I receive e-mails in response to my writing, and sometimes readers disagree with me, which I welcome. I received two such e-mails last week. The first, which we are going to discuss here this week, was filled with what James calls “the wisdom from above.”
The second was vitriolic, representative of that which is from below: earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. I told him that I could not approve his comment for though there might be merit in what he said (it was about a past post) his language and tone were a red flag to me. Do I “censor” some who want to come on and participate in this blog? Sometimes (though it is rare) I do. With sadness — for I welcome disagreement, but I don’t want to let the enemy in, and if the language and tone miserably comes below the mark of what James 3:17 says typifies the wisdom from above, then I shut the door.
How do we discern wisdom from above from the wisdom from below?
The wisdom from above is first, pure, then peaceable, gentle, (so dove like) and open to reason…and leads to good fruit.
The wisdom from below is earthy, unspiritual, demonic. It is vitriolic, like the deadly saliva from a snake bite.
My friends at Midday Connection often have people disagreeing with them, and they experience both kinds of tones, though far too often, those who claim the name of Christ are vitriolic. Recently Melinda hosted a program in which she was endeavoring to address how to love family members who have come out embracing a homosexual lifestyle. As a church, I believe we have failed here. And in today’s culture, we desperately need wisdom on how to love well those caught in this sin. And though she received encouraging mail, there was so much that was, indeed, filled with acid comments. I was with her shortly afterwards and so felt her pain. She’s a tender wise woman endeavoring to have dialogues about hard situations, and she should be cheered instead of crushed. She also has asked the legitimate question: “How does this kind of vitriolic expression (on blogs or anywhere) from someone who claims the name of Christ represent Christ to an unbelieving world?” Melinda was knocked down, but not out, for tomorrow (Monday) she will try again on her new podcast, “Bring to Mind,” which is an attempt to dialogue about these hard issues. You can listen tomorrow, or after the broadcast, here: http://www.moodyradio.org/bringtomind/
When Paul exhorted Euodia and Syntyche in the Philippian church to agree, I wonder if he was as concerned with the tone and the lack of love as much as anything. (I don’t know — and that’s a future week — but I wonder.)
How we need to purify our hearts before we speak or write — with believers and unbelievers alike. I’m going to show you Laura’s letter this week, and because her tone is beautiful, and exemplifies James 3:17, I want to discuss her content.
So often another believer whom I respect has helped me to see a blind spot in my character, my thinking, or my expressing of thoughts. We need one another in the body of Christ to help us see and be what we cannot see alone. There are some passages in Scripture that are challenging, and Philippians 2:12-13 and 3:11 are two examples. One of the great advantages (and challenges) to going through a book of the Bible is that you cannot leap over the challenging verses — your must struggle through to try to understand what God is really saying. I’m eager to have us read thoughts together and discuss it. There are some truths in Scripture which seems to contradict one another, such as free will and predestination, yet they are both there. I think Philippians 3:11 is like that, only with the two seemingly contradicting truths of eternal security and perseverance of the saints.(Eternal security is “once saved always saved” and perseverance of the saints is “if you are truly saved, then you will persevere, for God is at work in you.) They aren’t really in conflict, but they can seem to be, as this discussion reveals.
My pastor and his family from Nebraska are with me for a week at the cottage and so I asked, “How do you clearly express eternal security along with perseverance of the saints?”
This pastor said, “I muddle through.” 🙂 That was a comfort, for I know I am muddling through. But you help me, together, we help each other express these hard truths which sometimes seem to contradict, but there are only apparent and not real contradictions in Scripture. It is just that we are like six-year-olds when it comes to understanding The Holy One.
There are not “many interpretations” that are right about a verse — there is only one, and that is the meaning that God intends, so when it is challenging, together we must try to see it. Laura’s letter did show me I had been unclear, and I will, when I share my thoughts again this week, endeavor to be clearer. I will also share with you a few other thoughts from sources I respect, and together, may we have a healthy discussion.
Before we begin, please contemplate this from one who surely lived what he wrote, who humbles us all with how he lived and how he died:
May God be with us all — He cares about this more than we could even imagine.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Can you think of a time when you were able to hear criticism from another believer? If so, share something about the way she or he approached you.
Monday through Thursday: ENDEAVORING TO UNDERSTAND PHILIPPIANS 3:10-11
Getting the context:
4. What point is Paul making in Philippians 3:4-8? Why does he count these credentials “as rubbish, or dung?”
5. Following Philippians 3:11 is 3:12. My favorite translation is “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” What do you think this means? I think this is a verse that shows both eternal security and persistence of the saints, so slow down, pray, and then share your thoughts.
Now I’d like you to read Laura’s good letter:
I absolutely loved your book Idol Lies. I also visit your weekly blog often. I am writing because of your latest blog, “To Be Found In Him On Judgment Day.” I think healthy disagreement among members of the body of Christ is good, and I write these words with great respect for you and your ministry.
I found that the main thesis of your book was that we can turn from our idols (which lie to us and can never fulfill us) and turn to Jesus (who loves us and will always fulfill us). I really enjoyed reading about the different metaphors in Scripture that speak to the love our Savior has for us. It is this unconditional love that allows us to turn from our idol lies to Him. Now, when I read your last post, I was confused because you seem to suggest that we can lose our salvation if we fail to destroy every idol in our lives. I know the Scripture you mention in your book that suggests that idolaters have no part in the kingdom. However, to me, this blog contradicts your entire book, whose message is to show us that God’s love is greater than our idols. In essence, this blog is motivating us to turn from our idols or else we might not have a place in God’s kingdom. This is fear, then, not love, that motivates me. And in my limited experience, fear will never get me to do anything effectively. How can I turn from my idols to Jesus’ open arms if in the back of my head I am wondering if He will say the words “I never knew you” on Judgment Day?
Then I think of Paul. If as you suggest, he really is questioning his salvation, I am sure that there are a lot of women out there like me saying to themselves, “Well then I don’t even have a chance!” The problem with this is that we are returning to works righteousness, just a different form of it. Instead of giving me a list of spiritual disciplines to do (pray, read your bible, witness, love others, etc.), you are in essence just changing the rules to this: get rid of your idols. Where does His finished work come in to the picture? Or what about the Holy Spirit, who indwells me? At what point does He leave me if I don’t destroy my idols? The idea of losing one’s salvation after receiving Jesus Christ and becoming a new creation just doesn’t make sense to me, especially after reading Romans. Why would Paul use the metaphor of adoption if, on Judgement Day, He might say to us, “I don’t know you?” He calls us His children; we have been adopted into His family. This implies permanence, at least in this world.
These are just my ideas. I have thought about this topic for a long time now, as it is very personal to me. Again, thank you for your ministry.
6. Comment on the tone of Laura’s letter and how she exemplifies James 3:17.
7. What points does she make that you find helpful? (Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by agreeing with her!)
Now I want you to read a comment from a blog I like. He comments on what I think is a parallel passage in Philippians. Here is the link to Bill Tell: LINK
8. What points do you agree or disagree with from the above blog?
9. Finally, I am going to try to say what I think Philippians 3:10-11 says — and I open to disagreement.
I believe that when Paul counts his credentials as dung, he is saying he doesn’t want to trust in any of that — he wants to trust in Christ alone. In so many others places Paul makes it clear that salvation is by faith alone, and not works righteousness. And now, and this is the controversial part, and I may be wrong, I believe there may have been times when Paul had fears, like the fears Bill Tell expressed in his blog, if he was a fake or not. Perhaps not, but I know it not uncommon for believers to have fears like that, I know I have. When I see sin in my life, and think about some of the passages as in I John where it says, “If anyone hates his brother, the love of God is not in him,” I tremble. I But I get past it, for when I think about it, I know Christ has taken hold of me, which is why verse 12 is such a comfort to me.
I take hold of that which has taken hold of me.
How do I know He has taken hold of me and that I can never lose my salvation? Not only do I trust in His blood, I do see evidence in my life of change, a passion, and a holy fear. When I don’t persevere, I do not lose my salvation, for Christ has me firmly in His hand — and no one can pluck me out of His hand.
Yet I still can be plagued with times of doubt. Sometimes my spirit condemns me. So what do I do? I remember what John said that our very love and life can be evidence of His work in us and then: “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him, for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart…” (1 John 3:19-20)
I am secure in Him. He will never let me go. And yet I persist to take hold of that which has taken hold of me, that “my any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” This is not works righteousness, but evidence, indeed, to my own heart that I belong to Him when my spirit condemns me.
I also want to share Nanci J’s answer to what does Philippians 3:10-11 mean, for she very helpfully, in comparing this to Romans 6, shows that the gospel is not just to be rescued from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. It did make me wonder if Paul was not having any doubts, but was only talking about the double cure, being rescued from the power of sin. I commended Nanci on her answer and she said she really wanted to know what it meant so sought out God, availing herself of various and good commentaries as well. Here is what Nanci said:
“Jesus’ death and resurrection is the basis of the righteousness the the Father credits to us to make us His children. Jesus’ death and resurrection also provides power to enable the believer to lead a new life in faithful obedience to God rather than rebellion/sin. Only appreciation for what God in His grace has done will provide proper motivation for living “dead to sin” and “alive to God”, resisting sin and temptation, and serving the Lord as an instrument of His righteousness.”
10. Consider Dee’s thoughts, Nanci’s thoughts, Bill Tell’s thoughts and comment, asking God for wisdom.
11. What do you believe God is saying through Philippians 3:10-12?
I’m not doing a sermon this week as there is enough homework above. However if you’d like to listen to Melinda’s podcast (above) or to my final session on Idol Lies on Midday, here is the link. Then share your thoughts. The program aired on Thursday, June 19th, but can be found on past programs. There are some great testimonies recorded from women who have done Idol lies in it.
12. What is your take-a-way and why?