1 Corinthians 15:55 | Death to Life

When we think of life and death we think being born and then one day dying thus life and then death. But the Christian world view is the opposite. Death and then life. Before life there is only death. The distinction is very important and the twist changes everything about how this current life is lived. People do not like to think of death is real sobering terms, but since we are on the Halloween season where zombies and skeletons all the rage I do want to pause and be sober about the reality of death.

God through the Bible tells us that because of sin (all the evil stuff we do) there is no amount of good that we can do to counterbalance all the bad we have done in life. This world is dead. This world is temporary. We may see life, building, and new but it is all temporary. A last gasp of air leaving us and the planet dead.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV

Sobering. Not as much fun as Halloween but scary as hell. Death does not await because death has already arrived. So if we are not moving to life to death because we are already dead then how does one move from death to life? How do we exit the nightmare of hell, zombies, and curses?

Before I answer that question, I have a question for you dear reader. Are we the sum of physical chemical reactions and when those stop, we cease to exists? When this body dies is there nothing? How we answer that question points to life.

The church in Corinth had a faction that rejected the idea of a resurrection. They believed the same as the secularist today that when this body expires that that was that. To this Paul in his letter to the church clearly states that what is a Christian who does not believe life is the future state?

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 ESV

Central to the belief in God is that life awaits. And God has already demonstrated his power over death by raising Jesus from the dead on the third day. Jesus all of his physical chemical reactions were done. He was dead. He was placed in a tomb with all the burial procedures and left there for three days.

That is the end of the story death is still lord and master of this world. Christianity never has a start because Christ died. “You were dead in trespasses and sins” the Bible states. You “were” dead does not mean you “are” dead. Christians are no longer dead they are alive. Why because Christ did not stay in that grave.

[Jesus Speaking] I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Revelation 1:18 ESV

Death is defeated. Jesus makes all things subject to his authority as part of the triune God. Death has no hold on the Creator. So the opportunity stands how to move past the horror of Halloween and into the spring of life. Jesus draws all peoples to him for life. Dear reader there is nothing more important than this life or death choice. Live with Christ or stay dead in your sins. Call on Jesus. Enter into a conversation with the Creator who made you more than the physical and chemical reactions of your present body.

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:53-55 ESV

1 Corinthians 14:33 | Chaos Church

Church services are a formal structure. They start a certain time. They end at a certain time. There is an order to the flow with prayer, music, speakers, scripture reading, and greetings all taking the place assigned by the leaders who organized the service. Every Church has their own order to this. When I was younger my church tradition had a speaker preach for 45 minutes. I remember visiting a church and being surprised that the speaker only spoke for 5 minutes and the remainder of the service focused on taking the sacraments. When we come to 1 Corinthians Chapter 14, we find Paul giving instruction to a new church in the city of Corinth on how to order their service.

This chapter is controversial for two reasons. First Paul is comparing and contrasting two gifts of the spirit foretelling truth (Prophecy) and speaking in tongues. Some churches today elevate the gift of speaking in tongues to such an extent that one’s salvation might be questioned if not speaking in tongues. Other churches are resistance to tongues to such an extent that they are denied and practically forbidden. Paul emphasizes preaching over tongues because Paul wants the emphasis in the church to be order and instruction.

Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:19 ESV

The second reason that this chapter is controversial is because Paul has what appears as harsh instructions for the place of women.

women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:34 ESV

Now there are church traditions where women are not allowed to teach or speak in church at all. And there are other churches where women become the leaders and preachers of the church. For the purpose of this review, we need to understand that Paul was not shutting women out of the worship of Church. Paul was encouraging order and peace within the worship service. The consensus answer to this issue is that the early church separated men and women in the worship service following the Jewish example. Now imagine husband and wife sitting on opposite sides of a room trying to speak over the other attendees with their own personal conversation. Additionally, this comment from Paul that women are not allowed to speak is contrary to his other instruction in this same letter so anyone reading into this verse that women must never speak, ever, is not consistent with the purpose of Paul’s comment.

Before I continue, I want to highlight the point where Paul discusses the appropriate and inappropriate method of women to participate in the worship of the church. Here Paul discusses what is appropriate and no appropriate for women when speaking, praying, and prophesying. Again Paul is looking for order and peace in the worship service.

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 ESV

This entire work must be taken into context of what Paul is communicating to this new church. He wants them to be orderly and uplifting. The role of corporate worship is to be encourage the believers both women and men.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV

When Paul is writing this letter, he wants the people of the church in Corinth to be at peace and grow in their knowledge of God. How can this happen if the church is a disaster of disorder and disfunction. What does disorder look like? What is the root of disorder? James has the answer in explicit detail.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16 ESV

What order is the worship at your church? Is it balanced? Is it giving and encouraging? It is organized and fruitful? The Church in Corinth must have been a crazy place. Men and women shouting at each other. Others speaking in tongues that no one understood. And still more trying to speak prophecy all at the same time. The only thing missing was someone handing from the rafters.

1 Corinthians 13:13 | Why God?

The mantra of the church in modern times is that God is love. Jesus loves. This view is taken to such extents that now the question arises… If God is love, how can he allow such evil in this world? And we can be honest here… modern peoples don’t deal with problems very well. A loving God that allows a pandemic. A loving God that allows gun violence, domestic abuse, sexual predators, climate change, racism, inequalities, … Why, if he is love, would he allow this?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

To answer the “Why God?” question we must understand our own progression through, faith, hope, and love, in relationship to God.

Faith πίστις (pistis) is believing that God exists. Faith is believing God is who he says he is as reviled to us in the beauty of creation and even more specifically who God says he is as revealed in the Bible. The Bible is a love letter from God to the people he made. He spells out details of his nature and details of his expectations. Faith is that first step. Faith is a transforming step where the creation interacts with the Creator. Without this agreement that God is the creator and author of life then why do we even need to answer the question why would God allow evil in the world?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 ESV

After faith comes Hope ἐλπίς (elpis) and it is here that we recognize the reality of evil. The very existence of Hope demonstrates that we recognize the shortcomings of this present reality. It seems strange that on the topic of Hope that I immediately bring up the topic of evil but hope represents an acknowledgement that the present circumstances are messed up. My hope is in Jesus not this evil world. My hope is in the strength of God the creator not my own limited abilities. My hope in the pandemic rests in God’s mercy and grace not in a government of flawed individuals. In the same way my hope for this life and the life to come rests in what Jesus, God in the flesh, has already done. Faith leads to Hope. And Hope is a realization that this world is not home. Why God is there evil? That question becomes less imperative when I recognize my hope is not in the present but in the future.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:22-25 ESV

Faith, Hope, and now Love ἀγάπη (agapē). With agape Love being the greatest. Agape love is the love of a benevolent Creator God. Agape love is the love of a brother and a love of good will toward others. Agape is not selfish. Agape is not demanding. Agape is not evil. God is agape. He loves the world so much that he took on the human form and then paid for my crimes by dying on the cross on my behalf. That is a benevolent fatherly love that is the greatest of all acts. In this pandemic the government and those with no hope demand that everyone get vaccinated. They shame. They demand. They wish death on those that are not vaccinated. This is what a faithless, hopeless, and most importantly loveless world looks like.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

As we grow in faith we grow in our understanding of God. With that faith we can hope against all hope in a future. This world is in fact evil and in hope we understand and trust that God will undo the curse of sin and death that this present world is suffering from. Why does God allow evil? His love is not demanding. He will not force people to be “good”. He permits evil, death, and destruction here and now. This temporary cursed world is not my hope. God will not allow death and destruction to carry on forever. It is temporary and this world is not our home. Are you making this world your home? Then you will be the saddest person to have ever lived. As a faithful and hope filled follower of Christ it is my job to continue on loving those in this world of evil. You who make your home here in this world. The greatest action I can give is to love you by writing these words today. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus saves from the evil of self and the evil of this world.

1 Corinthians 12:13 | One Promise Kept

Christians are a diverse group of people. Some people are Christians because they follow the rules Jesus marked out for life. Some people are Christians because culturally they grew up in those traditions of church and morals. But a true Christian is someone who has been born again with a new spirit the Spirit of God himself. It is a miraculous experience becoming a Christian not because of works or because of culture. The miracle is the Holy Spirit interrupting a dead life and making the individual alive with the presence of God.

13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV

It does not matter what age one lives past or present. It does not matter what geographical location one is born. It does not matter at what station one is born in this life. It does not matter who ones parents are. It does not matter how long or how short life is for such an individual. What matters is the miraculous event that the person moves from no Spirit of God to being baptized with the Sprit of God.

For me this event happened at a young age. I was praying and asking God for help with something personal in my life and he seized on that opening and asked me to belong to him. That time in my young life resulted in me drinking, as Paul calls it, from the one Spirit that so many other Christians have experienced. I am not who I would have been because of something miraculous that occurred.  

The blueletterbible.org defines the Greek word for Spirit πνεῦμα (pneuma) with the following characteristics… The third person of God, with a personality of His own. Sometimes the Bible emphasizes His personality “Holy” Spirit and sometimes emphasizing His work the Spirit of “Truth”.

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV

One can never emphasize enough that the Holy Spirit is not an “it” the Holy Spirit is presented as a “He”. He the Spirit comes to those who love Jesus as an advocate to be with us forever. God himself in the form of the third person of the trinity comes to those that love Jesus and he brings truth into their lives. This truth is not a personal truth of the individual. This truth is the perfect universal truth of God himself. Because I have the same Spirit of God living inside of me I have more in common with someone else that has drunk from this Spirit of truth that lives on the other side of the world than I do with my unsaved neighbor next door. One Spirit, who is Holy (set apart, righteous) and who is true, has invaded my dead life and made me alive in God. Thank you, Father!

One last note lest anyone be confused. The Holy Spirit’s transformative work in the life of a Christian is not temporary. When that miraculous event occurs and a person moves from dead to alive in Christ the helper and advocate comes with a promise that Christ will never leave us or forsake us. The Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is a guarantee that we are in the possession of God.

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

1 Corinthians 16:2 | Tithes, Gifts, and Offerings Oh! My!

The United States as a country that consistently ranks at the top of the list of most generous countries and rightfully so since America is also one of the most wealthy countries in the world. Americans give freely for all kinds of causes and plights the world over.

The city of Corinth was an economic hub and a wealthy city so it should be expected then that this church would be called upon to support their brothers and sisters in other less prosperous areas like Jerusalem. Christians in Israel when the church was founded faced an enormous personal cost to conversion. They could be removed from the Jewish Synagogue as well as from the marketplace. The other Churches had an obligation to support their fellow church members. Paul at the end of his letter to the Corinthians organizes a fundraiser and envoy to present the donation to the hurting members of the fellow church.

Regarding the relief offering for poor Christians that is being collected, you get the same instructions I gave the churches in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can. When I get there you’ll have it ready, and I won’t have to make a special appeal. Then after I arrive, I’ll write letters authorizing whomever you delegate, and send them off to Jerusalem to deliver your gift. If you think it best that I go along, I’ll be glad to travel with them. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 MSG

So what is the obligation of a believer in regard to “being as generous” as one can? I will first speak on perspective when giving and then follow up by defining tithes and offerings.

Offerings are gifts that an individual decides to give that are completely personal between themselves and God. Rick Warren a pastor of a large church wrote a bestselling book. This book made him rich. So between himself and God he felt led to do something bold. He paid his church back every dollar of salary he had ever taken and then decided that he only wanted or needed to keep 10% of the income from his book sales. Rick Warren in effect gave away more than 90% of his income. There is no law, rule, expectation, or biblical mandate that he do such a thing but he meets the challenge of Paul to be as generous as one can be. But most importantly he did this with humbleness, gratefulness, and joy. It was not imposed on him and he did not do this out of some sense of duty. He did it simply because he wanted to do it. While that is an extreme example there are many everyday people who give generously in this way but keep quiet because it is a personal offering between them and God.

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV

The second thing we must know about the collection Paul was asking for is that this was an offering above and beyond the individual’s duty to support the local church. Typically in current Christian culture this support is called a tithe and it is the first 10% given to the church to support the local community of believers. So how is the tithe different than a gift and offering? The Tithe is an Old Testament law that demanded 10% of the first fruit of, income, crop, or cattle. God asked for the first and best of whatever was earned. (God is right to ask for this since it is by his grace and mercy that there is any crop at all. Giving back in this way is a formal way to honor and acknowledge that God is in control of all things)

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27:30 ESV

The tithe was given to the priestly cast of the Jewish community and so today Christian Churches operate in similar fashion by asking for a tithe that would be given to the local church where a believer has membership. The tithe is in that regard the first phase of giving within the church. Anything above the tithe would be a gift and offering. Rick Warren arrived at his 90% give away number by calling it a reverse tithe. He “tithed” 90% and kept 10% for himself.

Now shockingly there is nowhere in the New Testament that prescribes a church to collect or receive a tithe. Ultimately like a gift this is between the believer and God. A mainstream biblically based Church will not deny membership and fellowship to someone who does not give.

In regard to giving, the tithe is a normal and accepted starting point, but ultimately that amount is based on ability and the relationship that the individual has with God. God wants that gift given freely and out of love toward him. Jesus expected and encouraged his followers to be generous to everyone around them.

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

1 Corinthians 1:1 | Christ Only Always

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I teach at a local church on Sunday mornings each week and I have a rule in my class that answers to questions must be real not the “church” answer. By church answer I mean that I don’t want the class to answer what they think everyone would expect to hear in church but to answer the question in real honest terms the way we would see it in life outside the church. The church answer to a question I specifically don’t want is “Jesus”. Jesus could almost literally be the answer to most any question one might get at church. The running joke in my class is that if no one has an answer or no one wants to answer the hard question because it is a little to real and close to home then I get the church answer “Jesus”.  The class laughs because it is most likely the right answer but not the answer we usually live life by.

Barclay in his commentary for 1 Corinthians notes that in the first 10 verses Paul uses Jesus, Christ, or some combination of those names 10 times. The Corinthians were divided and they were struggling internally. So Paul is trying to get their attention with that intro. Church hear Paul… the solution, the answer, the resolution, and everything you need is Jesus. Why can’t we as people who call ourselves followers of Christ turn to Him first, consistently, and always?

This reminds me of a hymn Have Thine On Way, Lord. Where the final verse of the final stanza concludes with Christ only, always, living in me.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Church, why not turn to Christ always and only? I grew up in a large denomination that I still love. God has called me to serve in a non-denominational church and I am good with that because Christ only, always. A friend once told me to major on the majors and minor on the minors. Meaning that the organization of the church is not something to argue over (the minors). Let people be where God has called them, but where division should occur is where Christ stands on what is right and wrong like the trinity, sexual ethics, and hell (the majors). What a challenge Paul put before this early church. Here are those first 10 verses calling out Christ only, always.

1 Corinthians 1 ESV

  1. Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
  2. 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:
  3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
  5. that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—
  6. even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—
  7. so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  8. who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  10. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

1 Corinthians 5:5 | Church, Flesh, and Spirit

Paul writing to the church in Corinth is responding to news of unashamed sexual deviancy in the church. There is a person living with his “father’s wife” and the church at this location has accepted his life and his choice. The mantra of this moment and of today “who are we to judge”? But Paul does not respond this way. Paul has harsh words for the church and Paul tells the church that they should remove this person from the fellowship by turning him over to Satan. Paul can make this judgement and this command because we know what is right and what is wrong as God has given us his moral laws.

5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV

Paul wants to make it clear to the rest of the church and to this individual that is flaunting a sinful life that unashamed sin and the church cannot coexist. Paul’s plan to “deliver this man to Satan” is to send him out of the church and into the world where he can practice his sin as he sees fit. Notice also that Paul states this is an opportunity, maybe the only opportunity, that this man may have to recognize his need for God and to therefore save his soul. This man may go out and destroy his life in lust but hopefully he will learn how temporary and unfulfilling this lust filled life will be. How many a man has seen their life destroyed by lusts and passions?

The flip side of this problem is what would happen if the church allowed this man remain living in unashamed sin within their fellowship. What if the church did not judge and accepted his choice? There are two impacts of making that choice. First is the impact to this man. He would remain confused and unrepentant mistaking the Church’s approval for God’s approval. Regardless of what we claim to be true or claim to be false God defines truth. “Let God be true, and every human being a liar” (Romans 3:4 ESV). What kind of shock might it be when this man meets Christ and then says to Jesus I served in your church. To those words Jesus responds “I never knew you. Away from me” (Matthew 7:23 ESV). Second the impact of accepting this lifestyle in the church is that is would spread to others. Paul makes this point clear to the church by reminding them of the Passover instructions.

6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV

I stated earlier that this man should be sent away so that he can live his life as he sees fit. Paul is not telling him to leave the relationship with his step mother. Leaving or staying with her is his choice. Paul is saying that he can’t choose that relationship and the church. And it is here that Paul concludes his instruction to the church.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ESV

In practical terms very few churches will “kick” people out of the church. I have heard of such things but in modern America someone may leave one church and find open arms with one down the road. Many people never build roots in church they only jump from place to place until they are offended or are not shown the love they expect. In current culture this process is much more self-selected as the vision and message of the individual church conflicts with lifestyles of that type of member. But this is the purpose of the church to challenge us with God’s perfect standard so that repentance has a chance to bring new life. By not expecting change we remain dead and broken.

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 ESV

1 Corinthians 15:3 | The Very Best Miracle

Miracles are more than just important to Christians, they are foundational to what is believed about the universe, God, and His intervention into the lives of humanity. When people think about miracles, the first thought might be Jesus walking on water or healing the sick, but I want to direct attention to the most spectacular miracle in the Bible.

More than walking on water or healing the blind the most impressive of all is the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. We cannot repeat history to see for ourselves exactly what happened so we must rely on the multitude of eyewitnesses who left their accounts recorded for the next generations to read and study. There is no evidence that they lied, or manufactured a legend. One only needs to point to the fact most all of these men died because they claimed Christ resurrected and their witness is consistent from the beginning.

Paul claims hundreds of people witnessed the resurrected Christ:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV

Paul providing his defense to the Romans:

“For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” Acts 26:26 ESV

Peter making a case for Christ and the Gospel message:

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 ESV

So why is the death, burial, and resurrection of “first importance”? Paul answers that question and puts it this way when it comes to the centrality of the miraculous that surrounds Christ…

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 ESV

The resurrection of Christ is the hope of the world because God so loved the world (John 3:16) which leads this miracle to become even more spectacular in that it impacts individuals even today. The 5,000 that Jesus fed are long gone and that food does not do us any benefit today. The miracle of the resurrection however continues on in my life even now. The resurrection is a miracle that happens daily all over the world. It is a miracle that we can see in the changed lives of our friends, coworkers, and family. The resurrection propagates miracle of salvation on each individual who calls on Christ. The very gift, the deposit of the Holy Spirit, given to those who believe in Jesus is a miracle because God the creator of the universe gives to His children hope for the now and a promise for eternity.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

1 Corinthians 13:1 | Gift’s are for God’s Glory

clang

I have taken many kinds of strength profiles, and career assessment tools over the years. There are two that stand out. The first is the one I took through the high school. What stood out in this skills assessment that was given to all of the students were the results. It provided job and career ideas related to the category one fit within. I remember this because one of the job suggestions was Mineralogist. I was the only person that got this recommendation. I did not even know how to get into this field or what it would involve. It is certainly not something that any high school person I knew wanted to grow up to be. The second profile test that I remember was in college. The pastor of my church was taking the smaller Wednesday night crowed through a biblically based spiritual gifts assessment and to my surprise “teacher” was on the top of the list. At that time teacher was the last job that made up my passions. I showed the results to the pastor and told him the test was broken. Every person is given skills and gifts. The science behind tests like these can be informative about our personality and what we might be good at and bad at in life. Both of those tests were not wrong in their suggestions even if I was unaware of my own self at that time. We all have gifts and skills the question is to what end will we use these gifts?

In some Church cultures, there is a powerful desire to speak in tongues or speak prophecy. These miraculous type gifts are elevated to a high standing and become a mark of someone who has attained significant favor from God. While these gifts are included in the Biblical narrative and may be true in contemporary society the real question I want to know is to what end are these gifts sought and used? Paul clearly states that the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the good of the Body of Christ so that the Church will be equipped to carry out God’s will.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV

Whatever gifts the Spirit has given whoever God has created an individual to be then in turn Christians must not be proud about that strength and one should not seek visible gifts for status or control. Just a few lines later Paul gets specific to warn the Corinthians about the role of these gifts.

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. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

Those who are saved and part of the body have a purpose in the Church. The Holy Spirit will gives a desire and skill to accomplish that roll. These gifts work together to accomplish God’s plans. When people attempt to use them in the strength of man or for a selfish purpose then how does God get the glory for what is accomplished? Lecrae in his song Chase That speaks of the worst type of sin and that is the sin of selfish ambition while claiming to do it for God.

[the Devil] lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
“why you following God when you can go get it all?”
I tell you what’s better, or better yet worse.
chasing your own glory while doing the Lord’s work,
so holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
our greatest satisfaction is making His name famous

The mark of someone serving God is Love. They have a love for God and a love for their fellow man.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Love makes the gift useful. Service inside the body with Faith, Hope, and most importantly Love is used by God for His purpose. Do you love God? Are you broken to love others more than yourself? If so then go and obey what God has placed on your heart for His Glory.

* Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort May 2014.

SJW is not Love

swj

SJW = Social Justice Warrior. This term is used to identify the zealous drive that has become popular in western culture to make the world right because of injustice. While noble on the face many times this zealous undertaking includes obnoxious, violent, and manipulative ends justify the means tactics. SJW comes in all kinds and degrees. Pet rescue, Climate change, champion for homelessness, LGBT rights, minimum wage, denouncing white privilege, Black Lives Matter, equal pay for women, vegetarian, immigration, alt-right, and the list could continue. Society is breaking down into social tribes of people who are at war with each other and seek only to champion their own cause. In all of this yelling the real injustice that should be addressed seems to be lost. Jesus speaking of the signs of the end of the current Church age describes a world where hate rules and people stop loving others.

10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:10-12 ESV

While society may not be at that point Christ described a case might be made that we are seeing the frothy edges of an unloving bubble. Images of people attacking and saying despicable things at each other over the presidential campaign is illustrative that at the heart of man is a great evil. Very little love is on display in the current social climate. A battle to control the sword of government is underway. Forcing people to bake cakes for weddings or chants of lock her up have become the preferred rally cries. Will the sword of government be used to force people to help the poor? Can the country survive such division? Paul in his letter to the Church in Corinth provides a detailed description and definition of love. True love. Not selfish lustful love that the world champions. Paul describes the nature of God in this famous chapter. Love is patient, love is kind. But at the intro he provides why love is needed in any action and in our SWJ world this is something to dwell on.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV

If one finds themselves sucked into taking part in an SJW protest my question is why and for what purpose. Why does one protest? The answer might be because of the injustice against those who are poor or disenfranchised. But what motivates one to champion that cause? Anger at the people who ignore poverty? Anger at the corporation that supposedly stole from the impoverished person? Or can an SJW movement claim to be genuinely broken and hurting because of love for the person in need? Does the SJW movement love the person that they want to help? Paul says you can give up your very life for people in need but if you do not love then you gain nothing.

So where does love come from and how do I champion justice in love verses frustration, anger, and manipulation? Love that Paul speaks of can only be sourced from one place. That kind of love cannot be manufactured in the heart of a man. That kind of love cannot be purchased at any price affordable to mortals. Love that Paul speaks of can only come from an overflow of its original author.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 ESV

Not only is true love sourced from God Himself it is the essence of who our Creator is. God is love. Love comes from God alone. This is why Paul tells the church in Corinth that if they die for a cause but do it without love, without God, then they have gained nothing. It is a harsh truth about our nature and relationship with God. He created us to be loved by Him and to then in turn love others. We however take up the SJW cause not in the love of God but in the selfishness of man.

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11 ESV

We stand at a crossroads all who are reading this. Do we move forward in love or do we stay unaccomplished fighting against oblivion. If you do not have a relationship with the author of love then it is time to submit to Christ, who is the ultimate act of love, who died for our naked hate in order to establish a relationship with God the original source of love. If you do have the saving faith from God and are living a life of selfish anger at the world, then now is the time to seek Christ about breaking your heart to love your neighbor in an honest, faithful, and giving way.

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39 ESV