Live With Guts

This is our distinctive mark! That we love each other. Do we have that mark?  

Finally (the end to which all things relate, the aim, the purpose),1  

all of you, be like-minded (share the same perspective, the same mind, be harmonious, enjoying divinely-inspired harmony, i.e. knowing God’s mind, His thoughts, as He reveals it through faith) 

be sympathetic (be “with suffering” for each other, suffer or feel the like with each other, be understanding, mutually commiserative) 

love one another (love like a brother, an affectionate friend, be brotherly, like the love between fellow family-members in God’s family) 

be compassionate (tender-hearted, have good, positive gut-level sympathy, empathy, compassion– i.e. live with guts) 

and humble (lowly of mind, regulated by the inner perspective of having a humble opinion of oneself, a deep sense of one’s moral littleness, lowliness of mind, the inside-out virtue produced by comparing ourselves to the Lord rather than to others, bringing your behavior into alignment with this inner revelation, living in complete dependence on the Lord, with no reliance on self). 1 Peter 3:8 

Peter is writing mostly to fellow believers in the above letter, and he writes that love is the end to which all things relate, the purpose, the aim – a certain kind of love. A love that keeps on walking, though we stumble, towards having the mind of Christ, suffering with each other in the mutual pain of this world as Jesus did and does for us. To love and accept each other as family. (Think of it, we always put up with more from our family than “strangers.”) To live with guts, as Jesus did here on earth, from the center of our being, with empathy and compassion for our fellow strugglers/travelers. To view ourselves from the inside-out, for we know what’s in there, we and God. Yes, that is the aim of this Christian walk. But there is a bigger purpose. 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.–The thought of their state of orphanage when He should depart from them is still present. He gives them a bond of union, by which they should always be linked to Him and to each other in the principle of love. The followers of great Teachers and Rabbis had their distinctive marks. Here was the distinctive Christian mark, which all men should be able to read. It is instructive that the characteristic mark of Christianity should thus be asserted by its Founder to consist, not in any formulary or signs, but in the love which asserts the brotherhood of man. The apologists of the first centuries delighted in appealing to the striking fact of the common love of Christians, which was a new thing in the history of mankind; and while the Church has sometimes forgotten the characteristic, the world never has. By their love for each other, for mankind, for God, is it known or denied that men who call themselves Christians are really Christ’s disciples.” — Ellicott’s Commentary 

This is our distinctive mark! That we love each other. Do I have that mark? Is it obvious to people that I am a Christian because of how I love?  

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12 

Loving each other is how we love the unseen God. Even more wonderful, as we do this kind of love towards God and each other, we become as Jesus walking on the earth. 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like (just as, corresponding to fully, exactly like) Jesus. 1 John 4:16-17 

And what happened when Jesus walked down here? The meek and the lowly, the people ready to receive Him, were drawn to Him, and they were healed and saved and changed. That is “the end to which all things relate, the aim, the purpose” of this love to which we are called. 

 I am not sure that we are where God desires us to be yet, at least not me. And I know that I can never be there on my own. And it’s only by fixing my eyes on Jesus, working towards aligning my words and my doings and my guts with his, and putting my powerless hand into his strong one on this rocky path that I am ever going to make it. The only way that any of us will ever make it home. Let’s live with guts! Compassionate, tenderhearted, with gut-level empathy. Let our hearts be broken for each other that we might be like Jesus, bringing life and light. 

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Mark 1:41 (NLT) 

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him … He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh (moan, groan from grief) said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). Mark 7:32, 34 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubledJesus wept. John 11:33, 35 

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it … Luke 19:41 

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34 

1Amplification from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, and HELPS Word-studies at Bible Hub.

Photo by Jack Bair

We Belong to Each Other

“… each member [of the body of Christ] belongs to all the others. We have different gifts …” Romans 12:5-6 

Have you ever thought that? That we belong to each other? And, if that is true, that we really don’t have the choice to withhold our different gifts? Paul writes that we belong to each other, and that our gifts therefore belong to each other. What are our gifts? Paul lists prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy. There are many more, I’m sure. Later in his letter he writes to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, never lacking in zeal. This is a far cry from doing something once in a while when we think of it and it is convenient.  

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:10-13  

Rather than living this way, I find that I am often despairing, crabby and complaining, lazy and selfish. I mostly forget about the poor among us and tend to be introverted, solitary, private, and would rather be secluded or cloistered. 

Paul goes on to say: live in harmony, do not be proud, do not repay evil for evil, live at peace with everyone, do not take revenge, take care of your hungry and thirsty enemy. How on earth does someone like me do all this? The answer is: I don’t. It would be very sad if it was up to me. But rather, it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) 

In the above verse Romans 12:5, the phrase “we belong to each other” is in the Greek, “each member one.” We are one, or supposed to be. It is the same word that Jesus used here: 

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. John 17:22-23 

“… each member belongs to all the others.” Each member one in complete unity. 

“In a context of humble service, a context that is not only counter-intuitive but also counter-cultural for most of us, Paul tells us to exercise our spiritual gifts in humble service to the Body of Christ. Think about the magnitude of the implication of this … Not only are we to adopt an attitude of true and honest humility, not only are we to consider our positions as members of and belonging to the Body of Christ, but we are to serve the Body of Christ. Yet even more striking than that, we are to rely upon our spiritual gift from God in our service, which is to say that we are not to rely on our own strength, ability or talent, but on God’s grace alone.” — Don Merritt 1 

This is indeed a counter-cultural attitude in this day of independence and a focus on self-awareness, identity and fulfillment. To submerge your “self,” to let the self be crucified, to yield to the will of another, even if that other is God, is viewed as strange and even dangerous. But I pray that the Lord will help us to have the mind of Christ. That He will help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and work in us what is pleasing to Him. 

I know that the phrase, “God’s gift to the world,” is the butt of jokes, as in “he thinks he is God’s gift to the world.” But in reality, we are, or are supposed to be. If we belong to God, if we are in Christ, then, yes, we have been given gifts to give, but more fundamentally, our lives, we ourselves, are gifts that God desires to give to the church and to the world. It is us, me and you. We are the gift. And God wants to give us away that His glory may be seen in all the earth.

He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 

And now may the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

… each member belongs to all the others … 

1https://lifeprojectblog.com/2022/08/07/sunday-sermon-notes-august-7-2022/ 

Photo, Gift, by Asenat29 https://flic.kr/p/aVmeYp  

Must

“We must find each other again.”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:5-6 

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16 

I was a little startled lately when I noticed deep inside me a bristling response to the word “must” in the above verses. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is the natural response of the natural man, right? We want to do what we want to do. Being told we “have to do” anything in our current culture has become anathema. Having to suffer in particular. 

The Greek word, dei (δεῖ), means “it is necessary,” and in this context means a “necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end … necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the O. T. prophecies.” 

Whoa. This is not just an authority figure telling us we have to do something we don’t want to do. This is what is necessary to attain God’s ultimate plan and purpose – the salvation of the world. If we call ourselves Christians there are things that we “must” do. The Lord didn’t waste time telling Saul/Paul what he must do, the works planned for him from the beginning of the world. 

Right after I read and meditated on these verses, J.D. Walt sent out an article with some “musts” for the Church today. I think the urgency with which he writes is justified: 

“We stand in the ruins of the still collapsing facade of Christendom. And all our churches are like so many blind people standing around a massive elephant each with our hand on a different part of the animal and each proffering and preferring a different diagnosis, prognosis and plan.  

So what’s the point today? The point is to say the Day of Pentecost never ended. We need not return to the first century church but to restore the 21st century church. This will come by Word and Spirit and the recovery of plain Scriptural Christianity. We must cease fiddling with forms and fads. We must find each other again, not as so many churches but as “Church.” We must cease chasing after phenomenology and begin to run after Jesus on the path of the race marked out for us.  

We must meet one another again at the level ground of the foot of the Cross and awaken to the fact the Heavens have been rended once and for all. Jesus is ascended as Lord and King.” — J.D. Walt 1 

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31 

Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. Luke 22:7 (KJV) 

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Mark 13:10 

But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say. Luke 12:11-12 (NET) 

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. John 9:4 

1Don’t Pray for the Wind. Set the Sails https://seedbed.com/dont-pray-for-wind-set-the-sails/

Image from FreeBibleimages.org  

Do Not Go to Pieces

The Lord is present with us, near, at hand, ready to carry us in his arms.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 

“Do not be anxious.” That is a hard one for me. Actually, anxiety is pretty pandemic right now, wouldn’t you say? The Greek word is merimnáō which means “drawn in opposite directions,” “divided into parts,” “to go to pieces” because pulled apart in different directions. Literally, it means “to be divided.”i 

I am very familiar with the “go to pieces” part of anxiety, also the “pulled apart in different directions” situation. However, the “to be divided” meaning of the word caught my attention and reminded me of David and his undivided heart.  

Undivided heart  

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11 

David was actually praying for “unitedness of heart”- a heart not divided into parts, not pulled apart in different directions. A heart not pulled apart by fears and idolatries. A heart united in focus and trust. 

This is not something that we can accomplish ourselves I don’t think, but God promised through the prophets to give us this undividedness, this singleness and unitedness of heart. 

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19 

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. Jeremiah 32:39 

One 

The word translated “undivided” and “singleness” in these verses is the Hebrew word echad – one. God was promising to give us one heart. It is the same word as in this verse: 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deuteronomy 6:4 

This is the verse that Jesus pointed to when one of the teachers of the law came and asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:28-30 

In the Greek the word describing God as “one” is holos. It means whole, complete. It means “wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole.” 

“All the parts are present.” God is always one; he is never divided. He never “goes to pieces.” He is never pulled apart in different directions. All the parts – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One. Present. With us.  

Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 again in context: 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (at hand, near, nigh, ready). Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace (eirḗnē = wholeness, when all essential parts are joined together) of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7 

It looks like not being anxious, pulled apart, and divided, but trusting God with our prayers and petitions, gives us His peace and enables us to have a gentle demeanor, evident to all. After Jesus spoke the most important, or first, commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart – he continued with the second most important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  

This may seem impossible, especially in these anxious and contentious days, but let me leave you with a wonderful hidden treasure in this verse. The word translated “near” in “the Lord is near,” comes from a Greek word that means “an arm, especially as bent to receive a burden.” Do you see what that says? You don’t have to be anxious for anything because the Lord is present with us, near, at hand, ready to carry us in his arms. He carries all our burdens. Our strength and ability are in Him. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23 (ESV) 

i All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

Image, Safe by Barbara W https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbasia/15537309689/

Same Mind

The mind of Christ is the narrow way. It is the way we would rather not deal with.

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Philippians 4:2 

Usually, I just slide over this passage, but this time I felt like God wanted me to look closer. It seems Paul had to encourage the churches to agree with each other a lot. Earlier in this same letter to the church in Philippi Paul had written: 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2  

To the Corinthians he wrote: 

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10 

So here, at the end of the letter to Philippi, he singles out these two women who are having a disagreement. Looking at just the meaning of their names is enlightening. At first glance, Euodia means “fine traveling” and Syntyche means “accident.” That made me smile. Already they appear to be opposites.  

Euodia, according to Thayer’s, means “a prosperous journey.” Strong’s notes it could possibly mean “success.” It comes from a word that means “to have a prosperous journey,” or “(figuratively) to be on the right (profitable) path.” In any case, I get this feeling of confidence, even care-lessness. 

Syntyche, on the other hand, means “a happy event.” It comes from a word that means “accident,” like happenstance, or chance meeting. In ancient Greece the word syntyche meant “fortunate” or “with fate.” The words fate, happenstance, and accidental do not promote a lot of security. So that, whereas with Euodia there is a feeling of solid confidence, with Syntyche a little bit of anxiety and even insecurity creeps in.  

It makes me think of the tension between optimism and pessimism. It reminds me of some of the disagreements Christians have had over the centuries: pre-tribulation rapture (we don’t have to worry about a thing because we will be out of here) or post-tribulation rapture (we will have to endure, dig in and fight), eternal security and conditional securityi, and arguments about salvation through faith and/or works.  

If you go too far in either of these directions you get the familiar errors of either “you don’t have to worry about (or do) anything, just trust God and proclaim the promises,” or “everything is up to us, God has given us gifts and his commands, but we have to do it.” Worse, the insecurity of Syntyche can lead to suspicion and judgement of other Christians, while the careless trust of Euodia can lead to disappointment and even anger at God when things go wrong. 

It seems to me that both of these extremes are an attempt to control life, to avoid having to trust God when bad things happen and life doesn’t make sense. Everything will always be happy and wonderful (God promises it!) vs. we must work hard to make everything happy and wonderful (God commands it!). 

The first one leads to moving target prophesies and gleeful assurances of prosperity. It leads to disillusionment with the church and God. The second one leads to anxiety, burnout, or a “fort and fight” mentality, responding to current events in fear and even hostility. 

But, what does Paul urge here? “… be of the same mind in the Lord.”  

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5-7 

We are to have the mind of Christ, which Paul assured the Corinthians we already do have. 

But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16  

When Paul urges Euodia and Synthyche to be of the same mind, the Greek word is phronéō, which means “the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart … [it] essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action.”ii Being of the same mind with each other is a heart thing. It is what we believe in our heart coming out in action. And that action is supposed to reveal Christ to the world. How important it is that we let God deal with our hearts! 

The mind of Christ is the narrow way. It is the way we would rather not deal with when we are entrenched, off on the mucky shoulders of the path, in our own thinking, our own wants and needs and demands. And please know that I am not sharing this in a judging or critical way. I have flailed around on both sides at different times in my Christian walk. But I think that God is nudging us back onto the narrow way – the mind of Christ.  

What is the mind of Christ? It is complete trust in God. It is to let ourselves become nothing. It is to be the servant. It is to have our “one thing” focus be on the will of God. It is to pour ourselves out for the salvation of the world. 

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 

This is Jesus’ final word to us: the meaning of the Greek word translated “peace” in John 16:33 above is eirḗnē which means one, peace, quietness, rest. It comes from eirō to join, tie together into a whole – and so means “properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace.” 

Take heart Church! 

iFor a good explanation of conditional security see https://www.gotquestions.org/conditional-security.html 

iiThayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Joseph Henry Thayer. 

Image: Fort La Latte, Côtes d’Armor, France, by Semnoz https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:200707_Fort_La_Latte_38.JPG   

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