Making Faith Our Own

Ezekiel 18-19

Ezekiel 18 30 NIV sgl

Ezekiel 18 describes three generations of men in a family, the first generation is righteous and follows God, the second generation is evil and does everything that God detests, and the third generation is Godly just like the grandpa.  According to the thinking of the Jews of that time each person inherits God’s blessings from their parents, so the evil man would be blessed by God and live a happy and fruitful life because of the righteousness of his father, while the son of the evil man will have a miserable and cursed life because of the evil of his father.  God is going to make it very clear to them that their thinking is fundamentally faulty, because obviously a person who goes around robbing the poor, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and worshiping false gods is going to have a miserable life.  He won’t have friends, and will never be trusted, no matter how great his father was.  How is that a blessed life?

The opposite is also true, if the evil man has a son and that man lives a Godly life and helps the poor, and gives money to the needy, and keeps all of God’s laws he will have a full and blessed life.  People might remember how horrible his father is, but his own actions will speak for themselves, and God will also see his actions and bless him.

This is summed up perfectly in Ezekiel 18:30-32.

“30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

 

This verse is a great blessing, but also a warning.  It is a blessing if you or your family has a past that is full of sin and brokenness and you want to break the cycle, repent and live!  It doesn’t matter what your parents did, good or bad, God will judge you for your own actions.  This makes it very important to make our faith our own, because even though my Mom had and Dad has faith that can move mountains, that does not make me a Christian by default, I still have to work hard at it and build my own faith up.  Just like how knowledge will never transfer from your textbook to your brain when you use the textbook as a pillow, righteousness will not transfer from your parents to you when you sit next to them at church, you have to open the book and read for yourself.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway, here – Ezekiel 18-19

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 20-21 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Your Ministry to Others

2 timothy 4 5

Hey this is Chris Mattison, you might remember that I’ve done a couple of these FUEL devotions in the past, and I was fortunate enough to be able to go on the Peru trip this year.  I’ve traveled a bit before so I kind of knew what to expect in terms of culture shock, food weirdness, and accommodations, but one thing that I was not prepared for was the diversity of issues that they deal with in Peruvian society and churches.  Some of the things that surprised me shouldn’t have, such as certain words in the Spanish translations of the Bible being translated imperfectly, and therefore causing confusion on some things that we think of as being obvious here in the States. Another thing that I’m not as used to seeing in my Church is the reliance of the people on the pastor to tell them what to believe.  Now many of the people in Peru have come to their faith as a consequence of long studies, but there are others who are mostly there because they are following a certain pastor or leader who they trust and they do not have a lot of ownership of their beliefs, and this is more common in their culture due to the prevalence of Catholicism.

 

I had prepared some messages to give in Peru, and I was able to share some of those things, and I think they appreciated it, but I think that it was these other topics that Edwin and others were speaking on that had the most effect on the people in the Churches we visited in Peru. Edwin knew what they were dealing with and where they needed more biblical truth in their lives because he founded these Churches and knows the people very well.  This was very eye opening to me because I realized that there really is quite a diversity of perspectives and struggles in the Church in different parts of the world.

 

 We see this a lot in the New Testament when Paul was writing to different Churches that he had worked with he would talk about very different things because that is what they were dealing with.  Paul only knew these things because he got to know the people while he lived in their cities, and because he made the effort to keep up with the people. In the same way we will not be very effective if we just preach at people and tell them what we think they need to hear, we first need to invest in their lives and get to know them so that we can meet them where they are, and have a greater effect on their lives.

 

I’m so glad that I took this first step to get to know the people in Peru, and I hope that I can continue to minister to them in the future in whatever way I can.  I strongly encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone to get to know somebody intentionally so that you can minister to them.

-Chris Mattison

What Counts

1 Corinthians 7

Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

I hope you have enjoyed working through 1 Corinthians this week.  I’m going to finish with chapter 7 today.

 

Up until now Paul has been telling them about all of the changes that they need to make.  He has told them to set aside the worldly wisdom, and the associated status that comes with gaining it, for God’s wisdom.  He has told them to seek purity because they are members of the Body of Christ, and they cannot do things anymore just because their conscience says it isn’t bad, they need to listen to the Holy Spirit.   He has also instructed them to seek unity in the Body of Christ instead of handling their issues in the courts in order to “win” the argument. Several times in these instructions Paul has shifted tone between one of condemnation and rebuke, to one of conciliation and support.  Again here in chapter 7 Paul is lightening the blow from all of the changes he has asked of them in these previous chapters.

 

Paul does not want to overwhelm them with the changes he is asking for, so in chapter 7 he clarifies about the things that he is not asking them to change, but they may have thought he wanted them to change.  They do not need to get a divorce if they are married to an unbeliever, but are to do everything in their power to maintain a healthy relationship. If they are a slave then they do not need to attain freedom, although if they can that is nice, but it is not required. Contrary to what some of the Jews in the early Church were saying they do not need to be circumcised. Paul understands that these life changes would be a roadblock to some new believers and that they are not what God really wants, he says “Keeping God’s commands is what counts.”  God wants them to change their hearts. And maybe some of the life changes would be wise, but those things can come later as you grow in God’s wisdom. The most important thing to work on is obeying God’s commands and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

Thanks again for reading along.  I hope some of this has helped you.

Until next time,

Chris Mattison

Disunity – Defeated Already

1 Corinthians 6

1 Corinthians 6 7

Today we will be taking a look at 1 Corinthians 6

 

In chapter 5 Paul taught that it is not right for those in the Church to judge those who are not in the Church because they are not held to the same standards that we have ascribed to.  Similarly in chapter 6 Paul says that it is not right for those outside of the Church to be making judgements on arguments between those in the Church. If we have Christ’s love in us and if we are living according to his wisdom as Paul teaches we should, then we should be able to have reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ without having to go to court. It is understandable that we will have disagreements in the Church, and feelings will get hurt, but Christ forgave the men who crucified him while he was still hanging on the cross.  If he can do that then we can forgive the people in our Church. It is a shame on the Church when we cannot be reconciled to each other. When that happens Paul says in verse seven that “you have been completely defeated already”. We know from Ephesians 6:12 that this fight that we are in is against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” and for that reason we need to put on the full armor of God. But if we cannot unite as the Body of Christ then there is no point, we have already lost the battle.

 

One of Paul’s main goals in his letter to the Corinthians was to bring unity.  Many of the situations in Corinth Paul was asking one of the sides to give in graciously, even though they were not wrong, in order to bring peace.  Later in chapter 6 verse 7 it says “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” We should seek unity in the Body over being right, or having justice.  Jesus’ death was the greatest injustice in the world, and we are called to take up our crosses and follow him, we should not be surprised if we have to endure some injustice along the way.

 

Yours in peace

Chris Mattison

To Judge or Not to Judge

1 Corinthians 5

1 Corinthians 5 12

We are going to take a look today at 1 Corinthians 5.

Paul has talked a lot up until now about how immature and unwise the Corinthians are, and we start to see here what he is talking about.  There is some really weird sexual immorality going on in the church at Corinth, and they were bragging about it. Paul is very critical of this and tells them “I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this”.  Because they have accepted Jesus they should have his wisdom and the Holy Spirit guiding their lives and they should know that these things are wrong, and therefore have no excuse in allowing this to go on.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”’ 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

Paul clarifies though, that he is not judging their culture, which finds this practice acceptable, but he can judge them because they have committed themselves to a higher standard and are falling short.  Many Christians today need to be reminded of this. We need to hold other Christians to the standard that Christ has set. It may make us uncomfortable, but if we see sin in the Church it is our responsibility to help fix it.  Confronting people is not easy, but if we love them then we will want them to be right with God.

On the other side we cannot judge the sins of non-believers because they have not committed themselves to Christ, and they do not understand that what they do is sinful.  It is not our place to judge the sin in the world, but it is our job to spread the good news that Jesus died for our sins, and then we can let the Holy Spirit convict that person of their sin, and hope that they make the right decision.  If we start by judging them for their sins we will only push them away, and that will not help the Kingdom to grow. We can see a widespread rejection of Christianity in our culture today partly because of a cultural backlash towards Christians that openly judge non-Christians.  So let us remember that our message is one of life and hope, not judgement and condemnation.

 

Thanks for reading,

Chris Mattison

Servants with a Mission

1 Corinthians 4

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Let’s take a quick dive into 1 Corinthians 4.

Right off the bat we see several really good nuggets of truth in chapter 4.  “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” 4:1-2.  Those of us who have accepted Christ into our lives have been entrusted with a knowledge of the transforming power of Christ, and we must be faithful.  Just like the servant in the parable of the talents who was required to earn a profit on the money entrusted to him by his master we need to be growing the kingdom.  Also those who are believers should not view themselves as being holier and better than other people, but as servants to all with a mission.

 

For those that have not yet accepted Christ into their life there is also a message here in verse 4, which says “ My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”  A lot of people can get in trouble because they only listen to their own internal moral compass.  The problem is that compass can be bent to your own desires, and when a compass is wrong you will never find your way.  This is why we need to check our actions against God’s teachings because in the end we will not be judging ourselves, but God will judge us.  Most people do not think that they are sinning in their life, but it is once we encounter Jesus that we realize the weight of our sin and the fact that we need his blood to cover all of our sins.

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Chris Mattison

The Best Construction Project

1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3 19 a

For the Corinthians and Greek culture in general, wisdom and knowledge were extremely important.  This is why Paul spends 1 Corinthians 1 emphasizing that it is through faith in Christ that we are saved, not through the wisdom they have worked towards their whole lives.  Then in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul says that wisdom is important for the Christian, but it is Godly wisdom that is very different from what they have learned, and it cannot be taught, but is given by the holy spirit.  Now in chapter 3 Paul is clearing up any last confusion in case they were not understanding up until now. He very clearly says that they need this Godly wisdom, but do not have it at all. They have been seeking an elevated status in their congregation because of their high learning and deep understandings.  Paul wants to set the record straight, living a Christian life is not about sitting in your plush study and writing treatises and books and musings, and becoming revered for your knowledge. It is about getting your hands dirty. He likens the Christians to farmers and builders who have work to do, and he is a worker right there with them.  This would have been a very shocking thing to the aristocratically minded members of the Corinthian Church who would have read this.

 

So let me be as clear as Paul was.  If you decide to follow Jesus and serve him, then you will be a servant.  Your life will not be a vacation, but a construction project. It will take work, but in the end you will hopefully do something valuable with your life and “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-14.  That reward is everlasting life in God’s kingdom, and is worth so much more than a high position in society, or being revered for your earthly wisdom.

 

Your fellow servant

Chris Mattison

Which Wisdom is Not Truly Wise

1 Corinthians 2

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Hey guys, it’s Chris again and today we are looking at 1 Corinthians 2.

 

After deemphasizing the role of wisdom in salvation in the first chapter of first Corinthians Paul clarifies in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 that having wisdom is very important for Christians.  This wisdom is not gained through learning at schools, as was common in their culture, but was given and revealed through the holy spirit, and was completely different from the conventional wisdom of the day.  It was important to make this distinction between Godly wisdom and the conventional wisdom of the day, because many of the believers that had been taught courses in philosophy and rhetoric of the day were holding onto those old ways of thinking, which was causing the issues that Paul was writing about in this letter.  This is an important reminder that we need to completely die to ourselves when we accept Christ into our lives. We need to leave behind our old sins as well as our old ways of thinking about the world. Worldly wisdom is incompatible with Godly wisdom, and if we hold onto it then we will be divided and confused, and it will pull us away from God.

 

Peace in Christ,

Chris Mattison

Who Deserves Our Faith & Following

1 Corinthians 1

1 Corinthians 1 18 (1)

Hey guys this is Chris and I’m excited to go through 1 Corinthians 1-7 with you this week.  I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do.

 

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Paul chastises the people in the Church at Corinth for being divided based on the person they were baptized by or whose teachings they followed.  I think that this is a very good message for us today. Many Christians are drawn to a well spoken pastor, or an impassioned speaker, and these are good people to follow, but too often people place too much of their faith in that person.  I have seen it many times, these types of leaders will move away from their church or they will have a scandal, and the faith of the people will be shaken and many will stop going to that church. Hebrews 4:14 says “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”  We need to follow Jesus as the head of the Church because he will not fail us, and he is the only one who deserves our faith. Also, in this age of social justice people can get caught up in a certain movement or behind a certain leader and let those ideas influence them, and we need to remember that Christ’s teachings come first. Those other movements may be good things, but we need to check what they are saying against what Christ teaches.

 

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 tells us that salvation is not attained through wisdom or knowledge that you can gain if you study long enough.  That was the teaching of the Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle, that seeking wisdom was the highest goal. Salvation comes through faith.  In the Church of God we can be very focused on the Word of God and the truth, which is a good thing, but we need to make sure that we do not take pride in our knowledge and somehow think that we are any better than other Christians. We are saved by our faith, not our knowledge or wisdom.  Knowledge and wisdom will come as we seek God and grow, but we should not have pride in our knowledge, only in Christ and his works.

 

Have a blessed day.

Chris Mattison

Are You Ready?

ACTS 21

Acts 21_13

In Acts 21 we see Paul as he is heading towards Jerusalem.  He wants to report to the apostles what has been done during his ministry.  While on his way there he is warned that he will be beaten by the Jews and handed over to the Romans if he enters Jerusalem.  This does not deter Paul and he says “For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus”.  When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he met with James and the other elders of the church and reported to them about the gentiles that had come to Christ during his ministry.  They rejoiced with him, but were worried that he would be attacked by the zealous Jews in Jerusalem because they thought that he was telling people to forsake the Law of Moses.  In order to prove to them that he was not preaching that he went through a purifying ritual in the temple that lasted seven days. Even with this display of acceptance for the Law the Jews still mobbed him and beat him and turned him over to the Romans.

 

There are many people today who have a preconceived notion of what Christians believe and will not believe you about your faith even when you show them with your actions.  I have had people tell me various versions of, “You are a Christian, therefore you believe/do such and such, and you are wrong”. And it doesn’t matter what you say to them, they are not there for a conversation, they just want to tell you that you are wrong and they are right.  Now I wasn’t beat in the streets for my beliefs, but it can be discouraging and intimidating. As Christians we need to be like Paul and listen to Christ, not our detractors. We all have Paul’s boldness to thank for our Christian culture, because it was his boldness that enabled Christianity to be spread to the western world.  I just hope that years from now people can look back and praise God for our boldness in following him.

In Acts 15-21 we see the hardships and adventures that Paul had while he was preaching the gospel to cities in modern day Turkey and Greece.  In many ways these hardships that he endured seem like something that would only happen far away or to missionaries in a third world country. Historically we have not had much anti-Christian public in the US, but that has been changing for a while now.  It is no longer socially acceptable in some areas of the US to be a Christian, and is frowned upon to voice Christian values. I think that during my life these situations that Paul found himself in will become more and more relevant to modern Christians as we are continually more and more ostracized from society for our beliefs.  It will help us to stay strong to the end if we have a bold faith and a strong prayer life so that we are in tune with the leading of the Holy Spirit just as Paul was.

Thanks to all who have read along this week, I really enjoyed studying these chapters and hope that you grew from this as well.

I’ll see you around,

Chris Mattison