Mark 9: 30-37: childlike foolishness

This passage is only seven verses long. However, it holds a message that has really been shaping my faith recently, as well as holding a lot of other lessons on how (not) to behave. In it, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be handed over to men and he will die. How do they respond? They bicker about who is the best out of them.

Now, imagine this. You have just been given a terminal diagnosis. You know soon you are going to die and it is probably a terrifying, daunting, sad prospect. So, of course, you tell your close family and friends. But rather than supporting you and consoling you, a fight breaks out. They start telling each other that they are better than the rest. Imagine how that would make you feel? This is pretty much what is happening to Jesus right now.

Jesus, knowing them pretty well, knows what the argument was about. He tells them that they need to stop worry about who is the greatest but who is the least. In fact, they need to be like children: utterly dependent on their father and having no status away from their family. I wrote about this in a blog post about 2 Peter 1. We often kid ourselves that God wants us to join in his work because we’ve got something important to contribute. Imagine the thought process in that. “Oh, I have been called to this work because God needs me.” I know I often fall for this trap. God does not need me whatsoever. He is wholly able to solve any problem or do any task infinitely better than I am. So, if I start thinking God needs me to do this, I am clearly missing the point.

However, God choose me. He chooses me despite my lack of qualifications, my inability, my sin. It’s like a really bizarre job interview process. My CV is scant and lacking. My references are appalling (God knows all my sin and failings) Yet he gives me the job because I am his son. It is the biggest case of nepotism I can think of.

So, I need to learn to live each day reminding myself, “I am just a foolish, dependent, needy child who is in the care of his heavenly Father.” I need to put aside all thoughts that God chose me because of my abilities and I need to really humble and submit myself into the hands of the Lord.

This may seem like I’m unnecessarily destroying my self-esteem for no reason. But have you ever seen a child play? When they make tea for their dolls or race their cars, they don’t care whether they are good enough to do that. They don’t worry, “Am I adequate enough to stack blocks?” It’s not stifling; it’s freeing! You are not good enough to do God’s work but you still get to do it anyway! It’s through God’s power and help that you accomplish great things. It’s such a privilege that God would use a loser like me.

1 Timothy 5

This chapter looks at how to look after others within the church. First, it tells us to be gentle when dealing with older men within the church – treating them with the same respect as we are to treat our fathers. Then older women are to be treated as mothers, and younger men and women as brother and sisters. Of course, the church is to be a family of Christ, so we need to actually act that way.

While the majority of the section is focused on the treatment of widows, and how they should behave, there are wider applications from it. First, that the serving of the Lord and doing good deeds is important; these good deeds include the raising of a family. Also, you need to look after your households, or those that have been put in your care by the Lord. This, of course, includes family members (parents, grandparents, etc.), but can also, I think, be extended to other people you share your lives with. In verse 16, it talks about when women have widows in their care. This could be widowed relatives (mother-in-law, etc.) but it sounds like something distinct from verse 8, as this type of relationship has already been mentioned.

We are also to treat church elders with a double honour, because of the work that they do. If they do something wrong, we are to rebuke them, but there is also a public element to this. I think this is to be done in the context of the church family you are in, rather than publicly. We need to take rebuking people serious, but also thoughtfully. I think twitter has led us to be quick to anger and slow to praise, which is the opposite of God’s character.

Verse 22 is somewhat confusing: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” This is probably one for further study. (Another one on my list of “Biblical things I don’t understand.”)

Verse 23 seems exciting, and seems to tell us to drink wine. Of course, that’s because wine was more sterile than water in those days, and was also often weaker.

The final two verses are a warning and an encouragement: your deeds will be noticed – good and bad; so you need to choose which type of deed you want to be seen for!

Colossians 3

Like in his other letters Paul lets us know what living as a follower of Christ should look like and what it doesn’t look like.

First, he tells us to focus both our hearts and minds on heavenly things. Our desires and our perspectives should be based on higher things than the earth.

Then he tells us what the markers of Christian life are:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Forgiving others
  • Love
  • Unity
  • Peace of Christ ruling our hearts
  • Thankfulness
  • The message of Christ dwelling among us
  • Wisdom
  • Psalms, verses, songs to God in our conversation and in our hearts
  • Wives submitting to their husbands
  • Husbands loving their wives
  • Children obeying parents
  • Servants obeying their masters
  • Working as if for God not man

Christian living does not involve these things:

  • Sexual impurity
  • Lust
  • Evil desires
  • Greed (which is idolatry)
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Malice
  • Slander
  • Filthy language
  • Lying
  • Fathers embittering their children

Again, these are quite a list.

But if we do it with our focus upon Jesus in his throne, then we will desire to love and serve him.

Colossians 1:13-29

This part of scripture is just amazing. Just read it yourself a few times. Really take it in.

Verses 13-14 tells us of a rescue story. One where people were in the kingdom of darkness but were bought into another kingdom. This is our rescue story!

Then the next section tells us all about Jesus, who he is and what he has done. This is what it tells us

  • He created everything
  • He sustains everything
  • He is eternal
  • He is the fullness of God
  • He rules over every authority
  • He is the head of the church
  • He reconciled everything—that’s everything— to God.
  • He shed his blood
  • He made peace

Then it reiterates how we were saved in verses 21-22:

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

How amazing is Jesus and the work he has done!

Now Paul tells us his response to this, which is one we should all follow. Paul becomes a servant to this message and proclaims Christ.

Philippians 2

This chapter begins with how we should respond to being united in Christ: with humility, by being like-minded, putting others before yourselves. We are to consider Christ and his mindset, which Paul tells us in what is perhaps one of the earliest hymns in the church’s history.

who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

verses 6-8

The hymn goes on to tell us how God raised Christ, and how every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The next passage is interesting in terms of the idea of salvation. We are clearly saved by faith and grace and not by works. However, verse 12 tells us to “continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” This still puts the authority at God’s feet, but it’s not passive and we’re not to just kick our feet up and relax. We are to be willing and active participants in the work the God is doing and we should be actively obedient to his will and purpose.

Paul tells the Philippians the way they can be blameless and pure, and it probably surprising what he write. He tells them to not grumble or bicker. I know I’m definitely guilty of grumbling, and if I don’t actually bicker, I know I want to!

The last part of the passage is about Timothy and Epaphroditus. Both are willing, faithful and sacrificial servants to God and both submit themselves to Paul. The testimony here of their faith is an encouragement to us, especially when hearing about their struggles. You get the sense that they are joyful and committed despite everything that happened to them. It definitely reminds us to persevere in unity and love for one another despite what happens.

Ephesians 4

This chapter is quite challenging. Paul asks us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And the bar is set really high. To do that we need to be

  • completely humble (v. 2);
  • gentle (v. 2);
  • patient (v. 2);
  • bearing with one another in love (v. 2);
  • united in the Spirit (v. 3);
  • putting off our old self (v. 22);
  • made with a new attitude (v. 23);
  • created like God in true righteousness (v. 24);
  • holy (v. 24);
  • putting off any falsehood (v. 25);
  • speaking truthfully (v. 25)
  • building one another up with our words (v. 29);
  • rid of all bitterness, range, anger, slander, brawling, malice (v. 31)
  • kind (v. 32);
  • compassionate (v. 32);
  • forgiving (v. 32).

Paul also tells us we must not

  • live as the Gentiles do (v. 17);
  • give ourselves over to sensuality (v. 19);
  • indulge in impurity (v. 19);
  • be full of greed (v. 19);
  • be corrupted by deceitful desires (v. 22);
  • sin in our anger (v. 26);
  • let the sun go down while we are still angry (v. 26);
  • give the devil a foothold (v. 27);
  • steal (v. 28);
  • let any unwholesome talk escape our mouths (v. 29);
  • grieve the Holy Spirit (v. 30).

That’s quite a list!

However, it’s in the context of the previous chapter promising us that Christ is working in us and the rest of the chapter about the body of Christ. We’ve been given prophets, apostles, evangelists, teachers and pastors to teach and encourage us. They help us to grow into mature believers that are equipped for every service.

So with Christ working in us through the Spirit and through unity in the body of Christ, we can live a life worthy of our calling.