All That Jesus Continues to Do and Teach (Acts 1:1-5)

Many people like Jesus, but they dislike the church. Jesus has a winsome personality, wise words, and a way with human relationships. All too often, the church doesn’t. Consequently, many follow Jesus; few join a church.   Acts 1:1-5 shows us why Jesus and the church are inseparable and how to realign the church with Jesus.   In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he … Continue reading All That Jesus Continues to Do and Teach (Acts 1:1-5)

Love Remains (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

(This TDW was originally written a few days after 9/11. ~ GPW) The events of this week remind us of the radical impermanence of the world.   Who would have thought – on Tuesday, September 11, before 8:45 a.m. – that the day would end with the deaths of nearly 5,000 victims and the total destruction of the Twin Towers and the partial destruction of the Pentagon? Who would have thought that a peaceful nation would, within minutes, be transformed into a nation gearing up for war? Who would have thought that the terror visited upon other, distant nations would … Continue reading Love Remains (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Agape Never Fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

The word “love” is one of the most indiscriminately used words in the English language. The statements “I love God,” “I love my children,” and “I love chalupas at Taco Bell” all use the same words to describe radically different emotional states. After all, if you love God and chalupas in the same way, then either God does not mean too much to you or chalupas mean far too much. Either way, your love is misplaced.   The Greeks have an advantage over us English-speaking folks, for they employed four words for love: storge, philia, eros, and agape. Storge is … Continue reading Agape Never Fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Without Love, You Ain’t Nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Sandwiched between two very practical chapters on the nature and use of spiritual gifts stands 1 Corinthians 13 – the “love chapter.” Too often, we divorce the “love chapter” from its literary context and read it at weddings. Of course, 1 Corinthians 13 applies to the relationship between a husband and a wife, but first and foremost, it applies to how members of a church should treat one another.   The Corinthians, it turns out, did not know how to treat one another. Their common life was characterized by “jealousy and quarreling” (3:3). They ate food sacrificed to idols, indifferent … Continue reading Without Love, You Ain’t Nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

The Seventh Mark: Wholeheartedness (Revelation 3:14-22)

The seventh and final mark of the church, according to Revelation 2–3 is wholeheartedness.   It is a character quality that the church in Laodicea lacked (Rev. 3:14-22). Listen to what Jesus says to them: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Three times in two verses, Jesus drives home the point that the Laodicean Christians were neither extreme in their faith nor extreme in their disbelief. Theirs was a complacent, … Continue reading The Seventh Mark: Wholeheartedness (Revelation 3:14-22)

The Sixth Mark: Mission (Revelation 3:7-13)

Mission is the sixth mark of the church (Rev. 3:7-13).   Before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples what we now call the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20). This commission consists of three elements: the fact of Christ’s … Continue reading The Sixth Mark: Mission (Revelation 3:7-13)

The Fifth Mark: Sincerity (Revelation 3:1-6)

Sincerity—also known as authenticity—is the fifth mark of the church (Rev. 3:1-6).   Its opposite is hypocrisy, which derives from a Greek word for actor. Just as an actor dons a costume and assumes a character for the stage, so a hypocrite dons a public persona that is at variance with his private self. The church in Sardis was a hypocritical church: “I know your works,” Jesus says. “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”   Several years ago, I read an article praising hypocrisy in The New Republic. The author did not voice a full-throated … Continue reading The Fifth Mark: Sincerity (Revelation 3:1-6)

The Fourth Mark: Holiness (Rev. 2:18-29)

The fourth mark of the church is holiness (Rev. 2:18-29).   At the church of Thyatira, there was a woman whom Jesus refers to as “Jezebel.” The name is aptly chosen, for just as the Jezebel of the Old Testament had done (1 Kings 16:29–34), this woman led God’s people astray. Specifically, she convinced some of the Thyatiran Christians “to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”   We readily understand Jesus’ condemnation of sexual immorality. Although the Old Testament often uses the language of adultery as a catchword for idolatry (e.g., Hos. 9:1), in the church … Continue reading The Fourth Mark: Holiness (Rev. 2:18-29)

The Third Mark: Truth (Revelation 2:12-17)

The third mark of the church is truth (Rev. 2:12-17).   Situated on a conical hill more than a thousand feet above sea level, the city of Pergamum dominated the Caicus River valley below it. Its name, in Greek, means “citadel,” which it certainly was: a fortified city, both powerful and prestigious. The proconsul of Roman Asia resided there, exercising the ius gladii or “power of the sword” over the inhabitants of the province. The Greek gods Zeus, Athena, Dionysus, and Asklepios each had a temple there. Augustus and Trajan erected temples for the worship of deified Caesars such as … Continue reading The Third Mark: Truth (Revelation 2:12-17)

The Second Mark: Suffering Revleation 2:8-11)

The first mark of the church is love. The second is suffering.   Please do not misunderstand me. Christians are not masochists. We do not fetishize suffering or go looking for martyrdom. But if two thousand years of Christian history are a reliable guide, martyrdom may come looking for us.   I freely concede that persecution and martyrdom are far from the minds of most American Christians. For all the religiously conservative complaints about secular humanist domination of the media, the fact is that Americans have near-total freedom to practice, publicize, and proselytize for their respective faiths—or non-faiths, as the … Continue reading The Second Mark: Suffering Revleation 2:8-11)