Archive for September, 2014
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
The foundational hope of the Christian faith is an assurance offered by a resurrected Savior, not some religious pioneer that now lays lifeless in a cold grave. It is the bodily resurrection of Christ that distinguishes the Christian faith from all other world religions. The resurrection of Christ, however, isn’t the end of the resurrection story. His is but the first of a much greater harvest that is forthcoming.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
In the context from which Paul writes, the bad company is comprised of those within the church that do not believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead. The apostle sees a corresponding relationship between beliefs and behavior. Bad doctrine=bad behavior; good beliefs=good behavior. In a broader context, if you run with dogs you will get fleas.
“For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written , ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
God did not create human kind for the purpose of destroying us. Instead, his design is to see his divine work of redemption accomplished in us. This is realized through the person of Jesus Christ, as we walk in fellowship with him to discover both the will of God and the grace necessary to make true righteousness a possibility to as many as would receive it.
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).
In their always dissatisfied quest for happiness many miss out on the small joys of life. While sitting in prison, Paul discovered more than momentary happiness could ever offer–contentment in all circumstances. Out of this contented state he would sixteen times use the word joy as an encouragement to the church. It’s only particular circumstances that can bring a moment of happiness, while it is from contentment in any circumstance that joy can be realized.
“‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ ‘As I live,’ declares the Lord, ‘you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore’” (Ezekiel 18:2-3).
Heredity, nurturing, social conditioning, and circumstance have their place and, to be certain, have had their day in casting blame on the human condition. None of these, however, negate personal responsibility. At some point, we are forced to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “It’s not everyone else and everything else; it’s me. I’m where I am because of my choices and decisions.” The blame game is but another delusional form of self-righteousness.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Greater appreciation for these words is realized when recalling that Paul penned them from a prison cell, under the watch of the praetorian guard, and a future that was uncertain. If the heart is the seat of our emotions and the mind our thinking, Paul had much to fear and preoccupy his mind. While this would be natural and understandable, he leaned, instead, on the supernatural and incomprehensible peace of God’s provision.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
No less than the apostle, Paul, you are what you are. The resurrected Christ becomes an incarnational reality in the particular life of every believer. It is our collective stories of pain, struggles, disappointments, and challenges that become a continuation of the gospel narrative; lighting the way that others might see the grace of God.
“Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1).
When a cross stands as the most recognizable symbol of our faith, why are so many shocked by the pain and hardships of life? The life of faith isn’t a simplistic, Americanized formula; that if we go to church, daily read our bible and pray, God will then exempt us from the unexpected challenges of life. Much more so, it is a life of enduring faithfully; waiting for the unfolding purposes of God to be revealed.
“There was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.‘ And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed’” (Luke 5:12-13).
While twenty-four of twenty-five personalities in the gospel of Luke thus far have names, this man is identified by the weakest and worst moment of his life. It is a terrible thing we do as human kind; to freeze people in time, defining them by their worst moments or biggest mistakes. In contrast, it is the most wondrous thing of God’s redeeming grace; that he redefines us in the light of what Christ has done and not what we have done.
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector’” (Luke 18:9-10).
Both of these characters will be in church Sunday. We are one or the other. The tax collector will be back because that’s what grace does. Having experienced it, we want to grow in it; recognizing that something is being accomplished in our lives. The Pharisee will be back because that’s what religion and self-righteous does. His state only grows worse with each passing week.