1 Cor 5 to 8 Life Lessons for the Church and Believers who make up the Body
Even though the Corinthian church had many sins that needed correcting, Paul could stop and say, you are unleavened–meaning they were believers. He said you are washed, you are sanctified, and you are justified. If we just stopped and pondered that when the enemy comes calling, we might see ourselves differently. Yes, we sin, but 1 John 1:9 says if we confess them, God will cleanse us from all this unrighteousness that beleaguers us.
However, then with all that, Paul takes this church to the woodshed! Why are you dragging your dirty laundry into the marketplace? Why are you not remaining pure both in and out of marriage? Beloveds, this should not be! Instead, you should see yourselves as the Body of Christ purchased with his blood, and you now are the temple of the Lord. Be ye pure! Be ye holy! Beware of being a stumbling block to outsiders.
Do we ache when sin abounds?
Do we want purity and righteousness as Paul wanted for the Corinthians?
Acts 15 and 16 Is Circumcision required for salvation?
The Jews, specifically the believing Pharisees, contended that for the Gentiles to be saved, they needed to be circumcised. Not so said Peter with his testimony about the salvation of Cornelius and his household. Paul agreed with him and expounded on it and will later write the book of Romans to justify why salvation is as Peter said: Circumcision is an outward ritual, and Paul explained that it must be Circumcision of the heart!
Further, Peter asked why do we want to add a burden that even the Jews have never been successful in keeping! So the dialog raged on until James stood up and proclaimed the truth from the OT. God said He would call the Gentiles to Himself for salvation, and it consisted of nothing more than repenting and believing in the name of Jesus.
James wrote a letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch, and the truth remains today: there is no outward ritual that one must keep. Just repent and believe, and you will be saved. That same message is still true today. Later, as Paul and Silas proclaimed that message to the residents of Philippi, the jailer came to believe it as well.
Today stop and praise God for the simplicity of the gospel message.
James 1 to 5 Trials Abound, but God is greater than any trial.
James knows that life comes with trials, and each trial proves whether our faith is true or false. and how we handle a trial proves where our faith is. He begins with this statement; “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials].” [James 1:2] That is the foundation. You either prove your faith by facing a trial with a joyful spirit, or you don’t. Agreed, trials are NOT FUN! We want them to go away, but James says we should be joyful because there are different trials that everyone will face. What we need is practical advice for each one so we can pass them and be successful.
James begins by laying the foundation: Be joyful. Unfortunately, we get ‘hung up on the “why” when God wants us to know the “how.” First, go to God! Seek His face! Ask Him what to do and how to do it! That is a beautiful lesson from James. Then step by step, James takes us through the various trials of life we all face, and his advice for each one.
There is a life lesson here for all of us: Study and memorize the book of James so you can discern the trial and seek the wisdom of God to know how to face it and pass the test He has allowed.
We are caught up in men’s rules: do thus and so because if you don’t, you won’t reach heaven. Martin Luther was caught in that vicious cycle. When he was at the Vatican, he crawled on his knees in penance. Later, he would read in Romans: “The righteous by faith will live.” [Rom 1:17] From that point on, he lived not by the rules of the church and the hierarchy but by the very word of God.
Where am I caught up in the do’s and don’t’s of the world, religious leaders, and the church? Jesus caustically said to the Pharisees: ‘you are hypocrites!’ because they had determined that if one wanted to be “clean,” they had to wash themselves, their utensils, and their clothing a certain way. Jesus said you know God looks at the heart, not on your outward duties. God says to honor your parents, but you say otherwise. You set aside that money that would help them, but you call it “Corban,” which means sacred; a gift, or offering consecrated to God. Which do you think is more important to God?
How do I pierce the heart of God? When I say “I love you, God,” but my actions say otherwise.
When you look about and see the tasks before you, do you become overwhelmed? I wonder if that is why Jesus gave his power to the 12 and sent them out. There was so much to be done and so little time. So he sent them out and said, do not take provisions for yourself: no staff, no food, no extra clothing, and no money. Just go and preach the gospel message and so they did. “And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” [Mark 6:13]. Again Luke records: “Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” [Luke 9:6]
Yet still the disciples, like the masses, wanted “proof” or evidence that Jesus was who he said he was and Jesus tests their faith. In the middle of the night on the Sea of Galilee, they were afraid. It was Peter that said: “if it is you, Lord…” They had just seen miracle after miracle as they went and preached and now they were afraid? Now they want to know if it is really Him?
Here’s a lesson we can learn: We can do the work of Jesus and still be afraid, still wonder. When will we step out of the boat and trust that He is who He said He is. It is then no wonder that He said to them: where is your faith?
Matthew 9 and 10 Jesus spent a fair amount of time walking among the people, listening to their conversations. He saw those paralyzed both physically and spiritually. He saw a desperate father in need of direction when all around him was collapsing. He encountered religious leaders who could not or would not see the helpless, the needy, and unloved. Instead of meeting their needs, they watched Jesus, ridiculed and scoffed, and attributed his work to Beelzebub. They lacked the one thing this flock needed: compassion. They were just like the foolish, worthless shepherds of Zechariah 11:17 who left the flock to fend for themselves. Jesus noted that times had come and gone, but it was still like in the times of Zechariah. The sheep were scattered with no one to lead them. In sharp contrast, in Psalm 23, we see a picture of the good shepherd who leads, restores, and binds up the brokenhearted. Jesus is that Good Shepherd. His sheep hear his voice, and they follow Him, and He is even willing to lay down his life for the flock.
Somewhere there is a sheep in need of the Good Shepherd’s compassionate touch.
If Jesus came now, would I pass the test of a good shepherd?
Luke 8 and Matt 13 Ever go back to your high school reunion? If you have, you come away with ideas and thoughts about those four years. They walked with you, sat beside you in class but after high school, some stayed behind, and others went a different path. It was true for Jesus as well. He had grown up in Nazareth, but now he was busy with the Master’s business, and as he visits his hometown, he is shunned, scoffed at, ridiculed, challenged, and questioned about his family. As he is preparing to leave, he states: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” [Matt 13:57] What does he mean by that? He means that another’s perception is based on what they remember, not what has changed. We face the same.
Circle back to the demon-possessed man. He, too, was changed, and Jesus told him to go and proclaim what God had done for him. Like the parable of the sower, he went sowing the seeds of his change; there were four reactions. Some shook their head and went on their way; some heard and were thrilled for his transformation, but then the “old gang” made life difficult, so they went back to their old ways. Some were thrilled and for a time walked with him, but then the challenges of everyday life were greater than the new life, so they walked back. But, then some heard and rejoiced with him, and they grew and prospered, and those were the ones that God used to prepare the way for a later time when the new believers would have to leave Jerusalem because of persecution.
The principle is don’t let your past dictate your “now;” go and spread the seed and leave the results to God.
Nehemiah 6-7 Principle #1 When you are in leadership, there will be opposition. Principle #2 Fear is our biggest enemy. Principle #3 Believers need discernment. Nehemiah had learned all three as he served the pagan king. and therefore was successful in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. God uses any time we serve to learn the skills we need for future kingdom work.
Nehemiah experienced opposition that came from outside as well as inside. When Satan cannot achieve from the outside, he turns to the inside where he expects we will cave because others are not the apparent enemy; they are part of the holy huddle community. So, he turns to his arsenal of the deadly d’s of distraction, discredit, and deception, but we have a more significant “d,” in our arsenal and that is discernment. Nehemiah knew that he had the king’s directives and permission. As a man of integrity, Nehemiah would not be distracted or discouraged from the work. If he caved to their requests, his integrity and place before the king and outside before the workers would be forever changed.
Nehemiah knew that the truth of the opposition: “there is no fear of God before their eyes” [Rom 3:18]. Instead, he trusted in the words of Ps 118:6 “The Lord is on my side; I am not afraid!” Is this true of “me” and “you?”
Ezra 7 to 10 takes place after the drama of Esther in the palace. King Xerxes has passed on, and King Artaxerxes is in power. What took place in the book of Esther prepares us for the drama in Ezra, a man dedicated to God. “Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the Lord, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel.” [Ezra 7:10] A man who wants to be an approved workman of God is to include all three steps: study, do, and then teach. Psalm 1 is the foundation: “But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Then he will be an approved workman that is unashamed before God. [2Tim 2:15]
Because of those principles, Ezra found favor in the eyes of the king and was granted all he sought.
The NT places this warning before us: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, and sisters because you know that we will be judged more strictly.” [James 3:1] as well as the one from Mark 9:42: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
Ezra set his heart to do all that was needed and God blessed him. He is a great example to follow!
Daniel 4 to 6 Daniel served under several kings and knew the ways of God because he spent time with God three times a day. Nebuchadnezzar was a wise king, but foolishly, he ignored the advice to repent of his sin, and God called him to account. Daniel interpreted the visual lesson of the handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar. Daniel boldly told him that he had not learned the lesson of “he who is prideful will be humbled,” from the experience of his grandfather. And then was Darius, who is a prime example of one who is the fool extraordinaire. Signing a law then regretting it was his major blunder. Wicked men of his court sought to elevate themselves and demote Daniel with an extreme measure of death in the lion’s den. Yet, Daniel remained steadfast just as Paul told the Corinthians: “be ye steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord.” [1Cor 15:58]
Daniel survived to live another day, but the wicked men and their families became breakfast for the hungry lions. This is a truth that will not change: sin has its consequences, and often our families pay the price along with us.
Stay faithful to God, stay humble, because it is the righteous that shall prevail.