the time (Ephesians 5.15-17). Remember: the works of the flesh are evident (Galatians 5.19). We must deal with them when they are exposed and submit to Jesus’ will for us. There can be no shred of life allowed from our old self in the way we behave.
- Our attitude must be intent. We cannot be satisfied with losing. We are empowered to do all things through Christ and must not allow our flesh to rule in us any longer. Our attitude must be, “I can, and I must.” That’s how Jesus felt despite his weakness in the flesh (Luke 22.42)… how could we do anything less?
- Our commitment must be total. Dead things don’t come back to life apart from Jesus. If the works of the flesh are evident in my life, it is because I haven’t made the choice to eradicate them. This is an on-going and daily process (Colossians 3.5-10; Romans 12.1-2), that we must not concede to apathy.
The fruit of the Spirit only grows in hearts cultivated with these choices. If you want to benefit from and bear fruit of the Spirit, you must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires and allow God’s word to take root in your heart. This is our identity, and this is our calling. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20)