Thanks and see you there.
After three and half years as the youth pastor at Eastside Baptist Church, it has come time to move on. I’m getting married in a couple of weeks and moving to Alabama so that my wife can beign medical school.
Here’s the audio from the final sermon preached this past Sunday, 3/29/09. It’s titled, “Five Lessons Learned at Eastside,” and its basically a reflection based out of the book of Proverbs concerning a few indispensable values that God has given me as I’ve soght to be a faithful minister. Enjoy.
Let me say, first of all, that it has been both an honor and a privilege to be your youth pastor, but even more so to be your friend. With my official resignation from the church taking effect tomorrow, this weekend marks the end of my relationship with you as your church’s “youth pastor,” but today’s events should serve only to strengthen the bond that we share as friends and as brothers in the Christian faith. Further, it is a sincere joy and pleasure to be able to share with you today during your Luke 2:52 Celebration. It is my prayer that God would shine down the infinite lights of his grace, mercy, and wisdom upon your life as you continue to, “…increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
I would like to encourage you with five different things, each of which is connected to the others in very significant ways. They are all straight out of the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is a very special book. Its sole purpose is for a father to share wisdom, knowledge, and understanding—truth—with his son. Of course, I realize that I am not your father, but the wisdom and truth of the Proverbs is the absolute greatest source of knowledge, understanding, and encouragement that I could ever offer you.
The first thing I would like to share with you is the value of wisdom. I will not say much here, nor will I say much on any of these five points. I only hope that what I say will serve to lead you to the Bible’s Proverbs. It is from there—from God Himself in His Word—that you will learn what true wisdom is.
One writer has described wisdom as, “The best choice with the best result in every situation.” I agree one hundred percent! Proverb 4:4-5 says that, “If you seek it (wisdom, that is) like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” There is so much truth in those two verses, Joseph. Spend your life seeking after the wisdom of God. You will notice that inside the gift I have given you there is an index card. I have personally written down verses out of the book of Proverbs that relate to the five things I’m sharing with you in this letter. As you read through the Proverbs, look up the verses that I have written down. Know that I had you in mind and was praying for you as I read through those verses.
The second way I would like to encourage you is by telling you about the value of godly counsel—that is, the value of righteous and loving advice from people that God has placed in our lives to help guide us to the right and godly paths. One writer related to this truth by saying that, “Most often I have heard the voice of God through someone who cared about me and loved me enough to sit down with me and say, ‘It goes like this.’” I couldn’t agree more!
The third thing I want to share with you concerns the value of good, honest, hard work. If you are ever accused of anything, make sure that it’s not laziness. Continue on in the tradition of your family—may it be known that Joseph Littlejohn is a diligent, hard-working man in all that he endeavors to do. George Mueller, one of my heroes in the Christian faith, spoke about hard work this way: “This is one of the greatest secrets in connection with successful service for the Lord; to work as if everything depended upon your diligence, and yet not to rest in the least upon our exertions, but upon the blessing of the Lord.” I cannot say it any better than that! Be a good, hard worker, Joseph. You’ll never regret that you did, and God will bless your efforts.
The fourth thing I share with you is the value of humility. God makes it very clear that there is one thing that he cannot stand for—pride. Proverb 16:18 says that, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” The point of this verse should be very clear: if you ever think too highly of yourself, then you’re headed for some huge, embarrassing, and God-dishonoring mistakes. Count on it!
As sinners, Joseph, we have no reason whatsoever to think well of ourselves. Only by God’s grace can we be forgiven for all of our sins and lead lives that are pleasing to Him. But get this, any and everything that we ever do that is good and pleasant in the sight of the Lord—it’s only because He first forgave us and then enabled us that we can do any of these things at all! There’s no room for pride anywhere in that truth. Be humble, Joseph! In whatever God calls you to be and do, be humble.
The final word of encouragement I give to you concerns your mouth, your lips, and your tongue—in other words, everything that you say. Prov. 10:11 says that, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” May it be that your mouth is a fountain of life. Always, always, always watch what you say. The power one can wield over others by what they say is astounding. Never use your words to hurt, harm, bruise, cut, or manipulate anyone. Prov. 10:32 says that, “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.” Use your words to honor God and help others, Joseph. Our tongues are not vessels for lifting up ourselves, but for lifting up God and his truth. Always remember that.
I plead with you, Joseph, go to God’s Word and read the Proverbs. Try and read one chapter every single day. When you finish, start over and do it again…and again…and again! It won’t take long to realize that by reading them you learn them, and by learning them you remember and apply them, and by applying them you have found wisdom—God’s wisdom.
May it be that you grow into a wise and godly man. I love you, Joseph. I will miss you when I move. Thank you for being so faithful. Thank you for being my friend.
March 28th, 2009
Luke 2:52 Celebration
Recently some married friends of mine were going to be speaking to a group of teenagers about what it means to be a godly husband and godly wife. They shared with me some of the material they would be spring-boarding off of, so to speak, during their talk. Most of it was pretty good. Their were, however, a couple of paragraphs about the notion of “respect” that I took issue with.
The material they sent me was an article by Wendell E. Miller entitled, “Marriage Roles in Biblical Balance,” which may be viewed/read here.
The following is a response that I sent back to my friends that I put together addressing the notion of “respect” that a wife should have for her husband. Enjoy.
WHAT I DISAGREE WITH
Just over halfway through the article, only a few lines down from the ninth piece of instruction he gives, Miller launches into a seemingly subtle treatment of the application of “respect” within the respective roles of marriage. By way of reference, the section I’m referring to starts with the line, “God has given the third and fourth principles…” and ends a few paragraphs later with the line, “If the wife wants to obey God, please Him, and…”
Here’s the one line that really caught my eye: “Even though some translations of the Scriptures may give the erroneous idea that wives should have respect for their husbands, God does not command wives to respect their husbands, nor does he command husbands to respect their wives.” After an initial knee-jerk response, and then following a little prayer and Bible study, my suspicions were confirmed. I concluded that I completely disagreed with Miller on this very point.
WHAT I BELIEVE
I firmly believe—in direct contrast to Miller—that God does command wives to respect their husbands. In fact, to take it one step farther, I believe that the place occupied by “respect” within the marriage covenant concerns one of the more fundamental and non-negotiable roles that a wife is to serve, as it is directly related to and inherently bonded together with what the nature of wife-to-husband submission is all about.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
So why exactly do I disagree with Miller and what is the basis of my disagreement? In other words, what is it about his point that “respect” is not a God-commanded part of the marriage equation that I disagree with and why do I consider it important enough to address?
The problem is two-fold: 1) his distinction between what it means to “respect” someone as opposed to “treating them with respect” is not only dangerous because it can be misleading, but it is also uncompelling precisely because of the fact that 2) he has failed to give adequate and/or accurate consideration to the lexical meanings of, the biblical patterns of interpretation for, and the specific contexts within which are found a couple of words of interest which are used in the I Pet. 3:7 and Eph. 5:33 passages that he cites. As a result, his interpretation is not only unpersuasive, but is also unbiblical, and therefore, unhealthy for our teenagers and quite possibly detrimental to their understanding of biblical roles within marriage.
HERE’S WHAT THE BIBLE HAS TO SAY
Miller begins this section by explaining I Pet. 3:7. I believe he is quoting from the KJV which records the phrase in question as, “giving honor.” Of course, this passage is telling husbands to “give honor” to their wives. In fleshing out the idea of husbands “giving honor” to their wives, Miller writes that, “If the husband wants to obey God, please Him, and show God that he loves Him, he will treat his wife with respect because God commands it”—so far, so good. I agree with that interpretation and application. Most other solid Bible teachers do as well. In fact, the NIV even goes so far as to translate this portion of the verse as, “…treat them with respect…”
There are actually two Greek words used in translating into the KJV’s, “giving honor.” The first (aponemō) simply means “to assign or portion out;” and the second (timē) is most basically understood as “a valuing by which a price is fixed” (from Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). By way of reference to this second word, it can also be found translated as “price” as in I Cor. 6:20 where Paul says, “You were bought with a price.” We understand, then, that I Peter 3:7 is basically using the word to show that husbands are commanded to treat their wives as valuable or “price”-worthy, so to speak.
The problem, however, is not with Miller’s understanding of I Pet. 3:7, but with his lumping it together with the latter part of Eph. 5:33. First of all, Miller referenced this latter verse as Eph. 4:31. He states that, “The fifth biblical principle is: God commands wives to honor [“reverence” KJV] their husbands (Eph. 4:31).” He must have meant Eph. 5:33 because 4:31 has nothing to do with roles within marriage – understandable mistake. In fact, you may find some mistakes in any of my references to Scripture.
Miller makes a very misleading blunder when he—whether intentionally or unintentionally—understands the relationship between I Pet. 3:7’s “honor” and Eph. 5:33’s “reverence” (again, borrowing the English from the KJV) to be two different ways of saying the same thing. To show that this is, in fact, what he thinks, consider his preference for the term “honor” instead of “reverence” in Eph. 5:33. He uses “honor” initially and then only nods at the notion of “reverence” as a sort of footnote to the language of the KJV. He fails to use the term “reverence” again and instead opts for the term “honor,” which he explains by saying, “To honor means to treat with respect”—which just so happens to be the same exact explanation that he has already given for I Pet. 3:7’s application of what it means to “give honor.”
What must be understood before we go any farther is that it becomes quite clear that Miller understands I Pet. 3:7 to be God’s command to husbands to do the same exact thing that He commands wives to do in Eph. 5:33, which is to treat the other with respect. Notice the distinction he makes: “Instead of commanding respect, God commands treating with respect. To honor means to treat with respect.” I agree wholeheartedly that husbands and wives are to treat each other with respect. The problem with this, however, is that Miller has forced the “honor/treat-with-respect” of I Pet. 3:7 on to the “reverence/respect” of Eph. 5:33 and, in doing so, has twisted the Eph. 5:33 in such a way that it has been emptied of its true meaning (i. e. “reverance/respect”) and been replaced by a false one (i. e. “honor/treat with respect”).
Regarding Miller’s affinity for the term “honor” in Eph. 5:33, I found it revealing that the only English translation of the Bible I could find that used the word “honor” in Eph. 5:33 was Eugene Peterson’s, The Message—and I looked at 20 separate and distinct translations! Keep in mind that The Message is an extremely loose paraphrase. Most of the versions used the word “respect.” A couple used “reverence.” There were even two or three that used such direct terms as “fear” and “dread.” Needless to say, I Pet. 3:7’s “honor” and Eph. 5:33’s “respect” are in no way speaking about the same concept. They come from two totally different Greek words, they’re used in two separate contexts, and they mean two different things.
Not only this, but guess what the Greek is for “respect” in Eph. 5:33. It’s the word “phobeo”—from which the term “phobia” is understood in English. It means—quite literally—“fear.” It is used some 93 different times in the Bible, 62 of which it is translated as “fear;” 28 of which it is translated “be afraid” or “be afraid of;” once it is used as “reverence” (here in Eph. 5:33); and then a couple of other unrelated, miscellaneous usages. These numbers reflect its usage in the Authorized Version of the KJV.
This is the same word, it just so happens, that is translated as “respectful” in I Pet. 3:2 (ESV; “fear” in the KJV), when Peter describes how wives are supposed to conduct themselves toward their husbands—irrespective of how the husbands treat them. Remember the context of I Peter 3. Peter was instructing believers to properly submit to their various authorities no matter whether they treat you well or not (see I Pet. 2:18-25). I point this out in reponse to Miller’s comments: “Respect must be earned.”
HERE’S WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
Emmerson Eggerichs, in his book entitled, Love and Respect, says the following:
Paul is clearly saying that wives need love and husbands need respect (p. 15).
My biblical theology of Eph. 5:33 is simple: a husband is commanded to love his wife unconditionally, and a wife is commanded to respect her husband unconditionally. This is what the text says—period (p. 319).
A husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband. There is no justification for a husband to say, “I will love my wife after she respects me” nor for a wife to say, “I will respect my husband after he loves me” (p. 16).
Albert Barnes, in his acclaimed commentary series, Barnes’ Notes, says of Eph. 5:33’s words concerning the issue at hand:
The meaning is, that it was the special duty of the wife to show respect for her husband as the head of the family, and as set over her in the Lord. The word rendered “reverence,” [in the KJV] is that which usually denotes “fear” – φοβηται . She is to fear; i. e., to honor, respect, obey the will of her husband. It is, of course, not implied that it is not also her duty to love her husband, but that there should be no usurping of authority; no disregard of the arrangement which God has made; and that order and peace should be secured in a family by regarding the husband as the source of law.
George W. Knight III, in his contribution to the book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem:
The last exhortation to wives about how they should submit to their husbands is found in Ephesians 5:33: “. . . the wife must respect her husband.” The key word here is
the verb respect (so rendered by a number of modern English translations, e.g., rsv, nasb, niv, neb). This rendering of the Greek phobeo is proper. Paul uses respect here in the sense of treating the husband’s leadership with dutiful regard and deference. The Greek verb is used similarly in an analogous situation where one human is urged to render respect (orreverence) to another (Leviticus 19:3, LXX: “Let every one of you reverence his father and his mother”). There, as here in Ephesians, the respect called for is primarily to the role the person occupies and not to the particular merits of the person.
Probably Paul chose phobeo¯ in his final charge to wives to correlate his exhortation to them with his exhortation to all Christians, “Submit to one another out of reverence (phobo¯) for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). By using a concept he had previously used of the Lord Jesus Christ, he also correlates this concluding exhortation to wives with his initial one (verse 22), which said that they should be subject to their own husbands “as to the Lord.”
The respect asked of a wife recognizes the God-given character of the headship of her husband and thus treats him with dutiful regard and deference. Just as husbands have been asked to display their headship through likeness to Christ’s headship over His church, that is, through a love that cherishes and nourishes (verse 25, 28, 29), so now wives are asked to render their submission in a way that is most like that of the submission of the church to Christ, that is, a truly respectful submission because it is
rendered voluntarily from the heart. A wife’s respecting her husband and his headship therefore implies that her submission involves not only what she does but also her attitude in doing it. As with the husband, so with the wife, it is the heart’s attitude of grateful acceptance of the role God assigns to each and the determination to fulfill the particular role with all the graciousness God gives that Paul is urging on both wives and husbands in this last verse of his instruction (p. 169).
God commands wives to respect their husbands—period. Within the context of God’s commands for roles within marriage, the distinction between respecting a person and merely treating them with respect is the result of an unhealthy oversimplification of the biblical language/terminology regarding respect, reverance, and honor. “To honor means to treat with respect,” writes Miller, but the dangerous implication here it that that’s all it means.
Whereas Miller writes that, “In all too many marriages, it is impossible for the wife to respect her husband, and in other marriages it is impossible for the husband to love his wife,” Jesus (I think) would respond with words similar to those he gave to his disciples after they had witnessed his heart-breaking encounter with the rich, young ruler: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27).”
The Bible. Plain and simple—it’s the most important book and the most unique book that’s ever been written. 40 different human writers over 1600 years combine to give us 66 individual books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, 773,746 words and 3,566,480 letters (these numbers reflect the King James Version of the Bible).
Weighing in at over 6,000,000,000 copies, the Bible is by far the best-selling book of all time. The next best-selling book doesn’t even come close. In fact, the Bible is the only book to ever break the 1,000,000,000 mark. It’s been translated into over 1,200 languages and dialects—that means that right at 90% of the entire world’s population can read a copy of God’s Word in their own native tongue.
Did you know this: if you take the total number of chapters in the Bible and divide by two the very middle chapter is Psalm 118. Interestingly enough, this is the very chapter that says, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Ps. 118:8). That’s a pretty good verse to be right in the center of the Bible, don’t you think? There’s no doubt about it, the Bible is simply an amazing book!
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and said this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (II Timothy 3:16a). This verse is incredibly important. It explains for us why the Bible is so amazing—namely, because it has God as its source and inspiration. Some versions of the English Bible translate this verse to say that God “inspired” the Scriptures. The one I have recorded above, however, says that he “breathed them out.” Which is the better translation?
The Greek word that is translated as “inspired” or “breathed out” is the word, theopneustos. This fancy-sounding Greek word is super interesting. Why? Because it’s only used this one time in the entire Bible. And in fact, this occurrence of the word in II Timothy is the first ever recorded in the Greek language. What most scholars take this to mean is that the Apostle Paul invented or coined the word. When trying to explain to Timothy how God gave the biblical writers the words to write down, the Apostle Paul was literally lost for words—so he invented a new one.
The word, although brand new here in II Timothy 3:16, is really just a combination of two words that would have been very familiar to the ancient Greek-speaking world, the first half being a noun which refers to God, and the second half being a verb which means “to blow” or “to breathe.” What a great picture this provides, God breathing His own words into the biblical writers.
When we read the Bible, when we hear it, when we meditate upon it, when we hear sermons preached out of it, what we concern ourselves with is not merely the wisdom of very godly men, though that description definitely fits the biblical writers. Instead, what we must remember is that we are dealing with the very words of God Himself, breathed out by His own Holy Spirit and given to us as a gift to be treasured, believed, and trusted. Let me encourage you to spend time in God’s Word. There’s nothing else like it.