How Church Squabbles Hinder Gospel Work

Imagine the scene with me. It’s the first century in the city of Philippi. The church is abuzz because the expected correspondence from the Apostle Paul is said to have arrived. Everyone presses into the room that they meet in for prayer, preaching and the Lord’s Table. One of the elders begins reading it and they are all encouraged that the opening words indicate the fondness of the apostle not just for the elders and deacons but also all of the church. He continues to read of Paul’s joy and longing for them. He talks about the centrality of the gospel and the necessity of humility. Everyone is encouraged and strengthened.

Then the record skips. As the letter is nearly its close we read this:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2)

Paul just called out two women by name and told them to agree in the Lord (literally be of the same mind). It is as if, through his letter, he puts an arm around Euodia and the other arm around Syntyche and says, “work it out”. He even calls on others to help them in this (Phil 4:3). We see something of the importance of this in how Paul describes them as fellow workers in the gospel. It is difficult to miss the impact of these words when we imagine this group of believers, pressed into a room together, fully aware of the conflict between these two respected servants.

One of the reasons why …

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Do You Trust Yourself Too Much?

I trust myself. A lot. This occurred to me afresh awhile back while I was out running. As I prepared to cross the street, in a familiar neighborhood, I surprised myself by not even looking to see if there was a car coming. This is because, as I reasoned to myself, I would hear a car coming if it was nearby.

We can debate the wisdom of this type of road safety skills (and I’ll probably join you in saying it’s unwise). However, it is illustrative of the commonly experienced bigger truth that we do trust ourselves. We have to. We make quick decisions based upon quick glances from our eyes. We answer questions quickly and confidently. We anticipate and react. And, by in large, we are pretty good with our ability to make these decisions.

This is why a passage like Proverbs 28.26 is so repulsive to our self-sufficiency and personal goodness:

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)

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A Good Word Makes Them Glad

The burdens of people’s hearts are largely concealed from general view. Nevertheless they bulge from their souls like receipts from an overstuffed wallet. Much like receipts, credit cards, and punch-tickets, burdens are accumulated as we walk through the ordinary patterns of life. These are matters of personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Life hurts. This painful enduring mustn’t be minimized but instead optimized. There is a great Christian opportunity here.

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Judas Betrayed Jesus with Clean Feet

The story of Judas’ betrayal of the Lord Jesus is as familiar as it is troubling. There is nothing worse that he could have done in his life than to betray Jesus. When Jesus says that it would have been better for him not to even be born (Mark 14) we begin to see the significance of the action. It is the ultimate evil act to betray or attack the ultimate good one. The consideration of the whole series of events is flat-out disturbing.

One particular unsettling note to Judas’ departure from the Passover table is the timing. As Jesus was unpacking the various Christological and eschatological significance of the Passover meal Judas got up and left.

However, we know that just a short time before, perhaps after the first cup of wine, early in the Passover feast, our Lord washed his disciples feet (John 13).

The disciples were bickering about their greatness while Jesus was showcasing his greatness. Greatness always serves. It wears the apron (Mark 10.45; 1 Peter 5.5-6).

This serving, this washing of the feet included all of the disciples, even Judas.

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Marriage is Really About Companionship

Many times in marriage the husband and wife become proficient at doing things apart. Slowly over time it becomes the norm to be alone and companionship becomes foreign. As a result, companionship, closeness, and even trust begin erode. Paul Trip has some sound words for marriages plagued by or beginning to be plagued by isolationism.

Marriage really is a human covenant of companionship. God wasn’t so much giving Adam a physical helper for the work in the garden as he was giving him a companion.

God knew that he had created a social being, and because of Adam’s social hardwiring, it was not good for him to live without the companionship of one made from him and made like him. You could argue that this is the most basic reason for marriage. God created a lifelong companion for Adam, and his relationship with Eve would exist on earth as a visible reminder of God’s love relationship with people and as the God-ordained means by which the earth would be populated as God designed.

So the character and quality of the friendship between a husband and wife always functions as an accurate measure of the health of their marriage. It is also an accurate barometer of trust. When trust is present between two people, their appreciation and affection will grow, and as these things grow, friendship flourishes. Tripp, What Did You Expect?

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You Cannot Domesticate Pride

A lot of times people flatter themselves and think that they can contain sin, pride in particular. They think that rather than sin mastering them they can master it. This type of thinking demonstrates a disaster waiting to happen.

Pride is not something to be handled. It is not for you. It opposes and destroys.

There was a disturbing story here in the Omaha area. A 34 year-old man used to walk up and down his neighborhood and show off his 6′ boa constrictor to neighbors. He often would let the snake wrap around the children and slide on their trampolines. He liked to show off his snake.

On one such occasion last June the snake constricted around his neck. Within minutes he was out of breath, on the floor, and soon after, dead. His ‘pet’ became his ‘killer’ in a matter of seconds. This man had overestimated his ability to master the snake while underestimating the snake’s desire to master him.

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Your Obedience is Not Just About You

Over the last 15 or so years of being a Christian I’ve observed a recurring trend. When I ask someone how I can be praying for them I often hear about a need to be more faithful with spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, etc). In most of these conversations the believer talks like he/she is a soloist. While they know that spiritual laziness is wrong it seems to be mitigated by the appearance of it being contained and ok. While it is not ideal it is not a big deal. Who are we hurting, after all, when we don’t read our pray? Who suffers when my eyes are glued to Netflix and my Bible gathers dust? What’s the big deal about me not coming to Sunday worship? There is a pervasive downplaying of the overall impact of our obedience and our disobedience.

The bottom-line is that your obedience as a Christian is not just for you. And therefore, you disobedience does not simply impact you.

It’s About God

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Impediments to a Gospel-Centered Life

I have a perma-grin because of the renewal of gospel-centered thinking and living. This recovery is not something new but something biblical (1 Cor. 15:3). Paul tells the Philippian church that they are to have their entire life calibrated by the gospel. The truth of Christ’s doing and dying for them is not to be on the periphery but in the center. The gospel is to be the life-blood of the church. It is the touchstone for all of life and ministry.

We know that this is not always the case–even as much as we want it to be so! When we look  at the church in Philippi, a church that was in relatively good shape, there was still a problem of selfishness that needed to get dealt with (Phil. 2:15-18, 2:3-4, 3:1-8, 4:2-3). How then can we who delight in and desire more gospel renewal, identify potential gospel parasites? In other words, what are some impediments to being calibrated by the gospel?

1— An Unbelieved Gospel

Obviously a gospel that is not believed cannot be properly applied. If the church is made up of people who do not believe the truth of the gospel then there will be a serious impediment to gospel-centered ministry. Pastors may consider trying to build a gospel-speaking culture where it is routine to talk about the gospel and its implications. From preaching to practice the gospel should be central in our thinking and application.

2— An Underestimated Gospel

We have all had our feelings hurt or pinched by a difficult situation. …

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Saying and Meaning “I Love You”

We love to talk, think, and sing about love. But, what does it mean? We don’t often think deeply about what love really is. Often we just mindlessly say, “I love you” because it seems appropriate. We can leisurely toss the phrase around like we are playing frisbee at the park. It would seem that for a subject as important and enduring as love that we might want to have a handle on it and make sure we know what we are saying and then actually mean it.

This is especially true for Christians. Remember, we serve and worship a God who says that he is love (1 Jn. 4.8). He is the source and truest expression of love. Everything he does is loving. Further, God has told us that we can actually know what love is by looking at the doing and dying of Jesus for sinners like us: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…” (1 Jn. 3.16). At its very core then our understanding of love must carry the gospel scent. It must be reflective of God’s love, particularly in and through the gospel.

What then is love?

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The Path to Humility

One thing we can be sure of is that we all need to work on humility. It is an amazing thing to know that whoever reads these words, in varying degrees, is prideful. So how do we grow in humility? What is the path from pride to humility?

Humility comes from seeing God’s bigness and our badness

In order to work on it we should know what it is. I’ve heard some define humility as rightly responding to who God is. I think this is a good start but we need to go further. We also need to rightly know who we are. These go together of course, because we cannot rightly know ourselves until we come to some biblical understanding of who God is. I like the answer given in the New City Catechism to the question “What is God?”

“God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.”

There has never been time that God could not say “I am” and in saying it he could say that “I am, perfectly holy, good, just, and loving.” Therefore he is worthy of all worship.

Man on the other hand, while created with dignity and upright, fell in sin. Rebelling against God, we have earned wrath, separation, and ruin.ou might say when you see God’s bigness and see your badness then you may be truly humbled.

John Newton got it …

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