In today’s Bible reading I will be looking at Romans 1. I want to specifically focus on where he says “…that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” I think this is especially important to take note of since covid made it hard to gather for a long time and I think we can all agree that to some degree our Faith was affected. This is why I think it is important that I go to church, to be able to meet with like-minded believers who are going to support me in my own walk with the Lord and for me to be able to support them as well. God did not intend for us to be alone, but for us to have fellowship with one another and encourage each other to live daily for Him. As life is returning to normal at this stage of the pandemic I think it is important that we make an effort to rebuild our church communities and get ourselves back into those routines that will draw us closer to God.
Earlier this week you heard about our recent Midwest Family Camp theme of standing firm in our faith and its importance. Throughout verses 21 and 22 we can see the effect that happens when we are not standing firm in our faith, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” This is why it is important to be in a community of believers, iron sharpens iron, and wise Godly people can point out when our thinking becomes futile, or when we are not honoring God with our actions. Without these leaders in our churches we may become like the fools that Paul is talking about here, and if you read on, these foolish people do not end up living fun or flourishing lives.
In our churches we need people who are willing to step up as leaders and examples of what standing firm and walking with God looks like.
In the movie Elf, Buddy the Elf is taught the Code of the Elves, which the elves all recite and know by heart. Number three on the list is about spreading Christmas cheer, and by the end of the movie, Buddy has spread that message to lots of people.
In the book of 1 Timothy, Paul explicitly tells us his purpose when he says, “I am writing you these instructions so that…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church.”
So, in essence, Paul’s giving us the Code of the Church. And what are some of the things in that code?
Remember you’re a big fat sinner (ie: Grace)
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1:15)
Before we say a word to anyone else, our perspective on ourself needs to be right.
Unfortunately, there seem to be an awful lot of believers out there who don’t seem to see themselves as Paul did. They might rephrase this verse to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—praise the Lord I’m not like them” or if we’re really honest, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—thankfully I’m not as bad as the worst of them.”
And although I don’t really believe most Christians would actually rephrase Paul’s writing in those ways, our attitudes do it for us. Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors said, “Jesus came not only for those who skip morning mediations, but also for real sinners–thieves, adulterers and terrorists, for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.”
The lyrics to the song, “Come to the Table” are a lovely picture of recognizing that we are all sinners redeemed, and that our unworthiness does not exempt us from a seat at the table of mercy.
Must sin be called out? Of course. With a heaping side of grace.
Grace first. Grace always.
More on that later in the code.
2. Pray for your leaders
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (2:1-2)
Pray for them (ARROW) THAT…
The code dictates that we’re praying for leaders that will enable us to live out a Biblical faith.
If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? (3:5)
Chapter three is almost entirely devoted to this piece of the church code, laying out indicators of what believers should look for in church leaders. This much real estate in Paul’s letter should tell us that it’s something that he found important, and should therefore garner our attention as well.
4. Train yourself to be godly…because it doesn’t come naturally
..train yourself to be godly. (4:7)
Training involves work, often times painful work.
As we alluded to in step one of the code, identifying sin is a part of responsibility of the believer. Both in our own life and for one another.
Paul writes in other places of ‘walking in the Spirit’ vs. ‘walking in the flesh’. Walking in the flesh could be described as doing what comes naturally to us, and that is frequently (almost always) not the same as what God would call us to.
This is why we need to train ourselves in it. Despite all the Chuck Norris jokes to the contrary…Chuck Norris wasn’t born all ‘Chuck Norris-y’. He has trained and worked hard physically to attain the physical strength and skills he has.
While we do want to train hard and push ourselves and one another to greatness, the underlying foundation must always be love. It must always be grace. (See #1 of the Code)
5. The church takes care of its own
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (5:1-2)
Much of chapter 5 centers on the care of widows in the church, something we may deem a waste of Paul’s time. However, it shows a real care and elevation of women. A woman whose husband had died could become desolate very rapidly, and this was to ensure that this not happen to believers.
Although the specific issue of widowhood may not be as relevant to us today, the idea that God expects believers to provide for their family has not changed. Also unchanged is the notion of the church family stepping in for believers without blood-family to support them.
Good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. (5:25)
Our church code of conduct may not be quite as catchy as the one Buddy the Elf learned in the North Pole, but ours has a far more lasting impact…and no tights required!
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Timothy
Most everyone following this blog has probably read through these passages today… each chapter could have its own devotional! Within these we have the passage on Spiritual Gifts, we have the Love chapter, and we have one of the more argued and misinterpreted verses regarding women in the church – all in one day!
The not so crazy thing about all these chapters is how at the heart of each of them, there is one message that prevails: Love others and tell them about Jesus. Whether it is an outsider, a fellow believer, a spouse, or anyone you meet… we are told to show them love and tell them about Jesus.
When discussing the spiritual gifts Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body being placed exactly where God wants them (12:18) and remaining united within the Church (12:25). I have usually heard these verses used to showcase why everyone is equally important within the Church and that you should never compare yourself or your gifts to someone else’s. However, Paul gives a pecking order in verse 28: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages… At first this can seem a little harsh, especially if you’re a helper or someone who speaks another language! And it is harsh, if you stop reading there.
In chapter 14 Paul continues “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.” Paul is telling everyone that the main goal is to spread the message of Jesus, and love others. He doesn’t say it’s bad to do any of the other tasks or fill other roles within the church, in fact in the previous chapter he describes at length why it is so important for everyone to be unique and do the work God intends for them. What he is also saying here is that it is everyone’s mission to tell others about Jesus and the fact that he is coming back. Just as every part of the body functions independently with the purpose of living daily, every part of the body of Christ must function independently with the message of the Kingdom coming.
This message continues even in chapter 14 verse 34, when Paul writes that the women of the church should be silent and submissive. In these verses it is important to remember the historical context in which Paul is writing. At this time, women did not hold places of leadership, and women did not *generally* have a role in proclaiming the message. Additionally, the church in Corinth had women who struggled to act as godly women, partially because their husbands and other leaders in the church also struggled to live righteous lives. I do not think that Paul is hating on the women, but rather explaining that when the church is struggling and in need of repair, the gossiping, adulterous, and unrighteous should not have a say in the direction of the church. He is describing the importance of church leaders to be focused on the mission.
The call to prophesy is not one to be taken lightly, and Paul wants to make sure that the church understands that. It is also one that the church is called to eagerly strive for, for the sake of the Kingdom. Chapter 14 verse 24 reads “But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’”
Let that be our goal as the Church, that anyone who walks in will have no other inclination but to fall down in worship of our great God because of our focus on His mission!
“I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:15
Yesterday, we read about Paul’s instructions to men and women in church during worship services. The common thread throughout the chapter? We all need to pray in humility. As Paul continues his letter, he talks more about what a church should look like, focusing in particular on church leadership. He describes two different leaders: Pastors (or Elder) and Deacons. The job requirements for both of these positions may seem a little bit overwhelming. Instead of being the usual list of requirements that you might find in a job listing (e.g. must be upbeat and engaging, a team player, bachelor’s degree), these requirements shine a light onto the heart of a leader.
If we are a new believer, the first step we should take in our faith is to grow in our relationship with God. We do this through daily prayer and Bible reading and through meeting with our church family. However, after we have committed ourselves to the faith and have started to mature in the faith, we need to begin to work in ministry. We may not become a pastor or a deacon, but we may lead a Sunday School class for kindergartners, be on staff at an annual church youth camp, or be involved in a visiting ministry for shut-ins. If we are working in ministry, we are leading some group of people. Even if you feel like you are leading no one, you can look at your family, whether that’s children, younger siblings, or cousins, and see the effects of your influence.
Though the requirements listed for pastors and deacons were written specifically for them, we can look at this list to judge how well we are filling our leadership role. We are not saved by these characteristics and traits, by having them shows evidence of how God is working in our lives. For instance, we should all strive to not be a bully or quarrelsome and instead be gentle (1 Tim. 3:2-3). Why? Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If God’s spirit is working in our lives, we should be showing evidence of that. So, as you look through the traits listed, think about how you measure up to the job requirements. If you find that you would not be able to fill these requirements, you should take a look at your life and ask God to help you change those areas. Those that are following you are counting on you to lead them down the right path. They are looking at you to see the way they should act. Where are you leading them?