Tag Archives: discipline

Eager For Unity

Ephesians 4:1-7 begins with a command. Paul urges the reader (including us today) to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they (including us) have been called. We’ve all heard this command preached on more than one occasion. It’s a favorite, especially in holiness circles. We are commanded to walk (to live our lives) in a manner (a way) worthy (equal to, fitting to) the calling to which we have been called. Paul goes on to define this worthy walk.

This walk, worthy of the calling, is defined by Paul with three nouns and two participial phrases. He describes it as a walk (way of life) marked by humility, gentleness and patience. These are the three nouns. Interestingly, if one’s walk is marked by these nouns, it would be safe to assume that walk would demonstrate the details given in the following participial phrases. These phrases tell us to “bear with one another in love” and to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It seems if one is humble, gentle and patient, there is no need to include these last two. However, Paul is dealing with something the church has dealt with throughout her history—disunity. We easily find excuses to divide. Paul is adding some detail to give greater emphasis to the unifying side of the worthy walk.

I want to zone in on this last part for this blog post. Paul includes in a worthy walk being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” Some translations lose something here. The NIV, for example, translates this as “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.” But this merely means doing everything involved in keeping the peace. It misses the element of drive, push or haste. Let’s say I have a project to accomplish. I can expend every effort to accomplish the project and do so simply out of a sense of obligation. I would do everything needed to accomplish the project, but not really care if it works or fails—“It failed, but I did my part.” I can also not care how long the project takes, because there is a lack of haste or passion in my actions. In the same way, the NIV translation of this make it sound like Paul is saying to do what is needed or appropriate to maintain unity, without any reference to our drive, passion or zeal. It seems to reduce it to nothing but an action commanded. But the passage is much more powerful than this. The HCSB translates this as “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit.” This, at least, gives some of the emphasis Paul places upon the command.

Paul is not just telling us to work at being united. Paul is not just including such unity as part of our walk. He is telling us to strive for, to be eager for, to diligently desire and work to maintain that unity. Unity of the body to which we are called (the Church Universal and the local expression of the church, where he has placed us). We should desire unity more than our own way. We should eagerly seek to keep the church together—even if it means giving up our own way and our own desires. That , after all, is part of the humility which he earlier used to describe the worthy life. We should desire unity even if it means dealing with our imperfect fellow Christians—even when it hurts. That, after all, is part of the patience which he earlier used to describe the worthy life. We should desire and work toward unity even when it would be far easier to attack and drive out those we find difficulty. That, after all, is part of the gentleness which he earlier used to describe the worthy life.

Paul commands us (God commands us through Paul) to bear one another’s burdens and eagerly strive to keep the church together as a united whole. We are not to drive those out or separate ourselves from our fellow believers. We are to strive to keep the church together. The only reasons to ever drive one out of the church is heresy (2 John 1:10) or discipline (1 Corinthians 5:5). Even that is meant to bring them back to repentance and back to the fold as fully restored members (2 Corinthians 2:6-7).

Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This command (σπουδάζοντες) tells us to do this quickly, with haste, without waiting. When some action or behavior disrupts our unity, or breaches the bond of peace, we are commanded to quickly (eagerly, with haste) strive for restoration. This is a direct command to each of us—me, you and everyone else called to salvation by Christ.

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A Change of Heart

San Antonio Riverwalk
San Antonio Riverwalk

Recently, the Lord has been working on something in my heart that surprises me. He does that from time to time—pointing out a problem or needed change of which I was previously unaware. One such experience has been weighing on me lately.

When I was about nine years old I went to the local theater where a new movie was playing—a kid could wander off to the theater alone in those days and no one batted an eye. I sat there in the dark watching Grizzly Adams. I was smitten with the mountains and forests. From that day forward I wanted to live at least near mountains, if not right in them.

The Lord allowed me to live in the Bighorns, the Rockies, and the Cascade mountains. I truly loved the mountains, When I came to San Antonio, I was sure God was calling me to the church here. However, I assumed by the situation and my heart that God was likely only going to have me stay here temporarily, and before long he would send me back to my beloved mountains. Now, years later I am feeling convicted of a terrible thing.

Over this last eight years, I fell in love with the people here. What I did not fall in love with was the city itself. Be honest! San Antonio is a huge, highly-populated area. Traffic is horrible. It is almost impossible to go anywhere without a crowd and even more difficult to find a place where one neither smells exhaust nor hears traffic. These have made it quite hard for me.

Yesterday, I shared with my church something of which the Lord has convicted me. I have made myself loathe this city itself—once again, not meaning the people. I find myself thinking negatively about the city and life here. I find myself distracted by thoughts of returning to a small town somewhere in the mountains. The problem is that I know he has called me here—and that he is not done with me here.

What I have done is similar to a spouse who despises his wife, not because she is a bad wife, but because he has fed his mind with negative thoughts about her. I have allowed myself to fixate on the negatives about life in San Antonio—traffic, crowds, etc. In that way, I have kept seeing myself as here only temporarily. God has me here. He wants me here. He is not done with me here. I need to come to terms with that and work on my attitude about living here.

Don’t get me wrong. Staying with this church has mostly been pretty easy because I love the people so much—that love has only grown since the beginning. It is love for the city that I need to develop.

I have been praying for the Lord to take care of my attitude and give me a heart for this city. As part of that, I have committed myself to a frame of thought and a practice. If a man came to me filled with bad thoughts about his wife, I would counsel him to find one good thing about his wife each day for the next thirty days and then come back to me. I have decided I need to do that myself about this city.

To do this, I will post one “thing I love about living in San Antonio” on social media, each day for the next month. Part of the exercise is not to qualify it, but to simply express my love for it. This morning I posted that I love the Riverwalk. I do this because the calling is God’s part; the attitude is impacted by him but is mostly my own part.

I want to love San Antonio—not only the people but the city itself. I am committed to spending the rest of my life in this city if that is God’s will. Now I need to seek the contentment to stay here the rest of my days.

Please pray for this transformation.

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Intercession for Sinners

Hebrews 7:25 NIV

“He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

This beautiful promise came to mind this morning while reviewing some passages in Hebrews as part of today’s message. Let’s consider this for a moment and some of the implications of it.

First, it is a promise of security: he is able (capable, sufficient) to save completely (without exception, without limit). He can save us. He can save us regardless of situation, action or condition. There is nothing from which he cannot deliver you and no sin from which he cannot cleanse you.

Second, he lives forever interceding for us. This means the promise here is not only salvation and cleansing from past sins, but also includes future sins as well. This is because he is actively interceding on our behalf forever and always. He is interceding for me while I type this. He is interceding for you while you read it. You and I are constantly upon his lips in intercession. As a need arises, he is there lifting up that need. As a sin is committed he is there, as our High Priest, interceding for us (this is the context of the promise).

This latter fact got me to thinking about something important. How do we react to and act towards our fellow Christians who fall into sin? Should we condemn them? Should we reject them? While scripture does tell us there are times to practice church discipline—even to the point of disfellowship—understand this is always to be for the purpose of restoring the brother to righteous living and returning the brother to the fold. Church discipline is as much a part of helping the one disciplined as it is part of purifying the church. This passage gives us something important to consider when wondering how to act toward a sinning brother or sister. It should also temper our zeal to condemn and cast out. Look at the passage and ask, “What is Jesus doing in response to the sin?” He is before the throne of grace interceding as High Priest. He is lifting the sinner up before the Father, pleading the presence of his own blood to indicate the sin is already paid for. He is also interceding through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit indwelt Church to discipline and restore the sinner. Perhaps we should all have this image in mind when dealing with sinning brethren. It should be difficult to reject and condemn a person for whom our Lord is actively interceding. If the intercession of Jesus is sufficient for the Father, shouldn’t it be sufficient reason for us to come along side our sinning brethren?

Only when that image is firmly in mind are we ready to approach and minister to the sinner in our midst.

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