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第 29 课: 属灵争战的武器—士兵的鞋子 (以弗所书 6:15)

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6:14 所以要站稳了,用真理当作带子束腰,用公义当作护胸甲遮胸; 6:15 用平安的福音当作鞋子穿在脚上; 6:16 此外又拿着信心的盾牌,用以灭尽那恶者一切的火箭; 6:17 并戴上救恩的头盔;拿着圣灵的宝剑,就是 神的道。 6:18 在圣灵里,随时多方祷告祈求,并要为此儆醒恒守,为众圣徒祈求。

引言

“Roll Freddy Roll”是我看过最有趣的电影。蒂姆康威(Tim Conway)饰演「弗雷迪」(Freddy),这位父亲为了取悦儿子,他希望名字能记录在健力士纪录大全。经过一连串事件,在他的努力下,他创下了逗留在直排轮溜冰鞋上最长时间的世界纪录,这意味他不论做甚么事情,弗雷迪都需要在直排轮溜冰鞋上进行。

趣事的序幕,从弗雷迪穿上了他的直排轮溜冰鞋来驾驶他那部大众甲壳虫(Volkswagen beetle)开始。他的脚和油门踏板缠在一起,导致他超速驾驶。这个时候,刚巧一名第一天值班的警员驶过,要使弗雷迪靠路边把车停下来便己很费力气,接着警员要求弗雷迪下车,并且坚持要他「靠在车上」给他搜查。不过,弗雷迪无法在穿上直排轮溜冰鞋的情况下靠在车上,他和那警员都掉在地上。过了一段很短的时间,弗雷迪参加朋友的丧礼,他是其中一位扶灵的至亲好友,把棺材送上柩车要走上好些路,途中,弗雷迪失足,他拼命地抱住棺材,并造成很大的骚动。

因为弗雷迪被限制在直排轮溜冰鞋上,他才开始体会到能够平稳用双足在地上站稳是祝福。若是站在直排轮溜冰鞋上发动战争,我们都能想象得到那情况。当描述「穿著合宜的士兵」时,保罗形容参与属灵争战时最理想的鞋,基督精兵所穿最好的鞋是「平安的福音」。这是第15节和这一课的主题。

NET中文译本的翻译: 「所以要站稳了,用真理当作带子束腰,用公义当作护胸甲遮胸;用平安福音当作鞋子穿在脚上。」(以弗所书 6:14-15)。让我们倾听这些话,因为他们是关于全副装备,这装备能确保我们得胜;若没有它,我们无法在撒旦的诡计下站稳。

平安的福音

在这段经文,保罗并没有为平安下定义,这显示他预期我们已从别的经文明白甚么是平安。故此,我们在这里的方针,是从创世记至启示录追溯「平安」这主题,然后再看保罗在不同的书信中,包括以弗所书前面数章,再聚焦保罗怎样理解平安。我们这样得出平安的定义,应用在我们研读的经文,看看如何应用在我们的属灵争战中。

在旧约中的平安

在旧约创世记中,我们读到约瑟的兄弟把自己的兄弟卖作奴隶。随后因着饥荒,他们要到埃及购买粮食,他们到了约瑟的家,但他们不知道那就是他们所出卖的兄弟的家,我们暂且把这因素放在一旁。他们感到害怕,因为他们相信那人是借故殷勤,而他一定会伤害他们(参创世记43:18)。当约瑟的家宰看到他们感到害怕,便对他们说:「你们可以放心[原文按字义是愿你们平安],不要害怕,是你们的神和你们父亲的神赐给你们财宝在你们的袋子里,你们的银子我早已收了。」(创世记43:23)。安慰只从那位真神、那位以色列的神而来。这位埃及家宰和他们谈及他们的神(可能是约瑟吩咐他的),并告诉他们,他们袋里的银子,是他们的神给他们的祝福。故此,他们应感恩和感到平安,而不是感到困扰和恐惧。

不论在甚么时候,当以色列人要出战,他们不会感到恐惧或惊慌,他们深深感到平安的根源,是神与他们同在,并且会赐给他们胜利:

20:1 你出去与仇敌争战的时候,看见马匹、车辆,并有比你多的人民,不要怕他们,因为领你出埃及地的耶和华你 神与你同在。 20:2 你们将要上阵的时候,祭司要到百姓面前宣告说:20:3「以色列人哪,你们当听:你们今日将要与仇敌争战,不要胆怯,不要惧怕战兢,也不要因他们惊恐,20:4 因为耶和华你们的 神与你们同去,要为你们与仇敌争战,拯救你们。」(申命记20:1-4) 1

当神命令基甸带领以色列的军队抵御米甸的袭击,祂知道基甸仍然缺乏信心和勇气,因此祂给基甸一个经历,给他在争战中所需要的平安:

7:9 当那夜,耶和华吩咐基甸说:「起来,下到米甸营里去,因我已将他们交在你手中。 7:10 倘若你怕下去,就带你的仆人普拉下到那营里去。 7:11 你必听见他们所说的,然后你就有胆量下去攻营。」于是,基甸带着仆人普拉下到营旁。 7:12 米甸人、亚玛力人和一切东方人都布散在平原,如同蝗虫那样多。他们的骆驼无数,多如海边的沙。 7:13 基甸到了,就听见一人将梦告诉同伴说:「我做了一梦,梦见一个大麦饼滚入米甸营中,到了帐幕,将帐幕撞倒,帐幕就翻转倾覆了。」7:14 那同伴说:「这不是别的,乃是以色列人约阿施的儿子基甸的刀。 神已将米甸和全军都交在他的手中。」基甸大败仇敌 7:15 基甸听见这梦和梦的讲解,就敬拜 神,回到以色列营中说:「起来吧!耶和华已将米甸的军队交在你们手中了。」(士师记7:9-15) 2

神答允赐给以色列人的平安是有条件的。当他们相信神并且遵守祂的话语(特别是遵守律法),他们就有所应许的平安。如果他们不信神和撇弃祂的律法,神保证以色列人不再有平安,取而代之是恐惧与疑惑:

28:63 先前耶和华怎样喜悦善待你们,使你们众多,也要照样喜悦毁灭你们,使你们灭亡,并且你们从所要进去得的地上必被拔除。 28:64 耶和华必使你们分散在万民中,从地这边到地那边,你必在那里事奉你和你列祖素不认识木头石头的神。 28:65 在那些国中,你必不得安逸,也不得落脚之地,耶和华却使你在那里心中跳动,眼目失明,精神消耗。 28:66 你的性命必悬悬无定,你昼夜恐惧,自料性命难保。 28:67 你因心里所恐惧的,眼中所看见的,早晨必说:『巴不得到晚上才好!』晚上必说:『巴不得到早晨才好!』(申命记28:63-67)

这是摩西在申命记第28-32章的主题,被后来的先知引用。他们确保那些叛逆神的以色列人没有平安,所得的是神的审判:

耶和华说:「恶人必不得平安!」 (以赛亚书48:22和合本; 另参57:21)

12:12 灭命的军队都前进,来到旷野中的丘陵。因耶和华要用他们为刀,从地这边直到地那边尽行杀灭。无人得安全。(耶利米书12:12; 另参7-13节)

30:5 不错,这是祂所说的:「你听到惶恐和惧怕的哭号;平安无处可见。(耶利米书30:5)

与此同时,先知亦发出警告:假先知会否定神审判以色列,并且假称平安,并保证神给子民祝福:

『他们草率地医治我子民的损伤,说:「平安了!平安了! 」其实没有平安。 』(耶利米书6:14新译本) .3

平安创世记开便出现,但却很快便失去了。神并非单单创造了这个世界,还有所有的植物和动物;并且创造了人类和一个园子,祂把人安放在园子里和祂相交。在人堕落前那段日子,是何等的和平。在傍晚,神和亚当夏娃在园子里散步,关系密切;但人的堕落使一切改变了,那平安也失去了。亚当和夏娃不是与神在园子里散步,他们躲避神(3:8);他们并以他们被造时那赤裸为耻,并试图遮蔽(创世记3:7)。整个创造都被抛进混乱中(参罗马书8:18-23)。平安被弃的原因是亚当和夏娃不完全相信神和不肯守神给他们唯一的命令。

创世记第三章描述了人的堕落,神不只道出罪的后果,并且也表明了终极的医治,一个重新带来平安的医治。就如罪因一人进入世界,一位救主将人从罪中拯救出来:

3:15 我又要叫你和女人彼此为仇,你的后裔和女人的后裔也彼此为仇。女人的后裔要击打你的头,你要击打她后裔的脚跟。」(创世记3:15).

这话诚然为人带来希望,同时也是撒旦的厄运。这话是对撒旦说的,他的国度要被女人的后裔击破。弥赛亚拨乱返正,为人类带来救恩,恢复创造秩序,用平安取代纷争和混乱。

过了几章经文,我们便被给予进一步关于那将要来的弥赛亚的提示。在创世记12:1-3,神给予亚伯拉罕应许--亚伯拉罕之约;并且在整本书中不断向他和他的后裔重复这应许要透过他的「后裔」(参加拉太3:15-16),那将要来的弥赛亚、给全世界祝福。 创世记第14章给一位神秘的王麦基洗德作了一个简短的介绍,他是那要来的弥赛亚的预表,希伯来书的作者指出一个事实:

14:18 又有撒冷王麦基洗德,带着饼和酒,出来迎接。(他是至高 神的祭司。)14:19 他为亚伯兰祝福,说:「愿创造天地的主,至高的 神,赐福与亚伯兰。 14:20 至高的 神把敌人交在你手里,是配当称颂的。」(创世记 14:18-20)

这位撒冷王麦基洗德是至高神的祭司,他在亚伯拉罕击败诸王回来的时候给他祝福;亚伯拉罕把战利品的十分之一献给他。他的名字翻译出来,头一个意思就是「公义的王」;其次是「撒冷王」,就是「平安的王」的意思。他没有父亲,没有母亲,没有族谱,也没有生死的记录,而是与神的儿子相似,永远作祭司。 (希伯来7:1-3 新译本)

随着旧约圣经不断地揭示弥赛亚降临的应许,旧约时代的圣徒渐渐清晰地看到永恒的「平安」只有透过弥赛亚才会来临。只是怎样得享这「平安」仍是一个秘密;这并非因为没有启示,而是关于弥赛亚降临的不同启示中有不协调的地方。

一方面,弥赛亚是以凯旋的君王降临,他坐在大卫的宝座上,他会打败他的敌人,并建立应许的国度。

9:4 因为他们所负的重轭,打肩头的杖,欺压他们人的短棍,你都已经折断,好像在米甸的日子一样。 9:5 战士每一双震地的战靴,滚在血中的战袍,都必当作柴烧。 9:6 因有一婴孩为我们而生,有一子赐给我们。政权必担在他的肩头上。他名称为「奇妙的策士」、「全能的 神」、「永在的父」、「和平的君」!(以赛亚书9:4-6)

而另一方面,弥赛亚却因世人的罪而受苦,透过受苦带来「平安」:

53:4 但他担当我们的病患,背负我们的痛苦;我们却以为他受责罚,被 神因他所行的击打苦待了。 53:5 哪知他为我们的悖逆受害;为我们的罪孽压伤。因他受的刑罚,我们得平安;因他受的创伤,我们得医治。 53:6 我们都如羊走迷;各人偏离己路,但耶和华使我们众人的罪孽都归在他身上。(以赛亚书53:4-6)

旧约结束,先知们仍感到迷网,神如何透过一位既要受苦、又是荣耀的弥赛亚带来「平安」:

1:10 论到这救恩,那预告你们要得恩典的众先知,早已详细的寻求考察; 1:11 他们藉着心里基督的灵引导,预先探讨基督受苦难、后来得荣耀,要应验在谁的身上,并怎样的时候应验。(彼得前书1:10-11)

只有这些预言的应验解开了谜团。

在新约中的「平安」

当主耶稣降世,祂是一位完美的神,同时是一个完美的人时,祂被确定了祂就是带来「平安」的那位。撒迦利亚曾说及基督的出现和那要来的平安,他的儿子约翰作先锋,宣告主的来临:

1:76 孩子啊,你要称为至高者的先知;因为你要行在主的前面,预备他的道路, 1:77 叫他的百姓,藉罪蒙赦免,得知救恩。 1:78 因我们 神的温柔怜悯,叫清晨的日光从高天临到我们,1:79 要照亮坐在黑暗中死荫里的人,把我们的脚引到平安的路上。」(路加福音1:76-79)

在祂出生时,天使因祂带给世人平安而赞美神:

1:14 欢喜快乐必临到你,有许多人因他出世,也必喜乐。(路加福音1:14).

年老的西面望着婴孩耶稣,他说出他的平安,那平安能助他快乐地面对他的死亡:

2:25 在耶路撒冷有一个人名叫西面,又公义又虔诚的人,素常盼望以色列得蒙救赎,圣灵又在他身上。 2:26 他得了圣灵的启示,知道自己未死以前,必看见主所立的基督。 2:27 他受了圣灵的指引,进入殿院,当耶稣的父母抱着孩子进来,要照律法的规矩办事,2:28 西面就用手接过他来,称颂 神说:2:29「全权的主啊,如今可以照你的话,释放仆人安然离世了。 2:30 因为我的眼睛已经看见你的救恩,2:31 就是你在万民面前所预备的:2:32 光,是外邦人的启示,又是你民以色列的荣耀。」(路加福音2:25-32)

耶稣在地上的事奉,祂给人平安的话。一个妇人偷偷的摸了耶稣的衣服,「盗取」了一个神迹,她恐惧战兢来到耶稣跟前,耶稣知她所做的事,耶稣怎样作呢?

5:32 耶稣周围观看,要找出作这事的人。 5:33 那女人知道在自己身上所发生的事,就恐惧战兢的来俯伏在耶稣跟前,将实情全告诉他。 5:34 耶稣对他说:「女儿,你的信救了你,平平安安的回去吧!你的病痊愈了。」(马可福音5:32-34)

在祂被捕、面对审问和被钉十字架以前,祂给门徒留下平安的话:

14:27 「我留下平安给你们,我将我的平安赐给你们;我所赐的,不像世人所赐的。你们不要心里忧伤,也不要害怕。 14:28 你们听见我对你们说过:『我要去,还要到你们这里来。』你们若爱我,就要因我到父那里去而喜乐,因为父是比我大的。 14:29 现在事情还没有实现,我预先告诉你们,到事情实现的时候,你们就可以信。 14:30 我没有时间和你们多说话,因为这世界的王将到。他没有能力胜过我,14:31 但为要叫世人知道我爱父,父怎样吩咐我,我就怎样行。起来,我们走吧。」 (约翰福音14:27-31)

16:32 看哪!时候将到,现在就是了,你们将要分散,各自归家,只留下我独自一人;然而我不是独自一人,因为有父与我同在。 16:33 我将这些事告诉你们,是要叫你们在我里面有平安。在世上你们有苦难;但你们可以放心,我已经胜了世界。」(约翰福音16:32-33)

在耶稣死后,门徒躲在一间楼房内,他们惧怕那些犹太宗教领袖将要怎么样对付他们。当耶稣向这群受惊的人显现时,祂给他们平安的话:

20:19 当日(就是七日的第一日)晚上,门徒聚集在一起,因怕犹太人的领袖,把门都锁上了。耶稣来站在他们当中,对他们说:「愿你们平安!」20:20 说了这话,就把手和肋旁给他们看。门徒看见主,就喜乐了。 20:21 耶稣又对他们说:「愿你们平安!父怎样差遣了我,我也照样差遣你们。」20:22 说了这话,就向他们吹一口气,说:「你们受圣灵。 20:23 你们赦免谁的罪,谁的罪就赦免了;你们留下谁的罪,谁的罪就留下了。」(约翰福音20:19-23) 4

五旬节后,门徒开始传福音。路加称他们「传从耶稣而来的平安」:

10:34 彼得就开口说:「我真看出 神是不偏待人, 10:35 原来各国中,那敬畏主行义的人,都为主所悦纳。 10:36 神藉着耶稣基督(他是万有的主)传平安的福音,将这信息赐给以色列人。 10:37 这话在约翰宣传洗礼以后,从加利利起,传遍了犹太;10:38 神怎样以圣灵和能力膏拿撒勒人耶稣,这都是你们知道的。他周游四方行善事,医好凡被魔鬼压制的人,因为 神与他同在。(使徒行传10:34-38) 

彼得在他的书信中继续表达平安是值得追求的:

3:10因为经上说:「人若爱生命,愿享美福,须要禁止舌头不出恶言,嘴唇不说诡诈的话。 3:11 也要离恶行善,寻求和睦,一心追赶。 3:12 因为主的眼看顾义人,主的耳听他们的祈祷;惟有行恶的人,主向他们变脸。」 (彼得前书3:10-12)

你们彼此要用爱亲嘴问安。愿平安归与你们凡在基督里的人。(彼得前书5:14)

彼得在他最后的一封书信,极力劝勉他的读者要能安然见主,不要被假教师傅的教导诱惑而沉沦:

3:14 亲爱的弟兄啊!你们既等候这些事,就当努力,使自己没有玷污,无可指摘,安然见主。 3:15 以我主的忍耐为救赎,就如我们所亲爱的弟兄保罗,照着所赐给他的智慧,写信给你们;3:16 在他一切的信上,也都是讲论这些事。信中有些难明白的,那无知、不坚定的人曲解了,如曲解别的经文一样,就导致自己的沉沦。 3:17 亲爱的弟兄啊!你们既然预先受了警惕,就当防备,恐怕被恶人的错谬诱惑,就从自己的坚固上坠落。 3:18 你们却要在我们主和救主耶稣基督的恩典和知识上有长进。愿荣耀归给他,从今直到永远!阿们。(彼得后书3:14-18) 5

在保罗著作中的平安

使徒保罗明白和曾经历神的平安,他在书信开首祝愿收信人平安,有时在结语也有平安的祝颂语:

1:3 愿恩惠、平安,从 神我们的父,并主耶稣基督,归与你们!(哥林多前书1:3)

6:23 愿平安、爱、信,从父 神和主耶稣基督,归与弟兄姐妹们。(以弗所书6:23)

保罗使用行善和作恶的人的结局作对比,指出公义的果子是平安;而作恶的后果是磨难与痛苦:

2:4 还是你藐视他丰富的恩慈、宽容和忍耐,而不晓得他的恩慈是领你悔改呢? 2:5你竟任着你顽梗不悔改的心,为自己积蓄忿怒,直到 神震怒的日子,显他公义的审判。 2:6 他必照各人的行为报应各人:2:7 凡恒心作善工,寻求荣耀、尊贵和不能朽坏的,就赏以永生;2:8 但是放纵私欲,不顺从真理,反顺从不义的,就报以烈怒。 2:9 将有患难和困苦加给一切作恶的人,先是犹太人,后是希腊人;2:10 却将荣耀、尊贵和平安加给一切有善行的人,先是犹太人,后是希腊人。(罗马书2:4-10) 

他说平安是因信基督又得到救恩所产生的结果:

5:1 我们既因信称义,就藉着我们的主耶稣基督得与 神相和。 5:2 我们又藉着他,因信得进入现在所站的这恩典中,并且欢欢喜喜盼望 神的荣耀。(罗马书5:1-2)

他还谈到平安是圣灵所结的果子:

8:5 因为以肉体而活的人有肉体的想法;以圣灵而活的人有圣灵的想法。 8:6 有肉体想法的就是死,有圣灵想法的乃是生命和平安,8:7 因为有肉体想法的就是与 神为敌,原因是不服从 神的律法,也无力服从。 8:8 而且在肉体里的人不能得 神的喜欢。(罗马书8:5-8) 6

对保罗来说,平安是基本要素,并非偶发性的。追求平安在基督徒的生命中应该有优先的位置,追求平安可以避免不必要的绊跌、分歧与纷争;也规管参与教会聚会的方式:

14:16 不可叫你看为善的被人看为恶, 14:17 因为 神的国,不在乎吃喝,只在乎公义、和平,并圣灵中的喜乐。 14:18 这样服事基督的,就为 神所喜悦,又为人所称许。 14:19 所以我们务要追求和睦的事,彼此建立。(罗马书14:16-19)

倘若那不信的人要离婚,就由他吧。无论是弟兄或是姐妹遇着这样的事,都不必受约束。 神召我们原是要我们和睦。(哥林多前书7:15)

14:33 因为神不是叫人混乱,乃是叫人安静。在圣徒的众教会里,(哥林多前书14:33)

13:11 最后,愿弟兄姐妹们都喜乐,改正,要受勉励,要同心合意,要彼此和睦。如此,仁爱、和平的 神必常与你们同在。(哥林多后书13:11)

3:15 又要叫基督的平安在你们心里作主(你们蒙召,归为一体,进入这平安),且要常存感谢的心。(歌罗西书3:15)

2:22 你要逃避少年的私欲,同那清心求告主的人追求公义、忠信、仁爱、和平。 (提摩太后书2:22)

当基督徒在生活中遇到逼迫、逆境和苦难时,他或她在这种处境中应仍经历神的平安。因此保罗谴责焦虑并赞扬平安:

4:6 应当一无挂虑,凡事只要藉着祷告、祈求,和感谢,将你们所要的告诉 神。 4:7 神所赐超人理解的平安,必在基督耶稣里,保守你们的心怀意念。 4:8 最后,弟兄姐妹们,凡是真实的、可敬的、公义的、纯洁的、可爱的、值得表扬的、上好的,或是可称赞的,这些事你们都要思念。 4:9 你们在我身上所学习的、所领受的、所听见的、所看见的,这些事你们都要去行。平安的 神就必与你们同在。(腓立比书4:6-9)

3:16 愿赐平安的主,随时随事亲自给你们平安。愿主常与你们众人同在。 (帖撒罗尼迦后书3:16)

保罗也谈及非信徒错误以为可得安慰,他们所得的是假平安和假保障,他们的厄运和毁灭的日子就在眼前:

5:3 人正说「平安稳妥」的时候,毁灭忽然临到他们,如同产难临到一个怀胎的妇人一样,他们绝不能逃脱。(帖撒罗尼迦前书5:3)

以弗所书所述的平安

保罗在以弗所书,以平安来开始和作结语:

1:2 愿恩惠、平安,从 神我们的父,和主耶稣基督归与你们!(以弗所书1:2)

6:23 愿平安、爱、信,从父 神和主耶稣基督,归与弟兄姐妹们。(以弗所书6:23)

不管你翻到这书的那一个篇幅,你都会找到和平安相关的教导或劝勉。这卷书的任何一章,也许是直接、或是间接,都不会不处理平安这课题。

以弗所第一章 ,保罗一开始便以平安作为问安语(1:2)。接着,他叫读者留意神的旨意和永恒计划,那就是一切在基督里同归于一(1:10)。神拣选我们在祂面前成为圣洁是这计划的一部份(1:4)。我们的终极,取决于那永恒的过去,我们在基督里的应许有圣灵的印记1:13;而永恒的未来安于神的计划和在基督里。

我们能够肯定救恩,就如我们肯定神的大能可以成就祂的旨意。保罗在15-23节祷告的焦点,是我们能抓紧我们能肯定那将来盼望的实在。他祷告我们得到神的启迪,我们能抓紧祂的呼召所带来的盼望,圣徒得到成为祂的继承人的至高荣耀和神在永恒的过去成全祂的旨意那大能。这大能在基督的复活和高升超过其他地上和天上的权势,明显地表达出来;天使和撒旦与及他的党羽都在基督的权能下。

2 充满和我们平安相关的保证。在这章里,保罗述说了两种平安,平安是从基督的死亡、埋葬和复活而来,这平安首先是「与神和好」,其次是「与人和好」。

在以弗所书第二章的开端告诉我们,借着基督的十字架,我们现在才能与神和好。当我们还作不信的人,我们在不知不觉中成为撒旦的仆役,我们以前「死在罪恶和过犯中」,不单「随从今世的风俗」,而且「顺服空中掌权者的首领」(以弗所书2:1-2)。我们过往并非按着圣灵的引领而活(5:18),但随着肉体和心中所喜好的去行(2:3)。

那时,我们「与基督分离」(2:12),甚至与基督为敌。我们与神的祝福无份,没有指望:

2:13 但你们从前远离 神的人,如今却在基督耶稣里,已经被他的血带近了。(以弗所书2:13)

所有远离神的人,都因为耶稣基督在各各他所成就的救恩而改变了:

2:13 但你们从前远离 神的人,如今却在基督耶稣里,已经被他的血带近了。 14 因他是我们的和睦,将两下合而为一,拆毁了中间隔断的墙,彼此的寃仇, 15 就是当他在肉体中废掉那记在律法上的规条的时候。又将两下藉着自己造成一个新人,如此便成就了和睦。 16 他既在十字架上为这寃仇受害,便藉这十字架使两下归为一体,与 神和好了; 17 他并且来传和平给你们远处的人,也传给那近处的人, 18 以致我们两下藉着圣灵进到父面前。 19 这样,你们不再作外人和客旅,而是与圣徒同国,是 神家里的人了; 20 因为你们已被建造在使徒和先知的根基上,有基督耶稣自己作为房角石, 21 全屋靠他联系作准则,渐渐长成为主的圣殿; 22 你们也靠他同被建造,成为 神藉着圣灵居住的所在。(以弗所书 2:12-22)

基督是我们获得平安的途径;那平安既是与神和好、也是神的平安。基督的救赎将那因为我们的罪而在我们和神之间的障碍移除。我们不单被拉「近」祂,并且成了祂的一部份;作为信徒,我们现在是祂的身体的一部份。

主得胜而来的平安并不止此,在我们得救以前,我们是犹太人的敌人,在神和他们所立的约以外,并没有得到祂福份的指望。我们和犹太人并无情谊,并且明显地与他们为敌。在我们得救以前,我们不单与神为敌,我们也与犹太人为敌。那疏远和分隔并非单方面的,犹太人对我们怀有敌意,而我们对他们同样怀有敌意。在圣殿中有一堵「墙」,将犹太人和外邦人分隔。这墙象征我们外邦人和他们犹太人之间的疏离与仇视。

基督在各各他的工作改变了这情况,祂把那分隔犹太人和外邦人之间的墙拆毁。祂成为我们的平安,祂将双方在祂里面合而为一,那信福音的,不再分为「犹太人」和「外邦人」。现在,所有信基督的人在祂里面成为一体。祂叫我们与祂和好,成为「一个新人」。我们在祂里面成为一体--教会,那是祂在人间的居所。

3 ,保罗将焦点放在苦难的另一来源--恐惧,它给撒旦立足之地、使人不安。保罗是在监狱中写这封书信,他因信仰而遭受不公的苦难,他的被关押可能令其他圣徒惊惶失措。第三章是为了消除圣徒中可能因他的捆锁而出现的恐惧,并且表明他的受苦是一种荣誉,也是神揭示祂的奥秘的总计划的其中一部份,这奥秘就是把福音传给外邦人。保罗以他的事工,包括他的被捆锁视作一种荣誉,神施恩授予他的特权:

3:8 我本来比众圣徒中最小的还小,然而他还赐我这恩典,叫我把基督那测不透的丰富传给外邦人; 3:9 又使众人都明白,这历代以来隐藏在创造万物之 神里,奥秘的计划, 3:10 就是要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知 神百般的智慧。 3:11 这是照 神从万世以前,在我们主基督耶稣里所成就的永恒旨意。 3:12我们因着耶稣的信实,就在他里面放胆无惧,笃信不疑的来到 神面前。 3:13 所以我求你们,不要因我为你们所受的患难丧胆,这原是你们的荣耀。(以弗所书3:8-13)

在第三章14-21节,保罗在这里提供了信心和勇气的进一步原由。他向天父屈膝祷告,他向「天上地上的全家,都是从祂得名」(15节)的那位祷告。从伊甸园起,谁为别的起名,便对被起名的拥有管辖的权柄。故此,神不单为祂的创造起名,也给人赐新的名字,将他们的命运改变了(参创世记17:4-7,15-16;35:9-12)。

假如天父就是那位给天上地上全家赐名的,那就是说祂拥有管辖天上众生,包括天使的权柄(另参以弗所书1:20-22; 西1:16-18 )。祂是全能的神,掌管祂创造的每一部份。因此,我们可以因为晓得祂的计划和旨意将会成就,就算我们如基督处于受苦的过程中,都能经历和得享平安。这些苦难将我们领到荣耀和喜悦里,受苦也是值得的。

在第四章,在基督里的合一和圣灵所赐予的多元恩赐,是神战胜撒旦和他的党羽的另一明证。圣灵所赐的礼物,不只帮助我们成长和长至成熟,这也是第8-10节基督战胜撒旦的证据:

4:8 所以经上说:「他升上高天的时候,囚禁了仇敌,将恩赐给人。」4:9 既说升上,岂不是先降在地下吗? 4:10 那降下的,也就是远升诸天之上为要充满万有的。(以弗所书4:8-10)

以弗所书的余下部份,由4:17至6:9主要是处理如何维持平安。特别是神在那些在基督里有宝贵信心的人中所成就的平安。总体而言,要保存这平安,我们要放弃未信前的思维和行事为人的方式(3:17-32);要保存平安,我们要行在爱中(5:1-7)、在光明中(5:8-14)、在智慧中( 5:15-20)、在圣灵里(5:18)和顺服(5:21–6:9)。

结合所引用有关平安的经文,我们可以看到平安的样貌;我们也可以透过甚么不是平安而为平安下定义。平安和下面的情况恰恰相反:恐惧、怯懦、恐慌、担心战栗、绝望、怀疑、畏惧、焦虑和烦躁不安。平安是一种内在的平静与安宁,既自信、又清醒。从人际关系的角度,不论是和神或与其他人的关系,平安是没有敌意和仇恨,是真正的团结与和谐。

最后我要说的,平安只从神而来。不同形式的假「平安」,或许在片时能够制造出和真平安相似的果效,但它们却是短暂的和站不住脚的。神是平安的唯一来源,唯独祂透过基督在各各他的十字架,扭转和纠正了伊甸园人类堕落的问题,在基督里移除了神和罪人之间的障碍,并且在相信的人当中带来和谐,不管他们是甚么种族、性别或身份。

平安和属灵争战

初看起来,平安和属灵争战是两码子的事情,一个人怎能在争战时,却又是「平安」呢?我相信圣经的教导是:一个人若没有平安,就不能争战。这告诉我们为甚么平安是属灵争战的军备之一。

平安并非指没有外在的试探和苦难。平安是内在的平静,它是我们面对外在困难时最明显和最需要的。当以色列人要出征,有部份人是不准许参战的:

20:5 官长也要对百姓宣告说:『谁建造房屋,尚未奉献?他可以回家去,恐怕他阵亡,别人去奉献。 20:6 谁种葡萄园,尚未用所结的果子,他可以回家去,恐怕他阵亡,别人去用。 20:7 谁聘定了妻,尚未迎娶,他可以回家去,恐怕他阵亡,别人去娶。」20:8 官长又要对百姓宣告说:「谁惧怕胆怯,他可以回家去,恐怕他弟兄的心消化,和他一样。」(申命记20:5-8)

我相信那些得到豁免无需出征的人,是因为他们没有作为一名士兵所需要的平安。有新房屋的人,他心里想的是他的房子而不是那场战事;那订了亲的,无法把未婚妻置诸脑后而令他分心;那惧怕的也会分心。故此,一个参与争战的人,必须有平安。

撒旦众多方法的其中一项,就是促使圣徒产生内在疑虑和恐惧,并且促使外在的不和谐来抢夺圣徒的平安。他的目的是使我们惊慌惧怕,以致我们做出愚鲁和破坏性的行动:

5:6 你们若谦卑在 神大能的手下,到了时候他必叫你们升高。 5:7 谦卑就是将一切的忧虑卸给 神,因为他顾念你们。 5:8 务要谨守、儆醒。你们的仇敌魔鬼,如同吼叫的狮子,遍地游行,寻找可吞吃的人。 5:9 你们要抵挡他,信心坚定,因为知道你们在世上的弟兄姐妹,也在忍受同样的苦难。 5:10 这样,那赐一切恩典、曾在基督里召你们,得享他永远荣耀的 神,等你们暂受苦难之后,必要亲自复兴、确认、坚固,和建立你们。(彼得前书5:6-10)

我不认为彼得在指示我们要将一切的忧虑交托给主后,立即谈论撒旦只是巧合。撒旦在寻找心灵受困扰的人来威吓他们,他的目的是要那些人在惊惶失措时落入他的魔掌。我们抵挡撒旦的方法是透过寻求和保存从神而来的平安,那平安源自认识到撒旦是战败者;并且认识神的旨意和应许是真确的,当我们信靠祂的时候,我们就安全了。

用平安的福音当作预备

在这节经文中,关于「预备」这个词语有多的讨论。一般来说,这个词语有两个常用的理解和应用方法。一方面这词可以指「准备好」去宣扬福音。若按此诠释,平安就如一名跑手从起跑器所得到的初始推力。无疑,我们应该准备好和愿意把福音传给失丧的人(参彼得前3:15)。保罗在这节也许是指要为传福音作好准备。

然而,若将这字解释作「准备就绪」就更切合他的主题。一名士兵绝不可丢掉他的鞋子,否则他必被打败。耶稣基督的福音带来平安,这平安让基督的战士准备就绪,使他能经受得起那场战事。与神和睦相处给予基督徒部份军备,乍听起来是那样奇怪,这军备让他在抵挡撒旦和他的党羽的属灵争战中站立得稳。

结语

我的基督徒朋友啊!我并不感受到今天的信徒经历完全的平安,我们受撒旦猛烈的攻击。在教会中有强烈的忧虑:父母为孩子们忧虑、家庭为经济问题而忧虑、教会为他们的活动安排和其他无数的困难而忧虑;我们为罪恶、经济与及国家和世界的前景而忧虑。这些忧虑都是对那掌管万事万物的神不敬,并且使我们在敬拜和争战中分心。

在我们研读的经文和其他的经文,神给我们表明平安是祂在基督里成就的,也是基督徒必须追求的。那么,我们如何追求平安?我们如何能够重新得到那失落的平安呢?

首先我们必须记住,平安是神供应给我们的;这平安是祂在十字架上成就的。我们必须恒常回到主耶稣的十字架和默想各各他所带来的果效。我们必须以缔造和平作为优先和主导原则来规范我们的行为。我们要把焦点调校在神的属性、神的主权和祂的旨意与计划上。

我们的优先次序应是缔造和平,并以此作为我们行为的指引。我们的焦点应放在神的属性和神按祂的主权所定下的旨意和计划。我们必须认识到,在逆境和苦难中祂赐下平安。我们是以神赐予其他恩赐的相同方式获得平安--透过神的恩典和我们的信心得到这些礼物。

最后让我们看看腓立比书4:4-9,这是保罗给予处理焦虑和经历神的平安最重要的教导。让我们一起来看:

4:4 你们要在主里常常喜乐。我再说,你们要喜乐! 4:5 让众人见到你们的温柔。主已经近了! 4:6 应当一无挂虑,凡事只要藉着祷告、祈求,和感谢,将你们所要的告诉 神。 4:7 神所赐超人理解的平安,必在基督耶稣里,保守你们的心怀意念。 4:8 最后,弟兄姐妹们,凡是真实的、可敬的、公义的、纯洁的、可爱的、值得表扬的、上好的,或是可称赞的,这些事你们都要思念。 4:9 你们在我身上所学习的、所领受的、所听见的、所看见的,这些事你们都要去行。平安的 神就必与你们同在。(腓立比书4:4-9)

首先,平安来自在神里的喜悦。祂是我们的救赎、祂是我们的保障、祂是我们的胜利、祂是我们的喜乐。平安在祂里面安歇和欢乐(第4节)。其次,平安来自追求和在主内的弟兄姊妹合一与和谐,满有恩典地包容相互之间的弱点(第5节,另参以弗所书4:17-32)。我们为我们所需用的向神祈求,并且相信祂会成就,我们透过祷告得着平安(第6-7节)。当我们约束我们的心怀意念,拒绝那些不合真理与公义的心思意念,我们得着平安(第8节)。当我们思考真理、实践真理,我们得着平安(第9节)。

圣经向所有人说话,并应许那些在心内有困扰的人在基督里的平安。假如你并未接受耶稣基督为主,以下是主自己发出的邀请:

11:28 凡劳苦担重担的人,可以到我这里来,我就使你们得安息。 11:29 你们当负我的轭,学习我心里的柔和谦卑,这样,你们的心就必得享安息。(马太福音11:28-29).

祂常对困苦疲乏的人、背负罪的重担的人和充满恐惧的人说:「平平安安地去吧。」

平安唯独从神而来。平安从耶稣基督而来,祂使神和人复和,祂使敌对的人和平相处;祂赐给人内在的平安,就是在撒旦攻击我们的时候,祂帮助我们站立得稳。愿你在祂里面能够找到平安,透过相信耶稣基督赦免你的罪,也因为祂公义的缘故我们能够与神相交。

16:20 平安的 神快要将撒但践踏在你们脚下。愿我主耶稣的恩常和你们同在。(罗马书16:20)

6:24 愿耶和华赐福给你,保护你。 6:25 愿耶和华使他的脸光照你,赐恩给你。(民数记6:24-26)

6:23愿平安、爱、信,从父 神和主耶稣基督,归与弟兄姐妹们。 (以弗所书6:23)

我不情愿在结束前不提出警告。平安并非我信心的基;圣里所的平安,建基于我们对神的信。 我常常听到人们以「我感到平安」来为他们的决定、态度和行为作出辩护。旧约和新约的经文都为假平安警告我们那是具破坏性和致命的。我们应以神的属性和神的话语为我们平安的基础,平安的根源必须源于神,并且合乎公义与真理。内在平安的感觉并不能证明我们是对的,但处于正确与公义中是平安的基础。让我们透过信靠顺服神来寻求平安。

译者注:除特别标示的地方,中文经文采用NET(中文版)

Translated by: Jenny Pao  鲍婉玲译


1另参申命记31:1-8.

2要留意当神赐基甸「平安」好与米甸人争战,神实际上是使米甸人惊慌和颤抖的心。神是以色列人平安的来源,也是以色列的敌人恐惧的来源。比较出埃及记15:13-18。

3另参耶利米书 8:11; 以西结书13:10, 16

4另参路加福音24:36-40.

5希伯来书的作者劝勉他的读者要追求和平:「你们要追求与众人和睦,并要追求圣洁;非圣洁没有人能见主。 」(希伯来书12:14)

6另参加拉太书5:22.

Naturalism: Bumping Into Reality

Article contributed by Stand To Reason
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Lately I’ve been enjoying my nine-year-old Annabeth’s theological common sense. “Papa, why don’t atheists believe in God?” she asked.

“Well, for a number of reasons,” I said. “Partly because they can’t see Him, so they don’t believe in Him.”

“Can they see atoms?” she offered.

“Good point. But I think they’d say that doesn’t count since they can still detect atoms with scientific instruments, something they can’t do with God. They won’t believe in anything they can’t measure scientifically.”

“That is the weirdest thing that I’ve ever heard,” she concluded.

My fourth grader was on to something that more educated types seemed to have missed: Lots of things are real that cannot be detected by science. How did she know that? She didn’t go to grad school. Innocence often sees the obvious.

Annabeth’s insight was about the inadequacies of naturalism, modernism’s worldview conviction that reality consists completely of material particles in a physical universe governed by natural laws.1

Naturalism is best summed up in Carl Sagan’s famous faith statement, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”2 No Gods, no souls, no Heaven, no Hell, no miracles, no morality, no sin, no forgiveness, no transcendent purpose—just molecules in motion. It’s the worldview of virtually all atheists and the methodological philosophy governing all science.

Entire cultures have been subtly indoctrinated with this physicalistic view. Even many religious people have a naturalistic impulse in their day-to-day dealings with reality, relegating whatever spiritual “beliefs” they have to the shadow-lands of “faith.”

Dealing with naturalism can be daunting, until we realize we have a powerful ally working in our favor: Reality is actually on our side.

Reality Our Ally

This is an insight I learned from Francis Schaeffer. If Christianity is true, he noted, then the worldview it presents is accurate—it describes reality the way it actually is even for naturalists who deny it. “Regardless of a man’s system,” Schaeffer pointed out, “he has to live in God’s world.” 3 This situation creates a problem for skeptics, but an opportunity for us. 4

Someone once said that reality is what you “bump” into (and sometimes get injured by) when you don’t take it seriously. Consequently, anyone who denies some significant feature of the world is headed for a collision. Skeptics are not just at odds with “religion,” then. They are at odds with reality. Their claims about the world dictated by their competing worldview are going to conflict in important ways with the actual world they experience every day.

Schaeffer called this the “point of tension,” a kind of dissonance between what naturalists say about the world and the way the world really is. Sooner or later they’re going to affirm—sometimes without even realizing it—features of reality that make no sense given naturalism.

On the one hand, the naturalist speaks from his own worldview. On the other hand, the way he lives affirms things that have no place in his view of reality, but makes complete sense in ours. He is sending two conflicting messages at the same time, but doesn’t realize it. He’s bumping into reality.

Atheist Richard Dawkins is a prime example. On the one hand, his naturalism dictates that morality is just a relativistic trick of evolution to get our selfish genes into the next generation. On the other hand, he rails against the God of the Old Testament as a vindictive, bloodthirsty, homophobic, racist, genocidal, sadomasochistic, malevolent bully.5 Do you see the problem?

Clearly, Dawkins is not coming to this conclusion based on his naturalism. Instead, that’s his common-sense moral realism talking. His protest makes no sense in his worldview, but is perfectly consistent with ours.6 Dawkins is living in a contradiction on this issue. That’s the point of tension. He’s trading on our worldview, not his. Dawkins is bumping into reality.

There’s something else I want you to see though—not just the contradiction naturalists live in, but also the explanatory power of Christian theism over naturalism. Here’s what I mean.

Important details of the Christian worldview fit nicely with the way we actually discover the world to be. They resonate with our deepest intuitions about reality. This “fit” is the classical definition of truth.7 Consequently, Christianity has the ability to make sense of salient details of the world and of human experience that naturalism cannot.

I want to suggest some practical ways to take advantage of both the naturalists’ “bump” into reality and the superior explanatory power of Christian theism. My goal is to be shrewd and creative—to catch him by surprise, if I can—maneuvering with questions wherever possible. This is the heart of the “tactical” approach.

First, a qualifier. There is no “silver bullet”—no perfect answer, no magic apologetic trick guaranteed to change someone’s mind in a single session. Rather, my aim with people who are deeply committed to a false worldview is to try to plant a seed of doubt or uncertainty in their mind, or to get them thinking in a productive way about Christianity. I call it “putting a stone in their shoe.”

There are lots of different ways to do this with naturalism, but I want to focus here on three bumps with reality that create serious worldview problems for the naturalist, yet serve to validate the Christian view. I’m going to call them “the bump of stuff,” “the bump of bad,” and “the bump of me.”

The Bump of Stuff

My starting point for this maneuver is simple: Stuff exists. Not too controversial. The naturalist cannot easily deny the existence of the material world. It’s her stock in trade, the only thing she’s certain about.

Here’s the fundamental question: Why is there stuff? Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did everything come from? What caused the universe to come into existence?8

Let me show you how this line of questioning plays out tactically in conversation. I was once asked during an audience Q&A to give evidence for the existence of God.

“Can I ask you a few questions to get us rolling?” I said to the challenger. He nodded. “First, do you think stuff exits? Is the material universe real?”

“Yes, of course,” he answered.

“Good. Second question: Has the stuff of the universe always existed. Is the universe eternal?”

“No,” he said. “The universe came into being at the Big Bang.”

“Okay, I’m with you. Now the final question: What caused the universe to come into being?”

At this point he balked. “How do I know?” he said. “I’m no scientist.”

“Neither am I,” I admitted, “but there’s really only two choices: something or nothing. What do you think? Do you think something outside the natural universe caused it to come into being, or do you think it just simply popped into existence with no cause, for no reason?”

At this point, the skeptic who prides himself in his use of reason finds himself in a rational box. Both the law of excluded middle and the law of non-contradiction (it can’t be neither option and it can’t be both) oblige him to choose one of only two logically possible options available.

To admit something outside of the natural, physical, time-bound universe is its cause would be to contradict naturalism. Yet, who is in his rational rights to opt for the alternative? Even if he thinks it possible the universe popped into existence, uncaused, out of nothing, it’s understatement in the extreme to say it’s not the odds on favorite.

Imagine a man’s wife asking where the new Mercedes Benz SL parked in their garage came from. I doubt she’d be satisfied with the answer, “Honey, it didn’t come from anywhere. It just popped into existence. That kind of thing happens all the time.” Even ordinary folk untutored in physics know that’s not going to wash. Reason dictates we opt for the most reasonable alternative.

Indeed, the nothing-caused-the-universe option is worse than magic. In magic, a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. In this case, though, there’s no hat…and no magician. There’s just a rabbit (the universe, in our case) appearing out of nowhere.

You might recognize this line of thinking as the Kalam cosmological argument, an ancient defense of theism recently revitalized by philosopher William Lane Craig.9 If you haven’t read his books, let me give you the short course: A Big Bang needs a big Banger. I think that pretty much covers it. Every effect requires a cause adequate to explain it.

Ironically, the night I was working out the particular details of this point in the lobby of a large hotel in Poland, there was a huge bang in the reception area. The gabby crowd in the lounge was immediately struck silent, everyone wondering the same thing: What was that?

Of course, they knew what is was. It was a big bang. The real question in their minds was, “What caused that?” Did something fall over? Did a firecracker go off? Did someone get shot?10

I promise you one thing, though. No one in that hotel—regardless of religious or philosophic conviction—thought the explosion was uncaused. It never occurred to anyone that the bang banged itself.

Naturalists know this, too. Once at a dinner party a young man sitting across from me announced—somewhat belligerently—that he no longer believed in God. “It’s irrational,” he said. “There’s no evidence.”

In response, I raised my point about the Big Bang. “If you heard a knock on the front door over there across the room,” I said, “would you think the knock knocked itself, or would you conclude some one was doing the knocking and then get up and answer the door?”

He sniffed dismissively at my question, however (remember, there’s no silver bullet), so I let the issue go. Half an hour later over dessert, there was a loud knock on the front door (I’m not making this up).

Startled, he lifted his head in surprise. “Who’s that?” he blurted out.

I said, “No one.”

The point was lost on him, of course. His next move, though, was telling: He got up and answered the door.

That night this young, naive atheist had bumped into reality. He knew a simple knock could not have knocked itself, yet seemed completely willing to accept as reasonable an entire universe popping into existence without cause or purpose.

Naturalism has no resources to explain where all the “stuff” in the world came from. Christian theism does.

The Bump of Bad

Let me introduce this next maneuver with a question. What is the most frequently raised objection to the existence of God, the most durable, the most challenging objection to theism? Answer: the problem of evil.

Evil is a part of reality that naturalists bump into all the time and then make a philosophical fuss with us about. I want you to see, though, how the problem of evil can be used to your advantage.11

First, describe for your naturalist friend something morally grotesque (chances are, he’s already provided you with examples). Mention Auschwitz, or some recent killing reported in the news, or any striking inhumanity to man. If those don’t move him, suggest sexual slavery, global warming, second hand smoke, the NRA, George Bush—whatever pushes his personal moral hot button.

Next, ask, “When you say these things are evil, are you describing the actions themselves, or merely your emotions or your society’s cultural ethic?” (This is the difference between objectivism and relativism.)

Virtually every time—if they don’t have their philosophical guard up—they’re going to tell you the truth. They’re convinced the actions are evil, regardless of personal opinion or cultural consensus. They think the evil is objective, thus the problem for theists. If morality were reduced to subjective preferences, there’d be no complaint. The problem of evil is only a problem if morality is objective.

Now here’s the final question. How does the naturalist get objective values (things that have intrinsic worth—worth in themselves) and objective duties or obligations (“Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots”) in a world consisting only of matter in motion? How does naturalism account for the kind of objective morality needed to ground the problem of evil? Simply put, it’s going to be very difficult to make sense of transcendent moral law without a transcendent moral law giver.

Of course, this is the moral argument for God: If there is no God, there is no objective morality; but objective morality exists (that’s why there’s a problem of evil); therefore, God exists.

At very best, the naturalist might be able to account for mind-dependent morality—relativism, in other words. But if evil is merely a matter of subjective opinion, there’s no objective problem. What, then, has the naturalist been bumping into all this time when he cites evil against God?

The naturalist has one of two choices here, it seems to me. One, he can cling to his relativism and drop his objection about evil in the world. Surrendering that complaint, though, is going to be hard for him to do because he knows too much. Two, he can salvage his complaint about evil at the expense of his naturalism, since no materialistic scheme can account for immaterial moral obligations. What he can’t do is have both ways if he’s intellectually honest.12

Note the “bumps” in this candid admission from former atheist, Holly Ordway:

My atheism was eating into my heart like acid…My worldview was entirely negative. I could not have explained the source of my own rationality, nor of my conviction that there were such things as truth, beauty, and goodness. My worldview remained satisfying to me only insofar as I refrained from asking the really tough questions.13

As a human being, Ordway could not deny objective morality, but as a naturalist she could not make sense of it, either.14 Christian theism can by grounding it in the perfect goodness of God. Every time the atheist bumps into bad, point this out.15

Notice something else in Ordway’s reflection. Not only was her naturalism incapable of making sense of her morality. It was also corrupting her soul. This existential problem is our last “bump.”

The Bump of Me

Personally, I do not think we talk enough about the soul.

Our souls are the one thing we are in direct contact with every waking moment of our lives, yet according to naturalism, conscious souls don’t even exist. This denial creates huge difficulties for the naturalistic, materialistic view of reality.

Consciousness is currently such a problem that atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel stunned the establishment with his recent book, Mind and Cosmos—Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False [link]. Playing completely against type, Nagel argues that naturalistic approaches are utterly incapable of accounting for the central feature of human experience—human consciousness.

New Atheist Daniel Dennett’s claim that, “Consciousness is an illusion of the brain, for the brain, by the brain,”16 shows just how much trouble naturalists are in. Think, for a moment, about exactly what an illusion is. Illusions happen when your conscious mind is being appeared to in a false way. Things that are not conscious (rocks come to mind) do not have illusions. Only consciousness can be “appeared to.”

Thus, if consciousness is an illusion, then what is experiencing that illusion? Is the illusion having an illusion? Hardly. This is a crystal clear example of self-refutation, since Dennett must presuppose what he’s trying to deny in order to deny it.

No, consciousness—your direct, subjective experience of your own soul—is real.17 Though you probably never thought of it this way, it is more palpably real to you than anything else in your personal experience since every experience is a conscious event of the soul.

Here’s the problem. Naturalism denies the obvious, reducing human beings to physical parts stuck together without reason or purpose—biological accidents, cosmic junk. No wonder they call it nihilism—nothing-ism. And when you start really believing nothing-ism about human beings, bad things begin to happen.

Most of us know better, though. Deep inside we know we’re not simply chunks of meat in motion. Reality informs us there is something wonderfully unique about humans—qualitatively, not just quantitatively. Humans are special, wonderful, valuable.

We know something else, though. Humans are beautiful, yes, but they’re also terribly broken. We are not physically sick; we are morally corrupted. And we know it.

Years back I lectured to a sold out crowd at the University of California at Berkeley. I made the case against moral relativism simply by pointing out how frequently we bump into—and ultimately violate—objective morality in our daily lives. This discovery, I pointed out, has explanatory power since it accounts for the personal feelings of guilt each of us experiences. We feel guilty because we are guilty.

That’s the existential crisis. We know we’re beautiful, but we also know we’re broken. That’s undeniable reality. Yet naturalism gives us no reason to believe either of these things. It cannot account for our wonder and it cannot repair our brokenness.

Christians have the remedy, though. “The answer to guilt is not denial,” I told the students at Berkeley. “The answer to guilt is forgiveness. And this is where Jesus comes in.”

Where naturalism fails, Christianity succeeds. Because our souls bear God’s own image, we are wonderful. Because we have rebelled against the God who gave us our beauty, we are fallen, guilty, and ultimately lost.

Frenchman Guillaume Bignon, finding his own naturalistic atheism being challenged as he encountered Christ in the New Testament,18 nevertheless found the cross befuddling. “Why did Jesus have to die?” he asked, over and over again. It made no sense to him.

Then something completely unexpected happened. “God reactivated my conscience,” he told me. “That was not a pleasant experience. I was physically crippled by guilt, not knowing what to do about it.”

Suddenly it dawned on him, “That’s why Jesus had to die. Because of me. Because of my guilt.” He immediately surrendered all his brokenness to the only one who could repair it, all his guilt to the only one who could forgive. When he did, “The feelings of guilt just evaporated.”

Naturalism cannot do this. It cannot explain the beauty and wonder of being human. And it has no answer to human brokenness. It cannot provide the consolation of true forgiveness. Only God in Christ can solve our existential crisis.

So here is my suggestion: When talking with a naturalist, keep an eye out for his “bumps” with reality. When you see one, point it out—graciously, but clearly—using questions as much as possible.

Show him naturalism doesn’t make sense of the reality he encounters every day. It doesn’t make sense of the existence of the world. It doesn’t make sense of the problem of evil. And it doesn’t make sense of his own deep hunger for significance or rescue from sin.

By contrast, in each of these areas Christianity has superior explanatory power. Intellectually, Christian theism proves to be a much more satisfying answer. Existentially—personally—it’s the only answer.

Poke naturalists with reality to get them thinking. It’s no silver bullet, but it might just put a stone in their shoe and get them thinking.


1 A view also called “physicalism” and “materialism.”

2 Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Steven Soter, “The Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” PBS, 1980. Note the religious ring to Saga’s words, the atheist’s equivalent of the “Gloria Patri.”

3 Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, Vol. I (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 138.

4 I develop the tactical applications of this idea in chapter 10 (“Taking the Roof Off”) of Tactics—A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009). [link]

5 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 31.

6 I’m not suggesting his complaint is sound, but rather that objectivist moral assessments like this are only at home in a theistic world view.

7 Truth as correspondence: A claim or belief is true if it matches the way the world actually is. On the flip side, when one’s world view does not fit reality, it’s false.

8 These are the basic questions tied to the cosmological argument, the case for God based on the existence of the cosmos.

9 E.g., William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, third edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). [link]

10 As it turned out, an over-pumped tire inner tube had exploded.

11 I discussed this move in detail in “God, Evolution, and Morality, Part II.” [link]

12 It’s possible for naturalists to avoid this dilemma by taking no personal stand on morality while pointing to an apparent internal contradiction in theism, but I’ve almost never heard it put this way in actual conversations. Atheists usually launch their complaint by first affirming objective evil.

13 Holly Ordway, Not God’s Type (Chicago: Moody, 2010), 27.

14 Naturalism also cannot make sense of objective good.

15 For a more thorough, accessible discussion of the first two “bumps,” see William Lane Craig’s On Guard (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010).

16 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in2FXOjq7g8.

17 Your soul is what you are aware of when you introspect, the ground or basis of your irreducible, first-person perspective.

18 http://gracenyc.onthecity.org/plaza/topics/7becdc2df794f161230567bbbd6db1dd41ccf2cd/.

Related Topics: Apologetics, Creation, Cultural Issues, Engage, Evolution, World Religions, Worldview

1 Corinthians

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This sermon series on the book of 1 Corinthians was preached by Jeff Miller at Trinity Bible Church in 2014-2015. Click on an individual sermon for an abstract of the message and to access both audio and video of the message. 

Paul responds to reports and letters, addressing several issues brewing in the church in Corinth. The church was misusing some of God's greatest gifts, such as baptism, knowledge, sex, money, grace, liberty, speech, food, spiritual gifts, and the Lord's Supper. First Corinthians might aptly be described as "A Fool's Guide to the Local Church." It has direct application to the church today.

Related Topics: Baptism, Basics for Christians, Ecclesiology (The Church), Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Marriage, Sexuality, Spiritual Gifts

1. Why We Should Count Our Blessings (1 Corinthians 1:1-9 )

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The unity in Corinth was being threatened because of one-upmanship in the church. Instead of humble believers striving to serve one another, they were jockeying for positions of power, wisdom, and influence so that others would serve them. They were running to the front of the line instead of choosing to be last of all and servant of all. Paul responds to reports and letters, addressing several issues brewing in the church in Corinth. The church was misusing some of God's greatest gifts, such as baptism, knowledge, sex, money, grace, liberty, speech, food, spiritual gifts, and the Lord's Supper. First Corinthians might aptly be described as "A Fool's Guide to the Local Church." It has direct application to the church today.

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2. Why We Should Not Boast (1 Corinthians 1:10-31)

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Pride is ugly, and we tend to recognize it in everyone but ourselves. It had been five years since Paul had served the church in Corinth. And reports were trickling in to him that members of the church were very interested in impressing one another. Instead of humble believers striving to serve one another, they were jockeying for positions of power, wisdom, and influence so that others would serve them. They were running to the front of the line instead of choosing to be last of all and servant of all. So Paul's letter attacks the disease over the symptom. We have wisdom, power, and a privileged position that we did nothing to deserve. If we'd like to boast, we should boast in Lord. After all, "He is the reason [we] have a relationship with Christ Jesus."

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5. Prontos para o Casamento — A História de Boaz e Rute

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Há mais de 500 anos o corpo do velho Jacó descansava na caverna de Macpela. Esse foi um período agitado para seus descendentes. Primeiro, houve os anos difíceis do cativeiro egípcio, os quais culminaram na graciosa libertação de Deus; em seguida, houve os quarenta anos de peregrinação no deserto, os quais terminaram com a grande conquista de Canaã; e, depois, houve um estranho ciclo de pecado, servidão e salvação, conhecido como o período dos juízes. Essa época obscura é o cenário da mais bela história de amor da Bíblia, a história de Boaz e Rute.

“Nos dias em que julgavam os juízes, houve fome na terra; e um homem de Belém de Judá saiu a habitar na terra de Moabe, com sua mulher e seus dois filhos” (Rute 1:1). Este homem, Elimeleque, morreu em Moabe, deixando a esposa, Noemi, e dois filhos, Malom e Quiliom. Os rapazes se casaram com mulheres moabitas e, então, no que parece ter sido ser uma trágica reviravolta do destino, os dois também morreram, deixando Noemi numa terra estranha só com suas noras, Rute e Orfa. Quando Noemi ouviu que Deus tinha providenciado novamente comida para o seu povo, decidiu voltar para casa, em Belém.

Orfa ficou em Moabe, atendendo à sugestão de Noemi, mas Rute não quis nem saber. Ela era uma dessas pessoas raras, cujo amor é profundo e desinteressado, e ela amava sua sogra. Lembram-se de suas famosas palavras? “Não me instes para que te deixe e me obrigue a não seguir-te; porque, aonde quer que fores, irei eu e, onde quer que pousares, ali pousarei eu; o teu povo é o meu povo, o teu Deus é o meu Deus” (Rute 1:16). Seu Deus estava prestes a conduzi-la a um homem maravilhoso, com o qual ela se casaria.

A primeira coisa que nos chama a atenção nesses dois, aos quais a graça de Deus uniu, é o preparo espiritual. Embora a família de Elimeleque estivesse fora do centro da vontade de Deus e fora lugar da Sua bênção, eles fizeram uma coisa digna de nota. Através do seu testemunho, a jovem moabita chamada Rute abandonou o culto a Quemos, deus dos moabitas, com todas as práticas abomináveis associadas à sua adoração, e passou a crer no único e verdadeiro Deus. “O teu Deus é o meu Deus”, disse ela com ousadia. E ficou muito claro a todos que a conheceram que ela tinha ido a Belém para desfrutar de íntima comunhão com o Deus de Israel. Algum tempo depois, Boaz diria a seu respeito: “O SENHOR retribua o teu feito, e seja cumprida a tua recompensa do SENHOR, Deus de Israel, sob cujas asas vieste buscar refúgio” (Rute 2:12). A confiança de Rute em Deus e seu amor por Ele eram fonte de uma força e beleza interior que não podiam ser escondidas, e de um amor pelos outros que não podia ser contido.

Pense no que ela fez. Em vez de ficar chorando a perda do marido, ela se dedicou a atender as necessidades da sua sogra, a preencher o vazio da vida de Noemi, a ajudá-la da melhor forma possível. Isso significou deixar sua casa, sua família e seus amigos, mudar-se para outro país como uma estrangeira menosprezada e viver em pobreza e privação. E, para quê? Amor e preocupação com a sogra eram os únicos motivos aparentes. No decorrer da história, Boaz chama a atenção para isso: “tudo quanto fizeste a tua sogra, depois da morte de teu marido, e como deixaste a teu pai, e a tua mãe, e a terra onde nasceste e vieste para um povo que dantes não conhecias” (Rute 2:11).

Muitas mulheres que amam o marido parecem não conseguir amar a mãe dele. E parece que muitos homens têm o mesmo problema em relação à mãe de sua esposa, como fica claro pelas piadinhas de sogra há tanto tempo circulando por aí. De onde vinha o amor de Rute? Ele vinha do Senhor de todo amor. Se você também quer tê-lo, terá de cultivar um relacionamento íntimo e pessoal com Deus, assim como Rute cultivou. Quando passamos a conhecer a Deus e a entender o quanto Ele fez por nós, somos mais propensos a dar de nós mesmos para o bem de outras pessoas, até mesmo para os parentes do nosso cônjuge. E, quando fazemos isso, a tensão e a confusão se transformam em harmonia e felicidade.

Nunca é cedo demais para aprendermos lições sobre o amor. Podemos começar ensinando-as a nossos filhos quando ainda são pequenos. A base de treinamento para o amor é o lar. Um relacionamento amoroso com os pais, irmãos e irmãs vai prepará-los para amar o cônjuge e os sogros da maneira correta. Algumas pessoas que estão lendo este artigo talvez tenham vindo de lares sem amor e achem difícil deixar para trás sua influência. Para elas, não é fácil dar e receber amor. Elas podem afirmar a importância dos pais estabelecendo um exemplo de amor, e depois ensinando os filhos a serem prestativos e amáveis, e a serem bondosos e respeitosos para com as outras pessoas da casa. Os filhos não saberão como amar quando se casarem a menos que demonstrem amor àqueles com quem convivem agora. No entanto, tudo começa com a nossa relação de amor com o Senhor. Quando experimentamos o amor de Deus, nós o demonstramos em nossas relações familiares — aos nossos pais, irmãos, irmãs, maridos, esposas, filhos e sogros. Rute estava pronta para um belo caso de amor com Boaz porque ela amava o Senhor e esse amor transbordava para as outras pessoas da sua vida.

Agora, vamos conhecer o Príncipe Encantado de Rute. A história indica que Boaz era muito mais velho que ela (cf. Rute 3:10). Não sabemos se ele era solteirão ou viúvo, mas sabemos que era um homem de Deus. O Senhor era uma parte importante do seu dia a dia. Boaz pensava muitas vezes no Senhor, falava Dele abertamente e deixava-O tomar parte dos seus negócios.

Ouça-o cumprimentando seus segadores no campo: “O SENHOR seja convosco!”, disse ele, e eles lhe responderam: “O SENHOR te abençoe!” (Rute 2:4). Para Rute, ele disse: “Bendita sejas tu do SENHOR, minha filha” (Rute 3:10); e depois: “eu te resgatarei, tão certo como vive o SENHOR” (Rute 3:13). Todas as pessoas presentes no seu casamento reconheceram a sua dependência do Senhor para a sua posteridade: “o SENHOR faça a esta mulher, que entra na tua casa, como a Raquel e como a Lia, que ambas edificaram a casa de Israel” (Rute 4:11).

O primeiro pré-requisito para um casamento bem sucedido é que o homem seja um homem de Deus. Uma das razões para tantos casamentos estarem passando por dificuldades é que os maridos não se prepararam espiritualmente para suas obrigações. Alguns rapazes, na época de namoro, não conseguiam pensar em outra coisa a não ser sexo. E, se não era sexo, era carro ou esporte. Eles gastavam pouco ou nenhum tempo estudando a Palavra, memorizando-a, descobrindo como aplicá-la à sua vida, e aprendendo quais seriam suas responsabilidades como maridos e pais cristãos. O Senhor não fazia parte do seu dia a dia. E, quando eles foram para o altar, ainda eram bebês espirituais, mal preparados para assumir a liderança espiritual do seu lar. Não é nenhuma surpresa que seus casamentos estejam com problemas.

Homens, se vocês desperdiçaram os anos até agora, não há tempo a perder. Em primeiro lugar, cultivem uma caminhada pessoal com Jesus Cristo. Passem um tempo estudando regularmente as Escrituras e aprendendo nelas como Deus quer que levem sua vida e exerçam suas responsabilidades. Comecem consultando-O sobre todas as coisas. Se estão envolvidos em uma relação conjugal infeliz, o dano pode ser reparado, mas o lugar para começar é com envolvimento diário com a pessoa de Jesus Cristo. Até nosso coração estar acertado com Ele e estarmos crescendo na Sua semelhança, quaisquer outros esforços irão falhar.

Tanto Rute como Boaz já estavam prontos. Por isso, vamos passar da preparação espiritual para seu legítimo noivado. Noemi e Rute tinham acabado de chegar em Belém e o problema que enfrentavam era como fazer para arranjar comida. Deus tinha dado uma graciosa provisão na Lei de Moisés para pessoas na situação delas. Os agricultores não podiam colher as espigas dos cantos dos campos de cereal, nem as que haviam caído; elas deveriam ser deixadas para os pobres, para os estrangeiros, para as viúvas e para os órfãos (Lv. 19:9, 10; 23:22; Dt. 24:19). De qualquer forma que entendamos isso, tanto Noemi como Rute eram qualificadas. Elas eram viúvas e pobres, e Rute era estrangeira. Já que Noemi não tinha mais idade para trabalhar nos campos, Rute perguntou-lhe se poderia ir e encontrar o campo de algum homem bondoso que a deixasse apanhar espigas. Noemi lhe deu permissão. “Ela se foi, chegou ao campo e apanhava após os segadores; por casualidade entrou na parte que pertencia a Boaz, o qual era da família de Elimeleque” (Rute 2:3).

O trabalho não era fácil – ela tinha de se abaixar e se curvar o dia inteiro para juntar grãos dentro de uma longa capa esvoaçante, com o peso aumentando a cada espiga colhida e um sol semi-tropical batendo nas costas. Provavelmente, algumas beatas da cidade zombavam por causa do seu sotaque estrangeiro e parece que alguns homens estavam tentando por as mãos nela (cf. Rute 2:9). Cada impulso do corpo de Rute dizia a ela para fugir para as colinas púrpuras de Moabe, as quais ela podia divisar ao longe. Lá era o seu lar, lá era onde ela pertencia. No entanto, com uma coragem discreta, modesta e totalmente abnegada, ela continuou trabalhando.

Com grande expectativa, esperamos que Boaz reparasse nela. E ele reparou. “De quem é esta moça?”, perguntou ele ao servo encarregado dos segadores, “esta é a moça moabita que veio com Noemi da terra de Moabe”, respondeu o servo (Rute 2:5-6). E ele não perdeu tempo em fazer algumas coisas boas para Rute. Ele a convidou para ficar em seus campos e lhe disse para rebuscar o quanto quisesse, e também para beber livremente das vasilhas de água providenciadas por seus servos.

Em lugar algum é dito que Rute era uma mulher bonita como Sara, Rebeca ou Raquel. Não sabemos se ela era ou não, mas sabemos que ela possuía uma beleza interior, um espírito manso e tranquilo, uma humildade despretensiosa que a tornou a mulher mais adorável das Escrituras. Ela se prostrou diante de Boaz com sincera gratidão e disse: “Como é que me favoreces e fazes caso de mim, sendo eu estrangeira?” (Rute 2:10). Sua humildade ficou novamente evidente quando disse: “Tu me favoreces muito, senhor meu, pois me consolaste e falaste ao coração de tua serva, não sendo eu nem ainda como uma das tuas servas” (Rute 2:13). Não havia nenhum fingimento nisso. Era uma atitude verdadeira. E essa humildade sincera, esse espírito manso e tranquilo, é uma das qualidades mais valiosas que uma mulher pode ter. Pedro diz que isso é de grande valor aos olhos de Deus (1 Pe. 3:4). Esta seria uma bela qualidade para as mulheres cristãs pedirem para Deus ajudá-las a desenvolver.

À medida que o dia passava, Boaz parecia cada mais interessado nessa mulher adorável. Na hora do almoço ele a convidou para se juntar a ele e seus segadores e se certificou de que ela se serviu de tudo quanto quis. Quando ela terminou de comer e levantou-se para voltar ao trabalho, ele disse aos servos: “Até entre as gavelas deixai-a colher e não a censureis. Tirai também dos molhos algumas espigas, e deixai-as, para que as apanhe, e não a repreendais” (Rute 2:15-16).

Assim, Rute continuou rebuscando até a tarde. E, quando ela viu o quanto tinha rebuscado, era quase um efa de cevada (cerca de 25 kg). Parece que Boaz era um homem bondoso, comedido, atencioso e gentil. Atualmente, não há muitos desse tipo por aí, a julgar pelo que as mulheres dizem a seus conselheiros matrimoniais. Alguns homens têm a estranha noção de que bondade e gentileza são traços efeminados, os quais eles precisam evitar a qualquer custo. Não, mesmo! Estes são traços semelhantes aos de Cristo. E Cristo era um homem másculo. As pesquisas mostram que bondade e gentileza são as principais características procuradas pelas mulheres em um marido. Estes seriam bons traços para os homens cristãos pedirem para Deus ajudá-los a desenvolver.

Bem, já era hora de alguém fazer alguma coisa. E, por mais estranho que pareça, naquela cultura foi Rute quem fez. Vejam, Deus deu aos judeus outra lei interessante, a qual exigia que um homem se casasse com a viúva sem filhos de seu irmão falecido. O primeiro filho dessa união teria o nome desse irmão e herdaria seus bens (Deuteronômio 25:5-10; Levítico 25:23-28). Essa lei matrimonial se chamava lei do “levirato”, da palavra hebraica para “irmão”. Se nenhum irmão estivesse disponível, um parente mais distante poderia ser solicitado a cumprir esse dever. No entanto, a viúva tinha de fazê-lo saber que ele era aceitável como seu “goel”, como elas o chamavam, seu parente resgatador e provedor.

Noemi disse a Rute exatamente como fazer isso. Rute ouviu com muito cuidado e seguiu suas instruções à risca. Naquela noite, Boaz iria dormir na eira para proteger seus grãos dos ladrões. Depois que ele foi dormir, Rute entrou na ponta dos pés, descobriu os pés dele e deitou-se. Agindo assim, ela estava pedindo a Boaz para ser seu goel. Não é preciso dizer que ele ficou um tanto confuso quando se virou no meio da noite e notou uma mulher deitada a seus pés. “Quem és tu?”, perguntou ele. Ela respondeu: “Sou Rute, tua serva; estende a tua capa sobre a tua serva, porque tu és resgatador” (Rute 3:9). Estender a capa sobre ela significava que ele estava disposto a se tornar seu resgatador e provedor. A resposta dele foi imediata: “Bendita sejas tu do SENHOR, minha filha; melhor fizeste a tua última benevolência que a primeira, pois não foste após jovens, quer pobres, quer ricos” (Rute 3:10-11).

É importante entender que não houve nada de imoral nesse episódio. Esse tipo de conduta era costume naquela época e a narrativa ressalta sua pureza. Na escuridão isolada da eira, Boaz poderia ter satisfeito seus desejos humanos e ninguém, exceto Rute, teria sabido. Contudo, ele era um homem temente a Deus, de princípios morais, disciplinado e controlado pelo Espírito, e manteve suas mãos longe dela. A Escritura diz que Rute dormiu aos pés dele até o amanhecer (Rute 3:14). Além disso, ela tinha reputação de ser uma mulher virtuosa (Rute 3:11). Ela tinha impulsos físicos como qualquer outra mulher, mas aprendeu a suplicar a graça e a força de Deus para manter esses impulsos sob controle até o dia do casamento. Tanto Boaz como Rute sabiam que a grande bênção de um matrimônio consistia na pureza antes do casamento. Descuidos nessa área trariam culpa, perda de respeito próprio e desconfiança. E isso poderia deixar marcas na alma de ambos que tornaria mais difícil a adaptação de um ao outro no casamento.

Este é um ponto de vista em extinção. Satanás tem feito nossa sociedade acreditar que o sexo pré-conjugal é uma coisa natural. A maioria dos jovens já fez sexo antes de terminar o segundo grau, e são raros os casais que tentam pelo menos se refrear um pouco mais. Eles dizem: “Mas nós nos amamos”. Não, não se amam. Eles amam somente a si mesmos. Eles amam satisfazer seus próprios desejos sensuais. Se eles se amassem, não submeteriam um ao outro aos perigos da desobediência a Deus, pois o Senhor diz que é vingador de todos aqueles que ignoram Seus padrões (1 Tessalonicenses 4:6). Não é que Deus seja um juiz velho e rabugento que só quer nos afastar da diversão. Ele simplesmente sabe que a pureza pré-conjugal será o melhor para nós e para o nosso casamento. Nossa sociedade está pagando o preço pela promiscuidade com uma confusão conjugal sem precedentes e inumeráveis lares desfeitos, com todos os traumas emocionais que isso acarreta. O jeito de Deus é sempre o melhor!

Boaz e Rute fizeram do jeito de Deus. Por isso, não é surpresa vermos, finalmente, o êxito do seu casamento. Não há muita coisa dita sobre seu relacionamento depois de casados, mas, por aquilo que já aprendemos sobre eles, podemos presumir que foi uma união ricamente abençoada por Deus. A Escritura diz: “Assim, tomou Boaz a Rute, e ela passou a ser sua mulher; coabitou com ela, e o SENHOR lhe concedeu que concebesse, e teve um filho” (Rute 4:13).

O aspecto mais incomum desta história é o papel que Noemi continuou a desempenhar na vida dos dois. Como ex-sogra, seria de se esperar que ela saísse de cena, mas Boaz e Rute eram amorosos e carinhosos demais para deixar isso acontecer. Quando o filho deles nasceu, as mulheres de Belém disseram a Noemi: “Seja o SENHOR bendito, que não deixou, hoje, de te dar um neto que será teu resgatador, e seja afamado em Israel o nome deste. Ele será restaurador da tua vida e consolador da tua velhice, pois tua nora, que te ama, o deu à luz, e ela te é melhor do que sete filhos” (Rute 4:14-15). Então, Noemi pegou o bebê e foi cuidar dele, e suas vizinhas disseram: “A Noemi nasceu um filho” (Rute 4:17). Vejam só! Elas consideraram o menino como sendo filho de Noemi, e Boaz e Rute alegremente permitiram isso. Boaz continuou sustentando Noemi até ela morrer, e ele parece ter feito isso com muito carinho. E o amor de Rute por ela nunca diminuiu. As mulheres chamaram Rute de “a nora que te ama e é melhor do que sete filhos”.

Agora que Rute tinha seu marido, ela poderia ter despachado sua ex-sogra. Muitas mulheres teriam despachado. Mas, quando uma pessoa está cheia do amor de Deus, seu coração é grande o suficiente para abraçar mais do que só uma pessoa especial, ou algumas. Ele estende a mão com ternura e generosidade para atender as necessidades dos outros também. É impressionante observar como o amor de Deus na vida de Rute superou todos os obstáculos – a pobreza, o preconceito racial, a grande diferença de idade, as tentações físicas e até mesmo as diferenças entre nora e sogra. Há uma grande possibilidade de que o amor de Deus possa resolver também os nossos problemas. Quando passamos a compreender e apreciar o amor incondicional de Deus por nós, e permitimos que ele flua por meio de nós, pensamos cada vez menos em nós mesmos e cada vez mais nos outros. E a capacidade de resolução de problemas desse amor sacrificial e desprendido é fenomenal.

Vamos conversar sobre isso

  1. Discutam suas origens familiares e o amor demonstrado em seus lares enquanto vocês cresciam.
  2. Vocês têm feito do seu lar uma base de treinamento para as lições de amor? O que podem fazer para treinar seus filhos a viver em amor com as outras pessoas?
  3. Que preparação espiritual vocês trouxeram para seu casamento? O que podem fazer agora para fortalecer essa área da sua vida?
  4. Para as mulheres: Você acha que tem um espírito manso e tranquilo? O que pode fazer para ajudar a cultivá-lo?
  5. Para os maridos: Você é gentil e amoroso com sua esposa? O que pode fazer para fortalecer essas características?
  6. Como o amor de Deus pode ajudá-los a resolver seus problemas? De que forma o amor pode ajudá-los a atender as exigências da vida com boa disposição?
  7. Como descreveriam sua atitude para com os parentes do seu cônjuge? De que forma poderiam se doar mais para melhorar o relacionamento com eles?

Tradução: Mariza Regina de Souza

Related Topics: Christian Home, Marriage

3. Why We Should Rely On the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:1-16)

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1 Corinthians (part three)

It's not that we've been denied wisdom, strength, and privilege. We have all of these things, in fact. But we're asked to acknowledge the source of these beautiful gifts. If others are benefited by our feeble efforts, it's because the Holy Spirit has demonstrated His power. If others are convinced by our feeble words, it's because the Holy Spirit has imparted divine wisdom to them. Has your biblical advice ever been met with confusion or consternation by an unbeliever? Human wisdom cannot unlock the mysteries of God's thoughts. The Spirit is our source of power and our key to understanding. That's why we should rely on the Spirit.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

Lesson 65: Following Jesus for the Right Reason (John 12:12-19)

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August 31, 2014

The longer that I’m a Christian, the more often I’m saddened to see people who made a profession of faith in Christ and began to follow Him, but later fell away and now are far from God. In some cases, these people have even been involved in serving the Lord in full time ministry. But something went wrong and now they are not only out of the ministry and away from the church, but they’re not even professing to believe in Jesus.

There are many causes for such spiritual failure. Sometimes, things in life or ministry did not go as they had hoped. Perhaps they got burned by other believers who violated their trust. Some had nagging doubts or difficult questions about the Bible that were fed by skeptics. In many cases, the person fell away because of serious sin.

We should not be surprised by such cases, since the Bible contains many examples of spiritual failure. Our chapter (John 12:4) mentions Judas, one of the twelve, who would betray Jesus. In Acts (5:1-11) Ananias and Sapphira, members of the early church, were struck dead for their duplicity. Then there is Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-24), who professed faith in Christ and was baptized, but who tried to buy spiritual power from the apostles so that he could impress the crowds with miracles.

Later (Acts 20:30), Paul warned the Ephesian elders that from their midst some would arise, drawing away the disciples after them. Paul warned Timothy about several men who had turned from the faith (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15). He lamented Demas, a former fellow worker, who had deserted Paul because he loved this present world (Philemon 24; 2 Tim. 4:10). Later, both Peter (2 Peter 2) and John (1 John 2:19; 3 John 9-10) warned about false teachers, who probably once were sound, but now were preying on the flock.

While there are different reasons that these and others fall away from the Lord, at the root of every case is that the person either never knew or else lost sight of who Jesus is. Understanding Jesus’ identity is crucial because your eternal destiny rests on believing the truth about who Jesus is and what He did on the cross. That’s why John wrote this Gospel (John 20:31), “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” If you understand and believe in who Jesus is, you will have eternal life. But if you have false notions about who Jesus is or false hopes about what He will do for you in this life, at some point you will be disappointed and will fall away from your initial profession of faith.

Jesus’ so-called “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passion Week should perhaps be called His “Tragic Entry,” because it triggered events that led to His death. Luke (19:41) reports that when Jesus approached Jerusalem, He wept over it. The crowds lined the street and cheered for Jesus as the long-expected King of Israel, but they were hoping for a political king, who could lead a military victory against Rome and provide eventual peace and prosperity for their nation. They were not so interested in a Messiah with a spiritual kingdom, who would provide forgiveness for their sins and who would be Lord of every aspect of their personal lives. So within a week, the shouts of “Hosanna!” turned to “Crucify Him!” The fickle crowd was following Jesus for the wrong reasons. Such a faulty foundation inevitably collapses.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry is reported in all four Gospels. To understand it properly, you have to recognize that it is a complete reversal of all that Jesus has done in His ministry to this point. Up till now, Jesus has mostly kept veiled His identity as Messiah. When a demon proclaimed Him to be the Holy One of God, He told him to be quiet (Mark 1:24-25). When He healed people, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone (Mark 1:44; 7:36). Even when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, He gave strict orders that no one should know about it (Mark 5:43)! When the disciples gained insight into His identity as Messiah, Jesus told them not to tell anyone (Mark 8:30; 9:9). The only exception in John so far was when Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that He was the Messiah (John 4:26).

But now Jesus deliberately stages a public demonstration to proclaim Himself as Messiah in Jerusalem at the most widely attended feast of them all. There were perhaps a million pilgrims in the city for the Passover (Andreas Kostenberger, John [Baker], p. 368). The other Gospels make it clear that Jesus set up this event by sending two of the disciples to get the donkey and her colt. When some of the Pharisees in the crowd objected to the people’s shouts of, “Hosanna!” rather than quieting the shouts, Jesus affirmed them by saying (Luke 19:40), “I tell you, if these become silent, ‘the stones will cry out!’” So there is a dramatic shift in Jesus’ ministry at this point. We need to understand why.

The answer lies in the Jewish concept of Messiah in Jesus’ day. “Messiah” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to anoint.” “Christ” comes from the Greek word “to anoint.” Thus the Messiah or Christ is the one whom God anoints, sent to deliver His people from sin and rule over them as King and Lord. The kings of Israel were God’s anointed rulers of His people, but they always fell short. Even David, the greatest king in Israel, made some serious mistakes. But God promised to send one of David’s descendants to reign on his throne, who would rule in absolute righteousness and justice, crushing all opposition under His feet (Ps. 2). This political aspect of Messiah as King dominated Jewish thought in the first century as the nation chafed under Roman rule. This political aspect of Messiah’s reign is behind Psalm 118:26, which the people cite in John 12:13, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord….” They added, “even the King of Israel.”

But the Old Testament presents a second aspect of the Messiah, namely, that He would be the suffering servant who would bear the sins of His people, deliver them from God’s judgment, and establish a kingdom of righteousness. He would not only be the King, but also Israel’s prophet and priest. This is the theme of Psalm 110, which proclaims Messiah not only as a conquering warrior, but also as a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The suffering servant is a theme in Isaiah 40-55, especially the great prophecy of Isaiah 53. It is also implicit in the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 (cited in John 12:15), which presents Messiah not as a warrior mounted on a powerful horse, but as humble, mounted on the foal of a donkey. This idea of Messiah as the humble sin-bearer of His people was not dominant with the Jews in Jesus’ day. They were looking for a political Messiah.

In the Triumphal Entry, Jesus was declaring Himself to be Israel’s Messiah, but not the kind of Messiah that they expected. He did not ride into Jerusalem on a powerful war horse to lead the charge against Rome, but on the foal of a donkey, which was not thought of as a kingly animal in Jesus’ day, to offer Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. By this public demonstration, Jesus deliberately provoked the Jewish leaders. They wanted to kill Him, but not at the Passover, lest there be a riot among the people (Matt. 26:3-5). But for Scripture to be fulfilled, Jesus needed to die as the Passover lamb for His people (1 Cor. 5:7). So Jesus, knowing that His time had come, staged this Triumphal Entry to trigger the events that would lead to His death coinciding with the Jewish Passover. The Jewish leaders did not take Jesus’ life against His will; rather, He laid it down willingly for His sheep (John 10:17-18).

With all of that as a foundation for understanding this pivotal event in Jesus’ ministry, let me turn to how it applies to us:

Make sure that you follow Jesus because of who He is, not because of what you think He might provide for you.

Let’s think about the negative side of this first:

1. Don’t follow Jesus only because of the temporal benefits you think He might provide for you.

John presents various groups that took part in this Triumphal Entry. The crowd who had come to Jerusalem for the feast took the branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him (John 12:12-13). John is the only Gospel to mention the palm branches that we now associate with “Palm Sunday.” Two centuries before Christ, Judas and Simon Maccabaeus had driven the Syrian forces out of Israel. Their victory was celebrated with music and the waving of palm branches (1 Macc. 13:51), which also had been prominent at the earlier rededication of the temple (2 Macc. 10:7). Thus palm branches were a symbol of Jewish nationalism and of victory over their enemies. The crowd was hopeful that Jesus was the messianic liberator who would free them from Rome’s domination (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 432).

Their cry (John 12:13), “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” comes from Psalm 118:25-26, which is the climax of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118), which was sung at the Feasts of Tabernacles, Dedication, and Passover (Carson, ibid.). “Hosanna” meant, “Save now!” It may have been a prayer or just a cry of praise to God. The next line (in John 12:13), “even the King of Israel,” is not from Psalm 118, but rather shows that the crowd understood Psalm 118 as referring to the Messianic King. This group largely consisted of those who gave acclaim to Jesus because they thought of the temporal benefits that He could provide for them. They thought that He would usher in the age of peace and prosperity.

Their hopes were fueled by those who had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, who were telling others about this spectacular miracle (John 12:17-18). If Jesus had done this for Lazarus, surely He could meet their needs as well. John adds (12:16) that even the disciples did not understand these things at first. It was only after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven (“glorified”) that they connected the dots between the Old Testament prophecies and what the crowd had done to Jesus. So even the disciples were pretty much in line with the crowd that day, viewing Jesus as the political savior. As a result, their faith in Him was severely shaken until they saw Him after He was raised from the dead.

The application is that your faith will be shaken and perhaps even destroyed if you follow Jesus because of what you think He can give you in terms of financial prosperity, good health, and other temporal benefits. But what if you contract a serious illness? What if you suffer a severe financial loss? What if your marriage isn’t the storybook, ideal romance that you thought He would give you? What if your children don’t follow the Lord or if they turn against you?

As Hebrews 11:29-35a shows, God can and does give dramatic victories to His people. But right in the middle of verse 35, it shifts, as verses 35b-38 show people who trust in God but are mocked, scourged, imprisoned, and martyred. The reward is not in this life, but in the life to come. The health and wealth teaching is heresy that leads people into disappointment and destruction of their faith when things don’t turn out as the false teachers said they would. We shouldn’t follow Jesus because we think He will give us all the goodies we want in this life.

Well, then, why should we follow Jesus?

2. Follow Jesus because of who He is: God’s Messiah and King.

If your faith rests on the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture, then you will not be shaken whether you go to prison or are blessed with prosperity. You may suffer terrible health and die young or you may enjoy good health, but your faith does not rest on happy circumstances, but on who Jesus is and on what He has promised His children throughout eternity. Our text reveals several lines of proof that Jesus is God’s Messiah and King:

A. Fulfilled prophecies prove that Jesus is God’s Messiah and King.

John mentions two Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled on Palm Sunday. We have already looked at the first, Psalm 118:25-26:

O Lord, do save, we beseech You;
O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.

The Jews understood this to refer to Messiah (Carson, ibid.). Just before these verses the psalm cites the lines that Jesus applied to Himself (Ps. 118:22-23; Matt. 21:42):

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.

John also refers to the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

John (12:15) cites an abbreviated form of the quote: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” “Fear not” replaces “Rejoice greatly.” Perhaps John wants to assure his Jewish readers, living after the destruction of Jerusalem, not to fear in spite of that disaster, because Jesus still is the King of Israel. John Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 23) applies it to us: “Never is tranquility restored to our minds, or fear and trembling banished from them, except by knowing that Christ reigns amongst us.” He goes on to say that now that our King has come, we ought to contend with our fears, so that “we may peacefully and joyfully honor our King.”

John’s point in referring to Zechariah’s prophecy is to show that Jesus in His first coming was not the conquering King, riding on a war horse, but a humble King, offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sins (Carson, p. 433). Later (Rev. 19:11), John sees Jesus coming again on a white horse to judge and wage war. But in His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Messiah-King, offering peace and salvation. Psalm 118 and Zechariah 9 are just two of many prophecies that confirm Jesus’ identity as Messiah and King.

B. Jesus’ works of power prove that He is God’s Messiah and King.

John does not mention that the young colt on which Jesus rode was unbroken, which was a miracle. If you don’t think so, try riding an unbroken colt sometime! But he does again mention (12:17) that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In all, John gives seven of Jesus’ miracles (or signs) that He performed before His resurrection, plus the miraculous catch of fish (John 21). John reported these signs (John 20:31), “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

C. Jesus’ control of His circumstances under the Father’s timetable proves that He is God’s Messiah and King.

John does not elaborate in this story as the other Gospels do that Jesus deliberately arranged for the colt to ride on. But throughout his Gospel, he has repeatedly shown that Jesus was in control of all His circumstances, under the Father’s sovereign timetable. Since John 5, the opposition to Jesus has been mounting, with repeated attempts to kill Him, but in every case, Jesus was protected, because His hour had not yet come. After Jesus’ claims to deity in John 8, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him (John 8:59), but Jesus went out of their midst unharmed. Again in John 10, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy and tried again to stone Him, because He claimed to be one with the Father. But (John 10:39), “He eluded their grasp.”

After Jesus raised Lazarus, the Jewish leaders intensified their attempts to kill Him (John 11:53), but Jesus withdrew, because His time had not yet come. But now, six days before the Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to offer Himself as the Lamb of God (John 12:23). So, He changed His ministry strategy and openly presented Himself as the Jewish Messiah, even though He knew that the crowds had a mistaken view of their Messiah. He forced the Jewish leaders to go against their plan not to kill Him during the feast. They inadvertently killed the true Passover Lamb even as the other Passover lambs were being killed. Acts 4:27-28 sums it up well: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” Jesus was in control even over His own death. He did not die as a helpless victim, but as the willing sacrifice for our sins.

So the applied message of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry is: Make sure that you follow Him because of who He is, not because of what you think He might provide for you in this life. He does provide forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in Him. But with that gift may come hardship and persecution. But there’s one final thought in our text:

3. You can oppose Jesus and succeed in the short run, but in the long run you will lose and He will win.

John 12:19 mentions the frustration of the Pharisees as they saw the crowds exalting Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem: “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.’” This is another example of John’s irony. The Pharisees meant, “Everyone is going after Jesus. Our efforts to get rid of Him have failed!” But John wants us to see that although by the end of that week, the tide had turned and Jewish leaders were gloating in their victory, it was short-lived. Jesus arose from the dead and when John wrote, the gospel was going out to the whole world, to Jews and Gentiles alike. This anticipates the next paragraph, where the Greeks want to see Jesus.

Interestingly, in Revelation 7:9-10, John reports another scene with palm branches (the only other time palm branches are mentioned in the New Testament):

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

That scene shows us the ultimate triumph of the Lamb! The Jewish leaders succeeded in crucifying Him, but He will reign over all throughout eternity. John is making the point that you can oppose Jesus and in the short run, it may look as if you’ve succeeded in your rebellion. But in the long run, Jesus will win and you will lose if you have not yielded to Him before He comes again.

Conclusion

So, why do you follow Jesus? Someone may say, “I am following Jesus because I want Him to give me a godly marriage partner.” That’s a legitimate need that He can supply, but that shouldn’t be your main reason to follow Jesus. Or, you may follow Jesus because you want Him to heal your marriage. Again, He can do that, but that’s not the main reason you should follow Him. Some may say, “I follow Jesus because I have many deep emotional hurts from my past, and I want Him to heal me.” Again, He can do that, but it’s not the main reason to follow Him.

The right reason to follow Jesus is because of who He is: God’s Anointed One, the rightful King over every heart and life. He died for your sins, arose from the grave, and is coming back in power and glory to reign over all. So whether you struggle with tribulation, distress, persecution, poverty, health issues, or death itself, you can overwhelmingly conquer if your faith is in Him as your Lord and Savior (Rom. 8:35-37)! Follow Jesus because of who He is, not for the temporal benefits that He might give you.

Application Questions

  1. Is it okay to appeal to people to trust in Christ so that He can solve their personal problems? Cite biblical support.
  2. What expectations did you have when you put your trust in Christ? Were they biblically legitimate expectations?
  3. Have you experienced disappointment with God? What was the source of your disappointment? How did you deal with it?
  4. Are there any areas of your life (work, finances, relationships, goals, use of time, etc.) where Jesus is not your King? What specifically do you need to do to yield these areas to Him?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship, Failure, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 12 Summer 2014

Summer 2014 Edition

Produced by ...

Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,

The Institute for Biblical Preaching

Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

www.tibp.ca

C:\Users\Roger\Documents\My Documents\Institute for Biblical Preaching\Forms, Binder Cover Page, Logo\IBP Logos\IBP Logo.jpg

“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”

Part I: Preparing For Preaching

“Selecting Texts and Topics”

By: Dr. Roger Pascoe

The Institute for Biblical Preaching,

Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

In the last edition of the Net Pastors Journal, we looked at some biblical principles and some good practices for selecting preaching texts and topics. In this edition, I want to continue that discussion with....

Some Helpful Procedures For Text Selection

1. Ask Yourself Some Theological Questions 1

a) Am I covering the whole scope of biblical teaching? - Old and New Testaments, historical narratives, wisdom literature, gospels, epistles etc.?

b) Am I covering the whole range of biblical doctrines? – God, man, sin, salvation, heaven and hell etc.?

c) Am I dealing with the whole range of biblical applications? - to old and young, parents and children, men and women, church and community?

2. Ask Yourself Some Practical Questions

a) What has been the focus of recent preaching in the church?

b) What spiritual events and situations have recently happened in the church?

c) What is the spiritual condition of the people right now?

d) What aspect of truth is required to strengthen the people?

e) Is there a particular aspect of truth that the church really needs to hear?

3. Consider the value of preaching a series through biblical books.

Book series follow the text as the biblical writer wrote it under inspiration. You wouldn’t study any other book the way some preachers select their preaching texts – i.e. a paragraph from this book one week or a paragraph from another book the next week or reading the conclusion before the story.

If you preach sequentially through a book, your audience will understand your sermons within their context.

Book series allow you to preach topical messages while preaching through a specific section of the Bible. For example, you can take topics from your sermons which you don’t have time to deal with fully in one sermon and develop them for individual messages.

Book series develop greater biblical literacy in your congregation. You will teach them the introductory and interpretive issues of the book. You will teach them the biblical theology of the book. They will see where the book fits into redemptive history.

Book series provide a consistent context for the congregation. They understand the context of all the messages within the series. They can study along as you preach and, thus, gain greater understanding. They know where you are going to preach from next week. This gives them a sense of coherence to the messages. They understand how the messages fit together. They can understand key theological truths as they are presented within the biblical book.

Book series maximize the use of your study time. You only have to study the context, background etc. once, and you only have to explain it to your congregation once.

Book series can be approached differently. You can start with Genesis and work through the Bible. You can balance your preaching between O.T. books and N.T. books, between Gospels and Epistles, Law and History, Psalms and Wisdom, Prophecy and Apocalyptic. You can present books series in different ways:

  • thematically, doctrinally, or theologically
  • paragraph by paragraph or chapter by chapter
  • key texts within a book
  • key sections (e.g. the 3 sevens of John’s Gospel – 7 discourses; 7 miracles; 7 “I am” statements)
  • an overview of whole books of the Bible in one message
  • character studies or historical events

4. Consider the value of freedom and variety in text selection.

Even though you may be preaching a book series, that does not mean that that is all you preach. Add variety by running several series at a time or by mixing individual messages in with series messages. For example, you could preach a series for your communion services, another series at your Sunday morning services, and yet another series at your Sunday evening services.

Other possibilities for freedom and variety include: biographical studies; thematic studies; social issues; Christian growth and discipleship series; evangelistic services.

Freedom and variety have definite advantages. They keep people interested and prevent boredom. They keep balance in the ministry. They keep the preacher fresh. They keep you open to the Spirit.

5. Consider Your Personal Gifting.

Preaching needs to be exercised within the context of the total ministry needs of the church. Other preachers may need to be utilized where you may not be gifted for a particular line of preaching (e.g. evangelism). In this way, the church benefits from being exposed to a variety of preaching gifts.

6. Consider Time Demands.

Because of the time demands on a pastor, you should consider a balance between preaching new sermons with sermons that have been partially prepared on a previous occasion but never used, or sermons that you have preached before. In this way you balance your preparation time for new messages (which take the most time to prepare) with old messages that take less time to prepare.

Weeks that become crowded by unexpected events (e.g. funerals) may require that you make use of someone else to preach, or that you preach a sermon you have given previously.

7. Consider The Following Questions.

a) What do you sense God leading you preach on for this occasion?

b) What text and topic is needed for this particular occasion?

c) What aspect of God’s revelation is called for, needs to be preached, is right for this occasion?

8. Consider The Following Guidelines.

a) If you have decided to preach a series, the text selection may be predetermined - i.e. either the next literary unit in a book series, or the next doctrine in a theological or thematic series. In any event, determine how long the series is to be. It’s probably wise not to make a series more than 10 or 12 weeks (unless it is broken up with other messages for other occasions).

b) If you have decided to preach topical messages, approach your text selection process by trying to select one text that presents fully each theme or doctrine in question, so that you can exposit that text and then make references to other appropriate texts (rather than jumping all over the place without a primary text). A primary text provides a textual focus for study rather than just a thematic focus and you give your audience a text to hang on to. They may forget all the other references that you turned to, but they will more likely remember your primary text.

9. Consider The Following Boundaries.

a) The boundary of a literary unit of text (a paragraph or chapter or even several chapters if it is a long narrative). In the text selection process, make sure that you select a literary unit. Know what the divisions of the text are within the literature. Make sure you are dealing with a complete unit of text. Ask yourself:

- In what sense is this text really a literary unit, a unified paragraph?

- Does it have a specific or clear theme?

- Does the text have a complete theme or thought within its context?

b) The boundary of the literary genre. The literary genre determines how you interpret it and how you apply it.

c) The boundary of the original author’s intended meaning of the text. Do not arbitrarily select a text to make it say what you want it to say – that is an abuse of the text. Be fair and faithful to what the original writer intended to convey. The sermon may focus on a section of a literary unit or it may combine several units, but whatever you select you have to know what you have selected (in terms of where it fits into the overall literary unit) and what the original writer intended to convey in the full unit.

Conclusion

Text selection is the beginning place for preparing a specific sermon. After you have selected your text, then you can make decisions like how much text to read in the service; when it will be read; who will read it. Be prayerful. Be careful. Know the text. Know the people. Know the occasion. Be sensitive to the Spirit.

Part II: Leadership – Being A Godly Role Model

“Your Personal Surrender to the Holy Spirit,” Pt. 2

In the Spring 2014 edition of the NET Pastors Journal, we began our study of Ephesians 5:18-6:20 on the subject of “Your Personal Surrender to the Holy Spirit.” In that edition we looked at “The Meaning of the Spirit-Filled Life” (Eph. 5:18). In this edition, we continue that study by looking at...

The Necessity Of The Spirit-Filled Life

You may ask, why is the filling of the Spirit a necessity? First, its a necessity because the Word of God commands it. Notice that it is an imperative: Be filled! (Eph. 5:18). C. H. Spurgeon said, This is not a promise to claim, but a command to be obeyed. Since this is the command of God, to not obey it is sin.

Second, its a necessity because the work of God demands it. When Peter was preaching in Acts 4:8, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Similarly also Stephen (Acts 7:55) and Paul (Acts 13:9). Effective preaching is the product of a Spirit-filled preacher and the Spirit-inspired Word acting together to produce a Spirit-transformed life. If we want to be effective in the work of God, we must be filled with the Spirit

The Reality Of The Spirit-Filled Life

How can this be a reality in my life? It can be a reality in my life through the initial acceptance of the Holy Spirits control. Notice that it’s the passive voice: be filled – i.e. let the Holy Spirit fill you; relinquish control; accept the control of the Holy Spirit, not for us to get more of him, but for him to get more of us.

It’s the present continuous tense: Go on being filled… This isn’t a one-time experience as with the indwelling and baptism of the Spirit, which occurs once at the time of conversion. This is something that should be a continuous reality in our lives all the time.

It can be a reality in my life through continued dependence on the Holy Spirits control. Continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control means not grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). The reality of being filled with the Spirit can be realized by erasing anything in your life that grieves the Spirit of God. So, we must not allow sin in our lives – we must crucify it (Gal. 5:24). Put to death the “self” in your life – nail it to the cross, thus taking it out of the way (Col. 2:14). Be sensitive to sin just like the eyeball is sensitive to dirt. We cannot walk in the Spirit if we are not aware immediately when we grieve the Spirit. We must confess sin immediately – name it and nail it (1 Jn. 1:9).

Continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control means not quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). The reality of being filled with the Spirit can be realized by not permitting anything in your life that quenches the Spirit. Don’t put out the fire of the Spirit by taking glory from God for yourself or by shutting down the activity of the Spirit and replacing it with the work of the flesh.

Lastly, continued dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control means being filled with the Spirit (5:18). Allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in you - teaching you, illuminating you, comforting you, guiding you, convicting you of sin. The result of this will be the manifestation of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) in our lives.

Part III: Devotional Thoughts

“Manna in the Morning”

By: Stephen F. Olford

We continue with Dr. Stephen Olford’s exhortation on the necessity and the practice of maintaining a vibrant devotional life in his little booklet called, “Manna in the Morning.” Last time I published the first part of this booklet, dealing with the reasons and requirements for a quiet time with God. Now here is the second part.

“Be sure to come to your quiet time with a spirit of expectancy. I believe that such expectancy has at least three contributing factors.

There is first of all the physical factor. You cannot go to bed at all hours of the night and expect to get up fresh n the morning. Going to bed when you ought to takes discipline, and some of these social occasions that you enjoy may be sweet; but they are not as precious or vital as your quiet time.

There’s a moral factor, too, in this matter of expectancy. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18). When there’s something in your life which is out of line with the will of God, don’t expect to have fellowship with Him. If you have something against this person or that, leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled first.

Then there’s a spiritual factor involved in this matter of expectancy. You’ll find it stated in John 7:17: “If anyone wants to do...he shall know concerning the doctrine” – that is, shall know the teaching. Revelation and obedience are like parallel lines. As you obey, so He reveals. When you cease to obey, He ceases to reveal.

My experience is this: when I have tried to pray and read the Word and found it impossible to “get through,” so to speak, so that the Bible has become a dead book to me; on examination, I’ve discovered that there was an issue of obedience on which I had not followed through. And before proceeding with my quite time, I have had to get right with God.

We have considered the reasons for the quite time. We have considered the requirements of the quite time. Now let me share with you several simple rules that I feel help me in my daily time with God.

The first rule is waiting. Samuel Chadwick says, “Hurry is the death of prayer.” You can get more from the Lord in five minutes spent unhurriedly than in thirty-five minutes with your eye on the clock.

Hush yourself in His presence. Wait until the glory of His presence seems to come upon you. Seek the power of concentration. Seek the cleansing. Seek the illumination of the Spirit. Above all, seek to consciously come into His presence.

From waiting go on to reading. Read from the Word of God. I believe with George Muller that you can never pray aright until He has spoken to you from His Word. When I say reading, I mean, of course, the passage set aside for that particular day. God save you from the “lucky dip” method. Such a practice is an insult to the sacredness of the Word of God.

Read the portion at least three times. Read it carefully to discover what is there generally. The next time, peruse it for what is there specially. Then study it for what is there personally.

Move from reading to thinking or meditation. Look at the passage in the presence of God.

Say: “Lord, as I look at this passage this morning, is there any command to obey? Is there any promise to claim? Is the are new thought to follow and pursue? Is there any sin to avoid? Is there an new thought about God, about the Lord Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, about the devil?” Seek to discover what God is saying to you from the passage you have read.

From meditation go on to what I call recording. Take that notebook that you keep just for your quite time and jot down briefly what the Lord has said to you. Always make it personal. Always make it devotional. Put it down in such a devotional, personal way that it will be a message to your soul.

Now pray. Praying has three aspects in your quite time. First there is adjustment. Take the message the Lord has given you – the message recorded briefly in your quite time notebook – and pray it back to Him. That’s one great secret of keeping your prayers alive and fresh. Pray it back until God’s will becomes your will in relation to the particular message He has spoken to you.

Then adore him. Pour out your soul to Him. Thank Him. Think of His majesty and glory and mercy, and revel in the sunshine of His presence. Talk as a child to his father, as a servant to his master. And listen - as a lover to his beloved.

Only then do you come to asking. Present your requests not only for yourself but for others. Intercede for others.

After prayer, there are two more very important steps which I believe are essential to the quite time. One is sharing. Share God’s message to you with somebody – that day.

What you share you enjoy. What you share you keep. The manna God’s people gathered every day had to be shared and eaten. When hoarded it bred worms and stank. You can always tell the person who merely hoards what he gets in his quite time.

Most important of all, obey. Get up from your knees and say, “Lord Jesus, as I face this day, I ask You by the power of Your indwelling Spirit to give me the grace to translate into action what You have told me to do this morning.” Then go out and obey.

God’s best for you is closely linked with this daily meeting with Him. The barometer of your Christian life can be observed by the attention you give to your quite time every day.

You cannot tell me that you have surrendered to God, that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life, or that you know the fullness of the Holy Spirit, unless you have your Manna in the Morning. May your prayer be:

“Help me, O Lord, Thy Word to read,
Upon the living bread to feed,
Seeking Thy Spirit’s quickening lead,
That I may please Thee in all things.”

Part IV: Sermon Outlines

John 13:12-17, Jesus’ Dialogue with the Disciples

For the English audio version of these sermons, click on these links: Link 1 - Jn. 13:12-13, Pt. 6; Link 2 - Jn. 13:14-17, Pt. 7

Title: True Servanthood (continued – see Spring 2014 edition for points 1 and 2)

Point #3: We must imitate the nature of true servanthood (12-17)

1. By remembering that the Lord is our Master (12-13, 16)

2. By doing for each other what Jesus has done for us (14-15)

3. By practising what we preach (17)


1 Adapted from Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Exegesis,” in Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth century, 197, cited in Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching, 91-92.

Related Topics: Pastors

La Revue Internet Des Pasteurs, Fre Ed 12, Edition du l’été 2014

Cette revue est aussi disponible en langues anglaise, russe et roumaine

Edition de l’été 2014

Sous la direction du

Dr Roger Pascoe, Président de

l’Institut pour la Prédication Biblique

Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

www.tibp.ca

C:\Users\Roger\Documents\My Documents\Institute for Biblical Preaching\Forms, Binder Cover Page, Logo\IBP Logos\IBP Logo.jpg

Institut Biblique pour le Ministère Pastoral

Renforcer les capacités de l’Eglise dans la prédication biblique et le leadership

1ère Partie: La Préparation De La Prédication

“Le choix du texte et du thème”

Par: Dr. Roger Pascoe,

Président de l'Institut pour la prédication biblique,

Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Dans la dernière édition de la Revue Internet des Pasteurs, nous avons examiné quelques principes bibliques et quelques bonnes pratiques pour le choix des textes et thèmes de prédication. Dans la présente édition, je voudrais continuer cette réflexion en évoquant ....

Quelques Idees Utiles Pour Le Choix Du Texte

1. Posez-vous quelques questions théologiques1

a) Est-ce que je tiens compte de toute l’étendue de l'enseignement biblique? – l’ancien et le nouveau testament, les récits historiques, les livres de sagesse, les évangiles, les épîtres, etc.?

b) Est-ce que je tiens compte de l'ensemble des doctrines bibliques? - Dieu, l'homme, le péché, le salut, le ciel et l'enfer, etc.?

c) Est-ce que je tiens compte toutes les sortes dapplications bibliques? - Pour les anciens et les jeunes, les parents et les enfants, les hommes et les femmes, l'église et la communauté?

2. Posez-vous quelques questions pratiques

a) Quel a été le point central de la récente prédication dans l'église?

b) Quels événements spirituels ou situations se sont récemment produits dans l'église?

c) Quelle est la condition spirituelle des fidèles en ce moment?

d) Quel aspect de la vérité est nécessaire pour fortifier les fidèles?

e) Y a t-il un aspect particulier de la vérité que l’assemblée a vraiment besoin d'entendre?

3. Considérez la valeur de la prédication en série dans les livres bibliques

Une série de prédication dans un livre permet de suivre le texte tel que l'auteur biblique l’a écrit sous inspiration. Vous ne voudriez pas aborder le livre à la manière de certains qui manquent de ligne directrice - c'est à dire un paragraphe dans ce livre cette semaine et un paragraphe dans cet autre livre de la semaine d’après, ou encore lire la conclusion avant l'histoire elle même.

Si vous prêchez de façon séquentielle dans un livre, votre audience comprendra vos messages dans leur contexte.

Les séries vous permettent de prêcher des messages thématiques tout en prêchant en série dans une section spécifique de la Bible. Par exemple, vous pouvez prendre des sujets que vous n'avez pas le temps de traiter entièrement dans un seul message et de les développer dans différents messages.

Les séries développent une plus grande culture biblique dans votre assemblée. Vous pourrez leur enseigner le contexte du livre et les questions liées à son interprétation. Vous pourrez leur enseigner la théologie biblique du livre. Ils pourront ainsi voir comment ce livre se situe par rapport à l'histoire du salut.

Les séries fournissent un contexte cohérent pour votre assemblée. Ils peuvent ainsi comprendre le contexte de chaque message de la série. Ils peuvent étudier le livre pendant que vous prêchez la série et, ainsi, acquérir une plus grande compréhension. Ils savent où vous allez prêcher la semaine d’après. Cela leur donne un sens de la cohérence des messages. Ils comprennent comment les messages s'imbriquent. Ils peuvent comprendre les vérités théologiques clés telles qu'elles sont présentées dans le livre biblique.

Les séries permettent d’optimiser l'utilisation de votre temps d'étude. Vous étudiez le contexte une seule fois, puis vous n’avez qu’à l’expliquer à votre assemblée une seule fois.

Les séries peuvent être abordées de façons différentes. Vous pouvez commencer par la Genèse et progresser tout au long de la Bible. Vous pouvez aussi équilibrer votre prédication en alternant entre les livres de l’ancien et ceux du nouveau testament, entre évangiles et épîtres, livres de la loi et livres historiques, psaumes et livres de sagesse, prophétie et apocalypse, etc. Vous pouvez présenter la série de différentes manières:

  • de façons thématiques, doctrinales, ou théologiques ;
  • par paragraphe ou par chapitre ;
  • par textes clés dans un livre ;
  • par sections clés (par exemple les 3 septs de l'Evangile de Jean – les 7 discours de Jésus; les 7 miracles de Jésus; les 7 déclarations en « Je suis » de Jésus) ;
  • un aperçu de livres entiers de la Bible en un seul message ;
  • des études de caractère ou d’événements historiques.

4. Prenez en compte la liberté et la variété dans le choix des textes

Lorsque vous êtes en train de prêcher une série dans un livre, cela ne signifie pas que c'est uniquement ce que vous pouvez prêchez. Vous pouvez apporter de la variété en mettant en œuvre plusieurs séries à la fois ou en intercalant des messages individuels entre les messages en série. Par exemple, vous pouvez prêcher une série les jours où vous célébrez la sainte cène, une autre série au cours de vos cultes ordinaires du dimanche matin, et encore une autre série au cours de vos cultes du soir.

Autres possibilités de liberté et de variété: les études biographiques; les études thématiques; les problèmes de société; la croissance spirituelle et la vie de disciples; les messages d’évangélisation.

La liberté et la variété ont des avantages certains. Ils permettent de garder les gens intéressés et d’éviter l'ennui. Ils permettent de garder l'équilibre dans le ministère. Ils permettent au prédicateur de garder sa fraicheur. Ils vous permettent de rester ouvert à l'Esprit.

5. Tenez compte les dons personnels

La prédication doit être faite dans le cadre de l’ensemble des besoins du ministère dans l'église. Vous pouvez faire appel à d’autres prédicateurs dans les domaines où vous n’avez pas de dons particuliers (par exemple l'évangélisation). De la sorte, l'église peut bénéficier du fait d'être exposé à une variété de dons en matière de prédication.

6. Prenez en compte les contraintes de temps

En raison des contraintes de temps, vous devriez envisager un équilibre entre la prédication de nouveaux messages et les messages qui ont été partiellement préparés à d’autres occasions, mais qui n’ont jamais été utilisés, ou encore des messages que vous avez prêché auparavant. De cette façon, vous apportez un équilibre entre votre temps de préparation des nouveaux messages (qui prennent le plus de temps) et les anciens messages (qui demandent moins de temps de préparation).

Les semaines surchargées à cause des événements inattendus (par exemple les funérailles) peuvent vous conduire à solliciter quelqu'un d'autre pour prêcher, ou alors à prêcher un message que vous aviez donné auparavant.

7. Examinez les questions suivantes :

a) Qu'est-ce que vous sentez que Dieu vous conduit à prêcher en cette occasion particulière?

b) Quel texte ou sujet est nécessaire pour cette occasion particulière?

c) Quel aspect de la révélation de Dieu est nécessaire, ou a besoin d’être prêché, ou est approprié pour cette occasion?

8. Suivez les instructions suivantes.

a) Si vous avez décidé de prêcher une série, le choix des textes peut être prédéterminé - soit le paragraphe suivant, soit la prochaine doctrine dans une série théologique ou thématique. En tout état de cause, déterminez combien de temps la série va prendre. Il est probablement plus sage de ne pas faire une série de plus de 10 ou 12 semaines (sauf s'il est intercalé par d'autres messages circonstanciels).

b) Si vous avez décidé de prêcher des messages thématiques, choisissez des textes qui présentent de façon complète chaque thème ou doctrine, de sorte que vous puissiez expliquer ce texte, tout en faisant des références/renvois à d'autres textes similaires (plutôt que sauter dans tous les sens en l’absence d’un texte de base). Le texte de base attire l’attention sur les éléments textuels plutôt que sur des points thématiques et donne à votre audience un texte auquel s’accrocher. Ils peuvent oublier toutes les autres références, mais ils seront plus susceptibles de se souvenir de votre texte de base.

9. Prenez en compte les contraintes suivantes

a) La contrainte de l’unité littéraire de texte (un paragraphe ou un chapitre ou même plusieurs chapitres s'il s'agit d'un long récit). Dans le processus de choix du texte, assurez-vous d’avoir sélectionné une unité littéraire. Assurez-vous que vous avez affaire à une unité complète de texte. Posez-vous les questions:

  • Dans quel sens ce texte est il vraiment une unité littéraire, un paragraphe unifié?
  • Cette sélection a t elle un thème précis ou clair?
  • Est-ce que le texte possède un thème complet ou une pensée complète dans son contexte?

b) La contrainte du genre littéraire. Le genre littéraire détermine la façon dont vous interprétez le texte et comment vous l'appliquez.

c) La contrainte de l’intention originale de l'auteur du texte. Ne choisissez pas arbitrairement un texte pour lui faire dire ce que vous voulez dire – ce serait un abus du texte. Soyez juste et fidèle à ce que l'écrivain voulait transmettre à l’origine. Le message peut se concentrer sur une section d'une unité littéraire ou combiner plusieurs unités, mais quoi que vous choisissiez, vous devez savoir ce que vous avez choisi (là où il s'insère dans l'unité littéraire globale) et ce que l'écrivain d'origine avait l'intention de transmettre dans l’entièreté de l'unité.

Conclusion

Le choix du texte est là où commence la préparation d’un message spécifique. Après avoir déterminé votre texte, vous pouvez décider de la longueur du texte à lire pendant le culte; à quel moment le texte sera lu; qui le lira, etc. Soyez dans un esprit de prière. Soyez prudent. Connaissez le texte. Connaissez votre audience. Connaissez les circonstances de la prédication. Soyez sensible à l'Esprit.

2eme Partie: Le Leadership - Etre Un Modele Selon Le Cœur De Dieu

«L’abandon de votre personne au Saint Esprit» 2ème partie

Par: Dr Roger Pascoe

L'Institut pour la prédication biblique

Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Dans l’édition du printemps 2014 de la Revue Internet des Pasteurs, nous avons commencé notre étude d'Ephésiens 5:18-6:20 sur le thème «L’abandon de votre personne au Saint Esprit ». Dans cet article nous avions examiné «La signification de la plénitude de l'Esprit» (Eph. 5:18). Dans le présent numéro, nous continuons cette étude en examinant ...

La Necessite De La Plenitude De L'Esprit

Vous pouvez vous demander, pourquoi la plénitude de l'Esprit est une nécessité. Tout d'abord, c'est une nécessité parce que la Parole de Dieu l’ordonne. Notez que c'est un impératif: Soyez remplis! (Eph. 5:18). CH Spurgeon a dit: «Ce n'est pas une promesse à réclamer, mais un commandement auquel obéir ». Puisque c'est un commandement de Dieu, ne pas y obéir est un péché.

Deuxièmement, c'est une nécessité parce que l’œuvre de Dieu l'exige. Lorsque Pierre a prêché dans Actes 4:8, il était rempli du Saint-Esprit. Il en était de même pour Etienne (Actes 7:55) et Paul (Actes 13:9). La prédication est efficace lorsque le prédicateur rempli de l'Esprit et la Parole inspirée par l'Esprit agissent ensemble pour produire une vie transformée par l'Esprit. Si nous voulons être efficaces dans l'œuvre de Dieu, nous devons être remplis de l'Esprit

La Réalité De La Penitude De L'Esprit

Comment cela peut-il être une réalité dans ma vie? C’est possible dans ma vie par l'acceptation initiale du contrôle de l'Esprit Saint. Remarquez bien que la phrase est à la voix passive: soyez remplis - c'est-à-dire, laissez le Saint-Esprit vous remplir; renoncez à avoir le contrôle; acceptez le contrôle de l'Esprit Saint, non pas pour que vous possédiez plus de Lui, mais pour que Lui il possède plus de vous.

La phrase est au présent continu: continuez d’être remplis ... Ce n'est pas une expérience unique comme la survenue et le baptême de l'Esprit, qui se produit une fois au moment de la conversion. C'est quelque chose qui devrait être une réalité permanente dans notre vie tout le temps.

Cela peut aussi être une réalité dans ma vie par le fait de dépendre continuellement du contrôle de l'Esprit Saint. Dépendre continuellement du contrôle de l'Esprit Saint signifie ne pas attrister de l'Esprit (Eph. 4:30). Pour que la plénitude de l'Esprit devienne une réalité dans notre vie il nous faudra effacer de notre vie tout ce qui attriste l'Esprit de Dieu. Ainsi donc, nous ne devons pas tolérer le péché dans nos vies - nous devons le crucifier (Gal. 5:24). Mettre à mort notre «moi» - le clouer à la croix, l’enlevant ainsi de notre chemin (Col. 2:14). Soyez sensible au péché comme l’œil est sensible aux corps étrangers. Nous ne pouvons pas marcher dans l'Esprit si nous ne sommes pas sensibles et conscients dès l’instant où nous attristons l'Esprit. Nous devons confesser le péché immédiatement - le nommer et le clouer (1 Jean 1,9)..

Dépendre continuellement du contrôle de l'Esprit Saint signifie ne pas éteindre l'Esprit (1 Thess. 5:19). La plénitude de l'Esprit peut être réalisée en n’admettant pas dans votre vie quoi que ce soit qui éteigne l'Esprit. N’éteignez pas le feu de l'Esprit en prenant la gloire de Dieu pour vous-même ou en mettant fin à l'activité de l'Esprit pour la remplacer par les œuvres de la chair.

Enfin, dépendre continuellement du contrôle de l'Esprit Saint signifie être rempli de l'Esprit (5:18). Permettre à l'Esprit Saint de faire son œuvre en vous, c'est-à-dire en vous enseignant, en vous éclairant, consolant, guidant ; en vous convaincant de péché. Le résultat de tout ceci étant la manifestation du «fruit de l'Esprit» (Gal. 5:22) dans votre vie.

3ème Partie : Meditation Biblique

«La Manne du matin»

Par le Dr Stephen F. Olford

Nous continuons avec l'exhortation du Dr Stephen Olford sur la nécessité et la manière de maintenir une vie de dévotion dynamique dans son petit livret intitulé, «La Manne du matin.» La dernière fois j'ai publié la première partie de cette brochure, portant sur les raisons et les exigences de la méditation personnelle. Maintenant, voici la deuxième partie.

«Assurez-vous de commencer votre temps de méditation dans un esprit d’expectative. Je crois que cette expectative a au moins trois facteurs favorables.

Il est tout d'abord le facteur physique. Vous ne pouvez pas aller au lit à n’importe quelle heure de la nuit et vous attendre de vous lever tout frais le matin. Cela demande de la discipline d’aller au lit au moment qu’il faut. Ces activités sociales que vous aimez tant peuvent bien être intéressantes; mais elles ne sont pas aussi précieuses ou vitales que votre méditation personnelle.

Il ya aussi un facteur moral dans l’expectative. « Si j’avais conçu l’iniquité dans mon cœur, le Seigneur ne m’aurait pas exaucé.» (Psaume 66:18). Lorsqu’il ya quelque chose dans votre vie qui s’oppose à la volonté de Dieu, ne vous attendez pas à être en communion avec Lui. Si vous avez quelque chose contre quelqu’un, laissez votre offrande sur l'autel, et allez d'abord vous réconcilier.

Ensuite, il ya un facteur spirituel dans l’expectative. Vous verrez qu'il dit dans Jean 7:17: «Si quelqu’un veut faire sa volonté, il connaîtra si ma doctrine est de Dieu.» - c'est à dire, il aura l'enseignement, la révélation. La révélation et l'obéissance sont comme des lignes parallèles. A mesure que vous obéissez, Il vous révèle davantage. Lorsque vous cessez d'obéir, il cesse de révéler.

Mon expérience est la suivante: chaque fois que j'ai essayé de prier et lire la Parole et que j’étais dans l'impossibilité de le faire, au point que la Bible était devenue comme un livre mort pour moi; en y réfléchissant bien, j'ai chaque fois découvert qu'il y avait un problème d'obéissance dans ma vie. Et avant de continuer ma méditation, j’ai dû mettre les choses en règle avec Dieu.

Nous avons examiné les raisons pour lesquelles il faut avoir son temps de méditation personnelle. Et nous avons examiné ses exigences. Maintenant, permettez-moi de partager avec vous quelques règles simples qui m’aident beaucoup dans mon temps quotidien avec Dieu.

La première règle est l’attente dans la patience. Samuel Chadwick dit, «la précipitation tue la prière» Vous recevrez plus de la part Seigneur en cinq minutes passées dans la tranquillité qu’en trente-cinq minutes passées avec un œil sur l'horloge.

Faites silence dans sa présence. Attendez jusqu'à sentir comme si la gloire de sa présence vient sur vous. Cherchez le pouvoir de la concentration. Cherchez la sanctification. Cherchez l'illumination de l'Esprit. Par-dessus tout, cherchez à entrer de façon consciente dans Sa présence.

Après l’attente, passez à la lecture. Lisez dans la Parole de Dieu. Comme George Muller, je crois que vous ne pourrez jamais prier correctement tant qu’il ne vous a pas parlé dans sa Parole. Quand je dis lecture, je veux dire, bien sûr, le passage mis de côté pour ce jour particulier. Que Dieu vous préserve de la méthode dite de la «plongée bienheureuse». Cette pratique hasardeuse est une insulte au caractère sacré de la Parole de Dieu.

Lisez la portion au moins trois fois. Lisez-la attentivement pour découvrir ce qui est là de façon général. Ensuite, décortiquez-la attentivement pour ce qui s’y trouve de particulier. Enfin, étudiez-la pour tirer ce qui est là pour vous personnellement.

Passez de la lecture à la réflexion ou à la méditation. Regardez le passage dans la présence de Dieu.

Dites: «Seigneur, alors que je regarde ce passage ce matin, y a t-il un commandement à obéir? Y a t-il une promesse à réclamer? Y a-t-il de nouvelles idées à approfondir? Y a t-il un péché à éviter? Y a t-il une nouvelle découverte sur le Père, sur Jésus, sur l'Esprit Saint, sur le diable? etc.» Cherchez à découvrir ce que Dieu est en train de vous dire dans le passage que vous avez lu.

De la méditation passez à ce que j'appelle l'enregistrement. Prenez un cahier que vous gardez spécialement pour votre méditation et notez ce que le Seigneur vous a dit. Ecrivez toujours de façon personnelle. Ecrivez de manière personnelle et dans un esprit de dévotion pour que ce message soit vraiment pour votre âme.

A présent, priez. La prière a trois aspects dans votre méditation personnelle. Il ya d'abord l'ajustement. Prenez le message que le Seigneur vous a donné (le message que vous avez noté dans votre cahier de méditation) et répondez à Dieu dans la prière. C'est là un grand secret pour garder vos prières vivantes et fraiches. Priez jusqu'à ce que la volonté de Dieu devienne votre volonté en ce qui concerne le message particulier qu’il vous a donné.

Ensuite, adorez-le. Déversez votre âme devant Lui. Remerciez-Le. Pensez à Sa majesté, sa gloire, sa miséricorde, et délectez-vous en dans sa présence. Parlez comme un enfant à son père, comme un serviteur à son maître. Et écoutez comme un amant vis-à-vis de sa bien-aimée.

C'est seulement après cela que vous pouvez en venir à vos requêtes. Présentez des requêtes, non seulement pour vous, mais aussi pour les autres. Intercédez pour les autres.

Après la prière, il ya encore deux choses très importantes qui, je le crois, sont essentielles à méditation personnelle. La première c’est le partage. Partagez le message de Dieu pour vous avec quelqu'un d’autre ce jour-là.

Vous appréciez ce que vous partagez. Vous retenez ce que vous partagez. La manne que le peuple de Dieu ramassait chaque jour devait être partagé et mangé. Quand elle était accumulée elle pourrissait et puait.

Bien plus important encore, obéissez. Relevez-vous et dites: «Seigneur Jésus, alors que je fais face à ce jour, je te demande par la puissance de ton Esprit qui habite en moi de me donner la grâce de traduire en actes ce que tu m'as dit de faire ce matin.» Ensuite, sortez et obéissez.

Le meilleur que Dieu puisse vous offrir est étroitement lié à ce rendez-vous quotidien avec lui. Le baromètre de votre vie chrétienne peut être observé par l'attention que vous donnez à votre méditation tous les jours.

Vous ne pouvez pas me dire que vous avez abandonné votre vie à Dieu, que Jésus-Christ est le Seigneur de votre vie, ou que vous connaissez la plénitude de l'Esprit Saint, tant que vous n’avez pris votre manne le Matin.

4ème Partie: Plans De Predication

John 13:12-17/ Le dialogue de Jésus avec ses disciples

Pour la version audio anglaise de ces messages, cliquez sur ces liens: Link 1 - Jean 13:12-13, Partie 6; Link 2 - Jean 13:14-17, Partie 7

Titre: Le vrai service (suite - voir l’édition du printemps 2014 pour les points 1 et 2)

Point n° 3: Nous devons imiter le vrai service (12-17)

1. En nous souvenant que le Seigneur est notre Maître (12-13, 16)

2. En faisant les uns pour les autres ce que Jésus a fait pour nous (14-15)

3. En mettant en pratique ce que nous prêchons (17)


1 Adapté de “L’exégèse” par Sinclair B. Ferguson, dans Le Prédicateur et la Prédication: raviver l’Art au 20ème siècle, Samuel T. Logan, Jr., ed., (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1986), 197, cité dans Prédication sous l’Onction, 91-92.

Related Topics: Pastors

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