Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11 has Paul defending his work for the Lord.  He points out that we as Christ Followers are under attack.  “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”.  The enemy certainly doesn’t want us to know or follow Christ.  And he will use whatever tactics possible to deceive us.  “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough”.  We are quickly and easily pulled away from Christ by the deceit of the enemy or his messengers.

Paul makes it clear that “the truth of Christ is in me”.  He is sharing God’s truth and that is his calling.  “What I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do”.  There were plenty of false teachers around during Paul’s ministry.  The enemy had all sorts of distractions going on.  “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as  an angel of light”.  We need to be on guard to the false truth that still today the enemy throws at us every day.

Paul makes it clear that he is qualified to teach Christ and Him crucified.  “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they  servants of Christ?  I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death”.  In case there was any question about Paul’s commitment to the gospel, he makes it clear that he is all in – not only in commitment but also in qualification.  Paul is God’s messenger to the churches of the truth of the gospel.

His resume of sacrifice is almost unbelievable.  After reading this, no one should question whether he was on God’s mission.  “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches”.  Wow – that is one committed Apostle.  Many would have thrown in the towel long ago.  But not Paul.  He stayed the course and carried the Gospel to all who would listen, and some that wouldn’t.  Oh that we would be faithful like Paul was in showing others the love of God through Christ!

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1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16 has Paul giving some ‘matter of fact’ direction to the Christ Followers in Corinth regarding how they give.  Paul has a heart for the poor believers in Jerusalem, and as such, is asking the church to come alongside his efforts to support them.  “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come”.  Paul doesn’t want to have to spend his time there gathering up funds.  In Paul’s mind, this is a no brainer and folks merely need to take a collection and have it ready to send on to Jerusalem.

The offering was to come from ‘each of you’ – Paul wanted all to give. Every Christian should be a giver, because God is giver and He loves a cheerful giver too.  The giving was to occur based on ability – ‘as he may prosper’.  God doesn’t measure our giving on the amount we give in total, but in comparison to the amount He has entrusted to us.  We need to be giving based on what He has given to us, not comparing ourselves with others around us.  The amount is relative to what we have, not what others have given.  You can give a lot and still miss the real giving part.

Paul writes much about his travels and how he enjoys spending time with Christ Followers everywhere.  He is somewhat open ended on exactly what or when he’ll be doing things – it appears He merely responds to God’s leading and opportunities as doors open to share the gospel.  That is how we all ought to live life – with an open hand around our time and money – so we can respond completely to God’s plans and align ourselves with His will.  When we have all our time and money committed it makes it hard to truly serve Him completely.

As Paul winds down this first letter to the Corinthians, he gives some strong words to follow.  “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love”.  He begins by telling us to watch, just like Jesus did in Matthew 24.  We need to have our eyes wide open and our ears turned on to keep an eye out for the enemy who wants to resist us.  We need to stand fast in our faith and in Jesus, and resist and lead well.  He speaks to us like we are all part of the Lord’s army, which indeed we are.  We are in the midst of a spiritual battle and need to be prepared to deal with the enemy at all times.

1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7 has Paul responding to specific questions about marriage from the church at Corinth.  Paul tackles the question of sex and submission head on.  “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does”.  When we are married, we need to understand that God’s plan for marriage is not about self, but giving to our spouse.  We aren’t in control of what we want, but need to be subject to what our partner wants.  Sex is God’s plan, not man’s.

Since the beginning of time, sex has been misused by people.  There is power in how we control our bodies and our interaction with each other.  Paul makes it clear that sex is part of a normal healthy marriage.  “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.  Sex is part of God’s plan for a healthy and thriving marriage.  We should never use it as a club or way to manipulate one another.

Paul makes a case both for being married, and for staying single.  It somewhat appears that being single is less complicated, but he doesn’t discount marriage.  What he does say is that “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.  This is my rule in all the churches”.  We need to seek God and understand what His will is for our life regarding marriage.  God has a perfect plan for us.  We merely need to seek and understand what that looks like in our situation.

He reminds us that we need to remember that we are not our own but were bought with a price, and a might steep price at that.  It cost God the life of His only Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from our sin.  “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men”.  It’s easy to fall into temptation and become trapped by any number of things that will cause us to fall into slavery.  We can quickly lose our way and become consumed with the ways of man.  But Christ died for us, and we need to remember that He alone is our Lord.

1 Corinthians 5

1 Corinthians 5 has Paul addressing one of the major areas of contention in the church then (but also now) – sexual sin.  “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans”.  The term for sexually immorality is the ancient Greek word ‘porneia’ which broadly refers to all types of sexual activity outside of marriage.  It often appears first on many New Testament “sin lists” but not because the first Christians had a lot of “hang ups” about sex. Instead, it is because the area of sex was one of the most dramatic places where the ethics of Greek culture clashed with the ethics of Jesus. Sexual immorality was an accepted fact of life for the common person in Greek culture, but it was not to be so among the followers of Jesus.

Paul makes that very clear.  And while he is not happy about the sin happening, it is bigger than that.  “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn”?  As bad as the sin itself was, Paul was more concerned that the Corinthian Christians seemed to take the sin lightly, and they were unconcerned about this behavior.  The church was justifying the actions of sin, rather than recognizing that their moral problems came because they weren’t thinking right about God and His world.  If God is not on the throne in the bedroom or around sex, we justify whatever we want.

Paul makes it clear that there is a leadership presence even if he is physically not there.  They don’t have free reign to do whatever they want.  “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit”.  His leadership transcended whether or not he was in their presence.  That is one sign of a true leader, when those who follow continue to do so even when the leader is absent.  Paul challenges them to clean out the bad things among them.  “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump….with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.  We must put aside the old and take on the new.

Paul tells us to deal with the way Christ Followers are living. We must hold each other accountable in the body of Christ. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside”.  His instructions are direct and strong: “I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one”. Harsh words about just how accountable we need to be as Christ Followers to obeying God’s commandments.  And Paul tells us to stay away from bad influences so we will not be pulled into their sin, and that our willingness to overlook sin be viewed as acceptance.  We have an important role to play as Christ Followers to hold each other to God’s standards, not as judge and jury as God alone does that, but as encouragers of the faith that can help each other stay the course and walk with Jesus!

1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4 has Paul telling the church about life as an Apostle.  “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”.  The Apostles were held with esteem, although most all gave their life for their faith in Christ.  They were leaders and teachers of the faith, and Paul is clear that “it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy”.  Leaders in the church have a responsibility to be true to God’s truth.  God holds a leader to a higher standard.  Scripture tells us that in a number of places.

But the truth is that it doesn’t really matter what others think or say.  “It is the Lord who judges me….who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart”. God is the judge and determines the future.  We’ll stand before Him someday, every one of us, and give account to what we’ve done with His Son Jesus to deal with our sin, and how we’ve walked in obedience to His commands as a Christ Follower which will determine our eternity. That day is coming for each of us. “Then each one will receive his commendation from God”.

We tend to think that the life of an Apostle would be pretty cool.  Paul paints a very different picture. “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour  we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things”.  Still want to be a spiritual leader in the church?  It’s not a glamorous role.  Paul and his co-workers endured much for the sake of the gospel.

But Paul doesn’t share that to dissuade us from leading and investing in others. In fact, he challenges us to do what he did – to trade life for the gospel.  “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me….to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church”.  Paul became father to many, and a role model for everyone to imitate.  We need to have that mindset – to live life day by day in a way that if others imitate and follow us – they will get to the Cross and see Jesus Christ through us.  That’s the role each of us must live as Christ Followers.  We are examples of the faith.  What if someone follows yours?

1 Corinthians 2

1 Corinthians 2 has Paul reminding the church at Corinth why he came.  Remember, he was there for about a year and a half teaching and preaching.  Paul didn’t come as a philosopher or a salesman; he came as a witness.  “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom”. Paul was certainly a man who could reason and debate persuasively, but he didn’t use that approach in preaching the gospel. He made a conscious decision to put the emphasis on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul was an ambassador, not a debator.

He was single minded in how he shared.  “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”.  That is the only answer to life and the sin problem we all face.  Jesus alone is Savior for the world.  He alone can free us from the penalty of sin.  Paul doesn’t want to muddy the waters with any other message.  It was Jesus Christ and Him alone.  No more, no less, just Jesus.  If we are not careful with what we say, we can obscure Jesus by our preaching, either in the presentation or the message.  Jesus is enough, so there is no reason to share more.

Paul doesn’t teach based on being smarter or better trained.  “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”.  Paul didn’t want to get in the way of the message of Jesus.  He didn’t tout his position or power.  He merely preached Christ crucified.  He simply taught Jesus.

Paul would not cater to the Corinthian love of human wisdom, but that does not mean his message had no wisdom.  “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory”.  God’s wisdom is so far beyond anything we can ever find in the human world.  The reality is that “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”.  God has a plan.  He prepared a way through Jesus.  We’ll never understand it until we experience it.  But God has prepared for our eternity, and we merely need to receive His gift of grace through Christ!

Romans 16

Romans 16 is Paul’s list of those whom served alongside him during his ministry.  We always think of Hebrews 11 as God’s Hall of Fame, but Romans 16 could be Paul’s.  He begins calling our Phoebe, a woman whom Paul calls a “servant of the church” who has obviously been a helper to many.  “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at  Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well”. She’s evidently on her way to Rome and Paul is sending an advanced commendation of her work.

He next calls out Priscilla and Aquila, who were fellow workers that served with Paul and Apollos.  “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life”.  But more than helping, they had been willing to risk their own lives for his.  We don’t know how it happened, but it obviously made a significant impact in Paul’s life.  He goes on to list dozens of people that were important to him personally, and to his ministry among the churches.  Many of the names are unknown except for his mention here, but they made his hall of fame!

  • Epaenetus, who was  the first convert to Christ in Asia
  • Mary, who has worked hard for you
  • Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my  fellow prisoners
  • Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord
  • Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ
  • my beloved Stachys
  • Apelles, who is approved in Christ
  • the family of Aristobulus
  • my kinsman Herodion
  • the family of Narcissus
  • workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa
  • the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord
  • Rufus, chosen in the Lord
  • also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well
  • Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them
  • Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister
  • Olympas and all the saints with him

Know any of these names?  At best, they got a passing mention elsewhere.  But Paul moves quickly to the meat of his farewell – that the church needs to stay diligent to follow the truth and be of one mind.  “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles  contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them”.  God’s plan for His church is unity.  It is not about division or argument or splintering.  And it certainly is not about church splits and personalities.  God’s church needs to be focused on Scripture and obedience to God’s Word.

Paul knew there would be some who would work to destroy the church from the inside.  That’s where division comes from.  It isn’t something that is done to a church.  It is something that is done by a church.  It comes from inside the walls when motives are wrong.  “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive….I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil”.  Paul wants the church to stay true to God’s truth.  Don’t be swayed by those who would move us from obedience to God’s truth.  As Christ Followers, we must stay true to the Word and obey it casting aside the words of man that try to pull us away.

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