Pursing Nothing (I Corinthians 13-14)

October 16, 2020

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing. I Corinthians 13:3

I cannot imagine spending my whole life in pursuit of things that in the end produce nothing. Now before you cut me off with a I don’t relate response, take a moment and look deeper in your life. We all have those past pursuits that merited nothing.

I think about projects where I completed a tough assignment to only look later at the fruit and realize it was not what I planned for it to be. I also think about the times when I was so short-sighted in my efforts. I realize how my heart was deceptive in telling me how my efforts were for others when at times they were really for me.

This morning I want to point you to Paul’s teaching which will both confront and challenge your pursuits in life.

Keep in mind, Paul’s teaching in these chapters are focusing on the correct use of our spiritual gifts. In chapter 13 Paul inserts the key ingredient for success in our pursuits. The key ingredient is love.

  • A love for God, Matthew 22:37-38. This love comes rushing into our lives because God has opened our hearts and minds to receive the seed of the gospel. His love becomes real to us, John 3:16. His love becomes real as we receive it.
  • A love from God, Gal. 5:22-23. The very first fruit of the Spirit is love. This love is spread abroad in our hearts for others. Paul gives us evidences of God’s love in I Cor. 13:4-7.

When the love of God is directing your life, you will engage in pursuits that honor God and seek to show honor to others. But without love one’s life will be filled with a pursuit of nothing.

Ask yourself, what am I pursuing? Be assured the heart is very deceptive. The heart will tell you that being busy is the ticked to success. The heart will tell you that the true rush of life comes as you simply serve yourself. The heart will tell you that you are already mature in Christ when in fact you are still an infant in Christ.

However, when the love of God is directing your path, you will become a transformed person who serves at the pleasure of the one who saved you. Paul begins chapter 14 with these words, “Pursue love…”

Oh how I want to do this with my whole heart. Oh how I want this for your life as well. Take a moment at the end of our time today and feast on John’s writings. They amplify what we have read today:

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God,[d] and God[e] in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. I John 3:19-24

How Are You Using Your Gifts? (I Corinthians 11-12)

October 15, 2020

 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. I Corinthians 12:7

Each time I read Paul’s teaching concerning spiritual gifts, I find no less than three emotional responses:

  • I am thankful for the empowering gifts from the Holy Spirit.
  • I am appreciative for all in the body of Christ who use their gifts for the common good.
  • I am determined to engage in deeper prayer for all those who are not sharing their gifts with the body of Christ.

Paul writes: “Our gifts, given by the Holy Spirit are intended (purpose) for the common good of the body of Christ.”

Since Covid-19 I have witnessed people over and over pulling back from their use of their gifts for the common good. Paul writes: “God arranged the members in the body, each as He chose,” 12:8. Paul is reminding us that God places every member in specific churches (12:11) for the purpose of the common good.

Oh how thankful I am for all who serve in their giftedness at JFBC. Each week so many do the work of ministry for the common good. Through the years our Children have been taught the love of Christ and the deep truths of God’s Word by those who give away what God has given them. In Student Ministry our students have experienced the continued love and direction of God’s Word in their most crucial days of life. In College Ministry our leaders have held-onto our young adults as they have sacrificed countless hours in listening too, praying with, and challenging our kids to be all God created them to be. It is the same in the Adult Ministry as people use their gifts to continue to mature the body of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, where would we be if the body stayed home on Sunday? Today, I am more determined than every to make sure Covid-19 does not become a tool in the hands of Satan to rob people of the blessing of serving others.

I have 4 questions for you to answer:

  1. What gifts has God given you?
  2. What are you doing with your gifts?
  3. What have you seen the Lord accomplish with your gifts?
  4. Why, if this is the case, are you not using your gifts?

Because of God’s placement of people in the body at JFBC, I am well cared for. Thanks to all who are serving the Lord. At the same time, I cry out, come alive again and use your gifts for the common good of others.

How much will you give up? (I Corinthians 9-10)

October 14, 2020

 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ I Corinthians 9:12

One of the most unbiblical statements a person can make is when a person says; I do not care what others think about me, I am free to do what I want to do. In my life-time I know I have failed so many times as a witness because I have placed stumbling blocks before others because of either my insensitivity or because of blind spots in my faith.

At the end of I Corinthians 8 Paul writes, “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

According to I Corinthians 9, Paul had arrived at a spiritual place where he had surrendered all his spiritual rights for the sake of reaching others. Yes, you could argue: I have the right too… However Paul would respond, but at the expense of how many people. Paul writes, “but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.”

I wonder, are there places and are there people God cannot trust me to reach? I wonder, are there blind spots in my life and maybe in your life? Miles McPherson gets at the heart of the matter in his book “The Third Option.” He writes:

Every person is prejudice in some form or fashion. Each of us are who we are because of the influences we have in our lives. We must first own the prejudice and then surrender our minds to the Lord’s way of living before we can overcome the blind spots in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, I want to reach every person with the gospel. If this is to be in our lives we must be willing to give up wrong traditions, prejudices, personal likes and dislikes that are truly stumbling blocks.

Father please remove any blind spots from our eyes. Father give us a hunger to see the value of every soul. You did not send Jesus for just the white American. You sent Jesus for all people, John 3:16.

My Assignment (I Corinthians 7-8)

October 13, 2020

17 Only let each person lead the life[c] that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.  I Corinthians 7:17

Along the journey of life there will be those memorable mile-marker experiences that change the course of one’s life. Ones mile markers are usually labeled as circumstances, trials, tragedies, miracles, or encounters with people that clarify God’s assignments in life.

Paul is writing concerning marriage in chapter 7:17. His words are so clear to me today; “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him,” the footnote in my Bible reads, this part of the verse could be translated as “let each person walk in the way…” Paul finished his directive here by writing, “and to which God has called him or her.”

Question: What is your assignment from the Lord?

As I asked myself this question, I began to consider the mile markers in my life. At the age of seven, I responded to God’s call to be saved. It was a mile marker for me. This was February 1974. Within days of this marker my mother said to me, Keith, I believe God is calling you to be a pastor someday. Bam, a mile marker again. For the next 14 years I would wrestle with what my mother had said. At the age of 21, another mile-marker came before me. On that day I finally surrendered my life to do what God called me to do.

Paul writes: “You were bought with a price.”

Brothers and sisters our mile-makers are only made possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ alone gave His life as a ransom for us (Mk. 10:45).

Just as I praise the Lord for His assignment for my life, I also praise the Lord for His assignment in your life. Because of your obedience many have been brought into the Kingdom of God.

Here is one last word from Paul: “The appointed time has grown very short.”

In my life I feel such an urgency to complete the assignment I have from God. I know the days of this world are growing few. I am praying for you to see your assignment, submit to your assignment, and to be successful in your assignment from God.

E.M. Bounds wrote the following centuries ago: “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.”

I am talking to God for you. Please do the same for me.

Did you hear what is going on at the local church? (I Corinthians 5-6)

October 12, 2020

 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? I Corinthians 6:7

Whenever I hear it, my heart cringes. It is always the same, local church has a scandal. Brothers and sisters, when the local church fails the name of the Lord suffers harm. At the same time, when a local church is faithful the name of the Lord is lifted up.

Question: What is happening in the local church where you attend?

The church at Corinth had both good and bad things happening in their congregation. Here is a short list of both:

The good things:

  • Christ had died for their sins, 5:7.
  • Christ had declared the brothers and sisters justified because of their faith in His work on the cross, 6:10.
  • Christ had set them apart, 6:11.
  • The Holy Spirit was residing inside of them, 6:11.
  • Christ had given them life, 6:14, 19-20.

The bad things:

  • Sexual immorality, 5:1.
  • Zero church discipline, 5:2.
  • Ignoring the sin in the body, 5:5.
  • Lawsuits among the brethren, 6:1-2.
  • Failure to glorify God, 6:19-20.

Question: Do you see any of these things at work in your church? In the church at Corinth the leadership was failing as were the members of the local church.

Let us be reminded that the true leader of the church is Jesus. Jesus purchased the church with His own blood, Eph. 1:7, 20-21. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is to be Lord of the church, I Cor. 6:20.

When Jesus is the Lord of the local church, the news about the church will be as follows:

  1. The church will experience radical redemption, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump,” 5:7.
  2. The church will be a radical witness to the world, 5:9-10.
  3. The church will lovingly discipline its members, 5:11-13.
  4. The church will be unified in seeking to live lives that glorify God, 6:19-20.

If the church in Corinth would follow Jesus leadership, these things would be their’s. The same is true with each local congregation today. Oh how I pray that every local church would rally around the Lordship of Jesus.

If I want this to be where I serve, I must do my part to ensure the Lordship of Christ!!! I pray this is your desire as well.

Are You Sure? (I Corinthians 3-4)

October 9, 2020

 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. I Corinthians 4:4

As I look back to the days of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, I find myself asking how he was able to focus in the midst of all that was thrown at him. Imagine having your every move critiqued. Imagine having your every word twisted and torn down. Imagine meeting people who had already formed opinions about you, even before they met you. Truly Paul faced difficulty day in and day out.

As Paul begins I Corinthians 4, he is defending his ministry. There are two summary statements made by Paul which accurately describe his ministry:

  • Paul was a servant of Christ.
  • Paul was a steward of the gospel.

As a servant of Christ Paul had been entrusted with the spreading of the gospel to the nations. As Paul focused on these two things, many chose to judge him falsely. Paul faced so many different accusations. But these did not stop him from completing his ministry.

I believe Paul used what others meant for evil to lead him to good. I imagine Paul receiving each criticism with an attitude of simply saying, ok I will check my heart to see if this is true.

As Paul did this he was very wise in saying, no one is fully qualified to judge their own heart (4:3). This leads me to share this with you: I am fully qualified to judge my own heart and I am certainly not qualified to judge the intentions of other people’s hearts.

Paul reminds his readers that there will be a day when the Lord will return to judge the true intentions of all people’s hearts (4:5).

Brothers and sisters, I must ask: What is in your heart? This is a question that I have to daily ask myself. To be transparent, I know my heart is very deceptive. I know my heart hid’s sin in the deepest recesses of my heart. The only way to overcome my heart is to submit all my thoughts and actions to God’s light revealed by His Word. Here are three statements about the power of His Word:

  1. God’s Word exposes everything in my heart. Hebrews 4:12-13
  2. God’s Word removes sin through repentance, Psalm 119:9
  3. God’s Word directs our paths, John 8:12.

Brothers and sisters, please take time each day to bring every thought, intention, and action before God in His Word. Brothers and sisters, please take time each week to meet with an accountability partner who will keep your heart empty of sin and filled with God.

What’s Everyone Up Too? (I Corinthians 1-2)

October 8, 2020

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours, I Corinthians 1:2

At the first part of the week I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with my Dad, my brother, and my sister. The first question my brother asked was, what have you been up too?

He and I had not talked in a couple of months, so there was a lot of what we each had been up to to share with each other. If someone asked you, what have you been up too, how would you respond?

As Paul begins his first letter to the church at Corinth, he is focusing totally on completing his work of taking the gospel to the world. Paul has much to say to this very busy church. Over the next few days we will revisit his teaching to this busy church.

But today I want to focus on what Paul wrote in his greeting. His words spoke deeply to my heart. As Paul greets the church, he reminds them of this truth:

they were called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul reminds the church at Corinth of the unity in the body of Christ. Paul assumes his readers would know that the Body of Christ was praying every day.

Question: Are you praying every day?

As I answered my brothers question about what I had been up too, I included this: Danny I pray for you every week. If you could have seen the smile on my brothers’s face. It was a great joy to see his thankfulness for my prayers.

As I read the greeting from Paul, I wondered, does every church and does every Christian daily engage in intercessory prayer. E.M. Bounds wrote the following about prayer:

“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer.”

Brothers and sisters, the most important assignment we have in the body of Christ is prayer! But wait, your response could be, but I thought sharing my faith is the most important assignment. Dear friend, I never met a praying Christian who did not give themselves totally to sharing their faith.

My you and I join with the body of Christ in prayer today!!!

Behind the Scenes (Acts 18-19)

October 7, 2020

32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. Acts 19:32

Could it be possible that behind the scenes there are forces at work which have a different purpose than most people realize? Now I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist but really I am not. Actually I am a Biblical theorist. The scripture teaches that there are behind the scenes activities in this world:

 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, Eph. 6:12

There is a clear battle between God and Satan. Those who follow God are in the number of the godly and those who follow Satan are in the number of the godless. Jesus is the power behind the godly and Satan is the power behind the godless.

We see this at work in the ancient city of Ephesus where Paul ministered in the power of God. God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 19:11. God was redeeming people in great numbers in the ministry of Paul, 19:26.

We read of others who wanted Paul’s success, but they had no behind the scenes power as did Paul, 19:13-16.

Behind the scenes there were those who hated Paul’s ministry because they were gaining financially from godless activity. The godless people loved their gods, 19:26-27.

So, we ask, what happened? The godless stirred up the crowds who willingly participated in the riot without even knowing why they did. Brothers and sisters, please be challenged to look deeper than the surface of what is happening in twenty-first century America. Behind the scenes the godless are pawns in the hands of Satan. He is lord of all lost people. Satan’s goal is simple, he wants to rule the world.

But you and I do not have to be afraid. We take great heart from Paul’s work in Ephesus. We can:

  1. Live without fear knowing God is for us, Acts 18:9-10.
  2. Live under his power and authority, Phil. 3:20-21.
  3. Minister with the attitude of one who has the purpose of reaching all people in our generation, Matt. 24:14.

You and I are on the winning team, so let’s win people!!!

When the Lord comes (II Thessalonians 1-3)

October 6, 2020

and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, II Thess. 1:7

There is a scene in the classic war movie, D-Day, that stands out in my mind as I consider Paul’s teaching in today’s text. The scene retells the story of a British special forces unit that landed behind German lines. Their mission was to take a particular bridge and hold it until relieved. The bridge would give the Allied Forces a major route into France. The special forces did take the bridge and for several hours they did hold the bridge until they were relieved.

In the ancient city of Thessalonica Paul was encouraging the church in that city to hold until relieved. Paul commended the church because they were doing the following:

  • Growing in their faith.
  • Increasing in love.
  • holding strong in the midst of persecution and afflictions (Paul’s double use of the same Greek word emphases the mental and physical suffering the church was enduring).

Paul also comforted the church with the glorious reminder of the Lord’s Second Coming.

When the Lord returns He will do no less than three things:

  1. He will grant relief to His people. On that day, all mental and physical suffering will end. On that day, our faith will be made complete.
  2. He will repay the enemies of the gospel. There will be eternal judgment, 1:8-9.
  3. He will reward His saints. All that awaits us in Heaven makes the war seem less stressful. We can hold until we are relieved.

Notice what Paul wants for the church. This was His prayer:

11. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, strengthen the church to hold by living out our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. Father, strengthen the church to hold by glorifying you through sharing the gospel with our persecutors. Father, strengthen the church to hold by enduring persecution knowing this is Your call on our lives.

As things get worse in the world, the church will hold until relieved!!!

Always? ( I Thessalonians 3-5)

October 5, 2020

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  I Thess. 5:9-10

Years ago, while attending a pastor’s conference, I heard a statement from a speaker that greatly troubled me. Now, you and I know people often take statements out of context, so I want to give you the context.

The leader was teaching concerning the pastor’s daily life of ministry. The leader was directing us to consider how we conduct ourselves in public and how we conduct ourselves in private. At one point he made this statement: You can only let your guard down in private.

When I heard the statement, immediately my spirit was convicted that this was not correct. Certainly the pastor was not directing us to live one way in public and another way in private.

Question: Do Christians have two separate ways of living life?

This week our nation will be subjected to the mud-throwing process of attempting to discredit the new candidate for the Supreme Court. If there is anything even remotely in the past of the candidate, it will be brought up.

As you and I seek to reach our world, the enemy will look for inconsistencies in our lives. If we have two different lives, it will come out. As Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica he commends them for their walk of faith and labor of love (3:6).

Paul prays that God would be able to establish that their hearts were blameless when He returned (3:13). Brothers and sisters, I take this very seriously.

This is why I entitled our blog for the day: “always.” The word always is defined as “at all times, on every occasion, does not change, and forever into the future.”

This is why Paul wrote: “…Whether we are awake or asleep we might live for Him.” 4:10

You and I have been called to a single life of devotion. We do not live a double life. We do not have times in the day when we let our guard down. We are the Lord’s.

On this Monday, I simply want to challenge you with this: Those who love Him have no desire to just live for Him part time.

In 1882 Ralph Hudson pined these words:

  1. My life, my love, I give to Thee,
    Thou Lamb of God who died for me;
    Oh, may I ever faithful be,
    My Savior and my God!

Refrain:
I’ll live for Him who died for me,
How happy then my life shall be!
I’ll live for Him who died for me,
My Savior and my God!

2. I now believe Thou dost receive,
For Thou hast died that I might live;
And now henceforth I’ll trust to Thee,
My Savior and my God!

3. Oh, Thou who died on Calvary,
To save my soul and make me free;
I’ll consecrate my life to Thee,
My Savior and my God!

This is my prayer for each of today!!!