Wednesday, April 13, 2011

He can't be fooled

As I read Philemon again today it became clear to me how this letter was not just from Paul to Philemon. This letter is a parallel and clear message from God to all His Followers. There are three points I wanted to touch on today:

One, just as Paul told Philemon that Onesimus was of no value to him before (even though he was his slave); he (Onesimus) would now be beyond that of a valuable slave, he is now a brother in Christ, he is a child of the Most High and he will act like it. He (Onesimus) will no longer steal from his master as he had in the past, he would no longer be untrustworthy as he had in the past, and he would no longer be disloyal as he had in the past.

We are the same way before we surrender to Jesus; worthless, thieving, untrustworthy, disloyal, disobedient objects of Wrath. Then we get saved and we become co-workers, brothers, soldiers, heirs to the throne, children of the King.

There is no doubt that Onesimus' perspective had changed dramatically; as ours should. No longer slaves to the flesh, but instead slaves to righteousness,
Philemon 1:10-11 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.

Second, as in every case with Jesus, He raises the bar of expectation in His followers. Paul's directive to Philemon is no different here. As followers of Christ we are called to be different than the world. We are expected to forgive. We are expected to love. Not just those that are worthy of forgiveness and love; we are called to that standard always. Even more so when dealing with another Christian:
Philemon 1:12-21 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. 15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. 21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

As you read those verses, you may have pondered my third point. Did you notice that Paul would have fully expected and assumed Philemon would behave in a certain manner. Paul would have even have expected and assumed it would have been OK with Philemon if he (Paul) had kept Onesimus with him instead of sending him back. However, Paul did not want Philemon to be “forced” in to this decision, he did not want him to do it out of compulsion:
14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.

In the same way, God wants your good works, sacrifices and offerings out of a pure heart; not out of obligation or compulsion.
I remember before my buddy Ron got saved he started coming to church, but he get really annoyed when the basket came around. He was rolling his eyes one day as he felt the obligation to put a few bucks in.

After church we went to lunch and I told him, “Ron, save your money.”

He said, “what do you mean?”

I said, “God doesn't want your money the way you're giving it. The condition of your heart is not out of a desire to serve God and He doesn't want it.”

The same could be said with your time, your prayer, your talent, you church attendance, your Bible study participation, you name it.....God always looks at the intent of the heart and He can not be fooled.

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