RCC in the Word Week of May 20

RCC in the Word

Week of May 20

Galatians 1.1-9

 

If you have ever booked a flight on a low-cost airline, you know that you can get a seat on the plane for a reasonable fare. However, the cost quickly escalates as you “add-on” various options. Carry on-bag, checked luggage, selecting your own seat, early boarding, paying with a credit card, window seat, aisle seat, extra legroom…. the list goes on and on. Suddenly that amazing fare isn’t so amazing after all.

In Galatians, Paul is writing to Christians who have “added-on” to the gospel of amazing grace. Even though “the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the evil age” (vs4) and is the source of “grace and peace” (vs3), many in the church in Galatia were “turning to a different gospel” (vs6). Using the language of military desertion, Paul underscored the seriousness of the Galatians’ decision to embrace this false gospel. Not only were they leaving behind the pure gospel of grace, they were abandoning Christ.  “Bewitched” (3.10) by Judaizers claiming that salvation required both grace and works, Christians in Galatia were “quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ” (vs6). With all the “add-ons,” they were rejecting both God’s grace and God’s Son.

Even though Paul founded the churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (all in the region of southern Galatia), false teachers quickly infiltrated the church. These Jews taught a different gospel, a gospel of works. They insisted that these Gentile Christians must adhere to the law of works in order to be saved. They argued that faith in Christ was not enough for justification; obedience to certain Old Testament ceremonies was also required. Like prosperity preachers today, these false teachers were “distorting the gospel of Christ” (vs7).

The issue of perverting the gospel of Christ is a matter of eternal life and death. Unlike his other epistles (see Rom1.8; 1 Cor1.1-5; Eph1.15-23; Phil1.3-11), Paul did not offer any commendation to the Galatians for their spiritual health nor does he thank God for them. These Christians were standing on the edge of a dangerous precipice, and he urgently needed to get their attention.  Paul sternly and soberly warned them of the danger. In verses 8-9, he declared that anyone who preaches a different (or false) gospel is “accursed,” which is translated from the Greek word anathema. Anathema refers to the condemnation of God; it is God’s curse. The NIV translates it, “Let him be eternally condemned.” If the lack of a warm and personal greeting did not alert the church to the seriousness of the situation, anathema set off the alarm bell!  

Since the Garden of Eden, we have had a tendency to add to God’s Word. God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it (Eve added this), lest you die (Gen3.3).  Although our gospel “add-ons” may not be as obvious as the false teachers in Galatia, you and I must be careful that we do not start believing and proclaiming a grace + works gospel. Subtlety, we add-on to the gospel, when we think we must do something good to cancel out or atone for a particular sin. We add-on to the gospel when we tell others they must trust Jesus and (fill in the blank). We add-on to the gospel when we reason that God elected us because he knew we would choose Christ.  In Luke 5, Jesus compares this type of thinking to putting new wine in old wineskins. He warns us that it is both foolish and destructive.

In verse 7, Paul reminds us that there is only one gospel. “Not that there is another one,” he writes. Anything other than the “revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs12) is “man’s gospel” (vs11). These counterfeit gospels cannot save anyone; therefore, they are not good news.  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nothing else is needed for our salvation, justification, forgiveness or righteousness. In this gospel alone, we receive “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs3). “We also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (2.16). That is good news….no add-on needed!  

Written by: Jeff Porter


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RCC in the Word – Week of March 25

RCC in the Word

Week of March 25

Psalm 119:33-40

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! 37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. 38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. 39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. 40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Brethren, we find ourselves in the longest chapter in the bible. Psalm 119 is an Acrostic poem of wisdom broken into sections of eight verses. Each section of eight verses begins in order of the 22 original letters of the Hebrew alphabet, 22 times 8 equals 176 verses. We see a God speaking through men with beauty and order. This is the God we worship. He brings beauty and order into the believer’s life as well.

The writer of this poem is one who has suffered and endured trials and by God’s grace has come to depend upon God and His word. I know as a believer that I can relate to how trials help us to see the beauty and love of God. I also can relate to the struggle to read, understand, and obey the word of God.

The psalmist is coming to God seasoned in years, yet as a child for God to teach him, to point out to him, indicate to him the way or meaning of His statutes (vs. 33). Not just a head knowledge, but knowledge that leads to obedience. We can have head knowledge of the truth of something and yet not understand that truth enough to teach it to someone else. The psalmist is wanting a deep understanding of God’s word that can only come from God Himself. We should plead and pray as the Psalmist does throughout this Psalm for understanding and obedience to God’s statutes. I found this quote from D. H. Mollerus to be a beautiful summary of these 8 verses:

Ver. 33-40. In this Octonarius, now and again, the same prayer is repeated, of which several times mention has before been made. For he prays that he may be divinely taught, governed, strengthened, and defended against the calumnies, reproaches, and threatenings of his enemies. And the prayer is full of the most ardent longings, which is manifest from the same resolve being so frequently repeated. For the more he knows the ignorance, obscurity, doubts, and the imbecility of the human mind, and sees how men are impelled by a slight momentum, so that they fall away from the truth and embrace errors repugnant to the divine word, or fall into great sins, the more ardently and strongly does he ask in prayer that he may be divinely taught, governed, and strengthened, lest he should cast away acknowledged truth, or plunge himself into wickedness. And by his example he teaches that we, also, against blindness born with us, and the imbecility of our flesh, and also against the snares and madness of devils should fortify ourselves with those weapons; namely, with the right study and knowledge of the divine Word, and with constant prayer. For if so great a man, who had made such preeminent attainments, prayed for this, how much more ought they to do so, who are but novices and ignorant beginners. This is the sum of this Octonarius. D. H. Mollerus

It is my prayer for us brethren that we pray repeatedly to be divinely taught, governed, strengthened, and defended by the God of all creation. That He would keep us from the follies and distractions of this world. That He would instill within us a deep rooted desire to love His word. I pray that the Lord would cause me to overcome the laziness and indifference of the old man within me and strengthen the will of the new man He has created in me. May we be a people known for our love of Christ our Savior, for our dependence on the Holy Spirit our Keeper, and our reverence for God the Father. The triune God of creation has stooped down to us and redeemed us from the pit of sin and despair. Let us find our joy in the truths the Lord reveals to us in His word. I pray that we grow in our dependence upon this God and His word.

1 Kings 3:9-10

9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

Written by: Calvin Patrick


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RCC in the Word -Week of April 1

RCC in the Word

Week of April 1

Psalm 119.73-104

In the 17th-century, George Wishart, bishop of Edinburgh, was condemned to die. As he stood on the scaffold awaiting execution, he appealed to a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one song to be sung. Wishart chose Psalm 119, and before two-thirds of the psalm was sung, he received a pardon. His life was spared. It is a good thing, he chose Psalm 119 with 176 verses instead of Psalm 117 with two verses!

In this section of Psalm 119, we receive insight into the personal condition of the psalmist; he is under attack from his enemies and enduring painful affliction. He has many false accusers who speak lies against him (vs 78 and 86). Like a hunter attempting to trap and destroy prey, these proud enemies dig dangerous pits to ensnare the psalmist (vs85). Their attacks and threats and violence are so great they nearly succeed in killing him (vs87). The goal and desire of the wicked was the absolute destruction of the godly psalmist (vs95).  Like Bishop Wishart who faced certain death, the psalmist finds himself dangerously close to losing his life at the hands of his enemies. The reality of death is so near that he cries out in desperation to the Lord. In verse 81 he prays, My soul longs for your salvation.  The word “longs” or “faints” carries the idea of coming to an end. For the psalmist, affliction abounds.

Perhaps, you can relate to the psalmist’s perilous situation. Maybe you can recall a time in the past when you were the target of malicious rumors or hostile lies. Maybe you remember a time when it seemed your very life was slipping away. Maybe you remember a season when your soul was grieved with afflictions. Maybe you remember a time when it seemed enemies surrounded you externally and internally. Maybe you are experiencing some of these afflictions now. Your situation is desperate. Your physical strength is waning. Your soul is weakening.

In the midst of his severe trial, what does the psalmist do? He prays and feeds his soul and mind with the Word of God. He refuses to allow his external circumstances, as difficult as they were, to prevent him from trusting in and holding fast to truth.  As he meditates on the statutes, commands, word of the Lord, he remembers several truths.

1. God is sovereign over every circumstance, even affliction (vs75)

The psalmist acknowledges that even though evil opponents seek to destroy him, ultimately, his trials are under the providential direction of God. In faithfulness, you have afflicted me.  The writer does not accuse God of sin or evil for only a holy God can issue righteous rules (vs75). There is no accusation here of wrong on God’s part. No, the psalmist rests in knowing that he is not the victim of fate. Rather, these afflictions are part of God’s faithful plan for his good. By meditating on the Word, he knows that God is full of steadfast love (vs76) and mercy (vs77). He believes that all of creation is at the disposal of his faithful God (vs 90-91). And, he knows that God has a purpose for his life. In verse 73, he says: Your hands have made and fashioned me.  This is an acknowledgment that the sovereign Lord made him and put him in that place at that time. By meditating on the Word, he is also reminded that his opponents will have their day of judgment. God, the righteous One, will call his court to order. The psalmist does not know when this will occur – when will you judge those who persecute me (84)? – but, he is assured that all of God’s commandments are sure (vs86).

2. The words of man will be forgotten, but God’s Word endures forever (vs89).

As he considers the lies and falsehood being spoken against him, he remembers that only God’s true and infallible word lasts forever. Eventually, his enemies’ words will fade away. They will not stand the test of time. But, God’s Word is established in the heavens. It is unchanging, eternal. Charles Spurgeon writes, “After tossing about on a sea of trouble the Psalmist here leaps to shore and stands upon a rock. Jehovah’s word is not fickle nor uncertain; it is settled, determined, fixed, sure, immovable. Man’s teachings change so often that there is never time for them to be settled; but the Lord’s word is from of old the same, and will remain unchanged eternally.”

3. Though providence be bitter, God’s word is sweeter (vs103)

No matter how difficult his circumstances were, the psalmist found the word of God to be like the sweetest tasting honey. As he faced the worst from man, he feasted on the best of God. Remembering the precious truth of God’s comfort, love, faithfulness, righteousness, gave the psalmist a deep resolve to walk in the path of obedience even in the fire of affliction. As he delighted in the sweet word of God, he was able to drink the bitter cup before him in obedience.

4. Persecution does not permit disobedience

How easy it would have been for the psalmist to throw in the towel and give up his pursuit of holiness in the midst of such affliction. The reasoning is simple, “If obeying God leads to such hardship, then why bother keeping his commands?” This, of course, is not the perspective of the psalmist. Even in the middle of great trial, his deepest desire is to glorify God through obedience. Not only does he want to bring glory to God, but he also seeks to encourage and bless others through his obedience. As onlookers see his obedience in the fire, as they witness his trust in the trial, they will rejoice (vs74) and see a testimony of God’s mercy (vs79). For these reasons, the psalmist chooses obedience – no matter what his enemies may do. They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts (vs87).  The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies (vs95).

As the psalmist walked through affliction, he meditated upon the word of God. As Bishop Wishart stood on the executioner’s block, he focused on Psalm 119. Where will you turn in your time of trial? By God’s grace, you can set your mind on the eternal word of God. And, there, even in the most difficult seasons, you can feast on the choicest of fares as you remember the awesome nature of God, the everlasting truth of his promises and the blessing that comes when you follow his commands.

 

Written by: Jeff Porter

 

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RCC in the Word – Week of March 4

RCC in the Word
Week of March 4
Ephesians 5
 
Ephesians 5:3 – “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
 
There is no doubt that sexual immaturity is a problem in the church. Even among the people God has called to holiness, there is still the battle to be waged against sin. And as much as we aim to destroy the sin in our lives, we are not always victorious. Because sexual immaturity is a problem, we must study the Scriptures and openly discuss what the Scriptures demand of us. What kind of sexual immorality is found in the church? You find it in the news, unfortunately, all the time and perhaps you have seen it in your life or in the life of a friend – pornography, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, lustful desires, masturbation, sex outside of marriage, and so forth.
 
Several years ago, a pastor and seminary professor told me they no longer ask new students if they are struggling with pornography, they simply assume every student has a pornography problem. And it is not just a problem for men. The genre of writing called “mommy porn” made famous by one of the best selling series of books of all time, Fifty Shades of Grey. Movies adapted from the books then followed. Consider also the vast majority of shows one scans through on Netflix that are filled with sexual immorality – and I hear of Christians enjoying these shows.
 
This verse in Ephesians chapter 5 is just one of the many passages in Scripture that speak to the issues of lust and immorality. The Bible speaks about these things because they are common to man. We have a sin problem. That’s the root of the issue. We have a heart problem, a sin problem, a worship problem – you can think about it in any of those ways. It is that we desire something other than God. We are not satisfied by God and so we seek other things that we think will satisfy us.
 
What causes us to sin? Is it the environment? Is it when we find ourselves in places we shouldn’t be? Is it the computer, the internet? Is it other people? Is it the flirting of another person? What causes us to sin? This answer is key; we must understand this if we want to overcome sin in our lives. When we sin, it’s our own evil desire that entices us. James 1:14-15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.” And Jesus taught, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:19). So what causes us to sin? We do. It’s us. Nobody else, no situation or circumstance. We have no excuse for our sin. It’s just each of us individually, you and me.
 
Though the source of our sin is our own evil desires, the One who is offended is God. When we choose lust, we are actively rejecting God. Lust, like any sin, is always based on the same lie— that satisfaction will be found apart from God.  Lust is an idolatrous and ultimately insatiable desire that rejects God’s rule and seeks satisfaction apart from Him. As we read earlier in Ephesians 3 God’s standard for his people is clear.  This is to be our standard of holiness.
 
Unfortunately, some of us think we can have a diet mentality towards lust. We want to cut back on it because it makes us feel bad and it’s not healthy. But lust is just too tasty for us to give up completely. Surely God will understand, we reason, if we break our diet. The Bible teaches the opposite. God calls us to eliminate any kind of impurity in our thoughts and actions. Not even a hint.
 
Sounds like a good idea right? But is it possible? Seems awful hard. How can we fight our sin? Willpower won’t work. God’s standard of not even a hint quickly brings us to the end of our own ability and effort. It reminds us that God’s standard is so much higher than the standards we place on ourselves that only the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection can provide the right power and the right motive needed to change us. Only the motive of grace— trust in the undeserved favor of God— can inspire us to pursue holiness free from fear and shame.
 
Why is God against lust? If we ever expect to find victory over lust, we must believe with our whole heart that God is against our lust not because He is opposed to pleasure, but because He is so committed to it. God wants us to despair in our own strength so that we have no other option but to throw ourselves on His grace. That’s the mystery of His plan. You will find His strength in your weakness. As you despair in yourself, you will find hope in Him. And as you turn your back on lust, you will discover that true pleasure is something only God can give.
 
God’s standard of holiness for us is “not even a hint.” That’s because lust never stays at the level of “just a hint.” In Ephesians 4:19, Paul describes this endless cycle of lust. He speaks about those who have turned away from God and says, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” That’s the payoff of lust—“a continual lust for more.”
 
Lust’s power comes from the promise that it gives that something besides God that can make us happy. What this means is that the only way to overcome the power of lust in our lives is by finding better promises. The key to holiness is satisfaction in God— faith that He is more to be desired than anything this world has to offer. We’re not just turning away from lust; we’re turning toward true satisfaction and joy in God.
 
Sexual immorality is also a corporate concern for the church: what the individual member of the church does is not merely an individual matter. The issue is the responsibility of the whole community. Let me say it another way, we are responsible for one another. We are responsible for sexual sin in our church. Sexual sin is often hidden. Maybe hidden for years. Most oftentimes it never just happens, but it builds. It’s like what we read in Ephesians 4:19 – even a hint of lust leads to a continual lusting for more. So it can remain hidden for years. But that does not absolve us all from our responsibility of the purity of the church. (See also the corporate responsibility of the church in regards to sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 5.) Believers share a spiritual union with other believers and the actions of individuals affect the whole church. As a result, the church needs to stand guard against such wickedness, sometimes going so far as to discipline its members.
 
The fact that sexual immorality is sinful should not lead to despair, but rather hope. The God who envisioned and created sexuality is for sexuality, within the parameters that He has created it to best function within. The God who calls you to flee from sexual immorality has given you legs to run, through the gospel of His Son. Keep fighting. Keep warring. Keep wrestling. Persevere in the work of sanctification. Get up when you fall; confess your shortcomings to God and others, and ask for help. Look to Christ and trust that He is better.
 
We’re in this together. This is our battle. This fight against sexual immorality is given to the entire church. We don’t fight this alone. We must be in this together. In Hebrews, and from the writings of Paul, sexual sin in one member is never separated from the overall health of the church. So sexual immorality is a church-wide concern. It’s not just his problem or her problem, it’s our problem. So let’s expose sexual sin for what it is, let’s deal humbly, gracefully, truthfully and mercifully when it appears, and let’s shine the light of God’s truth, of God’s love, of his goodness, and of the satisfaction found in him, so that none of us fall to this temptation.
 
-Written by Nathan Renfro
 

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RCC in the Word – Week of February 25

RCC in the Word
Week of February 25
Ephesians 4

The Worthy Walk
 
“we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”
-Romans 8:37
 
I was with some friends recently at lunch and a few of us were reflecting on where we would be without Jesus. Our thoughts ran to unsaved loved ones, and old, unsaved friends who over the years have lived lives that were spiritually speaking, shipwrecked. My humble friend exclaimed “that’s where I would be” reflecting on the powerful force of sin and how she too would be shipwrecked had it not been for the Lord. Sin indeed is a powerful foe. The enormity of its presence in every aspect of our lives both externally and internally is enough for many of us to throw up our hands in defeat.
 
What is remarkable about this all-encompassing, ever-present foe (Romans 7:21) is that it has, what appears to be, major advantages and numerous allies, namely the very world around us and the invasiveness of our fallen flesh. In the book of Exodus, we get an account of the enormity, of a monstrous enemy, and his all-encompassing, intimidating, kingdom. His power is displayed in every way possible before the enslaved Israelites. Pyramids, monuments, and statues of false gods at every turn. The Israelites were indeed at a great disadvantage, left to themselves. But as they labored in slavery, they prayed, and the God of power heard their cries (Exodus 3:9).
 
Amazingly that story does not end with their defeat or captivity. In a display of great sovereignty, God unleashes his power, and suddenly what appeared to be an all-encompassing force to the Israelites, is reduced down to “nothing.”
 
In the first part of verse 1 in chapter 4 to the Ephesians the great apostle, says this: “I Paul, a prisoner for the Lord.”  With just a few introductory words Paul mocks the power of sin. I am no longer a slave or a prisoner to sin (Romans 6:18) but a content (Phil 4:12) prisoner of the Lord. You see Paul, like all of us, is a redeemed man. He is in fact so changed that he now can turn sin on its head and steal its ultimate intent-to make us slaves or prisoners. Sin wants to master us (Gen 4:7) and force us to be a prisoner to its lusts. Without shame and with a sense of gladness, Paul claims he is a prisoner for the Lord and then emphatically calls us to “walk worthy” of the calling to which we have been called. That is, he wants us too, to be glad, prisoners of the Lord. Prisoners that are humble, gentle, patient and bear with one another. The way Paul uses the word “prisoner” in a positive, godly fashion reminds me of David taking Goliath’s own sword and using it to cut off his head. David, by faith, mocked Goliath’s intimidating presence and then used his very own sword to kill him.
And so too Paul mocks captivity.
 
Paul was no captive at all but rather captivated by His God.

In the Exodus account above the Israelites witness God’s power as all the firstborn of the Egyptians die. This of course results in their release. Not only are they no longer prisoners or slaves to Egypt but they walk away with the Egyptians riches.
 
“35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
 
Did you hear that? They “plundered” the enemy. They cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. They, through God’s power, were freed, mocking the enemy.
In Ephesians 4:7-9 Paul gives us a glimpse into the magnitude of the believers, “plundering” of the enemy.
He says that “grace was given to all of us who are called. It’s important to note that this grace goes beyond its salvific nature.
You see, Jesus who is the God of all power “descended (Eph 4:8) from His ascended position.
 
Why?
 
To lead (like Moses) a host of captives out of slavery and into freedom (Gal 5:1).
 
Ephesians 4:8 says it this way:
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”
 
As if His rescue was not enough for us, Jesus then provides gifts to each of his saints as they leave their proverbial Egypt.
 
Amazing!
 
Jesus who ascended, humbled himself and descended to not just save you, but bless you with spiritual gifts so that we all may become like him.
 
Check out Ephesians 4:11-13:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
 
What does the plundering of the enemy look like for us?
 
It looks like exercising spiritual gifts by faith so that others may become mature with Christlike character. (Ephesians 4:13).
It looks like us being “eager” to maintain unity, unlike the world. (Ephesians 4:3)
It looks like “bearing with one another” in humility and gentleness through love (Ephesians 4:2).
This my friends is a worthy walk. Paul “urged” us to walk this way because Christ rescued us from captivity.
To walk worthy of the Gospel we have to walk in the manner of Christ himself.
 
For instance, how are you doing at “bearing with one another?”
The Phillips translation of “bearing with one another” says to “make provisions” for one another.
 
Making provisions for others sins, weaknesses and shortcomings is “worthy” of your calling (Proverbs 19:11). Making no provision for them or being impatient is not.
Being “eager” to maintain unity is “worthy” of your calling. Being eager to slander or gossip is not.
My friends these qualities are not ordinary! They are amazingly contrary to this world and improbable, like that of the weak slave carrying away a powerful enemies gold and silver.
You see Romans 8 says you are “more than conquerors” through him who loved you!
My friends, you are more than conquerors! You have been freed and equipped with gifts from above.
 
To push this forward even further, consider that your gifts to teach, shepherd, evangelize, etc. were given to build others up in the church.
And we are to do this to the point where our brothers and sisters own the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
 
How is that for the weak plundering the enemy?
 
You, the embodiment of sin and weakness are being used, through your gifts to build others up. And the ones you are building up become as contrary to this world as Christ himself; holy, righteous, wise, gentle, and kind (Ephesians 4:32).
 
Think:
 The same power that called you, will conform you (Romans 8:29).
 The lies and false beliefs the world owns cannot own you any longer (Ephesians 4:14).
 You have the truth (Ephesians 4:21).
Walking worthy means we put off and put on. We remove the old clothes of sin we once wore. Those garments are filthy and old. How badly do we want to remove filthy clothes? Instead we become renewed by the transforming of our minds (Romans 12:2 & Eph 4:23) and put on the new clothes of holiness.
 
Ephesians 4:22-24:
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
 
Walking worthy means you must acknowledge and act upon what you know to be true. Walking worthy means you walk knowing you represent him who is holy and righteous:
Don’t lie but rather be truthful (V25)
Don’t steal but rather labor and share with those in need (V28)
Don’t use speech that tears down but rather builds up and gives grace to those who hear it (V29)
Don’t grieve God but rather please him (V30 and 2 Cor 5:9)
Don’t be a bitter, angry, wrathful, clamoring slanderer but rather be kind and tender to each other.
And, forgive one another!
 
And why should we do all this?
 
Because as Ephesians 4:32 says, God through Christ forgave us! My friends, the Lord of all creation, who authored the scriptures and holds all things together (Col 1:17) died for you walking more worthy than we can ever comprehend. His desire for you now is very simple.
 
Walk worthy too.
 
Love others, bear with one another, be kind and tender.

Your freedom was improbable.

Walk like you know that today.
 
Blessings,
Written by Peter J. Figliozzi

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RCC in the Word – February 18

RCC in the Word
Week of February 18
Ephesians 3
 
In studying this next chapter in our weekly reading, I’ve been drawn to the word mystery.  Having read Paul’s letters to the churches many times through the years, I’ve noticed that he uses this word in multiple letters, but I’ve tended to pass it by without giving it much thought.  Besides here in Ephesians 3, Paul uses the word in a similar sense in Romans 11:25 and in Colossians 1:26-27. Our English word mystery is a direct transliteration from the Greek word musterion, which translates as “secret or mystery, specifically of something formerly unknown but now revealed”.
 
Before we say more about what this mystery is, let’s get into the context of Ephesians.  When studying Paul’s letters, I always like to find out what I can about the particular church that Paul is writing to.  Here are a few facts about Ephesus. Ephesus was a Gentile city in Western Asia near the Aegean Sea. It was a deeply religious city, being primarily devoted to Diana (Artemis), the goddess of fertility and was the home of a great temple devoted to her worship.  Paul spent two years engaging in a very successful ministry in Ephesus. It was here where there was a great book burning (scrolls on pagan sorcery, magic, etc), and it was here where Demetrius the silversmith incited a riot because of Paul’s gospel work and the resultant decline in the worship of Artemis (Acts 19).
 
So now Paul is writing a letter to this beloved church where he spent two years and invested so much, even at the risk of his own life.  We get another little glimpse of the mutual love between Paul and the Gentile Ephesians in the latter part of Acts 20 (vv. 17ff) when Paul was hurrying back to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey.  You should take a minute to read about that brief visit that he had with the Ephesian elders on the beach. Sweet visit, but very sad. In this letter, Paul enunciates more clearly than anywhere else what this mystery is that he has often referred to.  It is in 3:6 where he says:
 
 “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.
 
Paul indicates that this revolutionary idea (paradigm shift?) has been revealed to himself and the other apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit. Remember that the New Testament had not yet been written at this point (actually, a lot of it was being written by Paul who likely had no idea that this is what he was doing (imagine that!)).   At any rate, this inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation is evidence that God is always doing more than we think He is.  His plan is always bigger and more comprehensive than we realize. He is always much beyond where we are. God always planned to save a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.  We’re not living under plan B, as if plan A to save Israel didn’t work out. It is true that Israel was a rebellious and stiff-necked people, but don’t think for a minute that this was a surprise to God.  He has always known what He is doing. There is great hope in this for all of us. It is good for us to think about this when our life circumstances don’t make sense to us. God is using them for His purposes, and He is always doing more than we think He is.
 
These paragraphs are intended only to be musings on the subject matter of Ephesians 3 and by no means a thorough treatment of the passage.  But one other thing that I think is worth mentioning in closing is this. The fact that God intended from before the foundation of the world to use a person like Paul to break ground in evangelizing the Gentile world is one of the most delightfully ironic circumstances in the New Testament.  Paul gives us a list of his worldly credentials in his letter to the Philippians (3:4-6), having been raised not only a devout Jew, but trained as a Pharisee. His record of law keeping was impeccable. His testimony before King Agrippa in Acts 26 further bears this out (vv. 4-5). Paul would have been amongst the least likely candidates for becoming a champion for evangelizing the Gentiles.  This is such a great example of how our God delights in the unlikely. He does things with people and works circumstances in such a way that we in our earthly minds would never guess.  Think about the crude circumstances surrounding Jesus’ coming into the world (virgin birth, no room in the inn, manger, shepherds, etc). It’s a good thing that the Lord is not as concerned with doing things that make sense to us as He is with His ultimate glory.  Heaven is going to be pretty amazing as we’re coming to understand all of these things.
 
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then shall I know fully, even as I have been fully known”.
~1 Corinthians 13:12~

-Written by Eddie Lyrene
 

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RCC in the Word – Week of February 4

RCC in the Word
Week of February 4
Ephesians 1:4
 
One of my favorite parts of our annual men’s retreat to the Nine Marks Conference is the time of fellowship with my brothers in Christ. Part of our tradition on the van ride is to share our testimonies. As you can imagine, the stories are as diverse as the number of men on the trip. As the men share, I find myself amazed at the grace of God; surprised at the various ways and means God providentially used to bring the glorious gospel of Christ to lost sinners. Each testimony is unique and personal. At the same time, every single story shares a common thread. It is the thread that connects and intertwines the testimony of all the saints – the unconditional election of God.
 
In Ephesians 1.3-14, Paul, in one-long Greek sentence, praises God for his sovereign work in salvation. He chose us in him (vs4). He predestined us (vs5). Having been predestined (vs11).  As Paul begins his letter to the church in Ephesus, his heart and mind are consumed with lofty thoughts and meditations on the greatness and grandeur of God. The Apostle recognizes that all the spiritual blessings the saints have in Christ – forgiveness of sins, adoption as sons, holiness, a future inheritance – are grounded in the truth that God elected to save a people to the praise of his glorious grace. Apart from God’s sovereign election of sinners, none of these blessings would be possible. The root and ground and foundation of salvation and all the blessings that flow from our union with Christ are based on God’s decision to redeem a people for himself.
 
In election, God saves whomever he is pleased to save on the basis of his grace and according to his eternal purposes.  Notice Paul’s words in verse 4. He chose us. The Greek word translated “chose” means to select or pick for oneself. Some view God like a team captain choosing the best for his team. I remember in PE, the captain chose those who had the greatest skills, the biggest muscles. She chose players who added something to the team. (Obviously, I was usually one of the last to be picked for the team!) Some argue that God chose his “team,” on the basis of some sort of value or worth or merit in the “players.” Others contend that in his foreknowledge, God saw who would choose Christ. On the basis of their future faith decision, God chose them.  In these views, election is not unconditional. Rather, God elects based on some condition in us. However, when Paul writes that God chose us, he recognizes that God’s choice was entirely independent of any future decision we would make to follow or Christ. Likewise, God’s choice was entirely independent of anything good he saw in us. God’s election was unconditional or sovereign.   As RC Sproul writes, “The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save.”
 
We find evidence of sovereign election from Paul’s words in verse four. God chose us in him. God chose us in Christ. In his commentary on this passage, John Calvin writes, “If we are chosen in Christ, it is not of ourselves…. In short, the name of Christ excludes all merit, and everything which men have of their own; for when he says that we are chosen in Christ, it follows that in ourselves we are unworthy.” God could not choose us in ourselves for there was nothing worthy in us. In our sins, we were under the wrath of God, at enmity with God. And being dead in our sins and trespasses, there was nothing we could do to remedy our situation. So, God elected us in Christ – in Christ’s perfect life that fulfilled all righteousness, in Christ’s atoning death that took away our sins and removed God’s wrath, in Christ’s resurrection that justified us and raised us from the dead. Charles Spurgeon put it this way, “God called us in Christ. He justified us in Christ. He sanctified us in Christ. He will perfect us in Christ. He will glorify us in Christ. We have everything in Christ, and we have nothing apart from Christ.” He chose us in Him!
 
The second proof of unconditional election is based on the time when God chose us.  God chose us in him before the foundation of the world. Before God created us, he chose to save us! This certainly excludes all boasting on our part.  We did not even exist, yet, God said, “I choose him. I choose her.” This also means that God knew his creation would disastrously and pridefully rebel against him. He knew the people created in his image would reject his wise and loving rule over their lives. He knew that our willful sin would be met with his righteous justice and deserve his eternal wrath. And, God knew that once Adam ate the forbidden fruit sin would come into the world through one man, and death through sin so death spread to all men (Rom5.12). Do you see anything good in us here? Do you see any reason God should choose us? However, God with full and complete and infallible knowledge having ordained all that would come to pass, made the sovereign decision to save those whom he chose. And, he did this before the foundation of the world!
 
For Paul, the doctrine of unconditional election is the fountain from which his passionate praise flows. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (vs3). And what is the first, the primary blessing? He chose us!  Unconditional election guarantees our salvation in Christ for now and eternity. Unconditional election reveals the deep love of God for his children. Unconditional election secures our inheritance. Unconditional election engages all our spiritual blessings in Christ. Unconditional election compels us to sing. To the praise of your glory, to the praise of his mercy and grace. To the praise of your glory. You are the God who saves!  (To the Praise of Your Glory, Sovereign Grace Music)
 
 Written by: Jeff Porter
 

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