Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians 5 has Paul continuing to talk about the Second Coming of Christ.  “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”.  There are some who claim to know when Jesus will return, but the bottom line is they truly have no idea.  In fact, there are many who will miss being ready completely.  “While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape”.  We’re not going to know when Jesus will return, so we need to have our act together and be prepared at all times, which translates into a vibrant and personal relationship with Jesus all the time!

Paul challenges us not to put life on auto-pilot.  “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober”.  Being a Christ Follower is full time.  It isn’t an hour on Sunday morning in the pew.  It is full time 24/7 always walking with the Savior.  “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”. God desires us to spend eternity with Him – He wants none to perish – but we have to take the step of receiving His gift of grace through Christ to make sure we are ready for that day.

And as we wait, we live in a way that encourages and builds up those around us.  What does that looks like?  Paul tells us to “admonish the idle,  encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”.  The sad news is that most of us avoid these folks.  We want to hang out with people who are going places and doing things, who have resources and are successful, and avoid people that might require us to climb into the mud where they are living so we can make a difference.  But that is what Paul wants from us.  To be a difference in the lives of those who need it.

He wraps this first letter to the church in Thessalonica by giving a list of things that should define them as a body of Christ Followers:

  • Rejoice always
  • pray without ceasing
  • give thanks in all circumstances
  • Do not quench the Spirit
  • Do not despise prophecies
  • test everything
  • hold fast what is good
  • Abstain from every form of evil

Here’s the playbook for how we should prepare for Christ’s return.  Jesus is coming again.  We need to be sure we are ready.  First we need a personal relationship with Him to address the consequences of our sin and cover us with His blood.  Second we need to be living in obedience to God’s direction of how we can become the person He desires and bring Him honor and glory and praise.  Are you ready?

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Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1 has Paul writing to the church at Ephesus which was filled with people “faithful in Christ Jesus”.  Paul spends the chapter encouraging them in the faith they have in Christ “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing….even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”.  This is important to understand – believers are chosen by God, and they are chosen before they have done anything or have been anything for God.  God draws us to Himself for the purpose of not only saving us, but also for holiness.  God doesn’t just want us saved, He also wants us to walk with Christ in obedience that leads us to righteousness.

Paul makes it clear that God chooses us to become part of His family, into a place that we can not lose.  Once we become a child of God, we’ll always be a child.  We may strain the relationship based on how we live, but it doesn’t change the reality of God making us part of His family through Christ. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved”.  This plan is God’s doing, not ours.  This plan gives glory to God’s grace.  It’s all His idea and His plan.  We merely are drawn to Him with the opportunity to receive His free gift of grace which will make us a son and provide eternal life.

Paul tells us the power of receiving Christ and becoming a son of the Father in three long verses about what happens when we receive God’s offer of grace:

  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth
  • In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to  the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory
  • 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

These three long statements tell us what happens ‘in him’ – the result of our acceptance of Jesus as not only Savior, but also Lord.  God has an amazing set of benefits that He bestows on His children when they become part of His family.  But not one little thing is the result of our efforts.  They are all gifts from the Father when we come to receive His gift of grace through Christ.

Paul goes on to tell the church how he prays for them.  The list is long, but if you want to know how to pray for someone, check out Paul’s prayer:  “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come”.  Paul’s prayer focuses on these things as he lifts up the faithful in the church:

  • A spirit of wisdom
  • Knowledge of Christ
  • Eyes that are enlightened
  • Understanding of hope
  • Riches of glory
  • Inheritance of the saints
  • Immeasurable power
  • Unlimited authority
  • Eternal relationship

Paul speaks a lot of words here, but the focus isn’t what our prayers often are, where we cry out to God to fix our problems and give us what we want.  Paul’s prayer focuses on Christ and the relationship we have with Him and through Him.  Prayer isn’t about us.  It’s about lining up our heart and our will with the Father.  That’s what Paul is focused on in the words he writes here.

Galatians 6

Paul wraps up his letter to the church at Galatia by focusing on the interaction between people and the church.  He begins by reminding them that we need to hold each other accountable, but to do it God’s way.  “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness”.  That seems simple enough, but is actually far from it.  The easy part is catching another in sin.  We’re all guilty, so it’s just a matter of watching and waiting.  But first realize that this verse applies only to Christ Followers – not the world at large – when Paul begins with ‘brothers’.  Secondly, the sin has to be caught, not something heard about or assumed.  Third, restoration should only come from a fellow Christ Follower who is spiritually mature and walking consistently with Christ.  Restoring another is not about raising our own status or making us feel better because we caught someone else sinning.  It requires one to be spiritual mature and growing.  And finally, Paul tells us that the restoration – not correction – should be done with a spirit of gentleness.  It isn’t a 2X4 to the side of the head – it is gently teaching and walking with someone to bring them back to their walk with Jesus.  It’s messy, hard work, and requires commitment on our part if we are going to be a spiritual mentor who restores another.

He goes on to remind us that we are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”.  What law  you may ask?  The one where He tells us to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’.  We are not to live in isolation focused on ourselves, but in community where we are loving those in our patch.  Selfishness or self focus is not part of God’s design for us as a Christ Follower.  “For  if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself”.  Life is not about you or me.  Life is completely about living out Christ’s commandments to love God and love our neighbors.  It isn’t about building our own kingdom or accumulating stuff.

The laws of God’s world are pretty simple.  “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life”.  God’s economy isn’t complicated at all – certainly not rocket science.  We will receive in life based on how we live.  If we sow blessing and goodness, that’s what we will reap.  So we should stay focused on being sowers of good seed and make sure our lives are filled with good soil so we reap the goodness that God desires within us.

It’s hard work, but Paul tells us to stay the course.  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith”.  What should our life consist of?  Walking with Christ and loving those in our patch.  Life isn’t about making money or seeing how much stuff we can accumulate.  It is about loving people and doing good where God has planted us as we minister to our neighbors and the Body of Christ we are part of.  Paul is careful to keep the main thing the main thing.  “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.  Life is ultimately about Jesus, not us, and we need to keep Him as the message and main focus. Nothing else ultimately matters!

2 Corinthians 9

2 Corinthians 9 has Paul continuing to teach about the importance of giving.  He begins with a spiritual truth that governs much of life: “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”.  Scripture teaches this concept in different ways throughout, but the bottom line is that we will reap what we sow in every area of life.  It is a reality that applies to our money, and our time, and every other part of our existence.  We need to give it freely, not hold on to what God has entrusted to us with a closed fist.

The bottom line of giving God’s way means we give with the right attitude.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.  Giving is not about how much we give, but rather how we do it.  God’s concern is always about our heart.  He doesn’t need our money after all.  He does care about the how and why of our giving.  “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”.  God wants us to be part of His plans.  He doesn’t need us either, just like He doesn’t need our money, but He is able to provide us what we need to be part of His good works.

God has a plan for the world He created long ago.  Adam and Eve blew it in the garden, but that didn’t change God’s desire to have people live with Him in obedience leading to godliness and righteousness.  “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness”.  If we learn to walk in obedience with God, He’ll provide what we need to bear a harvest that honors Him.  It isn’t dependent on us, but through Him.  We are merely an instrument in His hands.  “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God”.  God desires to make a difference through us.

Giving is a key part of God’s plan.  “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God”.  God wants our heart to be moved by the potential of ministry to others that they may come to know Jesus.  As we give and serve, “they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you”.  When we give, others will see God’s grace alive in us.  It is evidence of Jesus Christ in us.  The world doesn’t understand the ‘why’, but God has a plan that allows giving to be a tool He uses in us and through us.

1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians 15 has Paul explaining exactly what it is he is focused on.  “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”

Here is the summary of what Jesus did, chronologically with all the details.  And as Paul points out, completely aligned with the prophecy of scripture.

Paul brings up the rear of the list of things that happened.  He doesn’t hold himself up as some rock star of the faith that needs attention.  Rather, he is pretty hard on himself.  “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain”.  Paul just wants to preach Christ crucified and use his life as an example of what it means to be a Christ Follower.  He sometimes brings himself pretty low in an effort to keep the focus on Jesus.

There is a simple truth that we all need to keep in mind.  “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”.  Death is not optional.  It hovers right around 100%.  So the question is not ‘if’ we will die.  The question is ‘when’ we will die and ‘what’ will happen when we do.  Paul answers that in this simple statement.  If we have a relationship with the Savior – Jesus Christ – we will be alive and spend that life in eternity.  If we don’t we will spend eternity separated from God.  We have a decision point to face.  We will stand before God someday when we die.  The only question is what we’ll tell Him about our relationship with Jesus.

Paul closes this chapter with a verse that has become my life verse since college days some 40 plus years ago.  “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain”.  This verse really struck me when a freshman at Iowa State back in 1975, and it continues to define my walk with Christ to this day.  God has a plan for each of us, and we need to stay the course, follow with our whole heart, and know that when we do He will honor that work and use it for His glory.  I’ve claimed this verse constantly over the years, and God’s been faithful to use my efforts to have impact and bring Him glory.  What’s your life verse?

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 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.

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