Staying Focused Despite the Distractions

A family was driving through the back country roads enjoying a fun day out and Dad was driving while looking for a particular county park to picnic at.  As he drove down the county roads they became more and windier and narrow and as they drove down one of these back roads, he saw a sign that read, “Naturist site ahead.”  Now, Dad had a problem, for the lane was too narrow to turn around; he didn’t want his children to see things they shouldn’t see.  Unable to turn around and unable to back up in reverse, the car carried on forward.  Then suddenly it happened!  Out of nowhere appeared 4 adults on bikes, ALL NAKED.  Before Dad could call out, “Don’t look, kids,” one of his young children beat him to it and called out, “Dad, look!  Those people aren’t wearing cycle helmets!”

Now that’s what I call being focused!

Scripture Study:  2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Despite all the distractions those kids in the backseat of the car were, they focused on one thing!

In this chapter in 2 Corinthians, Paul stayed focused despite the distractions!

Those distractions came in the form of the Apostle’s opponents.

One of the themes found in this second letter to the church at Corinth is the apostle Paul having to defend his apostleship.  Since Paul left this Church in Corinth to go on his third missionary journey other people had come onto the church.  These others came into the Church with their own agenda (false ideas).  They were mixing the old way (Judaism) with the new way (the Gospel of Christ).  So they were altering the message of the gospel from FAITH alone in Jesus to FAITH in Jesus plus works.  Those works taught that a person had to adhere to certain Jewish laws, rituals, and customs if they wanted to be truly SAVED.

Now as soon as you ADD anything to the gospel, it is no longer the gospel!

The emphasis changes from Christ alone, to Christ PLUS…

  • The book of Mormon
  • The teachings of the Watchtower Organization
  • A need for our own good works
  • To man-made rituals and religious ceremonies.

The GOSPEL is complete in itself!  It cannot be improved.

That’s why it is the Gospel (‘Good News’), because it doesn’t rest on us, it depends on Christ.

And when we mess up and fail time after time, Jesus never did and never will!  So we are always accepted in Him and have all that we’ll ever need in Him alone.

Defending the MESSAGE/GOSPEL

The Apostle Paul defends his message/gospel:  We are SAVED by GRACE through FAITH in Jesus Christ alone!  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

And in defending his message, he will need to defend his authority, his apostleship.

I Follow Christ’s Example (vs. 1):

“By humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you…”

The apostle Paul was from Christ, and therefore acted like Jesus.  But his critics (false teachers), and we all have critics, loved to boast in men. [i.e. 1 Corinthians 1:21]

And then in 1 Corinthians 3:21…

[21] “So then, no more boasting about human leaders!  All things are yours, [22] whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas…”

The Church at Corinth had been “swept off its feet” by the personality and charm of false teachers.

These preacher/teachers were teaching that Paul was weak and unimpressive.  But they had the real power!

Notice Paul’s response to these accusations:  “By the humility and gentleness of Christ.”

He tells them that he’s not weak, but meek (gentle).

Only once in the Bible does Jesus describe Himself.

It’s not a claim such as “I am the…etc.”, but an actual description of His inward character.  The encyclopedia has devoted over 20,000 words to describe the person of Christ, yet Jesus used just TWO WORDS:

“GENTLE AND HUMBLE”

Paul, like his master, demonstrated an attitude of meekness (gentleness). 

MEEKNESS means “strength under control” (The Examiner – meekness-strength under control – March 26, 2017).

It’s kind of like a wild stallion that has been broken and now tamed.  It still has as much power as when wild, but now that power is bottled up for the master’s use.

The apostle Paul was never weak!

Paul had risked his life for this Church!  But he was meek (gentle), and he didn’t lord it over the people, he served the Church.

The imposters wanted to dominate, to be seen and recognized as important.  They were what I might call, “Power-house preachers.”  But that in itself didn’t mean displaying the power of God.

So what is the challenge for all of us at this point?

To be MEEK like Jesus, to control our power for a greater blessing of others.

I Use Spiritual Weapons (vs. 3-6)

Deception has always been featured strongly in warfare.  And the purpose is simple.  It’s to gain an advantage so that you can take more ground.

Now the apostle Paul didn’t use carnal (fleshly, worldly) WEAPONS.  He didn’t rely on a ‘strong personality’ or on ‘manipulating’ people.  Instead of relying on human wisdom, human abilities or physical ability, Paul used the WEAPONS of Christian character and the truth of God’s Word.  If you want to show that a stick is crooked, just place it next to a straight stick.

Paul warns them that when he returns, he will smash their clever arguments, smash their false doctrine, and bring to God anyone led astray by false teachers.

NOTICE verse  5:

It’s not performance but obedience that God wants from us.

So the apostle will turn back people’s hearts and minds and place in OBEDIENCE.  And just a note here:  Paul was out to build up and not tear down (vs. 8).

BUILDING UP IS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY…

Tearing down, destroying, is a sign of immaturity.

I remember when my children were little, crawling around on the floor when I would sit down with them with their building blocks, building a tower in front of their eyes.  Then, as I pretended not to be watching, they would crawl over to the tower and knock them down, giggling as they watched them fall and then we would play the game all over again.  But over the months the game changes.  Instead of destroying, knocking the tower of blocks over, they wanted to help me build one.  And why the change?  Because Building Up, creating was a sign of their maturity.  Tearing down, destroying, was a sign of their immaturity.

The Sign of A Healthy Leader In Their Concern to Build Up

Anyone can tear down, anyone can find fault, anyone can become a critic.

But it takes effort and character to build up people and churches.

I Don’t Judge by Appearance (vs. 7-11)

Don’t be fooled by appearance.  Appearances can often be deceptive!

Have you ever wondered what the apostle Paul looked like, what he was really like, in person?  I certainly have!  I think of him as a cross between Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise– a tough, no-nonsense type of guy!  In my research, I have found it remarkable that only one description I could find of Paul in history and it wasn’t in the Bible.  It was in debatable writing called, “Acts of Paul and Thecia.”  (the work is not inspired, so it may/may not be a true description of him).  [See footnote [t].]

“A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.  For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel”

You get the impression the apostle Paul wasn’t a looker.  His physical appearance wasn’t too impressive.  And that idea is backed up in this chapter, verse 10:

2 Corinthians 10:10 (NIV)

[10]  For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”

To paraphrase:  “His letters pack a punch but he isn’t much to look at and his preaching is boring!”

Paul knew this is what his critics were saying and so he picks up on this and plays on it in verse one:

I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!

The apostle Paul didn’t judge by outward appearance.  The opponents of Paul did!

They said he doesn’t have the physical presence of a Peter or the eloquent speaking skills of an Apollos.  He hasn’t the dynamism we have when we preach, he is just ordinary!

God is never impressed with outward appearance.  But sadly, so often we are!  We need to constantly be looking deeper at people!

A classic example that comes to mind is 1 Samuel chapter 16.  When David, the skinny runt of the family, was chosen by God to be king over his bulky battle-scarred brothers!

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I Let God Do the Commending (vs. 12-18)

‘Check-A-Trade’ is an organization and a resource for local trades in the area i.e. builders, roofers, etc.  And whoever uses their services can give feedback on the ‘Check-A-Trade’ website.  The idea being your customers are the ones who commend you to other people looking for a reliable and good tradesperson, rather than you choosing them because of their advertising and good publicity.

That principle of being COMMENDED by another is what the apostle Paul has in mind here.

The critics and opponents of Paul were part of their own mutual appreciation society who thought highly of each other.  But all they do, says the apostle, is “boast” about themselves.

The word “boasting” is used 12 times in this letter (2nd Corinthians) to the church, which is far more than any of Paul’s other letters,  And it literally means “to glory in.”

While his critics “glory in” their wisdom, accomplishments, and judgments, Paul says in verse 13, that he will only “glory in” the tasks that God has given him.

The apostle Paul goes on to subtly remind the readers and his critics the ultimate goal of the Church…

Not to sit around admiring one another’s assets but rather to see the kingdom of God expand!

Paul reminds us that a Christ-focused ministry is about the gospel going forth into new territories and not about “reworking” something already established.

He put himself out to start a Church in Corinth and now he wants that Church to help in sharing the gospel message in the region beyond (vs. 16).

Missionaries David Livingstone, Robert Moffat, and the Apostle Paul

They all had one thing in common:  A Desire to Share the Gospel to Those Who Had Never Heard!

This was their burden!!

What’s yours?

Verse 18:

As far as commendations are concerned, the only pat on the back the apostle Paul was looking for was from God.  Paul was never impressed by what people thought of him.  He only ever wanted ‘The Father’s approval’.

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOORNOTES

Footnote [i] :  New World Encyclopedia.- Physical description of the apostle Paul.

Images/Photos Used:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV); The Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

The “THIRD PERSON” is more than a Ghost! (Part 2 of 2)

A QUICK REVIEW FIRST:

We saw the PROOF of who the Spirit is; the evidence of His “BEING”.  We talked about what He does and what He says.  And although we can’t visibly see Holy Spirit, where He resides (in the HEART; the center of who we are as BELIEVERS), He testifies to our doings and He is definitely REAL!

I left you with a thought in Part 1–a “question”, and will begin Part 2 with the Biblical answer.

“What is the Biblical Definition of Christian Maturity?” – ( 1 Corinthians 2:1-16).

According to the Apostle Paul, it’s having the mind of Christ Jesus (verse 16):

SPIRITUALLY ALIVE, we have access to every thing God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.  Isaiah’s question,  “Is there anyone around who knows God’s spirit, anyone who knows what He is doing?”  has been answered:  Christ knows and we have Christ’s Spirit.  (Verse 15-16, The Message Bible – MSG).

Having the mind of JESUS CHRIST is NOT…

1.  NOT WISDOM OF THIS WORLD OR PRESENT AGE  (verse 6).

2.  NOT WORDS TAUGHT TO US BY HUMAN WISDOM  (verse 13).

3.  NOT ACCEPTING, NOT WELCOMING INTO THE HEART THE GIFTS, TEACHINGS, REVELATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  (verse 14).

We gain the mind of Christ through…the ministry of the Holy Spirit;

??????????????????????????????????????

He reveals it to us through the Word of God and only the HOLY SPIRIT KNOWS the mind of Christ (verse 11).

THE MIND OF CHRIST JESUS is the “once hidden” secret wisdom:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him–but He has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”

THE PROBLEM PRESENTED IN VERSES 13 & 14:

In verse 13, the apostle Paul tells us, since the person with the spirit is expressing spiritual truths with spiritual words–the person without the Spirit of God cannot accept Him.  That is why some people you come in contact with could CARE LESS…about your recent growth in the Lord.

The more we have of the mind of the Lord, the less we have of the blessing of the world around us.

HAVING THE “MIND OF CHRIST” WILL NOT AUTOMATICALLY FOLLOW  PLACING OUR FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS:

We have to make a DECISION–

We have to choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, don’t we?  We have to decide, if not already, to have an intimate relationship with a ‘living being’!  Yep, He is more than a Ghost… and of course you can’t see Him.  He’s living on the inside of you.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,

but Christ lives in me.

The life I live in the body, I live by faith

in the Son of God.  ~Galatians 2:20~

No one can comprehend God (Romans 11:34).   But through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, BELIEVERS have insight into some of God’s plans, thoughts, and actions–they, in fact, have the “mind of Christ.”

The Benefits of Empowerment:

The Holy Spirit empowers us to share our faith and helps us grow in Christian Maturity.  In your spiritual relationship, ask Him to guide you; to make the right decisions for every new day towards maturity in Christ Jesus.

But the most important thing that the Holy spirit does is to bring the opportunity to receive salvation.

Perhaps, as you’ve been reading along in this two-part series,  never heard before that JESUS died on the Cross for your sins.  Perhaps you have never placed your FAITH in what Christ did and instead… trusting in what you might do.  If that is where you are right now, THEN…

TODAY you can know how to be FREE from the penalty of sin.

TODAY you can RECEIVE the Holy Spirit into your life!

TODAY is the DAY!

4220759860_e545142601

If you made these decisions after reading The “THIRD PERSON”  is more than a Ghost, leave me your testimony in the comment section of this POST.  Through the Holy Spirit we can begin to know God’s thoughts–His will for your life–talk with Him, and expect His answers to our prayers.

And if you made the decision to follow JESUS, years ago or recently, are you spending enough time with Christ to have His very own mind in you?

An intimate relationship with Christ comes only from spending time consistently in His presence and in His Word.

The “THIRD PERSON” is more than a Ghost! (Part 1 of 2)

Who is The Holy Spirit and what does He do?

John 1:32
John 1:32

John gave further evidence, saying,  “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it dwelt on Him–not to depart.”

WHERE TO START?   1 Corinthians 2:1-16 (NIV).

[1]  WHEN I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  [2] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  [3] I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  [4] My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  [5] so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  [6] We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age, who are coming to nothing.  [7] No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  [8] None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  [9] However, as it is written:

“No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared for those who love him” —

[10] but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  [11] For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  [12] We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  [13] This is what we speak, not in words taught to us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  

[14] The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  

[15] The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

[16] “For who has known the mind of the Lord

that he may instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

He is More than a Ghost–Verse 14 tells us so!

More than a “GHOST” – HE HAS A HISTORY OR “BEING”:

Let me give you an insert I came across in my detective investigation this past week:

Denying the personality of the Holy spirit.  In their denial of the Trinity, Jehovah Witnesses deny the personality of the Holy Spirit.  They claim that “the holy spirit is the invisible active force of Almighty God which moves his servants to do his will.”  To a Witness, the Spirit is a mere impersonal force similar to electricity.  [from A Guide to Cults & New Religions by Ronald Enroth & Others; page 109].

Non-believers have…

1.   Resisted – “This man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God.”

2.  Ridiculed – “For they are foolishness to him.”

3.  Misunderstood – “And he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

It is completely understandable that of the Trinity; the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit–we are the least knowledgeable of the “Person” and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

My wife and I had decided to join a church fellowship in a new community we had moved into.  The church required that those who DESIRED to become members, must go through a “New Membership Class” conducted by the senior pastor.  At the end of the classes, there was a QUESTION & ANSWER time.  Not being a shy person, I raised my hand and asked,  “Why don’t we talk more about the Holy Spirit in church, is there a REASON?”  After a brief pause by the pastor…”Well, we probably should mention the third Person of the Trinity more often…but I guess the reason might be that ‘certain’ denominational churches have over-emphasized the Spirit, others have backed away.”

I thought, where did that reasoning come from–who told you that and how can a Christian “over-emphasize” Holy Spirit?  That explanation didn’t set right in my spirit and two years later…I swallowed the “RED PILL” and the attributes of the Spirit began to become more personal, more real, more visible [*See “Taking the Red Pill” at the top of my Blog-site].

“Who is the Holy Spirit?”

Simple answer is…the Holy Spirit is GOD!

The Proof–

If you look at the Scripture passage given in 1 Corinthians 2, we see the words of GOD and Spirit are interchangeable or one in the same.  For example; verse 4 and 5, we see the Spirit’s Power is also called GOD’S POWER.

“[4]  And my message and my preaching were very plain.  Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.  [5] I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God”  (New Living Translation).

In verse 11, we see the very thoughts of GOD are the very thoughts of the Spirit:

“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”  (New International Version).

The SECOND THING we need to be seeing–

The Holy Spirit is  NOT some impersonal force as some cults claim.

HE SPEAKS TO US  (verses 9-10).

HE SEARCHES ALL THINGS  (verse 10).

HE KNOWS THE THOUGHTS OF GOD  (verse 11).

HE TEACHES US WHAT GOD HAS FREELY GIVEN US  (verse 13):  “And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].”

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

He EMPOWERS US to share our testimony or as some Bible translations say, “our witness”.  (verses 1-5)–

As the WORD DETECTIVE, when I come across words Christians almost flippantly use, we’ve perhaps lost the meanings of…and I began the search there.

In First Corinthians, Chapter 2, verse one, we come to the word “testimony” or “witness”.  Turning to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I proceeded to look up the two words and their definitions.  I found the English Word, “testimony”, comes from the Greek Word “maturion” or “marturia”, where we also get the English Word MARTYR from.

The word MARTYR can be defined as “a person who is killed because of their beliefs: “she was martyred for her faith.”

 So, with that definition in mind, to give your testimony to someone or to witness  in your neighborhood gives us an entirely different perspective. To me anyhow.  “Am I willing to be “martyred” to give my testimony?”  Are you?

Vine’s says, that a “… witness or testimony refers to the fact that the missionaries besides proclaiming the truths of the gospel, had borne witness to the POWER of these truths.”

As unlikely as it may seem, the apostle Paul experienced all of the same difficulties we face in sharing OUR FAITH:

In Verse One, he was not eloquent nor did he have superior wisdom.

In Verse Three, he confesses he came to them in weakness, fear and much trembling.

Can you see that Paul could identify we every objection, excuses we have in not sharing our faith with others?  It is only because you and I are NOT QUALIFIED that we are given the Spirit’s POWER to share the gospel with others.  I like an old saying that was given to me in a Evangelism Training class years ago:  “You don’t go out witnessing, you witness as you go!”  BUT, do we?

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”  (Verse 4).

If we can only believe verse 4, it will set us free to share our faith and the demonstration of the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

“What do we say?”

Not feeling qualified would be one of the biggest objections in sharing our faith.  And, “What to say in our testimony” might be another objection.

We have to be careful that we don’t make the mistake of putting something else at the center of our testimony–our witness.  The most important thing to share with someone is what God has done for us.  God has done a lot for you and I but we see in verse 2, Paul gives us the answer of the most important thing God has done for us!

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was

with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

According to the Apostle Paul, the crucifixion of His Son Jesus for our sins is the most important thing:

“But God shows and clearly proves His love for us

by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  (Romans 5:8).

Is it really that simple, to just say, “Christ Jesus was crucified on a Cross; died for your sins and mine? Yes, it’s that simple!

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Share Our Faith–

1.  We have seen that despite the fact we’re not qualified, He wants to EMPOWER US!

2.  We have seen that the most important thing to share with others is that Christ Jesus was crucified for their sins.

Before I move on to the next point, I want to direct you to another part of SHARING YOUR FAITH.

“What is the GOAL of SHARING?  And how do we know when someone is SAVED?”

“so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power”  (Verse 5).

EVERYONE is resting their FAITH on something but not everyone is resting their FAITH on the right thing.  Looking back over my Christian life, the biggest thing I’ve found in sharing JESUS with people is that they rest their faith on their own good works.

A person is SAVED only when they rest their faith on the historical fact that JESUS DIED for their sins on the Cross.

“We all like sheep have gone astray but

He has laid on Him the sins of the world.”

1.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to share our testimony (Verses 1-5).

2.  The Holy Spirit helps to bring us to Christian Maturity (Vs. 16).

“We do, however speak a message of wisdom among the mature…”

I am going to break at this point in the study and continue in PART TWO of The “THIRD PERSON” is more than a Ghost!  I will begin with a question for you to ponder:  “WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY?”

THE IMPERFECT ARE…PERFECT!

TWO CHURCH LADIES CHATTING–

Two Mothers Chatting
Two Mothers Chatting

FIRST LADY–my son is a saint, works hard, doesn’t smoke and hasn’t look at a woman in over two years.

SECOND LADY–well, my son is a saint himself, not only hasn’t he looked at a woman in over three years, but he also hasn’t touched a drop of liquor in all that time.

FIRST LADY–my word, said the first mother, you must be so proud.

SECOND LADY–I am, and when he gets paroled next month, I’m going to throw him a big party!

The Church of God (not a denominational idea):

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”  (1 Corinthians 1:2 NIV).

Not a new idea–

All over the OT we see examples of people who were not what we might consider as…wonderful.  Abraham and Jacob were not wonderful and yet, God declared them Holy as we do today in reference.

You see, God sees the future; He knows what we are not yet and He also knows what we will, not can, but will become.  And God doesn’t do this in hopelessness.  Those He declares holy, sanctified, He will accomplish His work in them.

God is not fooled–

God sees the future and so Paul, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares the people in the church (assembly) of God in Corinth–HOLY.

WE ARE CALLED TO A BETTER LIFE:

We are called to be a part of God’s special people known as… the church of the set apart.

We should be different; we should stand out and therefore be different–recognizably different in our community where we reside.  We see this in verse 2 of 1 Corinthians 1:  Paul wants the Corinthians to be different.

The Salutations of a Letter–

Paul begins, “To the church of God in Corinth”, which doesn’t exactly sound particularly moving.  It sounds like a nice hello.  But Paul is choosing to address them as the church (assembly) of God in Corinth for a reason.

Paul uses the word e?kklhsi%a” in verse 2, which means church in English.  At this time in the Greek language–which Paul is writing in–simply means “Assembly”.

If someone said they were going to church e?kkljsi%a”, it could have meant to others:

Secular assembly,

Gladiator,

A play,

A Civic assembly,

The mayor was speaking,

Or really, any kind of religious assembly–Pagan, Jewish, Christian.  There wasn’t Christian connotations as we have today.

So Paul chooses to make a distinction from other kinds of churches, that is assemblies, by calling them the Church of God in Corinth.  He wanted them to know to specifically to stand out, and be unique among the other churches in the city.

Paul doesn’t always do this:  1:2…To the churches in Galatia–he doesn’t always say church of God, but here in Corinthians 1…he does specifically.  He wants them to know how uniquely the church of God is to stand out from the others in town.  Calling it THE CHURCH OF GOD has the implication that divine action formed it.  Since it is not merely a gathering, it’s a gathering with the founding of God.  Have I confused you?  I hope not.  Let’s go into the Word a little deeper.

‘What happens in Corinth, stays in Corinth’–

Corinth's Location
Corinth’s Location

Where the city was located is at the end of a narrow strip of land called “the bridge of Greece.”  Ships were moved over a narrow slice of land by rolling logs be slave power, so they could save time on their journey–time IS money.

While the sailors waited for their ship to be moved, they of course spent time in Corinth.  Their philosophy wasn’t, “what goes on in Corinth, stays in Corinth.”  That would be to tame.  It might have sounded more like “Everyone knows what goes on in Corinth–and we don’t care!”

Think of the most morally corrupt place you can think of in the world–or perhaps in the community you might live in.  That would be rated G next to Corinth.  This wouldn’t be your first choice in raising a family, nor a place where you would think Christians lived.

Now as a church you would think it would be fairly easy to be different from everyone else living in your community.  But incredibly we see the church here having a very difficult time being different.  The same ‘difficulty’ can arise in the workplace too–being different.  You don’t want to stick out, be called a religious kook–you just want to fit in.

But more than that, Paul says…, The Imperfect Is Perfect–God calls the imperfect–to be perfect.  Now the Corinthian church was far from perfect.  Probably farther from perfect than any other NT church…Very Far.

Yet Paul says, 1 Corinthians 1:2…, “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy”–these folks, if you’ve just thumbed through the letter, is not acting sanctified–not acting holy.

Now Paul is very aware that they were not acting holy, yet he knows God declares them sanctified and holy even though they are not.  And many times, what Paul says often makes no sense to some Bible commentators.  How can he say they are holy then proceed to tell them in his letter how unholy they are?  So they think Paul is being sarcastic with his words.  Funny thing is, I found no evidence of this–in the grammar, the words chosen, context–nothing that would lead to sarcasm.

God does the unfathomable–

He call us holy, sanctified–even if all the evidence is to the contrary.  You might be thinking at this point How can that be?  We are holy because God says so!  Not because of how good we are, but because of how good God is!

JESUS CHRIST is our Mediator and it is through His death and resurrection that makes us holy.  We cannot SAVE ourselves.  Only by God’s grace (unmerited favor) can we be saved, and in the same way we are sanctified–made holy–not making ourselves holy, but by the choice and grace of God.

“I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus”  (1 Cor. 1:4 AMP).

Now in observation, they’re sinners.  But because of their position before God, they were pure saints.  This is so important for us to remember our position in Christ because, we too are made holy; sanctified and set apart.  Therefore, we are to ACT HOLY.

Because we are of Christ Jesus, we are to be different and live our lives matching to who we are.

Live Better Than A Bottomless Cup of Coffee–

1 Corinthians 1:5: 

“[So] that in Him in every respect you were enriched in full power and readiness of speech…”

I love the words Paul uses here–ENRICHED IN FULL POWER.  Merriam-Webster definition:

“To make rich or richer especially by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient.”  

Like a ‘bottomless cup of coffee–you don’t have to get from your place of studying God’s Word to get another cup of coffee in the kitchen–your cup is bottomless; it’s enriched!

The Greek’s Idea of Success–

The Greeks valued the ability to speak well and obtain a high level of knowledge.  Most of the Corinthians never achieved this in society and today, most of us haven’t either.

Paul, here uses this phrase  “…in all your speaking and in all your knowledge”–to show them they already have what is most valued.  They don’t have to seek to obtain what the Greeks value.  God has given them ALL they need.

So, “Lets Just Do it!”

God will give you the words to say.

God will give you the knowledge you need.

An Unlimited Power Supply Is Available–

Plugging In
Plugging In

1 Corinthians 1:7:

“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”  (NIV).

The CHURCH Waiting Patiently
The CHURCH Waiting Patiently

The church in Corinth was not lacking in spiritual gifts.  What they were lacking was spiritual maturity.  Notice they were waiting…and in their waiting they had been given the ultimate POWER SUPPLY until the Lord Jesus returns.  They needed to ‘plug in’ to the Source!

The Must’s In our Lives–Think and Act God Centered!

1 Corinthians 1:9:

“God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord”  (AMP).

We like the Corinthians were not called into the greatest social and humanitarian group ever.  We were called into a spiritual body founded by the greatest Person that ever walked the earth, who is coming back one day to reclaim His Bride; the Church.

This doesn’t mean we are to have our heads in the clouds; that we are not to be social or merciful–we are–but we are to be spiritual first.  All of our social and humanitarian experiences are to be informed by the spiritual and led by the spiritual–our Lord Jesus Christ.  All the rest–the giving, the sharing, the loving… will then follow.

This is what the apostle does…

In the Letter of First Corinthians, Paul knows the assembly gathered in a sinful city are SANCTIFIED; made HOLY–CALLED BY GOD.  And yet–they needed to live a GOD CENTERED LIFE.

Unlike those around them–in the cities, in the community, in the work place–he tells them,

“And He will establish you to the end guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”  (1 Cor. 1:8 AMP).

AMEN and AMEN!

“It’s Been Long Enough–Now Grow Up!”

THE BOOK OF ISAIAH–Chapter 28:10, 13:

“[10] For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:  [13] But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and spared, and taken.”  (King James)

I love the way THE MESSAGE Bible words these two verses:  “Da, da, da, da, blah, blah. That’s a good little girl. that’s a good little boy.”

The Amplified Bible reads,  “Precept upon precept, rule upon rule”–

Well that’s sounds much clearer…or, does it?  At first glance, it sounds like BABY TALK.

USUALLY INTERPRETED…

The words are usually interpreted to mean “life is like that–when constructing a house you put ‘brick upon brick’ [“precept upon precept”] until the building is up.  Or in writing a blog; you put ‘sentence upon sentence’ until the blog is ready to post; made public.

My wife was just explaining to me this morning how she paints on a canvas; putting down layer upon layer of paint in giving the picture depth.  I immediately responded to her saying, “That’s just like it says in the Bible, ‘precept upon precept.’

But is that what this bible expression means?  Let’s take a closer look:

[10] “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little”  (KJV).

[13]  “Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them [merely monotonous repeatings of] precept upon precept, precept upon precept; rule upon rule, rule upon rule; here a little, there a little; that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken”  (AMP Bible).

If we spell the Hebrew words in our alphabet, it would look like this, “tsav latsav tsav latsav – kav, lakav kav lakav”. The repetition of single syllables reminds me of BABY’S FIRST WORDS we delight to hear as parents,  “Ma Ma,” “Da Da.”

By the way, I found in my DETECTIVE investigation a word, made-up of repeated mono-syllables, “murmur” [Mur Mur] in 1 Corinthians 10:10 (ASV):

[10] “Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.”

“Ma Ma”, “Da Da”, “Mur Mur”

Perhaps the message is, “grumbling” (the word used in the NIV) is a rather childish behavior.

What then, do the Hebrew words mean?

–The word “Tsav” signifies a little precept, such as “is suited to the capacity of a child” (Adam Clarke).

–The word “Kav” signifies the line that a mason would stretch out building a layer of stones or a brick wall.  After one layer or course is placed, the line is raised and another layer is added.  Thus “line upon line” is used until the building is complete.

ISAIAH’S MESSAGE:

His message has to do with TEACHING:

(verse 9)  “To whom will He teach knowledge?”

At first glance, this sounds like a POSITIVE thing.  After all, this is how young children learn (or suppose to learn).  BUT the point made here is that the prophet’s audience are no longer children that Isaiah is addressing.  However, due to their unwillingness to move on in their relationship with God, he must treat them as little babies; keep going back to the primitive methods, “tsav latsav tsav latsav – kav lakav kav lakav’ – “precept upon precept, rule (or “line”) upon rule.”

I remember my parents telling me in growing up, “Mel, if you would have listened and obeyed the first time we told you so, we wouldn’t have to keep saying the same thing over and over again.”

When the people heard Isaiah talk this way, like a teenager might do today, they started mocking the prophet as they staggered through the streets in town (Isaiah 28:7).

The Time is Now to Take Full Responsibility for our Own Relationship with God.

That’s making sure that our lives are fulfilling in the God-given purpose for our being here in this world.  That we are LIVING in a way that is pleasing to Him.  The plain (let’s say “crude”) way to say it is, “GROW UP ALREADY!”

ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN TO US TO “GROW UP” SPIRITUALLY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:

The apostle Peter recognizes as new Christians, we are likened to “babies” who need milk for nourishment–a tasty, warm, liquid that can be ingested using an instinctive muscle system–SUCKING.  Now there’s a striking picture on Sunday mornings: A bunch of “sucking” Christians in the church building.

#1.  This is what Peter writes:

“SO BE done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.  [2] Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation,  [3] Since you have [already] tasted the goodness and kindness of the Lord”  (1 Peter 2:1-3 AMP).

Yes, we start with milk, but then GROWTH is expected:

[3] “For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).  [5] For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence),  [6] And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety),  [7] And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.  [8] For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [9] For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] short-sighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.”  (2 Peter 1:3, 5-9 AMP).

“MAKE EVERY EFFORT” (NIV) or “EXERCISE and DEVELOP” (AMP)–

We each bear the responsibility in our own spiritual growth in the development of our character.  Quit assigning the responsibility to your pastor/teacher.

#2.  Paul also understood this matter of moving from childhood to adulthood.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside”  (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Earlier, in the same church letter, Paul gave his teaching in the need to move from “milk” to “solid food”:

“HOWEVER, BRETHREN, I could not talk to you as to spiritual [men], but as to non-spiritual [men of the flesh, in whom the carnal nature predominates], as to mere infants [in the new life] in Christ [unable to talk yet!]  [2] I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you are not yet strong enough [to be ready for it]; but even yet you are not strong enough [to be ready for it],  [3] For you are still [unspiritual, having the nature] of the flesh [under control of ordinary impulses].  For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men?”  (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 AMP).

The parallel here in these verses is between “worldly” and the “infantile.”  The CONNECTION is that being immature, they were not standing up against the world’s point of view around them–they were demonstrating attitudes and behaviors like those seen in the world–jealousy and quarrels.

#3.  The Third Time on the subject of Moving from Milk to Meat.

The Book of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12-14):

“For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word.  You have come to need milk, not solid food.  [13] For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]!  [14] But solid food is for full-grown men, for those senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”

The point here is that we no longer need to be given the same old rules and regulations on how we are to live in righteousness.  We no longer need “precept upon precept, line upon line.” 

We’ve now come to the place where we have trained ourselves to be able to distinguish what is right and wrong.  As my folks would tell me, “You should know by now the difference between what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.”

But again notice where the responsibility lies, “to full-grown men [the mature]…have trained themselves.”

THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR PERSONAL GROWTH DOESN’T START WITH THE CHURCH:

The responsibility doesn’t begin with your pastor/teacher either but with each individual. 

Coming to church, reading the Word, and praying is less like going to eat at a restaurant, and more like spending time at a grocery store.  The money is in our pockets, the food is in the store, but it is our responsibility to find, buy and prepare food providing nourishment necessary for our health, growth and strength.

No longer may we expect someone else to lay it all out for us, “precept upon precept, line upon line” or “rule upon rule.”  It is our responsibility and true maturity only happens when we are willing to accept that responsibility.  And only then will we avoid the judgement of God in the “last day.”

“Milk is Good but Filet Mignon is Better!”

A recently released study by a Christian research organization shows that churchgoers do not read or study the Bible on a daily basis.

Transformational Discipleship Assessment released by Life Way Research noted that 19% of respondents report reading or studying the Bible ‘outside’ of church “every day.”  By contrast, 36% said they either engage their Bible “once a week”, “once a month”, or a “few times a month.”  And to my surprise, 18% reported rarely or never reading or studying the Bible outside of worship.

Scott McConnell, director of Life Way Research told this to the Christian Post:

“Regular Bible engagement is both personal and requires discipline.  Neither are popular in Western culture today.  Too many churchgoers want the benefits of salvation without investing in personally knowing Christ and the abundant life He offers.”

“MILK” or “MEAT” — SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY or SPIRITUAL MATURITY?

“Gala” in the Greek language is the word used for MILK.  Figuratively speaking, MILK is the Word of God used to nourish newborn babes in Christ.  So if all you’re taking for nourishment is the “milk of God’s word, the basic elements, you must be a “baby.”

If I may so bold, I would like to ask 4- important questions before concluding my message:

1.  Are you still on a “milk only” diet spiritually?

2.  Are you still reading devotionals which include a few tidbits of Scripture?  Like a baby in the high chair, going from “sucking” on the milk bottle’s nipple to “solid” finger food.

3.  Are you reading “Christian books” instead of The Book?

4.  Are you primarily listening to tapes or CD’s rather than your primary Teacher, the Holy Spirit?

If your answers are yes to all of the questions or even one yes…you need to change your dietary habits.  It’s been long enough–it’s time to GROW UP!