and Bible Studies
Family Perks: Slaves No Longer Galatians 4:8-20 I. We were all in slavery; 4:8-11. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God-- or rather are known by God-- how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. There were two religious dimensions of the Galatians religious past: they did not know the true God, and the gods they did know were not gods. Despite having received the knowledge of God, they had reverted to their former ways. They had converted wonderfully because of Paul's preaching, but now they were turning back to those weak and miserable principles. What is revolutionary here is that Paul considers moving into Judaism (observing special days and months and seasons and years) as nothing other than a reversion to paganism. For Paul their move from idolatry to Christianity and now to Judaism is no different than a venture back into "idolatry" or "paganism." He had worked hard on the Galatians' behalf and for the gospel. There is great heartache and fear that come when a believer wavers, stumbles, and even falls away. Whatever leads one away from sole reliance on Christ, whether based on good intentions or depraved desires, is not Christian and therefore condemned. Every human being is captive to the “element principles" in some way, and is only set free by Jesus Christ. We are continually tempted to go back to old patterns of behavior, attitudes, ways of thinking, lifestyles, and coping mechanisms. II. Don’t sell yourselves into slavery again; 4:12-20. 12 I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Most likely Paul means something like: "Become like me by freeing yourself from the law of Moses. I became like you Gentiles when I abandoned the law, accepted that I too was a sinner, and then turned to Jesus Christ.” Paul reminds them of how they had previously responded to him, in the hope that they will repeat it, abandon going backwards in their faith, and once again align themselves with the gospel. His illness did not bother the Galatians. They looked beyond it and saw in Paul's preaching the truth of God because his message was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, they received him as if he were an angel, even more, they received him as if he were Jesus Christ himself. Paul says they were so receptive that they would have given their eyes to him, had they been able to. Reminding the Galatians of their former commitment and friendship to him makes the present situation unbearable for Paul: "What has happened to your joy?” and "Have I now become your enemy?" Paul contends that the Judaizers were zealous to win them over. They wanted to alienate them from Paul, so that they may be zealous for them. Paul now interjects that it is good to be zealous if one is zealous for God. It is for no good, however, if one’s zeal is contrary to the gospel. And their zeal ought to be expressed for God always, and not just when Paul was with them. Paul now senses that their “zeal for the gospel" has declined and needs to be rekindled. He wanted the Galatian converts to grow in the Spirit until the image of Christ was formed and transformed in them. Paul must now "again" go through the process of leading them to the faith they once embraced. He wants them to grow into Christ-likeness. The world is full of things and opportunities to pull us back into slavery and its principles, therefore rendering our lives ineffective. We have Jesus as our model with examples in the Bible and other believers who are living in the freedom of Christ. Our old lives, as well as legalism, seek to put us in slavery again. God has given us His Spirit to empower us to live in accordance with the gospel that we have accepted.
"Children of God". The first in a three part series entitled, "Family Perks". Galatians 3:26-4:7 I. As believers, we are all children of God; 3:26-29. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Paul had said that those who believe in Jesus are "children of Abraham," and now he points out that they are "sons of God." Being a "son of God" is a special promise by God for the last days and describes that special relationship of intimacy that the believers can have with God. Baptism in the early church was the initial response of faith. Baptism was a symbol of dying with Christ and rising with Christ. A Christian is one who is “in Christ." Those who are “in Christ Jesus" are those who believe in him. Those who believe in Him come from all walks of life, from every nation, and from both sexes. A Jewish blessing that was prayed daily by some is reversed. "Blessed be God that He did not make me a Gentile, blessed be God that He did not make me a slave; blessed be God that He did not make me a woman." Paul is most likely responding to such a demeaning classification of people. There is a cultural directive where there is "neither Jew nor Greek." Cultural divisions are to have no part in the church of Jesus Christ. All people must be treated in light of God's love in Christ, not in light of their culture. There is a social directive where there is “neither slave nor free." Slavery was widespread in the ancient world among Gentiles and Jews. “In Christ" the slave becomes our “brother." Both freedmen and slaves have the Spirit and are in the body of Christ. There is a male/female directive where there is "neither male nor female." Paul spoke these words in a context that clearly believed in the inferiority of women. There was to be no cultural/racial distinctions and no social status prejudices, and there was to be no male/female prejudice. Everyone who believes, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, is accepted by God. If they are Abraham's seed, then they also inherit Abraham’s promise—a relationship with God that is intimate and eternal. II. As believers, we are heirs; 4:1-7. 1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. A child who is destined to inherit an estate is no different than a slave as long as he is a child. He cannot inherit the estate until he becomes an adult. During this period, he is subject to the "guardians and trustees." The “childhood period" is the period of the law, and the “inheritance period" is the time inaugurated by Jesus Christ. The time of the law is a time of slavery; the time of Christ is a time of freedom. Legalism and the ritualistic way of relating to God are over. God sent His Son so that the inheritance could be had. The barrier was knocked down between God and people, and they could become "sons of God." Being a "son of God" means having God's Spirit, which is the promise of Abraham. The Spirit of God enables the son of God to cry out "Abba."
What God Takes Seriously: Idolatry Deuteronomy 4:15-31 I. God Takes Idolatry Seriously; 4:15-20. 15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. 19 And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars-- all the heavenly array-- do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. 20 But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are. Moses elaborates on the general prohibition of idolatry by listing four classes of forbidden creaturely representations of divinity: large land creatures, flying creatures, crawling dirt creatures, and creatures of the sea-categories borrowed directly from Genesis 1. Moses then turns to a second form of religious perversion: the worship of the sun and moon and stars. An idol may be defined as anything that competes with God—anything we serve in place of God himself. The sun, moon, and stars are good. Wood, stone, and physical things are good and useful for projects and tasks. But when we pervert their function and treat them as ultimate things on which our well-being depends, they compete with God, and that makes them an idol. II. Idolatry Has Personal Consequences; 4:21-24. 21 The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance. 22 I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan; but you are about to cross over and take possession of that good land. 23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Moses digresses momentarily to express his frustration over Yahweh's refusal to let him enter the land. He recognizes that this exclusion arises from Yahweh's anger toward him, but he blames the people for that anger. There are personal consequences to putting anything before God, including ourselves. III. Idolatry Has Corporate Consequences; 4:25-31. 25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time-- if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and provoking him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. 27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. Moses lists five consequences of infidelity that await the Israelites: (1) they will certainly and quickly be removed from the land; (2) they will be utterly destroyed, ending their dream of long life in the land; (3) Yahweh will scatter them among the peoples, driving them to another place like a shepherd drives his flock; (4) a few will survive in the lands where Yahweh has driven them; (5) in the lands where the worship of senseless gods is the norm, they will have their fill of idolatry. The privilege of relationship with God must be answered with grateful obedience to His will, as revealed in the context of His Word. When people forget the grace of God in redemption, revelation, and His promises, they become ungrateful, have no fear of God, and act selfishly. Whatever we are unwilling to give up for the sake of the kingdom have become idols, and God is robbed of the exclusive worship He deserves.
What God Takes Seriously: His Word Deuteronomy 4:1-14 I. We are to Listen to His Word; 4:1. 1 Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Moses functions as a pastor-teacher, reiterating earlier revelation, applying that revelation specifically to life in the land, declaring the essence of covenant relationship, and highlighting the importance of a correct response to the revealed will of God. Moses offers not theoretical speculation but practical instruction for life demonstrated through obedient action. In order to function as God’s people, they must listen to Him and His Word. For us to live God’s people, we must listen to God’s Word. II. We are to Obey His Word; 4:2-8. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. 3 You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today. 5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? Obedience to Yahweh is a matter of life and death. God destroyed all who “followed” after Baal of Peor. The people standing before Moses are alive today because they “held fast" to God. They are living testimony to the importance of obedience to God’s will. The people's faithfulness will be tested every day once they have entered the Promised Land. Moses declares that the nation's greatness does not derive from her own qualities, but from Yahweh their God. The Israelites are uniquely privileged because their God is near to them and He answers their prayers. When other people pray to their gods, they remain silent. Through obedience to Jesus Christ we demonstrate our love of him, but we also display to the world the privilege of salvation, divine presence, knowledge of His will, and blessing. Delighting in obedience to the revealed will of God represents the key to fulfilling the divine mission of reaching the world with His grace. III. We are to be Vigilant with His Word; 4:9-14. 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. Moses concludes his report of the events at Horeb by adding that Yahweh commanded him to teach the Israelites "decrees and laws," which they were to put into practice in the land that they were to enter and possess. We remember God’s Word and work to pass it along to the next generation. If it doesn’t get to the next generation, we have failed to make it a priority. Christians, as individuals and as the church, are increasingly dismissed by outsiders as irrelevant, hypocritical, and self-serving. But in His own farewell address to His disciples, Jesus reminded His followers of the relationship between spiritual statements and life: If you love me you will obey my commands (John 14: 15). If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as l have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).
Resurrection of the Body
Resurrection of the Body 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 I. Analogies of Resurrection; 15:35-44. 35 But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. In their denial of the resurrection it was the assumption that it had to do with reanimating corpses. Therefore, because they could not figure out how, they had given up the resurrection itself. Paul calls them foolish, because they have not considered what God can do. The first analogy Paul uses to help them understand the resurrection is that of a seed and a plant. By being buried in the ground, the seed seemingly dies. Yet out of its death as a seed, new life emerges, totally different in appearance from the seed. Yet, somehow a mature plant remains the same living entity. There still lies ahead for the Corinthians resurrected bodies that will be far more glorious than their present ones. Unlike their current bodies, these new bodies will be created for eternity, never again to die or limited be sin or weakness. II. Adam and Christ, 15:45-49. 45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. Believers who have shared in the limited, fallen likeness of Adam can look forward to sharing in the kind of perfect humanity Jesus embodies, but only after this life, when Jesus comes back again. A new body is a necessity for experiencing the world to come. III. Assurance of Transformation; 15:50-58. 50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Frail, human bodies cannot survive in God’s eternal and holy presence. One must have a body that is imperishable and immortal. This change will take place instantaneously, not gradually. The climax of these events for believers is the destruction of death itself. Paul reminds us that it is the resurrection hope, and only this hope, that keeps believers from despair and helps them stay faithful in Christian service. Because we will one day fully bear the image of Christ, who is the perfect reflection of God, we should encourage each other to work toward that image even now. Paul ends with a call to “let nothing move you.” This urgency is almost certainly in direct response to the denial of the resurrection by some.
Resurrection of the Dead
Resurrection of the Dead 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 I. Consequences of No Resurrection; 15:12-19. 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. If there is no future bodily resurrection of all Christians, then Jesus Himself was not bodily raised, and that makes Christianity pointless. Paul does not permit a perspective on Jesus that views Him merely as a good, moral teacher. If Christ was not raised, death is not conquered. II. The Resurrection Brings the Defeat of Death; 15:20-28. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. But wonderfully Christ has been raised bodily and has set into motion a chain of events that will culminate in the universal demonstration of the sovereignty of God. Christ's physical resurrection guarantees the future physical resurrection of all believers. This life is not all that there is, nor is life after death simply immortality of the soul. Paul points out the parallel between Adam's sin leading to the sinfulness of all humanity, and Christ's resurrection leading to the resurrection of all His followers. After some unspecified time, the end of human history will arrive. By then, Christ will have destroyed all opposition to His reign in the universe, both human and demonic. Finally, death itself will be destroyed, so that God's people will never again have anything to fear for all eternity. But the last word is not Christ's, but God's. III. Further Consequences of No Resurrection; 15:29-34. 29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day-- I mean that, brothers-- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God-- I say this to your shame. Some of the Corinthians, along with all their other problems, were baptizing people on behalf of unbaptized, deceased believers or others. Paul is in no way condoning the practice. There is no evidence that Christians ever considered proxy baptism valid. What is more, no Scripture ever suggests that salvation is transferable from one individual to another apart from their personal belief in this life. Our persistent sinful nature continues to try to corrupt us when we are surrounded by people engaged in sinful practices. Unless we take deliberate, conscious action to the contrary immorality often flows from false theology. Popular culture and media have a fascination with life after death and near-death experiences. This fascination for the afterlife resembles more the Corinthians' false teaching than true Christianity. Seldom are persons depicted as having fully human bodies in their next life. Virtually never are the destinies of Christians and non-Christians biblically distinguished. Either all people are going to heaven, or else they are distinguished based on how good or bad they were during their time on earth. Let’s not be those ignorant of God to our shame.
Resurrection of Christ
Resurrection of Christ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 I. The gospel is built on the resurrection of Jesus; 15:1-2. 1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. Paul warns not to deviate from the gospel based on the resurrection of Jesus. Believing another gospel is no belief that leads to salvation. Believers remain under the power of sin and death. The resurrection brings us to the very center of the Christian faith. Christ's death and resurrection are inseparable. Christian belief without the doctrine of bodily resurrection proves worthless. II. The resurrection defines the gospel; 15:3-4. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, Paul reminds the Corinthians what they should have remembered. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Jesus himself interpreted his death and resurrection in terms of the Scriptures. This is the gospel message. If there is no resurrection of Jesus, there is no gospel and no salvation. III. The resurrection is historical fact; 15:5-8. 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. Paul lists witnesses to Christ’s resurrection in what appears to be a chronological order. Paul mentions that most of the five hundred were alive at the time of his writing implies a known group rather than five hundred anonymous witnesses. Unlike the Twelve, who participated in the ministry of Jesus, Paul’s call to apostleship came suddenly and unexpectedly. As an unbeliever and persecutor of the church, Paul was in a condition of spiritual death. We are reminded of what must remain central doctrine even for mature believers, tempted to move away to peripheral matters. The resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact not just a spiritual parable. IV. The resurrection is the ultimate act of grace; 15:9-10. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Paul acknowledges his inferiority as an apostle because he had persecuted the first Christians. This weakness is turned into an opportunity to magnify God's grace. Grace led to greater effort and substantial accomplishment, through God’s continual grace at work. God's mercy produces more diligent effort on Paul's part. Paul’s autobiographical statements about his conversion describe God’s gracious call, the righteousness that comes only by faith, and God’s mercy as a pattern for all who will believe on Jesus Christ for eternal life. It is by God’s grace, empowered by the resurrection, through faith that we are who we are as followers of Christ and children of God. It is overwhelming to ponder what God can do through us when we are saved by grace and live in grace, empowered by the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. IV. The resurrection is evidenced as it is shared and believed; 15:11. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. There is only one true gospel, whoever may preach it. All gospel preaching proclaims the resurrection of Christ as a core component; otherwise, there is no gospel. To believe any other gospel is to “believe in vain.” Christianity lives or dies with the claim of Christ's resurrection. Christians must appeal to more than a personal testimony, they must recognize the historical evidence that is on their side.
Living Generously- Part 5 Seedtime
Living Generously: Seedtime Galatians 6:7-10 1. God cannot be mocked by how we live our lives; 6:7. 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. No discussion of “sowing seed” would be complete without Galatians 6. Simple Kingdom economics. What you sow you will reap. Many times we deceive ourselves, wanting to believe something that we know deep down is not right. The word “Mock” means "to turn up the nose up at." God has set the world up so that the proper results will take place. This does not mean that all evil people will reap corruption in this life, because the world is in a fallen state. It does mean if one goes through life living for self and rejecting the call of the Holy Spirit, he will live eternally in Hell - separated from the love of God. If we fail to live lives of generosity with all that God has given us, there will be consequences. God is Judge and we can't fool Him. What we do shows our true nature and status before God. No one is going to get away with anything. Ultimately all will reap what they sow in this life. We sow by serving others and being led by the Lord to invest our time, gifts and resources as He sees fit. Just as Jesus is the sower and the seed is the good seed of the Kingdom, as Christ followers we sow our time, gifts, and resources as well as sowing the gospel, scattering the seed, watering, and harvesting in the hearts of our neighbors. 2. We truly reap what we sow with our lives; 6:8. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. We cannot plant one thing and get another. We cannot plant cheap quality corn and expect a bountiful harvest. Not only do you reap what you sow, but you reap more than you sow. This should be encouragement to a Christian. We do not cower at the thought of God judging us, but have even more confidence knowing we have done all that God has called us to do. We've been faithful, not perfect, but faithful to his call. Sow sin and selfishness and reap corruption. Sowing such cannot reap a harvest of the Kingdom of God. Those who plant a nominal Christian life will reap less of a capacity to enjoy heaven. What we plant here has eternal consequences. Generous Living is godly living. 3. Now is the time to live generously; 6:9-10. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Though no one knows, cares, or recognizes your good deeds, God causes a great harvest. There is a temptation to grow weary or tired. We want instant results. Take advantage of opportunities to do good. It is not that we do not have opportunities to do good, but that we do not take them when they come. Take them as they come, do not wait until later. Later is not guaranteed. Our present time is seed time. Simply put – now is the time to sow seed. We’re called to sow seed, not store seed. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. (Deut. 15:10) We have learned some keys to our journey of generous living. But we must apply them and walk together on this journey. Ask yourself, with the Holy Spirit’s help: Have we been putting off something that God wants from us? Now is the time. Its seedtime. It is often said that 2 questions will be asked of us in Heaven: 1. What did you do with Jesus? Did you accept God’s offer of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection? 2. What did you do with what He gave you? It is now seedtime! The harvest is coming but we will not have a harvest unless we sow. John 15:8 says “My Father is glorified in this; that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Living Generously- Part 4 Tower
Living Generously: Tower 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 1. Living Generously is a matter of trust; 8:1-2. 1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. Paul begins with the past experiences of the Macedonians. Their poverty and joy combined to produce such a wealth of generosity. Their generosity is evidence that they passed the test brought on by their afflictions. Such joyous giving in the midst of adversity confirms that their faith was real. We strive for protection - for that manmade hedge around our family. But what does it bring? Stress. God does not bring stress – there may be pressure in life, there may be trials, but stress? Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) He gives us peace – not as the world gives. When we lack that peace, it is time to make sure what you’re doing is in line with what God is wanting to do. 2. Living Generously tears down imaginary walls to giving; 8:3-5. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. They tore down the walls that said they were too small, weak, or poor. Their giving exceeded their ability, and was done entirely on their own as they trusted God. They were pleading to be involved in the collections. Not only did they participate in the collection, but also gave themselves to God and to Paul in accordance with God’s will. The greatest expression of God’s grace is its response to God and His cause. They not only gave their money but their lives to God. 10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. 11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. (Prov. 18:10-11) We may think, “I want to be generous with my hands, feet, time, money, ears, and service, but I just can’t right now. I have things that tie me down: job, kids, grandkids, extended family, hobbies, houses, pets, yards, etc.” We’re tied down with ropes of gold. We are enclosed within beautiful walls. If Jesus sets you free you are free indeed. It’s time to say enough is enough, and tear down the imaginary walls that hinder our generous living. I choose to die to self and be free to be generous. 3. Living Generously is an act of grace on our part; 8:6-7. 6 So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-- see that you also excel in this grace of giving. The grace of God received by the Macedonians was their ability to well up with a wealth of generosity toward others in the midst of their own afflictions. Only the grace of God can account for such generosity out of the extreme poverty and yet overflowing joy. Joyful giving and joy in the midst of our own poverty and suffering is the sign of having received God’s grace. Now before you think that this is only a hard lesson to learn for the wealthy, consider the story Re told about his own journey. We touched on it earlier. Re saw those around him that had financial wealth and began to hate them. We all face trouble in this life. We are tested and sometimes feel overwhelmed. We can call upon the name of the Lord, the strong tower. For those of us who are believers: what does running to the strong tower look like? Run to Christ, run to His WORD, and run to His people that we may lift one another up in prayer. Spend time this week asking God to reveal your imaginary walls. Seek His help in dismantling them and running to the strong tower. There is a lost world dying and spending an eternity in a real physical Hell and we’re too tied down by our golden ropes and by our imaginary wall to be generous, to act in grace.
Living Generously- Part 3 Poor
Living Generously: Poor 2 Corinthians 9:12-14 1. Living generously is a heart matter; 9:12. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. The Lord enriches us as his people with ability for great generosity. Our generosity will also bring about a harvest of thanksgiving to God, which will ultimately enable the Corinthians and us to glorify God. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:8-9) 2. Living generously means seeing people and their needs; 9:13. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. So how do we break through? How do we engage with the pain and the poverty when all we see is a vast, faceless need? We start seeing with the eyes of God. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you." 46 But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." (Luke 8:47-48) Why does Jesus call attention to what she has done? Has she not suffered enough public embarrassment? Could he not let her go in peace with a silent wink? The public embarrassment caused by singling her out signifies his individual care for her. He will not allow her to slip away and remain anonymous. He forces the issue so that when she leaves healed, she will leave knowing that the one who healed her knows her and cares for her. She is a person who is worth taking time with and addressing. Isolation is no longer defined by how far we are from another person geographically but by the feelings of no one cares. 3. Living generously causes us to be more like Jesus; 9:14 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. In living generous lives, we impact the lives of others, becoming the body of Christ at work in the world. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8) Christ emptied himself – ladled himself out for us. He literally died for us. Our job is to die to self daily, humbling ourselves like Frank learned and serve one another. So, where are you? Take some time this week to “compare yourself with the earnestness of others.” Don’t think that you are on this journey alone. You affect others’ journeys, just as their journeys affect yours. The outflowing of gospel living is in our service. Just as Christ emptied himself, we are called to become poor that others may become rich. Where is God asking me to roll up my sleeves and grab a ladle? Go do it.
Living Generously- Part 2 Defense
Living Generously: Defense Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Mathew 6:24 1. Living Generously includes our money We’ve all heard the expression “Money Talks.” The Bible clearly teaches that money has a voice. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (James 5:3) Money can cry out against us, testify against us. Frank saw this clearly in his dream. But there is another way that money talks. Frank’s money kept repeating something that sounds good to us – and is a dangerous lie. “Frank is the boss.” How often are we seduced by the soothing voice of money with its artificial empowerment? “I’m the boss”, we think. It’s my money and I will decide what to do with it. We seek financial advice from many sources but rarely from God. Many of us look on and think, “I seek God all the time about money.” But “God give me more money!” doesn’t count. This comes back to a proper perspective. Where does our income flow from? God gives to us that we may meet our basic needs and bless others. Living generously acknowledges that how we use the money God has given to us matters to God. 2. Living Generously requires good management 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you." 24 But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. (2 Samuel 24:18-24) When the Holy Spirit begins to convict us of a lack of generosity, our first defense is to point to our giving just as Frank did. We would all agree that you can’t show up to church once a week, sing the songs, and say “Amen”, but then live the rest of the week as if we didn’t know who God was. But so many of us do that in our finances every day! We give our offerings, or even our tithe, and then use the rest as if we didn’t know who God was. We are on this journey of generous living. We need a life change; a heart change. The point here is not to live a poverty gospel or to villainize the wealthy. It is not about how much you have, but it is about how we respond to God with what we do have. If we can grasp this one principle, that God owns it all, we will take an enormous step on this journey. Living generously is about godly money management of all we have, not just the 10% tithe that God commands. 3. Living Generously chooses the right master Mismanagement of the financial resources that God gives to us is idolatry. "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Mathew 6:24. Christ is clear: there is room for only one master of our life. The issue for Frank is not his money, but his heart. Frank is guilty of idolatry. Generosity is not on a list of rules handed down from on high, and it isn’t just a financial principle. It is a response to the love of God. When our hearts are aligned with the Father’s, we respond by loving others, and living generous lives. Our money is the most obvious indicator of our hearts in this area. It has been said time and time again – if you want to see someone’s priorities, look at how they spend their money. Take time this week to bring these areas before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you of areas that need to be realigned with God’s will. Frank had a literal wake up call. I pray that we would have one too. This week spend time asking God what your money would testify about you. Are you serving two masters? Pray that God would help you rid yourself of this idolatry.
Living Generously- Part 1 First
Living Generously – Part 1 Matthew 22:34-40 34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-39 1. We Live Generously with our Priorities. The Pharisees had codified the law into 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments. These were imposed by the Pharisees on their followers as their obligation. There was constant debate over which was the most important. There can be no holding back or incompleteness in our devotion and commitment to God. We simply cannot divide our love, our affections, or our trust. So often, we filter everything through the question “How is this going to be good for me?”, instead of “How does God want to use me?” What road did Jesus take? He left all the protection of heaven and came to risk everything for our good. What are our top priorities? Evan had an airplane, Frank had watches and Re had his service. We all have something to give - time, gifts, and even money. What they did with what they had didn’t reflect their level of financial ability – it reflected their heart; their view of God. Where is your heart today? Does your heart take joy in an opportunity to honor God through giving? Or does your heart search through dusty drawers to find what it will give to God? 2. We Live Generously with our First and Best. To love God with all our soul or life means to be willing to give one’s life to God and to devote it all to Him. It means total commitment. To love God with all our mind means to submit our minds, thought patterns, opinions, and decisions to God’s Word. “Love your neighbor as yourself” points to an ensuing response. It is an expression and extension of God’s love operating in and through the believer who is living in a vital relationship with the Lord. Knowing God in true fellowship with Him is extremely practical. It is never merely religious, or ceremonial, or ritualistic. 19 you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. 20 Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. (Lev. 22:19-20) They were to go out to their flocks, their livelihood. They were to choose the best of their flock. Would you be tempted to think that was just a waste! Generous is showing a readiness to give more of something than is strictly necessary or expected. Compare David to Frank. What did the old watch cost him? Compare David to Re. He is blessed and filled with joy by the offering he gives! How often do we miss great opportunities by saying “we’ll do it next time?” We must learn to be a people that acts on what God prompts us to do right away before our selfish nature interrupts us. 3. We Live Generously with our Mites. Ask the following questions when priorities conflict. What demonstrates my love for God, with all my heart, soul, and strength? Which shows the most love for my neighbor? Frank withheld and Re gave – but what about Evan? … 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-- all she had to live on." (Mk. 12:41-44) Frank gave sparingly out of his abundance. Re gave sacrificially of his time. But Evan – Evan gave his all. Spend time talking to God this week about where you aren’t giving your first and best. What is God asking you to give? Time? Money? Service? Let’s give our first and best this week. What we offer Him reflects our heart! When we walk away from a message like this, we may think that the key to pleasing God is giving – that is only part of the answer, and it is only a result of His influence in our lives. Without God, our best offerings are inadequate and unacceptable. (Present Gospel) God has more in store for Frank and more in store for us. We are going to continue to see Frank’s journey next time in a court case you won’t want to miss!
5. Caring at a Distance
Strength in Weakness: Caring at a Distance 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 I. Repentance turns weaknesses to strengths; 13:1-10. 1 This will be my third visit to you. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." 2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, 3 since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. 5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority-- the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. Paul introduces the last major section of his letter with a final announcement of his impending third visit. When he arrives, he will make his case against his opponents and those who follow them, and all those found guilty will be punished. Like the prophets of the old covenant, Paul announces the coming judgment in advance in order to bring about the repentance of those who are truly God's people. He does so by calling the rebellious in Corinth "to examine" or “test themselves" to see if they are truly "in the faith." His call for repentance is therefore based on the assumption that those in whom God is at work by his Spirit will recognize that Paul's holiness, sincerity, and way of life all derive from the same grace of God that Paul is now calling them to accept. This assumption also means that those in whom Christ is present will not continue in the lifestyle of rebellion. Where Christ is, there is a life of growing holiness. To continue in lives of disobedience is to fail the test of Christ's presence. Paul makes it clear that God's act of deliverance in Christ includes both the salvation of the righteous and the judgment of the wicked. The message of the cross is the power of God to those being saved, but it is foolishness to those who are perishing. To "accept Christ" is to obey God's call to be like Christ. The fact that 2 Corinthians is written in preparation for Paul’s third visit, in which he plans to judge those who continue in rebellion against him, reveals that eventually patience comes to an end. II. Aiming for perfection turns weaknesses to strengths; 13:11-14. 11 Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Paul begins his closing with four commands: to aim for restoration, listen to his appeal, to be of one mind, and to live in peace. The first two commands focus on the Corinthians' relationship with Paul as their apostle; the last two refer to their life together as those who have been reconciled to God. The obedience of the believer is the link between the reality of God's presence that he or she already enjoys, and the continuing reality of God's presence in the future. Those in whom Christ is present will pass the "test"; those who claim Christ without the repentance and obedience producing power of the Spirit in their lives will not. Every command of God is a promise of deliverance in disguise. There is hope for all who trust in Christ. Perseverance is not reserved for a Christian elite but is promised to all who belong to God. A reconciled way of life is the necessary implication of having experienced the love, peace, grace, and fellowship that come from God the Father, Christ, and the Spirit.
4. Looking Foolish
Strength in Weakness: Looking Foolish 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 I. Foolishness of Boasting; 12:11-13. 11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing. 12 The things that mark an apostle-- signs, wonders and miracles-- were done among you with great perseverance. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong! Paul has become a fool by boasting in his personal distinctives and private revelations. A desperate situation has called for desperate measures. The need to match his opponents in their boast should not have been necessary in the first place, since the Corinthians themselves should have accepted Paul’s message. The only one who has been wronged is Paul himself. Boasting in our accomplishments and status is foolish. II. Ministry comes with risks; 12:14-21. 14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course? 19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. Paul's refusal to accept support from the Corinthians reflects his evaluation of them as still in their infancy as believers. Grown children can be expected to provide for their parents. This would explain why Paul was willing to receive financial support from churches he considered more mature in their faith. It could also explain why the Corinthians could interpret Paul's refusal to take their money to mean that they were "inferior" to his other churches. Paul wants it clear that his confidence in the integrity of his ministry is not a self-defense before them at all. He reaffirms that God is the judge of his ministry and message, not the Corinthians. He has insinuated that they have failed in their duty to love and honor him by entertaining slander against him and failing to defend him against his detractors. Now he expresses his fear that when he comes the Corinthians will be torn apart with disputes and ravaged by immorality. The first four sins in this list of evils: quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger and factions, appear in the same order in the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20. “Quarreling” refers to eagerness for combat. It was applied to those who are always ready for a fight. “Jealousy” fuels a sense of rivalry, and “outbursts of anger” vent the animosity that such rivalry nourishes. “Factions” refers to self-seeking (What’s in it for me?). The next four evils seem specific to the recent problems at Corinth: slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. “Slander and gossiping” directly relate to the recent situation with all the backbiting and insinuations. Paul has been the victim of a smear campaign. “Arrogance” is a continuing problem at Corinth. The mix of all these vices created a disordered church that was bound to split into several unholy fragments unless they were checked. Paul's reference to sexual immorality at this point in his letter also serves to remind the Corinthians of the punishment to come. The judgment for such habitual sins will be removal from the church when he returns. Paul is still committed to working for the Corinthians’ joy in the faith by giving them yet one more opportunity to be restored. Indeed, he does so even though he knows that his continued patience and mercy could mean yet another humbling experience for himself. Ministry to others comes with risk of rejection and hostility. Yet, everyone is worth the risk in order for them to hear and experience the gospel message of Jesus Christ.