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Archive for April, 2010

Handling our Differences – 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

April 26th, 2010

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Paul is dealing with the issue of litigation in the church in Corinth, when there were rock star lawyers and suing people was a way of making money. Paul reserves his harshest words for this topic – he wants the church to feel ashamed for such behaviour. In our present day and culture, we may not be taking others to court but we do hold grudges and take vengeance on others.

Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that they have forgotten the following:

1. Themselves

  • They have forgotten their identity – who they are – and their destiny – where they are headed – as the people of God
  • All the saints (that is, anyone who has saving faith in Christ) will one day rule the whole world, including the angels
  • We are God’s ecclesia – His people – so we should be able to sort out our differences amongst ourselves
  • Paul is furious that they were making the Church look like any other organised religion that is just about ripping each other off. He is keenly aware that the world is watching, and so should we be
  • Jesus prayed that His people would be one, would be unified
  • We know better than to get revenge on each other
  • Paul is NOT advocating covering up sins within the church and keeping them secret. He wants the city to see the church as genuine, open and humble, shining for Jesus, and civic authorities have been put in place by God – so there are times when we need to bring issues out into the open for the sake of justice
  • However, this is about personal grievances and wanting money

2. Their Master

  • We follow the example of Jesus – He suffered, forgave, was merciful, took mistreatment without retaliating, was loving, and did not take vindication against others
  • We betray Jesus by not acting like Him and getting revenge
  • However, we can’t just try our hardest to be like Christ – we’ll never make it in our own strength. We are innately sinful – we long for personal vindication in our hearts. But Jesus took all this on the cross – our sin and also the sins committed against us
  • Jesus at the cross gave us a righteous standing with God and the power to live righteously. He was disempowered so that we could be empowered and reign with Him for all eternity
  • Although we as God’s people continually treat Jesus with contempt, He never once gets back at us even though He has every right to
  • Ch.3 – we have everything in Christ. This is why we can suffer losing money, personal grievances, etc
  • Dwell on the fact you have been forgiven – he who has been forgiven much, loves much
  • There’s an illusion that holy people just choose miserable, hard things for sake of it. But the truth is, it’s all done in faith and knowing that they have a destiny which cannot compare – e.g. Abraham
  • We’re not advocating being doormats – we do need to seek justice when necessary

3. Their story

  • If you spend your life grabbing and getting, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If you try to hold onto your life, you will lose it – but if you give it up for the sake of Jesus, you will find it
  • In this passage Paul lists any and every kind of person who lives to gratify their own pleasures. He is not picking on certain people, e.g. homosexuals – but having a go at everyone who lives for themselves
  • We have a new story, a different story to the rest of the world
  • You’ll live a joyless life if you live for yourself – everything you try to grab becomes cheap
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. True peace is always costly and God is the ultimate peacemaker – we are called to follow His example
  • None of this is easy but it becomes easier the more you grow in your relationship with Jesus

Running the Race – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

April 20th, 2010

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Paul here is warning against apathy, against the danger of assuming that once you become a Christian, it doesn’t matter how you live your life. He wants to show us what could be lost out on and uses the image of a race to do so. It is not an apathetic image but rather a one of a passionate exhortation to work, labour, etc.

1. Training

  • It is all-consuming preparation – full time, constant, habitual
  • The athletes who want to win think differently to other people
  • It requires discipline – to train when you don’t feel like it or aren’t in the mood
  • We have to train as Christians – same application for getting the most out of our relationship with God, to do great things for God with our life: we have to press through and persevere
  • We also encourage one another to press on
  • We are always fighting against the temptation to give up and throw in the towel, because following God’s will is never easy. But there is more we are capable of than we realise, we are able to handle more than we realise – because of the grace and power of God
  • Training requires focus – you have to turn your focus away from other things
  • The PRIZE:
  • Many people think this is heaven, to obtain eternal life, but Paul already knew he was going to heaven because of his faith in Christ and the fact that God had saved him. Eternal life is a gift to be received not a prize to be won.
  • The prize is the reward of a life lived with God. Not every Christian will receive the full reward of their life – some people will be saved ‘as one through fire’ – with nothing to show for their life, nothing achieved for God.
  • God saved us for good works – we have a unique plan for our life.

2. Seeing

  • We all pursue different prizes in life – but all apart from the reward of doing God’s will are perishable, they do not last
  • We need to SEE the imperishable prize before us – we need to see the end goal
  • Paul saw that goal and was obedient to the vision
  • We have to see the end, have to have it in sight to keep going
  • Don’t be so short-sighted – see something better than this passing age
  • JESUS is the only reason we get to take part in the race in the first place. He has gone ahead and run the race for us, and now we get to run our own race with His help and power.

Finding Rest in the Shade of God – Song of Solomon 2:3

April 12th, 2010

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‘As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.’

This verse uses the symbolic language of finding rest and relief from the heat in the shade of a tree. Although the book of the Song of Solomon is about romantic love between a man and a woman, it can also be interpreted as symbolic of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.

People often view Christianity as hard work and loading on extra burdens of guilt and shame – but in fact, Jesus does the very opposite. He does precisely what this verse describes – He is like a tree that provides shade from the “heat” of life. Jesus came to give inner rest, as He says very clearly in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The qualification for receiving rest for our souls from Jesus isn’t “you who are spiritual/perfect/righteous” or “you who have it all together” – the qualification is “all who are weary”.

Sitting down

  • you actually have to sit under tree and take advantage of the shade
  • this means letting go, taking the weight off your feet, relaxing

Be still and know

  • we need to stop, to cease striving, to let go of our anxieties and fears
  • it is like God says “Enough!” – that He is in control and cares for us
  • it is when we know that God is God, that we find that shade and inner rest in Him
  • Romans 8:28: ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ – the point is that we have to know this, otherwise we won’t benefit from the shade God has for us

Being saved

  • we don’t just need a one-time salvation from Jesus – we need saving from Him daily, to save us from the “heat” of life, from the fears and anxieties and pressures we face all the time

Example of Joseph

  • Joseph faced so much hardship and suffering and injustice, constantly being sinned against – but the fact is that everything that happened to him was a step leading closer to his destiny – to rule over Egypt
  • we are not simply at the mercy of other people and their sin – God is in control and He works all things together for our good and to get us to the place He wants us to be in

The shield of faith

  • Ephesians 6 – the armour of God – says ‘In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one’
  • we need to keep holding our faith up, trusting God and standing our ground, so as to extinguish the fiery darts that the devil sends our way

Breaks & holidays

  • we have missed the point when we view rest as simply having a break or a holiday, where we abandon everything, including spending time with Jesus
  • true rest is found in the presence of God!

The “giants” of life

  • when we merely focus on and are intimated by the giants, we do not trust God and therefore are effectively rejecting Him and treating Him with contempt
  • you’ll never arrive at your destination unless you understand that God provides rest, and that you learn to rest in His shade

The “heat” of a guilty conscience

  • the blood of Jesus cleanses all of our sin and guilt and shame
  • God is just – He will not punish us as well if He has already punished His Son in our place

The presence of Jesus & the fruit He provides

  • ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ (Psalm 16:11)
  • Jesus also provides us with “fruit” in His presence – the closeness His affection and love and tender mercy

The example of Paul

  • Paul lived with a tremendous amount of hardship and suffering and pressure – but it was all so that he could learn that God’s grace is sufficient
  • it is not about the power of “positive thinking”
  • Paul ends up boasting in his weakness because it shows that Jesus is enough for him
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