“With Sober Judgment” ( Romans 12: 3, ESV ) by Carley Evans


Paul starts off by telling the church at Rome that he isn’t speaking from himself, but “by the grace given to” him. Most of the time, we know this. As I recall only once did Paul say “I, not the Lord” when he wrote the church. So I find it interesting that he starts this section about spiritual gifts with a reminder to his readers that the Lord is speaking.

The Lord commands “everyone among (us) not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”

Poor self-esteem is a problem common to humankind. We look in the mirror, and we don’t like what we see. Either we are too short, too tall; our hair is too curly, not curly enough; our waist is too big, our legs are too skinny; our face is too dull, our teeth are just crooked! We buy all kinds of stuff to try to overcome our failed self-image. Obviously, nothing works.

Pride is a problem common to humankind. We look at our works, and we think: ‘Hey, that’s pretty fine. I did that. I like that. I wonder if anyone else noticed how good that was; that thing I did for God.’

Jesus says when we ponder our selves, “to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Sober judgment: judgment that is “calm, clear-headed, composed, dignified, lucid, sensible, steady, subdued, tranquil and unexciting.” (Oxford Thesaurus)

We are members of the body of Christ, and “individually members one of another.” (Romans 12: 5) Each one has his or her own level of grace and particular spiritual gift(s) which God “has assigned.”

Therefore, let us not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

“Being The Very Last” ( 1 Corinthians 11: 19, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Perhaps Paul is not being facetious when he tells the church at Corinth, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” But in his letter, he writes, “In the following directives I have no praise for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17) Therefore, it is conceivable Paul is pointing out that these men are divisive when they “come together as a church” in order to show themselves as better than one another. The awful, sometimes gut-wrenching and always anxiety producing desire to be recognized as the best of many or at least the better of two is often destructive of all — of the whole body of Christ.

I think of the two disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who ask Jesus for the privilege of sitting at places of honor when He comes into His kingdom. Rather than being satisfied with their current walk with Him and the promise of being with Him in eternity, they each struggle for more — for that which they are not qualified. For Jesus tells them they know not what they are asking.

The disciples — not only James and John — argue on the road to Capernaum “about who is the greatest.” (Mark 9:34) And Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Seeking recognition from others rather than serving others is self-defeating and ultimately destructive. Be at peace with who you are, what God has given to you, and what He asks of you and where He has placed you. Start there at “the very last.”

“Imagining Maturity In Christ” ( Ephesians 4: 13, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Can you imagine “unity in the faith?” Can you imagine “becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ?” Can you imagine not being an “infant?”

Our hope is to become united in our knowledge of Jesus Christ — i.e. no longer divided or “tossed back and forth…by every wind of teaching.”

“Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) The good we seek is this unity in Christ; the evil we dread and should always flee is division, bickering, backbiting, unfounded criticism, and hatred of our brothers and sisters who are in Christ.

“You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So, then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:10-13)

Our fervent prayer is to be mature in Christ, to stand together as one church — as the whole body of Christ, and as His bride.

“Your Demonstration Of The Spirit” ( 1 Corinthians 12: 7, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


“A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial;” and “the same God activates each gift in each person.” (Hebrews 12:6)

Notice each person is gifted with “a demonstration of the Spirit;” and this gift is activated by God. In these simple statements by Paul, we learn that we all have a gift of the Spirit and that these gifts are put in motion by God Himself.  Now, Paul does exhort us to seek the greater gifts — the ‘greater gifts’ we are to seek are unity and love — gifts we each must have as Christians. But the gifts of the Spirit of which he now speaks are listed for us: “a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, the performing of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, different kinds of languages, interpretation of languages.” (Hebrews 12:8-10) Notice that God the Holy Spirit “is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.” (Hebrews 12:11) Which “demonstration of the Spirit” we are given is not our choice; that’s why Paul calls these “gifts.” They are not skills we learn; they are manifestations of God within us.

Not all of us have every gift. “For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ.” (Hebrews 12:12) I have one gift of the Spirit; you have another. I need you; you need me.

We are not to argue with one another over whose gift is superior. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” (Hebrews 12:21)

“God has put the body together, so that there would be no division in the body, but the members should have the same concern for each other.” (Hebrews 12:24,25)

Therefore, do seek the greater gifts of love and unity, but be satisfied with whatever “demonstration of the Spirit” your God has chosen to give you. Do not be conceited, as Paul says. And, on the other hand, do not think less of yourself due to a gift your God knows is best for you. Amen!

“The Temple Of The Living God” ( Colossians 3: 15, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


(Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 8:29pm)

“And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you are also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.”

 

Paul writes of the “perfect bond of unity” which is love. He calls us to allow the peace of Christ to control our hearts. With Christ’s peace and His love, how can we not be united? What causes divisions in the body of Christ? Differing views of our Lord? I rather doubt that.

 

Divisions are caused by earthly things which are sometimes labeled ‘spiritual’ — usually by which church we attend or refuse to attend, whether we sprinkle or immerse for baptism, whether we call the Lord’s Supper the Eucharist or Communion, whether Mary is the Queen of Heaven or the virgin mother of Jesus, whether we use only the King James Version or we like The Living Bible, whether we speak in tongues or remain quiet in prayer, whether we respond to the ‘altar call’ or confess our sins to a priest, whether we believe in ‘laying on of hands’ or in modern medicine, whether we believe in predestination or free will, and so forth.

 

Rather than argue or fight over these sometimes important issues, Paul calls us to “accept one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit — just as [we] are called to one hope at [our] calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:2-6)

 

The key element is the unity of the Spirit which is due to our calling and to the one faith we share. Focus on the Holy Spirit who unites us. For we are the temple of the Living God.

“Taking Solid Food” (Ephesians 4: 15, HCSB) by Carley Evans


“Speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the Head — Christ.”

We are not to be “little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 4: 14)

Each part of the body of Christ is to function for the benefit of “the growth of the body.” Each is to perform its particular work “for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son.” (Ephesians 4: 12 – 13)

Unity is not attained yet. Instead we are to be on guard so that “no one deceives [us] with empty arguments.” (Ephesians 5: 6) Be certain, however, to “speak the truth [in love], each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4: 25) Don’t be angry with one another. “And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You are sealed by Him for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4: 30)

We are to leave behind “the elementary message about the Messiah” and “go on to maturity” so that we may be “teachers” and not Christians who “need someone to teach [us] the basic principles of God’s revelation again.” Too often “[we] need milk, not solid food.” (Hebrews 5: 11, 12) Ultimately, we need to stop being “too lazy to understand” that the truth is: we “ought to be teachers.”

“Love One Another” (1 John 4: 20 – 21, ESV) by Carley Evans


“We love because He first loves us.” (1 John 4: 19) And God’s love is perfect. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4: 18)

What is there to fear? God loves us.

And how can we not love one another? The author of 1 John reminds us that if we are not able to love our brothers and sisters with whom we interact, how can we possibly love God whom we can not see? If we believe in Christ, then we must also love those who also believe in Him. They are our kin; our blood relations. We are parts of the same Body, the church itself.

The reason we have so much pain is that we strive against each other, calling each other names when the only Name we need use toward one another is Jesus Christ’s.

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3: 16)

“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3: 18)

“Walk in the same way in which [Jesus] walks.” (1 John 2: 6)

Jesus says, ” ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more He bends down and writes on the ground. But when [the crowd] hear it, they go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus is left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus stands up and says to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She says, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus says, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ ” (John 8: 7 – 11)

The old know first not to condemn another.

“Betrothed To God” (Hosea 3: 1, ESV) by Carley Evans


God promises, “I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2: 19 – 20)

God tells Hosea to “go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

Hosea obeys. He buys his woman. He tells his new wife that she must “dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3: 3) Hosea compares her to the children of Israel, saying they will “return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3: 5)

God is betrothing His children to Himself forever, that is — for always. He is betrothing His children in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness. Whom do we suppose has these qualities? The children of God or God Himself?

Hosea is the husband who marries the adulteress. God is the Righteous Judge who marries sinners to Himself — giving them His Name forever. As a result, these sinners will come to “know the Lord.”

God says, “And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, you are My people; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” (Hosea 2: 23)