Monday, August 19, 2019

Overview of First Corinthians - Divisiveness

Is there a good purpose for Troublemakers? 

1Ki 18:17-18 When Ahab [the king of the northern kingdom of Israel] saw Elijah [the prophet of God], Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop and put the whole country into a three-year drought. In Ahab’s mind, Elijah was causing trouble. He called him a troubler or troublemaker.

Elijah said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. The trouble Elijah caused helped expose the trouble Ahab was in with God.

God uses troublemakers to show the difference in His will and man’s will. How He deals with troublemakers becomes a deterrent to others who might also consider rebelling. The consequence of the troublemakers’ actions warns others not to go down the same road they went down. 

Corinth was Paul’s trouble church. Corinth was a highly pagan city, a Roman city, a sensuous city, a freewheeling, do your own thing city. So, when Paul came in, the Good News was embraced but the old, natural way of doing life was deeply imbedded in the hearts of the people. Instead of eradicating the old ways, they compromised the new ways and that compromise spilled over into the church. 

When they came to Jesus, instead of disconnecting from their old lives, they brought their baggage with them. So, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians more to correct their behavior than teach doctrine. He wrote to expose the troublemakers and then give the solution for change. 

His theme: 1Cor 1:9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord

God’s objective was to make them acceptable for fellowship. They were called out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of sin and into righteousness so they might have fellowship with Him. But they didn’t see how their activity was interfering with that fellowship.

This problem was widespread in the early church. John wrote: 1John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Fellowship isn’t an attitude. We don’t create fellowship; it is the result of living right with God. Relationship is the result of being right with God. Fellowship is the result of living right with Him.

But Paul said their behavior was preventing that fellowship, causing trouble in their lives and manifesting that trouble in the church. He believed: If he could get them to understand God’s faithfulness, they would turn away from that behavior and return to fellowship with the Lord. How could he do that? By pointing out the troublemakers, those doing what he wants the people not to do, and helping them change their behavior.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll expose the troublemakers. Today, the divisive troublemakers. He wants them to know that God is faithful even in disagreement.

1Cor 1:10-11 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. 

Division is unacceptable to Paul. It defeats the imagery of the Body of Christ. He writes later: 1Cor 12:20-25 But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 

Unity and agreement are signs of a healthy body. A broken body can’t function well.

In Philippians, Paul simply told them what he expected and how to do it: Phil 2:2-4 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 

But apparently the Corinthians needed more than him just saying this division is wrong so quit it. They needed help, power to fight against the natural tendencies of self-centered opinions. Paul says God has provided for that.

1Cor 2:12-15  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

In fighting against their brothers, they were actually fighting against God’s intentions. A house divided against itself will not stand.

This is a hard thing to grasp, that we are connected to God and interconnected to each other. We can’t be right with God and wrong with one another. Neither can we be wrong with God and right with one another. Paul said our struggles are spiritually based. Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

If I divide from you, I divide from the body. Remove a burning log from the fireplace and soon it will lose the flame and grow cold. What once burned hot with the other logs, now is just a burned-out piece of wood, its benefit waisted by dividing from the whole.

Because, some within the Corinthian church rejected what God said in order to defend their divisive opinions, they were acting like what they weren’t - natural men – self-driven, unsaved persons.

1Cor 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 

Paul uses the terms natural and spiritual to distinguish between those who are saved and lost. He uses the term fleshly to describe someone who is out of fellowship with God. The natural person and the fleshly person are seeking to live life on their own terms. The Spiritual person is seeking to live on God’s terms.

1Cor 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

If the natural, unsaved person cannot understand the things of God, why would the Corinthians choose to think like a natural person to try and figure out the things of God?

The word hypocrite gets thrown at church folks a lot. The word comes from the Greek stage when an actor, needing to play a different role, would place a mask in front of his face. He may be young but to play an older man he holds up the mask of an older man. He isn’t an older man, but he is acting like one.

That became the foundation of the word hypocrite: someone acting like something they aren’t.
Christians aren’t hypocrites for trying to act like Christians. That’s what they are. But, the Corinthians were hypocrites because they were acting like they were natural, unsaved people. That’s not who they were but it was how they acted when they divided themselves.

What’s the solution: Looking at the faithfulness of God and seeing what He has provided. The sign of a good planner is the ability to anticipate problems down the road and prepare accordingly. To be faithful to the project, he must be ready for whatever may come. He plans for contingencies.

Paul says: God is faithful. Anticipating divisions, disagreements, arguments, selfish opinions, He has placed within the Christian’s mind the Mind of Christ so we might know the things freely given to us by God. How? By the [indwelling] Spirit who is from God, helping us know the things freely given to us by God.

The Spirit helps us discover what God wants us to know. Rom 8:26-27 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

God within us is working to direct our minds and hearts toward His best. Placing the Mind of Christ within each of us, the mechanism for agreement if already in place. Here’s my opinion. Well, here’s my opinion. Wait, what does God say? The desire to want to know what God says is evidence of the mind of Christ.

This is one of the advantages of the Christian marriage: Both seeking the Lord in order to be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

1Cor 1:30-31 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." 

Division is based on self-asserted boasting. This is what I think. Here’s what I know. I’m right and you’re wrong. My way’s best. I’m the sharpest knife in the drawer. Your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top. 

The boasting that benefits the body is: this is what I believe the Lord wants. The only place to find that, is within the Mind of Christ. And we will discover it when we pray: God, not my will but Your will be done.

Wherever Jesus went, He faced the opinions of others. John 9:16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.
What caused the division? People who only wished to express their opinions rather than ask God for an answer. 

If we both or all want what He wants, there is no division. God is not divided in His intentions. We yield our opinions to God’s ultimate good. 

When the Hubble Telescope was first deployed, it had a problem. It couldn’t focus. The images were blurry and useless. Engineers designed a corrective lens to clear up the problem. 

When things are blurry, the faithfulness of God can bring clarity. That’s why Paul corrects us by reminding the Corinthians of how faithful God is to provide what they need to live God-centered, God-filled lives. 

God’s goal: He wants fellowship with us. Whatever is blocking that fellowship is rebellion against Him. He calls it sin – the separating element of a natural life. 

If we can’t find fellowship with God, if there is no joy, if we sense a divisive spirit, we may be compromised by our sin. 1John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

That cleansing restores fellowship with God and each other and connects us with all God has provided.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches the right way by showing us the consequences of the wrong way. In correcting the troublemakers, he provides a deterrent for not doing what they did so we can avoid the same consequences they experienced. 

1Cor 10:11-12 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 

  1. Disagreements are natural and expected.
  2. They can help sort through a variety of ideas to come up with the best.
  3. But, when disagreements create division, they hurt the body.
  4. Knowing that would happen, God faithfully gave us the resource for resolving disagreements before division happens. 
  5. The Mind of Christ within us will direct us to God’s best if we seek it.
6.     Seeking that best promotes healing not division.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Overview of Philippians

A resume has three vital purposes:

  1. It gives an overview of our history. What we’ve done and where we did it. 
  2.  It defines our objectives. Where our lives are going and how we plan on getting there.
  3. It provides our mission statement. A one-sentence summary of what drives us to do what we do.

Have you ever thought about the difference between a trophy and a resume?

Trophies tell what we did. How good we were, not how good we are now. It represents something we once accomplished. With a trophy, we have a record of achievement. We can document that at some moment in time, we were the best at something.  Though I remember being very good at things in the past, apparently, I was never the best because I have no trophies to prove otherwise. I do have a T-shirt that says I’m the Best Papa Ever, but I think that’s limited to the opinion of only 10 children, all of whom share the same last name.

More like the lady with a bumper-sticker that said: World’s Most Average Mom.

A resume tells of our skills and talents, how we’ve accumulated knowledge and abilities. Unless we’ve padded it, our resume should tell an employer what they can expect us to be able to do.
Trophies celebrate a moment of who we were. A resume indicates what we will be in the future.
In Philippians, Paul presents Jesus’ resume. Now, why did the people in Philippi need to know those things? Why do we need to know? Because who Jesus was, is who Jesus is, and who Jesus is, affects who we are.

Phil 2:6-11 Jesus: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

You hear who Jesus was. Who He became. What was His role. What were the results He accomplished. But you also hear who He is: Jesus Christ is Lord.

1.      Jesus – was His given name, Yesous, the Greek version of the OT name Joshua or Yeshua. It means Jehovah saves or salvation is from Jehovah. When you read His story, you realize Jesus was the embodiment of the expression of that name. He was the means by which God accomplished salvation.
a.     Matt 1:21 Mary will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
b.     Act 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
c.     Jesus – is the name of the One who paid the price for our sins to make Salvation possible. Jesus was His saving name – Jesus our Savior.
      2.  Christ – was His revealed title. It came from the word in the original Greek, Christos, that
         means Messiah or anointed one. Included within that title is His mission as Deliverer. Christ
         wasn’t His name it was who He was.
a.     1Pet 1:18-21 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 
a.     Matt 16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." If you understand this, then you didn’t just figure it out. God revealed it to you.
b.     Christ – is the title of the One who has fulfilled all of God’s purposes and provides the deliverance necessary for a saved life. Christ was the delivering title of Jesus – Jesus our Messiah.
3.     Lord – was His bestowed title. The Greek word kurios means a master who is in the position of supremacy. Lord was the supreme name of God. No one exists higher than God. For Jesus to be Lord, He had to be God. Paul wrote: although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped – held onto – therefore, to become man, He had to empty Himself of that by which the people would recognize Him as God.
a.     Isa 42:8  "I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another. If Jesus was just given the name Lord, He would have been competing with the Father as God. But since He was God, He had full right to the title Lord as well.
b.     Rev 4:11 Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." These words were directed to the One on the throne.
c.     Rev 5:12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." These words were about Jesus.
d.     Lord is the title of the One to whom we surrender ourselves for the life promised by that surrender. Lord is the authority title of Jesus – Jesus our Master.

Because He is the Lord, Jesus Christ, how should that affect my life?

Phil 3:8-9 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christand may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 

Gain – mercantile term for exchanging goods - one good for another. We receive the benefit of our Savior, Deliver and Master as we exchange our losses for the benefit of what He offers: our emptiness for His fullness, our struggles for His victory, our lostness for His direction, our misguided life for His control. The Christian life is an exchanged life.

How can I do that? By setting the objectives of my life from who He is. Objectives are statements that tell me where my life going and how I plan to get there. It tells what I expect from myself. 

Here’s where I start: I will trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ. I will not doubt Him, not fear any outcome of whatever comes against me, neither will I allow my worries to make Him smaller than what I face. I will believe, I will trust, I will rely on Him to be everything I need, and I will relax in His arms, knowing He will accomplish whatever concerns me. Because who He is, is everything I could ever need Him to be.

  • He is not just the Savior of the world, but He is my Savior.
  • He is not just the Deliverer from all separates and oppresses, but He is my Deliverer.
  • He is not just the Lord of all. He is my Lord.
Who He is and what He’s done makes me who I am: I am a Child of God.

On the wall of my heart is a plaque that says: Cary Smith, Child of God. Established Summer of 1969. That was a great day when all Jesus was became all I needed. But that’s only a memory. A precious moment from the past. But what about today? What am I expecting for this day and tomorrow?

Phil 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

My objective: To press on. I want all Jesus is, to freely do in my life all He wants to do.

Phil 4:6-9 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

My objective: To handle life appropriately. I want His thoughts, His words, His interests to fill my mind. I want all Jesus is, to guard my mind and heart, wrapping me securely in His peace.

Phil 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

My objective: To do whatever it takes to honor Him in my life, by relying on what He provides in any and every circumstance. Because of who He is I can do whatever He wants me to do. 

Phil 4:18-19 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

My objective: To live a full and meaningful life because He provides everything I need. Through Him I am fully supplied for the abundant life He promised. And if ever I find an additional need, I know He will supply whatever it takes. 

Then there is the mission statement, what drives me to do what my objectives say I will do. 

Phil 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 

Paul must have been having a great day when he wrote that, full of joy and delighted in his surroundings, filled with sunshine and love. Actually, Paul wrote Philippians from a prison cell. Not the most conducive place to write a letter about the joy of who Jesus is and how that joy can spill over into my life. The more appropriate sounding letter would have been: Woe is me, look at my misery, look at how God has failed me.

But if our confidence is in the One who began that good work in us completing it, there’s no reason to moan and groan about circumstances. We just say: God’s not done yet.

Man went up to the dugout and asked a little boy if he was discouraged because the score was 36 to nothing. The little boy said, “Nah, it’s only the first inning and we haven’t even batted yet.”

If Satan’s running up the score against you, remember: The One who began a good work in you will complete it. Who is that One? The Lord, Jesus Christ. Our Savior, Deliverer, our Master. 

Circumstances don’t change who Jesus is!

Earlier this past century the great violinist, Paderewski was staying at a New York hotel while he played at Carnegie Hall. To keep himself sharp, he’d practice in his room a couple of hours each morning. On the third morning a lady stormed into the manager’s office and said, “Someone is killing cats in the room across from me. The sounds coming out of there are atrocious. You must stop it immediately or I will leave.”

The manager said, "But madam, that’s Paderewski!" The lady nearly fainted. "Paderewski! Oh, that’s different. Of course, he can play. I withdraw my complaint." From then on, the woman kept the door of her room wide open and entertained a party of friends there every morning just to listen to Paderewski practice.

What was the difference? The room? The hotel? The music? No! The only thing that changed was the woman’s attitude. Knowing who was at work changed everything.

We can live rejoicing because: knowing it is our Lord, Jesus Christ who is at work, completing the good work that’s He’s begun in us, changes everything. Remember: who Jesus was, is who He is, and who He is, affects who we are.

·       Is Jesus your Savior?
·       Is Jesus your Deliverer?
·       Is Jesus your Lord?

2.     We typically believe we’re the best at deciding what’s best for us.
3.     If someone has a different opinion of what that best is, we often rebel and reject their input.
4.     Even when that person is the Lord, Jesus Christ, if we consider what He is doing in our lives isn’t the best, we will fight against Him.
5.     Fighting against our Savior, Deliverer and Master is not the best thing to do.