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15 Pauline Passions That Burn Too Dimly in the Modern Church

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1. A Passion for God’s Glory.

“…our God and Father, to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” ||Gal. 1.4b-5

“…do all for the glory of God.” || 1 Cor. 10.31b

2. A Passion to Know Jesus Christ.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” || Phil. 3.8

3. A Passion for the Gospel.

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel…” || Rom. 1.16a

4. A Passion for Preaching.

“So I am eager to preach the gospel…” || Rom. 1.15a

“…we preach Christ crucified…” || 1 Cor. 1.23a

“…I was appointed a preacher…” || 1 Tim. 2.7a

5. A Passion for Prayer.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer…” || Col. 4.2a

6. A Passion for the Familial Character of the Church.

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” || 1 Cor. 4.15

“Let brotherly love continue.” || Heb. 13.1

7. A Passion for Elder-led Churches.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…” || Titus 1.5

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” || Acts 14.23

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.” || Acts 20.28

8. A Passion for Domestic Mission.

“…always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” || 2 Tim. 4.5

9. A Passion for Character and Sound Doctrine.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching.” || 1 Tim. 4.16a

“…teach what accords with sound doctrine.” || Titus 2.1

10. A Passion for the Unreached/Unengaged Peoples of the Earth.

“…I make it my ambition to preach the Gospel, not where Christ has already been named…” || Rom. 15.20a

“…our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence along you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the Gospel in lands beyond you…” || 2 Cor. 10.15-16a

11. A Passion for the Mystery of Israel and Her Salvation.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” || Rom. 10.1

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers… all Israel shall be saved…” || Rom. 11.25-26

12. A Passion for Spirit-Endued Community and Mission.

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” || 1 Cor. 14.1

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored…” || 2 Thess. 3.1a

13. A Passion for Kingdom Priorities in All of Life.

“…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband.” || Eph. 5.33

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord… Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” || Eph. 6.1, 4

“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands… so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” || 1 Thess. 4.11-12

“Owe no one anything…” || Rom. 13.8a

“Be generous and ready to share…” || 1 Tim. 6.18

14. A Passion for the “Poured-Out” Life.

“I will most gladly spend and be spend for your souls.” || 2 Cor. 12.15

“…we were ready to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own selves…” || 1 Thess. 2.8

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering…” || 2 Tim. 4.6a

15. A Passion for the Resurrection, the Day of the Lord, and the Return of Jesus Christ.

“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” || Phil. 3.10-11

“…we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” || Rom. 8.23

“…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” || Titus 2.13

10 Sure-Fire Ways to Do Sub-Apostolic Missions

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1. Devalue prayer (Eph. 6.18-20)

2. Diminish Theology (Titus 2.1)

3. Build para-church ministries rather than making disciples and planting churches (Mt. 28.19/Titus 1.5)

4. Cheapen the importance of nurturing churches of the Acts 2.42-47 kind (2 Cor. 11.28)

5. Seek to avoid suffering (Col. 1.24-26)

6. Labor organizationally without the vitality of true and loving fellowship (1 Jn. 1.5-9)

7. Own paradigms that cater to cowardice (Acts 21.13)

8. Fail to earnestly desire the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 14.1)

9. Preach fads rather than the Cross (1 Cor. 2.2)

10. Redefine the Biblical view of Israel, and thus fail to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom (Rom. 11.25-27)

The Fractured Soul, Gentleness and the Nearness of God

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“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” || Philippians 4.5

This remarkable statement from Paul is no dainty piece of religious eloquence, no ostentatious display of flourish. These words were penned by a man who bore in his body, and in his innermost parts, the “brand-marks of the Lord Jesus.” These are the words of war; war against “the world, the flesh, and the devil”; war against our own unbelief, pride, entitlement, and joylessness. These are requiring words, especially when everything around and within beckons us to live in a manner which is antithetical to this kind of gentleness.

Paul was an anomaly in his age, a phenomenon of grace, and so ought the church to be. He experienced- in poignant and painful ways- the searing burns of betrayal, the press of resistance, the chaos of persecution, and a whole host of other sufferings. When everything around him was fractured; when many of the churches he had planted seemed to be crumbling doctrinally, morally, and relationally; when he himself was beaten and imprisoned, surrounded by criminals and the stink of fecal matter and urine, the apostle could yet discern the plumb-line of the faith. “…the Lord is near.”

He called the saints to “rejoice in the Lord always”, and in light of His nearness, to abide in that “gentleness” which characterizes His eternal Kingdom.

“…gentleness here signifies ‘a humble, patient steadfastness, which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace and maltreatment without hatred or malice, trusting God in spite of it all.’ [R. Leivestad]

Within the NT it is Christ who preeminently displayed this ‘gentleness’…” [Peter T. O’ Brien, NIGTC: The Epistle to the Philippians, Eerdmans 1991, p. 487]

The call to gentleness is a call to “look unto Jesus” Himself. It is sandwiched between the “rejoice always” of v. 4 and the “be anxious for nothing” of v. 6. It has to do with surrendering the whole of our hearts, congested and pressed as they are with all kinds of pains, sins, and wounds, to the sovereign hand of the God of creation, who happens also to be the One who is “faithful and true”, the only all-wise, ever-kind Father.

Have we the faith to believe, and the humility to accept, that the crushing experiences of our lives- in stormy circumstances and fractured relationships- are meant among others things to refine us as sons and daughters of God? Are we prepared to accept them as gifts, which in due season, will leave the impress of Christ upon us, that we may increasingly bear His image?

Have we been mistreated or misunderstood? Have we suffered tragedy? Have we known the gut-grinding pangs of betrayal? The entangling cobwebs of suspicion and self-consciousness? The suffocating power of subtle bitternesses and jealousies? Have things tended in appearance toward the fulfillment of our aspirations and just at their peak, come crashing to the earth, dashed to total dismemberment?

Paul experienced all of these and more. The twelve disciples experienced all of these and more. Our precious High Priest was carried by the Spirit through ultimate trial and suffering, and in gentleness He “bore our griefs”, “carried our sorrows”, and was “crushed for our iniquities”. His death bore the same sense of finality that any man’s death bears. His breathing was just as silenced, His heart just as stilled, His skin just as cool to the touch, His frame just as stiffened. But alas! He could not be held in the grave, for though they crucified and pierced His body, though the weight of our sin crushed Him to the last breath, nothing could suspend or upset His gentleness. The man who goes down into death in gentleness will assuredly be raised to newness of life.

Our High Priest “has passed through the heavens”, and He is not a “High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

To live in the brazenness of our sin, beneath the veil of the variegated lies of the Accuser, is to grope in darkness amidst thorns and thistles. In our bitterness we cannot perceive the Atonement Lamb. In our jealousy we cannot behold His beauty. In our haughtiness His Name loses is preciousness. In our lust for power and recognition from men, His communion is deemed undesirable. When we step outside of the gentleness of Jesus Christ, we are thereby blinded from seeing and hindered from tasting the vital, life-giving power of His nearness. Left to ourselves, we lie down and wither in ever-increasing hardness.

On the other hand, to live in gentleness before the throne of God is like unto living in a spring-time garden. There is freshness on every side, fruit brimming with sweetness. Life-giving fragrances and Spirit-nourishment abound. To be gentle is to be as a child— trusting and resting in the Father of Lights. To be gentle is to count others- even those who have wronged us- as more important than ourselves. To be gentle is to bow low before God’s throne, and to experience the glad release of all our sins and all our depressions— to watch them sink and drown in the sea of His sovereign goodness.

Our gentleness will only be realized and demonstrated to the degree that we are conscious, through faith, of the nearness of Jesus Christ.

That nearness is two-fold:

1. He is near to the broken-hearted; those who trust in His righteousness and treasure His grace. We have come to know His nearness on the basis of the Atonement. We who were “far off have been brought nigh by the blood of Messiah.” In the Gospel we are reminded of the gravity of our own sin, of the wrath that we deserved, and of the inexpressible greatness of His mercy. This brings an increase to our gentleness. His “already” nearness is the awareness of His grace, which enables us to turn from sin, and to increasingly behold and treasure the Lord.

2. His return is near, and He will carry out justice and establish righteousness and mercy in that great Day. The Holy Spirit, who has been given to us as a deposit of the resurrection inheritance to come, quickens us with sobriety and hope with regard to the “at-handness” of His appearing. This reminds us that we will soon receive a “new body” which no longer suffers the propensity to sin. This, along with the sure hope that He will put straight every crooked thing in this fallen world, encourages us to gentleness. And when the God of Gentleness appears in the greatness of His Glory, it will be a Day of trouble for those who clung to ungentle-ness.

He is near by His Spirit now, and His literal, physical return is nearly upon us.

“The Philippians are to adopt an unabrasive spirit under provocation because their Lord is coming to vindicate their cause… The ordinary things of life, which are referred to in these verses, are important in the light of that return, so that the Christian who has this hope does not live thoughtlessly day by day.

…For them to know that the Lord is “near”, in the twofold sense suggested above, namely that He is at hand now and will come quickly, would be a powerful incentive for them to respond to the apostolic injunctions and live in this godly way.” [O’Brien]

The presence of His Spirit now, on the basis of the Gospel, and the future presence of the Son Himself upon His return- these are “powerful incentives” by which we live in a godly manner- rejoicing always, being anxious about nothing, making our requests known to our covenant-keeping God, our very present Friend. They not only encourage us to gentleness, but impart the very gentleness of Jesus Christ to us. This is in accordance with our faith.

The Lord is near, saints. His Spirit fills and surrounds the child of God in this age, and He is coming again to fill the earth with “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”Let your gentleness be known to all. Love your enemy. Forgive your brother. Serve your neighbor. Bring “all things” before your God in prayer.

You cannot change the past. You may not be able to mend every fractured relationship. You cannot change the hearts of men. You will not be able to understand every circumstance or explain every trial. You must relinquish control, and offer up your body- including your soulish anxieties- as a living sacrifice unto God. He will make all things new in a manner that most glorifies His Name, and that precisely is where you find “rest for your soul”, when He becomes “all in all”. Fractured though you be, by your sins and by the sins of others, He will mend you beneath the shadow of His wing. “Underneath it all are the Everlasting Arms”, and when He does the mending, your joy will be full.

The bitterness, fear, self-consciousness, jealousy, envy, arrogance, hardness, depression, self-medication, lust, greed, power-hunger— all of these belong to the old you, and that ‘you’ has died with Christ. Flee from them today. Flee from them now, for He is near. “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” || Philippians 4.7

You // a poem

High def colors, lights and themes flash,
Rush-hour cars dash, talk-radio blasts,
Ten billion thoughts rash, busy minds rehash,
Without thought of You.

E-mails zing swiftly, all around the globe flying,
Salesmen manipulate consumers, prying,
Lotto ticket holder scores a grand, sighing,
With no sigh for You.

Theaters fill with souls, hooked by the latest,
Boasts clang from athletes, “I am the greatest!”
The Mid-East huffs peace for one brief hiatus,
Yet no regard for You.

Stadiums sardined with painted men, awed by names,
Names of chiseled figures, soldiers at game,
Enduring snow, sleet, hail, heat, heavy rains,
Could this be for You?

Bars full of drunkards, cursing, pontificating,
Sunday’s noon-gluttons, bloated from “buffet-ing”,
Preacher clicks the mouse in his office, masturbating,
Hiding from all but You.

Church-going man exasperates his kids,
Christian contractor wields unjust bids,
Mother suffocates infant, claims it was SIDS,
Breaking the heart of You.

Government sanctions homicide in the womb,
Brides are superfluous, groom marries groom,
Preachers envy preachers, their mouths open tombs,
Beckoning wrath from You.

Emergents emerge, cheap grace gains momentum,
“Apostles” build empires, can we find who sent them?
Devoid of humility, promoting books, systems,
In the name of who?

Lord, in this hour when love has waxed cold,
And we’ve lost the fire of the prophets of old,
For we’ve shirked the heat that would try us as gold,
We need mercy from You.

O, that our eyes were a fountain of tears,
Percolating copiously all of our years,
Until mercy rushes, until heaven hears,
‘Till we, whole-souled, behold You.

Wake us from sleeping, gift us with Your view,
Break us with weeping, to love as You do,
Rattle the fleeting ’til the eternal shines through.
O God of Israel, with grace make us true.

Like You.

Only You.

-B.A. Purtle, 2009 (Revised 2017)