Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2 Corinthians 8-13

There are many lessons in these chapters telling us how to live and love and about grace.  What is grace?  It’s God’s love to the undeserving.  It’s the most important word in our language.  It’s a gift of God and not of works.  It’s God’s unmerited favor and can only be received by believing His word and believing in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 8-9 – Grace is Generous

When we have God’s grace, it’s seen in our hearts.  We become more generous and we treat other people differently.  We give not only our money, but our time and love.  In chapter 8 verse 4, the people begged to give.  It was as privilege to give not an obligation.  The Macedonian churches had extreme poverty, but they still gave generously to spreading of the gospel.  In Paul’s letter he encourages the Corinthians to do the same and to continue in their giving as they promised.  Why give?  God wants His family cared for.  Jesus gave His life that we might become rich.  “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12)

Paul and Titus were to administer the gifts and wanted to avoid any criticism.  Paul wanted to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord and also in the eyes of men.

Paul reminds us that if we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly.  If we sow generously, we also reap generously – (2 Cor. 9:6).  “… God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)  It’s all God’s anyway.  We are just giving back to Him what is already His.  Don’t give under compulsion.  Giving will stir up others to action.  Giving not only supplies needs, but causes the receiver to express thanks to God.

Knowing God’s grace makes you generous.

Grace is costly.  If it’s easy, it’s not grace.  The principle of grace is more than just your money.  It’s your time, your resources, your love, etc.

Are you a cheerful giver?
Do you give sacrificially?
Do you give prayerfully?
How is your attitude impacting others?
What seeds are you sowing?

Pray 2 Cor. 9:8 for yourself.

2 Corinthians 10-11:15 – Grace is Powerful

Chapter 10 focuses on people who have not repented.  Paul was not trying to win a popularly contest.  He was only defending the truth.  He had already lived that life.  There is a war between truth and lies.  God equips us with weapons the enemy cannot stand up against.  We can fight spiritual battles with His word and prayer.  The enemy, Satan masquerades as an angel of light and his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  God’s Word can be used effectively to fight spiritual battles.  2 Tim. 3:16 – Scripture gives wisdom, guidance and comfort and is God breathed.  Heb. 4:12 – It is sharper than a two edged sword.  Prayer can be also be effectively to fight spiritual battles.  1 John 3:15 – when we pray we know He hears us.  James 5:16 – Prayer is powerful and effective. 

We as Christians should be on guard against Satan temptations.  “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)  Satan does exist even though there are people who don’t believe he does.  Scripture speaks in many places of Satan.  He is called several names -  the devil, the father of lies, prince of the world, the great dragon, ancient serpent.
Luke 4:1-2, 13 – Jesus was tempted in a time of weakness.
Luke 13:16 – He keeps us bound when we reject the Lord.
Luke 22:3 – He entered Judas, one of the 12 disciples.
Luke 22:31-21 – He wants to test believers and separate us from God.
John 8:44 – He’s a murder from the beginning and the father of lies.
John 12:31; 14:30 – He is the prince of the world and has a hold on us, but will be defeated by Jesus.
Revelation 12:9 – He is known as the great dragon, the devil, ancient serpent.
Revelation 20:2 – He will be bound for 1,000 years when Jesus returns and then will be destroyed.

Paul says he is jealous for them with a godly jealousy.  In other word he doesn’t want to see them abandon the truth by being deceived by false teachers and Satan’s deceptions.  He didn’t want them to put up with any wrong teachings.  God’s enemy can even be found in the church.  It’s God’s battle and He has the power to demolish strongholds.  Strongholds hold one captive, is a fake refuge and set up to defy God.  Wrong thoughts can be a stronghold – fear, pride, greed, self-centeredness.  Truth helps us deal with wrong thinking.

God’s power given by grace is stronger than any opposition.

What stronghold imprisons you?
What do you find security in – your kids, your bank account, your job?

We are in a war whether we signed up for one or not.  How alert are you?  Don’t trust the world.  Stick with Jesus.  We are spiritually naive when we’re indifferent.

2 Corinthians 11:16-13 – Grace is Sufficient

The Corinthians were slow to absorb the truth – like us.  Paul compared his boasting to the boasting of the false apostles.  The false apostles boast about worldly things and their strengths.  Paul boasts about his weaknesses so God’s love and power is revealed.  His list of sufferings show his deep love for them.  “I have worked much harder, been imprisoned more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.”(2 Cor. 11:23-26)

From Paul’s testimony we learn about being a servant of Jesus Christ.  He was definitely humble, focused on Jesus and the salvation of others, not himself.  You can’t be prideful and serve God.  Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” which kept him from being conceited by all he had experienced. (2 Cor. 12:7-9)  We don’t need to know what the thorn was.  We only need to know the source that kept him going.  God uses our weaknesses to make us depend on Him.  Then over time our weaknesses make us stronger.

Paul continues to show his deep love for the Corinthians by treating them like his children. – (2 Cor. 12:14)  He suffers because of his love for them.  He fears they will continue in sin and not repent.  He fears there may be quarreling, jealously, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. – (2 Cor. 12:20-21)

Paul reassures them that Christ is speaking through him in 2 Cor. 13:2-10 by telling them Jesus was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power; and we are weak in Him, yet by God’s power we will live with Him to serve you.   He says “examine yourselves…”(2 Cor. 13:5). 

Is there any evidence of God’s grace in you?
Are you righteous on the inside and outside?
Do you hate someone enough to murder him in your heart?

We are not perfect, but we should aim for perfection.

Trust allows us to experience the sufficiently of God’s grace.

What is your current stronghold?
What is your “I can’t”?  Trust Him to meet any of your needs.
How are you trying to keep your weakness from being seen?

His grace is sufficient whether you believe it or not.

When the phone rings with that dreaded call that you hope you will never get, go to these scriptures to see the journey of walking through grace:  2 Cor. 8:2, 9:6, 12:9

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2 Corinthians 1-7

2 Corinthians 1-2:11 – Comfort in Troas
2 Corinthians 2:12-5:10 – Power in Brokenness
2 Corinthians 5:11-7 – Joy in Reconciliation

False teachers from Jerusalem came to Corinth after Paul left and the people begin to question Paul’s teachings.  He was in great distress and wrote a letter to them.  He knew if they rejected him, they would be rejecting God.

What do you do when you are distressed over life situations? 
Who do you turn to?

Paul’s trusted in the Lord to comfort him.  God protects our heart which also shows others comfort.

Chapter 1
God’s comfort means strength.  Paul was comforted in Asia because God is the father of compassion and the God of all comfort.  God comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others – (2 Cor. 1:3-4).  Suffering is in the world because there is sin in the world and we should expect suffering because we follow Him.  No true comfort is apart from God.

Christ didn’t do anything wrong, but He suffered for us.  Suffering makes us useful to Him in the world.  You may not experience the kind of suffering Paul suffered, but we do suffer.  When we do, we receive comfort and you can share that comfort with others.

How does God comfort you in your trials?

In Troas Paul experienced disappointment.  He had no peace, because he didn’t find Titus there.  He experienced triumph, because God opened the door for him to preach.  He experienced joy, because he was able to continue spreading the gospel – (2 Cor. 1:3-11).

Do you experience peace and joy in Christ?

God shares true comfort with believers so we will share it with others.

“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.”(2 Cor. 1:21-22).  Anointed means He sanctified us or made us sacred.  Sealed means He fasten us securely.  The Holy Spirit seals our salvation and continually guides and teaches us making us sanctified.

Chapter 2
Paul encourages them to forgive.  There is no place in church for human limits.  We need to be forgiving in all circumstances.

Paul was exhausted, but still gave thanks to God.

When the gospel is presented it either is a “smell of death” or a “fragrance of life” to its listeners.  Either you ignore it bringing you eternal death or you accept it bringing you eternal life. – (2 Cor. 2:15-16)

Have you ignored the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Chapter 3
Paul explains that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – (2 Cor. 3:6) The letter refers to the Old Testament Law.  It kills, because no one can obey all the laws.  It condemns us, because none of us are perfect.  We have broken all the laws.  The Spirit gives life when we believe and accept Jesus.  We receive the Holy Spirit and are saved by grace and have eternal life.  We are then free from the law.

Paul talks about the veil over the heart.  The veil is confusion and unbelief that separated them from God.  With sacrifices in the Old Testament, their sins were only taken away temporarily.  With the death of Jesus our sins are gone forever.  When we turn to God, the veil is taken away.  The Holy Spirit causes us to have a clear vision.  We are changed to Christ’s likeness by turning to Him.  The person by whom we are changed is the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 4
Are you considering giving up on a situation?
Will you trust God instead and not lose heart?

The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing.  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”(2 Cor. 4:4) The god of this age is Satan.  He has blinded unbelievers so they cannot hear the good news.  The only person through whom we receive the light of truth is Jesus.  We have human weaknesses that reveal God’s glory.  “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9) There is a connection between sharing Christ’s death and producing life in others. “We carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”(2 Cor. 4:10) There is decay of the physical and a renewing of the spiritual.  “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) “So we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”(2 Cor. 4:18)
We should be encouraged, because we know we will be raised to eternal life on day and be in the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord forever and forever.

A “clay pot’ is a believer where God stores His treasure, the Holy Spirit.  He uses us to show His power.  When we’re broken His light will shine through the cracks.  We’re all cracked pots.  When life pushes you down, you crack. 

Does the grace and mercy of God show through your cracks or are you busy covering up your cracks?  Fear of pain doesn’t let others see inside your cracks.  Do they see love, faithfulness, joy?  Do you let God fill you up?

Spiritual faith is an attitude.  You are not your own.  Fix your eyes of the unseen, Jesus.  Paul saw past his pain and let God use every ounce for His purposes.  Remember this life is temporary.  Remember your suffering should not be wasted.  See it as a gift of God and rejoice in Him fixing you eyes on Him.

Chapter 5
Paul uses a metaphor of an earthly tent and the heavenly dwelling.  The earthly tent is our perishable body that will be destroyed one day, but we will have an eternal heavenly body that will be imperishable.  God has reconciled sinful people to Himself.  He made us a new creation when we accept Jesus.  Jesus had no sin.  God sent Him to be sin to us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 

God is glorified through suffering and brokenness surrendered in trust in Jesus.

How are you relying on your resources believing you have confidence from the Lord? 

No one wants to be a cracked pot, but with no cracks you can show no light.  Don’t spent time covering them up.  Do you trust your hard and unfair circumstances for His purpose?  How will you let others see Christ through your shame and broken heart?  Will you surrender your pain to God?  Where is your focus?  He is the solution.

Chapter 6
If we are not sincere we are a stumbling block!  Paul’s life reveals what Christian conduct should be – in all circumstances.  As servants of God Paul and the others had great endurance in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger.  In those circumstances we see purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, sincere love, truthful speech, the power of God and weapons of righteousness. – (2 Cor. 6:3-7)  We see contrasts of circumstances – through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet they live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – (2 Cor. 6:8-10)

All these circumstances describe Paul’s life.  We will never experience such times to the degree that he did.  In the trials we do face, do we triumph in Christ as Paul did?
How do you compare to Paul in these circumstances?
What is your conduct when things don’t go your way?

Chapter 7
Godly sorrow brings repentance and no regret.  Worldly sorrow brings death.  Godly sorrow helps us see our sins.

Are you defensive, or just sorry, or do you really repent?
Repentance is requested for reconciliation with God and others.

Paul was compelled to act.  How are you impacted by His Love? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

1 Corinthians 8-16

1 Corinthians 8-10 – Freedom in Love

Chapter 8:
Surrender means to give one’s self up to the power of authority.  With freedom comes responsibility.  Paul teaches us how to handle freedom.  We can only live and love like Jesus, if we surrender.  Paul teaches us some principles about relating to other Christians who are not strong in their faith.  Paul said he knew the Corinthians had knowledge and that knowledge had made them conceited and proud.  He calls attention to their pride and said that love trumps knowledge.   Paul said that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  (1 Cor. 8:1)  Paul tells us even though we have freedom in Christ; we are not to do anything that might cause a weaker Christian to stumble.  

The Corinthians had some questions about eating meat offered to idols.  A Christian knows eating such meat is ok, but some new to the faith thought that eating food sacrificed to idols was a sin and didn’t want to take any chances.  Paul said, “We know an idol is nothing in the world at all and that there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 1:4).  Food does not bring us closer to God, so we should not participate in eating such food for the sake of causing others to stumble.  We should not do anything that might cause them judge our actions.  He also says we should not be conceited about our knowledge.  We should be sensitive to our fellow brothers and sisters.  Love always supersedes freedom.

Are you puffed up in your knowledge and look down on others who are not as knowledgeable as you?

Chapter 9:
Paul had the right to receive financial support from the Corinthians as all people in the ministry do.  He chose not to accept any pay.  He said he was compelled to preach and does it voluntarily.  He didn’t want anything to hinder the gospel.  He only seeks heavenly rewards.

We learn many lessons by Paul example.  One being he reached people with the gospel by being all things to all men.  He met them where they are so he could better relate to them and gain their confidence.  Then they would be more apt to listen when we told them about Jesus and how they should live.

Chapter 10:
Paul gave the Corinthians warnings from Israel’s history.  In Exodus 32, Numbers 16-17, Numbers 21 and other Old Testament scriptures we learn that the Israelites were idolaters.  They were sexually immoral, tested the Lord, and continually grumbled.  As a result they were killed by the destroying angel.  These things happened to them as warnings for us.  We act the same way today – grumbling when things don’t go the way we think it should.   Many people test the Lord by living together outside the covenant of marriage.  We as a nation have become sexually immoral.  Just look at the movies and TV shows we watch.  Sexually immorality is everywhere and we are tempted everyday.

So Paul says if you think you are standing firm and can’t be tempted, be careful.  God’s promise to us is that He will provide an escape when we are tempted.  “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.”  (1 Cor. 10:13) 

This escape is available to all, but involves surrender.  Does that describe the reign of God in your life?  If you think you are strong enough and not to be tempted – you’re not.  If you think you can’t possible begin to doubt Him – you’re wrong.

So what are we to do? – recognize our weaknesses, recognize the dangers around us, be alert to our enemy recognizing Satan and his demonic forces, avoid temptations, be prayerful, study His Word, listen to the Holy Spirit and keep the right association with fellow Christians.   God is faithful.  He loves us and wants what’s best for us.  He will protect us.

Paul gives us more principles that we can practice today:
We have freedom in Christ, but that doesn’t mean we should do all things, because it may not be good for us.  It might cause others to stumble. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Cor. 10:23)

Have you accepted Jesus Christ as savior, but not let Him be Lord in your life?
When is the last time you denied yourself for the sake of others?
Do you do everything for the glory of God?

We can’t hear Him because we are arguing with Him over who is in charge.

True freedom is submission to Jesus as Lord.

1 Corinthians 11-14 – Church Life in Love

Chapter 11:
Paul also talked about men not covering their heads and women covering their heads while worshiping.  In Corinth the culture influences were in the church.  Women went around bared headed which was identified with prostitutes.  They were enjoying their freedom to do so, but Paul said they should cover their heads in order to be a witness. 

I also think this means that we are to be focused on true worship without any physical distractions.  We should not dwell on male-female attractiveness and should dress modestly not drawing attention to ourselves.

Paul gives God’s appointed order of authority for husbands and wives: 
The head of Christ is God.
The head of every man is Christ.
The head of the woman is man.

Women, are you honoring your husband and your church in the way you dress?

Paul addresses their participation in Holy Communion.  As their custom they gathered together for a meal and followed it with the Lord’s Supper.  There were clicks in the church.  They ate with friends instead of merging with others in Christ.  There was a lot of drinking and by the time they celebrated the Lord Supper, they were drunk.  This didn’t look very well outside the church.  Was there anything different from believers and nonbelievers? 

Paul says before taking the Lord Supper we should examine ourselves first making sure we have confessed our sins and are right with God.  We should not take it in an unholy manner, which is a sin against the body and the blood of the Lord.  We should remember its purpose – Jesus shed His blood for our sins.

Where is your focus when you partake in the Lord Supper?  Is it a mechanical thing for you? There is nothing routine in what Jesus did for us.  We should be in awe every time we partake in the Lord Supper.

Chapter 12:
Paul reminds them that spiritual gifts are used to build up the body of Christ not individuals.  There are varieties of spiritual gifts like snowflakes or fingerprints are different from every other.  God has gifted you to do what He wants you to do.  Christ not only died to give you the gift of eternal life, but also so you could serve Him with your spiritual gift.  Your gift could be service, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:4-11)  There are other gifts mentioned throughout scripture.

What is your spiritual gift?

How do you know your experience is true conversion?  1 Corinthians 12 says you have the Holy Spirit.  Romans 10:9-10 says that you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.  Galatians 3:26-28 says you are baptized into Christ and have clothed yourself with Christ.  Have you submitted to Jesus and is He your Lord?

Every Christian should be active in some way in the body of Christ.  “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” – (1 Cor. 12:27) We each have different gifts and we should all work together in unity.

Chapter 13:
What is love?  We love our children.  We love shopping.  We love America.  We love chocolate cake.  Love is very overused today.  We think love is a warm fuzzy feeling, but in chapter 13 love refers to action.  Love is something we do rather than something we feel.  Love in the Bible refers to how we treat people.  Love should be evident, because God is love and He commands us to love.  Paul says this is the greatest gift of all.  If we have not love, we have nothing.  “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.” – (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

Do you love your elderly neighbor?  Then go over and shovel snow off their sidewalk.  Do you love your church?  Then get involved.  Send a get well card to a sick brother or sister.  Do you love Jesus?  Then lead someone else to love Him.

Chapter 14:
Paul gives principles about the use of spiritual gifts:
All spiritual gifts should be used to build up the church.
The gift of speaking in tongues – if you speak in tongues, there should be someone to interpret or you should be quiet.
When speaking in tongues, you’re not speaking to man, but to God.
With the gift of prophesy you are speaking to men for their strength, encouragement and comfort.
When you speak in tongues, you are edifying yourself; but when you prophesy you are edifying the church.
The gift of tongues is secondary to the gift of prophesy.

God gives each believer spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ for His glory.

What is on your mind when you take the Lord’s Supper?
Are you focused on self when you go to church?
Is church just not working for you?  It’s not about you.  It’s about God.  We all have needs and we want them fixed.  Start serving others and you will be changed.
What’s your attitude about your church?
Are you willing to serve even if no one thanks you?  Jesus thanks you and He is the only one that counts.

1 Corinthians 15-16 – Eternal life in Love

Chapter 15:
Jesus appeared six different time after His resurrection:  (1) To Peter, (2) To the 12, (3) To more than 500 of the brothers at one time, (4) To James, (5) To all the apostles, (6) To Paul. 

There are 3 basic beliefs of a Christian found in 1 Cor. 15:3-4:
Christ died for our sins according to scriptures.
He was buried according to scriptures.
He was raised on the 3rd day according to scriptures.

Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?  If not, there is no hope.  You cannot be a Christian and deny the resurrection of Jesus.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  If Christ has not been raised, preaching is useless and so is your faith.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, we have been found as false witnesses about God.  If the dead are not raised, then neither was Jesus. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then your faith is futile, you are still in your sins and those fallen asleep are lost. (1 Cor. 15:13-18)
We are secure in that one day that we shall rise from the dead. 

The order of events from Christ’s resurrection until God is all in all:
Christ, the first fruits, then when He comes those who belong to Him.  Then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  Satan will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all. – (1 Cor. 15:23-28)

When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, the believer’s body will be raised imperishable raised in glory and power, and raised a spiritual body.  It will bear the likeness of Jesus and will be changed in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. – (1 Cor. 15:42-54)

Chapter 16:
How can you show you believe in the power Resurrection?  You could stand firm, let nothing move you, always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, be on guard, standing firm in faith, be men and women of courage, be strong and do everything in love.

Jesus’ resurrection gives believers hope and power to stand firm in faith and do everything in love.

Are you gratefully surrendering to Him as Lord?
What is going on in your life today that you need to call upon God?
Does the body of Christ look any different than the world?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

1 Corinthians 1-7

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 – The People

Corinth was a wealthy, but wicked sinful city.  The new church in Corinth found it hard not to act like their neighbors; therefore they had problems.  Some members were arguing and taking sides and some were living sinful lives.  Paul wrote his letter to scold them and teach them how Christians should act. 

He used the phrase “Do you not know” several times.  He wanted so much more for them and was concerned how they were living.  Being a Christian is living differently from others.  He reminds them that they are set apart and chosen.  This letter is to believers not unbelievers.  He had confidence in them for they were enriched in every way – in all their speaking and in all their knowledge and they were not lacking in any spiritual gifts. (1 Corin. 1:5-7)  

1 Corinthians 1:10-6:20 – The Problem

The problem was their quarreling which caused division in the church.  They were divided in beliefs and were definitely not living in Christian unity.  Paul reminded them that Christ was not divided and we are all followers of Christ so there was no reason to be divided.  They should live by the fruits of the Spirit.  (See Galatians 5:22-26 for a list of the fruits of the Spirit.) 

Paul talks about human wisdom and God’s wisdom.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corin. 1:25)  God gives wisdom to His people through His Holy Spirit.  Paul’s message illustrates God’s wisdom and the Spirit’s power.  I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corin. 2:3-5)

God calls believers to live according to their new identity in Christ.

We are called to live differently.  We are set apart.  Where are you not living set apart?  Standing out for Christ is not easy.  Maturity in Christ is hard, but don’t give up.  Is there someone in your life not living up to Christ’s standards?  How are you encouraging your brothers and sisters in Christ?  It’s not easy, but we don’t have to do it alone.

With division in the church Paul reminds them to be careful on what kind of foundation they lay.  If we build on a weak foundation which is our own will and self-serving, it will not stand up to the test.   Nothing is this world lasts forever.  Nothing will stand up to the test.  Christ has already laid the sure foundation, which is His will.  Only God’s way will stand up to the test.  Look at Paul’s life.  It shows the power of Jesus Christ.

How does the power of God show in your circumstances?  Are you walking in your own power?  Ask God to move you out of the way.

Paul was hindered from speaking of the deep wisdom of God because they were still worldly and infants in Christ.  They were still on “milk” and not ready for “solid food”.  They were only ready for the basics and not for the deep teachings of scripture.  God’s word sometimes is not easy to understand and they needed to become more mature before getting the “solid food”. 

By worldly Paul meant they, like the world today, did not submit to God, they judged others, they loved money, power, success, self, etc.  They lived by the standards of the world – under Satan’s control. 

The foundation on which we should live is Jesus Christ and God’s Word.  Jesus died in our place so we would not have to suffer God’s wrath.  Now we have access to God.  This doesn’t really make sense to us, but we don’t need to understand it.

The persons who have knowledge of scripture are servants of Christ, entrusted with secret things of God, faithful and non-judgmental. – (1 Corin. 4:1-5)  People who are inflated with pride think highly of themselves and think they are kings.  They put themselves above others.  Persons who have true spiritual power are humble, fools for Christ but wise in Christ, weak but strong, honored but dishonored. – (1 Corin.4:10-13) 

Paul gives them instructions:
  • Sexually immoral – If anyone among you is sexually immoral, he should be expelled from the church.  Of course you should continue to pray for him and if he repents bring him back into the church.
  • Lawsuits – Believers should not bring lawsuits against another believer.  It should be settled amongst believers.  We as saints will one day judge the world so we are competent to judge trivial cases.
  • Judging angels – One day believers will judge angels and the world.
  • Christian freedom of physical appetites – Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.
  • Sexual purity – You are not your own.  You were bought with a price.  Our bodies are not meant for sexual immorality.  Our body is the temple of God.  Honor God with your body.
Christ’s power and wisdom is the solution to all sin and its resulting problems.

What sin do you bring to church?  Pride, gossip, criticism, entitlement? 
Is there a sin that keeps coming up?  Bring the power of the cross to that sin.  You must give it to Him.  It will be taken away by His power not yours.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 – The Question

Paul gives instruction about marriage:
  • A man should have 1 wife and a wife should have 1 husband.
  • Each should fulfill their marital duties and don’t deprive each other so Satan will not tempt you.
  • If you divorce and remarry, you commit adultery.
  • You should not separate from your spouse, but if you do, you should not remarry.
  • If the unbelieving partner chooses to leave, the Christian must let him go.
  • Widows are free to marry, but should marry a Christian.
Paul believed it is better not to marry, unless you cannot control your sexual desires which might make you give in to sexual immorality.  He knows those who marry will face many troubles in life – (1 Corin. 7:28).  Marriage is hard work.  If you do want to get married, you should think long and hard about it.  Make sure you know the other person seeing them in all kinds of situations.  Marriage is not between 2 people, but between husband, wife and God. 

How will you use your marriage for His purposes? 
What newlywed will you mentor?

If you find that you have sinned in this area, remember God forgives sins - and the sin of divorce.  If you are struggling in your marriage, stay in His Word and on your knees in prayer asking God for guidance.  He will guide and comfort you, give you strength and can change your hopeless situation.  If He doesn’t change you situation, He will use it for your good.
Christ's power and wisdom of God enable the believer to obey God.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Acts 18:23 - 21:15

Acts 18:23-19:10 – Teachable  

How much access does God have to your heart?  Paul gave God full access to his heart, mind and life.  He had a heart for evangelism and discipleship.  He began his third missionary journey to Galatia and Phrygia.  His goal was to strengthen all the disciples.  Who do you need to strengthen?  While there a Jew named Apollos came to Ephesus.  Apollos was very knowledgeable of scriptures and spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, although he knew only the baptism of John.  Priscilla and Aquila heard him and invited him to their home.  There they explained to him the way of God more adequately.  Being inspired and encouraged by them, Apollos went to Achaia to help prove the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:1-12; 3:4-6, 16:2 tell there was a division in the church.  Apollos was so good at convincing people that he developed a following.  Some followed Apollos, some Paul, and some Peter – instead of Jesus.  Paul warns the Corinthians and appeals to them that they all agree and be united in Christ.

Paul went to Ephesus and saw something was missing with some of the disciples.  They didn’t know the rest of story about Jesus.  They had not been born-again and baptized by the Holy Spirit.  Paul re-baptized them.  The Holy Spirit comes one time only and never leaves us.  Baptism is just an outward sign of an inward conversion.

God’s word transforms a teachable heart.

How teachable are you? They were open to new truths about God.  The Bible is timeless truth.  We can’t help others go any further in their faith, if we haven’t gone further.  Are you willing to invest in someone else?  Maybe they know a little, but need to know more.  It could change the course of their life.

Acts 19:11-41 – Sacrificial

Paul taught in Ephesus boldly in the synagogue for three months.  Some refused to believe so he left and went to Asia.  Paul was empowered to heal and performed miracles in the name of Jesus.  When the people in Ephesus heard, many then believed.

Some of the Jews tried to drive out evil spirits in the name of Jesus.  One was Sceva, a Jewish chief priest.  An evil spirit said to him, “Jesus I know and I know Paul, but who are you?”  Then the man with the evil spirits jumped on them all and gave them a beating. This shows us that we should not mess around with evil or the occult.  We can’t drive out evil spirits without Jesus. 
Only Jesus has the power to drive out demons.  Paul demonstrated God’s power right in the middle of Satan’s mists.  Satan’s uses counterfeit acts and he knows the unsaved don’t know the difference.  When this became known in Ephesus, the people were fearful and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.  Many who believed and confessed their evil deeds openly.

What do you have that you need to confess?

A silversmith named Demetrius who made idols called the other silversmiths together.  He was concerned that Paul’s teachings would convince people to not worship the idols they made and of course they would lose money.  He told them that Paul said they were no gods at all and that Artemis, Greek goddess of fertility would be discredited and people would be robbed of her divine majesty.  Most of the people assembled together didn’t even know why they were there (Acts 19:32).  When they heard this, there was a riot.  People even today like getting involved in protests.  It’s entertaining and it’s something to do.

A teachable heart will sacrificially obey God’s word.

When evil clashes with good, God always wins.  What do you need to sacrificially do to live up to God’s word?  God knows your secrets and so does Satan.  Sometimes it’s not easy to recognize idols today.  They could be an idea, an organization, pleasure, work, ministry, family, etc.  It’s anything you focus and count on instead of God.  If you need to be secretive about it, it’s an idol.  A teachable heart will obey God even at a great sacrifice.

Acts 20:1-12 – Attentive

Paul traveled to Troas where he preached and taught up into the night.  A man named Eutychus was on the 3rd floor window seat listening to Paul and fell sound asleep and fell to the ground dead.  Paul rushed to him and God allowed him to resurrect Eutychus.  Eutychus means fortunate.  The people probably thought now Paul is for real and trusted him.  This solidified Paul’s authority. 

 A teachable heart lives attentive to God’s people and God’s word.

Paul was attentive to God’s people.  How are you to people around you who are hurting - to their hearts?  How prepared are you to hear God’s voice or Word?  What will you do to make time with your creator?  What are you ready to put aside – cell phone, computer, household chores?    You know what needs to be removed so you can concentrate when spending time in His Word. 

Where do you sit in church? 
Do you sit in the back so you can get out quickly or up front so you won’t be distracted? 

Acts 20:13-21:15   Compelled

Paul describes his ministry and told he served the Lord with great humility and with tears.  He knew hard days were ahead, but he walked toward them.   The Holy Spirit warned him of the hardships to come.  He knew he may not ever see them again so he gives instructions and warnings to the elders.  They are responsible to keep watch over the church and be on guard.  A pastor’s roll is to fed the flock and teach the scripture.  If not people won’t change.  So many have been taught by savage wolves.  These wolves get started in the church.  People don’t know it’s not the truth.  So stay alert and remember God’s Word.  God’s Word is our tool to live by. They are to work hard and help the weak.  “It it more blessed to give than to receive.”(Acts 20:35)

Paul was compelled to go back to Jerusalem.  Remember Jerusalem is where Stephen was stoned and Paul was there helping stone him.  Now here is Paul back there again.

A teachable heart lives compelled by God’s Spirit and truth for His purposes.  

We get courage by getting in the game not sitting on the bench.  Paul was compelled by God’s Spirit and gave Him complete access.  Are you living compelled by this world or God’s Spirit?  Paul’s school of suffering has changed many lives.