Know Your Real Identity

May 3, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

I Corinthians 7:17

Eternal salvation in Christ Jesus changes who you are as a person, but it does not take away your non-sinful abilities. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “… so I ordain in all churches,” he may have been telling the Corinthian Christians that “this is what I say wherever I go,” or, more likely, “I want this command to be given in all the churches,” which would indicate that he knew this letter would be binding on the Church as canonical Scripture.

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

I Corinthians 7:18

Salvation doesn’t take away your ethnicity.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

I Corinthians 7:19

You can imagine Paul’s secretary gasping as he hears Paul dictate, “Circumcision is nothing,” because circumcision was the most fundamental sign of the Old Covenant. In context, the Holy Spirit through Paul was not really forbidding the practice of circumcision for gentiles; obviously, you can’t become “uncircumcised” (at least not in Paul’s day, though one shudders to think of the extent of “reconstructive” or “reassignment” surgeries they do today). What He was saying is that external marks on our bodies are no longer the signs of belonging to God. Now the sign is our changed hearts and what actions and words and attitudes flow out of them. If you are saved as Jew, you are still a Jew – a Jewish Christian. If you are saved as an Italian, you have to resign from the mafia, but you don’t have to stop eating pasta and saying fuggedaboutit. If you are saved as an Irishman, you have to stop drinking whiskey and starting bar fights, but you can keep wearing green. In fact, you should not try to change the outward too much – God may have called you so you can reach others like you.

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

I Corinthians 7:20-23

Salvation does not change your status as a servant. The Holy Spirit told the Corinthian Christians that there was no shame in being a slave, but it is to your advantage if you can obtain your freedom. Christ sets us free, but, because He bought us with a price, we still belong to Him. “Free slavery” is a paradox – and is found only in Christ, because He is the Master Who serves His servants, even as they serve Him. He is the Master Who loves His servants, calls us His brothers and sisters, and wants better things for us than we want for ourselves.

What the Knows Have and What the Know-Nots Have Not

November 28, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 9 Comments
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In a previous lesson I discussed how “ministers,” including all believers, will have their building materials judged. This is known as the Bema seat judgment.

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

I Corinthians 3:15

This verse is not a reference to purgatory, although the Roman Catholic Church used it to attempt to bolster its unbiblical tradition. It is actually in the context of Christians having their works, doctrine, and motives judged, not their sins. Christians will be at this judgment. Unregenerate sinners will not.

If you are a Christian without an official ministry title, in what way are you still a “minister?” Hopefully, you are ministering to your spouse, children, parents, friends, fellow church members, fellow Sunday School class members, or whoever finds his way into your sphere of influence. Remember, there is no “secular” versus “sacred” distinction in true Christianity and in true Christian living.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

I Corinthians 3:16

Know-Nots do not know that this world, and all our lives, are about God – and specifically about Christ. The Knows know that God designed them to be a temple – a dwelling-place for His presence on earth. In the Old Testament when the profane touched the holy, the holy was defiled, and, in the case of the Tabernacle, the holy destroyed the profane (worldly) in order to preserve its holiness.

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

I Corinthians 3:17

This goes all the way to our motives. In the church at Corinth the Knows were acting like Know-Nots. They were being childish, forming factions, and feuding over the leaders with which they aligned themselves. To have our “works” judged will be one thing; to have our “doctrine” judged will be another; but to have our “motives” judged, this will truly be a consuming fire. Our motive is revealed – this side of eternity – by cooperation (working together for God’s glory), rather than by competition (outdoing others for my own glory).

Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

I Corinthians 3:21

What can the world give you? Nothing, really, because you have everything good in Christ. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” What can the world take from you? Nothing, really, because you don’t truly own anything. Christ owns it all. The Knows have everything and nothing, which is perfect freedom. The Knows-Nots seek everything and are never able to find it, which is utter bondage.

Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

I Corinthians 3:22-23

All things are ours = Christian liberty
You are Christ’s = Christian responsibility

Failure to Yield

December 27, 2010 at 10:36 am | Posted in Romans | 14 Comments
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Sin as a “power” was defeated by the power of the Resurrection. Therefore, Christians are free from sin (Romans 6:7) – not free to sin. Now, let’s look at the practical application of that in our lives. How do we practically “get the victory” over submitting to our old master?

First of all, we need to believe the facts. Freed slaves have to believe they are free in order to get the benefits of freedom.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:11

Second, after we “reckon” we are to yield.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Romans 6:12

Note the relationship of “reign” and “obedience.” We do not yield to our old ruler. We yield to our New Ruler.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Romans 6:13

My members are “instruments” or “weapons,” and they are not to be used for my own cause. They were formerly used to fight against God, but now they are to be used to fight for God.

As a Christian I recognize that I do not really own “my” house. My car is not really “mine.” “My wife” does not really belong to me in an ownership sense. “My” kids are really God’s kids.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

“My” members are not really mine. They are a gift from God, but they come with the responsibility to use them for God. Many of the sins which afflict the body of Christ today stem largely from a failure to yield, and the failure to yield stems from a failure of truly believing to Whom we belong.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

Romans 6:19

We need to yield our members to righteousness even more enthusiastically than we formerly yielded them to sin.

Here are some motivations for yielding:

1. As a response to God’s grace. We should love God because He has been gracious toward us, and the result of love toward God is obedience to God.

2. Because of our freedom. Freedom brings about responsibilities. The easiest way to lose our freedom is not to exercise it in doing good.

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

Romans 6:20

3. To bear good fruit.

What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

Romans 6:21

Justification is by grace through faith. Being justified, we encounter the problem of how practically to stop sinning. First we reckon, then we yield.

Perceived

May 4, 2010 at 11:30 am | Posted in The Leadership P.A.T.C.H. | 6 Comments
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And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.

II Kings 4:8-9, emphasis added

A patch is something that repairs a breach, or stops up a gap. Patches are used for protection and for restoration. In the Bible this is referred to as “making up the hedge” or “standing in the gap.” A Christian leader should be someone who is willing to stand in the gap and be a “patch.” He should be willing to stand in a place of protection and service.

Elisha was the protégé of Elijah the prophet. When Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot, in a whirlwind of fire, Elisha received his greatest wish: a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. This was a great gift – and a great opportunity to serve – and a great responsibility.

The P. in P.A.T.C.H. is perceived: “I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.”

If you aspire to the responsibility of Christian leadership, you will be watched. You will be observed. Your job, as a servant leader, will be to watch for the needs of others, and, while you are not to be overly self-conscious, you must be aware that God’s people will be watching you. Many will be looking for encouragement as they watch, and, sadly, a few will be watching for faults. There is a requirement that you be found “blameless” – without fault. This is primarily between you and God, but, because people whom you serve will form a “perception” of you, you must, according to I Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

You have freedom in Christ Jesus, but it would be better to forgo the exercise of your freedom if it will cause another person to stumble.

Next time: The “A” in P.A.T.C.H.

Jesus the Great

April 20, 2010 at 10:03 am | Posted in Zechariah | 2 Comments
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Lord, help us to be focused, to keep our mind on You. Help us not to separate what we learn from what we do. Help us to remember Your ways and Your Person. Help us to remember Your people, Your church, and the lost. Help us to remember that our afflictions are light considering our blessings, and definitely light compared to what You suffered for us.

Zechariah 9:1-8 describes the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.

Zechariah 9:5

And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.

Zechariah 9:8

Alexander the Great paved the way for Greek civilization and the Roman empire, which in turn brought about a united language, the spread of roads and information, and some stability in government. Due in part to the achievements of Alexander the Great, Christ Jesus was not crucified in private.

Zechariah prophesied that Jerusalem would be spared – and it was. The high priest had a dream, and the priests and the people dressed in white, and opened the city gates. Alexander was impressed, and he even offered sacrifices to God in the temple.

Notice these contrasts between Alexander and Christ:

a. Alexander wept because there were no more lands to conquer. (He couldn’t conquer any more people.) Christ wept because the people rejected Him. (He couldn’t set them free.)

b. Alexander rode a mighty steed. Christ rode a donkey.

c. Alexander received great fanfare. Christ’s chief moment of public acclaim involved peasants, children singing, and palm branches.

d. Alexander brought judgment. Christ brought grace and forgiveness.

e. Alexander threatened death if a city wouldn’t surrender. Christ died for the people who wouldn’t surrender.

In Zechariah Chapter 10 we see images of the flock which is victimized by an evil shepherd.

For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.

Zechariah 10:2-3

The Freestyle

January 21, 2009 at 10:21 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Galatians | 7 Comments
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The previous S.W.I.M. lesson focused on a swimming stroke called the crawl, which, despite its name, is actually the most efficient stroke for speed. USA Swimming lists the five competitive swimming strokes as: individual medley, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, and freestyle. “In freestyle events, the competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most commonly used is sometimes called the crawl…” It is hardly surprising that racing swimmers, when given the “freedom” to choose any style they wish, choose the style which allows them to swim the fastest.

Likewise, Christians (those who are truly saved by grace through faith in Christ) are given freedom to run the Christian race in a variety of “styles.”

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1

The freedom we have in Christ is freedom both from the yoke of legalistic bondage, and from the slavery of sin (Lamentations 1:14). But the Christian race is not a short “swim-sprint,” where the swimmer throws himself wildly into the water and violently writhes and thrashes his way to the other end of the pool, flopping out of the water and lying, chest heaving, exhausted and spent for the rest of the day. No, the Christian’s race is more like a long-distance swim, sometimes experiencing pounding waves, sometimes calm sea. One day carried along easily on the current, other times battling his way upstream. At times making progress through a violent storm, at other times treading in place, trying to keep his head above the surface.

The Holy Spirit commended, but also admonished, the Galatian believers in Chap. 5, Verse 7: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” If you are a Christian, you are free to swim in any style permitted by Scripture. This is the freedom granted by Christ’s shed blood on the Cross. If, when you were first saved, you made a public profession, joined a church, were Scripturally baptized – if you read your Bible, prayed regularly, told others about the Lord Jesus – then you “did” swim well. But if you have stopped swimming well, you should ask the question, “What has hindered me?” Are you sinking because you are burdened with unnecessary worldly possessions or interests that weigh you down in the water? Are you being slowed down because you haven’t spent enough time training with your Instructor or studying your “Training Manual?” Are you in danger of drowning before reaching the finish line because you lacked physical discipline and enjoyed the pleasure of a heavy meal right before jumping into the pool?

Swimmers, set free from rules which require them to swim in a certain style, use the style which allows them to swim most excellently. Christians should recognize their freedom in Christ as an opportunity to strive for excellence, not mediocrity.


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