Author Archives: Mark

China Ramblings! Podcast

The feed to my podcast has not been working for a while now, but it has finally been fixed within the iTunes podcast realm.

Link

Here is the working link to subscribe in iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/china-ramblings-podcast/id1449773635

Description

This podcast is an outflow of our life and ministry in China. We hope that it will help, encourage, exhort and edify those who listen. If you are interested in China, missions or staying up-to-date with our family and ministry then this podcast is for you! Not everything fits neatly into one of those topics, but I hope you will stick around long enough to see what the Lord is doing in China and how He can use you!

What Is An Attitude Of Joy?

An attitude of joy is a way of life that rejoices in the Lord always. Joy is a fruit that has to be produced by the Holy Spirit but at the same time it is a command to be obeyed. As the Holy Spirit produces this spiritual appetite within us we are responsible to partake in Jesus’ joy through abiding in Him and willingly rejoicing in our tribulations without disgruntlement.
Psalm 16:11; 90:15; 97:1

Joy Is A Fruit To Be Produced, A Command To Be Obeyed

  • Joy is an emotion or feeling of great happiness and great pleasure. Joy and happiness or gladness are interrelated and indivisible (for who can claim to be joyful and yet unhappy). The “stimulus” or “circumstance” that evokes or causes the emotional state of joyfulness is the determining factor to whether a person is joyful. Therefore, an “attitude of joy” means to have a determined and authentic way of thinking and feeling about God that expresses our happiness and pleasure in Him and leads to an unwavering state of being happy in God.
    Romans 5:6-11; (Evil Joy—Hebrews 11:25; James 4:16)
  • Joy is a fruit to be produced—the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes “joy” and against such there is no law. Naturally, joy is an emotion expressed in response to circumstances of delight in the temporal sphere of life—such as the birth of your child, eating your favorite food, listening to your favorite song, etc. Spiritually, joy is an emotion expressed in response to circumstances of delight in the eternal God and His workings—such as one sinner that repents, the statutes of the Lord, singing unto the Lord the rock of our salvation, etc. Thus, the Holy Spirit produces in us a joy of a new quality—one that has spiritual appetites, motivations, and expressions. He rouses “joy in God” in us.
    Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (Luke 15:7, 10; Psalm 19:8; 95:1; 3 John 3-4; Acts 15:3)
  • Joy is a command to be obeyed—we are commanded to rejoice in Jesus always. This literally means that we are given an order to feel happiness and pleasure because of our Lord Christ Jesus. We can accomplish this by not having any confidence in ourselves but  by being content in and boasting with triumphant joy in Jesus’ achievements. Therefore, this is a command to anchor our joy to Jesus and His unchanging work of grace in our lives and not on other wavering and fleeting circumstances.
    Philippians 3:1-3; 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; (Matthew 2:10; 13:44; 28:8; Luke 1:14, 44; 2:10)

To Abide In Jesus And To Be Filled With His Joy

  • Jesus wants His joy to remain in us and our joy to be full—to have as much as possible. He wants us to share in the same “joy in God” that Jesus Himself experienced. So we need to know what is the stimulus for this “Jesus joy”. Jesus gives us the answer telling us that the key is “abiding in Him”—apart from Him this quality of joy is unattainable. This “abiding” has the following characteristics:
    John 15:9-17 (1-8); 17:6-19; 20:19-20; (Isaiah 35:8-10)
  • (1) True salvation—not everyone who says they are Christians really are. Do you have a true personal faith in Jesus alone for salvation? Are you a true believer? Consequently, a true believer finds that the foundation for lasting joy—that no one can take from you—is the resurrection of Jesus. Our hearts should always rejoice at the thought of the resurrection because Jesus has overcome the world and He now lives in us—greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world. We are to greatly rejoice in our salvation with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. We are to rejoice in being justified by faith and in this hope of the glory of God.
    John 16:19-22; 16:33; Romans 5:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-6; 1 John 1:3-4; 4:4; Acts 16:34; (Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13)
  • (2) Bearing fruit—bearing fruit is a natural result of repentance and faith in Jesus. Believers produce good fruit because Christ is good. Therefore, the fruit we bear gives evidence to the faith that we say we believe. What kind of fruit are you bearing?
  • (3) Pruning—as true believers God cultivates our lives removing anything that would hinder us from producing fruit and making us holy which leads to producing much fruit and glorifying God.
  • (4) Jesus’ words abide in us. This is the “renewed mind”—meaning our hearts are reestablished to know and submit to the truth of God as the foundation of all things right and good. Jesus’ words transforms our thinking which transforms our lives. Thus, knowing the Bible and its correct teaching affects our joyfulness.
    2 John 12
  • (5) Asking and receiving—those who are abiding in Jesus and His word have the privilege of praying, being heard, and getting their prayers answered. Jesus invites His disciples to an active prayer life so that our joy may be full. Are we not joyful (joy-filled) because we are not prayerful (prayer-filled)?
    John 16:23-24
  • (6) Obedience—we are to continue and abide in Jesus’ love. Jesus defines this by saying that if we keep His commandments and keep His words we are abiding in His love. This is summarized as loving God and loving others. Jesus is the greatest example of this—He joyfully obeyed God in all things including the cross.
    John 13:34-35; 14:15; 14:21-24; Mark 12:29-31; Hebrews 12:2

To Willingly Rejoice In Tribulations Without Disgruntlement

  • We are to glory or rejoice in our tribulations because of the spiritual virtues that it produces in our lives. Therefore, as we rejoice in our tribulations (trials, sufferings, persecutions, hardships) we produce patience—meaning we learn to correctly endure such hardships; and this produces experience—meaning we have been tested and have continued on in our faith thus showing proof of it (compare Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13); and this produces hope—an established and unwavering confidence in God; and this hope “maketh not ashamed”—meaning that it will not disappoint us because of God’s great love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is graciously given to all believers. Thus, to rejoice in our tribulations leads to a more mature and deeper hope in God which results in greater happiness, pleasure and satisfaction based solely in God alone.
    Romans 5:3-5; 12:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12-19; Hebrews 10:34; Acts 5:41; 13:48-52; Colossians 1:11; 1:24
  • Therefore, when something bad happens, I can joyfully accept it because God and His faithfulness to me has not changed—this doesn’t mean that we won’t have other conflicting emotions, but it means that we do have a confident joy that sustains us in the hardest of trials. Even when our emotions fail to uphold joy in the midst of such devastating trials, we still have hope that the Holy Spirit produces this fruit in us. The joy of the Lord is our strength knowing one day we will enter into His presence which is fulness of joy.
    Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 16:11; (Matthew 25:21-23; Luke 6:23; Revelation 19:6-8; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18)
  • Sometimes we loose our joy and become disgruntled with our situation, dissatisfied with God, disillusioned by the gospel and full of bitterness. Often this is because we loose our focus or because of some unfulfilled expectations. At such a time, we need to re-align our focus to the hope that is in God, to become re-enchanted with the truth of the gospel and re-align our expectations with that of the bible (stop having wrong expectations about God). We need to stop listening to the wrong “inner thoughts” of despair and the voices of others who are telling us that we are cast down, but start preaching and speaking truth to ourselves, exhorting ourselves to put our hope in God, and proclaiming that we shall again praise Him—the health of our countenance (our salvation), and our God.
    Psalm 42:5-6, 11; Philippians 2:16; Psalm 23:1-6; (Ephesians 4:30-32; James 3:11-15)

Review Questions

  • What does it mean that joy is a fruit to be produced?
  • What does it mean that joy is a command to be obeyed?
  • How do we abide in Jesus and be filled with His joy?
  • Should we rejoice in tribulations? Why?
  • What should we do if we loose our joy?

A Thousand Lives

The Vision For China team is has written a book entitled A Thousand Lives. This short book is our passionate plea for a pipeline of unashamed believers to boldly advance the gospel in China.

I start the book off in Chapter 1 writing about SURRENDER. I ask the question: What if we were willing to risk everything? Not only is that a hard question to answer, but the answer will fundamentally change the way you live, serve God and do ministry. I try to show that there IS risk in serving Jesus, especially in China, but that it is worth it and Jesus is worth us risking everything. There is an urgent need for us to get the gospel to China. This book is written for such a time as this.

The book is available in three different formats (print, ebook, audiobook):

But the audiobook on Audible

Buy the print book or kindle eBook on Amazon

After you read or listen to the book, I would love to hear from you!

What Is An Attitude Of Worship?

An attitude of worship is a way of life that worships God from the heart. True worship is done in spirit and in truth. It thinks rightly and fearfully about God’s infinite worth which results in a life chiefly engaged in thought about God and not self.
Revelation 19:10

True Worshippers Worship “In Spirit And In Truth”

  • Worship is the expression, in our attitude and actions, of our reverence and adoration for God. Our attitude towards God (mindset, worldview, inclination) expresses what we truly think and feel about God. Our actions reflect our attitude, but our actions can be manipulated to express an attitude that doesn’t truly exist (hypocrisy). Furthermore, outward forms of worship (actions) can change because of time and culture, but the “attitude of worship” transcends all culture, traditions and time because it is rooted in the truth of God’s unchanging attributes (nor can any actions contradict these attributes to be counted as worship). Therefore, an “attitude of worship” means to have a determined and authentic way of thinking and feeling about God that expresses our reverence and adoration to Him because of our understanding and faith in His attributes—who He reveals Himself as—and ultimately this is reflected in the way we act.
    Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7; Isaiah 29:13
  • Jesus tells a Samaritan woman four things about true worship: (1) Worship is no longer confined to just a place. This is because, as revealed in other parts of scripture, upon salvation our bodies become the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in us—thus we can worship anywhere. (2) Worship is based on what you know. The Samaritans worshipped false gods, things they didn’t really know. But salvation came from the true God through the Jews. Thus knowledge of the Messiah—Jesus Christ—is required to worship. (3) Worship must be “in spirit”—meaning that we must worship God from our heart and in our attitude (inward passion). (4) Worship must be “in truth”—meaning that we must worship God according to truth. This truth is that which He has revealed to us in His Word. Therefore, true worship is towards God from the heart and based in a growing knowledge of the truth through the Bible and God’s Son Jesus.
    John 4:19-24; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; Philippians 3:3
  • Salvation should lead to an attitude of worship. We receive a “kingdom which cannot be moved”— a place where there is no more crying, no more death, no more mourning, and no more pain. All evil will be done away with. We will be in the presence of God’s glory with great joy. Therefore, we are to: (1) have “grace”—meaning to acknowledge our thankfulness and appreciation to God whereby we may (2) “serve”—to obey as an act of worship. This service or worship is to God and should be “acceptably”—in a manner that is well-pleasing; with “reverence”—very great and heartfelt respect; and “godly fear”—an overwhelming feeling of awesomeness, wonder, greatness, and holiness, knowing that our God is a “consuming fire”—His justice will bring final judgement on all evil.
    Hebrews 12:28-29; Revelation 21:4; 23; 22:4

To Think Rightly And Fearfully About God’s Infinite Worth

  • An attitude of worship recognizes God is incomprehensible. He is infinite and we are finite. Thus, for us to know what God is like, He must reveal Himself to us. God reveals Himself through natural revelation—letting us know the Someone greater than ourselves definitely exist. He also reveals Himself through special revelation—His Word and Jesus, so that we could understand He created us to know Him and enjoy a right relationship with Him. We are not equal to or greater than God, therefore we will never comprehend Him in His entirety. But in the context of His revelation He can be worshipped.
    Psalms 19:1-6; 145:3; 147:5; 139:6; 17-18; Isaiah 40:28; 55:6; 43:7 Jeremiah 32:17; Ephesians 1:1-10; Exodus 33:18-33; Titus 2:11; Job 11:7-10; Romans 11:33-36
  • An attitude of worship starts with “knowledge” and the beginning of knowledge is “the fear of the Lord”. Fear means to respect. It means we have the highest reverential respect for God because He is the Creator of everything. It means that everything has to be put into perspective: a high and lofty view of God (the incomprehensible Creator) and a low and timid view of mankind (the comprehensible creation). It is the ultimate concession—that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and God’s thoughts than our thoughts. It is through this “contrite and humble spirit” that God says He will have respect unto, He will revive the heart and the spirit, He will save.
    Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 24:3-4; 138:6; 147:10-11; Isaiah 55:7-9;57:15; Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
  • An attitude of worship learns and thinks about God’s attributes—to understand more fully and accurately what God is like. Logic and reason will eventually fail us in our attempt to fully grasp the “the beauty of holiness”. Thus it is through faith that we know and accept God and the attributes that describe who He is. This includes the following: God is the true God and there is no other like Him. He is everything beautiful and the source of true happiness and joy. God is a spirit and invisible. God is independent, unchanging, jealous, and sovereign. God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. God is good, holy, perfect, righteous, and just. God is love, and God hates sin.
    Jeremiah 10:10; 23:23-24; 32:17; Psalm 27:4; 29:2; 96:9; 99:9; John 4:24; 1:18; Acts 17:24-25; Numbers 23:19; Exodus 20:5; Isaiah 48:11; Ephesians 1:11; 1 John 3:20; Luke 18:19; Matthew 5:48; Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 4:8; Romans 1:18
  • An attitude of worship learns and thinks about God’s works—to understand more fully and accurately what God has done. From the beginning, God created mankind to be His people and for Him to be their God. But they rejected this when they sinned against Him. Thus God was on mission to redeemed them to Himself and save them from their sin and its penalty of death or eternal separation from Him. God has and will ultimately accomplished His mission by saving “whosoever will” from all nations, kindreds, people and tongues. This is possible because through a virgin birth God became man in Jesus. He lived a sinless life. Mankind rejected and crucified Him. He was buried, but three days later He rose from the dead. He defeated sin, death and evil. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and whosoever wants to worship God must do so through faith in Jesus alone. God is to be worshipped for who He is and for His marvelous works among all people.
    Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12-21; 16:20; Revelation 12:9; 20:2, 10; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8; John 8:44; John 1:29; 3:16-17; 4:42; 6:33; 8:12; 9:5; 12:32, 46; 14:6; Psalm 96:3; 111:1-4

To Chiefly Engage In Thought About God And Not Self

  • An attitude of worship helps us overcome one of over greatest problems: selfishness. Worship is not about us, but it is about God. An attitude of worship means that we are going to chiefly be engaged in thought about God and His infinite worth and not about ourselves. Selfishness means we are lacking in heartfelt thought for others because we are concerned about our own personal gain and satisfaction (often without moral inhibitions). It is when our hearts orientation is focused on ourselves. But true worship changes this because it makes loving God as our primary orientation or thought and loving others as the secondary orientation or thought.
    James 4:8-10; Mark 12:29-31; 1 Corinthians 10:24
  • Selfishness is sin. As believers, we are to deny ourselves. We are not to do anything with “strife”—selfish ambition, but in “lowliness of mind”—humility, we are to count others better than ourselves. Thus through an attitude of worship we incline our heart unto the testimonies of God—overcoming our selfishness and respond to Him and others in love.
    Matthew 16:24; Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:2-4; Galatians 5:20, 26; James 3:13-16; 4:3; Psalm 119:36; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Review Questions

  • What is worship?
  • What four things about worship does Jesus tell the Samaritan woman?
  • An attitude of worship recognizes what? And starts with what?
  • An attitude of worship learns and thinks about?
  • An attitude of worship helps us overcome what sin?

January 2019 Prayer Letter

Dear Pastors, Partners & Praying Friends,

“I preach in a little bit. Please pray for me!” was the translation of the text message that I received from the Chinese pastor on the Sunday morning of their Christmas service. I responded in the affirmative and then a couple of hours later he sent another text that translates: “Amen! Three people trusted in Jesus!” Hearing stories of God saving people in China while we are on furlough and in our absence is one of the greatest things to hear! If you are a supporting church or a prayer partner, then it should thrill you to know that even though our family is not in China right now, there is a church that is actively reaching the lost. And you were a part of making that happen! But there was even more great news to follow because the Wednesday following the Sunday mentioned above, that same local church in China hosted another Christmas activity during their midweek service and saw another four people make professions of faith. Praise the Lord!

Praises, Prayer Requests, and Announcements:

  • New Support Update: We have raised an additional 3% of new support this past month which makes a total of 13% raised on furlough. We are at 83% of our new support goal, which means we only need 17% more.
  • News from China: There were 7 saved over the Christmas holiday in China and 1 already saved in 2019 for around a total of 17 souls saved since we left China for our furlough. Praise the Lord for the great work He is doing in China!
  • Furlough Traveling: Sine our last prayer letter, we had meetings in: TN, GA, OH. We had a wonderful time celebrating the holidays with family. Also, were able to attend the Our Generation Summit in Ohio where we launched our new book, A Thousand Lives. The conference was a great success with people surrendering their lives to take the gospel to the world.
  • Solar-powered Audio Devices Update: Last month, we reported on the solar-powered audio devices that we were trying to get into China. Those that are in the country are starting to be used. The others that were confiscated, Lord willing, will be picked up and taken to Taiwan by the end of this month. Please pray.

Thank you! We know that we couldn’t do anything without the help of God’s people. Thank you for giving, praying, serving, and being a part of our “China Ministry” team. We are especially fond of you! Let us continue pressing forward and keep fighting the good fight. May we strive every day to know Jesus, to be happy in the Him, and to make Him known! 

In His Joyful Service,

Mark 

What Is The Biblical Framework For Christian Thought?

The biblical framework for christian thought starts in the heart. We need to teach our own hearts to be oriented towards God and the gospel. Through the Holy Spirit, the word of God and biblical meditation we renew our minds and transform our lives so that we don’t conform to a sinful world system. Therefore, we need to learn to think on the right things so that we can shape our attitude and conduct to glorify God.

Christian Thought Starts In The Heart

  • The heart is the wellspring of all our “inward attitudes”—meaning that the heart represents the “inner person” or the real orientation, belief, motivation and attitude of a person. It is from the heart that we think, feel and make decisions. It is the source from which everything we do in life is issued from (wether good or bad). The problem is our hearts are born sinful—meaning it is not neutral but deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked or incurable on its own and if left untouched will lead to destruction. But the gospel changes everything—starting with our hearts. Therefore, the goal for christian thought is to train our own hearts to be oriented towards God and the gospel so that we can fulfill our reason for existence (to glorify God and enjoy Him forever through the gospel of Jesus) and guard it against our sinful inclinations.
    Mark 7:20-23; Luke 6:45; Matthew 15:8-9; Proverbs 4:23; Jeremiah 17:9; 24:7; Psalm 58:3; 51:5, 10
  • The first step is being born again. You can’t just clean up your life morally and starting thinking positive thoughts. This leaves you empty inside and leads to a worse conclusion (self-righteousness and selfishness). But true salvation results in the permeant indwelling of the Holy Spirit who guides us in a radical “heart transformation” and causes us to change from the inside out. This causes the principle of replacement to take place: we stop thinking about the wrong things but we start thinking about the right things—which leads to us stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things—all for the glory of God.
    Matthew 5:44; 12:43-45; Ephesians 4:28; John 3:3-8

Renewing Our Minds Leads To Transformed Lives

  • As believers, we have experienced the incredible mercy of God through the gift of salvation in His Son Jesus. Because of the great salvation that we have received by the mercies of God (which are expounded by Paul in Romans 1-11) we as believers should offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice—meaning we completely give our lives over to God and live what is holy and acceptable to Him. Therefore, we are to be “transformed”—meaning it should be apparent that we are different and that we no longer walk according to the course of this sinful world. We no longer conform to the sinful world and society around us(all that is not oriented towards God and the gospel). The transformation starts with “renewing our minds”—meaning that our minds (hearts) need to be reestablished so that we can properly live out this transformed life. This transformed life results in a life that tests, discerns and lives according to the will of God—just like a priest would know what sacrifice was good, acceptable, and perfect.
    Romans 3:22; 12:1-2, (3); Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-18; 1 Peter 1:13-14; (Leviticus 22:19-25)
  • What is the renewed mind? The renewed mind is when our hearts are reestablished to know and submit to the truth of God as the foundation of all things right and good. The “spirit of your mind”—meaning your mindset, attitude, worldview, and inclination come into submission with the word of God so that what we want to do becomes what we should do. Our longings and our obligations become one and the same—which leads to true freedom—thus we are to stand fast and have no other mindset or view.
    Ephesians 4:22-24; Galatians 5:1, 10
  • How do we renew our minds? (1) Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit works in a person’s life to allow the light of the glorious gospel of Christ to shine into their “blinded minds” and bring them to salvation. Once a person believes in Jesus they receive the Holy Spirit who continues His work of “renewing” them and bringing them into humble submission to the truth as our attitudes and actions come into alignment with our new identity. (2) The Word of God—the Holy Spirit before and after salvation works through the word of God. It is the word of God that provides the truth the Holy Spirit uses to cause God’s people to be renewed and thoroughly equipped to carry out God’s will. Therefore, we need to fill our minds with the bible (read the bible, listen to correct bible preaching and teachings, sing songs full of bible lyrics, memorize and quote scripture, etc.). (3) Biblical Meditation—the bible encourages us to actively and intently think about all the things the bible has to say. Through prayerful consideration we are to apply these “bible thoughts” to our everyday lives and decisions until we develop a “bible attitude”—a biblical disposition, propensity, or natural tendency towards the will of God.
    Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 1:2; 19:14; 119:11; Colossians 1:28; 3:10, 16; John 16:13; 17:17
  • What does the renewed mind do? The renewed mind puts everything to the test to see if it is the will of God or not. Your mind becomes a type of “biblical filter”—meaning everything is filtered through biblical truth. This helps in two main areas: (1) Conscious decisions—meaning we purposely think about something and try to make the best decision according to God’s will through the knowledge that we have; (2) Unconscious decisions—meaning all decisions we make without taking the time to think about it beforehand but make in an instant—thus the renewed mind allows us to automatically and unconsciously filter all these decisions through the “biblical filter” and change our sinful inclinations into godly ones (for example: lust, anger, pride, covetousness, anxiety, jealousy, envy, etc.). The general principal of the renewed mind is this: a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things—the renewed mind is the good treasure which allows us to live God honoring lives according to His will.
    Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Matthew 12:33-37

Thinking On “These Things” Shapes Our Conduct

  • Our thoughts govern us. Therefore, what we choose to think about, what we allow ourselves to ponder on will dictate what we do. If we think about the right things, it leads to us doing right, but when we think about the wrong things, it leads us to do wrong. Therefore, Paul tells us to think on certain things so that our actions will embody those same characteristics. These are not “relative” characteristics that change from person to person but are ultimately characteristics found in God and expounded through the bible. (Note: This isn’t “positive thinking,” “positive self-image” or some type of psychology that tries to manipulate reality to profit self.)
    Philippians 4:8-9
  • Paul gives us several things to think about. Thus, “Christian thinking” should include: “any virtue” (moral excellence) and “any praise” (worthy of commendation). These are broken down into six characteristics: (1) “true things” (not false or deceiving things)—absolute facts wether positive or negative and is ultimately found in God and through His word; (2) “honest things” (not irresponsible or vulgar things)—the things that are honorable or worthy of respect because it has the qualities of applying biblical truth seriously and correctly; (3) “just things” (not evil or unrighteous things)—those things that are right according to the law and morality of the bible; (4) “pure things” (not immoral or defiled things)—those things the bible defines as moral and holy—all ethical purity—especially in relation to our body and sexuality; (5) “lovely things” (not rude or inhospitable things)—those things which are pleasing to others in a gracious and kind manner and communicates the love of God; (6) “things of good report” (not bad or contemptible things)—everything that can be defined as good and doesn’t contradict any biblical teachings but is in full alignment with it. Paul had exemplified these characteristics in his teaching and life and encourages us to not just constantly think on them but to also do them—to live them out—allow our thoughts to shape our actions.

Review Questions

  • The heart is the wellspring of all our what?
  • What is the first step?
  • What does renewing our minds mean?
  • What does the renewed mind do?
  • Thinking on what shapes our conduct?

Pledge Your Allegiance: A Lesson In Persecution

When you read the Bible it seems that all of us are called to live the life of the persecuted. But what determines why one would be persecuted? Paul pledged his allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and was constantly persecuted because he constantly preached the Gospel—no matter the cost.

What Did Paul Mean About Being Miserable?
1 Corinthians 15:12-19

  • What did Paul mean when he said, “We are of all men most miserable?” Paul is addressing the false teaching that there wasn’t a resurrection, and he gives several points for a person to consider if Christ is not risen: our preaching is in vain; our faith is in vain; we would be false witnesses of God; there would be no resurrection of the dead; we are still in our sins; those who are already dead in Christ are perished. But then He also says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Meaning if we lived for only one purpose, one hope in life—that of the Lord Jesus—and we find out it isn’t true then we lived a very miserable life.
  • But what would be our response if the resurrection wasn’t true? Would it be the same as Paul’s? Or would we say: (1) “If it wasn’t true, at least I lived a comfortable and content life with a few mistakes.” (2) “If it wasn’t true, at least I learned how to live my best life now and store up riches.” (3) “If it wasn’t true, at least I raised my children in a moral place and we lived good lives.” I’m afraid there wouldn’t be many “miserable” people because we are not “all in” for Jesus.
  • Why was Paul’s response to the idea of the resurrection not being true that of being “miserable?” Paul said we are of all men most miserable if there was no resurrection because he lived a life of suffering—and if there was no resurrection His life of suffering was lived in vain. He held nothing back. We are also called to live a life of suffering. We are called to salvation but also to suffer. What kind of suffering? The same that we see and hear to be in Paul. That’s why he said we would be “miserable.”
    Philippians 1:29-30; Paul’s Persecutions: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Why Was Paul Persecuted?
2 Timothy 3:11-12

  • Paul names three cities in which he suffered persecution. A look at these three cities where he was persecuted gives us one common denominator why Paul was persecuted in varying degrees: preaching the Gospel. Thus, those who live “godly” in Christ Jesus are those who preach the Gospel. Not only was he preaching the gospel but he was preaching it to the world. He wasn’t just preaching it in the safety of the church building or in a Sunday school class but to the heathen. He preached where he was told not too.
  • Paul’s example in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra:
    • Antioch: Paul preached to the Jews starting in the Old Testament and then preached the gospel. After the message was done, many of the Gentiles couldn’t wait until the next Sabbath day to hear more about this message. Many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas. The next Sabbath day came and almost the whole city came together and the Jews saw the multitude and were filled with envy and spoke against Paul contradicting and blaspheming.
      Acts 13:14-45
    • Iconium: He spoke to the Jews and Greeks in the synagogue and a great multitude believed. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and made them think evil thoughts against the believers. Paul and Barnabas continued to speak boldly in the Lord and they did many signs and wonders. The city was divided, half with the Jews and half with the Apostles. The non-believing Jews and Gentiles got together with there rulers and planned an assault to use them despitefully and stone them. They fled to the next city and continued to preach the Gospel.
      Acts 14:1-5
    • Lystra: Paul and Barnabas fled into this city to escape being stoned in Iconium. They preached the Gospel. They healed the impotent man in his feet being a cripple from his mother’s womb. The people of the city saw the miracle that they did and they started treating them as if they were god’s come down from heaven. When Paul and Barnabas heard this they were very upset and ripped their clothes and ran among the people crying that they were just men and preached the truth. They were preaching to a non-Jewish crowd and therefore started at creation. The people restrained and did not offer sacrifices to them. The Jews who had persecuted them in Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra and persuaded the people against them and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. But Paul stood up and went on preaching the gospel.
      Acts 14:6-23

How Can We Endure This Type Of Life?
Luke 9:21-23

  • Self-Denial: As a disciple it means you are willing to say no to what you want, desire, and/or need for the sake of the gospel and following Christ. You are willing to share the gospel in spite of what people think about you. You must die to wanting to always be accept by your peers and know rejection is a way of life.
  • Take Up Your Cross Daily: As a disciple it means from the point of Salvation on, you are daily dyeing to yourself and plans and willing to bear “your cross” or God’s plan for your life. Just as suffering was part of God’s plan for the redemption of man, suffering is part of God’s plan to take the gospel to the world. Afflictions, trials, and persecutions are part of the Christian life and can be expected in a disciple of Christ just as evident as it was in the life of Christ.
  • Following Christ: As a disciple it means you are willing to do anything He may ask of you to the point of death. You pledge your allegiance to the King of kings. Will you follow Christ in-spite of: (1) family and friends—we will be persecuted and hated for His name sake and this might include being persecuted by those closets to you; (2) government—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego followed God instead of the government and were willing to follow God if He delivered them (“If it be so”) and even if He didn’t (“but if not”); (3) death—Steven was the first to be persecuted after Jesus in the church and he was a layman. Where is your allegiance?
    (1) Luke 21:16-17; (2) Daniel 3:16-18; (3) Acts 7:54-60

Review Questions

  • What did Paul mean about his “miserable” comment?
  • Why was Paul persecuted?
  • What happened in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra?
  • What three things can we do to endure this type of life?
  • Where is your allegiance?