Forgive Him.

maxresdefault2 Corinthians 2:7-8 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

A goal as Christians ought to be the restoration of the fallen brother or sister. Unfortunately, people will fall. And some won’t just fall – they will walk willfully into a sinful lifestyle.  Sin is enticing, and Satan is a slick, dirty liar and deceiver. As we see in Scripture, we can’t condone sin. It must be dealt with in the church and in our realm of influence, lest it spread like cancer. However – and here is the thought for today – when a brother or sister is dealt with according to their sin, and when the world, flesh, and devil have chewed them up and spit them out (which they will), and when they realize how empty and vain the deceitfulness of riches and lust of the flesh is, and desire to get right, might they always know that there is a place where they can find repentance, restoration, and forgiveness.

Probably the greatest case made in Scripture for our responsibility to forgive is the one made in Ephesians 4:32: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. How do we know if or how we should forgive one who is seeking restoration? “As Christ hath forgiven you”. That’s pretty deep stuff. If we compare our forgiveness to Christ’s, we’ll have no problem bringing the lost sheep back to the fold. I see three things we can do in these verses:

  1. Forgive – We ought to forgive, fully, and freely, as Christ did to us.
  2. Comfort – When one comes back, they don’t need the stick. They need comfort. Many times they’re hurting, shamed, and seeking to put the past behind them. Let us be the ones that comfort.
  3. Confirm our love toward them – It’s one thing to say we forgive. It’s another thing to confirm that love in our actions.

And so when the wayward brother or sister comes back, which many will, let us welcome them with open arms, like Paul, or the father of the Prodigal son, or like Christ. Let’s forgive, comfort, and confirm our love through our actions.

Comfort them

comforting2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

I am reminded this morning that God is merciful, and He it is that comforts us when the testings and trials of this life come upon us – no matter how hard they might be. Paul’s testing was so harsh that he “despaired even of life.” But Paul reminds us in verse four why we are comforted. He says it is done “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.”

He comforts us “that”, or “for the reason”,  we  might comfort others. Maturity in the Christian life causes me to stop looking at everything through the lens of “me”, and to begin to see what happens through the lens of Christ and others. If there’s a trouble in my life, or testing, or situation I don’t understand, first, I should seek the God of all comfort, Who is willing and able to comfort me. Secondly, as I begin to receive that comfort, I ought to begin to look for ways to also comfort those who need comfort. This is the mind of God.

Your Labor Is Not In Vain

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1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

There is so much truth and doctrine packed in this one chapter, it’s hard to write on any one. Paul gives so many nuggets of insight and admonition, one could teach for a long time through 1 Corinthians 15 and still have more to teach. But the underlying theme is this: One day, we will rise, as Christ did, and be forever with the Lord. In this life, we might “die daily” (vs 31). We might have times where we’re “most miserable” (vs 19). We might (and must) be like the seed, which falls to the ground, and dies (vs 36-38). We might be in jeopardy (vs 30). We might fight battles (vs 32). But in the and, and praise be to the Lord, we will rise in victory. There is victory over death. There’s victory over the grave. There’s a crown. There’s victory with Jesus Christ. We will be changed to be like Him. We will lose corruption and put on incorruption. And we will put on immortality, ever to be with the Son and the Father, where there will be rewards, and rejoicing for all of eternity.

He hits a climax in light of our lives and eternity near the end, which has taken 57 verses to build. But then Paul adds and ends it all with one verse that sums up our response to this: “be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Because we know about the resurrection, and because we know about the rewards, and because we know that we will live with Him for all of eternity, and because of Christ’s example, might we give our lives 100% to this thing. Might we be “all-in”. Might we be unmovable. Might we look stedfastly toward that time in eternity. Might we be abounding – growing, fruitful, serving fully – in the work of the Lord. And we can rest assured of this: our labor is not in vain in the Lord!

Edify

build1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

I am reminded that, as members of the church of God, one of our primary purposes is to edify one another. The word edify (οἰκοδομή) was used in architectural. It meant “to build up”. Paul talked about tongues, and about prophesying, and about gifts. All in all, he said, we can desire many things in the ministry and in the church. But if those things we seek aren’t edifying (building) others, Paul basically says, “what’s the use?” Might we seek to use our gifts and talents to build up those in the church, as well as those we seek to reach with the Gospel.

If We Would Judge Ourselves

court-gavel1 Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

How often are we “judged” because we fail to judge ourselves first? The short thought this morning is this: might we judge (try, examine, prove) ourselves and come before the Lord humbly. Let us condemn ourselves, by confessing, acknowledging, and mourning over our sins, so that the Lord doesn’t have to judge and point the finger at us. Let’s keep a “short account” of sin in our lives with the Lord. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

They Might be Saved

1 Corinthians 10:31-33 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the extent Paul was willing to go and the things he was willing to sacrifice to see people saved. This chapter and the last deals with liberties and even rights that he chose to forego for the sake of the furtherance of the Gospel, and to limit any change that the Gospel might be hindered. He chose not to take a salary, or gifts. He chose to take a higher road, and to be far above approach. He was willing to sacrifice finances, fame, and even a wife for the sake of the Gospel, if it meant some might be saved.

Paul said “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” My dad used to give us the “good, better, best speech”. My siblings all knew what it was. There are good kids. There are good things. But there’s also better, and best. And my dad constantly tried to get us to choose that which was best, over that which was OK or good.

The reading warrants this question: What am I willing to forego or sacrifice for the Gospel’s sake? Yes, I could have some of the nice things. Yes, I could make a name for myself. Yes, I could partake in “rightful” things that are available. But just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. There are “better” and “best” choices.  Are there things I can give up, forego, or change so that more people might be saved? I’d assume that a thorough assessment will shew that there are at least some things in all of us, whether time, talents, or treasures. Might we be willing to give them up for the sake of the lost, and for the cause of Christ.

 

Lest I Myself Should Become a Castaway

Natal-rn Ship Mar Castaway Boat Sky 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

When I think of a castaway, I think of a once great boat or ship, which, due to a storm, or instruments, or human error, has come to a low state, or to ruin. As a preacher, this passage is a stark reminder of a somber reality. I may preach to others, but I myself can become a castaway. I think sometimes we feel exempt. But if Paul, arguably the greatest Christian since Christ walked the earth, felt that he might become a castaway, we’d do well to heed his admonition. He gives a few insights into avoiding this tragedy:

  1. “I therefore run, not as uncertainly”. First, Paul knew what he was running for. He was pressing toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling in Christ. He continually pressed toward that mark. I am reminded this morning that I must keep the prize, the mark, the vision before me. I love the song “keep the race before us” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K93uKU6puc).
  2. “Not as one that beateth the air”. Secondly, he also knew who he was fighting against. He wasn’t taking wild swings at the air, or into the dark. No, he knew the enemy, and that enemy started with his flesh. I believe our flesh has brought down more great men that probably any other pitfall. But he often mentioned his flesh and the devil.
  3. “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” Still speaking in sports or fighting terms, Paul realized the importance of keeping his body under subjection – as when a fighter overcomes his opponent, and brings him into “submission”, or “subjection”. This is something we must do. We must die daily. We must crucify the flesh. We must realize its power, and that if we allow it, it will get back up. It will come back at us.
  4. “When I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Finally, Paul understood that it didn’t matter his spiritual stature, or longevity. He knew he was still a potential casualty, and was willing to say it. Might we never get to a point to where we think we’re above the world, the flesh, and the devil. For it’s when we get to that point, that we’re susceptible to it happening to us.

“Let us therefore walk circumspectly, not as fools…” – Paul.

Love and Meekness.

1 Corinthians 4:12-13 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.  4:15-16 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 

I have heard people say, “if we were really like Jesus, the world would love us”. I’ve heard that Mahatma Ghandi said “I like your Jesus. It’s Christians I don’t like”. I do believe that concept to be true – to an extent. I understand that there are Christians (including myself, unfortunately) that have turn people off to Christ through our actions done in the flesh. But many times I think quotes like these are a backdoor to soften our stance and our standards. Jesus Christ was a Rock of offense. He was a stumblingblock. He did come to bring division (I know John 17 – a great chapter that I love). The world didn’t love Him. And so I propose, if we’re like Christ, even in His love and His compassion, the world may not like us and our message, because it must be accepted to the exclusion of the world’s.

love-your-enemies

However (and I am going to sound oxymoronic here) – when we are reviled, and when we are persecuted, and when we are defamed for God and the positions we take in Christ – there is something the world cannot deny, and something that will prick their conscience and work in their heart. And when they walk away, they cannot forget it. This was exemplified by Christ and emulated by Paul. There are two words that will draw the balance we need as we stand for right, and yet seek to change the world and gain the lost. Those two words are Love and Meekness. When men defamed Paul, he intreated (prayed for) them. When men reviled (the Greek word means to villify, and to abuse), Paul blessed them.  And Christ told us to do the same. Pray for them. Bless them. Do good to them. Love them.

I’m ok with people defaming us for our doctrine and our stand. That won’t change who I am and what I stand for. They can condemn the message as narrow minded and exclusive. That’s ok. That won’t change me. If the message drives them away, and I wish it didn’t, I must understand it has happened and will happen again. But here’s where love and meekness comes in – if it’s my position they don’t like, I must be ok with that. But if it’s my disposition they don’t like, I must take an honest assessment and ask, in my stand, am I emulating Christ, like Paul did?

Let’s stand firm in our position, but let us evaluate our disposition today and ask, “am I like Christ in my disposition?”

, But God. 

1 Corinthians 3:6-7,9 KJV I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. [7] So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. [9] For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
Im reminded this morning that we can work and plant and water and minister and serve, but without God and His working with us (rather, us working with Him), it’s “nothing”. As we live and serve today, might we remember to yoke up with Him and work together with Him. This is how eternal dividends are gained. 

But… of the Spirit and of power. 

1 Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
As I study the New Testament, I’m reminded how much the early Christians relied on the Spirit and power of God for living and ministering. The simple thought/question today is this: how much do we rely on the Spirit and the power of God in our lives?  I fear not nearly enough. It wasn’t with enticing words or man’s wisdom that Paul came preaching. And if anyone could glory in those, he could. But he understood something we too often forget – how much we need the power of God in what we do. Might we be like these early Christians who realized that things that stand the test of eternal value must be done in and through His might.