Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

1 Corinthians Day 32 - Such Were Some of You

6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

There are two things I noted from this passage.

The first is that in Paul’s list of sins that will not exist in God's kingdom, four of them are directly related to sexuality. There is a reason for this. Sexual sin was the single greatest issue in Corinth at large and by default in the church at Corinth. It is a tragic and destructive thing when something that is beautiful becomes twisted into a self-gratification addiction that does not care about anything or anyone other than fulfilling it's lusts. A healthy person is in full control all the time. A sick/broken person is a slave to their own body. It was never God's design nor intention that we become slaves of any kind. Food was and is to be enjoyed but never to be our master. Healthy sexuality is a beautiful and enjoyable expression of love. It was never meant to turn other humans into things to be used for pleasure and then tossed aside. Slavery of any kind will not exist in heaven. 

Notice that Paul says "Don't be deceived." Deception is when we are doing wrong believing we are doing right. Sin has become so common that it is considered normal. In Corinth sex was sport and that was normal. Today that same pattern is returning and with it we are seeing a rapid decline in quality healthy relationships. We can't treat each other as instruments of our own pleasure and have healthy relationships built on trust and mutual respect and admiration at the same time.

The reason why Paul was so adamant that the guy sleeping with his father's wife be put out of the church was because he was deceived. He was living a lie thinking it was fine and the church was enabling him by doing nothing about it. How would he ever have the chance to experience the joy of freedom if he was supported in thinking bondage to sin was normal? 

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The second thing and the more important thing that jumps off the page is that when Paul finished listing off the various ways sin holds us in slavery he said "and such were some of you but you were washed..."

There were some in the church in Corinth who had experienced the transformation from slavery to freedom. They had been in bondage to their desires and now they weren't. I too have experienced freedom from bondage. It's the reason I speak so boldly about it. It's not to condemn or criticize. I have been there. I am no better than anyone else. Paul knew the bondage too. That’s why he referred to himself as the chief of sinners. He had no moral high ground to stand on. Those who are free have no desire to look down on those who aren't. We just want them to know they aren't doomed to stay where they are or as they are. There is freedom in Jesus. Freedom from blind rage. Freedom from pride, prejudice, and hatred. Freedom from greed. Freedom from lust. Freedom from every sickness that seeks to make us slaves trapped in a broken body run by a sick mind. 

The demoniac in the tombs of Decapolis was so buried in sin that when he opened his mouth to ask Jesus for help only the voices of the demons that inhabited his body spoke. Yet Jesus saw past all that. He read his heart. He knew that man desired freedom and he gave it to him. He will do the same for you. I know because he did it for me.

"Such were some of you..."

May every sin that seeks to take us captive become a memory. May we invite Jesus to wash us too.

Monday, 30 January 2017

1 Corinthians Day 31 - When Winning is Losing

6:7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?

In the midst of Paul addressing the issue of those in the church at Corinth suing each other he made this statement followed by two questions. Today we are going to explore this in more detail.

I had to look up the Greek for 'utter failure' just to see what it said. The translators nailed it perfectly. The original is two words, the first meaning altogether, wholly, complete and the second meaning defeat. Ironic isn't it? They are going to court to see who will win and Paul tells them they are completely defeated just by the fact it ever got that far. 

Have you ever listened to an argument from a neutral position and realized in spite of all the noise and heat both are in the wrong just for allowing the "discussion" to get that far? Ever been in one of those arguments? 

What causes them? What drives two people who are supposed to be on the same "team" (the body of Christ) to end up in court against each other? Pride and selfishness. "But I can't let them walk all over me!" Paul heard that argument before you ever spoke it and asked "Wouldn't it be better just to take the loss and be cheated?" Notice Paul's argument is not a justice argument. He is not saying to go home because you have no legitimate case. He is not saying you were not wronged. He is saying don't make the situation worse.

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Think about it. We are followers of Christ. We are followers of the One who never defended Himself. We are followers of the One never spent a day or an hour plotting how He could "get back at" or even hoe He could "get ahead". Every day He spent Himself for others. Every day He looked for ways to help others look Higher. Every day He tried by any means possible to make His Father known. 

Is it always possible to avoid court? No. Jesus found Himself on trial in the courts of Pilate and Herod. He did not hire a lawyer. He did not even defend Himself. He had the resources to escape the entire situation in dramatic fashion. He could have called ten thousand angels when only one would have been enough. He did not. "As a lamb before it's shearers is silent so He opened not His mouth." Why? His own disciples tried to fight for Him in Gethsemane but He made them put their swords away. Why? Because saving Himself is not why He came.

We are followers of Jesus. Winning is not what we are about. Self-defense is not what we are about. We can and must fight for justice for others but never for ourselves. Better to be wronged than to win a court case. Love awakens love. Fighting for self awakens selfishness in them and in us. 

Just heading down the road of self anything is utter failure no matter how the struggle ends. Be careful the battles you wage. Often winning is losing. Remember always Who your Master is and follow Him.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

1 Corinthians Day 30 - The Violation of Love

6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

First we found out the Church in Corinth was fracturing based on their favourite preacher/teacher. Then we found out someone in the church was having sex with his father’s wife. Now we're finding out that the members are cheating each other and suing each other over it. I left the entire story complete rather than break it up so you could see the entire counsel from Paul in one reading.

Some have written to me regarding my blogs on 1 Corinthians saying it sounds like we are saved no matter what we do. Clearly if there was any confusion over that it has been removed now. Paul again declares that they were sanctified and washed and justified yet warns that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom. Why warn them if their future with God is guaranteed? Our relationship with God is like a marriage. We don't get married because we are perfect or found someone perfect. Marriage is based on love and commitment. Marriages don't automatically end when mistakes are made or less than love is shown to the other person. A marriage without grace and forgiveness will soon become toxic and eventually disintegrate. It is also true that a marriage will not survive in which one or both people consistently violate the commitment made to each other. Ironically most marriage breakups that I have observed happened not as a result of some awful violation of the marriage vows but by relentless neglect over a long period of time until the two were strangers to each other. If you study all the Bible passages where professed believers are turned away by God His reason for their rejection is always the same: "I never knew you..."

How can church members who love Jesus and love each other cheat one another and sue each other? It's not possible. Paul offers a solution to the whole mess. "Wouldn't it be better to be cheated than to sue?" Isn't that what Jesus would do? Isn't that exactly what He did do? Like a marriage vow Peter promised he would never forsake Jesus. Like a cheating spouse he turned that vow inside out and upside down. Jesus had every reasonable right to end their relationship. In fact He didn't need to end it. Peter already did that.

We know what happened though. Jesus forgave him. Jesus restored the relationship and Peter went on to truly "never forsake Him." Love awakens love. We love God because He first loved us.

People cheat and steal because they love themselves more than anyone else. Their victims retaliate or sue because they too love themselves more than they love the one who hurt them. In such a cycle how will the hurting stop. Where is the love that will awaken love?

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Judas was loved by Jesus too. Jesus stooped to wash his feet knowing those same feet would carry him to the priests where he would sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Judas was moved by what Jesus did. Love awakened love. Judas was washed, sanctified, and justified but he chose to push that love away. He held to his plan. We know the rest.

There is no such thing as a relationship that can't be destroyed. What is true is that Jesus will never be the One that pulls the plug. Never. He will take our abuse. He will not sue. He will not write divorce papers. What will happen is that eventually we will become so hardened that we won't talk to Him. We won't return His calls. We won't even hear His voice. We will choose self over our relationship with Him to the point that there is no love left to awaken in us. 

"I never knew you..."

The 4 saddest words in Scripture.

1 Corinthians Day 29 – Tough Love

5:9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

We struggle with tough love. Some would even say it isn't love but God says it is. God says "Those I love I rebuke and correct."

Paul's counsel regarding this man who is having sex with his father’s wife is to put him out of the church and have no relationship with him. Can that be right? It is critically important to understand that this treatment is unique to a person who is in the body of Christ and professes to be a full brother. This does not apply to someone coming into the faith or not in a relationship with Christ of any kind. 

Because it seems so harsh we must ask if there is any evidence from Jesus Himself that such a course of action is wise. Consider the prodigal son. He was home. He was a full brother. However he well knew he couldn't be home while behaving as a hellian. A hospital is a place of healing not a place to celebrate disease. The father loved his son. He did not want him to go but he knew if he was to ever have him back as a son who was happy to be home he must let him go. The separation was absolute. Did the father weep and pray for his wayward son? Of course! But what he did not do was permit him to live as a hellian at home or pursue him to the far country. why is this course of action necessary and safe? Because the son knows everything he needs to know. He already knows his father's love. He knows where Home is. He knows the way. The only thing that son was missing was a deep appreciation for how much better Home was than anywhere else. The only way he was going to figure that out was to lose what he had and replace it with something that could never equal it.

That’s what Paul meant when he said earlier to hand him over to Satan so that in the end his spirit may be saved in the Day of Christ. It worked with the prodigal son. He came to his senses. He remembered the heart and home of his father and he returned. 

Love does what is necessary, not what is easy. Love works for the end goal, rather than living in the moment. Love is tough. Tough love is excruciating. Love has boundaries. It must. The line between sin and wholeness must be clearly drawn. Adam and Eve were loved but they were also put out of their home. We can't only follow Jesus when it suits us. We must follow Him in all ways if we are to be truly His and have the same impact He had on those who truly want healing. 

God does not rebuke and correct because He is mean or cold. He does it because He knows it is critically necessary. He does it because "God is love."

Friday, 27 January 2017

1 Corinthians Day 28 - Can the News Be That Good?

5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Few if any of us appreciate/understand/believe how complete and powerful the Good News is. We have an idea that God loves us and we think/hope/believe He has forgiven our past sins but we struggle with the present. We look at what we are and what we are not and question our position. We play all kinds of mind games to compensate for what we think we should be but know we are not. All of this uncertainty, doubt and confusion is evidence that we don't understand.

When a person chooses Jesus there is no middle ground, no ladder to climb, no goal to be achieved. The thief on the cross died the same man he was when he was put on the cross. There was no character development. There was no opportunity to right wrongs. All that happened was he made a choice. He chose to place himself in Jesus. He will rise from the grave at the return of Jesus the exact same man he was when he died. In his robe of perfect righteousness there will be not one thread of human devising. He will be declared righteous in spite of his woeful condition because of everything Jesus did.

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Did you catch what Paul said in the midst of his admonition against the church people in Corinth? He declared "you are unleavened." Actually he said "you truly are unleavened." Unleavened means without sin. Paul, in the middle of correcting them for their very poor and wrong decision to allow gross sexual immorality to pass unchecked stops and reminds them of who they are. They are the sinless ones. 

Why does he do that?! How can it be true? Is Paul delusional? Is he teaching cheap grace? First let me say with all the passion I can muster that grace is not cheap. Follow the life of Jesus from first to last and you will quickly recover from any false notion that grace is cheap.

Paul is telling the truth. Any person who puts their trust in Jesus and chooses Him as their Lord and Saviour is sinless. They are declared righteous. "Abraham believed and it was counted as righteousness" even though in his day to day living he was far from spotless. The confusion that exists in humanity and especially in religion is because of the false idea that our standing before God is rooted in our goodness, in our performance.

What Paul is doing is trying to remind them of who they truly are. It is the knowledge of our grace given standing before God that feeds our recovery in the here and now. We are not lost pawns in the hands of Satan doomed to his slavery. We are rescued children of a Father who loves us relentlessly. We are princes and princesses. We are of inestimable value for we were bought with a price that can't be measured. Our problem is not that we sin. Our problem is that we don't know who we are and how Good the Good News is. 

The clash of the two realities really messes with our brains. We know the present reality of all that that we are and are not but struggle to look higher. The moment you chose Jesus He declared: "I tell you the truth today, you will be with Me in paradise." Your standing before God was instant. Growing into that reality is a process but that has nothing to do with the truth that we are His from the first moment we choose Him. 

Unleavened. Messed up and tripping all over ourselves but unleavened. The only way to be lost is to turn from Him and follow Him no more. That’s the truth and I didn't write the Book.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

1 Corinthians Day 27 - Three Kinds of Religion

5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Yesterday we read that Paul had to Co front serious sin in the church in Corinth head on. Today we find out that not only were they not dealing with the situation but they were proud of it. The word translated "glorying" is literally "to boast". So what were they boasting about? The fact a man was having sex with his mother or stepmother? Not exactly. They were boasting in their twisted version of the gospel. They believed their ability to tolerate and forgive such a serious sin was a credit to them. It's even possible they were sincere but sincerely wrong is still wrong.

The theme of leaven representing sin runs through the entire Bible. It's an effective illustration because leaven (yeast) is tiny but has a big impact. It affects everything it mixes with. When a loaf of bread is baked you can't see the yeast but you sure can see the effects. One sin can change the course of history. One sin can destroy a home. One sin can forever alter the course of a person's life. Reputations are destroyed often by one wrong act. However that's not the greatest impact sin has. The greatest impact sin has is in drawing in others to join and eventually what was once seen as sin is seen as normal yet the negative effects are not lessened. Take relationships for example. Marriage was once sacred. Living together and sleeping around before marriage and divorce being a ready option if things did not work were all considered taboo. Now there is 'freedom'. Sex before marriage with multiple people is normal. Living together before marriage is normal. Divorce is common and the divorce rate keeps rising. Is all this 'freedom' and normalizing of sin making us happier? Are we achieving better and more satisfying relationships? Quite to the contrary. In the 1960's Oxford University controversially recommended living together before marriage to ensure compatibility. It seemed logical even if previously taboo. They then began a (decades long) long term study tracking couples who lived together and who did not live together before marriage. When the study ended they reversed their recommendation. The divorce rate for couples who lived together before marriage was significantly higher contrary to their logical theory. 

Sin spreads. We mimic what is happening around us. Paul knew this. He knew if the situation in Corinth was not dealt with the next generation would grow up thinking such behavior was not only permitted but normal. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Now the real question is how did they come to the point that they were proud of how they handled the situation by just letting it continue? The answer is easy. 

There are basically three kinds of religion. The first is the kind the Jews were practicing at the time. A religion laden with rules where all sin is condemned in the light but vile sins are committed in the dark. This religion is heavy on rules and hypocrisy and empty of love and compassion. Such religion creates a deep emptiness in people. They are laden with guilt and fear and longing for release. When they hear about forgiveness and compassion and grace it's like finding water in the desert. The pendulum swings from rigid law based authoritarian religion to grace based chaos. Instead of punishing everyone for everything and laying the guilt on thick as molasses, nothing is punished or dealt with. Any kind of correction becomes seen us judgemental and cruel and "old school bad".

Did you notice Paul named both of these and then painted a third option?

8 Therefore let us keep the feast(gospel/good news), not with old leaven(the Jewish way), nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness(the Corinthian way), but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth(the Jesus way).

We are prone to extremes. We replace one evil for another. I hear old school parents talk about how when they were kids and the teacher reported their behaviour to their parents they got the belt twice and their parents never questioned the teacher. This sometimes lead to teachers abusing power and getting innocent kids in trouble. That was not right. Yet today the pendulum has swung. Teachers can't discipline students and if they talk to the parents the parents automatically blame the teacher. That isn't right either.

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Paul's third option is the right way but boy it's rare. God's forgiveness and grace and unconditional love are not a curtain behind which we can go on sinning with reckless abandon. The church is a hospital for sinners but hospitals are for healing not celebrating disease. The old Jewish demanded that no one be sick or at least fake being well or else. The Corinthian way said "Come as you are and stay as you are. It's ok."

But sin is not ok. It was never ok. It will never be ok. It destroys people just like untreated diseases do. The church should be a safe place where sinners experience love and a safe place to heal but heal they must. If there is no desire or intention to heal than the church is not the place for them.

We must create safe churches built on sincerity and truth where sin is called sin but sinners are welcome to come and begin experiencing the benefits of tossing yeast to the curb. 

1 Corinthians Day 26 - Handed Over to Satan?

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Much head scratching has been caused by this passage and much ink spilled as well. In 2 Peter chapter 3, Peter writes that Paul wrote many things difficult to understand which unlearned and unstable men twist to their own destruction.

That's exactly what was happening in Corinth. Men were twisting the words of their former teachers into teachings that allowed them to commit sins even the society at large would not commit. How did they do it? Quite easily actually but we'll get into that more tomorrow. For today we need to wrestle with Paul’s counsel. He tells them not only should they not be permitting this behaviour but they should hand the guy over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. If he ended there it would seem extremely harsh and we might conclude sadly necessary at best. However Paul doesn't end there. He ends with "so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

So whatever we take from this advice it must be said that the punishment is designed to be restorative. All Godly punishments are. It's a reality we seem to struggle with more and more. We increasingly seem to see love as never punishing and always showing mercy while punishment is seen as revenge. This does not jive with Jesus declaring "Those I love I rebuke and correct."

Before I continue I want you to note that Peter says it is unlearned and unstable men that twist Paul's words. Unlearned because they don't take the time to become familiar with the terms Paul uses and interpret them according to their own views. Paul often uses the terms flesh and spirit. These word are often interpreted body and soul by unlearned men but that is not how Paul uses these words. Flesh refers to the desires we have that are completely out of harmony with God’s character, desires like lust, greed, power, etc... Spirit refers to that part of us that wants to serve God and do right. 

What Paul is saying is pretty clear and simple actually. By not "punishing" this man for having sex with his mother or stepmother (we aren't told which) it allows for him and others to grow into the idea that it isn't such a big deal. How often do you hear people justifying their behaviour by saying "well so and so does it." By putting the man out of the church he would be forced to wrestle with, process, and hopefully confront how evil his choices are. Leaving him with the cosequences of his actions rather than shielding him from them is the best possible way of rescuing him from his twisted desires. 

When King David killed his loyal soldier Uriah and stole his wife God could have "patted him on the back" and left the impression it was ok. Instead He sent the prophet Nathan to confront David and it lead to his realization of how wrong it was and he became truly sorry. 

That's what Paul meant by telling them to hand him over to Satan. Let him live his bad choices outside the body of believers. Don't allow him or anyone else get the twisted impression that we can live like devils while safe in the grace of Christ. The rebuke will force him to make an eternal choice "that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus."

We'll continue tomorrow...

1 Corinthians Day 25 - It's Tough to Love Rebels

4:18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 21 What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?

Ah the impossible position of dealing with those who are in error. In traffic a guy will cut you off and then give the one finger salute as if you are to blame. a cheating spouse will constantly accuse the faithful one of cheating. Satan is the liar yet accuses God of being the liar. 

How do you discipline a person in rebellion? If you show mercy they get more emboldened. If you don't show mercy you are accused of being a tyrant. The two great accusations against God are that He doesn't fox the mess the world is in yet for the times in history when He did step in He is accused of being a tyrant, a genocidal maniac. 

Paul loves the church in Corinth. That love will not allow him to sit by quietly while the church destroys itself through infighting. First he states the truth. In Christ they are saints. In Christ they perfect. However that miracle grace does not erase who they are in the present world. Behind the curtain of His perfect grace there is a work or restoration taking place. Satan is doing everything he can to stop it. Every victory for him is a step closer to believers giving up and returning to the Christless life they lived before.

Ironically the root of all sin is our lack of trust that God sees us as perfect and will heal us inside until we match His picture of us. Some of that healing will occur here. Some may not be completed until we eat from the tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.

When we don't trust we start meddling. You know we do. We say we believe the score was added up correctly but we take the sheet and double check. We say we trust our friend but we listen in on coversations or read things we would feel no need to read if we really did trust. People are not trustworthy. Sometimes the score is wrong and sometimes friends lie but not Jesus. He said he would come and He did. He said kingdoms would rise and fall in a particular order and they did. He said Judas was the betrayer and he was. He said he would both die and rise and He did. Jesus is faithful. Never has a promise been broken. When He says that in Him we are saints and perfect He is not lying. No meddling will improve upon it. Quite the opposite actually. Rules we invent to become more holy end up becoming what we worship and Christ is forgotten. 

Now back to Paul. Love demands he do something to address the mess in Corinth. Tough love will make some accuse him of being a bully or a tyrant. Gentleness will be interpreted as weakness.

In the words of Paul I see the dilemma of Jesus. "Some of you think I'm not coming but I am. Would you like Me to come with a rod or in love and a spirit of gentleness? 

The sun melts butter but hardens clay. The sun is the same. It never changes. The variance is with us. Will we be butter and melt into His saving grace or harden against Him and seek to save ourselves with our meddling? 

1 Corinthians Day 24 - Don't Be A Fool

4:I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

I'm glad to know exaggeration is not a sin. If it were I would be in trouble and my son moreso. Paul is exaggerating to make a point. The church in Corinth has become a hotbed of arguing and division. Everyone is an expert and everyone knows the "right way". Paul draws on that and says "You may have ten thousand instructors but you don't have many fathers."

What is his point? There is a great difference between an instructor and a father. Both teach but a father would die for his son. Paul "gave birth" to the church in Corinth. He carries them on His heart. The letter we are reading is proof of that. He doesn't just love them enough to write a letter. He loves them enough to tell them what they need to hear but probably don't want to hear.

It takes deep commitment to the well being of another person to look them in the eye and confront them on something. Jesus said "Those I love I rebuke and correct." Love that does not correct when necessary is not love at all. Correction that is done in anger or with belittling or shaming is not love either. But when someone you know loves you cares enough to try and steer you from a disaster of your own making even at the risk of bringing your anger against themselves, that is love. If you have even one such person in your life you are wealthy. Don't be a fool and push them away...

Paul went a step further. He couldn't come to Corinth himself so he did the next best thing. He sent his prize pupil Timothy to minister to them on his behalf. It was a risky move. It could have been a disaster for young Timothy and further divided an already divided church. Those who loved Paul may have lined up behind him and those who loved Apollos or Peter may have fought him at every step. There was no way to know. What we do know is that love takes risks because doing something that may not work is better than doing nothing. Love is action. Love never sits by or ignores a problem. 

Again if you are blessed to have even one person in your life who will look you in the eye and tell you what you need to hear you are rich. Don't be a fool and block your ears or worse, push them away. 

"Forgive them Father, they know not what they do."

Sunday, 22 January 2017

1 Corinthians Day 23 - Quite the Contrast

4:8 Now you are full, now you are rich, you have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God you did reign, that we also might reign with you.

9 For I think that God has set forth we the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.

10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we are despised.

11 Even to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place;

12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things to this day.

Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes you have to tell it like it is to wake a person from their delusion. Jesus did it. He called the religious leaders of his day vipers, blind, hypocrites and other unflattering things. He didn't do it to be mean. He didn't do it because he hated them. The same lips said "Love your enemies" and also "Those I love I rebuke and chasten."

When love must be tough it is still love. Love that wasn't tough wouldn't be love, it would be apathy or worse. When I refuse to tell you the truth about yourself so that you will think well of me or to avoid conflict that is not love for you but love for myself.

When Paul speaks of wealth he is not talking about money. Money was never part of the discussion. They are rich in their ideas and opinions of themselves. Ideas which have kept them warm and secure while Paul is out on for front lines of ministry with the other apostles. False religion is like that. It's long on meaningless rules that may curb your wardrobe or diet a little but in the end cost you very little. False religion is self-absorbed and has no time for the legitimate needs of the world. When the money hungry and power hungry are as at home in the church as they are in the world something is wrong. When the cost to follow a Saviour who gave everything including His life costs relatively nothing something is wrong with that religion. 

Paul is contrasting his walk with Christ with theirs. He has nothing and most people think him nothing. He is in and out of prison and hated by many. They in Corinth claim to be following the same Jesus yet have found a way to be just fine. The greatest enemy they have is each other as they try and argue themselves into a religion that is called Christianity but doesn't involve following Christ at all.

Image result for martin luther 95 theses door

This year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. It happened in an era when most couldn't read. I had the privilege of going to that church and touring the key places of the reformation a few years back. One thing that struck me was that church art became popular so people could see the Story without being able to read.

One painting I'll never forget had two sides. One side was Jesus and His disciples walking a dusty road. Were it not for the halo over Jesus head you wouldn't even have known which plain clothed bearded man He was. Opposite this picture was a picture of the pope riding in an elaborate chariot with guards and attendees in front and in back of him. No words were necessary. 

One of these things is not like the other and one thing is certain. All division, all heresy, all corruption and all bad religion begins when we take our eyes off the humble carpenter from Galilee who lived to give. End of story.

1 Corinthians Day 22 - Humility

4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

If there is one quality we lack as individuals it is humility. We have a perspective which in itself is not wrong but it quickly becomes wrong when we conclude our perspective is the only correct perspective and then proceed to demand that everyone see things as we see them and do things as we do them.

Paul yesterday spoke about humility even though he never used the word. He said he had a view or judgment of himself but knew it was meaningless. That requires humility. It takes a humble heart to consider the very real possibility that my view may be warped or flat out wrong. 

Today Paul is telling us that he has applied this truth to himself and Apollos. Why would he need to do that? Because they don't always agree. They differences of opinion and perspective. An arrogant heart would quickly assume that "I am right and he is wrong" and a fight would ensue to ensure my opinion gains the supremacy.

What Paul is saying very clearly is: "You don't see Apollos and I fighting over our minor differences so why are you? Everything you learned you learned from us and we're not divided so why are you? We don't boast so why do you? We don't fight for the supremacy so why do you? Why are you taking what we have written and adding to it? Why don't you take the same humble approach we have toward each other and toward the minor issues which are not the Foundation? Why are you acting like the teacher when you were the students? 

Humility. God chose Moses because he was the most humble man. 

This quote is from Proverbs 6:16 

These six things the Lord hates,

Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

17 A proud look,

A lying tongue,

Hands that shed innocent blood,

18 A heart that devises wicked plans,

Feet that are swift in running to evil,

19 A false witness who speaks lies,

And one who sows discord among brethren.

Evil starts with pride and the rest follows. The antidote is humility. Humility is found in looking to Jesus rather than looking inward or around us. How can I look at the cross with my Saviour dying while even His best have turned from Him and feel an ounce of pride?

Humility leads to love and love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Corinthians Day 21 - Trust is Huge

4:1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

New chapter but never forget the original letter had no chapters. Chapters and verses were added later to simplify navigating the Scriptures. This is important to always remember when reading the Bible because our minds tell us that a new chapter is a new topic or a change in focus but this is not so. Paul is still dealing with the problem of divisions caused by hero worship in Corinth. Yesterday we saw the need for having an independent mind that doesn't elevate other people to places they shouldn't be. Jesus is our hero. We are all equals. As such I can be taught by others but then I am responsible to evaluate that teaching and make my own decisions.

Paul continues on that theme with the counsel that he and Apollos etc... should be considered servants of Christ rather than masters of men. They have a role but it is not an elevated one. Then he writes some very wise words that at first glance seem quite arrogant.

He says he considers the judgment of others about him, be it individuals or even a court to be rather meaningless. He is not speaking theoretically either. He has been judged by men and by courts more than once. However he goes on to explain what he means. He says he doesn't even put much stock in his own evaluation of himself. 

Why? Because he's just a man. In his chest beats a deceptive heart. His mind is prone to distorted thinking. His eyes don't always see clearly or his ears hear with accurate discernment. He thinks himself innocent by his own evaluation but recognizes that means very little.

Think about it. If we can't trust ourselves, and we can't, how can we safely make heroes of others? Is it not possible that we are multiplying the likelihood of being deceived by elevating others and making them and their views more prominent than we should? Adam and Eve were deceived by putting their trust in the wrong place. Many have followed in their footsteps. Some have invested money with financial gurus and lost everything. Some of put their spiritual lives in the hands of others and ended up drinking kool-aid laced with cyanide. It was from Jim Jones and his hero worshipping followers that we got the expression "Don't drink the kool-aid".

Trust is huge. Be very guarded about where you invest your trust. Paul had a healthy view of himself and his fellow men. He knew we are all flawed to the point our own minds can trick us.

Trust God and you will never be lead astray. Blindly trust those who claim to speak for Him and you could quickly be in a world of hurt.

So what does Paul mean by saying "Judge nothing before the time"? Let's say your favourite pastor/teacher says everyone should live in the country well outside the cities. You agree and make the choice to move. Others, both pastors and fellow believers who are not pastors don't make the same choice. Internally you wonder why they are ignoring this wise counsel. You begin to judge them within yourself. You begin to see them as 2nd class Christians. You may even get a little prideful about how wise you were to move. You may even get to the place in your head where you think they are not really Christians at all. 

Paul says don't ever go there. Don't judge anything before the time. It's entirely possible that the same God who impressed you to live in the country had a purpose and a calling in placing others in the cities. Look at John the Baptist and Jesus. Their approach to ministry and lifestyle were nearly opposite yet Jesus said no man ever born to a woman was greater than John the Baptist. Cookie cutter religion is not Biblical. We are the body of Christ. We will each have an assignment from God. Those assignments may be vastly different. Don't judge until the time. All will be revealed. Trust God. Follow Him where he leads you. Leave the rest to Him.