Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fill my Cup

Someone once said to me that it seemed selfish to focus on my own spiritual life. She thought Christian were supposed to put others first and not be concerned about themselves.

While putting others above ourselves is a main characteristic of being like Jesus, Philippians 2, the passage that says we need to consider others more important than ourselves does not leave out personal care. It says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Italics mine)

However, her words made me think about the fine line between just taking care of myself only so I don’t have to bother with anyone else and how I should take care of myself so I am capable of caring for others.

I can’t do what Philippians 2 says without paying attention to my own spiritual life. Without some personal focus, my life cannot be clean nor would I be able to meet other demands.

Besides that, watching my own spirituality is protection against false teaching. 2 Peter was written to expose and thwart those who came into the church teaching error. Towards the end of the book Peter tells believers that Scripture can be a challenge. He says that “Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things (warnings about false teaching), in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”

I’m well aware that some people distort what the Bible says. Part of it is a failure to recognize the need for the Holy Spirit’s input into interpretation. Christians can go off base if we approach the Bible without relying on God to help us understand it properly.

This verse talks about those who are “untaught and unstable,” interesting word choices. “Untaught” is a polite way to say “ignorant.” As a teacher, I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t know what I am talking about, shut up. These false teachers didn’t have a clue, but that didn’t stop them from twisting or perverting the Word of God, then teaching what they didn’t know.

“Unstable” means not established, not firmly in place, unfixed. Their teaching was ‘all over the place’ and not firmly grounded in the person of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes false teachers know what they are doing. They deliberately deceive, with intentions to gain a following or even money. Others are simply blinded by the Liar who has them in darkness. I recall a young girl from a Mormon family who came to a youth meeting at our house. I asked her how a person could be saved. She said, “By doing good works.”

I had her read aloud Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Then I asked her how those verses explained the way of salvation. She replied, “They say you are saved by doing good works.”

The odd thing about false teaching is that it strongly appeals to the old self. I’d love it if I could be saved by doing good works—IF I could do them to the degree that impressed God. Wouldn’t that be something to boast about? Other “twisted” ideas often appeal to what my pride wishes were true.

That is why Peter adds a warning after his admission about some of Paul’s teaching being hard to understand and warning that false teachers will twist it. He says, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

God plainly wants me to take care of my spiritual life! He says to beware of falling from my firm position in Christ into the same errors that these people teach, the errors that sound good if I take my eyes off Jesus. Keep looking at Him. By grace I was saved; by grace I am being saved. In knowing Jesus, I experience grace. In deepening my knowledge of Him, I continue to experience grace.

By taking care of my spiritual life first, I am able to focus on others. Jesus is my source and resource. He fills me with love, grace, all good things, and I must come back to Him again and again so He can fill my cup. Otherwise I’m nothing, have nothing to give, and have nothing to correct those who offer me false teaching.

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