Christ Lived at Home and at Work

“And, though God may have more to say to us from each text than its human writer had in mind, God’s meaning is never less than his. So the first responsibility of the exegete is to seek to get into the human writer’s mind . . . always remembering…that the biblical writer cannot be assumed to have had before his mind the exegete’s own theological system!”
J.I. Packer

What does proper biblical interpretation have to do with Christ being lived out at home and at work?  Everything.  Over the past year I have been exposed to more blatant attempts to flip the Bible on its head through verbal gymnastics and exegesis origami regarding how Christ is lived at work and home than all my prior years in ministry combined.  Rather than approaching the Bible as the authoritative lens through which life is evaluated, a theology based upon the current cultural sentiment is the lens through which these people have attempted to interpret the Bible.  Rather than trusting that God knows what He is doing when talking about relationships at home and at work, there has been an attempt to “improve” God’s prescribed ways of having Christ lived at home and work.

A refreshingly biblical approach to living Christ was discussed at Grandview Christian Assembly on Sunday, August 7, 2011.  GCA’s study of Colossians, Christ Supreme, examined how the awesome Christ of the first few chapters of Colossians is to be lived out in the world.  In the sermon The New Home and Work Life, Colossians 3:18 – 4:1 were unlocked based upon what the Bible says, and not based upon pressure to conform to culture.  The sermon emphasized that Christ is not to be regulated to church and personal spiritual times, but “processed” and lived out at home and work.  If Christ is not lived in the settings of work and family, it is hard to say that a Christian truly has matured spiritually, no matter how much theology the person knows.  There was a challenge to not simply know about Christ, or to know Christ, but to live Christ.

The following is from GCA’s Creekbed online publication by John Myer:

The Far End of the Pipe

God intends this simple principle whenever and wherever the truth of Scripture is made known to us:  What goes in, must come out!  Colossians presents this flow of thought, first unveiling Christ in the highest, most transcendent way.  That revelation trickles into our concepts, changing the way we think of Him and His salvation.  Then it trickles into our daily living where we put on the new self, and finally, after having been experienced intensely and applied deeply, comes out the far end of the pipe in a new home and work life.

The passage under consideration, Col. 3:18-4:1 (which contains no tee-shirt verses), gives the Apostle Paul’s description of what Christ looks like when released into our most personal life settings.  It doesn’t get any more real than this:  Christ at home with the spouse and kids.  Christ at work with coworkers and bosses. 

Christ All Over the Place

The criteria seems simple.  Wives submit to your husbands–that is, stop the power struggles and the single-minded quest to get your way.  This models the Son of God who submitted to imperfect people all during His earthly life.  Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh.  That models the self-sacrificial love and kindness of the Son of God who loved to the point that He died on the cross.  Children obey your parents, modeling the Christ who obeyed His own earthly parents, as well as His heavenly Father.  Fathers, do not discourage your children.  This demonstrates the Christ who could discipline His disciples with a sharp word (telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”–Matt. 16:23) and then encourage them mightily (“You will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”–Matt. 19:28).  There is even a way for slaves to live out Christ.  Although that social institution has been outlawed (thanks to seeds planted in the New Testament), application still exists for all of us who feel forced into an exhausting workweek, making less money than we think we deserve.  What should we do in such a situation?  Listen to the boss and work with sincerity.  Stop doing things just to be seen.  Actually work when you’re at work.  This models the sincerity and honesty of Christ.  There is also a charge to masters, who approximate today’s bosses.  They should not strut around high on themselves, wronging the people who work under them.  Their fair treatment will demonstrate the Christ who is just and judges without bias, rewarding those who deserve it. 

Nothing Profound?

At the end of the day (and this epistle), nothing theologically profound has emerged that can match the likes of the earlier description of Christ in Colossians 1.  But Paul isn’t gunning for profundity at the end of his letter.  Rather, he details how we can know that a wife, a husband, a child, a father, an employee, or a boss are all in current possession of the spiritual reality of a true and living Jesus. That is something worth its weight in gold.

Put on the New

New Connections

Salvation means a lot more than a sweep of God’s hand, a royal command from His mouth, and then eternal fire insurance.  Our salvation turns upon our very union with the Son of God–the closest possible identification with His death and resurrection.  His accomplishments have affected us to the point that we have died with Him and have been raised with Him.  The prior connection that we had with the things of the earth has been severed and we are now living in the things above.  As the apostle Paul assures us, Christ is our life.

A Greenhouse of Grace

But we are expected to interact with that eternal reality on a daily basis.    This comes by following the mandate to put to death the things of the earth that are in us, and to put on the “new self”– virtues which are being renewed in the image of Christ.  But before anyone imagines this as a lonely exercise, pay attention to the larger context of Colossians 3.  Because, within the church, many other members are also “putting on the new” as well.  In fact, within this corporate setting of other believers, we are empowered and encouraged to live out the new virtues.  It is there that the Word of Christ dwells in us richly, not simply to promote greater knowledge, but peace and joy in myriad quality relationships between us all.  The New Testament church life provides a greenhouse for the grace of forgiveness and harmony that could only end as Paul described:  “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” ( 3:16).

-Seth Evans (with some helpful edits by John Myer)

For more on Colossians 3:1-17, listen to the sermon Put on the New located in Grandview Christian Assembly‘s “Christ Supreme” sermon series.

 

Slice of Christ or Supreme Christ

How you view your time with Christ is important. Is He a slice of your life that you make time for on Sunday mornings, when reading the Bible, and praying?  How big of a slice of life does He occupy?  Are you an excellent with budgeting your time, so He (and activities that revolve around Him) has an equal share of your life as the other necessities?  Are you “more spiritual” and make the Christ slice the biggest piece in life?  If you answered in the affirmative to any of the aforementioned questions you are like most Christians (see the slice diagram), but unfortunately your view of Christ is too small.  Even if Jesus Christ occupied “every slice”, according to the Bible your Christ is still too small.

Just consider how Jesus Christ is portrayed in Colossians 1:15-23 (ESV):

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [19] For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
    [21] And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, [23] if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Upon seeing the Supreme Christ in Colossians a person will begin to realize why even being the entire “pie” of our life is too small.  As John Myer explains in the June 26, 2011 sermon “Christ Supreme – The Preeminent Son“, according to the will of God Christ is the box in which our life is contained.  Christ is supreme.  All things came into being through Him, for Him, and unto Him.  As Charles Spurgeon once said, “If Christ is anything, He must be everything”.

Forgiving Grace in Christian Leadership

In recent news, Westboro Baptist Church (which ” is no more a church than Church’s Fried Chicken is a church” ala Jon Stewart) decided to picket outside of a campus of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  WBC’s inflamatory language and abuse of the Bible and slandering of the name of Christ through their actions is enough to cause even the most passive Christian to bristle.  The pastor of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll, is not known for his reserved language when it comes to religious hypocrites.  Yet his church chose to extend grace to WBC through the form of free coffee, doughnuts, and a copy of Driscoll’s book Doctrine.  (More on the topic can be found on Driscoll’s blog Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts.)  The graceful reaction of the leadership at Mars Hill comes across as abnormal and yet it is a great example of forgiving grace.

The latest free e-book through Grandview Christian Assembly, WARNING Contains No Sugar, spends a chapter touching upon the need for aspiring leaders in the church to learn forgiving grace.  Without the capacity to forgive and accept forgiveness relationships dissolve, offenses fester, and churches crumble.  Within every human being there is a large amount of sinful pride that seeks to self-justify rather than admit wrongdoing.  There is a tendency to harbor offenses (whether real or perceived) rather than extending forgiveness.  It is because of the fallen sinful condition of humanity that we need the grace of Christ to forgive others just as “God in Christ Jesus forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).

In chapter ten of Warning John Myer writes:

Wherever diverse personalities gather together, the ability to forgive will always be a priority.  And it’s not easy.  Forgiveness is a grace, which means you often have to go deep in order to release another person from an offense.  As the Bible says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain grace ans mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Some grace has to be searched for and found.  It may feel as though we need to jackhammer down through a layer of concrete to access it.  Finding grace involves prayer and processing things in the Word for a fresh spiritual supply.  We will need plenty of it in order to get over squabbles and personality differences, especially in situations where “talking it over” will not help anything and may stir up even more offense.  This must be learned. There aren’t any alternatives to forgiveness unless you count resigning your leadership or quitting the church for greener pastures…

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you turn a blind eye to faults and problems.  We must continue to coach and exhort our people… Leaders have to deal with their anger and spirit of unforgiveness before ever handling other people (pp. 37-38).

For more on learning the grace of forgiveness, especially in Christian leadership, download and read WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church by John Myer.

Make Your Word Mean Something

“Make Your Word Mean Something” is the seventh chapter in John Myer’s new e-book WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the ChurchWhile working with upcoming leaders I have learned to heed the advice given in this chapter the hard way.  While I too must always be on guard to ensure that I follow through with my promises, I have too often encountered people who want to be leaders who say one thing but only follow through some of the time.  The result is a headache for me and the church as we have to pick up the slack or scramble to cover for the other person.

On my end, when an aspiring leader drops the ball I have learned that blowing them away with harsh words is not the best initial reaction.  But ignoring the error is not an option either.  Words of grace seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) is a skill that has to honed as to what to say and when to say it to the person who did not follow through with their verbal commitment.  It also takes wisdom to discern how much responsibility to entrust or withhold from the upcoming leader in the future.

I have learned to be extra cautious with those who demonstrate an extra dose of charisma or talk a lot and talk big.  It is not that they are less trustworthy than other aspiring leaders, but history has taught me that these aspiring leaders tend to think bigger than their abilities or their commitment levels.  Past experience has also taught me that these people tend to be able to inspire other people to do their work for them.  Unfortunately for these aspiring leaders, the other members in the congregation tend to fall for this (whether it is intentional or unintentional manipulation) only a couple times before becoming disgruntled and joking about the aspiring leader behind their back.

Those who desire to become leaders in life and in the church would do well to heed the words in the chapter seven of WARNING Contains No Sugar:

Take note: folks might follow talent or charisma for a while, but over the long haul, they follow commitment.  Everyone wants to follow someone who believes so strongly in what he’s doing that he (or she) backs it up with energy and follows through  You might want to say that to yourself twice a day…

Too many have the habit of volunteering an then sheepishly folding because at the back of their mind there’s always a fire escape.  If they become inconvenienced they can simply back out later with no ill effects.  Jesus will not fire them.  And aside from a little embarrassment, the church will not overly harass them.  No doubt we should find the best niche for our gifts.  The church ought to be a green house of grace, allowing us to find the best fit for our unique gifts.

In fact, our church allows for limited periods of commitment just so that no one feels stuck in any one place.  On the other hand, if you take it too far by dancing in and out of promises every month, you’ll come across like the person who routinely dates around and flirts with commitment, but never gets married.  Don’t go there.

As a leader, when you say, “I do,” try to make it count (pp. 24-26).

“WARNING Contains No Sugar” Review

WARNING Contains No Sugar:  Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church by John Myer fulfills its title.  There is a lot of honesty and the closest a the book comes to having sugar is in the final chapter.  That is not to say that the new (and free) 43 page e-book is harsh or mean-spirited.  Warning is neither.  What Warning does convey is an honest appraisal of what a current and aspiring leader in the church should have in regards to a godly character.  As Myer states in the first chapter:

Most folds who aspire to leadership have little understanding of what they’re getting into.  The nutshell version of it all comes down to people entrusting their souls to you.  They trust you won’t lead them down a dark alley into religious extremes or doctrinal error, wasted time, or worst of all, a wasted life (p. 4).

Too often people desire the title of “leader” without demonstrating the character and consistency of a leader.  The thought appears to be that “the title makes the man” rather than the reality that man should already embody the title.  The eyes are attracted to the “big” decisions of leadership and often overlook the “small” details that make the big difference.  Myer draws this out in his description of the book:

The Devil is in the details. That’s what new leaders need to remember as they aspire to  become effective in the church. Those who are just beginning to navigate leadership roles usually pay attention to critical big box items like vision, style, and methods. Meanwhile, a multitude of smaller issues that go undetected may be undermining their service.
  Symptoms include: 
         • Not being taken seriously
         • Getting little or no cooperation
         • Failing to inspire others
         • Ideas that fizzle out
         • Toxic team dynamics 
With a decided emphasis on honesty rather than sweetness, “Warning” gives a diagnostic tour of areas that leaders commonly overlook.

The eleven short chapters, it is only a 43 page book, are well worth reading and prayerfully considering.  The chapters are:

1) Get Your Head on Straight
2) Learn to Value a Following of One
3) Be the Man
4) Love Your Meetings and be Prompt
5) Decide What You Want to Do With Your Life
6) Nail the Reason Why You “Don’t Get No Respect”
7) Make Your Word Mean Something
8 ) Have a Jalapeno Faith
9) Value Effectiveness Over Busyness
10) Get Along With Your People Famously
11) When Am I Not in the Wrong?

5 Reasons to Commit to a Local Church

I am a Christian.  I believe in Jesus Christ, am saved from Hell, have a personal relationship with God, so why be a part of a local church?  There are many reasons that are both common sense, reasons laid out in Scripture, and straight out commands from God in the Bible.  I came across five such reasons from Tim Challies’ blog 5 Reasons You Need to Join a Church which I have listed below.  Can you find the backing for each of his points in the Bible (I can)?  Use this post to search the Scriptures yourself so that you are not just taking Tim’s word on it.

By the way, another great resource to look at the power and necessity of being a contributing member of a local church is in John Myer’s latest book Momentum of Togetherness. You can get a copy of it in e-book format free here: http://www.grandviewchristianassembly.org/eBook.php

Tim Challie’s 5 Reasons to Commit to a Local Church:

1. For Assurance.

While a person should not feel he needs to join a church in order to be saved, he ought to join a church to be certain that he has been saved. Christians, those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will naturally gravitate towards other Christians and will desire to be with them, to learn from them, and to serve them. A person who professes Christ but feels no desire to be among his believing brothers and sisters is not a healthy Christian. Thus, eager participation in a local church and heartfelt attempts to measure our enthusiasm for that group of believers is a God-given way for us to assure ourselves that we are truly saved.

2. To Evangelize the World.

The gospel can best be spread through combined and collaborative efforts. Throughout the history of the church great men and women have attempted great things on their own and have often been successful. But more often, great things have been accomplished through the collaborate efforts of Christians working together. If we are to reach this world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, we must share our efforts with other believers.

3. To Expose False Gospels.

As we interact with other believers, we will see what true Christianity is, which ought to expose the common belief that Christians are self-righteous, selfish individuals. As we labor, fellowship, and serve alongside other Christians, and as we observe the lives of other Christ-followers, we will see what biblical Christianity looks like. The more we see of genuine Christianity, the more the counterfeits will be exposed.

4. To Edify the Church.

Joining a church will help Christians counter their sinful individualism and teach them the importance of seeking to serve and edify others. The benefit of being a member of a local church is not primarily inward, but outward. Christians attend a local church so they might have opportunities to serve others and thus to serve God. Every Christian should be eager to serve within the church and to edify others through teaching, serving, and exercising the spiritual gifts.

5. To Glorify God

We can bring God glory through the way we live our lives. God is honored when we are obedient to him. He is glorified when his people come together in unity and harmony to find assurance, to evangelize the world, to expose false gospels, and to edify one another. God is glorified in and through the local church.