The Dangers of a Divided Heart

The dangers of a divided heart are:

1. You can’t really love (1 Tim. 1:5)
2. You can’t really draw near to Him (Heb. 10:22)
3. You can’t really seek Him (Ps. 27:8)
4. You can’t really speak truth (Ps. 12:2)
5. You can’t really stand in His holy place (Ps. 24:3-4)
6. You can’t really sing praises (Ps. 57:7)
7. You can’t really see God (Mat. 5:8)
8. You can’t really treasure Christ (Mat. 6:21)
9. You can’t really be precious in God’s eyes (1 Pet. 3:4)

No, our prayer should be to say yes to God’s question: “Give me your heart, My son, and let your eyes delight in My ways” (Pro. 23:26) and ask Him to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10), so that “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 4:7) and that the law of my God is in my heart and my steps do not slip (Ps. 37:31). Then we can say to God: “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart” (Ps. 26:2). “You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” (Ps. 17:3), and “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:12-13)

Pick Up Your Weapons!

The weapons of our warfare are really important in our daily walk with God, especially if we are living in light of being in the world but not of the world. The apostle Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 when he says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Wow! Taking every thought captive. That’s a challenge! So many thoughts throughout the day. In order to do this constantly I think you have to become both very self-aware and very Spirit-aware, as to letting the Holy Spirit work on all of our thoughts. I think I still have lots to learn to really make effective use of these weapons.

The classic text on the weapons of warfare is Ephesians 6:14-18. They can be subdivided in three different sections. It is interesting to see that the order as they are listed is also the order in which the soldier puts on the armor.

The Spiritual Armor To Have
These pieces of the armor are the bare necessities. They are foundational, but they also always should be present. They all three indicate some sort of readiness to move forward.

1. Have Your Loins Girded With Truth (Eph. 6:14)
Technically speaking the belt of truth is not part of the armor, but is put on beforehand. When a man sat down and was relaxed, he took off his belt. Putting on the belt prepares you for action, it frees your movements, and it put him in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth can be described as the whole of what you believe about Christ. It is a foundation you live upon all the time, your understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith. In effect we should never take off the belt of truth. We should always be ready for action. The same idea is conveyed in Luke 12:35 (“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.“) and 1 Peter 1:13 (“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.“)

2. Have The Breastplate of Righteousness Put On (Eph. 6:14)
The breastplate provides protection for the vital organs. Important to here is to understand that it is Jesus’ righteousness (received by faith), not our own, that we have to put on. It is our defense against spiritual depression. It gives us a general sense of confidence, an awareness of our standing and position. Abraham believed in the LORD and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us” (Deu. 6:25). “How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3). We read in Proverbs 2:1-10 all the prerequisites to discern righteousness.

3. Have Your Feet Shod With the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace (Eph. 6:15)
The idea here is a readiness for action, to take the Gospel out to the world. They are combat boots, ready not only for action, but also for longevity it is good to have good shoes. “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Is. 52:7). Although good news is brought, you have to stand firm in your shoes to withstand the opposition. It reminds me of Galatians 1:6-9 and Paul’s call to not let the Gospel get perverted. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” It is “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15)

The Spiritual Armor To Take
The next three pieces of armor, on top of those you always have on (truth, righteousness, gospel), depend on the situation for them to be used.

4. Take the Shield of Faith (Eph. 6:16)
Faith is represented as a shield, protecting us from the arrows of the devil. It makes me think of the movie “300” where the Spartan in close formation completely protect themselves from the enemy. No arrows come through. It is also interesting that Paul specifically talks about arrows. These are not weapons for close combat, and they were often used for surprise attacks from far off. The attacks which are less obvious. It is our faith that protects us here as a shield.

5. Take the Helmet of Salvation (Eph. 6:17)
The helmet of salvation protects us against discouragement, against the desire to give up, giving us hope not only in knowing that we are saved, but that we will be saved. It is the assurance that God will triumph. When we are properly equipped with the helmet of salvation, it’s hard to stay discouraged.

6. Take the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God (Eph. 6:17)
The Word of God is the only piece of armor used for attacking the enemy. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). I think that’s interesting. It reminds me of Jesus in the wilderness and how three times in a row he uses Scripture. It seems like he is defending Himself instead of attacking, but the devil did leave Him, like James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jam. 4:7). Think of a soldier or a gladiator in training, practicing sword thrusts and moves and positions. Now, he must practice them ahead of time, and if he is a superior fighter, and has a great fighting instinct, at the time of battle he will instantly recall which thrust, which position suits the precise moment. He will never be able to use the thrust in the fight if he has not first practiced it, but he still needs to make the move at the moment. Therefore, effectively using the sword takes practice. Lots of practice.

The Spiritual Strength
The whole armor comes together in one thing: prayer.

7. Pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18-20)
The weapons for warfare are spiritual because they are rooted in prayer, which is our most powerful resource. Prayer is to permeate believers’ lives as a universal practice. There are three aspects here: when (at all times), how (with all prayer, alertness and perseverance), and for whom (for all the saints). “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27). And prayer for what? To make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, that in proclaiming it I may be be spoken boldly, as it ought to be spoken!

The Year Of

The year of 2009 (According to our Gregorian calendar)
The year of the Ox (According to the Chinese calendar)
The year of discipline (As this is much needed in my life)
The year of the Cross of Christ (As I need to “feel” its weight more in my life)
The year of the ESV Study Bible (As I ordered one yesterday and really look forward reading it)
The year of CCIE (Will I decide to go for it? Will I pass?)
The year of Barack Hussein Obama II (Will he be He to many, or just stay he?)
The year of Canon EOS400D (Will I actually start having a hobby this year?)
The year of 35 (That old? Yes!)
The year of budgeting (I hope)
The year of #2 (We hope)
The year of Jehoshaphat (Well, only for two weeks actually)
The year of preaching (Or at least an attempt to)
The year of choosing a structure (I sincerely hope)
The year of repentance (much needed)
The year of humility (much needed)
The year of finally getting it (much needed)

Bibliology #1 – Authority

Much can be said about the Bible as a book in and of itself. The official term for the study of the Bible is the doctrine of bibliology, which can be defined as the study of the Bible and the beliefs and doctrines about the Bible. It answers relevant questions like: what does the Bible say about itself? What does it claim to be? Is the Bible the only and true inspired Word of God? Why do some books belong to the Bible and others not? Are there any errors in the Bible? Why is bibliology important for us to understand? Well, it will develop our understanding of the overall message of the Bible, and it will force us to make a decision about to what extent we let it influence our personal lives. When we would zoom in on the question ‘what does the Bible say about itself?’ we can identify four central Doctrines or characteristics of Scripture: a) the authority of Scripture; b) the clarity of Scripture; c) the necessity of Scripture; and d) the sufficiency of Scripture. This series of posts will be a sort of quick and dirty introduction to these characteristics, with this first covering the authority of Scripture.

The authority of Scripture answers the question: wow do we know that the Bible is God’s Word? It can be defines as “all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” Let’s look at God’s word. There are frequent claims in the Bible that all the words of Scripture are God’s words. In the Old Testament this is seen in “Thus says the Lord…” Furthermore, God is often said to speak through the prophet. In the New Testament, Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” A second thing is the truthfulness of Scripture. In Titus 1:2 it is said that “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,” and the writer of Hebrews says in 6:17-18 that “in the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us“. Because God is a God who cannot lie, His words can always be trusted. Thus there can be no untruthfulness in Scripture.

This is of course a simplified explanation which could be described as circular reasoning. But I leave it to this right now. Like I said, it’s a quick an dirty introduction to get you going and thinking about the subject itself.

The Pillar and Support of the Truth

I was asked to study 1 Timothy chapter three and give a 15-minute teaching on it. I figured it wouldn’t hurt putting my thoughts on my blog as well…

Chapter three of 1 Timothy is the familiar and famous chapter listing the qualifications of an elder and a deacon. Complete libraries have been written on this topic and so it seemed like a daunting task to actually do some exegesis on this text which was not done before, and at the same time making sure I don’t fall into the category of people discussed in 1 Timothy chapter 1 (if you get my point). I don’t know how often I read this chapter before, but for some reason I never really noticed the last couple of verses. Maybe because the focus of the chapter is so evidently on the qualifications that these go unnoticed. Yet Paul is never accidental in his writings and so I believe that the fact these verses directly follow the qualifications is deliberate and intentional.

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
Keeping in mind that Paul did not write this letter with chapters in mind, we could still say that Paul gives the outline for the qualifications without tell why these qualifications are important. Yet he does so at the end. In verse 14-15 Paul he tells us that these instructions for qualifying elders are so that we will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God. In other words, how you should behave in church. What I think is interesting is that Paul then gives a description of the household of God nowhere else mentioned in Scripture, and in a way that emphasizes his previous point. He says that the household of God is the church of the living God is the pillar and support of the truth. Paul is making a direct relation between the qualifications of an elders and deacons (church leadership) and the fact that the church is the pillar and support of the truth. I think this is interesting. And so it seems worthwhile to further explore the theme of the church being a pillar.

The pillar and the foundation of the church is truth. It isn’t that the church is the foundation of the truth, but that the church holds up the truth so that the world can see it. In ancient days pillars where often used to fasten upon edicts or declarations for all the public to see. In the Bible pillars are mentioned on a couple of times.

The Pillars of Solomon’s Temple
In 1 Kings 7:15-21 we read about the two pillars on the porch of Solomon’s temple. These enormous pillars (8.3 meters tall, 5.5 meters in circumference, with a 2.3 meters high bronze capitals) were named Jachin, which means “he establishes,” and Boaz, which means “in him is strength.” Some believe that these pillars were to remind Israel of the twin pillars from the Exodus, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Constant reminders and God’s presence. You could also say that the house of God itself was Jachin and Boaz. The temple was established by God and built by the strength of God, or “In strength shall My House be established.” You could also say that in the temple, the house of God, people experienced what the pillars were all about: people were established in their relationship with God, and people were given strength from God.

Jeremiah was made like a pillar by God
In Jeremiah 1:17-19 we read that God says to Jeremiah to prepare for action, to go out and proclaim the truth. In order to do that God makes Jeremiah strong like a fortified city and like an iron pillar. “‘Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them. For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land – the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!'” (Jeremiah 1:17-19). In order for Jeremiah to hold up the truth, God made him like an iron pillar.

Peter, James and John were known as the pillars of the church
In Galatians 2:9 we read that the inner circle of Jesus, Peter, James and John, were known as the pillars of the church, meaning not only that they were the pillars on which the church was built, but also that they held up the truth for all the world to see. They were, in a way, like Jeremiah, made like a pillar by God.

Here is where the qualifications of an elder come in, because in order to be a pillar, to be like a fortified city that cannot be captured, to hold up the truth, you have to be above reproach. Being above reproach (blameless, well-thought-of, give no grounds for accusations, to be without any character defect) is in a sense the only qualification of an elder. Paul does the same thing here as he does in Galatians 5:22-23 when discussing the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and an elder must be above reproach. In both cases Paul is so kind to give us some more insight into what this means practically, and he does so in four ways: First, his relation to God (he has to be a man, he has to be able to teach, he cannot be a recent convert); second, his relation to his family (he has to be faithful to his wife, he has to have respectful and obeying children, he has to be a good steward of his household); third, his relation to himself (he has to be self-controlled, he has to live wisely, he cannot have additions, he has to be able to handle money well); and fourth, his relation to others (he has to be gentle, he has to be not quarrelsome, he has to have a good reputation outside church, he has to be hospitable, he cannot be violent)

All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of God
The last reference to pillars can be found in Revelation 3:12, where Jesus says: “‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.’” I think this is very interesting. Revelation 3:12 is part of Jesus’ letter to the church of Philadelphia. Historically this ancient city suffered often from earthquakes as it was situated in a highly volcanic region. When a building collapsed in an earthquake often all that remained were the huge pillars. Jesus offers us this same strength, to remain standing in Him when everything around us crumbles. Of all of the churches in Revelation that Jesus sent a letter to, the church of Philadelphia together with the church of Smyrna are the only ones for which Jesus has no concerns. Interestingly enough, the church of Philadelphia is the only church out of the seven which is promised to be kept out of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 3:10) and with the church of Smyrna the only two churches still alive today! It is said to represent the missional church model and era. In any case, it is interesting that it is this church in particular (the missional church with no concerns that is still alive today) that is promised to become pillars in the temple of God.

Pillars are what hold up the building. The only thing supporting the pillar is the foundation. Elders are to be pillars in the church, who support the church, and they should look to Jesus as their support foundation. And so it is of the utmost importance that the church appoints elders (identified by the Holy Spirit) who are above reproach, in order for the church to hold up the truth so the world can see it. The question then remains is how does one become above reproach? And my answer would be to keep Psalm 86:11 close to heart and mind, which says: “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” A proper fear of the LORD will unite your heart with His, because it will convict you of sin you didn’t realize you had, because it will create a desire to see the full glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4-6) which will keep you on a straight and humble path of desiring to be above reproach. Yet if you think you’re there you are not above reproach anymore.