Refreshing – Philemon 1.20

Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

At first glance, there is nothing different or unusual about what Paul says here, is there. He has been writing to Philemon about being motivated by grace and grace in action, and begins his closure with this confident request, refresh my heart in Christ.

The funny thing is though, where we read heart, Paul actually used the word σπλάγχνον, which, most commonly, is translated as bowels or intestines. So, is Paul writing to Philemon to schedule a colonoscopy?

Literally, σπλάγχνον does mean bowels or intestines, but figuratively it carries the meaning of the place of deepest emotion in your body.

So, for us in 2020, we would say something like ‘He has a broken heart’, or, ‘My heart is just so full of love for her’, or something to that effect. Simply, when we describe the deepest emotion we could feel, we would connect it to the heart. Back in Paul’s day, the deepest emotions were thought to come from the deepest place inside you, in the same way you may hear something like ‘I feel it in the pit of my stomach’.

All this to say, Paul is talking about serious, deep rooted, from-the- inside-out refreshment, and this certainly doesn’t come from temporal or temporary sources.

In context, Paul is talking about receiving a runaway slave back as a brother, and he knows that just as Philemon came to a saving faith in Christ through Paul (v.19b), it appears that Onesimus did too (v.8-16). Paul knows we all share in one Lord, we all have one Saviour, and in Him there is no distinction.

So, the deep refreshment in Christ that Paul is looking for?

Seeing others live out the business of the Gospel.

Someone Paul has pointed to Christ is now doing the work of Christ; forgiving, restoring, fellowshipping, and encouraging. What deep refreshment this would bring to Paul.

Think on this today – Who can I refresh in the Lord by doing the work of the Gospel?

2 Timothy 4.14-22 – Last Words

Written whilst in prison awaiting death, the letter we know as Timothy is generally held to be the last that Paul wrote. Here, he signs off in typical fashion.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Paul warns his younger protege about particularly dangerous people who may cross his path (v.14), displays staggering spiritual maturity (v.16), and shows that as he neared the end of his life he knew from where his help came (vv.17-18, cf. Psalm 121). Even with death so close, even with his surroundings so dire, Paul still has a heart for people and desperately wants to see his friend one more time (vv.20-21). 

On the last words that Paul wrote, David Guzik comments,

The last words of Paul reflect a man who simply loved Jesus and had received His grace.

This simplicity, and all the power that went with it, marked the entire ministry of Paul.

Is that something that could be said of us?

Are we people who simply love Jesus and have received His grace?

Does this mark our lives? 

Paul was held here, in the Mamertine Prison, amid bleak and dreary surroundings.


Despite this, he still had a heart for others and a steadfast and sure anchor to hold on to, the eternal hope found in Jesus. The last words he wrote to Timothy, possibly ever, show us the heart of the man, and the heart to which we must strive today.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Spiritual Depression – Men As Trees, Walking – Mark 8

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones has said multiple times so far in our mini-series that ‘it is sad and tragic that a Christian should ever be miserable‘, and he stated that some are miserable because they do not know they are justified before God purely by faith, requiring nothing but belief on their part. Today he offers up problems and remedies for two groups of people.

The first is the person who unhappy with who they are. They are unhappy with the world, themselves, themselves in the world, and often despair over the ‘hand life dealt them‘, as they may say. They have seen the problem with the world, but not the hope of believing in Jesus. They have asked no-one for help, and are not likely to.

Others see the ‘excellencies of the Christian life‘, and wholeheartedly exhort others to live the kind of life that Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount. They know they cannot save themselves from the consequences of sin, but have not yet fully understood justification by faith, and this tension is difficult for them. They have asked to be healed of their blindness (vv.22-23), but have not yet said that things are not all that clear right now (v.24).

Lloyd-Jones offers the remedy in simple form;

  1. Learn and understand the principles and doctrines of the matter at hand.
  2. Fully engage the heart and mind to the matter at hand.
  3. Commit your will to the matter at hand.

The teaching of the full counsel of God’s Word, properly understood, taken to heart, and allowed to influence our will, over time, will remedy both the hopeless and the tense.

Seeing ourselves for who we truly are and seeing Jesus for who He truly is, seeing what we can and can’t do and seeing what Jesus has done, and understanding the teaching of Scripture on how we are saved will take away the hopelessness from the hopeless, and will take away the tension from the tense.

If we don’t understand the teachings and the doctrines instantly, that’s ok, but find someone in your life that you trust to walk you through it all, reach out to them, and ask.

We don’t want to see a world full of trees walking around, we want to live our lives with the clarity that comes from being honest with ourselves, with the Lord, with those around us, and asking for more.

Lloyd-Jones writes this,

Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all He did on earth, that He died on a cross and was buried and rose again, that He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible. He came that we might see clearly, that we might know God…

…If you are unhappy about yourself as a result [of being honest with yourself], come to Him, come to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, ask Him…and He will do it, and you will no longer be an uncertain Christian seeing and not seeing.

Amos 8.1-6 – Summer fruit

Today we see the Lord give Amos a vision of summer fruit, which Amos confirms (vv.1-2). This might not seem like a particularly bad thing for us, but we should remember that the Bible was not written in modern English. In the original Hebrew ‘summer fruit’ and ‘end’ sound alike, so this would have been a much more powerful illustration.

The point of the passage is that ripe fruit is thrown out, fruit at the end of it’s consumable life is not kept around (v.3). You know, don’t you, that when you reach for the fruit bowl and grab something that is all brown and mushy the only place you’re taking it is the bin. This, in principle, is what is happening here.

Through social injustice (v.4), outwardly keeping religious festivals with no inward commitment (v.5), falsifying measures (v.5), giving wrong change (v.5), oppressing the poor (v.6), and selling faulty goods (v.6), God’s people have, in essence, become bad summer fruit.

For us, as well as the specific examples given here in this passage, what can we take care of in our own lives to prevent ourselves becoming soft, mushy, and ready for the bin? The outward appearance of religious adherence and piety may fool some, but, God always knows what is really going on in the heart (v.5a, 1 Samuel 16.7).

It’s a big question with even bigger ramifications, but one that we should care about each and every day.

Point to ponder – Luke 10.25-28

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying,

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him,

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him,

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Amos 4.4-5 – The heart of worship

Today God speaks through Amos and brings judgement against the worship and sacrifices being offered by Israel.

4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress;

to Gilgal, and multiply transgression;

bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days;

5 offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;

for so you love to do, O people of Israel!”

declares the Lord GOD.

It seems that Israel was going to places to worship that were simply not meant to be places of worship. David Guzik writes,

“Because the kings of Israel did not want their people to go to the southern kingdom of Judah and sacrifice at Jerusalem, they set up rival centers of worship in cities like Bethel and Gilgal. They offered sacrifices at these places – supposedly to the LORD – but because the offering wasn’t made in obedience to God, it was only a transgression.”

So even though people are – supposedly – worshiping God, it is not in the place God has decreed and therefore it is a transgression. God through Amos goes on to say that the people love to do this, so this worship that God has not declared may be a transgression in His eyes, but the people love it.

Now, we are of course past the time where God’s presence is intensely localised to the temple in Jerusalem, the temple is no longer the focal point of Christian worship after the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus (2 Corinthians 6.14-18, Ephesians 2.11-22), but is it possible to still offer what we see as pleasing and satisfying worship to God that is actually a transgression in His eyes? Is it possible to offer worship that we love, but that God does not?

The crux of the matter is the heart, for us.

Do we worship with mouth but not heart?

Do we worship when we feel like it, or because God deserves it?

Do we go through the motions when we offer collective and sung worship to God?

Is worship something we do once a week when gathered together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, or is worship a lifestyle choice that we have made?

We often pray at Saar Fellowship that all we do brings glory to God; a life of worship that comes from a heart of worship. We are made to give it, He deserves to receive it.

The heart of worship, then, is obedience; giving God what He is due, in the manner that He has told and shown us. The heart of worship is thanksgiving to God, praising God, glorifying God.

The heart of worship begins with obedience, if we get that right, all else will follow.