Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What really rips us apart: selfish living.

 I Corinthians 8:But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothersand wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
The Corinthian church seemed to be masters of division: if there was a way they could offend one another, they would find it.  The simple truth is that Satan will use the most available weapon possible to assail the church: our own selfishness. In our selfish society we are all about individual rights.  Paul tells us earlier in this chapter that eating food offered to idols is in and of itself not sin, because if we see idols for what they really are - not gods at all, then worship of them is empty.  But all of us have backgrounds, baggage, and ways we need to grow.  And the Body cares about each other.  If we live (or WHEN we live) as if our own individual happiness is king, we will hurt each other repeatedly and deeply. Eventually hurt turns to bitterness and anger and more misunderstanding, with which we build walls of division. People go away hurt and angry not only at others, but at God, and build their own churches of me, where they will not be hurt.  Wrong response to be sure, but we don't want to be the one who sparked the fire of hatred and division.  So, let's stop sparking the fires by putting out our personal little fires of self-fulfillment, looking out for one another in love.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What NOT to change about you...

I Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservantwhen called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
Paul was calling upon the believers at Corinth to make a lot of changes. They were living too much by the standards of the wicked world around them. God is in the business of transforming lives for His glory.  But there are some things we are called on not to seek to change, but rather allow Him to use us how we are, where we are.  He may choose to change these things about us: our jobs, our marital status, etc.  We are to seek to improve our situations through training and deepening relationships, but we cannot make ourselves look more like "successful" Christians.  We must simply view ourselves as servants of Christ, and allow Him to take the lead on any changes He deems necessary.  We must, at all cost, avoid conflicts we create when we compare ourselves to the lives fellow brothers and sisters are called to lead.  It's not a competition. Just like marriage, it is complimenting one another as the body of Christ.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Saints Settle Strife

I Corinthians 6 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
Selfishness. If there is one word to describe the atmosphere at Corinth in Paul's day, that would be it.  When most people are living selfishly, their interests clash.  When no one is willing to resolve or defer the issue, people either go away or make life so miserable others do. That's why the church at Corinth was also known for their division. It sounds much too much like churches in America. It is not living like saints, to whom have been given the wisdom and power of God in Christ, and the ever present Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth.  Paul's question is piercing: "Is there no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute?"  Sometimes it seems that way.  Division is defeat by the Devil.  Do we really always have to be "right" and get our own way? Hopefully not today. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An important Clarification Christians need to hear...

I Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.
Sometimes we just get it backwards.  We compare ourselves to others who have no clue that they are in bondage to sin.  Obviously, we turn out looking "better" or holier than they do.  All such comparison does is promote self-righteousness, and have us throwing stones from glass houses.  But God does expect believers to change.  Here is where we often miss the point.  Hiding behind "you have no right to JUDGE me!", we miss the point of Paul's challenge. We do need to challenge one another in our spiritual growth. We are accountable to each other - not to self-righteously judge, but help each other mature.  When we ignore those blatant sins that still ensnare one another, we are not showing love or grace; we are missing the point completely.  God loves us and shows us Grace in Christ Jesus to transform us, together, into one new man.  We need each other; we need each other in each other's business; we need to be changing. To reject such a process is to refuse the full picture of God's plan for us. To leave the body for so many petty reasons, as if we are not needed or do not need them demonstrates immaturity and ignorance of God's marvelous plan in Christ. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Big Talkers

I Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Paul was frustrated. He had invested heavily in the people of the church at Corinth, but was receiving reports that they were living selfishly and carnally. Some even bragged about it.  He had been a spiritual father to them, and in that sense was now saying "don't make me come in there!"  They needed a spiritual whack on the side of the head, or maybe even in front of the head!  He preferred to be able to address them with gentleness, but was not sure what would be an option.  There have been times I have encountered loud-mouthed arrogant people in church disputes.  Gladly, some, as soon as approached with their divisive and sinful behavior have softened and backed down, even being a part of the resolution.  But I have seen others harden, become defensive, and even offensive towards anyone who addresses them. They often go away and infect others with their unbridled anger and self-righteous arrogance.  Lord, may we be approachable through a spirit of gentleness, so that we hear and respond over the loudness of our brash speech.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

unhardened minds...

II Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
We saw in chapter 2 that one of the big reasons church members have a hard time with one another is that some do not have "the mind of Christ." Paul goes on to say here that their minds are hardened; they cannot think-see spiritually, because they are not allowing the Spirit to soften their minds.  The last verse is the key: "we all" - not as individuals, but everyone having softened hearts and unhardened minds - together we are transformed.  When any of us hold back from this, we not only hinder our individual spiritual transformation, but that of the body as well.  Have you had a hard heart and mean mind toward others?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Piece of HIS Mind...

I Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
As Paul writes to this church riddled with division, He begins with an emphasis on the Wisdom of God as being the core of his teaching, and what these people needed to return to.  Somehow strong personalities had come into the church and swayed people away, changing their minds, their way of thinking.  As I have sat in meetings with leaders at other churches going through problems, asking questions and listening to responses, it amazes me how often I encounter those who do not have the Mind of Christ. They think, talk and act like corporate leaders, volunteer committees, and extended clans, but have no ability to see how their words and actions are so unlike Christ.  If they don't get their way, they go away and do the same thing elsewhere.  May we as His people have the humility and wisdom to seek the Mind of Chirst.