Monthly Archives: April 2020

1 Corinthians 13 Devotion

How you do something matters. Motives matter. Why you do or don’t do things matters. The scary truth is easily apprehended when Mark quotes Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Does this not cause you to tremble that we can sing praises to God but not mean what we sing? It’s just noise. It’s worthless worship. Please, Lord, don’t let us be this way! Fill us with your Spirit!

Chapter 13 moves from gifts of the Spirit to fruits of the Spirit. It’s not enough to have the gifts of the Spirit without the fruits of the Spirit. Tongues of men and angels…of angels without love is just empty and loud clanging. Though the loudest often gets the most attention it is certainly not the determiner of truth.

Gifts of the Spirit are good things. It’s good to know all mysteries and all knowledge. It’s right and important to know theology. But I’ve heard Mark Dever say to the interns something like this, “If you can’t put the Systematic Theology book down and go help an elderly member get to church your theology is worthless.” Can you see this scene? …..A group of guys sitting around wrestling with the truth of God while their fellow brothers and sisters are in need of their assistance.

The fact is all of us fail at this is some way or another more often than we would probably like to admit or have probably even noticed about ourselves. We so need brothers and sisters who love us dearly to point these things out to us. That’s what Paul is doing. If this church needed it then we do too.

You must start with the facts about ourselves in order to be on guard. A believer can possibly give away all his possessions to the feed the poor just to be noticed instead of selfless love. A believer can possibly surrender his body to be burned at the stake (martyrdom) with utter hatred of those who carried out this grievous act. Yet, it seems a centurion noticed something distinctly different in HOW Jesus died on the cross that persuaded him to confess, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

I’m certain that centurion had witnessed and participated in countless crucifixions but never had he heard someone say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Nor had they ever experienced an innocent man not plead his own case! The “how” matters. Selfless love displays the selfless Savior.

This causes me to think of this verse: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, – Colossians 1:24. Paul does not in any way add to what Christ has done but rather in his selfless sufferings he was making Christ’s suffering visible to the world! What was lacking was Christ’s sufferings being made known…visible…imaged for the world to see!

I so want the world to see Jesus in me. Selfishness hides and distorts the image of Christ. The Lord has been so kind and patient to show me through this letter and by His Spirit so many ways that I am selfish. I have so much that needs to change in me. It is impossible to fix selfishness. But God is the God of the impossible.

I was speaking with someone about a verse in 1 Corinthians 15 this morning and I was trying to figure out how that chapter on the resurrection fit into Paul’s attempt to correct so much selfishness. Well I think the answer to slaying selfishness is only found in the gospel. It is our nature to be only concerned about ourselves. But the Selfless Savior died a selfless death and was buried alone in an empty tomb that he might save selfish people!

The resurrection, in particular, should relieve us from living for ourselves now when we will live forever with Jesus! Let us love like Jesus! Let us put off childish ways (the world revolves around me) and put on maturity (Christ is the center of my life). This is still a more excellent way!

1 Corinthians 12 Devotion

It’s strange how some (most?) football TEAMS celebrate together but grieve losses separately. In 1992, my high school football team was really good. We had some weak spots but nothing that threatened to stop us. We were #1 in the state most of the year and were expected to go to the championship. When I said weak spots I meant positions. However, a weakness many of us did not expect crept in.

That weakness was a lack of teamwork. We had many individually strong positions players. We had the size. We had the heart. We had a lot of things teams need to win. But we lacked being a team. To be a team you can’t be selfish. You need to be at practice. You need to do your class work. Many things threaten a team but you must be diligent to think of the team over yourself.

We arrived at our last regular season game and for many of the seniors it would be their last regular season game of our lives. The opponent was West Carroll. I can’t remember their record but it should have been a pushover game. Later, while stunned over the loss we find out that some had celebrated the win BEFORE the game. Rage hardly describes what some of us felt that night. How selfish. We lost in the second round of the tournament that year. We never recovered from that loss.

This chapter is full of team language. It’s full of varieties of players that make up the one team. To have a football team you need all kinds of players with different talents and players that are different size physically. The punter is very important to the team. Think about it like Paul is saying, the less noticeable gifts become more noticeable. The quarterback makes lots of mistakes in a game and he makes a lot of good plays too. But if the place kicker misses the winning field goal or extra point (one mistake) he becomes very noticeable.

The church is made of varieties of people and gifts but one Spirit. We were given the Spirit for the “common good” of the body. It’s not just for you personally. And each individual gift of the body was distributed “*just as He wills” and “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, *just as he desired.” Each member and each gift with the one Spirit working together for the common good of each other. What a beautiful gift!

This is a more excellent way! Let’s be what the Lord has gifted us to be. Let’s do it together for each other to the glory of God. Indeed, it should be that if one suffers the whole body suffers. If one is honored the whole body is honored. Let us all be of one mind and one Spirit working together as one body…the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11 Devotion

No matter the topic, this letter has addressed the issue of selfishness more than anything. To follow the selfless Lord Jesus is to imitate our Lord’s selflessness. Chapter 11 begins with a command to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ! Be sure, to live a self-centered life is NOT Christlike in any respect. To love God and others requires that we not be ME-centered.

We could discuss some of the difficulties surrounding our understanding of head coverings but it boils down to the fact that we Christians are not our own. We were bought with a price. We are under the authority of another, namely, Christ Jesus who is the Head of the church.

God the Father is head over Christ, Christ is head over the church, husbands are head over their wives. We are to submit to the righteous rule and reign of Jesus over us. To do otherwise is to miss a primary part of the gospel to follow our Lord in every way. The One who bought us with his blood owns us and calls the shots! I’m so thankful he does. For he will ALWAYS lead us in righteousness.

The husband is to lead his wife the same way. We can trust that Jesus will never fail to lead us in righteousness but husbands are very much fallible. The wife is NEVER to follow the husband if he is leading her into sin. However, she is to have a disposition towards her husband longing that he would lead according to God’s word. So, when he does the wife should gladly submit because he is leading her in righteousness.

Selfish leadership or selfishly not submitting to rightful authority is unrighteous and ungodly. This is God’s creation order. It has NOTHING to do with equality. If submission to authority equals the lesser submitting to the greater then the Son of God is less than the Father in his nature and attributes. But that is not so. The Father and the Son are equal but the Son submits to the Father. That is his role not his nature.

The same is true in the church. A man is of the same nature as a woman. They are equal. They are both human beings created in the image of God. But just as we would expect our children to obey BOTH parents even though they are equal image-bearers too, so also the wife submits to the authority of her husband. Though not here, the church is called to submit to the righteous leadership of the pastor(s).

No matter the symbol of authority a group of people use, we know a wife could wear a head covering and still not be submissive. It is a heart disposition. Whether it is a ring on our finger or something else, it should be easily discernible that we are not our own. We gladly live under the righteous reign of Christ Jesus! To disobey God’s word is to tell the world that we know better than God and that He is not worthy of our glad obedience.

Also, the whole issue Paul has with their practice of the Lord’s Supper is selfishness. They were despising those who had nothing among them. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be selfless in our day. Look for those in need. Listen for opportunities to display the love of Christ. And what dark days we live in to shine the light of Jesus by thinking of others more than ourselves.

The words of Jesus sum it all up! “This is *my body, which is broken for *you!” Let us be spent for the sake of the gospel!


1 Corinthians 10 Devotion

This picture is supposedly the rock at Horeb from which water gushed out for the people of Israel. Can you imagine seeing water pour out a rock? Can you imagine walking on dry land through the Red Sea? Not to mention all that happened in Egypt when the Lord rescued His people from slavery. The ten plagues. The amazing miracle of the Passover. The defeat of their foe as the waters closed in over the Egyptian army.

They sing a victory song….then three days later they are wondering where they are going to get some water! Seriously? You just saw all of this happen and you don’t think that you should ask the Lord…trust the Lord to provide you with water? You think He rescued you from Egypt to let you die in the wilderness three days later?

The amount of examples are too numerous to cite. What Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10 is meant to point you back to these stories as an example “so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.” Note this…”these things happened to them as an example.” So not only did these events have their own purpose in their day as it says in Exodus to test them but they happened for us to see and learn from now: “they were written for our instruction.”

Paul commanded the Corinthians, “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were…nor let us act immorally, as some of them did…nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did…nor grumble, as some of them did.”

Why does Paul say these things to them? So that they would live like this: “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbors.” It’s really the same thing he’s been talking about for several chapters. Eternal joy awaits us, therefore live a selfless life now. It’s the same paradigm of humble yourself now and you will be exalted…the last shall be first. In other words, do not live like this is heaven, that’s coming later. The time is urgent!

Why are the times urgent? Why would Paul live this way and plead with the Corinthians to live this way? It is the same as ch. 9: “so that I may win more…so that I may win those under the law…so that I might win those who are without law…so that I may by all means save some.”

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, *so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

Our purpose in life is to glorify God. We also have a mission in life because many are not living for the glory of God and they should be. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations that they might live for His glory!

Are you avoiding the mistakes of Israel? Are we living for ourselves only or others? We will have eternity to live. We should spend our time now dying to self. As Paul will write later:

For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our moral flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:11-12

1 Corinthians 9 Devotion

This hangs on my daughter’s wall! It is a reminder to live our lives as Paul does: “I run in such a way, as NOT without aim.” The reason much of the world lives without aim is because they do not have a sure and certain target as we do. We are promised an imperishable reward because we believe in the gospel. Eternal life with Christ our Savior awaits us.

But how does Paul live with intention and aim? Well, it’s not only for himself but that other might be rescued from the penalty of sin. But there are plenty of hindrances among our lives and the lives of others that require us to live with intention.

Over and over, Paul reveals to the Corinthians that he had not made use of several rights he had as an apostle. To be a people who have their aim on Christ and eternal joy with him most certainly should give up various rights we have for the sake of making the gospel known to others.

In Paul’s defense, he mentions eating and drinking, marriage, not working a side job to support his ministry to them to which it seems he must prove with more evidence. He appeals to the OT for reference: “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” Verse 14 summarizes it like this: “the Lord has directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” In other words, it is good and right for churches to fully support their pastor(s) (and missionaries) in the ministry of the gospel.

The ministry of the gospel takes more than certain people being free from concern about their finances. There are many hinderances in this world to the gospel. Some of them occur within the church as Paul has addressed. But others have to do with various hang ups people have. It takes intentional aim to navigate how to maintain the one gospel in various circles of life.

It mostly has to do with being selfless “that I may by all means save some.” It takes an intentional aim to win the prize of eternal life. It takes discipline to make our body our slave rather than being a slave to our body. There’s no reason to do this if something greater does not await us.

Resurrection is coming. Live like it is! There will be plenty of time to enjoy life when the greater and better Eden is restored!

1 Corinthians 6-8 Devotion

1 Corinthians 6-8

What does a disciple of Christ look like and what is one’s purpose?

—Why not rather be wronged?

—Why not rather be defrauded?

—(New identity) such *were some of you; but you *were washed, but you *were sanctified, but you *were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

—Flee immorality because your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit

—You are not your own

—You have been bought with a price…conclusion? Therefore glorify God in your body

—You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men

—to promote what is appropriate and to secure *undistracted devotion to the Lord

—love edifies…if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

I want undistracted devotion to the Lord! I want to flee immorality. I want to glorify God in my body. I want to love and be loved! I am not my own! Lord do whatever you please with me!

1 Corinthians 5 Devotion

1 Corinthians 5

This chapter is hard to read. I mentioned back in chapter 3 that I wished all we had to deal with was jealousy and strife. I knew this chapter was coming and I intentionally said those things to try and read this letter as if I hadn’t read it before.

Why? Have you wondered why Paul did mention this grievous sin first? Could it be that the disunity among them led to their lack of response and, as Paul calls it, arrogance?

Sin, no matter its “size” causes damage. It hardens our hearts and fractures our relationships. By its very nature, sin separates. It puts distance between us and God and each other.

We lack discernment when we are jealous. Strife breeds anger and bitterness. The fact that they are allowing sexual immorality to happen among them and continue on as if nothing is wrong is very telling of them (and any church).

I’m afraid the church is afraid that it would hinder our attempt to reach our community with the gospel to discipline someone in the church for this. Sadly, that is probably just an excuse. We aren’t reaching our community with the gospel.

I’d suggest the community expects the church to say sexual immorality is wrong. I’d suggest they will not listen to you share the gospel with them if they know you are allowing such grievous sin among you. Is that what it looks like to follow Jesus?

Brothers and sisters we must trust God’s ways. We must trust that they are right and good. We must desire to live for the glory of God together. We need each other. May the beauty of Christ compel us to live together like this.

1 Corinthians 4 Devotion

1 Corinthians 4

I think I need the rod, Paul. I read this and weep because I have so often given up opportunities to be what Paul describes himself to be like…he is imitating Christ and he was asking them to imitate him.

Only servants are entrusted with the mysteries of the gospel. You would think that God would give such precious things to higher people. But the Lord doesn’t work that way. To carry the words of the cross requires that you also carry the bloody cross yourself. Our identity is bound up the humiliation of Jesus.

These are strange ambitions (to the world) that Paul calls us to imitate. Last of all, as men condemned to death, a spectacle to the world, fools for Christ, weak, without honor, hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, and homeless.

May we display Christ in the world today as we live oddly in the world. When you are reviled, bless…when persecuted, don’t give up…when slandered, conciliate. Don’t try to climb out of your worldly status…scum of the world and the dregs of all things.

Let us boast in Christ our King!