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5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity

Are you growing in your walk with Christ? If you were the topic of a poll question and 100 people who know you well were asked, “Is he/she a mature believer?”, what percentage would answer “Yes”? What does a mature believer look like? Is spiritual maturity measurable?

I recently read an article by Clint Arch that addressed this subject. I’ve provided a summary of his comments below. Mature believers possess these 5 indicators…

1. An Appetite for Meat

It’s good to enjoy the milk of the gospel with every meal. But some Christians pride themselves on focusing only on the gospel, snubbing the offer of deeper doctrines. The love of doctrine may need to be acquired over time, but it will always be there in a mature believer.

Read and meditate on Hebrew 5.11-14. An infant’s meal needs to go through a blender for the first few months of his or her life. When a normal 21 year old still asks mommy to spoon feed him mashed potatoes, it’s creepy and dysfunctional.

2. An Imperviousness to Personal Offence

It is seldom that a mature believer feels offended. Offence is appropriate at any attack on God’s glory, as when the zeal of God’s house consumed Jesus and he aimed an Indiana Jones whip at the overpriced animals in the Temple’s corrupt commercial zone.

But a mature believer doesn’t take personal offense easily. They understand that when someone sins against them, there are bigger issues at stake than their personal rights; e.g. God’s glory, the attacker’s relationship with God, etc.

Take Paul. When he could no longer draw a crowd (being in jail for the gospel and all) rival preachers were pouring salt on his shackle-blisters by preaching the gospel in competition with him. He didn’t get uppity. Instead he seemed buoyed by the news that the gospel was still getting airtime (Philippians 1.15-18). That’s maturity!

3. A Conscience Informed by Scripture, not Opinions

When you are first saved, it is natural to have a pendulum swing aversion to anything associated with your former way of life. That can be healthy. But as you mature, you will settle into a more balanced view of liberty. If Jesus says something is okay, then you won’t get upset when some Christians take him up on enjoying that freedom (Romans 14.1-3).

The more you grow in your understanding of grace, the less it grates you that people ignore man-made religious norms. You may still choose to abstain, but your conscience is not plagued by the knowledge that others partake in what you avoid.

4. A Sense of Humble Surprise when used by God in Ministry

God uses sinners to do his work for a good reason: there is no one else from which to choose. Some sinners are used mightily. A mature believer will always feel humbled by his effectiveness in God’s ministry. Often, though, the same privilege will inflate an immature believer’s ego (cf. 1 Timothy 3.6).

Paul’s assumption is that a new convert—who is more likely to be immature—when used by God in ministry, will not possess the sense of surprise and humility that is a sign of maturity.

Compare this to Paul’s own attitude that he is the chief of sinners, used only as means to show the extent of God’s mercy (1 Tim. 1:15). He considered himself the unlikely, unsuitable privy pot that was blessed to temporarily house the priceless treasure of God’s gifts (2 Cor. 4:7).

5. Tendency to give Credit for Spiritual Growth to God, not People

Our world is an arena for idolatry. American Idol is the most aptly named and unblushingly honest tribute to our celebrity culture. Our hearts are geared to adulate and adore. An immature believer struggles to break the habit of idolizing people. He merely transfers his adulation of worldly celebrities onto spiritual celebrities.

Whether it’s a pedestal for his pastor, or an inordinate reverence for John Calvin, or whatever the symptom, immaturity fails to give adequate credence to God’s power at work (1 Corinthians 3.4-7).

What are some other signs of spiritual maturity? Help me add to his list by posting your comments below!

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Posted by on November 26, 2011 in Bible Study, Spiritual Maturity

 

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Whoopie-Do Love?

Any believer reading Luke 6.27-36 would probably agree with my personal assessment: Are you serious, Lord? This is incredibly hard! Lord, You will have to help me, cause I sure can’t love like this without you!

In the middle of Jesus’ declaration about loving others He gives what is commonly referred to as The Golden Rule – “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6.31).

The Golden Rule’s Requirement

It does not promote “back-scratching behavior” – You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.

It does not promote “pre-emptive behavior” – Do unto others before they do unto you.

It does not promote “wait-and-see behavior” – If and when you treat me right, then I’ll do likewise.

It does not promote “hidden-agenda behavior” – I’ll do good to you so that I can get from you what I want later.

No, the Golden Rule has two fundamental requirements:

It requires us to be proactive

One commentator writes, “In its negative form, the Golden Rule could be satisfied by doing nothing. The positive form moves us to action on behalf of others.”

A person living in a coma does not steal, lie or lust and neither does he curse, get angry or start a fight. But, the same person never lends a helping hand, never gives a compliment, never encourages, and never offers a shoulder to cry on.

Therefore, the Golden Rule is not simply a command to avoid unfair treatment that you would not want to receive. Rather, it is a command to give the same sensitive consideration to others that you would want others to give to you.

It requires us to be sensitive

This doesn’t mean that, if you’re quirky and want to be treated quirkily, that you should treat others with you quirks. The rule assumes the note of concern and describes a love that is sensitive to others and aware of their preferences. It could be paraphrased like this: “As you wish to be treated with sensitivity to your preferences, so treat others with sensitivity to their preferences.”

How we treat others is not to be determined by how we expect them to treat us or by how we think they should treat us, but by how we want them to treat us.

You want to be forgiven? Forgive!

You need affirmation? Affirm!

You feel hurt, wounded, broken and could stand a gentle touch? Be gentle with others!

You appreciate tact? Be tactful!

You enjoy a nice compliment? Compliment others!

If you suddenly found yourself in the minority for whatever reason (race, religion, educational status), how would you want the majority to treat you? Then treat the minority the same way when you are in the majority.

Do you want people to think and speak well of you? Do the same.

Do you want people to be critical and faultfinding toward you? Then don’t be that way toward them.

Do you want people to give you the benefit of the doubt? Then give them the same benefit.

Do you want to be loved and respected? Give others the same.

Do you want people praying for you? Pray for them.

Do you want people to tell you the truth? Tell them likewise.

The Golden Rule’s Restrictions

Guess what? There aren’t any! It’s not limited to family, but it certainly includes them. It’s not limited to your church family, but it certainly includes them. It’s not limited to God’s people, but it certainly includes them. It even includes your enemies (6.27-30)!

Paying taxes enables you to fulfill your public debt. Paying your bills allows you to pay off your private debt. However, your primary debt, loving others, is a debt you never finish making payments! That’s what Romans 13.8 teaches: Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The Golden Rule’s Replication

A “replica” is a copy or model of something, especially one on a smaller scale. The Eiffel Tower stands 1063 feet in Paris, France. I’ve never seen it. However, I have been to the King’s Dominion theme park in Richmond, VA, which has a 1/3-scale replica. And, I bought a 1000th scale model from the souvenir shop back when I was a kid!

When the Golden Rule is merely “replicated” is produces what I’m calling Whoopi-do Love. So, you love those who love you? Whoopi-do! Sinners do that! So, you do good to those who do good to you? Whoopi-do! Sinners do that! So you lend money when there are no risks involved? Whoopi-do! Sinners do that!

Bottom line: Golden Rule love (kingdom love) is not everyday, mundane, run-of-the-mill, sinners-do-that-too love!

The Golden Rule’s Reward

Note: Unselfish, kingdom, Golden Rule love does NOT make you a child of God; it proves you are one (35a,b).

There’s the reward of knowing you are being obedient to Scripture and the Lord. There may be the reward of a greater capacity to enjoy Heaven. There’s the reward of being recognized as the sons and daughters of God!

The Golden Rule’s Reflection

When you and I flesh out the Golden Rule we give a “reflection” of our God who wants us to model His treatments of “others” (35c-36).

Notice the parallel between verses 35-36 and Ephesians 4.35-5.2… “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us….”

When you look in the mirror do you see a reflection of the Lord and how He loves?

 

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5 Ways to Love Your Enemies

A truck driver is sitting in a crowded roadside diner ready to eat his lunch. It’s not just any diner and any lunch. It’s his favorite diner on the road and his favorite lunch. Just as the waitress brings the truck driver’s meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans to his table, a motorcycle gang swaggers in the door.

Most of them seat themselves at the table next to the truck driver but there’s not room at that table for all of them. The gang members left standing turn to the truck driver and bark, “Move! We want that table!”

The truck driver calmly says, “I haven’t finished my meal.” One of the motorcycle toughs takes his dirty finger, swipes it through the mashed potatoes and gravy, sticks his finger in his mouth and says, “Hey, not bad grub.” Another gang member takes the trucker’s cup of coffee and slowly pours it over the remaining food on the plate and snarls, “You’re finished now!”

The trucker stands, takes his napkin, wipes his mouth, walks to the cash register, pays for his meal, and silently walks out the door. All the bikers are laughing now.

One of them says, “Ain’t much of a man, is he?” The waitress says, “And he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just backed his rig over your motorcycles.”

So, how do you react to people who make life difficult for you? How do you treat the “jerks” in your life? You know, that naughty neighbor, or that cantankerous co-worker, or that fat-mouthed family member, or that crusty church member.

Luke 6.27-30 has a few things to say about this. And frankly, I do not know of any biblical teaching that is more challenging than what we find in this text. Would you believe the Lord commands us to love our enemies?! That’s exactly what He says in verse 27. I honestly wish the Lord had not said these words. I wish they weren’t part of His expectations for my behavior.

The love we are called to flesh out here is extremely difficult. But it is the appropriate kind of love for a disciple who has experienced God’s forgiveness, someone who is the recipient of the supernatural grace of God.

Five ways to love your enemies…

(1) Do good to them (“do good to those who hate you,” 27b)

A woman wrote to Pulpit Helps to explain an awesome lesson her family experienced…

During one of our family Bible readings as new Christians, we came across the verse in Romans 12.20 which states, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Ours sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were especially puzzled. “Why should you feed your enemy?” they wondered. My husband and I wondered too, but the only answer John could think of to give the boys was, “We’re supposed to because God says so.” It never occurred to us that we would soon learn why.

Day after day John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. “Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn’t looking. One of these days, when we’re out on the playground, I’m going to jab him back.”

I was ready to go down to the school and jab Bob myself. Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn’t Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I’d better give her a verbal jab, too, at the same time!
I was till fuming over this injustice to John Jr. when his 7-year-old brother spoke up: “Maybe he should feed his enemy.” The three of us were startled. None of us were sure about this “enemy” business. It didn’t seem that an enemy would be in the 5th grade.

We all looked at John. Since he was the head of the family, he should come up with the solution. But the only answer he could offer was the same one he had given before: “I guess we should because God said so.”

“Well,” I asked John Jr., “do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you’re going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes.” “Jelly beans,” he almost shouted, “Bob just loves jelly beans.”

So we bought a bag of jellybeans for him to take to school the next day, and decided that the next time Bob jabbed John Jr., John was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his “enemy’s” desk. We would see whether or not this enemy feeding worked.

The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, “It worked, Mom! It worked.” I wanted the details: “What did Bob do? What did he say?”

“He was so surprised he didn’t say anything – he just took the jellybeans. But he didn’t jab me the rest of the day!” In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends – all because of a little bag of jelly beans.

Both of our sons subsequently because missionaries on foreign fields. Their way of showing friendship with any “enemies” of the faith was to invite them into their own homes to share food with them around their own tables.

(2) Speak well of them (“bless those who curse you,” 28a)

“Bless” here is the same word from which we get our English word “eulogize.” When we eulogize someone we speak well of them.

This doesn’t mean that we can never confront someone with their sin and with their misbehavior. But Jesus doesn’t want us fighting verbal fire with fire. He doesn’t want us launching verbal grenades at others, even those who curse us and wished we were damned.

(3) Intercede for them (“pray for those who abuse you,” 28b)

One of the best ways to have a genuine loving attitude toward those who persecute us is to bring them before the Lord in prayer. We can pray for their salvation. We can pray for them to be responsive to God’s Spirit. We can pray that the Lord would perform a life-change in them like we want Him to do in our own lives.

It is impossible to pray for someone without loving him, and impossible to go on praying for him without discovering that our love for him grows and matures.

(4) Retaliate not against them (“to one who strikes you…offer the other cheek,” 29)

Revenge is such a natural response. It’s the default setting of our flesh. Our depraved nature cannot stand being mistreated.

Over 10 years ago, my Sunday newspaper kept being stolen out of its box. One Sunday, while enjoying an after-church-lunch with my family, I looked out the window and noticed a car slowing down. I quickly jumped up, ran to the window, and caught the paper thief in the very act! I spun around, grabbed my car keys, and took off after him…I was determined to get my paper back!

After three right turns, one left turn, and traveling less than a mile, I pulled in right behind the villain. Upon exiting our cars, I asked the guy, “Why have you been stealing my paper?” As he started to deny any wrongdoing, I firmly told him, “I saw you take the paper out of my box!” and then I jerked it out of his little grubby hand, and told him to stop stealing. That’s right…I put him in his place! Nobody’s going to steal my Sunday paper and get away with it!

Well, in retrospect, that was foolish. No, it was plain dumb. Acting the way I did left me with NO opportunity to share the Gospel with him. I miserably failed to demonstrate the kind of love Jesus calls for here in Luke 6.

Imagine how differently things might have gone if, upon arriving at his trailer, I got out and said something like, “Sir, please don’t try to deny it cause I just saw you steal my paper. But I tell you what, since you and I both like to read the Sunday paper, why don’t you let me and my wife read it first, cut out the coupons we want, and then I’ll bring it to you so you can read it? Oh, and by the way, I pastor Unity Church on 14th Street. I’d love for you and your family to be my personal guests one Sunday. You can join us for lunch, and then take the paper with you after the meal.”

Now, for clarification, turning the other cheek is not to turn a blind eye to justice. This command does not prohibit me from calling the authorities and report a robbery or damage to my property. But, the execution of that justice is to be left in the hands of human government (cf. Romans 13.1-5; 12.17-19).

(5) Be generous with them (“give to everyone who begs of you,” 30a)

Christ was not talking about giving handouts to every stranger or beggar around. If every believer did that, then as one write put it, “there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves.”

We are not required to respond to every foolish, selfish request made of us. Plus, we are instructed in 2 Thessalonians 3.10 not to feed a person who can work but refuses to do so.

The implication in this verse is that the person who asks for the money has a genuine need. They may ask for a loan (cf. vv. 34-35) or simply for a sum of money with no intention of paying it back. Jesus says, “Let them have it.”

Help me, Lord!

God, please help me to love like Jesus did! Please help me to love like this passage of Scripture tells me to. Father, help me to die to self, and exhibit the spirit of Jesus on the cross, the spirit of Stephen when being stoned to death, and the spirit of Joseph who, when he could have easily taken revenge upon his hateful brothers, chose to love them instead.

 

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Visualizing the Tapestry of Scripture

A fundamental principle of Bible interpretation is to always interpret Scripture in light of Scripture. In other words, Scripture will always be it’s own best interpreter. Therefore, a quality study Bible will have a significant number of cross-references to assist the reader in understanding a biblical text in light of other verses that compliment, supplement, and/or provide vital historical background of that text.

For example, in Genesis 3.15 God says to the serpent, “he [the seed/offspring of the woman; i.e. Christ] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” A quality study Bible will have cross-references about the “bruising of the head” such as Romans 16.20, Hebrews 2.14, Revelation 21.1-3, 10, signifying the death blow that Jesus Christ dealt to Satan while making atonement for sin on the cross.

My favorite study Bible is the ESV Study Bible. Every page is loaded with tons of helpful study notes and dozens of cross-references. Add all those cross-references together and the ESV Study Bible has over 80,000 of them!

With all these cross-references in mind, Tony Reinke, in a recent blog, writes: A few years back Lutheran pastor Christoph Römhild wondered if an infographic could capture cross-references like these for the purpose of visualizing the tapestry of Scripture. He contacted Chris Harrison, who said yes, and together they created this:

Reinke further explains this beautiful graphic: Each bar along the bottom represents a chapter from Genesis (left) to Revelation (right). The length of the bars correspond to the length of the chapter (Psalm 119 is easy to find in the middle). The cross-references are arched and colored by arch length. In all this graphic represents 63,779 colorful cross-references.

Personally, I find this graphic fascinating. What a beautiful pictorial visualizing the tapestry of Scripture. It’s not shocking though, when you consider the Bible has one ultimate Author, the majestic God of the Universe!

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Bible Study, New Testament, Old Testament

 

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Angelogy 101

Have you ever seen an angel? No, I’m not talking about your precious baby lying in the crib “looking like an angel.” And I’m not talking about Monica on “Touched By An Angel.” I’m talking about a real angel. On the one hand, no one can concretely confirm that they encountered an angel. On the other hand, how do you know you haven’t?

Angels are real. The Bible is saturated with angels, making direct reference to them over 230 times. Over 275 times in Scripture God is referred to as the “Lord of hosts” (“hosts” being a reference to the angelic armies of heaven). Angels are mentioned in 39 biblical books (19 in the OT; 20 in the NT). One writer said, “We can as easily think of summer without flowers as of the Bible without angels.”

Who are angels?

Angels are created beings

Just like everything other than the Godhead, angels were created. Specifically, the Lord Jesus created them (Colossians 1:16; cf. Psalm 148.1-5).

They didn’t evolve. There is no such thing as “angelic metamorphosis”. Butterflies start out as butterfly eggs that, after a few weeks, become caterpillars. With the passage of more time, the caterpillar eventually grows wings. Angels and butterflies have nothing in common except the fact that God created both of them. No angel “earns his wings” contra Clarence Odbody in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

And as created beings, angels are no more worthy of our worship than a butterfly! And Paul warns about such angelic worship in Colossians 2:18.

When were they created?

They are not referred to in the creation week of Genesis 1. Perhaps the best clue we have to when angels were created is Job 38.4-7. God ask Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The terms “morning stars” and “sons of God” apparently refer to angelic choruses that broke out in joyous praise of God as He created. Thus, angels were created prior to the creation of the earth.

How many were created?

A LOT! While we do not know a specific number, the Bible makes it vividly clear that is wasn’t just a handful.

Jesus in Gethsemane makes reference to the ease with which He could have had twelve legions of angels at His side (Matthew 26:53). A Roman legion at full strength had 6000 soldiers. Sometimes they would have equal the number of support troops. So, twelve legions could be anywhere from 72,000 to 144,000.

At Jesus birth there was a “multitude of the heavenly host” (Luke 2.13). Something tells me that a “multitude” is much larger than even 144,000.

Scripture clearly teaches the same. Sometimes they are compared to the stars (“host of heaven” is used to describe the stars in Deut. 17.3 and the angels in 1 Kings 22.19).

A new study (http://huff.to/gcE35Q) in 2010 suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars! That’s a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.

Could there really be billions upon billions of angels? Evidently. Consider Revelation 5:11 where an expression (“myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands”) is used by John to denote a number that is innumerable! That’s the same conclusion the writer of Hebrews reinforces (see Hebrews 12:22).

Now, just because the innumerable number is unknown to us, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t know how many angels He created. If He knows how many hairs are on our heads (Mt 10.30) and how many stars decorate the universe (and even knows them by name! Ps. 147.4), then He obviously knows the total count of angels.

Angels are personal beings

Angels are persons. Not “super humans” but persons. They have intellect, feelings and the ability to make decisions and obey commands.

On resurrection morning an angel converses with the two Marys and gives instructions to come and see where Jesus had previous been buried (Matthew 28:5–6).

Consider Ezekiel 28.12: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty….” These words are written to an earthly king who personified the devil and has things addressed to him as if he were Satan. From this passage it seems safe to conclude that Lucifer, the archangel who fell and became Satan, was the most intelligent of all the angels and perhaps of all creation!

No angel, however, is omniscient! 1 Peter 1.12 makes it clear that they do not understand everything that is involved in the gospel and unfolding drama of redemption, but they are greatly interested!

When you read Revelation 19.9-10 it seems very obvious that the angel here responds with strong emotion when telling John to not worship him. “Don’t you dare do that!”

Study Luke 15.8-10 and note especially the woman’s words in verse 9: “Rejoice with me…!” Then the connective application made about the Lord in verse 10: “Likewise there is joy/rejoicing before the angels of God.” God’s joy over someone who repents is compared with the woman’s joy. If her friends joined her in rejoicing, surely the angels do likewise with the Lord!

Angels are spirit beings

Hebrews 1:13–14 refers to angels as “ministering spirits”. They have no material body, at least not the kind we’re familiar with. But that doesn’t prevent them from appearing in visible form when God deems it necessary. Throughout Scripture, whenever they do make these “appearances”, the angel is always described as a man. Masculine pronouns are used w/o exception. In Gen 18-19 when angels visit Abraham and Lot in Sodom, they looked and acted just like ordinary men. They conversed in human language, they walked, sat down and ate food.

At other times their appearance is anything but “ordinary” (Matthew 28:3). Sometimes their appearance and/or messages caused great consternation and fear (e.g. Luke 2.9; Matthew 28.4).

Angels are servant beings

They were specifically sent to minister to Jesus (Matthew 4.11)

How did they minister to Jesus? The text doesn’t tell us, but we can use our sanctified imaginations and figure they probably brought food for His body. Undoubtedly they still worshiped Him as was their normal response to God the Son. Surely they offered words of encouragement.

They are specifically sent to minister to believers (Hebrews 1.14)

The Bible gives us no reason to think that angels minister to unbelievers. Nowhere that I’m aware of are angels serving unbelievers.

If someone claims to have encountered an angel and that person does not know Christ as Savior, it doesn’t mean they definitely did not meet an angel—it simply may have been a fallen one! Not all angels are from God (2 Corinthians 11.14)!

This is the first of what will be a series of posts on angels. Hopefully, other questions you may have about angels will receive a biblical answer in these future posts.

 

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When Clarence Odbody Teaches Theology

One of my favorite movies of all time is Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. Though I’ve watched parts of it dozens of times, I could sit down today, enjoy it again, and yes, need a Kleenex for the tears that would undoubtedly roll down my cheeks when George Bailey kisses that stairwell knob, rediscovers Zuzu’s petals, and greets all his friends who bring money to help repay his $8000 “debt” to Potter.

Unfortunately, some people have gotten some of their theology from the movie, and specifically from Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel. He is presented in the film as an Angel Second Class who, if he is able to save George’s life and convince him of the good he’s done for others, he just might earn his wings after 200 years of being unsuccessful. At the end of the movie, with the Bailey family and friends all singing around the Christmas tree, a bell sounds supposedly indicating that Clarence had indeed earned his wings.

It’s a Wonderful Life may be a wonderfully heart-warming movie, but it’s definitely not the source for developing our angelology! Why do I say that? Because of what I’ve read and heard lately by loving, well-meaning people with regard to the death and heavenly promotion of Lydia Byrd last Wednesday. You can read more that her story here and here and her funeral service here. And her mom’s blog can be read here.

Lydia, a few months short of her eighth birthday, did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. Nowhere in the Bible is this even suggested. Angels are angels. People are people. True angels do not earn their wings; they’re created with them to begin with and some have up to six wings (Isa. 6.2).

Yes, lovely Lydia had angelic beauty, but again, she did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. She’s still Lydia. Lydia without pain and suffering. Lydia without anymore tumors. But when her parents one day see her again in glory, she will not have angelic wings or a halo; she will be Lydia.

Do we have any similarities with angels? Yes…

Angels are “persons” in that they have personality and names (though Michael and Gabriel are the only ones we know), they worship God (Heb. 1.6), they rejoice (Rev. 5.11-12), they communicate (Rev. 19.9-10), etc.

Angels are servants of God as are believers (Heb. 1.14; Mt. 4.11).

God’s angels are “elect” (1 Tim. 5.21) as are Christians (2 Tim. 2.10), but only believers are elect with regard to redemption. In fact, salvation history is something that angels find intriguing and want to explore further (1 Pet. 1.12).

Angels even take on human likeness at times and give us an opportunity to show hospitality toward them without being aware of it (see Heb.13.2)! But, that does not mean that we ever become one of them.

Misunderstanding of a few verses has probably contributed to this mistaken notion that people, especially children, become angels after death. For example, Matthew 20.30 states that “in the resurrection [people] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Notice it doesn’t say that people become angels, but that they are like them in that believers in their glorified bodies living in the eternal heaven will no longer marry. Angels have never married. Believers in heaven will no longer have spouses either. There is a similarity there, but not equality.

When believers get to heaven they will not mistake some angel for their loved ones. They will see and recognize angels as angels and their saved friends and family as part of redeemed humanity. Let the Bible be your source of authority, not Clarence Odbody.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Angels, Bible Study, Heaven, Theology

 

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Giving to Make a Difference – Part 2

In my last post (you can read it here), I shared three ways to give in order to make a difference in the lives of others. In this post I will simply state the first three main points by way of review and then share the other four ways believers should give.

In order to make a difference in the financial advancement of God’s kingdom…

1 – Give Responsively (in response to God’s grace, vv.1-2)

2 – Give Generously (“overflowed…in generosity,” v.2)

3 – Give Proportionately (“they gave according to their means,” v.3a)

4 – Give Sacrificially (“they gave beyond their means,” v.3b)

So they gave what they had but they gave it in proportions that were sacrificial. Their giving was beyond what could or would be expected of such poor Christians. Evidently they trusted God to supply their needs while they did their best to be used of God to help meet others’ needs (Phil. 4.19).

Sacrifice. I wonder how many of us even know what that word means? By definition, sacrifice is “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”

How many of us are willing to give up a valuable piece of property for the more important cause of Christ?

How many of us are willing to forgo that planned new car purchase for the more important advancement of God’s kingdom?

How many of us are willing to take some of that valuable inheritance and give it to the more worthy cause of getting the gospel to the regions beyond?

Bob Russell, retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, tells of Jackie Nelson giving a moving testimony several years ago:

Jackie said, “I am a single mother of three teenagers. My ex-husband does not help. I barely get by. We really want to do our part in this three-year campaign so our new building can be built. But when we discussed it as a family, we realized that we can’t give any more than a tithe. So we decided that our gift would be to pray every day for the success of this program.

“But in the middle of our discussion my oldest son said, ‘Mom, we’ve got cable television. We don’t have to have that.’ So we’ve decided to give up our cable TV for three years so we can do our part.”

The congregation realized, “If she can make that kind of sacrifice to give a little, we who are so blessed can do even more.” Like the five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed a multitude, God took Jackie’s small gift and multiplied it many times over.

5 – Give Voluntarily (“of their own accord,” v.3c)

No one forced them to give. They weren’t strong armed into giving. Paul didn’t put them on some emotional guilt trip. He didn’t try to manipulate them. He simply shared the realities behind the need. He told the truth about the condition of their fellow believers. And they responded! Paul didn’t bribe anyone. He didn’t promise, “If you’ll plant a seed…” (I could very easily vent here!).

God has always desired free will giving. Giving that is done because we choose to give and (hopefully) want to give (see Exodus 25.1-2; 35.21-22).

6 – Give Eagerly (“begging us earnestly…,” v.4)

Remember Arnold Horshack on the TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”? He’s the one who got so excited when he thought he knew an answer to one of Mr. Kotter’s questions. With his hand raised, he would say, “Ooh-ooh-ooooh!”

I see the Macedonians responding similarly. “Ooh-ooh-oooo! We want to help! “Ooh-ooh-ooooh! We want to give!” Do you ever feel that way when the offering plate in passed at your church? Or do you grumble under your breath, “There they go passing the plate AGAIN!”

7 – Give Worshipfully (vv.5-7)

Notice especially verse 5 where Paul says that they “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” They gave themselves (again) to the Lord in total consecration. Their surprising generosity is a direct result of their dedicating themselves to their Savior.

Motivation is where the money is…

One of Paul’s goals in stirring up the Corinthians to give is to verify the genuine nature of their love as Christians: “I say this… to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (2 Cor. 8:8).

In other words, “talk is cheap!” “Put your money where your mouth is!” But don’t forget, the amount of money you give is not nearly as important as the motivation for giving. This becomes abundantly clear when we read 1 Cor. 13.3, “If I give away all I have…but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Giving to others may or may not be an act of love, depending on whether it is motivated by the overflowing joy that flows from being made “rich” by Christ and His amazing grace!

The Macedonians learned what Jim Elliot, the great missionary martyr in Ecuador would later say, “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Treasures stored in Heaven need no insurance coverage; they’re untouchable by thieves and exempt from depreciation (Mt 6.19-21).

 

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