Spreading the Gospel.

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

Philipppians is the most personal of Paul’s letters written to a church that was wholeheartedly in support of his authority and quite resistant to false teachers. Although he was writing from prison in Rome, he did not complain about it. Rather he thanked God for these faithful brethren and thanked them as well for their sincere partnership with him in the ministry of the gospel. This partnership was also with the Lord and with other believers. It was the driving force which empowered Paul’s work of preaching the gospel. The Philippian believers supported him with prayer and finances which endeared them to his heart. He, in turn, prayed that the Lord would continue to sanctify and strengthen them so they could share in his work and enable him to continue the ministry despite the obstacles he faced.

Perhaps Paul was concerned that the Philippians were becoming discouraged over his imprisonment and because of the prevalence of false teachers out seeking their own profit. He feared such things would hurt the cause of Christ. Naturally when we see false teachers personally benefitting from preaching a false view of Jesus we want to stop them. And when we face obstacles and problems that seem to hinder the work of the ministry we tend to get upset and aggravated. Yet Paul does not see these tribulations as a reason to shrink back from preaching or from living a life pleasing to God. Rather, such obstacles can be overcome and nullified if we see them as opportunities to spread the good news about Jesus.
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Spreading the Gospel

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)
Philipppians is the most personal of Paul’s letters written to a church that was wholeheartedly in support of his authority and quite resistant to false teachers. Although he was writing from prison in Rome, he did not complain about it. Rather he thanked God for these faithful brethren and thanked them as well for their sincere partnership with him in the ministry of the gospel. This partnership was also with the Lord and with other believers. It was the driving force which empowered Paul’s work of preaching the gospel. The Philippian believers supported him with prayer and finances which endeared them to his heart. He, in turn, prayed that the Lord would continue to sanctify and strengthen them so they could share in his work and enable him to continue the ministry despite the obstacles he faced.

Perhaps Paul was concerned that the Philippians were becoming discouraged over his imprisonment and because of the prevalence of false teachers out seeking their own profit. He feared such things would hurt the cause of Christ. Naturally when we see false teachers personally benefitting from preaching a false view of Jesus we want to stop them. And when we face obstacles and problems that seem to hinder the work of the ministry we tend to get upset and aggravated. Yet Paul does not see these tribulations as a reason to shrink back from preaching or from living a life pleasing to God. Rather, such obstacles can be overcome and nullified if we see them as opportunities to spread the good news about Jesus.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Kingdom Economics

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville“And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:11-16)

In this chapter Jesus says some things that are antithetical to what the world, our culture, our society values. The parable of the workers in the vineyard alone is enough to knock people for a loop and cry out against such injustice and stupidity. Those who came to work later in the day were obviously shiftless idlers and goldbricks, lacking in ambition, skill and productivity. It is both unjust and poor business for this man to pay all his hired hands the same amount of money for differing amounts of work!

Although this parable shows the different economics of the Kingdom of God, the real message that Jesus conveys is about God’s mercy. Everyone who comes to repentance through faith in the blood of Jesus finds forgiveness. That includes liars, selfish, self-righteous people and ourselves as well as those who we think “deserve” no mercy or less mercy than we: drug addicts, alcoholics, murderers, rapists, perverts, prostitutes, sodomites, politicians, celebrities etc. Jesus rewards any and all who humbly come to Him by faith. Therefore rather than voice our outrage and complaints about the blatant immorality of sinners who seem to prosper, we ought really to pray for them to come to faith. Without Christ they will lose everything.

The Justice of God.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
We human beings find it hard to forgive or show mercy to people who offend us. We want revenge, though we often couch our desire in a noble way as a demand for justice as if we ourselves were so guiltless that we can act as arbiters of the law. Yet if were truly to want justice for all, we would realize that it would apply to us as well as not just those we despise and criticize but our loved ones and those leaders and celebrities we idolize. No one is without sin. And God is a God who is just and He will always exact justice, no matter what we want.

One of the great things the Lord tells us is that justice was satisfied, fullly and completely, on the cross of Christ. Thus He can call all to come to Him. He offers pardon, freely, without cost to us. This does not mean that every human being is saved. His grace is not cheap. The offer of free salvation is bestowed only on those who acknowledge that they are sinners and that they need God’s mercy. This is what repentance is all about: agreeing with God that we are sinners separated from Him and in dire need of His grace. Thus the attitude of repentance leads one to faith in Christ. Without it, one does not really know he/she needs to be saved or that he/she is a sinner. Those who do not repent cannot agree with the Lord as to their sinfulness and thus cannot have fellowship with Him. Those who request His help will, however, definitely find that He is there to lift them up. All of these who have faith, no matter what sin they may have committed, will experience the eternal joy of heaven.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Agreeing to Disagree.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (Romans 14:1-4a)
How should we respond to Christians with different opinions on things? How much fellowship, if any, can we have with those believers who do or believe things that we do not approve of as Christians?

The problem Paul addresses concerns opinions on disputable matters, those taboos or prohibitions, those things we believe to be unacceptable Christian behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. His counsel is that we should remember the grace and mercy we have received and not judge our fellow believers in the area of disputable or non-essential matters, areas in which Christians can have different opinions, those gray areas that the Bible does not condemn and those things about which it is silent. We must love and respect our brethren in the Lord at all times, even when we disagree.

Paul labels the Christians with many scruples as those whose faith is weak. The weak do not grasp Christian freedom. They think that Christianity is a matter of following strict rules. Perhaps they also do not understand salvation by grace. Perhaps they still believe that works are efficacious for salvation. The weak have many scruples, many taboos, many things they feel are the ways of righteous Christian living.

The strong on the other hand, have few if any scruples about external behaviors. Paul is obviously with this camp. He shared the broader view of the Christian life. Strong Christians understand Christian liberty, the freedom which allows believers to become involved with many areas of life and culture without becoming contaminated or defiled or falling into sin. The strength of their faith protects them from error and sin. They are not licentious, but believe in honoring the Lord in all things.

The weak were more dependent on traditions and written laws to keep them from sin than on the Spirit of God. The strong can discern between what is sinful and what is neutral. The strong use the discernment given to them by the Holy Spirit. They believe that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth, that He will guide them and show them all the things necessary for Godly living.

We are all accountable to God for our actions. Yes, the church must discipline sinners, and the legal authorities must punish evil doers, but Christians ought not judge the veracity of the faith of another believer for whom Christ has died. We ought not reject or condemn someone as an unbeliever simply because we disagree with his actions and views on non-essentials.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

In God’s Plan.

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21)As we recall, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery many years before. After the death of Jacob, their father, the brothers feared that Joseph would now exact his revenge. They were wrong. Joseph comforted his brothers by reminding them that he had forgiven them long ago.

Joseph was a godly man who had grown in wisdom through the trials and joys of his life. He had experienced the grace of God and had not only been blessed but had been a blessing to others. He saw the big picture, that the sovereignty of God had worked all things out for His own glory as well as the salvation of His people.

As we see from this incident in the life of Joseph and his family, God is sovereign over everything that happens in the world including natural disasters, sickness and the free acts of mankind. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise. Everything that happens occurs in accordance with His plan even evil and sin. It is also within the Lord’s plan to discipline us which means we will have to endure painful and difficult circumstances in life. These work out His sovereign plan even as they help us grow. Though we may have to endure with difficulty, ultimately, at least for we who believe, we can endure with hope and faith. And as we endure we can reach out to others and comfort them with the same comfort we have received.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Forgive.

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” (Matthew 18:21-22)
In this passage Jesus teaches a lesson on the necessity of forgiveness. Jesus tells His disciples, He tells us that we have a duty to forgive, an obligation, a responsibility to forgive those who have offended or sinned against us, primarily to those within the fellowship of the Kingdom of God.

Doesn’t this agitate you? If someone came and cursed you and belittled you seventy-seven times in one day, you would have to forgive him. Once you could do this, two or three times maybe, but by the fourth time most of us would be ready to smack that person around. Maybe you have felt that something someone did to you was unforgivable, or someone did something evil to one of your loved ones, your wife, your son or daughter, your parents, or perhaps a friend. How would you feel toward a person who abused your child? How would you feel about someone who has murdered or accidentally killed someone you love? Would you think to yourself “I can’t forgive that person? That person did something that was unforgivable?” Despite how we may feel about forgiveness, Jesus tells us that we have an obligation to forgive those who injure us.
What Jesus wants us to do is what he did for us. Didn’t He forgive us while we were still sinners? Didn’t He forgive those who crucified Him? He did not wait for our response before He took steps to forgive us. Since we are forgiven in this manner, we ought also to do the same.
Forgiveness is the choice of the injured party. In forgiveness, I no longer require or expect the offender to change. Reconciliation is dependent on both parties acknowledging the truth about the behavior. This is impossible if offenders continue in the offensive behavior, especially if they are emotionally abusive or hostile. I cannot be reconciled into a relationship that is harmful to me. Forgiveness does not mean that I cannot set boundaries on the relationship to avoid further injury.
Forgiving does not mean that I forget the injuries, deny or minimize them. Forgiveness does not ignore the pain, the emotional hurt or the seriousness of the offense. Forgiving means that I relinquish my desire to exact judgement. When we withhold forgiveness it is almost always because we want justice. But that justice has already been satisfied on the cross. I must let go of revenge: the debt owed me cannot be repaid. Which of the offending party’s sins were not forgiven at the cross? If we continued in unforgiveness any longer, we would be making a mockery of the cross.

Forgiveness is the duty of every Christian. God has canceled an enormous debt of sin for each of us. We have no right to withhold forgiveness of a debt which is minuscule in comparison.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville