A student from a Florida university asked to interview me for her environmental science class. She needed a religious figure to interview. Here is my response to her interview questions. Its a small book.:
Greetings in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
My name is Pastor Joseph Spurgeon. I am the head pastor of Sovereign King Church in Sellersburg, Indiana. We are a reformed, protestant and evangelical church. Our church is a part of Clearnote Fellowship, a small conservative Presbyterian denomination.
Question 1: How does your faith and philosophy view the relation between humans and the natural world? Where do we fit in and why?
We believe that the 66 books of the Bible are God inspired, holy, inerrant and infallible. This means that there are no errors in what that the Bible teaches on any subject matter. The Bible is absolute truth. Therefore, it is our highest authority on every aspect of life including the view between humans and the natural world. The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." The triune God is the one who created all the we see. There is not one molecule in the universe that He did not create. Nor is there one molecule outside of his control. We believe that God sustains the natural world every second of every day. If God were to remove his sustaining hand (not as if God has a hand but we speak about God sometimes in anthropomorphic terms to better understand him), the world would cease to be.
The Bible also says that God made man in his image. Unlike the rest of creation, man is created in the image of God. Man is meant to represent God on earth, to be his viceroy over the earth. Genesis (the first book in the bible) says man is to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Man is created to rule over the natural world as a faithful steward of God’s creation. A steward is someone who has limited authority over the property of another to oversee it and care for it. Man is meant to exercise authority and care over the world. Man is meant to use the natural world to glorify God, to provide for his family and to care for others.
Genesis says that "God made man, both male and female in his image." There are two and only two human sexes and they are different. The man was created first and was meant to go forth, tilling the earth, that is to use the natural resources to improve himself and his family. He was given authority to do so over God’s creation and this means that man is to exercise that authority for the benefit of those under his care and to the specifications of the one over him, God. Woman was created for man, not the man for the woman. The man needed a helper, one who could care for the part of the world that the man had already subdued. By design, the woman is to be geared toward the home. Since she is a helper, she is to submit to the authority of the man in her task. If man is the viceregent of God, then woman is in a sense the viceregent of the man. And together, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
God has never rescinded these commands and therefore mankind is still set over creation. We are still meant to be fruitful, that is both to have children to populate the earth and to make use of the natural resources God has provided to create, to build, to provide, and to care for others to the glory of God. Humans are not just animals. We are image bearers of God. We are made male and female and God creates each person specifically either male or female. Man and woman are not interchangeable, nor do they have the same roles, tasks, responsibilities, talents, and skills. Furthermore; the world was created for mankind and not necessarily the other way around.
Finally, mankind in the Garden rebelled against God. They stepped outside of the bounds of the authority God gave them and ate the fruit of a tree that was forbidden to them. They were tempted to this rebellion by the enemy of mankind, Satan. This rebellion of man, led to what theologians call “the fall.” That is man fell into sin (evil) and more rebellion. Each person inherits from the first father, Adam the first man, a nature corrupted by sin and bent towards sin. The creation itself was placed under a curse as the result of this fall. The work to subdue the earth would become much more difficult. Death entered the world along with decay. Disease, natural disasters, birth defects, and other harmful things entered the world as a result of this rebellion of man.
Also, as a result of this fall and the sinful nature passed on to each person by their parents, other evils such as murder, adultery, theft, rape, idolatry, sexual perversions such as homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia, and even neglect and abuse entered the world. Women began to be eager to usurp the authority of the man, longing to rule over him. Man was bent towards either an abuse of his authority or an abdication of his authority. Rather than faithfully subduing the earth and caring for it as a faithful steward, mankind also abrogated that responsibility. They either use the natural world with no care for others or they seek to worship the creation. Some become so concerned with the environment that they end up placing it over mankind. They begin to idolize nature so much that they hate humanity. They despise the call to subdue the earth and take dominion. They begin to despise the command to be fruitful. They see children as a curse upon the earth, rather than a blessing from God. Women reject their God-given femininity and ability to have children. Rather than being caretakers of the home and raising up godly children, they come up with creative ways to prevent conception or to kill the child that is conceived before it is born.
Now, the good news is that God is a graceful and merciful God. He could have wiped out the entire creation including all of mankind. Our rebellion against God is deserving of his wrath and judgment. But God with great patience has borne with fallen humanity. After the first humans fell into sin and he cursed the earth, God gave them a promise. He promised them that one day, one would rise from the seed of the woman to destroy the enemy of mankind and restore mankind along with all of creation. As history unfolded, God made covenant (a vow or contract between two or more persons) with his chosen people. This covenant was a promise to them and their descendants that he would save them from sin and his wrath by sending one who would atone (to make amends) for their sin.
God kept his promise and 2000 years ago sent Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin named Mary. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He lived perfectly obedient to the law of God. He healed the sick, he raised the dead to life, he exercised authority over the creation by walking on water, calming storms, cursing trees, multiplying food, and other miracles. He traveled proclaiming the good news that there was a new kingdom which he was establishing. He called all people to repent (turn from their sins) and to trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.
He was hated. Evil always hates good. Because Christ Jesus exposed the evil of the people, they hated him. People in our day often think of Jesus as a hippie that got along with everyone. This could not be further from the truth. Jesus was full of love and compassion, but he did speak to the sins of people. He did call them to forsake their evil ways and desires. He also professed to be God. The leaders of his day hated him. They plotted and unjustly arrested him. They had him flogged and mocked. They nailed him to a cross. It was a painful, humiliating and shameful death. Earlier, I had written that not a molecule of the universe was outside the control of God. This is true of the cross. God controls even the willful decisions of man. What these evil people intended for evil, God had predestined to be used for good. The cross was God’s wrath being placed on Jesus Christ. The judgement that the sin of God’s people deserve was placed on Christ.
There was a great exchange that happened on the cross. The dark, dirty, nasty, shameful, wicked and evil deeds of sinners like you and I were placed on Christ as if he had committed them. And the righteous, holy, godly, and miraculous deeds of Christ Jesus were given to sinners like myself as if I had done them. Christ was buried but because his death had atoned for the sin placed on him, Christ was declared righteous. He could not be held in the grave because death was meant for sinners. Christ rose from the dead. He was seen by up to 500 eye witnesses alive and proclaiming forgiveness for sins. He then ascended into heaven where he climbed the throne room steps of God and sat down at the right hand of God.
He now reigns over the earth as King and he commands people everywhere to repent. Those who repent that is turn from trusting in their own understanding and turn to him as Lord are given right to be children of God. Their sins were paid for on the cross. The Holy Spirit is given to those people to change their hearts and given them a new nature different from their sinful one inherited by birth. This new nature wars against the old and causes them to begin to be obedient to God. These believers return by faith to the original command to take dominion over the earth. They begin the process of fighting evil and growing toward the good. They see their sexuality as something to be obedient to God with. They embrace their masculinity or femininity as God intended. They leave behind sexual perversions such as homosexuality. They see creation as something to use for God’s glory and to care for as God intended. They also proclaim the good news of this new king, Jesus Christ to others.
As people repent and trust in Christ, the kingdom grows pushing back the curse and restoring the creation but this task will not be complete fully until Christ returns. He will return defeating death once and for all. He will restore the creation to paradise. There will be no more death and no more sin. He will judge those who have committed evil. Those who have not trusted in him, will be sent to hell where they will pay for their sins for eternity. Those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will inherit a kingdom that will never end. They will reign with him as fully restored image bearers.
Question 2: What duties, or obligations, if any, do humans have toward the natural world? How are these justified or explained?
Having laid the foundation in the answer to the first question, this question will be easier to answer. Mankind has the duty to subdue the earth. That is mankind has been given the responsibility and authority to use the natural resources of this world to glorify God by building, creating, and making products for the betterment of mankind and the world. Mankind gets food, water, and shelter from the natural world.
In addition, mankind makes culture from the things around us. Culture is a word that comes from the same root as cultivate. We create culture by cultivating the things of the world God has placed here. We create music, art, literature, and industry. Learning and developing disciplines such as mechanics, chemistry, biology, aeronautics, and physics are all ways that God intended for mankind to glorify him. Humans have the obligation to continue to develop these disciplines and skills using ingenuity and hard work. Furthermore, mankind is to use all of this for the glory of God. We glorify God by loving him and our neighbor. These disciplines are not meant to be used to lord over our neighbors or to harm our neighbors but rather to benefit our families, neighbors, and communities.
Mankind is given the inherit right to private property. When someone takes the natural resources of the earth and improves them by labor and ingenuity, they are given the right to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Private property is protected in 2 of the 10 commandments. Stealing and coveting another's property are forbidden by God. Mankind has the authority to do with their property as they see fit, free from government interference unless they use it to harm the life or property of another. A person may hire others to help them with their own property. One of the natural rights we have is to our own labor and skills that God has given us. Each person has skills and talents given to them by God. No two people are alike in this. Some people are more talented and skilled. There is no natural equality of talent and skills among people. Yet, all are called to use what they have to glorify God and to help others. Therefore, a person has the right to hire out themselves and their skills to another who is willing to pay what is agreed upon.
Mankind also has the responsibility to be wise in how they use their talents, skills, and property. Proverbs 12:10 & 11 says "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense." These verses are very instructive. A righteous man will care for life. He uses the things God has given him to care for others and that includes even taking care of his livestock. A righteous man uses the natural resources and isn’t lazy. He isn’t afraid to use the creation, but he also cares for it. He doesn’t treat his property as a garbage heap. He doesn’t poison himself or his neighbor by carelessness of creation. He sees the world as something to be cared for wisely. The wicked man on the other hand even misuses compassion. His compassion is cruel. Here are two examples of this:
1. The wicked begin to worship the earth and as they do, they begin to hate mankind. They see men using natural resources as an attack on the earth. Now to be fair, they often rightfully point to real abuses. There are real ways that people abuse the world. The wicked person, however, turns this justified concern into more wickedness. They seek to get civil government to interfere in ways it has not be designed to do so. They seek to heap up regulations that will have the effect of harming the innocent. Large corporations, for example, love government eco-friendly regulations. Large corporations have the resources to do all the paper work and hire the right people to ensure they meet the regulations. Large corporations often are able to hire lobbyists to help write the regulations in a way that help them the most. In the meantime, the competition is snuffed out. Startup businesses are unable to complete regulation costs to get going. Small-time businesses do not have the manpower or finances to deal with the regulations, so they go out of business. The large corporations can tout their going green as being merciful, all the while giving kickbacks to politicians who write the regulations. The mercy of the wicked is cruel.
2. Another lie that is being propagated, especially in college environmental classes, is the myth of overpopulation. This myth going back to the eugenics movement in the late 1800s was that the reason there is poverty is because there are too many people to feed. Therefore, the merciful thing for them was to work to curb the population. The eugenics movement saw itself as helping “evolution” along. They saw eugenics as a way to remove “human weeds” as Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood called them. They would encourage breeding in the upper classes but work hard to control the births of the lower classes. They thought that if the wealthy and naturally skilled would give birth and the ignorant and poor were prevented from giving birth, poverty would be eliminated. Overpopulation and a lack of food is a myth and was then as well. With ingenuity and creativity given by God, we can feed the world several times over now. Yet it is still used as an argument for supporting birth control and in particular abortion. Planned Parenthood in its mercy still targets minorities and poor people with abortion, the murder of innocent children. The mercy of the wicked is cruel.
To summarize, man does have the obligation to take dominion over the earth. He is to do this to the glory of God in a way that cares for his neighbor. God has not left us to our own devices either in this. His word, the Bible, tells us how to love our neighbor and how to care for others. His word tells us what is good and what is evil. We cannot claim to be merciful while violating his commands.
Question 3: How is your faith responding through action and practical programs to the environmental crisis, from local issues to global warming?
The first two questions are really instrumental in answering the third. When you say environmental crisis, we need more information. There are many myths that float around. Furthermore, anything that is contrary to the word of God is incorrect. So, when we say environmental crisis, we need to think through what is being said. Is there a particular crisis like a local oil spill or chemical spill that needs to be taken care of or are we speaking in a larger generic term that is ultimately pretty nebulous and unhelpful? We must realize that we have a duty to care for the world, but this does not mean that we resort to fear mongering.
Our faith respects science. In fact, we argue that apart from the biblical God, there can be no foundation for science. Modern science arises from the Christian worldview historically. Famous scientists like Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Bacon, and Pasteur among others were all believers in Christ and saw that science arose from their biblical worldview. Because the universe is created by a God of reason and order, the universe is orderly and can be discovered. The Christian faith and only the Christian faith can provide the necessarily preconditions for science to work. An atheist worldview with an uncreated world cannot provide a foundation for science. Why would there be order in an uncreated world formed by random processes? How can we have induction a necessary component of science in an atheist worldview?
Our faith accounts for and respects science. Yet, we do not consider natural science to be the ultimate arbitrator of what is true. In particular, we know that scientists can and do err. We know that they have a sinful nature that they inherit from birth. We also know that there are people who seek to use science for their own gain to the detriment of others. I say all of that to say that when it comes to issues like global warming, now called climate change, we don’t want to fall into a ditch one way or the other. We are skeptical of scientists who work for civil government constantly speaking about crisis all the while the crisis keeps changing. First, it was global cooling back in the 1970’s and 80’s. Then it became Global warming in the 90’s and earlier 2000’s. Now, we are talking about climate change. We are very hesitant to trust the constant warnings of crises especially when many people stand to benefit from such crises. Many scientists rely on government funding for their research and in order to get the funding they must find ways to push the importance of their research. Furthermore, as we mentioned in the second question, there are groups who stand to gain financially while knocking out their competitors with such crises.
Does this mean that we do not take any concern with the environment? No. We preach and teach the commands of God which require faithful stewardship of the earth. We educate our congregations on the call to subdue the earth and care for it. Many Christian churches adopt regions of highways or other areas to pick up trash and keep clean. Many Christians have been embracing permaculture and other ways to provide natural and wholefoods. We also know that there are Christians who are serving in the different scientific fields and are working on ways to produce renewable resources. Finally, our church in particular seeks to help orphans and widows. These are two groups of people who have been the victims of the cruel mercy of the wicked. We work to protect the preborn children from murder. We visit those in nursing homes who are often neglected for the same reason, the myth of overpopulation. We also have many large families in our church. The birth-rate in our country is far below the replacement rate. It is the lowest it has ever been. If it continues, this will become a very large environmental and humanitarian crisis. We are doing our part to instruct on the beauty and value of human life and to encourage men to be men and women to be women.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with you and its ramifications for the environment. I apologize if this was too long. I hope it is helpful and that you get a good grade on your assignment. Can I get a copy of your final report? I would love to share it with our church. Thank you.
Philippians 2: 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life,
How often do we grumble and complain? Is that all you do with your spouse, your children, or with your parents or friends? Is that all you do on social media? Are you tired of feeling depressed all the time? Well ask yourself if you are a grumbler, disputer, and complainer. How can you expect to not be depressed when all you do is complain about everything?
God's holy word tells us to do all things (not just some or a few but all things) without grumbling or disputing. We are to be a people of thanksgiving. We are to be content whether we have or we lack. We are to be thankful to our Father above. Grumbling and complaining is a sin against your heavenly Father. It shows a lack of faith and is besmirching the goodness of God. All things that you have are from God and He gives good gifts to his children. Your complaining and grumbling is an attack on the good name of your Father. Romans 1 talks about those given over to judgment by God. And the two triggers for God giving people over are "they did not honor him as God nor give thanks to him." To grumble and complain is to dishonor God and to not give him the thanks due him. It leads to a darkened heart and foolish thinking. It ends with judgment from God.
So how do you stop the cycle of grumbling and disputing?
1. Confess your sin of grumbling and disputing to God and beg his forgiveness for besmirching his name and character. Don't make excuses for it, just confess it recognizing it is evil and God hates it. Do this every time you find yourself grumbling and complaining.
2. In verse 16 of Philippians 2 it says "holding fast to the word of life." The key to doing all things without grumbling and disputing is to hold fast to the word of life. Whenever you are tempted to grumble and complain remind yourself of God's word.
1 Peter 1: 13 says "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
The King James says gird up the loins of your mind, that is prepare your mind for battle. This means you need to be hiding God's word in your heart so that you will not sin. For those tempted to grumble and complain all the time, you need to go through scripture and begin memorizing passages that remind you of God's holiness and your sinfulness. You need to remind yourself that you deserve nothing from the hand of God. You deserve his wrath and judgment. And then remind yourself from scripture of God's mercy to you a sinner. Everything that you have is a gift from him.
Mark Cox is fond of saying that we sweat more in practice so we bleed less in battle. If you want to be able to battle the temptation to grumble and complain, you need to spend time meditating on God's word.
3. Philippians 4: 4 says 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! You are commanded to rejoice in God. Your are forbidden from grumbling and disputing. The Scriptures over and over again command us to be thankful. You need to spend time reminding yourself of what you are thankful for versus spending time reminding yourself of everything to complain about. If you grumble and complain all the time on social media then discipline yourself to spend one month where you make a post every day about something you are thankful for. I did this back in July and called it #ThanksgivinginJuly. It was a time of refreshment for me and reminded me of how great our God is. November is next week. I challenge you to use that whole month to either post on social media or write a journal entry of something you are thankful for every day. When you cultivate within you a thankfulness to God you will find that you have less time to grumble and complain.
Listen, depression can attack the best of us. I am not trying to belittle that at all. But you are not allowed to just sit back and take its attacks. You are not allowed to grumble and complain all the time and then call yourself a child of the Almighty. You want it to be proven that you are a child of God in the midst of this dark world, then shine as a light by doing all things, even the hard things, without grumbling or disputing. Then you will be proven blameless and innocent.
Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and song....
Doug Wilson says the story of the bible is "Kill the Dragon, Get the Girl." Adam in the garden was given a dragon to fight and girl to protect. He failed. Our Lord is a warrior though and he crushed the dragon at the cross to redeem his bride the church. We are called to be like our Lord. We are warriors and the God of peace will crush Satan under our feet. We must rely on the Lord to be our strength. He is the one who saves us from our enemies. God is our shield in time of trouble to protect us in the midst of battle. He equips us with his strength to fight evil. We have the full armor of God and the sword of His word.
God is also our song. He is our joy. Though we must be strong, take courage, and stand firm, we also can take joy. We are joyful warriors. We are warriors who sing in the midst of battle. We aren't those who have been defeated. We are those who have been forgiven our sins. The debt we owe God that we cannot pay has been paid. We are free. We have reason to sing because the dragon has been defeated. We have reason to rejoice because the world and all that it is in it belongs to our captain. He has authority over all things. The flowers, birds, trees, fish, sky, animals, mountains, and oceans are his. And they are ours too. We get to enjoy the things God has made in their rightful way within the right priorities. We have true and lasting joy. With God as our song, we can enjoy what God has created lawfully without guilt and shame.
Don't lose heart in the midst of battles. Don't let the fog of war cause you to be cynical and defeated. Yes there are battles on all sides. Yes there are times when defeat seems possible. Yes there are real losses and real heartbreaks. But our Lord is a warrior. He is our strength and our song. We can fight and sing knowing that for those in Christ, the victory is secure.
I made a post after the kentucky derby that caught the ire of several people online. The offending post said "At the Kentucky Derby, woman after woman came to the track drunk and half naked. I wonder how many left saying #Metoo" This blog is an attempt to explain what I mean about lust and immodesty.
Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
Everyone is responsible for their own sin but one way we can sin is by causing a temptation to others. We are not Islands unto ourselves. Our sin impacts others tempting them to sin and their sin will impact us. This absolves no one of their own sin. Lust and immodesty feed each other.
Men (and women) will be held responsible for their lust. Men must fight it especially in our current culture where temptation abounds. This is a battle where the main weapons are prayer, bible meditation, and retreat. Flee temptation men. Don't think that you just are supposed to grin and bear it. Joseph did not just grin and bear with Potiphar's wife. He fled. I have read some things online that have made it seem like you are a weak and unspiritual man if you can't just stare at immodestly dressed women all day and bear the temptation. There is nothing weak or unspiritual about fleeing the temptation. You may have to do a lot of eye bouncing, a lot of leaving certain areas, and a lot of repentance. But fight lust you must. You cannot blame others for your sin.
Women (and men) will be held responsible for providing a temptation to others by their vanity and immodesty. When you dress immodestly (whether its for vain reasons or out of selfish desire for comfort) you are the one from whom temptation comes. There has been a lot of talk online that men just need to fight lust and women can do whatever they want without any regard for their brothers or sisters. You don't get to be an Island unto yourselves. Your actions have consequences. Satan is a tempter and an accuser. Many women want to be just like him. You dress in a way that any person with common sense knows will draw attention and then you want to accuse someone when that attention comes. You fish with certain bait and act surprised when you catch the type of fish you baited for.
Read this part very carefully : Women should never ever be abused. Children are unable to give permission for child abuse and they are unable to tempt an adult. No abuser can say that the person they abused was asking for it. No abuser can blame another person for their crime. Child abusers and rapists should be given the death penalty.
Yet there is such a there is such a thing as foolishness. If I live in an area where there are a lot of break-ins and I leave my doors unlocked at night and my valuables laying around and I am robbed, I am not guilty of the theft but I am guilty of being a fool. My foolishness has consequences. I may even be guilty of having been a temptation to the robber if I were advertising that my valuables were wide open.
In a similar manner, women can be fools and tempters by how they dress or the situations they put themselves in. For example, going to the Kentucky derby half naked and getting drunk with men especially unregenerate men is a very foolish thing to do indeed. You don't get to act a fool and then proclaim complete innocence afterwards.
Now listen, there are women who dress modestly and scumbag men will still harass them. There are women who were not acting foolish and yet were still abused. Someone can have the best security system on their home and still be robbed. In those cases, wisdom was followed and yet God still allowed evil to occur. Women do not need to beat themselves up thinking over and over again what they could have done differently.
The bible teaches that if we train up our children in the way they should go when they are old they will not depart from it. This is wisdom and yet there are times when a child is reared in wisdom and yet they do depart from the way. The promises of wisdom are axiomatic promises. They are not magic levers where you pull the right lever and push the right buttons and nothing bad ever happens. But since there are children who do grow up and leave the faith, does this mean that we should throw out biblical instruction and train up our children without the fear of the Lord. No, that would be foolish and it most likely would result in worse consequences.
In the same way, since men may still lust if you dress modestly does this mean you should say I will wear whatever and its all on them? Does this mean you should just be a tempter since men may lust anyways? Absolutely not. Be wise and not a fool. Look to God's word for wisdom. Modesty is a love God and love your neighbor thing. Immodesty not only is a temptation to your neighbor but it is an affront to God because at its heart is pride and idolatry. God is opposed to the proud.
1 Peter 3: Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
Do what is right without fear.
Ephesians 3:13-19 NASB Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Paul suffered significantly to take this good message abroad. He was despised as a traitor by the Jews and mocked as foolish by the gentiles. The Jews ran Paul out of their synagogues, had him beaten, and tried to stone him to death. Paul proclaimed that Christ is Lord over all nations, Christ is King of Kings. Yet those nations and those kings imprisoned Paul.
The temptation for the churches that Paul had planted was to be ashamed of Paul. They were tempted to want nothing to do with him because they feared persecution.
“Paul, you are doing things the wrong way and you are causing problems for all of us other Christians. If you would just calm down a bit, perhaps they wouldn’t hate you so much and they wouldn’t hate us. Paul, if you were more like Jesus they wouldn’t persecute you.”
Paul knows they will be tempted to be ashamed. In Verse 13 he says, “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.” Don’t be ashamed of the persecutions I am facing. They are for you. They are so that I can take the gospel to the nations.
Just as bad, they would also be tempted to lose faith when they saw Paul being persecuted. If the one who had planted their church was being persecuted, what could they possibly hope for. How could they possible stand when the time came for them. Paul says don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith, these tribulations I am facing are for you.
Paul who was mocked, despised, persecuted for Christ, and who the church would be tempted to be ashamed of or lose faith over then says in verse 14: "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. " He bows his knees before the Father. Even though Paul from a worldly perspective had reason to complain, grumble, or rebel, he didn’t. Rather than thinking of himself, in humble submission he bows his knees and prays for the church in Ephesus. Rather than becoming bitter at those who would be tempted to be ashamed of him, he is concerned for them. Rather than focusing on the the tribulations he was facing, his worry was that they would be strengthened. And so he bows the knee.
Those of us engaged in certain ministries that are confrontational, i.e. abortion ministry, often face deep persecution and hatred by the world. As we are persecuted, other Christians often are tempted to despise us, be ashamed of us, or lose faith.
We often feel like the dwarves at the beginning of the Hobbit movie who watched the elves abandon them in the battle.
We cry out to the Lord, "where are all your people?" When grow tired and frustrated at other Christians who aren't involved in the same ways we are or who on the surface don't seem involved in any battle at all.
We can respond in one of two ways. One, we can start despising them, be ashamed of them, and lose faith in them. We can become those who constantly belittle the church. In our minds, all pastors are out to build their own kingdoms. We can complain about the ministry industrial complex. We don't need them anyways, they are just a bunch of ecclesiasticrats.
Or we can bow the knee to our heavenly Father and pray that our brothers and sisters are strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith, and that they may know the fullness of the love of God. We can have true concern for other believers who may be called to other battles. We can gently encourage, exhort, and call for our brothers to join in the battles God calls them to. If we love the Father we will love all the Fatherhood that gets its name from him.
I believe that a church can have solid theology (high view of God's sovereignty, God's law, a right view of scripture, and the doctrines of grace) and solid practice (engaging the culture, passion for evangelism and missions).
I believe that they can have a firm understanding of biblical law, an unswerving commitment to full biblical manhood and womanhood, a passion for fighting for the preborn and against the onslaught of sexual perversion, a commitment to speak truth to the world and at the same time do all that with a joyous smile.
One can hate feminism and how it has infiltrated the church of God and yet be tender and loving to his wife and children.
I believe we can speak the truth about abortion (it is murder and those who commit murder deserve criminal punishment) and yet can be graceful in fighting for justice.
I think that brothers can have serious disagreements where they honestly think that the other is holding erroneous and dangerous beliefs while at the same time loving them and working together where they do have ground in common.
I believe that we can preach on hell and the fiery judgment of God while at the same time tearfully longing for those whom we preach to come to Christ.
I also believe we can pray the imprecatory prayers while longing for God's justice for his enemies while at the same time loving our enemies through service and self-sacrifice.
I believe we are called to a good fight that we must engage in and yet we can do it with a hearty laugh and twinkle in the eye knowing that the victory is secure.
I believe when we fail at the above we can repent, be forgiven, be restored, and empowered to the above.
I believe these things because I believe in Christ Jesus through whom we can do all things.
May God grant us grace to fight with a smile.