Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

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?

Advertisements

1 Corinthians 1

1 Corinthians 1 has Paul speaking to the church in Corinth.  He gives a long list of things that describe the church and its people:

  • sanctified in Christ Jesus
  • called to be saints together
  • of the grace of God that was given you
  • enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge
  • the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you
  • not lacking in any spiritual gift
  • wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • who will sustain you to the end
  • guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ

Wow, now here is a church that has quite a foundation in Christ.

Even with all of that, Paul points them to God.  “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the  fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.  This is all God’s idea.  We do nothing beyond receive the free gift of grace that God offers to us through Jesus.  Yet the church was having arguments about things of less importance.  “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”.  Unity is what God expects from us in the church.  One God, One Savior, One body!

Paul says it clearly – what we believe makes no sense to many.  “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.  It man not makes sense, but that doesn’t change the fact it is true.  He was facing two expectations from the people of his day.  “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles….For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”.  It doesn’t matter what people think, or how they view God.  The truth is that he is God and is wiser than all of us combined.  He sets the agenda.  He makes the rules.  And we must decide how we will respond to that reality.

Paul boils it down this way.  “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God”.  God created the world and has executed His plan.  He will continue to execute and do as He wills for eternity.  We have a choice of how to respond.  We can resist and pretend that God doesn’t exist, but what if we are wrong.  God will still be sitting on the throne and we’ll be the ones who stand before His judgment seat unprepared.

Romans 9

Romans 9 has Paul continuing to teach on the truth in Christ.  This chapter is full of history and prophetic words from prophets in the scripture about the relationship God has with His people.  Paul writes “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring”.  We become children of God through a relationship with Christ – not because of our lineage or parental genetics.  God gave us a promise through Christ that addresses our sin, and that alone is how we become His.

The truth is that God’s plan was adapted from law to grace, from lineage to relationship, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. He is in control and has a perfect plan, but that doesn’t mean things have not changed along the journey.  “It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”.  Our salvation is not based on anything beyond God’s mercy and grace.  He demonstrated His power and control even as he used Pharaoh to achieve his will.

God’s not going to save all of mankind.  There are some who believe that will be the case, that in the end, all will be saved.  But scripture is clear that isn’t the case.  “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay”.  God has set the bar for eternity with Himself.  And scripture is pretty clear that on our own, we won’t make the cut.  That’s why Jesus came to earth – to live, die and be resurrected to overcome death and provide a way for us to overcome the penalty of sin.

But in order to receive His gift of grace, we have to have a relationship with Him.  When we do, we are given a “righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works”.  We can’t get there on our own.  We aren’t good enough.  We can’t do enough good things.  We will fall short.  Pursuing salvation based on works is futile.  Christ is our only option.  There is no plan B.  We must receive God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ if we want to spend eternity with Him.

Romans 1

Romans 1 has Paul explaining exactly what he is about.  This has to be one of the longest sentences in the entire Bible: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Now that’s a mouthful to say the least.

 

He tells us why he is there and what his mission is to do.  He represents Christ and brings them a greeting. Paul immediately makes it personal with the Roman church.  “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow  by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you”.  Paul has been saying for some time that his bucket list included a trip to Rome, and now he has finally made it, maybe not quite as he had planned, but nonetheless he is there in the flesh.

 

Paul has a mission to fulfill.  “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine”.  Paul has been on a difficult journey.  He’s there to impart some truth and give some gifts, but he also is there to be encouraged.  That is an outcome of true spiritual fellowship – we encourage each other by spending time together. Paul makes it abundantly clear why he’s in town.  “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome”.  He’s got a message to share.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”.  The gospel is for all man, and Paul is there to deliver it.  And even if they don’t hear it, God’s made Himself known.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse”.  We are all responsible for what we do with God’s existence and holiness.  He is evident through His creation.  We have to deal with the sin that keeps us from His righteousness.  The answer is Jesus, and that is what Paul is in Rome to preach!

Acts 16

Acts 16 has Paul traveled to Lystra.  He found a man – “A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek”.  Paul sees potential and “wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek”.  Paul took Timothy and they went around the area teaching and sharing the result of the Jerusalem council.  Interestingly, Paul had Timothy circumcised even though it was not required for his salvation.  It did remove an objection of the Jews however.  “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily”.

God directs Paul and Silas to Philippi to meet a woman named Lydia who was a godly woman.  They lead her to know Jesus and stay with her.  While there, a girl possessed continually calls out Paul and Timothy saying “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation”.  True words, but it happened day after day after day as Paul and Silas were teaching. “And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit….come out of her”. This upset the girl’s owners who had made much money from her ability.

So they accuse Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice”.  They were attacked and then “threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks”.  The jailer is taking no chances that these two would get away.  But God has a different plan.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. God doesn’t just free Paul and Silas like he had Peter previously.  This time all the prisoners were set free.  All the doors were opened.  God did His miracle in a total and complete way.  “When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and  was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped”.  He knew by losing them his life was over.

“But Paul cried with a loud voice, Do not harm yourself, for we are all here”.  They could have all escaped, but they didn’t.  They stayed and shared the gospel with the jailer and prisoners. And the jailer asks “Sirs, what must I do to be saved”? So Paul says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household….and he was baptized at once, he and all his family”.  The next morning, the jailer gets word to let Paul and Silas go.  But they refuse, because they were Roman citizens who had been wrongly treated.  “Let them come themselves and take us out”.  They refused to walk away without the officials coming to set them free themselves.  “So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city”.

Acts 12

Acts 12 has “Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church”.  He feels threatened and like he was loosing control, so “He killed James the brother of John with the sword”.  Herod sends a message, and the people liked it, so “he proceeded to arrest Peter also”.  If killing one of the Twelve got good reviews, Herod was upping the ante and going after one of the most visible ring leaders of the Apostles.  So he grabbed Peter and put him in prison, “delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people”.  Herod is not taking any chances.  He’s grabbed a big fish and doesn’t want to let him get away.

“Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church”.  Everyone knows Peter is in jail, and the church does the only thing it can which was to pray.  “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison”.  There is no way Peter was escaping.  He was chained to two guys and others were at the door.  But God is not stopped by that attempt and the night before Herod intended to turn Peter over, “an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell.  He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands”.

God showed up and did the unbelievable.  Peter “thought he was seeing a vision”.  But after leaving the prison he comes to understand this wasn’t a vision at all, but the great escape orchestrated by God Himself.  Peter “went to the house of Mary….where many were gathered together and were praying”.  Peter goes the only place he knows to go – to the place the church was meeting and praying.  They can’t believe it is actually him.  After all, Herod was clear that he has no intent of letting Peter get out alive.  When morning came, it wasn’t a pretty sight.  “Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter”.  Can you imagine the chaos of those soldiers trying to explain what happened.

“And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death”.  They knew what would happen if they let Peter get away.  And it happened without them being even a little aware – God did it right in front of their sleeping noses.  So they paid the ultimate price being killed for failing to keep Peter secure.  Herod looked all over for him and then moves on taking credit for things he had nothing to do with.  As a result, “an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last”.  God struck down this king as he mocked God.  That is never a good idea.  As a result of what happened to Peter, “the word of God increased and multiplied”.  God continues to bless the church through its scattering.  Oh that we’d be as faithful as the early church to share the truth of Jesus!

Acts 11

Acts 11 has Peter going before the church in Jerusalem where he got a grilling about why he took the gospel to the gentiles. “Peter began and explained it to them in order:

  • I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision
  • three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea
  • Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household
  • I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them”

Peter just gave them the facts in the order they happened.  God showed up to him.  Then to Cornelius, and God gave him the message of salvation which was received by the large crowd gathered there.  Then the Holy Spirit came upon them.

He didn’t make a big deal out of it – just shared the facts. “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God”.  Their first response was to be in amazement – this was not exactly what they expected to hear.  But as they processed what God had done they realized it wasn’t Peter’s doing, but God at work through him, and they then went from questioning and challenging Peter’s actions to glorifying God for what He had done.  God has opened the doors of the gospel to all people in all nations.  It was a big surprise to many, but once they heard the story they embraced it.

The same thing was happening in other places the disciples had scattered after Stephen’s stoning.  They went to places all over the area and as they shared the Good News, people received it and believed.  The church heard about this too and sent “Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw  the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose”.  Same kind of response Peter had when he witnessed God’s power in the lives of those in Caesarea.  God was at work and it was obvious salvation was not only for the Jews.

A great many people were added to the Lord. The gospel was reaching people far and wide.  Barnabas was in Antioch and witnessed many come to the Lord. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians”.  That’s where the name changed from “The Way” to Christians.  God used His scattered followers of Christ to share their faith and the message of salvation through Jesus.  It was gladly received and people came to follow Jesus in large numbers.  It happened because the disciples shared the story.  That same message will work today – it hasn’t changed – the question is whether or not we’re telling it.  Unfortunately the ‘cat has our tongue’ when it comes to sharing the gospel to those in our patch.

%d bloggers like this: