“Wondering” by Carley Evans


Wondering why some Christians are “open-minded” and others are not. Wondering how it is some Christians see Christ as kind and gentle, loving and forgiving while others see Him as mean and angry, hateful of sin and judgmental? How can people who claim to believe in the same God come out so differently after reading the same Bible and praying to the same Lord?
How can some believe God hates sinners while others believe God loves sinners so much He actually DIED for them? How can some believe God wants Christians to stand up against sin to the point of harming other human beings who happen to sin while others believe they too sin and are just as deserving of the same type of “revenge” against sin?
Why do some Christians feel capable of judging other human beings while others feel entirely unworthy of the task?
Oh Lord, help us to know the Truth so it and You may set us Free. Amen.

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“For of Him, and by Him, and in Him Be All Things” ( Romans 11:36-12:1, WYC ) by Carley Evans


36 For of him, and by him, and in him be all things. To him be glory into worlds [of worlds]. Amen.

12 Therefore, brethren, I beseech you by the mercy of God, that ye give your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, and your service reasonable.

 

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul highlights that everything is summed up in the head, which is Jesus Christ. Here in his letter to the church at Rome, he also emphasizes the glorious truth that all things are for, by and in Him, who is the Son of God.

If this is true ( and of course, it is ) then we ought first to recognize that Jesus deserves glory. Second, we ought to realize that it is only God’s mercy that allows us to be “living sacrifices, holy, pleasing to God.”

You hear it often in congregations of Christians: “To God be all the glory.” Yet, in the next moment, these same Christians are proclaiming how they did this or that for the Lord as if He needs anything at all from us. 

Our service to God ought to be “reasonable.” Our service ought to emerge from our understanding of our complete dependence upon His Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Without His indwelling, there is nothing – in our lowly bodies – we can do for God; nothing at all. Therefore, the statement “To God be the glory” should be matter-of-fact, part of our very nature.

“For of Him, and by Him, and in Him be all things,” writes Paul.

“Givers of Light” (Philippians 2: 14-16, WYC) by Carley Evans


And do ye all things without grumblings and doubtings; [Forsooth do ye all things without grutchings and doubtings;] that ye be without plaint, and simple as the sons of God, without reproof, in the middle of a depraved nation [in the middle of a shrewd nation] and a wayward; among which ye shine as givers of light in the world [among whom ye shine as givers of light in the world;]. And hold ye together the word of life to my glory in the day of Christ; for I have not run in vain, neither I have travailed in vain. [holding together the word of life to my glory in the day of Christ; for I have not run in vain, neither in vain travailed.]Philippians 2:14-16WYC

What are the enemies of a simple, reproof-free Christian life? Grumblings (or grutchings) and doubtings, if you read Paul. I imagine Paul bemoans the critical soul who wrings his hands and shakes his head at the world as it rushes by in its waywardness and depravity. I see Paul weeping over the Ebenezer Scrooges of the Christian world who bah-humbug their way through the Christian life. Paul does not wish to run his own race in vain. He desires the Christians he leads to “shine as givers of light in the world.” He wishes Christians to “hold…together the Word of Life” to his “glory in the day of Christ.”

Paul doesn’t say, “Do some things without grumblings and doubtings.” Rather he says to do all things with joy and faith which come of knowing the Lord. Then, and only then, will we shine as givers of light to the world.

“Stop Fighting” ( Ephesians 4: 1-3, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Today, writing from prison, I think Paul might be emphatic. He might scribble ( ‘see, I write these words in my own hand’ ): “Stop fighting!” before he explains why Christians should not bicker. Paul does write gently here; and a bit later in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he begs his fellow believers to “speak the truth in love.” But, here he implores them (“I urge you”) to “accept one another in love.”

4 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.

Paul calls Christians to humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance ( tolerance! ) all of which lead to unity and “the peace that binds us.”

So how do Christians who disagree stop fighting? What is “speaking the truth in love?”

Examples (from a written social network debate) of “truth speaking”:

Person #1: “Heretic warning”  then boldly typed N-A-M-E of heretic. Then, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”

Person #2: “Beware that the good presentation you give is not clouded by pride.”

Which spoken truth do you think Paul prefers? And, more importantly, which statement sounds more like God, the Holy Spirit?

“The Simple Message of the Good News” ( Galatians 2: 16-21, WYC ) by Carley Evans


Mankind is not justified before God by working hard to please Him. Paul simply says that if that were so, then Christ died in vain. Rather mankind is saved by the Work of God in His Son, Jesus Christ and by God’s Grace and Mercy.

Paul also says that if we fall into sin, that does not then make Christ the “minister of sin!” He also claims that if we strive to obey the Law, we make ourselves trespassers. Rather we “are fixed to the Cross” so as “to live to God with Christ.” The Law is nailed there on the tree, and all its power destroyed.

Paul warns “cast not away the Grace of God.”

“16 know that a man [soothly knowing for a man] is not justified of the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; and we believe in Jesus Christ, that we be justified of the faith of Christ [that we be justified by the faith of Christ], and not of the works of the law. Wherefore of the works of the law each flesh shall not be justified.

17 And if we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves be found sinful men, whether Christ be minister of sin? God forbid. [That if we seeking to be justified in Christ, and we ourselves be found sinners, whether Christ is minister of sin? Far be it.]

18 And if I build again things that I have destroyed [Soothly if I build again those things that I destroyed], I make myself a trespasser.

19 For by the law I am dead to the law, [For by the law I am dead to the law, that I live to God;]

20 and I am fixed to the cross, that I live to God with Christ. And now live not I, but Christ liveth in me. But that I live now in flesh, I live in the faith of God’s Son, that loved me, and gave himself for me. [with Christ I am fixed to the cross. Forsooth I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me. Forsooth that I live now in flesh, I live in the faith of God’s Son, which loved me, and betook himself for me.]

21 I cast not away the grace of God; for if rightwiseness be through law [for if rightwiseness is by the law], then Christ died without cause.”

“How Few There Are” ( Matthew 7:13-14 KNOX ) by Carley Evans


Straight And Narrow Road
(Photo credit: Bradley.Johnson.)

Jesus warns “few there are that find it.” The ‘it’ He mentions is “life.” Apparently, according to Jesus, the many find death easily; without trying. Why is that? Perhaps because death is our natural state; we are, indeed, in a state of perpetual dying. Jesus says,

Make your way in by the narrow gate. It is a broad gate and a wide road that leads on to perdition, and those who go in that way are many indeed; but how small is the gate, how narrow the road that leads on to life, and how few there are that find it!

Jesus says the way “that leads on to life” is difficult to find. The gate is small; the road is narrow. He implies this way is hidden. What makes the way to life so hard to locate? What makes the gate small? Why is the road narrow?

Perdition – hell, the underworld, death, punishment – is a broad and straight path. “And those who go in that way are many indeed,” says Jesus. The way to hell is an easy road to find because we start out on it, right from birth. We walk along with others, vaguely or painfully aware of its ultimate destination – our deaths. Some of us know that death is eternal; others do not. The gate to the other path is not obvious, according to Jesus. Rather, that path is small, narrow, hidden.

Who opens the eyes?

I think Paul tells us quite clearly that God the Holy Spirit enables the few to find the way to life. Why those few? An impossible question with an improbable answer – God selects. He is under no obligation to show mercy, but He does.

Such a hard Word. Paul responds with:

14 What does this mean? That God acts unjustly? That is not to be thought of.15 I will shew pity, he tells Moses, on those whom I pity; I will shew mercy where I am merciful;16 the effect comes, then, from God’s mercy, not from man’s will, or man’s alacrity. 17 Pharao, too, is told in scripture, This is the very reason why I have made thee what thou art, so as to give proof, in thee, of my power, and to let my name be known all over the earth.18 Thus he shews mercy where it is his will, and where it is his will he hardens men’s hearts.19 Hereupon thou wilt ask, If that is so, how can he find fault with us, since there is no resisting his will? 20 Nay, but who art thou, friend, to bandy words with God? Is the pot to ask the potter, Why hast thou fashioned me thus? 21 Is not the potter free to do what he will with the clay, using the same lump to make two objects, one for noble and one for ignoble use? 22 It may be that God has borne, long and patiently, with those who are the objects of his vengeance, fit only for destruction, meaning to give proof of that vengeance, and display his power at last;23 meaning also to display, in those who are the objects of his mercy, how rich is the glory he bestows, that glory for which he has destined them.

24 We are the objects of his mercy; we, whom he has called, Jews and Gentiles alike. [Romans 9: 14-24, KNOX]

“To Drain the Cup” ( Hebrews 9:28 KNOX ) by Carley Evans


Image

The author of Hebrews emphasizes the offer of Christ is “once for all” and is designed by God the Father “to drain the cup of a world’s sins.” Jesus comes the first time to deal with sin; the second time He comes has nothing whatever to do with sin. Instead He brings salvation “to those who await His coming.”

For some reason, I think of a dishwasher thoroughly cleaning a cup in one wash. I unloaded dishes last night. I’m not sure the reason, but the dishes were sparkling and ultra-clean. Jesus ultra-cleans the cup on His first visit to earth; at His second, He finds the cup thoroughly washed, waiting patiently ( or impatiently ) and ready for use.

and Christ was offered once for all, to drain the cup of a world’s sins; when we see him again, sin will play its part no longer, he will be bringing salvation to those who await his coming.