JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
September 26, 2009, 1:39 pm
Filed under: K Second Letter to the Corinthians

After more than week now I have been reading and re-reading chapters 10 to 13 in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. I really have to say that this is really an incredible section of Scripture. I get a sense of Paul’s urgency and frustration mixed with his love and patience for the church their. This being his last letter to this church, that we know of.

After describing all of his credentials to lay at rest the false boastings of those in Corinth who seem to be trying to pull the church towards false teachings Paul describes what he has gone through, the tortures and trials of sharing the gospel, and concludes his list with his most trying and cross bearing moments: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Are there men and women out in our world today who could say this of themselves!? Where are they? Man, what anxiety Paul must have gone through for years, especially in this church in Corinth. If I were a Christian in Corith after having read this I would be under major guilt for my petty little complaints. Paul had so much desire to see this church become who they already were in Jesus – “a new creation” where “the old has gone, the new has come!”

Many in this church just hadn’t gotten their identity right. They were measuring “themselves by themselves” and comparing “themselves with themselves” instead of being wise and realizing that their identity was Christ’s! When God sees them He sees only Jesus, not themselves! Because Jesus “died for all” we “should no longer live” for ourselves “but for him who died for them and was raised again”! Paul’s hope was to help them see who they were in Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to truly express Jesus through them that enabled the strengthening of the body of Christ. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” What an incredible statement of spiritual maturity, of spiritual fatherhood and spiritual motherhood. May it be that every body of Christ meeting in homes and the workplace everywhere could have spiritual fathers and mothers whose life is marked by a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” that lives by Jesus resurrected power and allows Jesus to use them to “demolish strongholds” whatever and wherever they may be that keeps people from knowing and loving Jesus and therefore knowing and loving one another.

Like a wedding bride Paul describes the church being “promised…to one husband, to Christ, so that (he) might present you as a pure virgin to him.” Do I have that desire? Does His body everywhere have that desire? Could we as followers of Jesus desire that when we meet together in our homes we could look at ourselves as Jesus bride, “a pure virgin” who has a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ”? Could we instead of comparing ourselves with ourselves focus on having a sincere and pure devotion to Jesus instead? Instead of focusing on everything else instead of Jesus could we make Jesus the Head of His body when we meet together? Could we refrain from our self boasting or taking control of the meetings so that “no one will think more of (you) than is warranted by what (you) do or say”? Can we humble ourselves to follow Jesus simple command to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him? What do I need to die to? What do we need to die to? Our extrovert or introvert personality? Our gifts? Our neediness? Our heritage? Our doctrines? Could we think of others instead of ourselves? Could “everything we do (be done) for (each others) strengthening”? “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.” Only through crucifixion will we find a life of resurrection power.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” If we are in Christ we are a new creation, we do not need to live like we use to, Jesus lives in us, our identity is Jesus! We CAN live by the life of Jesus, we CAN love, but it comes only through the cross! Thank you Lord that you will help me bear the cross and through it find your resurrected power! Jesus must be made Lord, Head of His Body! When we assemble together in the name of the Lord Jesus then His power will truly be revealed in our midst!

“Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen!

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
September 19, 2009, 10:01 am
Filed under: K Second Letter to the Corinthians

As I have read and re-read chapters 8 and 9 in 2 Corinthians I am amazed at this statement that Paul makes: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” The words “all” and “every” just jump out at you! This seems to be the results of a follower of Christ who is focused on Christ.

Paul had talked to the Corinthians about how they were given “freedom” because of “the Spirit of the Lord” who has given them “life,” they were “jars of clay” meant “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God,” to “live by faith, not by sight,” “a new creation” and “the temple of the living God” and after having gone through “sorrow” they had grown in their affection for Paul and for one another. This affection for one another was now being practically shown in giving, in “rich generosity.”

A concern for the welfare of Christians in Jerusalem apparently sparked the idea in some churches in Macedonia and now Achaia is to give back to these Christians whom God used first to share the good news of Jesus Christ, whom they had benefited from. Paul’s concern though, knowing the Corinthians, was the need to encourage the Corinthians to keep their commitments they had previously made in this area. Paul mentions “the grace that God has given” and to me this speaks that while we may have concern for others, it really is a grace that Jesus gives us to meet the needs of others, when we make a choice by faith to do the right thing, it is Jesus who is moving, desiring, to express Himself through us by the Holy Spirit to give, because God loves, and His desire is to express that love through us to others. We are compelled to love because of His desire to love!

Paul mentions “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” An amazing statement! How is my sincerity when it comes to loving others? How is the church’s sincerity when it comes to loving one another? Is it because of a genuine love for others, is it a sincere love for others, or is it motivated by something else?

Paul mentions that “at the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality…” This reminds me of the very beginning of the Christian life at the birth of the church in Acts chapter 2 where it says that “all the believers were together and had everything in common…they gave to anyone as he had need” and also in chapter 5 “all the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…There were no needy persons among them.” Is it possible that when we practically meet the needs of our fellow believers in Christ the issue is not so much as meeting each other’s needs as it really is about growing closer together in our relationship with Jesus? As Jesus prayed “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” It is about unity in the body of Christ. It is about Jesus desire to build His body so that it can express itself through love to others and so draw others into a relationship with Himself.

So gifts that we give to others, should be of “rich generosity,” it is “the privilege of sharing,” an “act of grace,” to “excel in this grace of giving,” a “test” of “the sincerity of your love,” an “eager willingness,” a “liberal gift,” “the proof of your love,” “your eagerness to help,” “ready to give,” “the generous gift,” “he has decided in his heart to give,” “cheerful giver,” and “supplying the needs of God’s people.” The results bring “thanksgiving to God” and “overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God,” and “men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ,” “and in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”

We are being a light to the world, so that others will praise God! The results brings not just God’s grace, but “all grace abound to you.” “God is able”! “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift”! Lord help me and your body to “excel in this grace of giving.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
September 16, 2009, 1:54 am
Filed under: K Second Letter to the Corinthians

I have been reading and re-reading Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth now this week, chapters 5-8 specifically. It seems God continues to reveal to me things about this passage. One day it’s one thing, then another day God brings up something else. Can’t get out of it! Perhaps finally sharing my thoughts God will release me to finish the letter!

What an incredible letter this is that describes in practical terms how an organic church, one that focuses on Jesus completely in a shared life together in the everyday circumstances of life, can express Jesus love to one another, friends, and others we meet. In fact the world cannot truly recognize the difference that Jesus makes in our life unless they first see us as “jars of clay” so that Jesus can “show (his) … all-surpassing power is from God.” Our bodies are only “jars of clay” and an “earthly tent” that was never meant to die, but because of sin Jesus had to come to die “for all” you and I so we wouldn’t have to!

Having a relationship with Jesus means that “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” so that we long for our “heavenly dwelling.” Why do I feel like this? Because “God…made us for this very purpose” to desire nothing but Jesus forever! And it’s guaranteed! I know it’s a guarantee because He “has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”! As a result, like Paul says “we are always confident”! Are you confident of your place in heaven because of Jesus? Paul says “we live by faith, not by sight.” Faith in Jesus. This is a cursed world that causes us to “groan” for “our heavenly dwelling.” Didn’t I feel it today at work! But even though we live in this world, we are not of it. We have the Holy Spirit in us and we know where we are going! Jesus has secured a place for me in heaven that cannot be taken away!

“So we make it our goal to please him” because one day “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord.” Jesus’ love compels me to love others so that they too can know Jesus love for them! I can love like Jesus did because I am no longer my old self. Jesus took it all away on the cross! I am “a new creation”! My life is no longer my own, like Paul said in his first letter, therefore I can bear fruit of the Spirit, love – “the old has gone, the new has come”! “All this is from God”! God has done this for us so that we can share that love with others! Because Jesus took all my sin on that cross, my sin is no longer counted “against” me! I am clean! I have “become the righteousness of God”! When God sees me He only sees Jesus! Because of “these promises” I do not have to do what is wrong anymore! “We are the temple of the living God”! A temple that is the place where God desires to dwell richly and fully! As the body of Christ Jesus desires to express Himself to everyone we meet.

Everyone needs Jesus! As a result we must learn to let Jesus open “wide” our “hearts,” to “make room for” other followers of Jesus in our “hearts.” Because Jesus lives in them! To not open wide my heart or make room in my heart for other believers means to not open my heart or make room in my heart for Jesus!!! How could I do that! Paul describes a situation when he was “harassed at every turn – conflict on the outside, fears within” and “downcast,” how, after not finding Titus, one of his co-workers for some time, and then finally meeting him, God comforted him and his other companions. And Paul was even more comforted after finding out how the church in Corinth had taken the words he had written from his former letter. Titus mentions the Corinthians to Paul “about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” I can only imagine the joy Paul must have had after all the junk the church there was going through, working through the specific problems, and then to find out how they took his words in the right way must have been a relief – they got it!

How important it is to let the crucifixion of our lives occur, the denying of self and the bearing of the cross, because it leads to a resurrected life, a life of Jesus’ resurrection power! “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Not only did Titus bring encouragement to Paul and his church planting team, but he mentioned how “we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.”

I pray I and my family and our other brothers and sisters in Christ will grow closer to each other, where we can truly take off the masks and learn and grow through the hurts of our lives. Only in this way will our “affection for” one another become “all the greater when” we remember how we were obedient to the teachings of the Lord Jesus. The results will lead to Jesus’ resurrected power set loose our lives, through our “jars of clay,” so others can see Jesus live through us! Be glorified Lord Jesus!

“…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
September 11, 2009, 2:16 am
Filed under: K Second Letter to the Corinthians

As I read the first four chapters of Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, and ”all the saints throughout Achaia” I can sense Paul describing more and more the desire for Jesus to flow and express Himself through us to one another. These first four chapters seems to bring the themes of suffering and comfort together and describes how they relate to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

God comforts us through His Spirit as we comfort one another. And not only comfort for a particular “trouble” but “all our troubles”! Paul even describes his trouble as having “felt the sentence of death” (what worse trouble could any of us ever have!) but Paul didn’t look at his trouble as something to complain about but as an opportunity for God to do His work allowing Paul to so rely on God, because he knew God “raises the dead.” Paul’s life was a series of crucifixions and resurrections! Constantly dieing to himself and being raised to newness of life. All for “the glory of God.” Could we desire the same thing?

How could Paul say these things? Because “it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ” and that “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Man, Paul had hope and because of “such a hope, we are very bold”! “God is faithful” and Paul knew the faithfulness of God!

Paul then relates this to the relationships within the body of Christ, his own with the church and within the body itself. Jesus desires to express Himself through us to one another in loving relationships! Paul pointed out to the church that as an apostle he was a servant, not a leader. If anyone decides to “lord it over your faith” then they are not being a servant of the church, because servants “work with” the church “for your joy.” He even describes his “depth” of love for the church how what he wrote from his first letter to the church was done “out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears.” May I and every follower of Christ always in great prayer and thoughtfulness, with God’s power and words, speak honestly with one another. How important confession and forgiveness to one another is! If we do not forgive then Jesus is not expressing Himself through me/us. Jesus, the one who forgave us of all our sins!

Paul says that “through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him…To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life”! The Christian life is about dieing and living. My life as a follower of Jesus is about denying myself, thinking of others instead of myself, dieing to self, taking up my cross, and following Jesus in His resurrection life, living in His power, through His Spirit. It is “the Spirit (that) gives life” and through us, our human bodies, weak as they are, “jars of clay,” the Spirit is God’s “treasure” in us, our weak bodies, “to show that his all-surpassing power is from God.” Am I worn out from what I do for God? Then is God really at work through me or am I doing all the work? How much of God’s glory is really shining through His body? Do others praise God or do they praise the programs?

Through crucifixion and resurrection God desires we “reflect the Lord’s glory…being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”! My life as a follower of Jesus then is one that is in transformation, that comes from Jesus living His life of love through me to one another! Jesus expressing Himself through me to others, finding a home in which to dwell, to live fully, so that lives can be changed and transformed, where people can truly find hope and life! Lord be glorified in your church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever, Amen!

“…he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.”
September 7, 2009, 3:12 pm
Filed under: E Acts

Reading Chapter 19 of Acts and other passages around the same time frame, such as the first letter to the church of Corinth and Paul’s previous letters he had sent earlier such as his letter to the churches in Galatia and the letters to the church at Thessalonica Paul made sure he had help to carry “on the work of the Lord.”

Through Paul’s first, second, and now third missionary journey he has been discipling where ever he went. What comes to mind is Jesus great commission to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” Perhaps the apostle Matthew had already finished writing his gospel and Paul had gotten a copy by now for his travels to the churches, along with copies of his previous letters to Galatia and Thessalonica and now his first letter to the Corinthians along with the Old Testament. It seems he not only had a focus on proclaiming Jesus Christ to all who would listen, he would focus on instructing the new disciples in loving Jesus in praise and worship, loving Jesus through loving one another, His Body, and expressing that love to others. These new disciples enraptured by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who had given them hope and salvation even in the midst of persecution desired to share that same love with those around them, there family, friends, and co-workers no matter the cost. This then formed a church in a home from which Jesus would begin to express Himself more fully through the community.

Because of the journey of traveling, hiking, and camping in the wilderness (what a time I would have enjoyed!) from town to town “Paul wanted to take” others “along on the journey.” Perhaps the Old Testament book from Ecclesiastes (“two are better than one…a cord of three strands is not quickly broken”) became more real for Paul during these days when his travels were many and lonely and the need for companionship the greatest. These other disciples were spoken well of in the church that were planted by Paul.

Paul initially had Barnabas and Mark, later just Barnabas for his first missionary journey. For his second missionary journey Paul had Silas but, because of the first missionary journey, Paul began to have more “companions” travel with him, such as Timothy whom Paul was a spiritual father to and we see his name in many of Paul’s letters. Luke shows up and becomes one of his most faithful companions and writer of his letters. Then Paul shares life with Aquila and Priscilla, then Crispus (a former synagogue ruler), and later Sosthenes (another synagogue ruler). On his third missionary journey, his list of companions grows even more so. Perhaps because of the length of time he spent in Ephesus his focus may have been just on raising up church planters who were sent out to form churches in homes and the work places by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul meets Apollos whom Aquila and Priscilla had helped to know Jesus in reality through a shared life together.

It seems all the while Paul’s focus was on not just being content with “preaching Christ” whom “God raised him from the dead” but helping believers who met in homes and in the marketplaces to “continue in the grace of God,” to know in reality that “Christ lives” in them and to “know Christ and him crucified.” The results were that the believers, wherever Paul went, found themselves in the midst of persecution: Jews who “were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying” in Pisidian Antioch , “the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers” in Iconium, the Jews “stoned Paul” in Lystra, in Philippi “Paul and Silas” were “dragged…to face the authorities” and “severely flogged” and “thrown into prison,” again in Thessalonica the Jews became “jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city,” in their search for Paul and Silas they found “Jason and some other brothers” and “dragged (them)…before the city officials, shouting,” “Jason and the others” were forced to “post bond” and then were let go, these same Jews then left to Berea and also agitated the crowds and stirred “them up,” in Corinth “the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive” and later “made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court,” and finally before leaving to go through Macedonia to visit the church in Corinth a riot occured in Ephesus due to the loss of the idol making business from “silver” shrine “craftsmen” which caused “the whole city” to go “in an uproar.” “Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia” were “seized.”

The life of a church planter in Paul’s day and time was counter cultural and at odds with the world. I wonder why we don’t hear that much about this kind of church planting Paul did in the United States or Europe? I hear numerous stories from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Are the churches in the United States really planted, or start out like those we see in the New Testament? I hear pockets of stories occurring, but not so much from the traditional or contemporary churches whose focus is on building “church” buildings and having a staff and clergy causing enormous overhead for the people of God who claim it to be their church. The stories I hear that are similar to Paul’s church planting style seem to be occurring like in Paul’s day, in houses and the marketplace, where the focus is Christ as Head not a senior pastor, senior teacher, staff, building focused with a mall of programs, or specific distinctions such as mainly white, African American, Latino, etc and no huge overhead such as salaries and mortgage payments and debt.

Is it possible that if we simply made making disciples who love Jesus with all of their being in their homes and marketplaces that formed the body Christ where they lived, learning to live a shared life of love for one another, a priority the church would look more like what we see in Paul’s day, more like what we see outside of the United States? The life I see from Paul is “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, who loved me and gave himself for me” and “knowing Christ and him crucified.” Am I sold out for Christ, because of His great love for me? Do others really love Jesus and are they sold out to Him because of my love and devotion to Jesus in all that I say and do?

Perhaps because of love for pleasure and the things of this world, living a comfortable life of pursuing happiness, the American dream, we cannot fathom ever living by faith because by doing so we must deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus, a life hated by the world. Perhaps because of our neglect for one another, our focus on ourselves, having so few real relationships, shallow relationships, we have no one who can mentor us to really pursue Christ, to know Christ and him crucified?

It seems the institutionalization of the church has done more to harm the making of disciples, the building up of the body, than it has helped. What needs to change in the church today, in the body of Christ, so that it truly can be the New Testament, the New Covenant, the new man, the true vine, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, holy and without blemish? Only Jesus can do such a work, a people by faith who are fully devoted to Jesus teachings, to Jesus incarnate, allowing Him to love through us to one another, focused on Him and nothing else!

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…”
September 5, 2009, 2:53 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

Finishing the first letter to the church in Corinth I am fascinated by the fact that in these last couple chapters Paul brings everything home! “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance”!

The life of the church at Corinth had been focused on everything but Jesus Christ, they had begun to lead idolatrous lives focusing on themselves at the expense of their other brothers and sisters in Christ and were not expressing Jesus life not only to each other but to the world around them. Sounds like a parallel to what happened with the nation of Israel where time and again Israel lost its focus on being a “light to the Gentiles” and fell into idolatry.

In these last two chapters of his letter Paul focuses on the whole purpose of the Christian life: Jesus! “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and then he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve…” As a follower of Jesus, Jesus desires to live His life, ministry, death and resurrection life in and through me to be expressed in love for one another. Jesus command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” But their focus on distinctions in the body of Christ, dividing the body into the haves and have nots, taking advantage of one another, arrogance, slander, idolatry, and lack of humility robbed God of His glory and power in their lives and were living defeated lives. They were hurting Christ! May it never be so with me Lord!

They had lost their testimony to themselves and the world because of their lack of unity, lack of consensus and accountability to living Jesus life according to His words. Jesus prayer had been forgotten: “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” They had forgotten about the resurrected life of Jesus! They had forgotten that resurrection comes after the crucifixion! Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Paul said earlier that his only desire while he was with them was to “know Christ and him crucified.” Why? Because resurrection comes after crucifixion! Jesus will more fully express Himself in our lives, His love and grace, the fruit of the Spirit, when we deny ourselves and take our cross daily and follow Him.

But it is not an individual life that we live, it is with His Body! We learn to live a life of love through His Body! We cannot know the love of Christ fully unless we are growing more and more together in His Body! We cannot know the resurrection life of Jesus unless we “stand firm” in Jesus, making Him Lord and Head of not just our lives but in the life of the Body when we assemble together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and then His power, His resurrection power will be available to us for His glory! “In Christ all will be made alive.”

Towards the end of his letter Paul gives us a wonderful revelation of the glory of Christ, but also the glory that Christ gives us when we are together with Him! “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed”! Jesus wants to transform me, you, us, the Body of Christ so that we look like Him!

“There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” How is Jesus living and loving others through me, you, through His Body? Is it my life or is it Jesus life? Is there love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Are we focused on Jesus? His life, ministry, death, and resurrection? Are we making Him Head over us? Can we like Paul say: “For I am resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”? Am I boasting about what Christ is doing or about what I am doing? Am I following “the example of Christ” from His words He gave us? Am I sharing my life with others, my other brothers and sisters in Christ and for that matter anyone, for their common good, or my own? Do I have concern for others or for myself? “Love is patient, love is kind. it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…Follow the way of love…for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” Paul says to be careful whom you hang around with. Are we hanging around people for their good, to express Jesus to them, or for us? If so they will influence us for evil. “Bad company corrupts good character.” The resurrection life will be demonstrated in our lives, Jesus’ all powerful resurrection life, when we die to ourselves and live by faith, by letting Jesus live His loving practices through us to one another no matter the cost involved. “Do everything in love” Paul says.

Paul ends his letter again reminding them of those who have lived Jesus life among them, not just Paul, but those who they know and trust: “the household of Stephanas…(who) have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” Paul reaffirms how Jesus is still in their lives because of members from the church having come to visit him and “have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.” Paul needs the followers of Jesus in Corinth, living by His life, in order to know Christ more fully! Even Paul! But Paul desires that they come to unity and fully allow Jesus to express Himself through the Body. As such he notes the lives of Aquila and Priscilla who worked among the Corinthians and the believers their saw this couples way of living by the life of Jesus. This godly couple greets these Corinthians “warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house” and in fact “all the brothers here send you greetings.” What an awesome means of encouragement. After realizing how much they had fallen in living Jesus life through themselves they are given a reimagining of what Jesus can do in and through them by remembering the work of God that was done in them from the beginning by the wonderful examples of men and women who had denied themselves, carried their crosses and had followed Jesus!

Lord how we need examples of Your people truly living your life, expressing your love and grace so that we to might reimagine the crucified and resurrected life you desire in me, in us! First Corinthians…what an awesome letter of understanding what the life of the body of Christ is all about! How every church needs to read it with prayer and conviction and reimagine the life of Jesus that is possible in every follower of Jesus living in a shared life in His body, including me!

“Follow the way of love…”
September 4, 2009, 1:54 am
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

As I’ve read and meditated over chapters 12 to 14 these past couple days Paul seems to bring together everything that he has just written in his first letter to the church in Corinth and focuses on the need to “follow the way of love.”

Everything that Paul has been addressing before has been everything but lovely! People who have been attempting to control others, making distinctions between believers causing division, focusing on things of the world, arrogant, not holding each other accountable to the word of God, unable to reconcile with each other, not concerned about other brothers with a “weak conscience,” not caring about the hungry, humiliating others, etc. Paul said to “flee idolatry” as they had been focusing on themselves, making themselves lord both in and out of their assemblies instead of Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus I pray that I do not fall into any of these things, but keep my focus on You!

Paul then provides a wonderful description of the body of Christ! Paul’s point is to bring Christ to the forefront of their meetings! Why? Because “you are the body of Christ”! Every follower of Jesus Christ is a member of the body of Christ! “Each one,” as determined by the Lord, has been given “the manifestation of the Spirit…for the common good” no matter the gift given to that member! Just like every part of the human body has a purpose and function so does every member in the body of Christ. No one is worthless, everyone is important! But Paul mentions that the issue, while that every person who is a follower of Jesus has a function or purpose it “is given for the common good.” Paul said earlier we are not our own, we were bought at a price, the body of Christ, like our own body is to be honored! It’s not about me, it’s about us!

Because the church is the body of Christ, I truly cannot know Christ in reality apart from the the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ speaking into my life and vice versa. If they don’t share their gift, they aren’t sharing what Jesus wants me to know or to have! If I don’t share my gift then I rob the body of Christ of something that Jesus wants them to know or have! The church robs Jesus of His power when we do not lovingly participate in the lives of one another! It’s about “the most excellent way” following “the way of love.”

Paul describes that while the gifts are important, it’s really about how we love one another with those gifts! Without love, whatever we do, “I am nothing…I gain nothing.” Wow! How am I loving others? Is what I do and say, for example with my students at school, with my kids or wife at home, being done for them out of love or for me? The gifts, used in love are for “strengthening, encouragement and comfort…(edifying) the church.” Is my focus on making Jesus Head or making me head? Am I trying to be in control or is Jesus really in control? Let go and let God sounds good about now. I think that applies here. And when this happens, when the brothers and sisters assemble together “in the name of our Lord Jesus” in a home or room somewhere, then “the power of our Lord Jesus is present”!

Paul describes what this meeting together of the church can look like, perhaps helping the Corinthians remember what they had seen Paul model for them when he was there. “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” The power of Christ is shown being present in these meetings because they came together in the name of the Lord Jesus, He was made Head! What a time these believers must have had together! But from assembling with a few other couples in an organic way last weekend it was very similar to this. In fact it was really close! Paul wasn’t so far off from reality!

When followers of Jesus come together with the sole purpose of making Jesus Christ the Head, giving up all of our control and giving Him full control, because “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” “everything (will) be done in a fitting and orderly way.” Lord help us to continue to learn “the way of love” to see You fully expressed through us to one another! How I desire to meet with You again when the body of Christ comes together! Lord help me/us not to fear that by losing control of when we assemble together that we will fail you! That is Your desire, to have us give up control and give You complete control! Take charge Lord Jesus! Let Your Kingdom Come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
September 2, 2009, 1:56 am
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians

As I read chapters 8 to 11 in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth I can sense how Paul continues his theme of helping the body of Christ at Corinth to focus on Jesus.

He opened the letter discussing the issue of divisions in the church, mainly caused by those who seemed to be better than others, some appeared to be attempting to lead the assembly of believers versus letting Christ be the Head, serving them as Christ taught from the gospels. Paul referred to this as being immature, as this focus on themselves versus Christ had caused them to focus on the things of the world even letting sexual immorality occur without consequence and letting lawsuits between believers to occur instead of letting Jesus, His Body, handle the problems. Paul describes the importance of sexual purity and self control, with the focus on devotion to the Lord, not just in marriage but as a single and living a life of devotion to the Lord wherever you are.

In chapters 8 to 11 Paul now relates this same theme to idolatry. If our focus is on anything other than loving Jesus and His Body it is idolatry! Here Paul seems to focus on the need for brothers and sisters to be concerned for the conscience of one another, especially those who have a “weak conscience.” As Paul sees it “when you sin against your brother…you sin against Christ.” When I hurt another brother or sister, I hurt Christ! Man did God show me that the other day! I had offended my wife and I somehow justified it, which of course God convicted me of it, and realizing she is part of the body of Christ, I realized that I had hurt Christ from my offense! After God brought this to my attention I reconciled the issue with her.

Paul tries to help the followers of Jesus to recognize the importance of not causing “my brother to fall into sin” describing his way of life among them when he was there. While Jesus told the disciples when traveling to share the good news He said “when you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.” But Paul made a point not follow this but worked “for a living” so as not to hinder the gospel in any way. He mentions how he made a point to “belong to no man” in order to serve “everyone” whoever they may be ethnically or religiously. Paul mentions how these things: idolatry, sexual immorality, unfaithfulness, and grumbling were because of not having a devotion to Jesus and His Body. “Flee from idolatry!” Paul even describes how men and women can often times focus on their weakness of the flesh, idolatry, instead of Jesus, men can be passive and reject responsibility and women can try and lord it over a man. Even when the believers were meeting together to worship Christ, their worship turned into focusing on how much of the potluck meal they could eat, gluttony, food as an idol, instead of Jesus!

Throughout this portion of his letter Paul keeps turning the problems over to the life of Jesus that is in them and to let that life live through them: “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up…but the man who loves God is known by God…I do all this for the sake of the gospel…No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it…I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say…Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others…so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Paul does not want “anyone to stumble” and doesn’t want anyone in the church to cause anyone to stumble either, even if they are believer or not.

Lord help me to not let anyone stumble whether they are a believer or not by what I say and do! We need to be like Paul and realize when we cause a brother to sin, no matter what it might be, we sin against Christ! “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” Isn’t that the bottomline?