The end of one year and the beginning of a new one tends to produce prolific amounts of endless countdowns and memorable lists. I’ve been pondering my own account of 2012 and have come up with a short list of my own. I’d like to share them with you more as an accountability reminder to me in the coming 2013 calendar.
I’m not a huge fan of resolutions for better moral behavior or less indulgences, but I do think making a list of biblical topics that have been swirling around in one’s mind and getting them down on paper is a highly profitable task. Jonathan Edwards was not shy about making his 70 resolutions known at the ripe age of 20 and while I hope I’m not deluded enough to think I could match intellect with one of the greatest theologians of all time, I do find some of his practices quite helpful. So for me, at the ripe(ish) age of 42, why would I not follow in his footsteps and approach the New Year with a list of my own? Particularly when it comes to the value of Scripture in how it relates to practical living?
So I’d like to embark on a reflective 2012 journey briefly laying out some of the Scriptural doctrines that have either puzzled me and/or challenged me to think more deeply, and more rightly about being a Christian women. Frankly, in a world where biblical Christian femininity is neither appreciated nor wanted, women need to be more and more mindful of digging deeper and deeper into the bible instead of being so easily swayed by the next new trend.
And sadly, many women who name the name of Christ, but do not want the blessed, joyful duty and obligation of following the greatest historical act on our behalf, Jesus dying on the cross, quickly abandon His ways for the sake of individuality–a truly cultural and Eve-esque thing to do. What has happened to “not my will, Lord; not my will but thy will be done?” A bite in an apple shows how quickly we descend into making our own decisions and it still rings true today. But I digress. That happened a bit more than last year so I’ll keep moving along.
Phil. 2:5-8, Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
It is astonishing to me the amount of times I profess (quite loudly at times) to be a Christian, but do not die to myself in conversations and deeds–dishonoring the word Phil. 2 implanted in my life and soul by a very gracious and merciful God. This is an attempt in hopes of continuing to mature in Christ as I grow in the grace and knowledge of pursuing more of who He is.
So with that intro., I’d like to share my thoughts here. My only caveat is to say this is not an exhaustive list. That statement would be highly inaccurate and mostly arrogant considering my small capacity for remembering much, but I’ll try to stick with some main highlights which God has used to confront my idolizing and paradisaical heart. They are listed in no particular order for when it comes to God’s Word–they are all important:
1) The value of a spirit-filled, holy pursuing local church. Okay, I retract my last statement and say this would be my number one–or at least right up there with my top two. This past year, the Lord has challenged me (us) with the immeasurable pleasure and joy that comes with being surrounded by the riches of precise exegetical preaching; charmingly influential music, and eager ministerial servants.
Matt. 16:18, I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
2) The challenge with, understanding for, and embracing of true saving grace which is more about being saved to be part of the corporate church than becoming a better individual. When it comes to my own journey through religious traditions over true bible preaching, this has resonated with me over the past years, but has been revived in a very new and fresh way in 2012. The betterment of the (Christian) group versus the wisdom of the individual judgment. Oh Lord, save me from self!
3) The bible interprets itself. This past year, for the first time, I have relied less on commentaries and scholastic articles and more on working through biblical ideas and concepts from cross-references. This is not a denouncement or criticism of written exposition. What a fool I would be if I did not see nor appreciate the immense worth of the many resources out there. I have and continue to value them. What I am saying is in the past, I’ve leaned so heavily on them I tend to be tossed and swayed depending on who the author was, did I agree with the statements, and how many other people agreed with them. It’s not incorrect, and, in fact is a good study habit, but leaning all of my gleaning weight on them often left me less convicted and more confused. This past year, there has been much clarity in terms of sifting through truth and using the Word of God to burn away the dross of man’s opinions.
4) I Cor. 12:20-21, But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
Hebrews 10:23-25, Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
No matter how slick the presentation, how earnest the cause, or how sincere the profession, a Christian cannot habitually stop going to (a bible believing/preaching) church. The New Testament only knows two groups: believers who go to church, and unbelievers. The bible, as far as I know, never addresses “Christians” who do not belong to a local church. This is one of the toughest doctrinal pills to swallow in our culture of autonomy and individuality. But much of the doctrine of unity and being of one accord hinges on someone who understands this important act of obedience, faith, and trust in God.
5) The lost (biblical) art of joyful submission is becoming more and more faded amongst professing believers. The “master” is no longer accountable to God; but now to the “slave” as well (~ says an unbiblical person).
I Peter 2:18, Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
I Peter 3:1-2, In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
Col. 3:20, Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
I Tim. 6:1, All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.
Titus 2:9-10, Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
Rom. 13:1-2, Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Eph. 5:21, and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Heb. 13:17, Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Based on Phil 2 in the beginning of this post, the doctrine of joyful submission is a powerful one.
6) It is easier to heal someone physically than to forgive someone judiciously. Okay. Obviously I’ve never ever healed anyone physically (or otherwise) which requires divine power and certainly cannot bring someone to heaven on my own accord which requires divine authority. But 2012 has brought an immense understanding of just how important the doctrine of forgiveness truly is. The whole doctrine of the second greatest commandment which in the book of Mark cannot be severed from the greatest and foremost commandment, is love God with everything and vindicate your profession by loving your neighbor as yourself. The love of a Christian disciple is far reaching–and extends beyond anyone’s human capacity for sentimentality or emotionalism. Jesus proved He was the ultimate forgiver of sins by healing people. We prove we are His disciples through the continual act of forgiveness; no matter what the offense is. We forgive much because we have been forgiven much.
I Peter 4:8, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
God, in His divine power, infinitely and perfectly covered every sin we would offend Him with; because of this amazing grace, I am to cover a multitude.
In 2012, it was tempting to want to see the “healing” of circumstances be relieved than to be required to actively practice the spiritual discipline of continual forgiveness. The challenge has been: is my profession of faith genuine? The answer has been: only through the propitiatory actions of Jesus Christ therefore I can forgive. I’ll leave the healing results to God. ;)
7) True Christian fellowship is discriminate which is easily confused with unloving. The bible is clear, though. I John 1:6-10, If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
8) Reading the bible through the bible has been my biggest challenge yet… and I have yet to accomplish it. Maybe in 2013?
Great thoughts about reading the bible through found here: How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013.
Loved this point from Matt: 5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit
Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times. If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed. You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period.
9) Memorizing the bible is tough. Having Christian sisters who push you eases things.
10) For me, I love God’s mercy; for others I love God’s judgment. For me, the longsuffering of God is kindness; for others, the longsuffering of God is frustrating. Mercy triumphs over judgment–always. May I repent of my self-righteous and judgmental attitude.
11) Rejoice always, pray unceasingly, give thanks continually: some of the hardest commands in Scripture.
12) It is better to receive than to give. It is a kindness of God for me to be helpless than to always be fit.
13) Have, possess, and cling to those friendship who are more about sharpening one another than having fun with one another. But do not idolize them for God is a (righteously) jealous God. Pursue friends who desire the deep conversations. Hold on loosely to relationships for everything belongs to God. No matter the quality or quantity of time, people will only ultimately tell you what they want you to hear. When it’s good; it’s very good. When it’s bad… well, you know.
14) Maturity in Christ is recognizing my definitions of “good” and “bad” are sinfully wrong and is based on experience and feelings more than God’s absolute truth. Cultural rationales have quickly been adapted by the church which has produced a “this is your best life now” agenda. God is good to all of His children. He uses all sorts of circumstances to redefine our understanding of these terms.
I Peter 1:6-9, In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
God works everything in a believer’s life for His glory and our good (Rom. 8:28-29). In doing so we are conformed to His precious Son’s image. The “good” definition is redeemed through Christ to no longer have a fleshly spin on things, but a supernatural rehab toward joy in all of life.
15) A Christian woman cannot begin to understand the depraved soul and mind as described in Rom. 3 unless she is confronted with it through weekly preaching and teaching. She’ll never discover it on her own.
Happy New Year, everyone! Though another calendar year is gone, one of the greatest uplifting comforts to me has been God’s eternality. To Him, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand year is like a day. There is still time to repent while it is called “day.”
II Peter 3:8-9, But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.