No Place for Pride: An Example From Priscilla and Aquila

By a show of hands (metaphorically, just bear with me), how many of you have heard of – and could tell me about – Priscilla and Aquila?

Probably not many of you. And before you get too ashamed, let me just come out and say that I couldn’t have either before two Sundays ago (one Sunday ago as I’m writing this, but it’s being scheduled in advance :P).

At church, they were preaching about the book of Acts, and funnily enough, when the pastor said that he was going to talk about Priscilla and Aquila, I actually thought he was talking about Ananias and Sapphira – a very different couple from Acts.

(Ananias and Sapphira are the ones who got caught deceiving the church about their donation, making it seem larger than it was, and died for it.)

So, when the pastor said he was talking about a biblical power couple, I was very confused.

But, funny story aside, this sermon opened my eyes to an oft-overlooked “power couple,” one of the only ones we get to see in the Bible. And that’s what prompted me to write this post.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be recognized for what I do. Even if I do something without being asked and something that’s supposed to be a “surprise,” I want the people I did it for to be surprised! I want them to notice. Basically, though I hate to say it, I want their praise.

For example, I’ll sometimes do some chores around the house when I’m at home and my parents are off at work or running errands. It’s unprompted, and it’s just supposed to be something nice that I do for them. (Also, lest you think I’m too selfless and noble, usually this “chore” is vacuuming, and I mostly do it because I enjoy vacuuming, but I digress.)

But when they get back home, I expect them to notice it. I’m just waiting for the garage to open and them to walk in so I can be heaped with “thank yous.”

Not very humble of me, is it?

John’s response to the people going to Jesus for baptism and that affecting the numbers of people who come to him gets me every time. He says:

“It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

John 3:29-30 (NLT)

Whew. Doesn’t that just hit home?

It’s the exact opposite of my line of thought. While I want praise, praise, and more praise, John is saying, “No. Jesus gets all the praise, praise, and more praise, not me.”

And Priscilla and Aquila are a prime example of a power couple who lived their lives running hard after Jesus and have little to no praise to show for it. But, spoiler alert: Jesus got all the glory, and now they’re living in joy and peace unimaginable in heaven with him, so I think they got the good end of the deal.

But, anyway, I’ll get to that later. Let’s first start of with exactly what Priscilla and Aquila did in their lives.

We see them first in Acts 18, in which they welcome Paul into their homes to live with them for a while while he’s ministering to the Corinthians. So, they just literally open their homes to a stranger so that he can share the Good News.

Then, later in Acts 18, Paul leaves for Syria, and guess who just up and go with him? Priscilla and Aquila. They leave behind their home and their lives of the past year and a half (they’d only lived in Corinth for around that much time), and follow Paul on his missionary journey.

Paul ended up leaving them in Ephesus, while he continued on. In Ephesus, we see Priscilla and Aquila take it upon themselves to correct the incomplete teachings of the Jew Apollos. He received their message, and went on to become one of the most famous pastors in the world.

So, you could literally say that Priscilla and Aquila discipled one of the world’s greatest pastors.

Beyond that, they also opened up their home wherever they lived, starting the church at Rome and at Ephesus.

They were running hard after Jesus and produced countless good fruits for His Kingdom. It was clear that the Holy Spirit was in them.

And yet, they’re mostly forgotten by history. Even those who know the Bible really well and have a lot of Bible knowledge don’t always remember who Priscilla and Aquila are.

Later in their lives, these two were even killed for their faith in Christ. Martyrs.

But we still don’t remember them.

And I think they’re perfectly okay with that, so long as we remember Jesus in it all.

I believe they were true behind-the-scenes workers. They didn’t need praise and glory for themselves, but everything they did was for God’s glory and His alone.

And honestly, that should be our greatest desire – to glorify God in all that we do. We should want that more than praise from our friends, family, and coworkers. Rather than looking for a worldly reward, simply glorifying Him should be a reward in and of itself.

That’s hard, I get it. No matter how many times I tell myself otherwise, I still find myself falling into the trap of seeking praise from others. And it continually leads to disappointment.

But abiding in the Holy Spirit and setting my eyes on God? That can never disappoint. It is the satisfaction of my soul, life-giving, humbling.

I like to think that when Priscilla and Aquila died, they would have had the mindset of Paul and would have been more than ready to go see Jesus because their greatest joy and their reward in life had been God’s glory.

And now, in heaven, they get to glorify God perfectly and for eternity.

How awesome is that?

 

 

 

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The Gift of the Sabbath: On Taking Time to Rest in God

I’m a busy person, you’re a busy person, we’re all busy people. We all seem to have an endless to-do list, and countless commitments. If it isn’t schoolwork or actual work, it’s chores, clubs, organizations, or other commitments. Our days tend to be pretty packed.

It might be crazy to suggest that we take a chunk of time out of our day to simply rest and be with the Lord. It might be even crazier to suggest that we dedicate an entire day of the week to doing just that and nothing else.

But that’s exactly what God told the Israelites to do in Exodus 16.

He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.”

Exodus 16:23 (NLT)

Crazy, right? I don’t about you, but I have something to do every day of the week. I don’t see it as possible for me to set aside an entire day for rest, scrubbing it free of all work and commitments other than those of the Lord.

In our society we focus on doing, doing, doing, feeling accomplished by how much we can do and feeling a constant desire to do more. We live in a very noisy and distracting place, guys.

But God is pulling us out of all the hustle and bustle of everyday, crazy busy life, and whispering to us, “Shh. Let all that go. Just rest and be with Me.”

He’s not doing that to keep us from doing all the great things we’re trying to do. He’s not trying to stress us out even more by making us do more the other six days of the week. He’s not out to get us.

No. The Sabbath day is a gift.

They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…

Exodus 16:29 (NLT)

It is a gift because what can possibly be better than dedicated time to doing nothing but resting in Him? Surely not that homework assignment or that test we just have to study for.

Psalms 23 and 63 are excellent reminders of the joys of resting in God’s presence. I highly encourage you to go and read those, even if you’ve read them before. I find that they’re a constant reminder of the joy of God’s presence.

It is far too easy for us to lose sight of God in the craziness of our lives. We forget about Him, get stressed about everything that seems to be piling up, and next thing we know, we’re anxious, despairing, and lost.

But God is still whispering to us. He wants us to come to Him. 

We cannot find joy and peace apart from God. Because we were created for Him and by Him, we cannot be satisfied apart from Him. Our worldly pursuits, our material things, that fun thing we just really want to buy or go do, cannot and will not satisfy us. If anything, they’ll simply leave us wanting more.

But God can fill that hole. In fact, He’s pleading with us to let Him do just that.

So why do we constantly refuse to give Him the time that He deserves and that is so life-giving to us? Is it because He feels distant and unknowable? Is it because we don’t think our time with Him is urgent (it is – for more on that, see this post)? Is it because we believe lies about what can satisfy us?

Whatever the reason, I challenge you to examine your heart and determine what’s holding you back from spending dedicated and restful time with God. And then join me in reminding yourself daily to set aside time to return to Him.

Our souls will be all the more joyful for it.

 

 

Humbled Before Jesus

It’s far too easy for the Gospel to get watered down, especially when you live in the Bible belt. For much of my life, I held nothing more than a watered down view of Jesus. To me, it was common knowledge that Jesus had died on the cross, and that He rose again, bringing salvation to all who believed in Him. It was as good as fact.

But it didn’t prompt me to worship.

I’ve been reading through Exodus recently, and I came across the following passage in Exodus 4:

Then the people of Israel were convinced that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 4:31 (NLT)

The Israelites are in Egypt, experiencing a lot of hardship. Years ago (I don’t know exactly how long ago it had been, but it was when Moses had been born, and now he was a grown man), the Egyptians subjected the Israelites to harsh slavery and subjugation.

The Israelites have been crying out for help to God, it says in 2:23. And now, when they have realized that God has heard their cries and has sent someone to help them, their immediate response is to bow down and worship. 

The Exodus is the great delivery of the Old Testament, you could say. It’s a fantastic moment displaying God’s care for His people and God deliverance of His people. And it’s rivaled only by Jesus dying on the cross.

If the Israelites, so many years ago, worshiped God for His promise to deliver them from the Egyptians, how much more should we worship God for sending His Son to suffer for our sins and deliver us for eternity? 

But for some reason, many of us almost seem to take the Gospel for granted. At least, I certainly do sometimes.

Why? Why do we do that?

The answer I’ve found, at least to explain my own foolishness, is that I place too much importance on myself and thus diminish God’s holiness.

Let’s just walk through that for a minute.

God created everything in existence. And then He created us. We are nothing more than God’s creation. We exist only because God made us. That right there is enough reason for us to literally owe our entirely lives to Him.

But let’s go even further. He made us in His image, with an eternal soul, and He gave us free will. We took that free will and sinned against Him. Setting off a continuous line of rebellious people who betray God and turn away from Him.

God’s own creation continually rebelled against Him, believing they could manage on their own and essentially calling Him useless. 

Mind you, this is an eternal, perfect, holy, and just God we’re calling useless. It’s crazy, right?

God, perfect and just as He is, had – and still has – every right to punish us. We chose to separate ourselves from Him, we chose to sin against His perfection, and God can’t have imperfection in His holy and perfect domain, that is, heaven. So what is He to do with this little rebel creation of His?

The first option is to forget about them. They chose to rebel against them, so God has every right to let them do their sinful thing and move about His holy eternal life. Naturally, because we have an eternal soul, that would mean condemnation for us. It would mean eternal punishment, hell, separation from God forever.

That is justice. That is us getting what we deserve.

But God didn’t choose that option. Instead, God chose to pursue his little rebel creations and sent His own Son, God in the flesh, to take our punishment for us. Say what?!

God, the King of kings, God of angel armies, Creator of the universe, died a painful death on the cross to take the punishment for a crime he never committed. He took the blame that was never His in the first place. For a closer look at just how unfathomable that is, feel free to read Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross.

And because He lived a perfect, blameless life (He was God – hello!) He conquered the grave and rose again after three days. And now, through His death and resurrection, we have eternal life if we only place our faith and trust in Him.

We, the greatest rebels of all time (well, aside from Satan), have been reunited with our holy and awesome God to live eternally with Him because He chose to pursue us and take our punishment on His shoulders. 

After understanding – and I mean really understanding – the story of the Gospel, how can I dare to think that God was supposed to save me? In other words, how can I possibly feel entitled to salvation? If anything, I’m entitled to condemnation.

I am a dirty, rebellious creation. But it is my imperfection that magnifies the perfect love of God, in that He chose to save me despite my imperfection.

Which is why even the mention of God’s promise of deliverance – the greatest of which is Jesus Christ on the cross – should prompt us to worship. How can we read such promises and nod and forget about it, to simply carry on with our lives, as if nothing huge had just been told to us?

The Israelites had it right. God’s deliverance is no small thing. It’s an incredible, life-giving, undeserved love that pursues us all the days of our lives, as it says in Psalm 23:6.

And it is because of His deliverance that we need not fear death, or worry about anything in life. God loves us, in our dirty, imperfect state, and He will deliver us from all things, in due time.

Jesus said, at the end of a sermon about not worrying:

So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Luke 12:32 (NLT)

So I rejoice and I worship in the notion that the King of kings is given great happiness by giving me the Kingdom.