September 2009

Formations Lesson for Oct. 11: What Does Discipleship Cost?

September 30 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal Passage: Luke 9:57-62

How would you define a disciple of Jesus?

For many, a good Christian is someone who has been baptized, attends church, and is a good neighbor. Is this all that it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Today’s focal passage in Luke deals with the true cost of discipleship.

Eduard Schweizer places the focal passage within the context of Jesus’ sense of his imminent death (9:51) and the urgency of sending out those who are to proclaim the Kingdom of God (10:9; The Good News According to Luke, John Knox, 1984, 172).

Moreover, this passage comes between the rejection to show hospitality toward Jesus and his disciples by a Samaritan village (9:53) and the acceptance and joy displayed by the seventy disciples who return from a successful preaching touring where they have gone village-by-village (10:17).

It is within this context of urgency that the call to follow Jesus as a single-focused disciple is being made.

It is this radical call to discipleship that even convinced the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who rejected much of the New Testament, of the authenticity of this passage (Darrell L. Block, Luke 9:51-24:53, Baker, 1996, 975).

Our passage is easily divided into three sections that deal with three potential disciples. All are challenged by Jesus to think outside of the box. The nature of radial obedience is highlighted again and again.

Charles H. Talbert calls the three who each have a dialogue with Jesus “disciples-to-be” (Reading Luke, Smyth & Helwys, 2002, 125). From each dialogue a truth about discipleship is uncovered.

The first dialogue highlights a “spontaneous, enthusiastic offer of unconditioned allegiance” (Joseph A Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX, Anchor, 1981, 834). “Jesus’ sobering answer drives home the gravity of discipleship … he (Jesus) lives the life of a homeless wanderer … even the animals are better off ” (Fitzmyer, 834).

A proverbial-type phrase is used: Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests…” Is one ready to follow Jesus although these may be conditions in which he is called to live?

The second dialogue is initiated by Jesus who simply says, “Follow me” (7:29).

The request for delay is met with an unusually harsh rebuke by Jesus and a second proverbial-type saying: “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

The third dialogue is initiated by an individual who seeks to follow Jesus but asks for leave to say goodbye to his family. With proverb in hand, Jesus again harshly rebukes the would-be disciple.

Talbert states that “these three dialogues…call for an absolute detachment from property and family and for a single-minded devotion to Jesus that perseveres to the end” (Reading Luke, 125).

9/30/2009 11:30:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 11: The Hero Doing Battle

September 30 2009 by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Mark 12:13-17, 28-31, 38-40  

Jesus was a hunted man. Mark writes that a delegation of Pharisees and Herodians came to “entrap (the word means literally to catch by trapping or fishing)” Jesus. They brought to him a question, not for enlightenment, but to test him and to dare him to commit himself on a volatile political issue — the unpopular Roman tax.  

This tax was the poll tax (the Greek word kenson is a transliteration of the Latin census) which was required of every men aged 14-65 and women 12-65. It was the equivalent of one day’s wage or a denarius. It was a tax for the privilege of existing (William Barclay).   

So that we not miss the danger of this issue, David Rhoads reminds us that Rome bled the populace poor with taxes. He writes, “The tribute exacted by Rome was large in itself, Herod’s revenues were huge, used primarily to maintain his court and military troops as well as to support his extensive, luxurious building programs.”  

Taxation was the central issue for many of the rebellions in Judea and the major cause of banditry throughout the countryside (Ched Myers).  

Like the rich young ruler (10:17), the delegation used insincere flattery — “Jesus, we know you tell the truth regardless of the consequences. We dare you to commit yourself in this situation! Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” On the surface, this was a “no-win” situation. But, Jesus replied with another a request and a question — “Whose likeness (icon or image) and whose inscription is this?”  

They knew the answer. It was the head of Caesar, extolling him as “August and Divine Son.” Jesus’ reply was simple and pointed: “Render (or more accurately repay as to a payment of debt or recompense) the one to whom you are indebted.” Jesus turned the discussion on its head and challenged them to act according to their allegiances.  

The question of loyalties arises again with a scribe asking Jesus which commandment is the first of all. This question was a common topic for rabbinic discussions. Jesus responds with the “Shema” from Deut. 6:4f and then added the statement of Leviticus 19:18 (which no one had ever brought together) about one’s obligation to neighbor.  

Ched Myers writes that by using the Leviticus text Jesus was speaking judgement against the religious leadership (and its scribes). The verse from Leviticus 19 defines the love of neighbor in terms of non-exploitation. Sadly, this command was regularly violated by them as evidenced by the moneychangers and sellers in the temple court areas.   

Mark concludes with words of victory — “And after that no one dared to ask him any question.”
9/30/2009 11:29:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Oct. 4: Religious Freedom

September 22 2009 by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin

Focal passages: Matthew 22:15-22; Romans 13:1; Revelation 13:9-10

As Americans we often take for granted our religious freedom.

Since December 15, 1791 and the ratification of the Bill of Rights, religious freedom was secured for every American. The first amendment begins “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” These sixteen words are as precious as they are unassuming.

One hundred and fifty-seven years later, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948). Article 18 affirms:    

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Each year, member countries celebrate Human Rights Day. However, the reality of many of those member countries conflict with their pledge.

A report published May 2009 by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (www.uscirf.gov) names 13 countries where governments engaged in or tolerated particularly severe — meaning systematic, ongoing, and egregious — violations of religious freedom. Those countries named include China (1.3 billion — 19 percent of the world), along with Pakistan, Nigeria, Vietnam, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan (675 million — 10 percent of the world). Twenty-nine percent of the world’s peoples live within countries where there are “severe violations of religious freedom.”

What is the relationship between faith and duty to country?    

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is confronted by this issue through a debate over Roman taxation. A silver denarius was levied against each male over 14 and each female over 12.  Upon reaching the age of 66 a person was finally exempt from the tax (Frank Stagg, Matthew, The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 8, 1969, 206).

The denarius coin had the head of the emperor Tiberius and the Latin inscription TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AVGVSTVS “Augustus Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” on one side, and the seated goddess Roma…symbolizing the Pax Romana and the inscription PONTIF MAXIM which identified Tiberius as the high priest of the Roman religion on the other side (David L. Turner. Matthew. Baker, 2008, 528).

The coin’s image revealed that it belonged to Caesar, and should, therefore, be rendered to Caesar. In Rom. 13:1 Paul agrees with a legitimate role for the state.

Each person, moreover, is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and therefore uniquely belongs to God (David E. Garland, Reading Matthew, Smyth & Helwys, 2001, 227).  When the state demands that which rightfully belongs to God, then the Christian must resist the state (Revelation 13).

9/22/2009 2:15:00 AM by Victor Lyons, Academic Dean, Foothills Christian College, Wilkesboro; Pastor, Union Cross Baptist Church, Elkin | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Oct. 4: The Warrior Hero

September 22 2009 by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association

Focal Passage: Mark 11:12-25

Jesus’ cursing of the barren fig-tree serves as a solemn warning to and powerful metaphor for the radical demand for fruit-bearing of God’s people. Underlying this extreme action is a challenge to established religion’s obsession with social/economic success and its perpetual survival. Thus the cursing and subsequent withering of the fig-tree serve as a type of prelude/postlude to the cleansing of the temple.  

The focus of the religious leaders was the smooth operation of the Jerusalem temple as the city’s largest economic institution. According to biblical scholars “the daily operation of the cult was a matter of employment for curtain makers, barbers, incense manufacturers, goldsmiths, trench diggers, and countless others” (Ched Myers).

The true problem for Jesus was not employment, but those barriers erected which prevented the pilgrim access to worship and devotion.

For example, foreign worshipers could not bring into the temple their Roman or Greek money; it had to be changed into Jewish or Tyrian coinage. Furthermore, the animals brought by the poor were not acceptable and had to be exchanged and purchased for a higher price.  

Jesus responded to the unfair situation by driving out the buyers and sellers, overturning the moneychangers’ tables and the seats of the dove sellers, and preventing anyone from carrying any vessel into the temple-shutting down the temple’s operations altogether!

In Isaiah 56:3ff, the Lord promises the foreigner and socially marginalized that His house of prayer on His holy mountain would be a place of joy and community, accessible to the “outsider.” The Jewish leadership had turned this holy, inclusive place of joy and promise into a barren den of thieves and robbers (see also Malachi 3:5, 8, 10).

A fig-tree and the Temple. In the Jewish mind there was a connection between the fruitfulness of the trees and the maintenance of the temple services. Fig-trees as an essential part of everyday life, was the principal first-fruit brought into the temple and symbolized the godly and righteous man.

According to W. Telford, the fig-tree was also “an emblem of peace, security, and prosperity … prominent when descriptions of the Golden Ages of Israel’s history, past, present and future, are given.” He further writes, “The blossoming of the fig tree and its giving of its fruit is a descriptive element (of) Yahweh’s visiting his people with blessing, while the withering of the fig-tree, the destruction or withholding of its fruit, … (describes) Yahweh’s judgment upon his people …”  

Thus, Jesus’ actions becomes a living announcement that the old, barren order of robbing God has ended and the rich reality of faithful living has arrived- the world can be remade (11:23-24).

9/22/2009 2:14:00 AM by John Pond, Director of Missions, West Chowan Baptist Association | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Sept. 27: Church Freedom

September 21 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Romans 12:1-21

With Romans 12, the Apostle Paul moves to tell us how we should now live based on the great truths he has revealed in the previous 11 chapters. First, we sacrifice our bodies using them to serve the Lord for the rest of our lives. Then we are to transform our minds, no longer thinking and doing whatever we want but seeking to conform ourselves to the will of God. We may have one Lord to conform to, but each of us will conform to Him in different ways depending — not simply on our preferences — but on gifts God has given us.

There are believers with gifts of prophesy (like preaching), some who serve (like deacons, doing the practical things to help a church), some who teach, or encourage or cajole us to do our duty, or who give generously, or lead (like the elders of the church), or those who mercifully care for other members. And all of these should be done in love, always zealous for the Lord (v. 11). As for those outside the church (v. 14-21), who don’t understand us, we are to overcome their evil with good.

In a similar passage in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Paul writes, “there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.”

A healthy church allows each member to operate according to his or her gifts. But every member should be doing something.

But over the past century some have taken modern individualism (everyone gets to decide for him- or herself) and relativism (that there is no absolute truth) and applied it to the church, as though there is no Lord of the church apportioning to each member “as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).

But Christians are all members of the one church, connected to each other (Romans 12:5). There is no such thing as the centrality of the individual in Christ’s church.

Is each local Baptist church free? That depends. Free from the Lord? No!

Free from other churches or denominational hierarchies that might dictate to the local church?

Yes.

In North Carolina Baptist life churches, associations and the Baptist State Convention (BSC) are autonomous, meaning none controls another. Sometimes that breaks down in practical relationships, such as when the BSC gives an association veto power that would deny a church plant within that association BSC church planting funds. But in the main, Baptists support local church autonomy and church freedom.

9/21/2009 7:28:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 27: The Results of Knowing Jesus

September 21 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Mark 8:34-38; 9:33-37; 10:32-34

C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain.”

God didn’t give us a cushioned world; otherwise, our souls would be too soft to endure earthly conflicts. As with physical pain, spiritual suffering calls our attention to something that needs correction.

While reviewing my own spiritual sufferings, I found I had reaped one or more benefits: stronger character, attained goals, and growth in love, understanding, patience, and faith. An extended illness delivered me power to help others, and newfound scriptures enriched my relationship with God.

Suffering is part of life. When Jesus’ sufferings recorded in Mark 10:32-34 did not satisfy His enemies, they crucified Him.

Suffering leaves us two choices: We can become bitter, put God on trial, demanding, “Why did You do this to me?” Or we can grow better, asking, “What will You teach me through this, Lord, that I might bring glory to You?”

Because right is right and wrong is wrong, some suffering is punitive. At other times, it’s disciplinary. We’ve all observed people drawing close to God during adversity while rejecting Him in prosperity. Sometimes suffering is sacrificial, as was Jesus’ suffering for us on the cross.

There’s a favorite sacrificial love story concerning Emily who hated herself because she was blind. In fact, she hated everyone except her boyfriend who was always there for her. Emily said that if she could ever see the world, she would marry him.

One day someone donated a pair of eyes to her. Now she could see everything. Her boyfriend asked, “Now that you can see, will you marry me?” Emily was shocked to find that her boyfriend was blind, too, and refused to marry him. He walked away in tears and later wrote her, saying, “Just take care of my eyes, dear.”

The good news is that suffering is temporary and will find explanation in heaven where we’ll be remade in Christ’s image.

When Anna felt that she had undergone every possible calamity, her mother broke her hip. Anna responded, “I know the Lord won’t send me more trouble than I have strength to bear, but I do wish He didn’t have such a high opinion of me.”

How shall you and I allow suffering to make us? Bitter … or better?

9/21/2009 7:27:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Sept. 20: Soul Freedom

September 9 2009 by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville

Focal Passage: Matt. 16:13-18

The Lord Jesus asks what the rumor mill is spinning out about Him. The disciples report a list of past heroes. Then He presses them: What about you? Simon speaks: You are the anointed King from the line of David, the Son of God (c.f. Psalm 2:7).

The Lord Jesus announces that Simon is blessed — given a benefit from God Himself — because what he has just said about Jesus is not just some human observation, not just another opinion he or anyone else freely made up for themselves. Peter’s description of Jesus is a revelation from the Father Himself.

It is the absolute and life-giving truth. Jesus tells Simon that now he is Peter (“Rocky”) and on this Rock, Jesus will build His church (ekklesia , “assembly”). Who or what the “Rock” is pales in comparison to the importance of accepting who Jesus is and the truth that He builds the true church. To be a Christian is to make that same confession and let that King rule over you.

From the beginning, Baptists held to that conviction. That’s why they were willing to suffer persecution for what they believed. Christ was the King to whom they had to submit. They couldn’t surrender their obedience to the true, divine King to pressure from human kings, or majorities, or fads. They were free only to obey Christ. Indeed, others who tried to make them not obey Christ were abusing their authority. Hence was born the Baptist love of religious freedom. Political power is not to be used to impose our views on others.

But in the church — where Jesus is the King — members had to submit to the Word of God. Hence the wide-spread use of church covenants and “church discipline” in Baptist life, until the 20th century.

The purpose of the church (Christ’s assembly) was to make disciples (Mt. 28:17-19) who sought to bring their every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) until He puts all under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25).

But recently some have tried to tell us that Baptists have held to individualism and relativism, the modern idea of “soul freedom,” as if all are free to believe and live as they want and call themselves Christians. That is neither biblical nor Baptist. Jesus did not say that everyone’s opinion about Him was “a rock” — that He was John the Baptist, and Elijah, and Jeremiah, etc. — but only that the revealed truth is “the rock” and only He, the King, will build the church.

9/9/2009 8:28:00 AM by John Carpenter, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Yanceyville | with 0 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for Sept. 20: The Challenges of Knowing Jesus

September 9 2009 by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal Passage: Mark 6:1-6, 45-52; 7:8-9, 13

The following story is true with names changed.

Maria grew up in church, singing in children’s and adult choirs. Her love for music led her to a music conservatory and on to a career that included solo work with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Later, her husband’s work transferred Maria’s family back to the city where she grew up. For months Maria was not invited to sing in the church choir where she was formerly a faithful member. As Christmas approached, preparation for the cantata began. On the eve of the presentation, however, the soprano soloist contracted laryngitis.

Choir members knew that, with Maria’s credentials, she could sing the solos from sight.

They invited her and she accepted, feeling at home again. Afterward, she continued attending choir rehearsals.

A few rehearsals later, however, a choir member approached her and said, “Now that the cantata is over, we don’t need you any more.”

Perhaps Maria’s rejection fulfilled Jesus’ words in Luke 4:24, “I assure you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown.”

Similarly, but on a wider, eternal scale, Jesus began His public ministry by reading scripture in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-24). One would have expected the Jews to welcome Him and become

His followers. He bore the credentials of the Messiah they had long awaited: He was a Jew, He spoke highly of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, spent much time in the temple and synagogue, and taught truths about the God that the Jews worshiped. But, as Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was despised and rejected (Isa. 53).

As witnessing Christians, you and I will at times experience rejection. Perhaps incidences come to your mind when you were rejected because of your faith.

Today, many people delight in doubting Christ. They compare religions, accepting none. Ready to discuss and argue Christianity, they practice religious gymnastics, developing the muscles of their minds instead of their hearts and eternal souls. When we encounter such people, we should rejoice, because our reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Jesus said, “Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

We can be sure that God has the final word. Those in the synagogue who heard Jesus read departed this earth long ago. Jesus completed His work on earth and returned to heaven, and at first opportunity, Maria returned to Pittsburgh.

Think for a moment. If we choose to reject Christ and His salvation … what remains?

9/9/2009 8:27:00 AM by Catherine Painter, Author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for Sept. 13

September 2 2009 by Tony Cartledge, former Biblical Recorder editor

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The Sept. 13 Formations lesson in the Aug. 29 printed edition of the Biblical Recorder erroneously followed an out-of-date schedule. This lesson, by former Recorder editor Tony W. Cartledge, was originally published on a CD for a winter Bible study and includes the text for the updated Sept. 13 Formations lesson. We regret any confusion this may have caused.)

Who’s the Boss?
Hebrews 1:1-3, 4:1-13

The author of Hebrews is writing to people whom he believes have strayed from the path of right doctrine. They have confused their worship of Christ with the worship of angels and with worship through the temple. They have confused the priesthood of Christ with the priesthood of Melchizedek. They have allowed folk-religion and local customs to twist the meaning of faith in Christ and of life in Christ’s behalf.
 
With these things in mind, perhaps, the writer begins the letter, not with an extended greeting or a prayer of thanks as Paul was prone to do, but with a straightforward, Christocentric confession of faith:
 
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb. 1:1-4, NRSV)
 
I. God has spoken … (1:1-2a)
Heb. 1:1 holds a powerful concept, the idea that God has intentionally spoken to humankind in order to reveal His own character, and to make known His promises, desires and expectations of humans. The claim of this verse is that God is not silent and withdrawn, always mysterious, but relational, open, and personal.
 
A. In many and various ways …
With a delightful alliterative phrase (polumer_s polutr_p_s), the writer asserts that God has many ways of speaking. We think of creation as one of the ways in which God reveals Himself. Job, for example, marveled at the majesty of creation with these words “These are indeed but the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14).
 
In a sense, God’s speaking begins with creation. Perhaps there is particular significance in the homey idea embedded in the creation stories of Gen. 2-3, the idea that God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the new dawn of creation.
 
God also spoke via the medium of angels (the Greek word “angelos” means “messenger”) – to Abraham, for example, and to Jacob. The recipients of this letter had exaggerated the role of angels beyond that of messenger, however, so the author does not overemphasize their role.
 
B. By the prophets …
Creation speaks, but vaguely. We seek and need a more specific word. Thus the author proclaims that God has spoken through the prophets. With his Hebrew background, this writer would have had in mind the patriarchs through whom God spoke in the Pentateuch and the leading religious figures of the Bible’s historical books (also called “former prophets”), as well as those persons we think of as the writing prophets. New Testament figures like John the Baptizer were also considered to be prophets, newly come after a long absence of the prophetic word.
 
God spoke to and through the prophets in different ways. He spoke in storm and thunder to Moses, but in a still, small voice to Elijah. In Old Testament thought, a true prophet was one who had access to the “inner council” of God’s divine court, one who was privy to the plans of God for his people. A prophet was one who understood the hearts of the people, the plans of God, and how the two might intersect – or collide.

C. By a Son …
The clearest and most powerful means of divine speech came in the form of the divine Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God. The writer’s implication is that God has revealed Himself progressively: through creation, through the prophets, and now, “in the last of these days,” through His Son. Only in the person of Christ could the progressive self-revelation of God be fully manifest. No message could be more powerful than the life, the words, the actions, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 
The unstated message behind these words of introduction is this: “Listen, because God is talking! He has spoken in many ways, including the prophets, but now He has spoken a final word through the Son. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

II. Jesus, the supreme revelation: Seven Christological statements (1:2b-3)
In the space of a verse and a half, the writer makes seven claims about Christ. Each affirms some aspect of Christ’s divinity.
 
Jesus is:
  • The heir of all things
  • The creator of the universe (the word is literally “worlds”)
  • The radiance (effulgence, reflected brightness) of the glory of God
In these roles, Christ:
  • Bears the “exact imprint of God’s very being” (his “essence”)
  • Sustains all things by the word of his power (power = dunamis, as in “dynamite”)
  • Made purification for sin (or “sins”)
  • Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High (the position of most power and influence)
III. Therefore: Claim the promised rest of God (4:1-13)
The first three verses of this chapter remind us of the oft-quoted passage from Augustine, the famous fifth century theologian from Alexandria. “Our hearts are restless,” he said, “until they rest in thee.”
 
God has a rest for His people, and we enter that rest by faith. The rest of which the author speaks is not our nightly slumber or Sabbath ease, but the promise of eternity with Christ.
 
This extension of the OT concept of a Sabbath rest, which forms the backbone of vv. 4-10), seems unique to the author of Hebrews. The Hebrew idea of Shabbat means “rest” – as God “rested” from his labor on the seventh “day” of creation, so He declared that humans should rest on the Sabbath day, to remember what God has done.
 
The writer of Hebrews saw this rest extending to incorporate the internal peace of a believer who has confidence in Christ, and the eternal rest of one who has a home in heaven. God’s rest was rejected by Israel because of their unbelief (v. 6), but remains available for those who believe. There are both present and future aspects of this rest (vv. 8-10 (compare Matt. 11:28 and Rev. 14:13).
 
Entering God’s rest does not come automatically: like a worker who exerts appropriate effort at his or her job while anticipating a later time of rest, the believer paddles against the stream in this life while anticipating rest in the next. Thus, we must “make every effort” in order to enter that rest.
 
The writer urges his readers to be open to God’s Spirit, who will convict them in this matter: “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account” (vv. 12-13).
 
This text has often been misused. Although God speaks and convicts through the scripture, the author clearly has more in mind. We should remember that, when the author wrote, what writings were acceptable as scriptures within Judaism was still in flux, and the New Testament was still being written – there was no “Bible” as we know it). Verse 13 continues the thought of v. 12, and it clearly speaks of the living Spirit of God who penetrates our lives and understands the deepest thoughts of our heart. Thus, while God’s Spirit may speak through the scripture, it is the Word of God and not the words of scripture that “is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” the “one to whom we must render an account.”
 
God’s living Word speaks of judgment, but also of grace – and challenges us to response with both faith and obedience.
 

9/2/2009 8:36:00 AM by Tony Cartledge, former Biblical Recorder editor | with 1 comments



Bible Studies for Life Lesson for September 13: The People Jesus Knows

September 1 2009 by Catherine Painter, author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh

Focal passage: Mark 2:3-12, 15-17, 23-28

A young man stood at the corner where my friend and I paused for a traffic light. His sign read, “Homeless. Please help.” He was young, well kempt, and somebody’s child. His pleading eyes pierced mine. I handed him a dollar.  

“God bless you,” he said.

“God bless you, too,” I replied.

“You threw your money away,” my friend scolded. “He’ll probably use it for drugs.”

“If so, I’d rather err on the side of grace,” I said.

Later, the Holy Spirit convicted me. Why hadn’t I handed him, along with the dollar, a tract explaining how to know Christ?  Then I reminded myself that if he didn’t know Jesus, Jesus knew him. I would pass that way again the next day, stop at the light, and hand him a tract.

The incident lingered in my mind, proposing questions. How many of my friends were unbelievers? Did I avoid interaction with people different from myself?

At 19, when I became a Christian, someone advised, “Make new friends.” In time, I married a minister, lived my life behind stained-glass windows, rubbing shoulders almost exclusively with Christians.

What about the friends I enjoyed during the B.C. years of my life? Were they lost or found?

While drawing my circle to enclose other Christians, had my circle shut out the very people for whom Christ died?

Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He later described three ways people become lost (Luke 15).

Some are lost through foolishness. Short-sighted like sheep, they wander away, one blade of grass at a time. Preoccupied with things directly in front of them, they stumble into new follies.
But the Shepherd seeks the lost sheep until He finds them and brings them back into the fold.

Others get lost through no fault of their own, but through others’ carelessness. Like the lost coin, they retain their value, but, out of circulation, they render no service.

Still others get lost like the prodigal sons, through pride and rebellion. One ran away and wasted his life; the other refused to share his father’s concern for his brother.

That day at the traffic light, I showed no spiritual concern for the young man with the pleading eyes. The next day, I approached the light excitedly, my eyes searching for him.
He was not there.

9/1/2009 3:11:00 AM by Catherine Painter, author, speaker, Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh | with 1 comments