Thursday, September 29, 2011

God Calls Us His Field

Metaphor: God’s Field
Concept: God is actively involved in our lives just as the vinedresser tends his vines or the farmer tends to his crop throughout the day.
1 Cor 3:9; For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters, laborers together) with and for God; you are God's garden and vineyard and field under cultivation, [you are] God's building.  [Isa 61:3.] AMP
Isa 61:3; So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. NASU

Those who have Jesus as their savior have God as the one who oversees and is actively involves in their lives even as the vinedresser, or farmer tends to his vines or crop throughout the day.

If you have ever done any farming, gardening or had fruit trees or vineyard you know that they do best when they have plenty of tender love and care along with water and sunshine. Our lives when left to ourselves have a less than healthy track record of success.

People who only check in with God on Sunday are missing more than they can imagine.

Today I encourage you to seek God. His word in Hebrews 11:6 says that He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. Seek Him today, He is waiting for you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God Calls us His Church

Metaphor: God’s Church
Concept: The Church, those who have believed in and received Jesus as their Lord and Savior are God’s Church.
1 Tim 3:5 For if a man does not know how to rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God? AMP

Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament says the following concerning the church;
The word "church" is ‎ekkl¢sia‎, "a called-out body of individuals who assemble in a certain place"; in the Christian sense, the Mystical Body of Christ, composed of believing sinners called into salvation. The word is also used of a local church or assembly.
Since we are God’s called out ones we must seek to please Him and offer love respect and appreciation for the others who are a part of His Church.
When I was a young pastor I would hear other pastors talk about their church. Now, I was not raised in church so this was confusing to me. I knew they were referring to the church where they were pastor, but it still bothered me.
I was invited to speak at a regional gathering of pastors from our fellowship. I was a young pastor zealous for God and His kingdom and less than tolerant and I might add perhaps lacking wisdom when it came to those who were off the mark when it came to anything concerning God. My sermon that day began by reading several passages about the Church.
I asked several questions of those who there; What is the Church? How did it come into being? What was its purpose? To whom did it offer praise and whose word was it teaching? What is the value of a Church name?
Finally I got to the question I wanted to ask. Whose Church is it or to whom does it belong? By then many in the crowd had caught on to where I was going and why.
If we who are pastors claim that the church is ours, then our job just became God’s job and no one is up to accomplishing that Job but God Himself. Just as the Church is God’s as a group every believer is God’s.
Since we do not own or control them let us not judge them or pretend that we are superior in any way. We are all saved by Grace and we are all the recipients of God’s goodness. Freely we have revived therefore let us freely give of His goodness and grace remembering that we are His and His alone.
Help us today Lord to be your called-out body of individuals who serve you and honor you in all our ways.

Artwork: Keys to the Kingdom by William Hallmark

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We the Church are the Foundation of Truth

Metaphor: Foundation of Truth
Concept: The Church here is depicted as that which holds up or makes the truth real to people. The truth here is Jesus Christ.
1 Tim 3:15-16  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. NIV

We the people of God are the living stones (I Peter 2:5) which make up the household or building of God with Jesus as our foundation. Christ is the alone "ground" of the truth in the highest sense (1 Cor 3:11).

It is not the buildings we meet in that proclaim the greatness of our God, but it is the transforming of our lives that witnesses that our God lives and that He alone can transform us into His likeness.

The old line from people who did not want to go to church was that they did not want to go and be around all of those hypocrites. The comeback could be, ‘that should make anyone who is not perfect feel right at home.’

People learn more about Jesus from our lives, which are a combination of our deeds and words. Today let’s you and I demonstrate His mercy and goodness even if we show our own failings from time to time!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Flock of God

Metaphor: Flock of God
Concept: God considers us His to care for even as a shepherd cares for his sheep. Pastors are to ‘shepherd the flock of God’ without having as their motive self gain, position or popularity.      

John 10:16 And I have other sheep [beside these] that are not of this fold. I must bring and impel those also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be [they will become] one flock under one Shepherd.  [Ezek 34:23.]

1 Peter 5:2 Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits [belonging to the office], but eagerly and cheerfully; AMP

‘1 Peter 5:2 The word "feed" is the translation of a Greek word which literally means "to shepherd," and includes the duties of a shepherd, tending, feeding, guiding, and guarding the flock of God. The noun form of the word is translated "pastors" in Eph 4:11. The word "oversight" is the translation of the same Greek word in another form which is other places is rendered by the words "overseer," or "bishop," referring to the spiritual care of the flock. The words "filthy lucre" are literally in the Greek text "base or dishonorable gain." The pastor is not to commercialize his ministry.’ From Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament.

The people were familiar with the tending of sheep as sheep had an important role in the society of Jesus’ day. We see in these verses that Jesus is concerned with the situation of Jew and Gentile and that He wants us and those who have oversight for us in Him to know that He cares and expects us to be well looked after.

There are many churches claiming to be doing what Jesus commanded them to do, but very few who look out for His sheep as He would have them to. It is not enough to win the lost, seek the Lord, to be houses of prayer and worship. Those who have oversight must be careful to be good under shepherds and to care for, look after and watch out for God’s sheep even as He would if He were there physically everyday.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God's Temple

1 Cor 3:16-17  Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. ESV
 
Drive through any large city today and you will see the walls of many buildings covered with graffiti. It may only be a name and date, or it may be something more sinister, such as gang signs or obscenities. An entire wall may even be covered with a spray-painted mural. One of the justifications of those who engage in this practice is that it is actually an art form. Those who consider graffiti painting to be a form of vandalism, however, are quick to point out that the problem with this so called "art form" is that it uses other people's property as its canvas.
While you and I might accidentally damage someone else's property, we would never think of entering that person's home to intentionally deface or destroy it. In fact, if our neighbors were to ask us to watch their home while they went away on vacation, we would be especially vigilant to make sure no one damaged it.
In 1 Cor 3:16 we are told to exercise similar care over God's property. In particular, the apostle Paul reminds us that we are God's temple.
The Corinthians were very familiar with the idea of a temple. Their pagan background was filled with them. Therefore, the language used by Paul in this verse would have brought to the Corinthians' minds the many familiar shrines that surrounded them, and in which were placed statues of the Greek and Roman pantheon.
Those who were from a Jewish background, however, would think of something quite different when they read Paul's words. For them, there was only one temple, just as there was only one true God. The reader from a Jewish background would see the word temple and immediately think of Jerusalem and the temple of Jehovah. More specifically, the particular word used by Paul in this verse would bring to mind the sanctuary itself—the place where God demonstrated His presence in a visible way through the shekinah cloud. Although the term Shekinah does not appear in the Old Testament, it was used by the rabbis to speak of the glorious cloud which went before Israel during the wilderness journey.
When Israel traveled through the wilderness, God made His presence known by means of a cloud that traveled before them by day and a pillar of fire that gave light by night (Ex 13:21-22). When the tabernacle was completed, the cloud of glory filled it to such a degree that even Moses could not enter it (Ex 40:34-35). God did the same when the temple of Solomon was dedicated, causing the priests to flee from the sanctuary
(1 Kings 8:11). The tabernacle and the temple were both visible reminders that God had chosen to dwell among His people.
Because of this, one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the Jewish people was the destruction of Solomon's temple by the Babylonians. They saw the decree by Cyrus, king of Persia in 538 B.C., that permitted them to return and rebuild the temple as a singular mark of God's deliverance. However, in an event that was prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:6, the temple was destroyed again by the Romans in 70 A.D., nearly twenty years after Paul penned these words.
Paul does not say that we are "a temple," as if there were many. He says that we are "the temple." He is saying that the church is the one true temple of the living God. This description is all the more significant when we realize that the temple in Jerusalem was still functioning at the time Paul wrote these words.
The church is the new temple, a dwelling place for God through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God has chosen the church to be His temple places us under obligation. Being the temple of God means that we are also accountable as caretakers of it: "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (1 Cor 3:17).
Although this is the kind of warning we might normally expect to find in the Old Testament, it is also consistent with the New Testament. For example, when Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to lie to the Holy Spirit, they were severely judged. As a result: "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events" (Acts 5:11). These tragic deaths were a proof of God's ownership of the church and a solemn reminder of the reality of divine judgment.
I once visited a church and noticed that the building was in bad condition. The paint was peeling, the steps were cracked and crumbling, and the sign out front had several letters missing from the church's name. In every aspect, the building made a statement about this church and its members. In bold letters, it said: "We don't care." The way a church takes care of its building and grounds says a lot about it. But the way a church lives says even more. There are signs of neglect that are far more serious than peeling paint and crumbling cement.
Since the church is God's dwelling, we should be concerned about its condition. If there are weaknesses, we should strive to build them up. Where there is failure, we should work toward restoration. We cannot show any less regard for God's house than we would for our own. The blemishes that mar the true temple are things like unkind speech, envy, factions, and outbursts of anger. One couple who grumbled about some of the decisions the new pastor of the church they attended had made justified their anger by saying: "After all, its our church!" They were mistaken. It is not the congregation's church. It is not the board's church or even the pastor's, either. The church belongs to God. It is His temple, and He will hold us accountable if we do anything to harm it.
Lord of the Church, glorify Yourself through Your people. Make me Your instrument to build up the church. May the glory of Your presence shine through Your people so that others will know it is Your dwelling place. Amen

Thanks to John Koessler for allowing us to publish his material.www.johnkosessler.com


____________________________________________________________________
John Koessler serves as chair and professor of pastoral studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of ten books and numerous articles. He also serves as a contributing editor for the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, where you can read his monthly “Theology Matters” column. You can contact John via email at John.Koessler@moody.edu or by phone at (312) 329-4077

Saturday, September 24, 2011

God says we are Fellow Citizens

Metaphor: Fellow Citizens
Concept: a Citizen is an inhabitant of a city or town; especially: one entitled to the rights and privileges of a free person in accord with the rules and laws governing citizenship within that state or nation.Definition o

Eh 2:19 Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God's own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God's [own] household.
20 You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone. 21 In Him the whole structure is joined (bound, welded) together harmoniously, and it continues to rise (grow, increase) into a holy temple in the Lord [a sanctuary dedicated, consecrated, and sacred to the presence of the Lord].
22 In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you yourselves also are being built up [into this structure] with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit. AMP
The concept of citizenship as defined above is not one taught often or well any more. Today people are more interested in the benefits of being a citizen that the responsibilities or laws governing citizenship.

Christians sometimes it amaze me in that they lay claim to the benefits of being Christian but avoid the responsibilities and requirements of being a citizen in God's Kingdom.

Friday, September 23, 2011

God says we are the Family of God

Metaphor: Family of God, in heaven and on Earth, of believers
Concept: Family as God intended it to be is healthy, nurturing, holy and right with God and operates according to His design.

 Eph 3:14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Gal 6:10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God's family with you, the believers].

1 Peter 4:17 For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God? AMP

The human family was designed by God for our benefit. It is the most complete picture of God’s plan for us that exist when it is operating as He planned. The family has been attacked, corrupted and under assault from the Garden of Eden onward.

When the family and each member in it operates as God intended there is complete fulfillment of each individual part in a way that cannot occur when we operate as separate individuals. There is respect and admiration along with love and genuine honoring of the individual and the family as a unit designed by God.

 We do ourselves and one another great harm when we attempt to design and operate the family according to our earthly understanding and value preferences.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Elect of God

God says We are the Elect
Metaphor: Elect
Concept:  Elect here defines those who because they at some point in time will follow Jesus as savior have been selected by God in his foreknowledge of their actions and are his elect or chosen ones.

Mark 13:20-27 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21 And if anyone says to you at that time, 'Look! Here is the Messiah!' or 'Look! There he is!' — do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything. 24 "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. NRSV

Rom 11:7 What then [shall we conclude]? Israel failed to obtain what it sought [God's favor by obedience to the Law]. Only the elect (those chosen few) obtained it, while the rest of them became callously indifferent (blinded, hardened, and made insensible to it). AMP

Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— NIV

ELECT: A person or group chosen by God for special favor and for the rendering of special service to Him. In the Old Testament the Hebrew people were described as God's elect. The New Testament speaks of Christ as God's Chosen One (1 Peter 2:4,6) and of the church as God's new chosen people (Rom 8:33; 2 John 1,13). (Thomas Nelson's Bible Dictionary.

The interesting thing here is that God not only knows His elect but also knows what the boundaries or limits of their faith are and proactively protects them so that they will not be lost or defeated in their life long pursuit of a life of faithfulness to Him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God Says We are His Dwelling Place.

Metaphor: Dwelling of God
Concept:  We are being built into the residence of the Holy God!
Eph 2:22 In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you yourselves also are being built up [into this structure] with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit. AMP
Wuest in his Word Studies from the New testament Greek says the following.

(2:21, 22) "In whom" refers back to "Jesus Christ." The building, of course, is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ composed of believers who are brought into salvation during the Church Age which began at Pentecost and ends at the Rapture. The words, "fitly framed together" are the translation of ‎sunarmologeœ‎, from ‎harmos‎, "a joint," and ‎legœ‎, "to pick out," thus, "to join together," the total meaning being, "to join closely together." It is an architectural metaphor. "Temple" is ‎naos‎, "the inner sanctuary," not ‎hieros‎, "the temple with its porches and outbuildings."

Translation. In whom the whole building closely joined together, grows into a holy inner sanctuary in the Lord, in whom also you are being built together into a permanent dwelling place of God by the Spirit. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Grafted into the Cultivated Olive Tree

Metaphor: Grafted into the Cultivated Olive Tree
Concept:  Although the Jews seem rejected of God to many people, this passage makes it clear how very  eager He is to graft them back in and how he has demonstrated His goodness to us. Once again we have an agricultural metaphor that may stretch city people but it provides powerful insight.

Rom 11:17-24
          But some of these branches from Abraham's tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God's special olive tree. 18 But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.
19 "Well," you may say, "those branches were broken off to make room for me." 20 Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn't believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don't think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. 21 For if God did not spare the original branches, he won't* spare you either.
22 Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 23 And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. 24 You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong. NLT

God’s mercy seems so vast to us and yet we rejoice that He extends it to us continually. This passage also reminds us that God’s promises to the Jewish people will be fulfilled as they turn to Him.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

God's Building

1 Cor 3:9;  For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters, laborers together) with and for God; you are God's jgarden and vineyard and field under cultivation, [you are] God's building.  [Isa 61:3.] AMP

I think it's great!" David beamed.
"You think it's great that no one is willing to volunteer to work in the nursery?" I asked in amazement.
"That's right," David explained. "I think it's great because it means that everyone would rather be edified."
Most of us would tend to agree with David, and with good reason. Edification is important in the Christian life. God has designed the church so that its members build one another up in the faith (Eph 4:12). In the Bible, the word edify means "to build up or restore." It is related to the third metaphor used by Paul to describe the church in this verse. He says, "You are . . . God's building." The apostle saw himself as one of those given the task of building a house for God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, the verbal form of this word is used to speak of God's effort to build up His people, Israel (Jer 24:6). In the New Testament, it refers to the process of building up the church.
Those who work on God's building edify the church. As a result of their ministry, God's people are strengthened and more firmly established in their spiritual lives. When you have been edified, you have been spiritually nourished.

In the natural realm, we strive for a balance between nourishment and exercise. To emphasize one element and exclude the other is clearly detrimental to our physical bodies. Some time ago, I visited a doctor because I was suffering from symptoms of exhaustion and depression. After a thorough examination, the doctor asked me two simple questions: "Are you eating regularly?" and "Are you getting enough exercise?" With a few basic changes in my lifestyle, the problem was easily solved.
We also need to seek that kind of balance in the spiritual realm. The temptation we face in the spiritual realm is the danger of becoming addicted to edification. Of course, as God's house, we need to be built up. But the ministry of edification is also meant to equip us to serve others. The goal of edification, according to Eph 4:12, is "to prepare God's people for works of service." What is most striking about the concept of edification in the New Testament is that it invariably focuses upon our obligation to edify someone else.
This means that when we come together as a congregation, it is both to be edified and to edify. In this respect, God's building is unlike any other that we have seen, because it actually builds itself. This work of edification is an obligation shared by every believer: "Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up" (Rom 15:2). We are not to look out for our own personal interests exclusively, but we are also to focus on the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4).
This principle is especially important when applied to the problem of sin in the believer's life. Spiritual decline, on both an individual and congregational level, proceeds along terrifyingly ordinary terrain. The spiritual degenerate does not suddenly undergo a metamorphosis that leaves him an idolater or sexual pervert. This condition is arrived at by way of more mundane acts of disobedience, such as greed, malice, envy, and rebellion (Rom 1:29-30).
We tend to regard spiritual growth as a purely private matter. However, spiritual life also has a corporate dimension. The apostle Paul compared the effect of sin to that of yeast, implying that the sin of one person can have an impact on many others (1 Cor 5:6).
If my spiritual state has the potential to affect yours, mutual accountability is important. However, if you have the capacity to restore me to health, it is essential. The beauty of God's building is that, like the human body, it has the capacity to repair itself. Our accountability is not only to one another, but also to God. He evaluates both the kind of materials that we use and the quality of our workmanship in building His house: "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds" (1 Cor 3:10).
One summer, a storm that roared through our community damaged the roof of our house. As soon as the men came to repair it, my wife, Jane, stopped what she was doing to watch. She sat in a folding chair in our driveway and looked on while they worked. When the foreman saw her, he nervously asked, "You're not going to sit there and watch are you?" "Of course I am," she replied. "It's my roof and I want to make sure that you do it right!"
In the same way, God carefully scrutinizes our efforts to build His house. We might be daunted by such an audience, if it weren't for the fact that the same God who evaluates our work has also equipped us for the task. The expectations that those who work on God's house use only the best materials is not unreasonable. Those who build are empowered by God's Spirit and draw from His unlimited resources.
In the Old Testament, God equipped individuals to build for Him. During the construction of the Tabernacle, God chose Bezalel and Oholiab and filled them with the Spirit in a way that gave them unique abilities to work with gold, silver, and bronze. These two men did not work alone, however. They were supported by a team of divinely skilled craftsmen to make the tent and all its furnishings (Ex 31:1-11). When Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, God sent him Huram-Abi of Tyre, a man skilled in working with bronze
(2 Chron 2:13-14). When the wall around Jerusalem was being rebuilt after the exile, God gave Nehemiah special leadership abilities and provided many willing workers to complete a task that on the surface seemed to be hopeless (Neh 3).
God continues to provide skilled workers to contribute to His building project, and we are those workers. Like those God used in the Old Testament, each one of us brings unique skills to the work. Because every believer possesses the Holy Spirit, every believer has a contribution to make.
Holy Spirit, equip me to edify others as we work together on God's house. Amen.

Thanks to John Koessler for allowing us to publish his material.www.johnkosessler.com
____________________________________________________________________
John Koessler serves as chair and professor of pastoral studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of ten books and numerous articles. He also serves as a contributing editor for the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, where you can read his monthly “Theology Matters” column. You can contact John via email at John.Koessler@moody.edu or by phone at (312) 329-4077