Putting God's Word into Practice…

1 Corinthians 5 ~ Sin in the Church

This chapter starts off referring to a specific, blatant act of sexual immorality (a man living with his step-mother) and moves on to deal with anyone living a lifestyle of sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, verbal abuse, addiction or swindling.

Paul was horrified by what he heard about the church in Corinth, but they were still boasting in their knowledge and tolerating sin in their midst.  Does sin in our church cause us to mourn or do we ignore it–worse yet, tolerate it.  In our culture those who don’t physically partake in sexual immorality probably at least allow themselves to be entertained by it!  It should break our hearts.

When Paul writes about handling those who say they are Christians, but choose to live a lifestyle of self-indulgence he uses phrases like: remove from among you, deliver over to Satan, cleanse out, don’t associate with, don’t even eat with, and purge the evil person from among you.  What would it look like if God’s church took sexual immorality seriously?  Maybe we would look like heartless fools in the world’s eyes, but we would be pure in the eyes of the Holy One–who purchased us with the blood of His Son.

Those who call themselves believers yet are enslaved to sinful behaviors should cause us to mourn.  We need to point them to Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf (7).  A clear picture of Christ’s sacrifice should remind us to desire purity and truth and to not allow His sacrifice to be tarnished with unholy tolerance.

Our fear of the Lord, our desire for the church to be a pure, spotless bride for Jesus, and our love for His name and glory should give us the courage and confidence to turn people over to their own devices if they prefer to live for themselves than for the Lord.  (That’s what God does in Romans 1.) We don’t do this with haste or joy, but with sorrow and in sincere hope that it will lead them to a place where they will be broken before the Lord and want to reconcile with Him and be restore back into the family of God.

How does my heart feel about sin?  Is there any area of my life where I am choosing to indulge myself sinfully?  Lord, if so, show me and help me surrender it to you.

Leave a comment »

1 Corinthians 4 ~ True Servant Leadership

At first read, I didn’t think there was enough in this chapter to speak to me.  How quickly I forget that every word in the Bible is inspired by God an profitable!  When I think about the Apostle Paul, I would more directly correlate his ministry to that of a current day pastor–wholly separate from a women’s Bible study teacher.  In reality, anyone in any form of ministry can benefit from this chapter.

Good, godly leaders view themselves as servants of Christ and trustworthy stewards of the good news.  They are not puffed up–prideful about their call or the fact they’ve been entrusted with the “mysteries” of God.  They realize that all knowledge, power, wisdom and gifts are from God alone!  Prideful leaders merely talk about the kingdom of God.  Humble servants display the power of the kingdom of God!

Humble servants and stewards are willing to:

  • look foolish and weak
  • go without food and drink
  • dress poorly
  • be beaten for their beliefs
  • be homeless
  • do manual labor
  • bless critics
  • endure persecution
  • confront false accusations
  • be considered scum and garbage

That doesn’t sound like the modern church leader or television “pastors” that people follow in our culture.    Who would want to imitate a leader that lived like that?  Someone who understands the grace of God and the joy found in the gospel!  Do I want to imitate Paul, or would I rather take an easier route?  Am I a servant of God or of man?  Do I care more about my reputation than God’s glory?  Do I serve for man’s approval or for God’s commendation?  Am I willing to sacrifice personal comforts/willing to deny myself for the sake of being a trustworthy steward of the gospel?  Am I willing to be considered weak and foolish by the “natural man?”

Leave a comment »

1 Corinthians 3 ~ Holy Temple

In this chapter, Paul referred to the unified body of believers as God’s building (9), God’s holy temple (16, 17).  We are built on the solid foundation of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His powerful work through the cross and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.  That is our impenetrable, unshakeable foundation!  And then we allow people to start building on that foundation.  Those who build onto the foundation use either good, valuable materials with delicate, diligent, attentive, hard work; or they recklessly add cheap, unstable materials.  The work of the church will be tested and only the strong, pure, worthy work will remain.  Anyone who is called to build the church, and destroys it instead, will be destroyed by God.  That is serious business.  

Just this past week I read a blog and comments at http://www.truewoman.com/?id=2197 about the church and also had a lengthy conversation with some ladies about the church.  My heart was so broken by the damage that has been done to the body of Christ by unwise, lazy builders, and by “mature” believers who are breaking the church with their personal preferences–basing their attendance and “worship” on the name of the preacher or singer instead of on the head of the church–Jesus Christ!  God has given us two very clear pictures of the gospel–the church and marriage.  Both are increasingly under attack!

May it move us to pray for our pastors–that by God’s abundant grace He will make them skilled, master builders who willingly and joyfully take the time and effort to lay gold on the foundation of our churches.  And pray that God’s church will desire pure, beautiful truth built onto their foundation instead of cheap, easy, soft, light-weight components that will not last.

Leave a comment »

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 Spiritual Wisdom

God’s secret wisdom is not given out freely to anyone–but only to those who have His Spirit dwelling in them, who love Him and according to Proverbs, those who are willing to seek and cry out for it.  Those who are hungry for godly wisdom display spiritual maturity–they realize that wisdom apart from God is not wisdom at all.

In Romans 11:33-34a it says, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  HOw unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord’?”  The answer to that question is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit searches and understands.  AND WE HAVE RECEIVED THAT SPIRIT! so that we can understand the things of God and pass that wisdom along to other like-minded, Spirit-filled people.

People in their natural state–sinners separated from God–do not receive or accept God’s wisdom.  So don’t be surprised if when offered, it is rejected.  

After being reminded that Believers have received the Spirit of God, Paul concluded by saying, “We have the mind of Christ.”  Think about that for a minute….  How am I viewing and living my life, making my decisions, treating others?  Is it all flowing out of a mind that is like Christ’s? Philippians 2:5-8 says that we should have the mind of Christ.  It then goes on to describe what that looks like–being obedient to the Father and a humble, self-sacrificing servant of others.

Leave a comment »

1 Corinthians 1:10-2:5 Saints Together

In Paul’s greeting, he reminded the body of believers in Corinth that they were called to be saints together will all who call upon the name of Jesus.  In verse 10, Paul is appealing to them towards this end–using words like “all agree,” “no division,” “united,” “same mind,” and “same judgment.”  That’s just in one verse!  Paul’s desire was for a healthy body–united.  That was Jesus’ desire too.  In His prayer in John 17, He asked the Father to let us all be one with Him.

So what causes disunity in the body of Christ?  They quarreled over which teacher they followed. (Apparently they had superstar pastors, too.)  Most were choosing to align themselves with eloquent orators of worldly wisdom who were not centered on the power of the cross.  Also, in their pride, they forgot they were chosen by God, not on their own merit.  They thought themselves strong and wise failing to realize that true wisdom and strength only comes from God.

What will keep a body unified?  Focusing solely on Jesus will give unity and humility.  (I don’t believe there can ever be unity apart from humility.)  When we personally and corporately live and teach in such a way that Jesus and the cross is central, it sets the heart and mind of man on Him alone.  When we realize that we were chosen by God because we were weak and foolish and despised, it humbles us, so that our boasts are only in Him and His power to save.  I’ve heard it said, “The ground is level at the cross.”  All who are called to follow Jesus come in brokenness and surrender, realizing we have nothing to offer and forgiveness, wisdom, strength, righteousness, sanctification and redemption to gain.

Leave a comment »

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Introduction

This is probably my favorite day of any study–I love doing the research at the beginning of a book.  I love learning the cultural context!  This letter was written from Paul while he was in Ephesus to the church in Corinth.  Corinth was a true melting pot of ideas, people, religions, and gods because it was on a main trade route that included a seaport joining the Adriatic, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas.  One thing we know about trade routes and sea ports is that there is a lot of corruption, idolatry and sexual immorality.  The church in Corinth was starting to look too similar to the culture.   Sadly, that sounds all too familiar to the current condition of the American church.

In verse 1, Paul recognized that he was called into ministry by God’s will.  If it were up to Paul’s will, he would probably still be trying to kill Christians.  God has a beautiful way of dramatically changing life!

In the introduction alone, Paul gave several reminders to the believers in Corinth.

  1. Church of God…sanctified in Christ Jesus.  They have been set apart from the culture by God’s design. (2a)
  2. Saints together…They have been united with all believers in Christ Jesus. (2b)
  3. Paul thanked God for showing them grace, giving them knowledge and spiritual gifts.  Their salvation was only from God and His goodness–they did not earn and could not earn it. (4-7)
  4. God is faithful.  Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that God called them to Himself, and He alone WILL sustain them and hold them guiltless until they see Him face to face in Heaven. (8-9)

What a great reminder already not to conform to my culture.  That I have been set apart by God’s design and plan for His purposes.  I cannot be sanctified in and of myself, but it is only by Christ and God’s grace.  The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus!

Leave a comment »

Romans 16:1-16 Reputation; Romans 16:17-27 Final Words

Romans 16:1-16:  In Paul’s letter conclusion, he commended a long list of disciples and their families to the church in Rome.  They were worthy saints, fellow-workers for the gospel, servants of the Lord, faithful, prisoners for the gospel, life-riskers for the advancement of the gospel, beloved and chosen in the Lord for hard work.  It made me think that if someone from out of town was sending a friend to our church, would they list me as someone to greet as a faithful, hard-working, life-sacrificing member of the body?  Am I a worthy servant?  Am I giving my life away for the cause of Christ?

Romans 16:17-27:  Paul told the church in Rome to be on guard for fakers who cause division, who serve themselves (directly opposite of the people he just commended), who flatter and deceive.  He desired for them to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.  So many people today think that if we want to “relate to our culture” we need to be exposed to evil so we are familiar with the battle!  That is unwise and often an excuse to justify tampering with evil.  It opens a door for Satan to devour.  If we want to be wise about what is good, we need to look to the only wise God who is always good!  When we are close with Him, evil is more blatant and our desire to cling to good and flee from evil is stronger.  Someday this will all be over, there will be no evil, and Satan will be crushed; but for now we need strength–strength to live a discerning and obedient life.  God is able!  Verse 25 starts out by saying, “Now to Him who is able to strengthen you!”  Isn’t that a great promise!  He strengthens us by the gospel of Jesus.  As believers, we need the gospel every day.  It is our source of strength, a constant reminder that Jesus is sufficient and His grace is all we need.  That we are never alone in the battle!  That good wins!

Paul opened and closed his letter with the same theme–his desire for grace and God’s peace to overshadow his readers.  He also reminded them again (1:5, 16:26) that the purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was so ALL nations would receive grace and peace and it would bring about obedience of faith for His–the only wise God’s–great name and glory!

Am I living my life in such a way as to display the grace, peace and glory of God to all people?  Is my desire to obey God undergirded with gratitude for the gospel and covered by His grace?

Leave a comment »

Romans 15:14-29 Sacrifice; Romans 15:30-33 Prayer

Sacrifice:  Paul is extraordinarily humble about the work he has accomplished because he knows that it is only by Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  He has been faithful to proclaim the good news and to bring Gentiles into obedience to the Lord.  How did Paul do all that?  He lived his life as a living sacrifice while boldly calling others to live their lives as a living sacrifice–acceptable and holy to God.  His words and deeds matched and they were accompanied by signs and wonders from the Lord.  What did Paul sacrifice?  His need to get the good news out to unreached people groups hindered Paul from fulfilling his personal longing to visit Rome for many years.  Have I ever put something I longed for on hold for several years because the good news mattered more to me?  Is the gospel that important to me?  How often do I make personal sacrifice for the sake of the good news?

Paul makes one statement that is the prayer of my heart for my life.  In the second part of verse 19 it says, “I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.”  Lord, when my life is done, may I say that I have fulfilled all you planned for me in the work of the gospel of Jesus.

Prayer:  “I APPEAL to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to STIVE TOGETHER with me in your PRAYERS to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea…so that by GOD’S WILL I may come to you with joy…”  Remember from Acts 20-28 that Paul does get delivered from the unbelievers and arrives at Rome with joy (28:15).  But it is as a prisoner under house arrest through many dangers, toils and snares.  God answered their prayers according to His will.  It was probably not the way they imagined.  God’s ways are not our ways–they are much higher and greater!

Leave a comment »

Romans 15:1-13 Unity

In the first 7 verses, those who consider themselves strong in faith are commended to bear with those who are weak in faith, to build them up, and to welcome everyone as Christ welcomed us.  How did Christ welcome me?  Fully, unconditionally, lovingly, and patiently.

God gave us the Scripture to instruct us, and to give us endurance and encouragement–because God is the God of all endurance and encouragement.  Endurance and encouragement are required to build unity-not just any unity-but unity in Christ so that God receives glory.  Endurance and encouragement tears down walls built by legalism and liberties by keeping us focused on God and His mercy.

Christ was sent as a servant to Jews in order to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises that were made to the Jewish patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David), and to allow the Gentiles to give glory to God for His mercy.  God’s mercy through Jesus unites all who believe in hope. Because He kept His promise to send a Savior, we can trust all His promises!

In summary, God gives us endurance and encouragement to believe and have hope–all strength and weakness fall away uniting us under His mercy.  This causes God’s people to unite in singing, praising, extolling, rejoicing and glorifying Him.  When that is our focus, we will be filled with all joy and peace and will have more and more hope.  We will bear with others, serve others, build others up, and we will welcome them because we want them to see God’s glory and experience God’s mercy just as Jesus came to serve us and display His Father’s mercy and unite us under it.

Leave a comment »