women

Truth, Humility and Peace: The Hard Work Of Church Community (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

In 1 Timothy, Paul keeps coming back to two things: orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (righteous action). Pretty much everything in the letter relates to these two things in some fashion. Before Paul moves into a discussion of ecclesiology (church structure) in Chapter 3, he addresses a dynamic happening in Timothy’s church where men and women were being influenced by bad teaching and responding in troubling ways.

Paul’s solution may sound odd to us, but it made sense to his audience, and there are implications for us today. Here’s the passage:

So here’s what you tell them; here’s what I want to see: Men, pray wherever you are. Reach your holy hands to heaven—without rage or conflict—completely open. Women, the same goes for you: dress properly, modestly, and appropriately. Don’t get carried away in grooming your hair or seek beauty in glittering gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. Instead, as is fitting, let good works decorate your true beauty and show that you are a woman who claims reverence for God. 

It’s best if a woman learns quietly and orderly in complete submission.  Now, Timothy, it’s not my habit to allow women to teach in a way that wrenches authority from a man. As I said, it’s best if a woman learns quietly and orderly. This is because Adam was formed first by God, then Eve. Plus, it wasn’t Adam who was tricked; it was she—the woman was the one who was fooled and disobeyed God’s command first.

 Still, God, in His faithfulness, will deliver her through childbearing as long as she remains in faith and love and holiness with self-restraint. (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

Can we just acknowledge right up front that this is an odd passage? Christian theologians and Bible scholars have wrestled with this passage for as long as it’s been around. Is this about some specific dynamic in Timothy’s church or in Ephesus? Is this a timeless comment about women and men?

What I’m going to attempt to do this morning is show why this was important for them to do what we talked about last week: ‘lead quiet and peaceful lives, with holiness and godliness, for the sake of the spread of gospel.’  Then I want to challenge us with how this might apply in our lives today.

A historian from the 1st century B.C., Pompeius Trogus, wrote about an apparently well known “nation ruled by females”:

“They also dismissed all thought of intermarriage with their neighbors, calling it slavery rather than marriage. They embarked instead upon an enterprise unparalleled in the whole of history, that of building up a state without men and then actually defending it themselves…. Then, with peace assured by their military success, they entered into sexual relationships with surrounding peoples so that their line would not die out. After conquering most of Europe, they also seized a number of city-states in Asia. Here they founded Ephesus.”

“The mother of the gods,” Artemis, was worshipped in Ephesus. The priesthood was dominated by women. Men could become priests after renouncing their masculinity and going through ritual castration. They also abstained from certain types of food.

Josephus recorded that some of the Jews had incorporated some of these traditions into their brand of Judaism. They shunned marriage and often avoided women altogether. They abstained from meat and wine (it might stir their passions like the ladies did).  They also thought this gave them a special ability to interpret the Mosaic law in unusual ways, which they justified by referring to seemingly endless genealogies through which they claimed to be the descendants of Zadok, who was the first High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem.

So, note what we are dealing with so far:

  • A rejection of marriage by Gentile women and Jewish men;
  • A worship of the mother goddess which empowered women and emasculated men literally and figuratively;
  • A belief that denial of pleasure (in this case sex and certain foods) led to spiritual power. This was fueling self-righteousness and judgment.
  • A fascination with genealogies meant to place people in a line of spiritual authority, both in Judaism (Zadok for the men) and in the local temple cults (Artemis for the women). This was leading to a sense of superiority and arrogance.

Remember: Paul just said, “Lead quiet, peaceful lives in godliness and holiness…” So how do they accomplish this as they are facing these challenges? 

MEN: DON’T BE ANGRY AND LIFT HOLY HANDS WHEN YOU PRAY

The solution for the men was to lift up holy hands in prayer – not just pray like Paul wrote just a couple paragraphs earlier, but to pray with hands uplifted. Why the more specific command?

  • The Jews apparently stood and turned open, empty palms toward heaven. Perhaps it was a way of asking Him to put something into the empty hand, like a beggar who has nothing and holds out his hand.
  • It shows a relationship where the one raising his hands is lowly with respect to the other.
  • It also symbolically raises hands that are supposed to be clean, and uncovers a heart that is supposed to be pure (according the Psalmist – Psalm 24:4). That stance reminds men that they have nothing to bring to God on their own merit, not their self-denial or their lineage. They are in submission, not having authority over God; and they are exposed, offering their lives for God’s inspection. If they take that seriously, that’s a sobering thing.  

WOMEN: DRESS MODESTLY AND LEARN QUIETLY

Women were gravitating toward a style of temple worship in which were some pretty wild temple priestesses who were publically loud and immodest and generally disdainful of men. The general public did not like them, and Roman authorities were greatly concerned because this was upsetting a divinely ordered family structure and would displease the gods.

The immodest and showy dress that accompanied this often signaled a woman’s loose morals and independence from the responsibility of her family. That was not a signal the church wanted to send.

It seems like this was coming into the church through the women because at least the single women and the widows were being actively recruited (this idea comes up later in 1 Timothy). They were bored and restless; they had no family responsibilities (which left little to do in Ephesus); because women were not formally educated in Greek, Roman or Jewish culture at the time, they didn’t know enough about their faith to be discerning when faced with false teaching (1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 3:6-7).

In addition, it was considered a shame for women to speak in public venues. Aristotle wrote in Politics, “Silence is a woman’s glory.”  The Greek ecclesia (which was also used for church assemblies) was a man’s domain. The few times we have record of women giving speeches, they brought shame on their family even if the speech was praised. [1], [2]

They were buying into false beliefs, and their public immodesty and boldness were undermining what was seen by everyone as respectable.[3]  We noted last week that the early church wanted “to make the heathen rulers sensible that they were good subjects. For thus they might expect to be less the object of their hatred.” – from Biblehub’s commentary on 1 Timothy[4] On a practical level, Paul was giving instruction on how to be ‘good subjects’ in the eyes of the state even while educating them on the biblical foundation for his commands.

ADAM FIRST, THEN EVE

In the religious culture of Ephesus, life had its origin in Cybele (Artemis), a woman, and sin originated with various male gods. Paul reminds them how this clashes with the biblical narrative: it was Adam, a man, who was the source of life; it was Eve, the woman, who introduced sin.[5] Once again, there is a lot of discussion about the implications of this, because Adam’s not off the hook either: “By one man sin entered into the world” (Romans 5:12). Jesus is called the New Adam, not the New Eve.

The broader theological implications (and I’m sure there are many) are not my focus this morning. Whatever Paul is saying theologically, I think he is making the same practical point to the women that he is making to the men: There is no room for men or women to claim a religious superiority because of their lineage from Zadok -  or Artemis.

SAVED THROUGH CHILDBIRTH

Honestly, there is no real consensus on what this means. It’s the only time this word is used in the New Testament. I favor the idea that Paul is talking about how spiritual formation looks in the lives of women living in Ephesus. We think of salvation as a moment; Paul thought of salvation as an ongoing process, including what we would now call sanctification.[6]

I suspect what he is saying is contrasting what happens when women in his culture were not married and raising families in a church community. They were bored, distracted, easily manipulated by false teaching, even drawn into pagan worship. Those who stayed in the church were succumbing to false teachers. This was going to lead them away from Christ. Being married, raising a family in the church, being focused and purposeful and being under the instruction of true doctrine and the spiritual leadership of godly husbands would build their faith; this would be the means by which they would experience God’s process of sanctification (‘deliverance’) through the raising of the family in the broader context of church life. [7]

Several things stand out to me in this particular section: A healthy church will be characterized, by truth, humility, and peaceful community.[i]

Truth: look at how the false teaching within the church and outside of the church were destroying fellowship and shipwrecking faith. Ideas have consequences. There are other places where Paul says that preachers with bad motives are still preaching the gospel, and that’s what’s important (Philippians 1). Here they aren’t teaching the gospel, and it’s tearing the church apart. The anger among the men, the subversion of decorum and even worship among the women – that is not a quiet and peaceful life lived in godliness and holiness. That is not a game plan for furthering the good news of the gospel.

It’s a reminder that we must be a people that embrace and defend truth, specifically solid doctrinal teaching, or it will tear us apart. We hear talk about living in a ‘post-truth’ world; now more than ever, we must be students of truth. It’s a daunting thing to challenge someone’s doctrine, but we must be bold (and gracious) defenders of truth, while being humble recipients of whatever challenges we receive.

Humility: We must stand with our spiritual arms uplifted to let God examine our hands and our hearts. And we must see that grime on what we have to offer so that we can appreciate what Jesus has done for us. There was no room for them to be proud because of their lineage, their self-denial, or because they were a man or a woman.

How boldly do we pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me.” (Psalm 139:23).  We’ve been coming back to this idea a lot lately, but it’s there in the text a lot lately.

  • “Lord, did I represent truth this week?”
  • “Did I do it with love and compassion, speaking boldly but gently, or did I do it with sarcasm and bitterness?”
  • “Lord, did I pray for my friends and my enemies? Did my heart break for the things that break your heart?”
  • “Lord, did I call on you for help, knowing that unless you build everything in my life it will be in vain?”
  • “Lord, did I praise you as I should, seeing your presence in every moment, acknowledging that it’s not by my might, and it’s not by my power, but it’s by your Spirit that all good things happen?”
  • “Lord, have I repented of my sins as I should? Have I forgiven others as you have forgiven them?”

There is no room for arrogance or self-righteous judgment in God’s kingdom. We are called to honest introspection and surrender to God, and to do so with openness and in humility.

Peaceful Community: The solution for both the women and the men was that they followed Christ into deeper Christian community. It is in the fellowship of other Christians that we find stability, refinement and purpose.

God often uses our walk with others as a means of our sanctification.

Karl’s been working with kids in this church for almost 10 years, and he noted last week how being in that ministry has built and stabilized his faith. He teaches big concepts to kids. He interacts with them, their parents and other workers, which will build character.  He gets to know most of you in the process.

I think what has happened in Karl shows an important principle: purposeful involvement in church community makes a difference. Our community of influence that we give and receive makes a difference. A responsibility for the spiritual nourishment of others makes a difference. Being forced into situations where you are challenged, or criticized, or praised all are part of your spiritual formation.

We need each other. We need to plug in to God’s kingdom. Purposeful service accompanied by good Christian fellowship is often a key means of our sanctification.

 

Some Recommended Resources (with varying opinions)

Saved Through Childbearing.  Andreas Kostenberger. http://cbmw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2-4.pdf.

Should Women Teach in Church?  Greg Koukl http://www.str.org/articles/should-women-teach-in-church#.WIJ7KneZOb8.

Was Paul For Or Against Women In Ministry? Craig Keener http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200102/082_paul.cfm

“Made – In Complementary Community.” https://clgonline.org/madein-complementary-community-part-1/

Commentaries at biblehub.com. They were instrumental in helping me in this sermon, as were the other articles.

 

[1] Several Roman writers instruct women to just go home and be quiet. One ancient inscription that read, “Theano [the wife of Pythagoras], in putting her cloak about her exposed her arm. Somebody exclaimed, ‘A lovely arm.’ ‘But not for the public,’ said she. Not only the arm of the virtuous woman, but her speech as well, ought to be not for the public, and she ought to be modest and guarded about saying anything in the hearing of outsiders, since it is an exposure of herself; for in her talk can be seen her feelings, character, and disposition.” Juvenal, a Roman poet, wrote: “Wives shouldn’t try to be public speakers; they shouldn’t use rhetorical devices; they shouldn’t read all the classics-there ought to be some things women don’t understand. . . If she has to correct somebody, let her correct her girl friends and leave her husband alone.”

[2] No wonder Paul warned against a woman teaching and practicing something he called “authentein” against “a man” (1 Timothy 2:12), a word which means to dominate , exercise dominion over, or wrench authority away from a man. In his 2010 book, “Insight into Two Biblical Passages: The Anatomy of a Prohibition, 1 Timothy 2:12, the TLG Computer, and the Christian Church,” Wilshire notes that authentein had the following meanings: “doer of a massacre”; “author of crimes”; “perpetrators of sacrilege”; “supporter of violent actions”;  “murderer”;  “slayer of oneself”;  “perpetrator of evil;  “one who murders by his own hand.”  http://juniaproject.com/1-timothy-pauls-language-original-context/

[3] “Here Paul also forbade women to "teach," something he apparently allowed elsewhere (Romans 16; Philippians 4:2,3). Thus he presumably addressed the specific situation in this community.” – Craig Keener

[4] Some scholars have pointed out that in the letter to Corinthians Paul identifies the men as “husbands”; Craig Keener and Greg Koukl have suggested that the men in this letter to Timothy may be better translated as “husband” in accord with the letter to Corinth.

[5] In a culture where typology or archetypes mattered (one person stands in for a whole group of people), this distinction mattered. 

[6] Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. From the same as teknogoneo; childbirth (parentage), i.e. (by implication) maternity (the performance of maternal duties) -- childbearing.

 [7] For what it’s worth, women had great leeway in the ‘private’ sphere of their own homes – business, education and raising of the children, social connections, etc. They were very skilled and capable, and among their circle of female friends there were often thriving businesses. There was decent money to be made through manufacturing and trade, and plenty of women (including some prominent members in the early church) did this. Read Proverbs 31 to get an idea of how productive, valued and impactful women were.

 

 

 

Made…as men and women (Part 2)

In "Made as Men and Women (Part 1)," I noted that God is Creator, Sustainer, Protector and Provider, and He has given to those who bear his image the privilege and responsibility of embodying those things in the world. So while women and men individually often share interchangeable traits and are sometimes able to function effectively in all these roles, the Old Testament gives us a foundational starting point. Men can do a lot of things, but they must commit to making the world safe within the scope of their ability and opportunity. Women can do a lot of things, but they must commit to helping the world come to life and flourish within the scope of their ability and opportunity.

(Note: I highly recommend Matt Chandler's series, "A Beautiful Design," if you want to hear some excellent teaching on these distinctions.)

This post will discuss what the New Testament shows about the design for men and women. The next will look at what the New Testament reveals about how we are to do life together in in our homes and in the church. Finally, the last post in this series will show how all of this is meant to bring glory to God.

__________________________________________________________________________

1) The Old Testament was the start of the discussion, not the end.

The Old Testament is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is however, incomplete.  It was an important step in the right direction, but it wasn’t the end of the journey. I ended last week by noting that in the Old Testament, the way for men and women to recapture Eden was to walk in the “path of life” (Psalms 16:11), which was found in God’s law.  It wasn’t going to change our hearts; it would, however, direct our hands. Fast forward to Paul’s discussion of the Law….

“Now you’re asking yourselves, “So why did God give us the law?” God commanded His heavenly messengers to deliver it into the hand of a mediator for this reason: to help us rein in our sins until Christ, about whom the promise was made in the first place, would come…. “So,” you ask, “Does the law contradict God’s promise?” Absolutely not! But it will not lead us to resurrection and life; if it could have, then surely we could have experienced saving righteousness through keeping the law. But we haven’t. Before the coming of Christ, we were surrounded and protected by the Mosaic Law, our immaturity restrained until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian or tutor until Christ came that we might be acquitted of all wrong and justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:19-24) 

I don’t know how you felt after last week, but I’ve been really conscious about how totally inadequate I am to stay in the path of life by my own strength.  So while the Law showed us how to live well and bring about goodness, it also showed us that it is an impossible task.  The New Testament makes it clear that this dilemma is not the end of the story - the “path of life” was paving the way for the only One who can help us do it well. 

“This is the kind of confidence we have in and through Christ. Don’t be mistaken; in and of ourselves we know we have little to offer, but any competence or value we have comes from God.  Now God has equipped us to be capable servants of the new covenant, not by authority of the written law which condemns us by showing our inability to keep it, but by the Spirit who brings life...” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

 So the New Testament will show us what the Old Testament has been  pointing us toward, and will show how Christ will transform our hearts and empower our hands so that we can do that which is simply impossible for us to do on our own.

 2)  The NT goes out of its way to talk about how God is in the process of bringing about a “new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15) characterized by unity (John 17:18-23).

 Father, may they all be one as You are in Me and I am in You; may they be in Us, for by this unity the world will believe that You sent Me. All the glory You have given to Me, I pass on to them. May that glory unify them and make them one as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be refined so that all will know that You sent Me, and You love them in the same way You love Me. (John 17:20-23)

 We read Galatians 3: 19-24 earlier (“the law is a tutor”). Here’s what follows:

 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28)

 This is probably a direct response to a typical Jewish prayer in which the men thanked God they were not a Gentile, a woman or a slave. But it highlights a shift in thinking that takes place in Christ. The things that were used before to decide who was important, or whom God liked – race, gender, social hierarchy – have been dissolved in Christ.

 What we are going to see in the New Testament won’t negate that there is a purpose and design in gender – it’s not going to claim that men and women are interchangeable - but it will show us that our differences can only be made truly complementary when we understand what it means to be unified in Christ.

 3) The NT offers Christ as the ultimate example of life and godliness. And we are being transformed as Christians into that image:

Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 18)

 In Christ, we see all the elements we talked about last week for men and women brought together in their fullness (well, except for having kids J). In Christ, who was fully God and fully human, we see the imago dei fully expressed. Christ protects and provides; He creates and sustains. He challenges injustice and he weeps over Jerusalem. He takes dominion over the sea and he tenderly cares for children.  He casts out demons and he “sees” people deeply and empathetically. So whatever the New Testament has to say is going to point us toward what it looks like to be transformed into the image of Christ, in whom we see the fullness of God’s image represented.

That's one reason we see men and women moving effectively in areas that are are typically associated the opposite gender. Women can clearly order the world and make is safe. Just read the book of Judges to see how women showed leadership in Israel, then take a look at how women in the early church offered leadership in many areas. Men can also clearly nourish life. When Paul challenges men to "cherish(thalpo) their wives (Ephesians 5:29), it's the same word he uses when he talks about how " a nursing mother tenderly cares (thalpo) for her own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

___________________________________________________________________________

 So as part of this “new humanity” who is brought to unity in Christ, increasingly transformed into the image of Christ and empowered by Holy Spirit, what does the New Testament add to what it means to be a man or a woman? It means we are designed to become and called to be mature disciples of Christ. With that in mind, there are at least three things that men and women must do if they want to live in the fullness of God’s design as mature disciples of Christ.

Count the Cost 

If any of you come to Me without committing to me over your own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and yes, even your own life, you can’t be My disciple. If you don’t carry your own cross as if to your own execution as you follow Me, you can’t be part of My movement. Just imagine that you want to build a tower. Wouldn’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to be sure you have enough to finish what you start? If you lay the foundation but then can’t afford to finish the tower, everyone will mock you: “Look at that guy who started something that he couldn’t finish!” Or imagine a king gearing up to go to war. Wouldn’t he begin by sitting down with his advisors to determine whether his 10,000 troops could defeat the opponent’s 20,000 troops? If not, he’ll send a peace delegation quickly and negotiate a peace treaty. In the same way, if you want to be My disciple, it will cost you everything. Don’t underestimate that cost!” (Luke 14:26-33)

The walls protected people and crops.  A guard was posted in the tower during harvest. A king defending his nation in war needed wisdom to know which course of action was best.  If you didn’t know what it would cost to accomplish your goal, your enterprise would fail. 

Disciples need to make an informed decision. This is why we have to be honest with people about life in Christ. That’s why it is so damaging to say things like, “God wants everybody to be rich,” or “You will never be sick.” It makes Jesus into a Wish Fulfillment God who just gives you everything you thought you needed to make you happy. If that were true, there would be no cost to count. That’s easy math.  Jesus is just laying it out there for them. “You must know that if you follow me, it will cost you everything: your money, your time, your attitudes, your priorities, your relationships, your free time, maybe even our health or your life.”

  • You cannot simply make money and do with it what you want.
  • You cannot simply think of yourself when you organize your day.
  • You cannot simply act out every emotion, or justify every emotion.
  • You cannot simply come up with a ‘bucket list’ without consideration of God’s priorities.
  • You can’t just consume entertainment mindlessly
  • You can’t just settle for bad relationships with your family.

Following Christ will cost you your autonomy and independence. But what is the cost if you don’t? Look at the ruin in the world when people live outside of the path of life.

  • Has sexual impurity brought greater good to the world than purity?
  • Have greed and lust have helped us?
  • Have gossip and slanderhelped bring life to the world?
  • Can we argue that when men dominate and use women or when women emasculate and undermine men that we have somehow achieved the good life?
  • Can we argue that squandering our resources, or being mean to our kids, or cheating at work, or always being jealous has somehow helped the human enterprise?

 So we can choose ruin, or we can choose life. Each will cost us. If we choose ourselves, we will surrender to ruin that we bring into our life and the lives of those around us.  If we choose Christ, we surrender to God’s will. Our life will be not our own, but we will experience what it means to walk in the path of life.

___________________________________________________________________________

 Take up your cross and follow Christ

 If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself. You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me. If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?” (Luke 9:23-25)

 It’s so counter-intuitive. How can it be that not doing what I feel like doing can be for my benefit?  Nevertheless, if you want to be rescued, healed and made whole and full, you must follow Christ.

  • We die to our privacy and hiddenness and follow Christ to honesty and transparency.
  • We die to our emotional outbursts and we follow Christ to self-control.
  • We die to self-justification and blame and follow a Christ who frees us to say, “I am the worst of sinners” without shame and with a longing for holiness.
  • We die to pornography and promiscuity and follow Christ to purity.
  • We die to wanting our spouse, or kids, or our friends to make us happy and instead serve them for their happiness.

And in all these things, you will take up a cross and walk toward your own crucifixion. Day after day. Christ will empower you with His Spirit, His Word and His people, and he will guide you in the path to genuine fullness of life, and in the end you will understand how the Resurrection of Christ brings you to life.

 Ladies, if the men around you counted the cost, took up the cross and followed Christ, would this not be a climate in which you could flourish? This isn’t a 50 Shades of Grey man, who ruins the women in his world.  (The actor playing him in the upcoming movie said he was asked to do things for the movie that he would never do to women in real life. Thank God.) Ladies, is that kind of man truly more desirable than a man who has counted the cost, then taken of the cross of Christ so that he might give his life for the good of those around him every day?

 Men, when the women around you count the cost, take up the Cross and accept it, is it not be beautiful to see the glory of God’s image in them  Listen, Katy Perry caught the attention of the world during the Superbowl when she rode out on a tiger like the girl on fire, but she can’t hold a candle to my wife. Now I think my wife is beautiful, but that’s not the reason. My wife takes up her cross daily and offers her emotions, her actions, her schedule, her life in the service of Christ and those around her, and in her transformation she is beautiful in ways that far surpass the shallow markers in our culture.

 This is why 50 Shades and halftime shows break my heart. Our culture does not understand what it means to be feminine or masculine in the deepest sense of the word.  The good news is that we have a tremendous opportunity to show the world how the Resurrection power of Christ brings us life in the fullest sense of the word.

___________________________________________________________________________

 Press On in the Power of the Christ

“I want to know Christ; I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death, so that I may arrive safely at the resurrection from the dead. I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything Jesus has in store for me. Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind and straining toward what is ahead.   

I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.  All of us who are mature ought to think the same way about these matters. If you have a different attitude, then God will reveal this to you as well. For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings.” (Philippians 3:10-16)

If we want to flourish in God’s design for men and women, we must count the cost, take up the cross of self-denial and discipleship, and follow Christ as we press on toward the fullness of life.

Christ does all the heavy lifting in making the transformation of our hearts possible. When we are dead in our sins, He alone has the power to bring us spiritual life. Christ does all this for us. It’s why we never boast. But Paul notes that this doesn’t mean we never do anything. We don’t earn our salvation, but it is often the case that God’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” when we press on by keeping in step with God’s teaching.

When our presence harms relationships, we will ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation.  When our words hurt instead of heal, we will seek to make amends with humility. When we see the lonely or the damaged, or the sinner lost and maybe even glorying in the midst of their sin, we won’t turn up our nose and walk away. We will press in, because that’s what Christ and others have done for us, and we will press on because of God’s call to Resurrection life.

We don’t throw up our arms in frustration and bail. We don’t rest on our accomplishments when we do well, and we don’t confuse history with destiny when we fail. None of us have arrived, but we acknowledge it, we hold fast to Christ, we absorb His word, we surround ourselves with men and women who will walk with us, and we press on toward the only goal that counts, not because we are awesome in our own strength, but because Christ is awesome in His power. We recommit to walking in the path of life with the help of Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit. We won’t be perfect, but we commit to stepping up and striving for the fullness of what Christ has to offer.