To Serve is to Gain

Okay, giving myself a bit of freedom this morning to springboard from the primary context to make a wider application. Taking a specific observation and suggesting a broader principle. That serving others, while benefiting others, benefits the server as well.

For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

(1Timothy 3:13 ESV)

The context is qualifications for those who would hold the office of deacon within the church. Qualifications very similar to the qualifications listed for those being drawn to oversee, or pastor, the church.

The specific observation that arrests me this morning is that those who serve well as deacons “gain a good standing” and “great confidence” through serving. Faithful servants of the church are noted, respected, and esteemed. Faithful service for the church begets greater confidence within a deacon concerning what they believe because, I’m thinking, they experience the reality of the enabling power through Whom they believe. Thus deacons who serve well grow well. We shouldn’t be surprised when those who are faithful with little are entrusted with much and are emboldened to take on more (Matt. 25:21).

True of deacons, says Paul. True, I want to suggest, of all who serve.

There’s no special word for the office of deacon, it’s defined solely by context. The word for deacon is the same word used for servant and serving. Thus, a literal translation of this verse could be, “Those who serve well serving gain . . . ” So, to serve is to gain.

A faithful sister, willing to serve as able every Sunday morning — whether during the service she attends or the one she doesn’t — once put it this way, “Serving isn’t about providing an experience, it is the experience.” It’s not just about doing your part for others, it’s about availing yourself of God doing His work in you. Beyond just completing a task it’s walking in the way of the kingdom. Less about doing a job, more about imitating Jesus.

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” ~ Jesus

(Mark 10:43b-45 ESV)

Those who serve well as servants grow well. Those who find joy in doing for others, flourish. Those who think no task too small in order to benefit the body, thrive.

Not that we would do just to get. But that we would recognize that one avenue of sanctifying grace is through faithful service. That transformation comes from taking on tasks. That as we model Christ, Christ in us molds us to be more like Himself. And so, serving others well isn’t just about providing an experience for them, it is experiencing a kingdom dynamic within us.

To serve is to gain.

Because of grace. For His glory.

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In His Confidence, In Context

I look back in my journal and note that it’s the same verse in this day’s reading plan that’s arrested my attention for the past three years. I go back and read my entries from 2018, 2019, and 2020 — encouraged and blessed by what encouraged and blessed me then. But as I continue to hover over those three words penetrating my heart, I realize there’s a context I’ve failed to consider. A definition I’ve failed to discern. An in-truth reality that needs to accompany my imputed righteousness.

. . . but the upright are in His confidence.

(Proverbs 3:32b ESV)

In His confidence. Those are the three words that have been sticking every year for the past few years. Less about what is known by being in the confidence of the Creator, intended more to emphasize the understood relationship of those who enjoy the insider’s seat. That’s why other translations render it: He is a friend to the upright (CSB); But He is intimate with the upright (NASB); He offers his friendship to the godly (NLT). To have access to the “His secret counsel” (NKJV) implies a depth of relationship marked by intimacy available only to those welcomed into the inner circle.

Noodle on that. As the upright, robed in the imputed righteousness of Christ through the finished work of the cross, we are “in” with the God of heaven and earth. And we know it not only in theory, but we experience it every time He illuminates His word as we read it and grasp something of the secret counsel of the Almighty. That should be mind-blowing! Awe-evoking! Praise-producing!

But wait! There’s a context here. And it relates not to an imputed righteousness but to a practiced righteousness.

Proverbs 3:32 is preceded by six “do not” commands. Do not withhold good when it’s in your power to do good. Do not brush off a neighbor in need when you can meet that need. Do not plan evil against your neighbor. Do not contend with someone for no reason. Do not envy the ways of violent men nor be drawn into those ways when it seems expedient to do so. Don’t, don’t, don’t . . .

Then comes the verse.

. . . for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in His confidence.

(Proverbs 3:32 ESV)

The upright are the opposite of the devious, those who walk a crooked or deviated path. To be in His confidence, to know Him as friend, is the opposite of being an abomination. And while our eternal standing as the upright is secure because we are in Christ, our current experience as the upright is very much a factor of our obedience.

While we will sit with Him in close communion around His banquet table on that day, if today we want to know the intimate connection of abiding fellowship, then by His enabling power we purpose to do the to do’s and to don’t the do not’s. Not that our salvation depends on our obedience, but that practically knowing daily intimacy with the God who takes us into His confidence is connected to our obedience. Experiencing friendship with God is frustrated when we walk in disobedience to God.

That’s why we aspire to walk a worthy walk. That’s why we’re quick to confess our sin when our walk goes unworthy, or our heart goes AWOL and we’re faking the walk. Why we make a beeline to the cross, once again welcoming that well worn path. Not because we presume on grace so that we can keep on keep sinning, but that we know He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin when we do falter, fail, and find ourselves distanced from friendship and sincerely want to abide in His confidence.

In His confidence. What a blessing to be welcomed into the secret things of heaven by the God of heaven.

In His confidence in context. O, that we might practically know that insider’s place through a holy determination to walk in faithful obedience.

Only by His enabling grace. Always for His everlasting glory.

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The Pursuit and The Promise

Hovering over Proverbs 2 this morning. Almost overwhelmed with the sense that we need to desperately pursue the word of God if we are going to have any chance of walking in this world with our witness in tact. What’s more, we need to be people abiding in the Living Word if we are going to thrive as children of God and not be compromised by the corrosiveness of our culture. And this, even as I’m aware that many, even in the church, don’t really see a direct correlation between knowing the written word of God, nor abiding in the living Word of God, and navigating the complexities of life.

But if I’m picking up what the Spirit’s laying down, there is a promise for the pursuit.

First, the pursuit.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures . . .

(Proverbs 2:1-4 ESV)

There’s a lot of action words in those opening verses. A lot of to do’s. Receive, treasure up, make attentive, incline your heart, call out and raise up your voice. But not dispassionate action. Not check-it-off-the-list to dos’. Seek it like you would seek what you most value. Search for it like it was the mother lode for making much of life. It starts with God’s word. The treasures are His commandments. Go after them hard. As Jesus would exhort His disciples centuries later,

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. . . Pay attention to what you hear . . . For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

(Mark 4:23-25 ESV)

Then, the promise.

. . . then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. . . . Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you . . .

(Proverbs 2:5, 9-11 ESV)

Ours is a culture caught up in matters of righteousness and justice and equity. You could argue that, in the public square, never has there been a greater emphasis placed on what is deemed to be the moral high ground nor a greater intolerance for that which is inherently unjust.

But it is a righteousness increasingly divorced from any absolute mooring of rightness outside ourselves. A justice, which often identified correctly, is increasingly left to vigilante approaches to administer as there is no view of an arbiter above us. An equity founded on shifting sand rather than the transcendent truth that all are equal because all are created in the image of God. A righteousness and justice and equity which comes out from the heart of man rather than from a wisdom which is implanted within the heart of man. And that from the word. The written word of God. The living Word of God’s Son.

If we pursue the way of God then we will now the wisdom of God. If we seek to know the Creator as He has made Himself known, then we will have knowledge to satisfy the soul, discretion to direct our ways, and understanding which will protect us from the false narratives of the world around us.

Pursue God’s truth, then God’s wisdom will enter your heart. Is it really that simple? I’m thinkin’ . . .

Sure, it’s a big step of faith to act on the belief that God’s word is what we really need to direct our ways, but hey, we’re to walk by faith and not by sight (2Cor. 5:7). And, might I suggest, the proof is in the pudding. For those immersed in the written word, for those abiding in the Living Word, there is a clarity (though, not a perfection . . . thank you, Jesus, for the cross) in navigating this fallen world.

By His grace. For His glory.

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According to His Excellent Greatness

I wonder if worship wanes when learning is lean. If what primes the pump of praise grows thin because we are not actively pursuing growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Something in my lasting reading for the year in the psalms has me chewing on that thought this morning.

Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens!
Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

(Psalm 150:1-2 ESV)

There’s the high-level menu of catalysts for priming the pump of praise. We praise Him for His mighty deeds. We praise Him according to His excellent greatness. And would it be a stretch to suggest that, in a sense, it’s easier to praise Him for His mighty deeds than it is according to His excellent greatness?

I think we connect more readily with His mighty deeds. We experience creation. We’ve been made new through the finished work of the cross. We sense within us the active agency of the Spirit. We process the outer evidence as we count our blessings. We’ve known sustaining grace and power in our burdens. Mighty deeds? Every believer has an experiential connection with what God has done in their lives and around their lives.

But God’s excellent greatness? Harder to connect with because harder to comprehend.

Even the phrasing of the attribute is somewhat mind-stretching. The CSB seems to translate it most literally, “Praise Him for His abundant greatness.” That God is great seems somewhat intuitive. That the magnitude and magnificence of the Creator would be atop the creation’s list of superlatives kind of makes sense. But that He possesses abundant greatness, a multitude of magnificence, or immeasurable, multi-faceted magnitudes is a little harder to get your arms around. But isn’t trying to get your arms around it also the thing that can keep praise ever new and always fresh? I’m thinkin . . .

God doesn’t change, but plumbing the depths of God’s excellent greatness will feel forever new as we explore and discover more of the multitudes of His magnificence.

For example, recently started reading a book on the attributes of God. The author is a seminary professor and, while he’s trying to make deep theology accessible to the average person, he’s using terms and expressions I’m not all that familiar with. Here’s one that captured my imagination and provided new fuel from which to light a fire of praise:

God may be incomprehensible, but he is not unknowable. Any doubt is removed the moment God opens his mouth.

Barrett, Matthew. None Greater (p. 25). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Okay, God’s incomprehensibility is mind-stretching but, given we’re talking about God, not necessarily surprising. But that God would “open His mouth” through the prophetic word, His written word, and then through the Living Word, His Son, and make Himself known, if only in a mirror dimly, is jaw-dropping. Not necessarily new information, but packaged in a somewhat deeper way it becomes a new spark and new fuel from which to light a new fire of awe, wonder, and worship.

To ever be a learner. To always seek to know more and at a deeper level. I think this is some of what’s behind being able to praise God afresh according to His excellent greatness.

Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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So Glad To See You

Not that I’d verbalize it this way, but I wonder if sometimes, deep down, I think that what Christ’s done for us is done. That the Son of Man who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” has done that and so the work is finished. That what’s left to be done is what I can do in response for Him.

Maybe, sometimes, I remember that He’s not really done doing for us. That even now He is at the right of God interceding for us (Rom. 8:34), making intercession so that He might “save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25). Risen in glory, but still serving His own.

Buy hey, when He returns, then He will be done doing for us. Then this blood-bought, redeemed servant of Christ will bow, will sing, will gaze into His glory, face to face, and give Him the honor and glory and blessing due His name (Rev. 5:12b). Then it’ll be on us.

Not so fast . . .

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. . . . You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” ~ Jesus

(Luke 12:35-37, 40 ESV)

The main point of Jesus’ parable is that the followers of Jesus are to be ready for the return of Jesus. Dressed for action, lamps burning, wide awake, ready whenever the Master comes to kick off the call to the wedding feast.

But what’s dropped my jaw a bit this morning is whatever Jesus is implying by the master in the story dressing himself for service, seating his servants at his table, and coming and serving them. What?!? The master who came the first time not to be served but to serve will also come and serve the second time? Hmm . . .

Okay, so it’s a parable with a clear main point, i.e. “You must be ready.” Thus, I need to be careful about reading too much into the other details included in the story. But wouldn’t it be safe to say that the actions of the master turning the tables (kind of literally) on his servants and serving them at his own wedding feast indicates, at the very least, his joy at again being with them? That while he’s happy to see they’re dressed for action and their lamps are burning at his return, that he’s also delighted at being reunited with them after physically being away for so long? That, if nothing else, these God-breathed, add-on details in the story indicate that Jesus is really looking forward to being with His own even as we long to be with Him? That, as much as we hope to hear, “Well done” when He returns, we could also hear, “So glad to see you!” I’m thinkin’ . . .

Sure, the Master will receive His servants. The King will welcome in His subjects. But would we dare to think that the One who said, “No longer do I call you servants . . . but I have called you friends” (Jn. 15:15), is also looking forward to being with His friends? I think we dare.

Don’t know for sure. Not wanting to read more into this story then is intended. But sure something to chew on.

I can only imagine . . . (thanx again MercyMe).

Because of grace. For His glory.

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A Directed Heart

My first inclination is to think that the Thessalonians lived in a time and circumstance totally different than mine. Their first century church was planted amidst some pretty hostile conditions (Acts 17:1-10) and the opposition continued even after Paul was sent away for his own protection. Along with their new life in Christ came new troubles with their culture.

But noodle on it a bit, and you can make the case that our twenty-first century church exists increasingly in a Thessalonica like culture. Increasingly we’re finding ourselves on “the wrong side of history” by the prevailing rule of thought. Once referred to as a moral majority, the basic truths we stand for are more and more viewed as immoral. So maybe there’s more of a connect with the Thessalonians than first thought.

Perhaps that’s why the following seems to resonate this morning. After asking for pray for himself — for protection against “wicked and evil men” — Paul prays for them:

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

(2Thessalonians 3:3-5 ESV)

Their season, circumstance, and situation would require two foundational operative realities: 1) the love of God; 2) the steadfastness of Christ. Both terms are a little ambiguous.

Was Paul saying that to thrive in hostile times loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength would be vital? Or was he emphasizing that in order to be faithful ambassadors of the gospel they would need to love others with the transcendent love of God who so loved the world? Yes and yes, I’m thinking.

And was Paul saying that they would need steadfast patience as they waited for Christ’s return, that being focused on that future day would help them get through their present reality? Or, was Paul praying they’d know the steadfast endurance of Christ who for the joy set before Him endured even the cross? How about yes and yes, again?

But here’s the thing that’s grabbed me this morning. While they would need the love of the Father and the endurance of the Son, it would only happen as their hearts were directed to those operative realities by the Spirit.

May the Lord direct your hearts . . .

Direct. To make straight. To guide. To remove the hindrances or barriers of getting to where you should be. That’s what Paul prayed for. That’s what the Spirit of God does.

The Holy Spirit is the Helper, the One who comes along side and guides and leads us into the truth of God’s love. Through Him we remain connected to the risen, ascended, living Christ (Jn. 14:16-17, 15:26, 16:13). He pours out God’s love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5) and strengthens us with the power of Christ as, through the Spirit, Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph. 3:16-17).

Loving God and patiently waiting for Christ can only happen as our hearts are directed to things above by the Spirit. Loving others and enduring opposition, as we become increasingly out of sync with society, possible only as our hearts are empowered for mission on earth by the same Spirit.

A directed heart. How I need a directed heart.

By the Father’s grace through the Spirit. For the Father’s glory through the Son.

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Collateral Damage of Obedience

Okay, if I’m doing the math correctly, with today’s price for silver the gig paid each “mighty man of valor” from Israel about 27 bucks. I don’t know if that’s a “fair wage” for a mercenary or not, but I’m guessing that the real profit in selling yourself as a soldier in those days wasn’t in the base wage but in getting a slice of the pie from the spoils of defeating your enemy. That’s where the big payoff was, I’m thinking.

So, when the 100,000 fighting men of Israel were told by Amaziah, king of Judah, that he had changed his mind and they could go home and keep the 27 bucks it might not be surprising that they were angry. But I’m wondering if the king wasn’t surprised that they extracted their lost “potential income” the way they did.

Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger. . . the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, not letting them go with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 people in them and took much spoil.

(2Chronicles 25:10, 13 ESV)

This morning I’m chewing on the collateral damage of obedience.

You read the story and Amaziah clearly jumps the gun in hiring fighting men from Israel to supplement his army before going out against the army from Seir. He’s confronted by a prophet who tells him not to do it for “the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites.” The man of God counsels the king to “go, act, be strong for battle” believing that God is for Judah and “has power to help.” Amaziah hesitates, “But what about the 100 talents I’ve already paid?” To which the man of God answers, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this” (25:7-9). And so, the king heeds, obeys, and sends away the army-for-hire, ready to proceed in faith. Good on him, right?

But here’s the thing that sticks a bit. While the king is successful against the army from Seir (25:11-12), what about the raided cities of Judah and the 3,000 who lost their lives and the “much spoil” that was taken by the angry mercenaries on their way home? Somehow, in my default way of thinking, you obey you should be blessed — on ALL fronts. The same God who won the main battle for Amaziah could have covered the rear flank of the cities left unprotected in Judah and were easy prey for the angry horde of shunned soldiers of Israel. But He didn’t.

Sure, you could make the argument that they suffered the “consequences” of Amaziah’s sin, the foolishness of trusting in hired help in the first place, but couldn’t you also argue that they were the collateral damage of Amaziah’s obedience to the LORD? Hmm . . .

The ways of man would say, “You obey? You’ll be blessed.” Do God’s good work and it all works out good. But we know that’s not always the case, don’t we? Sometimes we obey and know the blessing. But other times we can obey and only see things partially play out as we had hoped. And, who hasn’t known a situation, or two, where we believe and obey our way into troubles we hadn’t even foreseen?

A reminder that it’s not the expectation of a quid pro quo that should compel us to obey — not I do so God will do. But that the prize of obedience is obedience. The prize of believing God is believing. That the fruit is faith. For without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6) — even if that step of faith only puts you into a situation where you may need to trust God even more.

We shouldn’t be surprised when our belief and obedience sometimes results in unanticipated collateral damage. God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). We obey but only He knows the whole plan. Thus, we continue to trust in the Lord with all our heart, leaning not to our own understanding. Believing that if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6). Even through collateral damage.

According to His abundant grace. Always for His all-deserving glory.

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What Didn’t Change?

Went back and read last year’s thoughts as I noodled on the story of the kid king, Joash, in 2Chronicles. And while I think I still agree with me on the importance of having Uncle J.s in our lives, I’m asking myself a different question this year than last.

In considering how well Joash started and ruled for most of his reign — made king at 7 years of age by Jehoiada the priest; ruled 40 years with Jehoiada at his side; eliminated Baal worship and restored the glory of the temple — when, after Jehoiada died, Joash abandoned the house of the Lord and dove into idolatry, I asked the following question, “What changed?” My answer then? “Those he listened to.”

This year, as I hover of this tragic turn of events, I find myself asking a different question, “What didn’t change?” Short answer: the kid king’s heart.

Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet He sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.

(2Chonicles 24:17-19 ESV)

Grew up in the nurture of a faithful priest of Jehovah. Throughout his life, trained up in the way he should go. Made king at seven years of age. His faithful mentor always by his side. And the holy record says that he “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” Yet, with this qualifier, “all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2Chr. 24:2).

Doing the right stuff, but you gotta wonder if from the right place. Practicing what was prescribed yet apparently never really internalizing the principles. Faithful to the counsel he heard, though apparently never doing so with a whole heart.

Is the “guardian” nature of this Old Testament story “tutoring” us to Christ (Gal. 3:24), teaching us that only a redeemed heart can result in real, enduring piety? That only a heart made new can respond in true, long-lasting, circumstance-independent faithfulness? That we can do all the right stuff under the right conditions with the right positive peer pressure, but to stand fast when the tide changes and our natural anchors are ripped up requires a supernatural working of the Spirit at the deepest of levels of our soul in order for us to keep on keepin’ on? I’m thinkin’ . . .

The kid king had authentic works down pat. But you gotta wonder if he had authentic faith. For many years he led with righteous acts but seemingly without a regenerated heart.

I sit back after reading Joash’s story this morning and I’m thankful for a gospel with the power to transform from the inside out. A gospel which credits the righteousness of Another to our account and then enables us to draw on that account to continually walk in enduring acts of righteousness. Good works born of out of so great a salvation. Piety not based on performance but founded in the depths of a supernatural work of the Spirit conforming us more to the image of God’s own Son.

Not making us perfect (yet) by any stretch of the imagination, yet leading us to pursue a walk worthy of our calling. A new heart, desiring the fulfillment of it’s new potential, confident in a new power to produce new fruit. And that for as long as we live.

Only by God’s redeeming grace. Only for God’s everlasting glory.

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The Righteous Judgment of God

Sometimes a verse grabs me because I think I get it. Whether it’s a light going on for the first time, or for a fresh time, I chew on it because I think I’m picking up what’s being laid down by the Spirit. Other times, not so much. This morning? One of those other times.

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.

(2Thessalonians 1:4-7 ESV)

What I get: Paul was over the moon at how the church in Thessalonica had thrived and flourished though it had been planted amidst intense persecutions and afflictions. Their faith was growing abundantly and their love for one another was increasing (v.3). In his first letter Paul gives thanks because their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1Th. 1:3) was going viral, being “an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1Th. 1:7-8).

I also get that all the wrongs of this world will be set right when Jesus comes again. That the wicked who seem to prosper while on earth, sometimes with apparent immunity, will one day be required to give an account for eternity. That God is not mocked and the law of the harvest will prevail. Those who sow to the sinful flesh will eventually reap corruption, and “the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7-8).

But what’s Paul saying when He says that because these believers were steadfast in all their persecutions and afflictions that it was evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that they may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God?

Is the righteous judgment referring to the future judgment when Christ returns? If so, how does that play into being considered worthy of the kingdom now? Is it the fact that they won’t stand in judgment then?

And is that worthiness of the kingdom earned because of their steadfastness? Hmm. I don’t think so.

Or, is the righteous judgment of God His sovereign determination that those He saves are those who stand? That those who are worthy of the kingdom are worthy because the gospel of grace makes men and women fit for the kingdom as evidenced by how they’re able to weather suffering for the kingdom? That the gospel is kingdom power for kingdom people to thrive amidst counter-kingdom pressure. As such, it is evidence, it is testimony, to the righteous decision by God to separate, even now, the sheep from the goats through trials which manifest faithfulness to the Great Shepherd. A faithfulness not sourced in man’s ability but in the gospel’s power to save and to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). I’m thinkin . . .

Not really sure all that this verse is saying. Don’t really find myself with the words to articulate the nuances I sense are contained within it. But confident that light will become increasingly light. And resting that God’s righteous judgments are indeed righteous judgments — that our worthiness for the kingdom is because we are in Him and, through Him we have the power to stand for Him. And anticipating that day when Jesus comes, justice prevails, and that which we see today “in a mirror dimly” will be fully known, even as we are fully known, when we behold Him face to face (1Cor. 13:12).

For now, content just to chew on this verse for a bit even as I seek, by His enabling, to stand steadfast for the Lord.

By His grace. For His glory.

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He Will Surely Do It

If I’m parsing it up right, my last reading in 1Thessalonians starts with sixteen charges to this body of believers. Sure, a couple of them are more along the line of “asks”, but the clear majority are commands and imperatives. Sixteen of them in eleven verses.

Everything from respecting church leadership, to admonishing the idle, to encouraging the fainthearted, to being patient with everybody. From rejoicing always, to praying without ceasing, to not quenching the Spirit, to holding fast to what is good and abstaining from every kind of evil. Talk about your holy honey-do list! I noodle on it for a bit and another verse comes to mind, “Who is sufficient for such things?” (2Cor. 2:16).

But then this . . .

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

(1Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)

Reminded that I’m called to cooperation but God is responsible for sanctification. That I’m to aspire to be holy, but He is the only one who makes things holy. That while I’m to give attention to the honey-do list, ultimately it is my faithful Father who will do it.

Sanctify completely. That’s the endgame. That’s the outcome of the work begun in me on that day I first believed. How far I’ve come since then. But oh, how far I have yet to go. I get it when Paul writes, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own” (Php. 3:12).

Yet, it’s God Himself who will sanctify completely. The Father who has determined to finish the work. The Creator of all things, the Overseer of all things, the Keeper of all things, somehow able to attend to the one thing of my perfected holiness.

How great is our God? Pretty great! How active the agency of the Spirit living in us? Pretty active. How sure can I be that I’ll be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? Pretty sure! Because how powerful is the finished work of the cross? Pretty powerful!

He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

Sixteen commands for me to obey. One God who will sanctify me completely. Sixteen to do’s which I know, because of the weakness of my flesh, will trip me up from time to time. But one God who is faithful. More to do’s than I can possibly get “to done” on my own. But one great promise that He will do it.

He will surely do it.

By His grace. For his glory.

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