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Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, December 26, 2022

Boxing Day – Christmas is Over But the New Life Continues - Purity 924

Boxing Day – Christmas is Over But the New Life Continues -   Purity 924

Purity 924 12/26/2022  Purity 924 Podcast

Purity 924 on YouTube:



Good morning,

Today’s photo of blue and cloud filled skies over my neighbor’s old barn and a snow bordered Waite Rd comes to us from yours truly as I thought to bring my phone with me yesterday as I took the dog for a walk and decided to capture some sights from the journey along the way.    

Well, It’s Christmas – Observed Holiday - Monday – and while a good deal of us will have the grace and mercy of a three day weekend because Christmas fell on a Sunday, that won’t be the case for all of us. I offer the following to employers who have the unenviable task of having to call their workers back to reality today, you can text or send the following:

“Christmas Day is Christmas Day,

but if it’s not the 25th,

you’re expected to work today!”

While I had a positively blissful Christmas Day, as TammyLyn and I spent our first Christmas together as man and wife in relative solitude and peace, and will be enjoying the day off today because of the “legal holiday observance” today, a part of me is just as happy that Christmas is over! 

While some have told me in the last 24 hours that “Christmas lasts until New Year’”s and I don’t want to start a fight, I have to keep it real and tell you that no matter what time off you have or what Christmas themed activities you may persist in for the next week, “It’s over Johnny… Christmas is OVER!

Today is “Boxing Day”, DING-DING, so rejoice over your cherished memories of holiday bliss or pack up your disappointments and bind them in your “bitterness box” or exchange them for store credit at your local or online retailer but either way don’t deceive yourself by living in some temporary state of denial by being oppressed by a false spirit of Christmas cheer.  

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to rain on your parade of peace or try to discourage you from enjoying today or any other time off you may have off this week.  Trust me, I have been blessed with being able to arrange from a Christmas to New Years Staycation and will be utilizing every bit of the time to rest, relax, and reflect on the year that was 2022 and to look ahead to what the new year will bring.  I just don’t want to encourage anyone to deny reality in the name of the “holiday spirit” that will cause us to lose focus on what’s important to us and to overindulge the flesh. 

Remember the definition of a “sin” is to “miss the mark” – to veer of course of what God would have us do, to do things that directly go against God’s word, create idols out of other things, or to leave undone the good works that God has prepared for us.  While it is fully acceptable to enjoy a holiday feast and some childish antics, on Christmas Day, it is not necessarily wise to “treat every day like Christmas” if that means we persist in walking in the flesh or leaving responsibilities undone.  

I feasted and admittedly made some Jolly borderline jokes over the course of the last 48 hours that were acceptable for the holiday celebration but if I persisted in acting like I did on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I would soon feel that I have deceived myself and have sabotaged my efforts to establish and progress in a lifestyle that promotes good physical, mental, and spiritual health.  

God’s ways are higher than are ways and even though the ways of the world and the tendency to “do what ever I want, when I want” may not always seem sinister if we fail to follow the Lord faithfully, we will experience the negative consequences of going astray.  Extra pounds, physical and mental pain, possible depression, guilt, and spiritual dryness are all waiting for those who walk in the flesh for too long and I’m telling myself and all my friends to forget the holly and the folly of the traps that “secular Christmas” has sprung on us and to get back on track by walking and talking with God by being aware of what we are doing and agreeing to walk in the Spirit from this day forward. 

Unfortunately, the spirit of peace that we establish in dealing with our secular friends and family can easily lead us to compromise our convictions and give people the impression that we aren’t any different, and thus our faith is merely one option of many ways to live, and that choosing a lifestyle of saintliness over sin is no better, and thus extremely puzzling.   In the name of Christmas, I tried to be friendly and accepting and fear that my efforts could easily lead some to feel that I have no objection to the way they live and maybe that “my faith” is as much a curse as a blessing as it “prevents” me from “being free” like them.  

I won’t name names but I have friends and family that are living far from God and whose lifestyles go directly against what God’s word says and when I reflect upon the fact they would enthusiastically celebrate “Christmas” but would fail to follow the ways of the reason for the season it causes me great pain to contemplate their spiritual blindness and their final destination.  

I can easily imagine Christ telling many “Christmas” enthusiasts that He never knew them. Jesus warned those who enjoyed feasts with Him and who heard His words but never obeyed them about the dangers of hell. 

Luke 13:26-28 (NLT2)
26  Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27  And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’
28  “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out.

Bible verses like these and the scores of others that indicate that our saving relationship with the Lord includes the fruit of obedience to His commands caused me to see that I needed to repent and to forsake my “walking in the flesh”.

I can’t think of anything more tragic than people who had enthusiastically celebrated “Christmas” each year of their lives coming to the shocking realization that their participation in religious traditions and holiday celebrations didn’t establish their peace and new life with God. Those “going through the motions” of faith at Christmas or Easter time to satisfy a familial or religious obligation will discover that the what they always suspected was true. They really weren’t a Christian. They worshipped other things, philosophies, or themselves but they never put their faith in Christ in any real way and the lack of the fruit of the Spirit or good works that would give glory to God and specifically point to Jesus in their lives will testify against them.  

Faith in Christ is a matter of life and death.

So with Christmas being over today.  Let’s remember to keep on walking and talking with God.

If Christmas caused you to stray from your faith a little bit by indulging in flesh or by making peace with people who live in darkness in the spirit of the holiday, show the authenticity of your faith by recommitting yourself to walk in the Spirit and to seek the Lord’s presence and purpose for you in the last days of this year and the year ahead.  

If Christmas caused you to draw closer to God, even if it was just for a moment in church or through reflecting on the mystery of our faith,  consider that to be the Lord’s call on your life to worship Him in spirit and in truth, to make Christ you Lord and Savior and to follow Him with the way you live your life.   

Or if you just went through the motions and didn’t really get anything out of Christmas and have some real doubts of whether you believe at all, or know that you don’t believe, if you’ve read this far, I have to believe that a part of you wants to believe, that you want to live. To you I would ask you to pray to God to reveal Himself to you and would invite you to diligently pursue the truth about Christianity and to follow wherever the evidence leads you.  

The word tells us the if we seek the Lord we will find Him and if we follow the Lord we will live and experience the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  

While it may be harsh to declare that Christmas is over, I want to be clear that “The Day” may be over but our lives in Christ never end and the peace, love, and joy of the Spirit will be with us all the days of our lives when we follow Him.  

Somebody told me that the Christmas songs on a pop station that we have been listening to would continue until New Years.  Because Christmas is over and because it’s back to “life and back to reality” for me as I will resume the disciplines of a Christian Discipleship as per usual on a Monday morning, I was up early and discovered that this “fact” about the pop station was false. 

Although this station was playing a steady stream of “holiday songs” since before Thanksgiving, I’m not the only one declaring the Christmas party to be over, as I was greeted by Wilson Philip’s “Hold On” this morning.  While the lyrics are partly right that “there is pain” and that we do play a part in changing our lives, it really depends on what we are “holding on to” that will make the difference in whether we will live. 

If we are holding on to pleasant circumstances or the way of the world, we will see eventually that we were holding on to nothing of value.  

But if we hold onto our faith in Christ and to our commitment to follow Him where ever He leads us, we will discover our life and purpose with Him goes on forever.   

So let go of that which is fading away and hold on to what matters, The Day is over and while we can play and enjoy Christmas like a child, the Lord never called us to stay that way.    

I’m taking a vacation from sharing the “Bible Verse of the Day from the “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”, again. But I would invite you to read  the “20 Christmas Bible Verses” that was compiled by Concordia University’s Adriana Thompson last year, by clicking on the link you will find on today’s blog.  (https://www.concordia.edu/blog/20-christmas-bible-verses.html).  I share it this one last time, because I am on vacation, and because some of us really need to know that Christmas isn’t about the things of this world and it is my hope that the Holy Spirit will use His word to light a spark of faith in someone who seeks God here.

___________________________________________

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship

Chapter Twelve

The Saints, concludes

 

The sanctification of the church-community thus proves itself by a conduct which is worthy of the gospel. The church-community produces the fruit of the Spirit and is subject to the discipline of the scriptural word. In all that, it remains the church-community of those whose sanctification is Christ alone (1 Cor. 1:30) and who journey toward the day of his coming.

This brings us to the third hallmark of true sanctification. All sanctification is directed toward being able to stand firm on the day of Jesus Christ. “Pursue … holiness[,] without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Sanctification always relates to the end of time. Its goal is not to pass the test when judged by the world or even by the person being sanctified, but to pass the test before the Lord. In their own eyes and in the eyes of the world the holiness of the saints may appear as sin, their faith as unbelief, their love as cruelty, and their discipline as weakness. Their true holiness remains hidden. But Jesus Christ himself is preparing his church-community so that it will be able to stand before him. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25–27; Col. 1:22; Eph. 1:4). Only the sanctified church-community is able to stand before Jesus Christ. He who reconciled God’s enemies and laid down his life for the godless did this in order that his church-community remain holy unto the day of his second coming. This happens by the church being sealed with the Holy Spirit. The saints are being sealed within the church-community’s realm of holiness and preserved unto the day of Jesus Christ. On that day they are not to be found defiled and full of shame, but they will appear before him holy and blameless in spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11). Therefore, do not count on God’s grace if you intend to persist in sin! On the day of Jesus Christ only the sanctified church-community will escape the wrath of God. For the Lord will judge us each according to our works without partiality.[88] For each person’s works will become apparent, and to each the Lord will give “recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:6ff.; Matt. 16:27). Whatever has not already received its judgment here on earth will not remain hidden on judgment day, but must come to light. Who will then stand firm? Those whose works are found to be good. Not the hearers but the doers of the law shall be justified (Rom. 2:13). According to the Lord’s own saying, only those who do the will of his heavenly Father shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

Since we shall be judged according to our works, we stand under the command to do the ‘good work’. The fears we have about doing good works as a pretext to justify our evil works[91] is a notion which certainly is foreign to scripture. Scripture never sets faith over against the good work which hinders and destroys faith. Grace and deeds belong together. There is no faith without the good work, just as there is no good work without faith. [92] Christians need to do good works for the sake of their salvation. For whoever is found doing evil works shall not see the kingdom of God. Thus the good work is the goal of being a Christian. In this life, there is only one thing of real importance, namely, how we can give a good account of ourselves in the last judgment. And because all persons will be judged according to their works, it is of utmost importance that Christians be prepared to do good works. Thus our becoming a new creation in Christ also has as its goal the doing of good works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are God’s work, created in Christ Jesus for good works, for which God has prepared us beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph. 2:8–10; cf. 2 Tim. 2:21; 3:17; Titus 1:16; 3:1, 8, 14). On this point everything is crystal clear. Our goal is to do the good work which God demands. God’s law remains in effect and must be fulfilled (Rom. 3:31). This is being accomplished through the good work. However, there is but one work which deserves that designation, namely, God’s work in Christ Jesus. We have been saved through God’s own work in Christ, rather than through our own works. Thus we never derive any glory from our own works, for we ourselves are God’s work. But this is why we have become a new creation in Christ: to attain good works in him.

All our good works are nothing but God’s own good works for which God has already prepared us. Thus good works are, on the one hand, demanded of us for the sake of our salvation; and they are, on the other hand, always only the works which God is doing in us. They are God’s gift. It is indeed we who are required to persist in carrying out good works; it is we who are called to good works at any moment. And yet we know that with our good works we could never stand fast before God’s judgment, but that it is Christ alone and his work to which we cling in faith. Thus to those who are in Christ Jesus, God promises good works with which they will be able to stand fast on that day; God promises to preserve them in the state of sanctification unto the day of Jesus. All we can do is to trust in this promise of God because it is God’s word, and then go and persist in carrying out the good works for which God has prepared us.

Our good work is thus completely hidden from our eyes. Our sanctification remains hidden from us until the day when everything will be revealed. Those who attempt to see something here, who want to see their own identity revealed rather than wait in patience, will already have had their reward. In the very midst of the presumably visible progress in our sanctification in which we would like to rejoice, we are most of all called to repent and to recognize our works as thoroughly sinful. However, we are called to rejoice ever more in our Lord. God alone knows our good works, while we know only God’s good work and listen to God’s command. We journey under God’s grace, we walk in God’s commandments, and we sin. There is indeed no denying the fact that the new righteousness, the sanctification, the light which ought to shine remains completely hidden from us. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. But we have faith and trust that “the one who began the good work in us will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). On that day, Jesus Christ himself will reveal to us the good works of which we had been unaware. Without knowing it, we have fed him, provided him with drink, given him clothes, and visited him; and without knowing it, we have turned him away. On that day, we will be greatly astonished, and we will recognize that it is not our works which endure here but only the work which God, in God’s own time, accomplished through us without our intention and effort (Matt. 25:31ff.). Once again, the only thing left for us is to look away from ourselves and to look to the one who has already accomplished everything for us, and to follow this one.

Those who have faith are being justified; those who are justified are being sanctified; those who are sanctified are being saved on judgment day. This is not because our faith, our righteousness, and our sanctification, to the extent that they are ours, would be anything other than sin. Rather, it is because Jesus Christ has been made our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that those who boast, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30).[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

 Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 275–280. 

 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas! Do You See What I See? Do You Hear What I Hear? - Purity 923

Merry Christmas! Do You See What I See? Do You Hear What I Hear?   -   Purity 923

Purity 923 12/24/2022  Purity 923 Podcast

Purity 923 on YouTube: 



Good morning,

Today’s photo of Pastor Jaron Halsted, Pastor Tom Mollo and his son, Tommy Jr, taking in the amazing view of elephants on shoreline of the African plains while atop a riverboat gliding down the Chobe River comes to us from yours truly as I captured this photo of what I later described as an “African Snow Globe” while on a vacation two week mission trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe back in February of 2016. With our mission of construction projects and preaching at various churches and schools accomplished, our team treated ourselves to two days of rest, one spent at Victoria Falls and another on Safari at the Chobe National Park in Botswana. 

I’m sharing the video of my testimony that I gave at church describing this scene on the blog today. If you want to see what I looked like then and hear what I had to say. I didn’t rewatch the video but I’m pretty sure I said something to encourage others to seek the Lord and to follow His call on our lives.  


A lot has changed since that trip to Africa, Tommy Jr, for instance has grown taller that all of us, graduated high school, and just this summer returned to Zambia to do building dormitories for a Bible college. I’m sharing a video of the work he did there on the blog today to celebrate this young man’s adventurous and faithful heart.
 


And that’s not all, this amazing young man of God will be going back as he has made the decision to answer the Lord’s call on his life and enter the mission field full time in February. I’m including a link on the blog today if the Lord moves you to support him: https://donorbox.org/tommy-mollo-s-campaign

A lot can change in a relatively short time and the Lord may direct our paths to places we never would have expected.

Before coming to Christ I never imagined I would go to Africa or on a mission trip anywhere, but in Christ I did that and so much more.  

After finding a church home at Rock Solid Church in Hudson, where Pastor Halsted and Pastor Mollo still faithfully serve, I never imagined I would ever leave. After finding a church community in which I could, worship, serve, and grow, I never thought I would go anywhere else and at various times imagined how the church would grow as I remained serving there. But just like Tommy Mollo Jr was called to the African Mission field, the Lord arranged the events in my life to bring me to lead an online discipleship course for Freedom in Christ Ministries, to blog and podcast my walk of faith, which just happened to lead me to the Christian wife I prayed for, and a new church home, Starpoint Church in Clifton Park, where I will be serving today as a member of the prayer team!

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, so Merry Christmas! The Christmas song, “Do You Hear what I hear is running through my mind this morning because it’s Christmas Time and because I want to wish all who hear or see this message a merry Christmas, I want to share it’s lyrics:

 

"Do You Hear What I Hear"

Said the night wind to the little lamb

"Do you see what I see?

Way up in the sky, little lamb

Do you see what I see?

 

A star, a star

Dancing in the night

With a tail as big as a kite

With a tail as big as a kite."

 

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy

"Do you hear what I hear?

Do you hear what I hear?

Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy

Do you hear what I hear?

Do you hear what I hear?

 

A song, a song

High above the trees

With a voice as big as the sea

With a voice as big as the sea."

 

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king

"Do you know what I know?

Do you know what I know?

In your palace warm, mighty king

Do you know what I know?

Do you know what I know?

 

A child, a child

Shivers in the cold

Let us bring him silver and gold

Let us bring him silver and gold."

 

Said the king to the people everywhere

"Listen to what I say

Listen to what I say

Pray for peace, people, everywhere

Listen to what I say

Listen to what I say

 

The child, the child

Sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light

He will bring us goodness and light."

 

He will bring us goodness and light”

This song not only highlights the events of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ but it also highlights His call – the star, the voice, the invitation to know what I know) and His promise to bring, peace, goodness, and light. 

I’m not sure if you “see what I see” or if “you hear what I hear” in this song but let me tell you what I know:  It’s ALL TRUE – ITS ALL REAL – for like – FOR REALLY REAL. 

GOD is Real, Jesus is Real. The Holy Spirit is Real.  They – He – God  is alive and well and is calling us to experience His peace, His goodness, and His light.

The shepherd’s trusted the angels and followed their directions and found Jesus. 

The wise men followed a star and found Jesus.  

God’s gift to mankind and God’s gift to you is not lying under a Christmas tree. God’s gift to you is Jesus and the new abundant life that is available to you when you:

A.    Put Your Faith in Christ as Lord and Savior

B.    Follow Him – through His word and His call on your life, every day.  

While we won’t get anywhere without taking that first step of faith, we really need to take that second instruction seriously and enjoy the gift we have received, continuously.

Jesus and our life of faith isn’t something we are only supposed to drag out and enjoy a few times a year or weekly at church. Our new life in Christ is the gift that keeps on giving and should be ‘played” with daily.  

The promises of peace, goodness, and light come from walking in the Spirit, living continuously according to God’s wisdoms and ways and spending time in His presence.

So rejoice that the new born king has come and given us the gift of a new eternal life through his exemplary, sinless life, death, and resurrection.  And follow that star, answer that call, and seek God’s will for your life so you can “see what He wants you to see”, “hear what He wants you to hear” and “to know what He wants you to know.”  

Simply put keep walking and talking with God and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Enjoy the Gift of the Wonderful Life we have in Christ Alone!

God bless us, everyone!

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I’m taking a vacation from sharing the “Bible Verse of the Day from the “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”, again. But I would invite you to read  the “20 Christmas Bible Verses” that was compiled by Concordia University’s Adriana Thompson last year, by clicking on the link you will find on today’s blog.  (https://www.concordia.edu/blog/20-christmas-bible-verses.html)

 

--------------------------------------------------------

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship

Chapter Twelve

The Saints, continues

 

What is the meaning of fruit? The “works” of the flesh are many, but there is only one “fruit” of the Spirit. Works are accomplished by human hands, but the fruit sprouts and grows without the tree knowing it. Works are dead, but fruit is alive and the bearer of seeds which themselves produce new fruit. Works can exist on their own, but fruit cannot exist without a tree. Fruit is always something full of wonder, something that has been created. It is not something willed into being, but something that has grown organically. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of which God is the sole source. Those bearing this fruit are as unaware of it as a tree is of its fruit. The only thing they are aware of is the power of the one from whom they receive their life. There is no room for praise here, but only the ever more intimate union with the source, with Christ. The saints themselves are unaware of the fruit of sanctification they bear. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. If they become curious to know something in this matter, if they decide to engage in self-contemplation, then they would have already torn themselves away from the root and their time of bearing fruit would have passed. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22). It is this passage that sheds the clearest light on the sanctification of the individual, as well as on the holiness of the church-community. The source of both of them is one and the same, namely, community with Christ, community in one and the same body. Just as the separation from the world is visibly accomplished only in an ongoing struggle, so personal sanctification also consists in the struggle of the Spirit against the flesh. In their own lives, only the saints see strife, hardship, weakness, and sin. And the more maturity they gain in the state of sanctification, the more they recognize themselves as being overcome, as those who are dying according to the flesh. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). They still live in the flesh. But because of this very fact, their whole life must now be an act of faith in the Son of God who has begun his own life in them (Gal. 2:20). Christians die daily (1 Cor. 15:31). Even if their flesh is suffering and passing away, their inner being will be restored day by day (2 Cor. 4:6). The dying of the saints according to their flesh is grounded solely in the fact that through the Holy Spirit Christ has begun his own life in them. The saints die in Christ and in his life. Now they no longer need to seek their own self-chosen sufferings with which once again simply to reassure themselves in their flesh. Christ is their daily death and their daily life.

This is why they can fully rejoice in the fact that those who are born of God are no longer able to sin, that sin no longer rules over them, that they have died to sin and now live in the Spirit.[18] “There is therefore nothing to condemn in those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). God is pleased with God’s saints. For it is none other than God who is at work in their struggle and their dying. In so doing, God brings their sanctification to fruition. The saints should be completely confident that there is fruit, even though it remains deeply hidden from them. However, this does not mean—under the umbrella of the message of forgiveness—that fornication, greed, and hatred of human kindred could once again take hold within the Christian community. It is also wrong to think that the fruit of sanctification could remain invisible. But even where it does become widely visible, where the world, when looking at the Christian community, is compelled to say, as in the earliest days of Christianity, “See how they love one another,”[57] it is especially there that the saints will look exclusively and constantly to the one to whom they belong. And, unaware of their goodness, they will ask for the forgiveness of their sins. These very same Christians, who embrace the truth that sin no longer rules over them and that the believer no longer sins, will also confess that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just in forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and God’s word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is the righteous one” (1 John 1:8–2:1). “Forgive us our sins” is what the Lord himself has taught them to pray. And he instructed them to forgive one another without ceasing (Eph. 4:32; Matt. 18:21ff.). By forgiving one another in brotherly and sisterly love, Christians make room for forgiveness by Jesus within their community. They no longer see the other as the one who has harmed them, but as the one for whom Christ has interceded on the cross pleading for forgiveness. They encounter one another as those who have been sanctified by the cross of Christ. Through dying daily under this cross, their thinking, speaking, and their bodies are being sanctified. It is under this cross that the fruit of sanctification grows.

The community of saints is not the ‘ideal’ church-community of the sinless and the perfect. It is not the church-community of those without blemish, which no longer provides room for the sinner to repent. Rather it is the church-community that shows itself worthy of the gospel of the forgiveness of sins by truly proclaiming God’s forgiveness, which has nothing to do with forgiving oneself. It is the community of those who have truly experienced God’s costly grace, and who thereby live a life worthy of the gospel which they neither squander nor discard.

This implies that forgiveness can only be preached within the church-community of saints, where repentance also is being preached; where the gospel is not separated from the proclamation of the law; and where sins are not only and unconditionally forgiven, but where they also are retained. For it is the will of our Lord himself not to give what is holy, the gospel, to dogs, but to preach it only under the safeguard of the call for repentance. A church-community which does not call sin sin will likewise be unable to find faith when it wants to grant forgiveness of sin. It commits a sin against what is holy; it leads a life unworthy of the gospel. It is an unholy church-community because it squanders the Lord’s costly forgiveness. It is not enough to lament the general sinfulness of human beings, even within their good works; that is not preaching of repentance. Rather, specific sins have to be named, punished, and sentenced. That is the proper use of the power of the keys (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23) which the Lord entrusted to his church, and about which the reformers still spoke so emphatically. The key that binds and retains sins must be employed within the church-community, too, not only for the sake of what is holy, but also for the sake of the sinners, and for the sake of the church-community itself. For the church-community to live a life worthy of the gospel, it must maintain the practice of church discipline. Just as sanctification brings about the separation of the church-community from the world, so it must also bring about the separation of the world from the church-community. One without the other will remain spurious and false. Being separated from the world, the church-community must exercise internal church discipline.

The aim of church discipline is not to create a community of those who are perfect. Its sole aim is to build up a community of those who truly live under God’s forgiving mercy. Sinners within the church-community must be warned and disciplined, so that they not forfeit their salvation and thereby misuse the gospel. The baptismal grace can be received only by those who repent and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. The grace of the Lord’s Supper can be received only by those who are “able to distinguish” (1 Cor. 11:29) between the true body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and some other meal which may have a symbolic meaning or some other kind of character. This, in turn, implies one’s being able to give evidence of one’s understanding of the faith. It implies that we either “examine” ourselves or submit to an examination by another Christian to determine whether we truly desire Christ’s body and blood, and his forgiveness. This faith examination [Glaubensverh√∂r] is coupled with confession [Beichte], in which Christians seek and receive the assurance that their sins are forgiven. Here God provides the sinner with the help to avoid the danger of self-deception and self-forgiveness. In the confession of sin before another Christian, the flesh dies together with its pride. It is surrendered into shame and death with Christ, and through the word of forgiveness a new human being who is confident of God’s mercy comes into being. The use of confession thus needs to be part of the life of the saints. It is a gift of God’s grace whose misuse cannot go unpunished. In confession, we receive God’s costly grace. Here Christians become like Christ in his death. “Therefore, when I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian” (Luther, Larger Catechism).

The whole life of the church-community is permeated by discipline. There is an order of gradual levels, the reason for which is that discipline is to be exercised in the service of mercy. The proclamation of the word with regard to both keys remains the sole basis for exercising church discipline. This proclamation is not confined to congregational worship services. Rather, the bearer of church office is never relieved of this commission. “Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; exercise discipline, warn, and exhort[66] with the utmost patience in teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the first level of church discipline. It ought to be immediately obvious that only such sins can be punished here that have become public. “The sins of some people are conspicuous so that they can be judged beforehand, while the sin of others will only become apparent later” (1 Tim. 5:24). Church discipline thus spares the sinner from the punishment of the last judgment.

However, if church discipline already falters on this first level, namely, the office bearer’s daily pastoral ministry, then everything that follows is thereby open to question. For the second level is for members of the church-community mutually to admonish one another as brothers and sisters: “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 14). Admonition also includes comforting the fainthearted, supporting the weak, and being patient with all people (1 Thess. 5:14). For this is obviously the only way to struggle against daily temptation in the church-community and against falling away from it altogether.

Where such mutual brotherly and sisterly service is no longer alive in the church-community, it will also be hardly possible to reach the third level in the right way. For if a member of the community nevertheless commits a sin of word or deed which becomes known, then the community must have the strength to initiate the process of real church discipline against this member. That process also is a long journey. First, the church-community has to muster the courage to separate itself from the sinner. “Have nothing to do with that person” (2 Thess. 3:14); “part company with them” (Rom. 16:17); “do not even eat with such a one” (Lord’s Supper?) (1 Cor. 5:11); “avoid them” (2 Tim. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:5). “Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (!), to keep away from believers who lead a disorderly life and not according to the tradition they received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6). This course of action by the church-community is intended to let the sinners “blush with shame” (2 Thess. 3:14) in order to win them back. It certainly also includes their temporary exclusion from the activities of the church-community. However, this avoidance of known sinners is not yet meant to be a complete suspension of any community with them. Rather, the church-community which separates itself from the sinners is called to continue to confront them with the word of admonition. “Do not regard them as enemies, but admonish them as believers” (2 Thess. 3:15). The sinners still remain believers, and for that very reason they receive the discipline and admonition of the church-community. Church discipline flows out of merciful human kinship [Br√ľderlichkeit]. It is with gentleness that the defiant must be disciplined and the wicked be borne, so that “God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, turn sober again, and escape from the snare of the devil, allowing themselves to be held captive by God to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25f.). The form of this admonition will have to vary depending on the individual sinner. But the goal of leading the sinner to repentance and reconciliation will always be the same. If a sin can be kept in confidence between you and the sinner, then you shall not make it public. Rather you ought to exercise discipline and ask that person to repent in private, and thereby “you have regained a brother or sister.”[73] But if that person does not listen to you and persists in her or his sin, then you should, again, not make the sin public but try to find one or two other private witnesses (Matt. 18:15f.). Witnesses are first of all necessary to corroborate the fact of a sin having been committed. If the facts cannot be proven, and the person denies them, then the whole case should be left up to God. The witnesses are not inquisitors! The second reason to find additional witnesses is the sinner’s stubborn refusal to repent. The secrecy with which the discipline is exercised is intended to make repentance easier for the sinner. If the person in question still refuses to listen, or if the sin has by now already become public knowledge within the church anyway, then it is up to the whole church-community to admonish and call on the sinner to repent (Matt. 18:17; cf. 2 Thess. 3:14). Those sinners that hold an office within the church ought to be put on trial only if the accusation is brought by two or three witnesses. “As for those who sin,[75] rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5:20). Now it is the entire church-community, together with the ordained minister, which is called upon to exercise the office of the keys. This public declaration requires that both the church-community itself and its ordained minister be publicly represented. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels, I implore you to keep these instructions without prejudice, doing nothing on the basis of partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21), for now God’s own judgment is about to be passed on the sinner. If the sinners repent, and publicly confess their sins, then they are granted the forgiveness of all their sins in the name of God (cf. 2 Cor. 2:6ff.). But if the sinners persist in their sin, the church-community must retain their sin in the name of God. This, however, entails exclusion from all forms of life together with the church-community. “Let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.… for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:18ff.). The exclusion from the church-community merely confirms an already existing fact, namely, that these are unrepentant sinners who are “self-condemned” (Titus 3:11). It is not the church-community which passes judgment on them; rather, they have passed judgment on themselves. Paul speaks of this complete exclusion from the church as a handing-“over to Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20). The guilty persons [Schuldige] are being handed back to the world where Satan reigns and causes death. (Here, Paul does not think of capital punishment as in Acts 5, as is evident when comparing 1 Tim. 1:20 with 2 Tim. 2:17 and 4:15.) The offenders have been expelled from the body of Christ because they have separated themselves from it. They no longer possess any rightful claim with regard to the church-community. However, even this ultimate act exclusively serves the goal of salvation for the persons concerned, that their “spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5), and that through being disciplined “they may learn not to blaspheme anymore” (1 Tim. 1:20) For sinners to be restored to the church-community or to find salvation remains the goal of church discipline. It remains a pedagogical act. The declaration of the church-community will certainly stand for eternity if the sinner does not repent. However, this declaration with which the church-community must take away the sinner’s salvation is just as certainly the final offer of life together with the church-community and of salvation. 19 [1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

 Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 266–274.


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Bible Study with the Cincotti's - It's a Tree of Life! - 12/18/2022


 

Today's Bible Study, Authored by Arthur Cincotti. 12/18/2022

Listen to our Bible Study Discussion at: It's a Tree of Life! Podcast

Or watch the Video Zoom Session of our Study on YouTube: 





It’s a Tree of Life!

 

         “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,

           and he who wins souls is wise”    Prov. 11:30

 

For those of you who have already nailed your pagan, Druid evergreen tree to the living room floor, rest easy; were going to temper that notion today.

 

Trees have an important role in God’s economy. By Gen. 2 we encounter the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.

 

Though the birth narrative doesn’t involve a tree directly, we are pretty certain that Jesus was laid in a wooden manger, and that Joseph was a carpenter; not incidental details.

 

The trade of carpenter, in Jesus time was a somewhat different designation than we are accustom to today. He certainly didn’t have one of those cool, Dewalt impact drivers like the one I hope to get.

The word in Greek; “tekton” means a craftsman in wood. This could include, instruments for agriculture such as a yoke, or handles for sickles and hoes, plows, but also some wooden furniture, doors and wooden roofs. One source, citing an ancient papyri indicating that a carpenter could earn 50 denari a month, which was as much as a mason and twice as much as a shepherd, or water carrier.

 

Articles made of wood require the death of a tree.

 

In Rev. 7:2,3, an angel, “cried with a loud voice to the four angels to       whom it was granted to have the earth and the sea, saying,’Do not    harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the       servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Prov. 3:18, “She (wisdom) is a tree of life to those who take hold of her.”

Prov. 15:4, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life”

Prov. 13:12, “But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

         As a woodworker myself I have often thought, I take trees and refashion them into something useful for man. God takes us and refashions us into someone glorifying to Himself. In both cases, the refashioning requires a death.

 

Britannica: “The modern Christmas tree originated in western Germany. The main prop in a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a ‘paradise tree,’ a fir tree hung with apples, that represented the Garden of Eden.” ..the Christmas tree was popularized in the mid-19th cen. by German-born Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

 

Hosea 14 speaks of “Israel Restored at Last”

         1. “O Israel, return to the LORD your God.

             For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.

         4. I will heal their backsliding

             I will Love them freely

             My anger has turned away from him.

         8. Ephraim shall say

             ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’

             I have heard and observed him.

             I am like a green cypress tree;

             Your fruit is found in Me.”

 

In vrs. 8 God Himself promises to be an evergreen place of shelter for Ephraim. “Your fruit is found in Me.” is a promise to us as well.

 

Before, Israel made idols of wood (Is. 44:13-17) and Ps. 115:4-8

 

Please don’t worship your Christmas tree, or any of the trappings of the season. Worship Christ alone, as the “wise men” did; “For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” Mt. 2:2

 

He was laid in a wooden manger, destine to face a more notorious piece of wood, the cross, in order to rescue us from the bondage of sin and death. He was sent on a rescue mission!

 

Rev. 22:2, “in the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

 

(https://www.britannica.com/plant/Christmas-tree)  

-----Join us for another Bible Study Next Week -------

or

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

 

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship