Godly Sorrow (2 Corinthians 7-9)

2Corinthians 7:10 ESV For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

I went to see the doctor for a check up a few weeks ago. We had a great conversation until he told me that I was fat. To be honest, it stung a little to hear. I knew that it was true, but I didn’t like him saying it. He was encouraging me to lose weight and so he told me all the negative side effects of being fat and how it was effecting my health and could effect my health years down the road.

I was grieved coming out of the doctors office. I had a choice to make. I could either be upset that he was so blunt and choose to get angry and tell all my friends what a terrible doctor he is, or I could take his word to heart and start changing my lifestyle. So far I have been consistently choosing the second option. His harsh word that caused me grief produced a positive change and attitude in me.

This is how it should work when we are confronted about sin in our lives. We don’t need to get mad at the messenger. That doesn’t deal with the sin. We need to come to the Lord in confession and repentance. The basis for the verse above is that Paul had grieved the Corinthians by being so direct and pointing out the issues in the church that needed to be addressed. Rather than let that grief fester into bitterness at Paul, they had moved to action and it produced repentance.

We should be asking ourselves how do we handle it when someone addresses sin in our life? Certainly there is grief. No one likes to be told about their sins, even if they are true. We have a choice we can become bitter at the messenger or we can repent and turn to the LORD. Grief about sin can be godly when it produces repentance.

Father, thank you for placing people in our lives that love us enough to point out the obvious. Thank you for the grace of being confronted and warned about sin. Thank you that when we find ourselves grieved over our sin we can repent of our sin and turn to you. I pray that my heart would never allow sorrow over sin to turn to bitterness at a messenger, but that it would always produce repentance. Thank you again so much for your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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(2 Corinthians 4-6)

2Corinthians 5:8 NKJV We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

It has been a difficult start to the year. We’ve had several funerals for local folks that have been well known and loved. It’s almost like being at the ocean on a red flag day and wading out into the tide. You get knocked down, before you ever really get up, another wave comes and knocks you down again. It’s been frustrating, emotionally exhausting, and difficult to mourn one loss for the sake of another.

One of the comforts is that many of the folks I’ve had to say goodbye to in 2021 have had a strong testimony and legacy of trusting in the LORD. As I read these words today I couldn’t help but be comforted and encouraged. While we struggle here on earth, they have a much better body in a much better place.

I’ve shared before at funerals that those who have gone on wouldn’t want to come back (to this earth before Christ’s return). I’m reminded that this is doubly true in the sense that many have who have passed away have left frail bodies for us to bury here on earth. They are experiencing bodies with out the aches and pains that they had grown accustomed to in this life. No more bad knees, aching joints, coughing spells, no more fatigue. Then there is the better joy of being in the presence of the Lord!

Father, thank you that to be absent from the body is to be present with you! Though I mourn the loss of those who have passed away this year, I rejoice that they are enjoying new heavenly bodies. I rejoice that they are in your presence. I look forward to the day when we will all be together again without the limits of this earthly body and fully in your presence. Thank you for comforting and encouraging us through your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Hospitality of the Saints (1 Corinthians 16)

I love reading some of the endings of Paul’s letters because he shares personal and practical details. Near the conclusion, the Apostle Paul shares his plans to visit the Corinthian church again and plans for other teachers to visit in the mean time. There were no real hotel rooms to lodge in back then, at least not in the way we think of hotel rooms today. Families or wealthy patrons often extended hospitality for those in need of a place to stay. It was particularly customary for folks from among the churches to lodge fellow believers as they came to town.

In the case of teachers or apostles, staying in someone’s home gave them another discipleship opportunity as well as accountability. Paul could easily encourage the Church to follow him as he followed Christ because he lived among them. There were some who had hosted him and could testify to the kind of person he was in private as well as in public. Certainly he impacted lives in homes where he stayed, where ever he went.

One of the products of individualism (that is so pervasive in our culture), is that we have become more and more private. (though our information through social media/technology is more available to the world than you might think.) As we’ve become more private, we’ve become less hospitable. As we work through the global pandemic one of the areas we will need to revive is Christian hospitality to one another. Not just in opening our homes to guests as they come through town, but to one another. There is so much about the Christian life that is better caught through life experience than taught in a classroom environment.

Father, thank you for the grace of one another. I pray that even in the mist of a pandemic that you will give us opportunity and show us how to offer hospitality to one another. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Love (1 Corinthians 13-15)

1Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

What good is a brand new sports car if you don’t have a battery or any gas? You can’t drive it. It won’t go anywhere because it doesn’t have any power. It might be nice to look at and admire, but it’s fullest potential will never be unleashed without some sort of power.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that while the gifts of the Spirit are to be sought, love is what is really needed. Love empowers and directs the use our Spiritual Gifts. We shouldn’t use spiritual gifts to pump ourselves up and inflate our egos, but we should demonstrate love in how we use the spiritual gifts that God has given. Paul works this out in 1 Corinthians 14 when he illustrates what order in a church service should look like. Love seeks to edify the whole congregation, not just itself.

1Corinthians 13:8 ESV Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

One of the thing that will we see just a taste of in this life, that will be perfected in Heaven, is the gift of love. Right now we love in a fallen and a broken world. In Heaven where all brokenness is either outlawed or mended to be whole, we will know love without bitterness. There won’t be envy, prideful boasting, back stabbing, arrogance, or selfishness. Where love remains and is perfected, the people who walk the streets of gold will genuinely want the best for one another. Between the folks there, there will only be the fullest expression of everything listed in this chapter as an attribute of love. Between God and His people, there will only be the deepest love. Love remains. Other things pass away, but one thing we know for certain is that beyond the vail of death, for those in Christ, love remains.

Father, Thank you for loving us. I pray that we earnestly seek to love you and love one another as you empower us with the Holy Spirit. May we be better at loving you and loving others every day of our lives this side of eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Limiting My Freedoms for the Glory of God (1 Corinthians 10-12)

I took a bunch of student leaders on a leadership retreat one year. On our way to the place we were staying, I gave our young leaders the challenge of picking where would stop for lunch. I told them to pick a place that was best for the entire group. The vote was cast and word came back that they wanted Chick-fil-a. I told them it wasn’t best for the entire group. They came back and said Popeyes Chicken. Again, I said it wasn’t best for the group. They came back and said Churches Chicken. Again, I said it wasn’t best for the group. Finally, they were frustrated and asked why those places wouldn’t work? I asked one of the leaders why he didn’t share his allergies with the group? (He was allergic to chicken). He said he was willing to just eat fries or go without food… I shared that we were on a leadership retreat and that good leaders put the needs of others ahead of their own desires and wants. This time word came back for a place we could all eat and no one complained about not getting chicken. They realized the decision they made wasn’t to deny them chicken, but to provide a better lunch experience for their fellow leader.

1Corinthians 10:31 ESV So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

It’s easy to take this out of context and make it a verse about individuality. I did for several years. I thought all this verse meant was that in whatever I did, I should honor God and I should probably pray before each meal. However, the context that we have explored yesterday and today, reminds us that this verse doesn’t come from a context of individuality. It comes from a context of ‘how do we get along with one another when a brother or sister’s conscience is more sensitive to an issue than ours.’

We should glorify God in how we handle such trivial things as food and drink. It means that mature Christians should limit their freedoms for the sake of God’s glory. When facing a difficult decision, I used to ask myself, “How do I glorify God with this decision?” It has been helpful. That question could and should also be asked when it comes to dealing with a brother or sister who has a conscience who won’t let them participate in something that is not a sin.

Father, thank you for the liberties we have in Jesus Christ. Thank you for the opportunity to serve one another by limiting our liberties for the sake of fellowship. I pray you are glorified by our attitude of service when we love and serve one another in this way. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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An Open Letter to My Legalistic Friends

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Serve One Another In Everything(1 Corinthians 7-9)

Leaders eat last. It’s how servant leadership works. Those who are in charge and have the most freedom, use that freedom on others. When a leader eats last, it’s to make sure everyone else got what they needed and were fed.

This isn’t just a leadership rule. It’ also how we raise our kids. The older, more mature kids look out for the younger ones. The stronger ones look out after the weaker. It’s how any healthy society or community works. It’s not different for the church.

There was an issue of eating meat offered to idols in Corinth. Some folks rightly understood that pagan gods weren’t really gods and that meat was, well just meat, even if it had been offered to a false god. But some folks used to go to those same idols and offer meat. To them it was a whole way of life before the Lord got ahold of their heart. So when they saw people they respected pulling up to a temple for a false god and ordering sacrificed meat off the menu, they were incensed! How could a Christian eat that stuff?

So what were folks supposed to do? Give up meat for the sake of their brother? YES! Paul says that the strong are to SERVE the weak! In math this is called the lowest common denominator. Rather than saying, “Oh, grow up!” to the weak brother, we who are free, humble ourselves to the lower standard to our brother’s standard and we use that opportunity to share the gospel. Paul didn’t eat pork when he was with his Jewish brothers because it was offensive. He didn’t charge for the gospel in establishing a new work because he want the offering plate to be a stumbling block for people hearing the gospel.

When it came to meat sacrificed to idols, Paul indicated that it’s better for a brother who has freedom to eat steak, to not eat steak for the sake of his brother. We might put this in terms of wearing a mask during the pandemic. I don’t like wearing masks, but I’ll gladly wear a mask for the sake of my brother who asks me to wear one. The mask isn’t the most important thing. Honoring the Lord, encouraging my brother, and the unity of God’s people are far more important than if I have a mask on my face or not. I sure hope masks work in slowing the spread of the virus (I’ve had it and I never want to have it again), but the primary reason I wear one, is for the sake of others.

Father, give us wisdom in how to become all things to all people. Help us to know if there are any stumbling blocks other than Jesus in our lives. Help us to value our brothers more than we value our own freedoms. I pray for unity in the body of Christ today. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Sexual Immorality (1 Corinthians 4-6)

This will probably be an unpopular post. To clarify a few things up front. 1. The reason we are talking about this issue is because it is addressed in the scripture. 2. The primary audience I have been writing for are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 3. There is no expectation on my part that an unbeliever would understand or live by a Christian ethic of sexual morality. 4. My comments are intended to encourage wayward brothers and sisters to repentance.

My youngest child the other day intentionally hit me with a toy and it really hurt. I said, “ouch” and put the toy in time-out, effectively grounding her from playing with it. Several moments later she came to where I was reading and asked, “Daddy, do you still love me?”

How do you think I responded? Of course I still loved her and I told her so with my words and a great big hug! But I couldn’t endorse or permit her behavior that was hurting others. The way she was playing with the toy, she was also in real a danger hurting herself. She couldn’t see it then, but it was precisely because I loved her that I addressed her behavior.

From Today’s Reading:

1Corinthians 5:1-2 ESV It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you

Immorality was rampant in the Corinthian church. There were many who were strongly influenced by the culture they were living in. A kind of immorality that was celebrated in the culture was now being celebrated in the church. This was wrong! Indeed it was one of the very few things listed by the church council at Jerusalem that gentiles who convert to Christianity should avoid.

Acts 15:19-21 ESV Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Today in our culture sexual immorality (simply understood as sex outside of a marriage between a biological man and a biological woman) is being celebrated and championed in our culture. There are even some churches who are also championing the cause of sexual immorality inside the church today. I believe that Paul would lovingly, but strongly rebuke those churches and call them to repentance.

Sexual immorality is a serious sin. Paul reminds us that this category of sin is different because it involves our bodies in ways that other sins don’t. Our bodies are special because God has put the Holy Spirit inside of us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and so we should pay special attention to glorify God with how we use our bodies. Sexual immorality at its core mocks God’s design in nature and His establishment of the institution of marriage and family.

1Corinthians 6:18-20 ESV Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that those who live sexually immoral life styles will not see the kingdom of heaven. Don’t be deceived though, while this category of sin isn’t great, there are other sins that will keep you out of heaven as well. Indeed, you really only need one sin to be a sinner and one sin will keep you out. All sin is serious.

1Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Yet, Paul doesn’t write to condemn you if you’ve sinned in these ways. He isn’t writing at this point to say that your side of Hell will be especially hot for this type of sin. He’s actually writing to let us know that God through Christ even forgives these sorts of sins when we come to Him in faith and repentance! There were many in the Corinthian church who had lived sexually immoral lifestyles before they trusted in Christ. Trusting in Jesus changed everything. Just look at the very next verse!

1Corinthians 6:11 ESV And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I’m so grateful that there isn’t a sin in my past or yours that the Lord can’t redeem us from!

Father, Thank you for a direct but loving word on this topic. Give us grace and wisdom today. We ask that you would be glorified in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 1-3)

I’m changing my eating habits. I began to really examine and keep a record of what I’ve been eating. Until lately, I didn’t realize how many empty calories I was putting inside my body. I was eating junk food! Those foods tasted great and were filling for a moment, but they didn’t really provide any real nutritional value. I was distracted by how good they tasted and the temporary sensation of satisfaction that they brought. Yet, many of those foods, even though they were high in calorie content left me hungrier later.

We live in a culture filled with spiritual junk food. How difficult it is to hear God’s voice sometimes when we have filled our lives with so many things that sound or feel spiritual but really draw us away from the truth of God’s Word. We’d rather snack on what this creative person says or the pastor who tells stories, than hearing from God’s Word. We look for self-help books to deal with our issues rather than looking to God’s Word. We have more bibles in our homes than we have verses of scripture memorized. It’s time for a change, especially when we’ve been given so much in Jesus Christ.

Today the last part of chapter two really caused me to pause and reflect. I think it’s incredible that God gives believers the Holy Spirit! He grants us access to pray to Him at anytime from anywhere! Not only that, but the Holy Spirit gives us discernment and helps us understand spiritual things such as understanding the gospel and God’s Word! He changes us from the inside out. As we trust the Lord and lean on Him we become more an more conformed to His image. How great is it that we don’t have to wonder about the will of God on certain subjects but as we pray, the Holy Spirit moves in our lives we understand the will of God.

Father, Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I pray that You would keep us from the things that ultimately distract us from You and help us to listen for Your voice. I pray that as we read Your word You will help us to understand it. Apply it to our lives. Grant us to know Your will and do it because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Welcome One Another (Romans 13-15)

Romans 15:7 ESV Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

In this section the Apostle Paul encourages the church to live at peace with all men. If we believe that God has made peace with us through Jesus Christ, we ought to be at peace with one another. If God is sovereign over governments, we ought to pay our taxes. If we will ultimately stand and give an account for ourselves before God, we ought not judge our brothers and sisters in Christ. If a weaker brother takes issue on the grounds of conscience to something we do, we ought to serve our brother rather than violate their conscience, since Christ has born our weaknesses it is not too big a task for us to bear with one another. The list goes on.

Romans 15:7 really jumped out at me this morning. In a few hours, I’ll be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4 and sharing a minor point on how God greets His church with Grace and Peace. If we have been welcomed to the body of Christ not on our merits but based on the grace of God, who are we that we would withhold that same sort of welcome for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Welcoming our brothers and sisters in Christ, the way Christ has welcomed us is a practical application of loving our neighbor as ourselves!

I’ll confess as we’ve explored earlier in Romans, sinful habits die hard. It can be difficult to demonstrate grace to those we think of as “undeserving.” But then again it wouldn’t be grace if people deserved it. We are reminded from our reading earlier in Romans, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If He has done so much for us and welcomes all who come to Him on the same terms, who are we to hold to a different sort of welcome?

[Note: This doesn’t mean that we are to endorse or tolerate sin in the church. It does mean that when we address sin in the church that we go having examined our own lives first (Matthew 7:1-7), approach in such a way as to restore those who have fallen back into sin (Matthew 18), and are to be gentle in our approach (Galatians 6:1)]

[Note: It should be noted that in the foreground of all that Paul is talking about in Romans is the relationships in the church between Jewish and Gentile believers. The issue at stake was that there would be two sects rather than one church. It was important that Jewish and Gentile believers welcome one another and work together to glorify God in unity.]

Father, thank you that you have saved us by grace and welcomed us into the body of Christ not based on a resume of good works, but on the work of Christ alone. Thank you for the tremendous love poured out on us. Help us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ the way you love us. Give us wisdom, direction, and move us by your Spirit in practical ways to live out your gospel. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Living Sacrifice (Romans 10-12)

Romans 12:1-2 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans chapters 1-11 are rich in theology. Paul talks a lot about faith, how faith works, why faith is enough, how the gentiles have faith in a similar way than the Jews who have the law, God’s sovereign election, and God’s plan for redeeming Jews and Gentiles. We take a strong turn from theology to application in Romans chapter 12. This is how a good theology works. Theology explains what we believe to be true about God but if we believe those things about God, then our actions will indicate it as well.

This part of Romans Paul lays out practical ways that our belief in what he has demonstrated about God in Romans 1-11 show up in our lives. If we believe that God is sovereign over nations, we’ll submit to those in an authority over us (when they don’t contradict the Word of God). If we believe that God is the one that has lit the spark of belief in our hearts, we’ll press in to him knowing that he has a plan and a purpose for us. If we believe that we are set free from sin, we will flee sin when it pursues us and walk in the power of the Spirit of God.

Ultimately if we believe that God is good, that He has a purpose in sending Christ to free us from sin, and has given us faith to respond to Him, then we will respond by letting Him move and work freely in our lives. This is why Paul talks about presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice. We are offering ourselves back to God in an act of worship as a right response for all He has done. We are trusting Him to continue His work in us. We pressing into Him and allowing Him to change our thoughts and desires to be more like His. We are treating one another in a way that He would desire us to treat one another.

Father, thank you that you not only teach us truth about you in your word, but you also demonstrate how to live out that truth in our lives. Give us grace today to respond to you in a way that glorifies and honors you. Give us guidance and wisdom according to our differing circumstances how we can honor you as living sacrifices. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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