Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians’ Category

1 Corinthians 16:19-24 — This the final blog on 1 Corinthians. Paul has dictated most of this letter to his helper (his name is mentioned as being Tertius in Romans) but has written the ending of this letter in his own hand. It is like a handwritten postscript to a letter written in Microsoft Word. It gives emphasis to these final words of the letter. His final words are

“If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed. Our Lord, come! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.”

As we close out this study of Corinthians, let us look at these final words sentence by sentence. Ultimately, we will see that this letter has been about seeking unity in Jesus Christ, the thing that unites us together. Nothing else matters.

Paul says, “if anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed.” The church at Corinth was a church in trouble. Paul lovingly and forcefully confronted them and pointed them back to Jesus. He dealt with divisions and conflicts, selfishness, inconsiderate use of our freedom in Christ, disorder in worship, misuse of spiritual gifts, and wrong attitudes about the resurrection. In every church, there are problems that create tension and division. We should not ignore or gloss over problems in our churches or in our own lives. Instead, like Paul, we must deal with these problems head-on as they arise. Unity and love in a church are far more important than leaders and labels. When are seeking to please ourselves, getting mad of the slightest thing, leaving a church when our needs are not getting met, we are not displaying that we love the Lord. When we do not love the Lord, we open ourselves up for the lack of blessing from Him. The Lord does not bless that which is not of Him. Let us always remember that we are here at our local bodies of Christ to praise and worship Him and to give Him honor in everything we do and to serve Him in humility and to spread the gospel to the world around us. Anything less is not of the Lord. There is a hurting world outside our doors that needs to know of the Savior Jesus Christ because of the curse that awaits those who have rejected or turned deaf to Jesus Christ. The stakes are too high. There are souls in the balance. We cannot waste time on anything less than loving the Lord and showing that love to the world around us.

Paul says, “Our Lord, come!” This is a simple, short sentence but it is packed with meaning. Paul wanted to the Lord to return and make all things new again and to set things right. Paul could hardly wait. We all should be living our lives as if Jesus were returning within the next 24 hours. Would that not change our attitudes about what is important? It ain’t the color of carpet at our church. It ain’t whether or not I am considered part of the pastor’s inner circle. It ain’t about me getting passed over for some position of leadership at the church. It ain’t about any of the selfish things we think are important. It is about whether we are ready for Christ’s return. It’s about a lost world that will be condemned when He returns if they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. With Christ as my Savior, I have assurance that if he returns within the next day that I will be assured of a place by His side. In that sense, oh, Lord please come quickly. I am ready to spend eternity with you. Please come quickly and establish your reign. Please come quick and establish the New Jerusalem and your earthly reign. But for those who do not know Him, we have work to do. We cannot put off the work we have to do in spreading the gospel. Jesus could come in the next 24 hours but we often act as Christians nowadays as if He is not coming back for 240 years. Let us be a church that concentrates on the important thing – seeing people become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Paul says, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. According to pastorrodney.wordpress.com,
“Paul prays for the believers in Corinth that the grace of Jesus would be with them. As a believer we need his grace with us every moment. We are never done with grace. We never outgrow his grace. We never come to a point when we begin to deserve. We never earn. We are eternally dependent on his grace. We are forever those who receive. Salvation and the Christian life are all of grace.”
Grace is the undeserved get out of jail free card that we have been given. We should be living lives full of grace for others just as much as the grace we are constantly in need of ourselves. In grace given to others as we have been given ourselves, we find unity in Christ. When we realize that we are all just sinners given a stay of execution and a stay of execution that we need given to us over and over again, we develop a heart of love for our fellow Christians. We also develop a heart of compassion for those who reject God. We were once on the outside of grace ourselves and the only difference between us and those who blatantly shake their fist at God is grace. May we treat each other with grace. May we find hearts of compassion in grace. May we consider sharing the gospel the most important thing we do because of grace.

Paul’s final sentence of 1 Corinthians is “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.” Paul loved this church. For all its flaws and errors over which he chided them, rebuked them, confronted them, and called them out, he loved them. Just as a parent loves a child even with they have to punish them for violating family rules about good behavior and parental obedience. We may spank our kids or put them on restrictions or whatever the correct punishment may be for a given situation but we never stop loving our children. They drive us crazy at times but we still love them. They may cause us to have to show them tough love at times but we never, never stop loving them and we would willingly give our lives for them. Paul was like this about the church at Corinth. He knew their potential and what they could be in Christ Jesus if they would just grow up. We are like that about kids. In both situations, God is like that about us. He loves us so much that He has given us a way to be reconciled to Him through Christ Jesus. Jesus went to the cross willing for you and I. We once shook our fist at Him but He loved us anyway. May we be a church that loves no matter what. May we be a church that has forgiveness for one another. May we be a church that loves like Jesus. In that kind of love, there is unity. In that kind of love, there is the power of the gospel.

The point of 1 Corinthians is for the church to keep its eye on the ball. We must focus on what is important. Satan smiles when we get sidetracked over issues that divide God’s people. Satan smiles when we get hung up on petty issues that cause strife in the church. Satan smiles when we let ourselves get in turmoil over things that keep us from doing what we are here for. We are here to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Plain and simple. That’s it. Go. Make Disciples. All Nations. There is a world out there that has a dismal eternity in hell if we do not do the job we were saved by grace to do. Let’s get to it! Jesus may return soon!

Tomorrow, we will move onto the Gospel of Matthew. See you there tomorrow!

1 Corinthians 16:19-24 — Give me a church full of Priscillas and Aquilas. That is the wish of every pastor. This couple was the real deal. They were sold out for Jesus Christ. They were in Corinth when Paul made his first missionary visit there and they came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. As they matured in Christ, they were on fire. They followed Paul to Ephesus and helped him in ministry there. They were gospel bearers and supporting the ministry of Paul financially. They were true disciples. They laid it all on the line. May we have a church like that.

The one thing that has been driven home to me in spades here lately is that fact that we, as leaders of the church, must be thankful when we find the Priscillas and Aquilas and not worry so much about the ones that show up for initial meetings but as time progresses fall away. Let us be thankful for the one or the two that have the passion to stay with a ministry over the long haul. May we be glad when we find that one or two among the many. Those ones or twos are the ones we pour into. Those are the ones we raise up. Those are the ones we give greater and greater responsibility to. Those are the ones you invest your life in. We cannot waste time worrying about the ones that fall away when it comes time to making sacrifices or when it takes real commitment. We must celebrate the finding of our Priscilla and Aquila. As you can see from 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth was full of problems, but it was there that he met Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team made all the trouble at Corinth worth it. Sometimes God directs us into a mess so that we can find the gems hidden in the mess. Let us be leaders who worry less about numbers and worry more about the quality and conviction of the people that we have been entrusted with leading. Let us pray that the Lord will bring us the one or two that really get it and that will be the ones that are on fire for Jesus Christ and the ones that we can raise up to take our place or the ones that we can send off to be leaders elsewhere in the church. Lord, give us sold out hearts to lead!

Not only we as leaders should be thankful for finding our Priscillas and Aquilas, but we should also see Priscilla and Aquila as examples to us all as to what a Christ follower should look like. First, they were willing to serve the Lord wherever they were lead. Originally, there home was in Rome, but through God’s guidance and Emperor Claudius expelling of Jews from the city, they ended up in Corinth. It was there that they met Paul and it was Paul that lead them to Christ and it was Paul that taught them the doctrines of the Christian faith. As they matured under Paul’s discipleship, they picked up their bags and followed him to Ephesus. They were instrumental in planting the church there. Their home was a base of operations for the church. You talk about being sold out for Christ! These guys were business owners (tentmaking and/or leathermaking) who saw spreading the gospel as more important than their address and more important than their business. They would go wherever the Lord led them to go. They were willing. How willing are we to lay it all on the line for Jesus Christ? I would like to think that I am but when it comes to really doing it rather than talking about, will I do it? Will I be like Priscilla and Aquila and go or will I find excuses to stay back in Corinth?

Priscilla and Aquila opened up their home in Ephesus to be the church office and the church worship center. It was the base of operations for the whole shooting match. The church of Jesus Christ was their whole life. They were totally committed. They would do whatever it took to ensure that the gospel of Jesus reached as wide an audience as possible. They show us what it is like to be on mission everyday. They show us the real meaning of our church motto which is “being missionaries where we live, work, and play.” They teach us that Jesus should be part of everything we do. So many Christians though compartmentalize Jesus into a box. We pull out our Jesus box when it convenient and when it works for us. We pull out our Jesus box when we are not playing in our other boxes. And when we put our Jesus box back up in the storage racks of our mind, we very carefully place that box back in the rack so that it does not touch the other boxes of our lives. The Jesus box comes out on Sunday, and Wednesday and we will pull it out when we have special events. We do not live our lives in the Jesus box like Priscilla and Aquila. That God gave them talent to earn a living wherever they went was just the vehicle through which they had opportunities to share the gospel and raise up, encourage and lead others to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Being missionaries every minute of every day was who they were not just something they did. It was part of their DNA not just a coat they put on and took off. How committed are you and I? Do you and I live 24/7/365 for Jesus? Is everything in our lives an opportunity to live out or express the gospel? Or do you and I pull out our Jesus box, play in it, and put it back in the rack because Jesus gets in the way of my life at times?

Priscilla and Aquila are examples too of how we as Christ followers are to be generous to the cause of Christ. They are examples of how we should view our resources that God has provided us. Priscilla and Aquila were tentmakers and/or leathermakers. Apparently, they were pretty good at it too. It helped them finance Paul’s ministry. It enabled to have places to live in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus and any other stop along the way that God led them. These guys were all over the place with Paul so they had to be committing virtually all of their financial resources to the expansion of the church. These guys were not preacher/evangelists like Paul but these guys were the backbone of the church. They gave their time and talents to raise up new disciples in the churches wherever they were. They also saw any money that they made from the talents they had as tentmakers/leathermakers as being for the express purpose of furthering the kingdom. Man, every penny they made went to supporting the church. Even the homes that they had were used for church purposes. What if we were like Priscilla and Aquila and thought of the church first when I have a dollar in my hand? What if we saw the money we make as being a direct result of the talents that were given to us by God rather than something that is mine and mine alone? What if we saw the money that we make as being God’s first and mine second? What if we gave God the first fruits of our labors? What if we gave so generously to the church that we were far beyond tithing? What if all of us gave like that? What we were Priscilla and Aquila givers? What impact for Christ could be made then? Too often, we wonder why the church spread so fast in the first century and it spreads at a snail’s pace now? Just look at how we give. We give our leftovers rather than being Priscilla and Aquila givers.

May the Lord burn out hearts into being our pastor’s Priscilla and Aquila. May we be the ones that he can invest in and make part of the gospel team. May we be like Priscilla and Aquila and be sold out disciples of Jesus Christ. May we see spreading the gospel as not some cute thing we do on occasions but rather be willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that the gospel reaches those who need it. May we be so sold out to Christ that we see our finances as the vehicle through which the gospel is spread. May we not be miserly with our finances but rather live our lives financially in such a way that we can participate in the ministry of the church through our generous giving. May we, Lord, find one day that our church is full of all-in, full-on, sold out, Priscillas and Aquilas. Oh Lord what a day that will be! Amen.

1 Corinthians 16:5-18 — This part of the passage is, in my mind, kind of like those famous last speeches in the locker room by football coaches before the big game begins. You know those games that will give the championship to the winner. Or those games where the underdog is up against an overwhelming favorite. The coach gives an inspiring speech that sends the kids out there and play their hearts out and win the game. Ah, I loooove those kinds of football movies. Those movies where it’s us against the world in football terms. Overcoming Goliath. Winning the football when we were not supposed to. Those movies are the best. Well, the church at Corinth is the underdog in this film. They are up against a world that wants to seduce them into being just like them. They are really up against the world. It is an us against the world movie in 1 Corinthians. Paul is about to give his final speech in the locker room before the Corinthians take on the world. Let’s listen in…

Paul gives final instructions to the church body at Corinth. Very simple commands these are. Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. Do everything in love. These may have been instructions for the church at Corinth but they are instructions for the church throughout the ages.

Paul instructs the church to be on guard. The church in any age should be watchful or alert for spiritual enemies that may slip into its midst and destroy them. Division, pride, unrepentant practice of sin, disorder, and erroneous theology are the enemies of the church. The entire book of 1 Corinthians is about dealing with each of these issues that were undermining the strength of the church. We must be ever mindful that we must not let our egos take hold of us. We must ensure that the church is about making disciples of Jesus Christ and not about giving me what I need, not about making a name for myself. When we make church about us, division soon follows, pride soon follows, justification of sinful practices soon follows, disorder follows and most assuredly false theology will follow. When we make the church about fitting with what is acceptable and preferred by culture, these things follow as well. We must make church about God’s Word and to that which to it points, Jesus Christ. Anything less than that, we are simply a social club. Anything less than that we are just kidding ourselves into thinking that it has anything to do with Jesus. We should be marked by our striving for holiness and lives of service in unity to Jesus Christ.

Paul instructs the church to stand firm in the faith. As we had discussed at the beginning of this study, Corinth was a wide-open, loose-morals, anything goes kind of town. It was a girls gone wild video on steroids. It was indeed a tough place to be a Christian. It would have been easy to try to pervert the gospel into saying what they wanted it to just so they could give into the temptations of the flesh and mind that were ever-present in Corinth. Paul urged them to stand firm in the gospel which they had been taught. It was this gospel and this gospel alone that had brought them salvation in Jesus Christ. We live in a culture today that is now very much similar to Corinthian society. Anything goes. Today’s world finds us living in a world where the Bible is considered old fashioned. We find ourselves in a world where Jesus has been transformed into a hippie, flower child who will only love us not judge us. We live in a world where the world has wittled away God’s Word to only those parts that support our chosen lifestyles. Sin is no longer sin. Everything is OK as long as I am not hurting others in pursuing myself. What is the right thing to do is a relative thing. What is right for me may not be right for you but you cannot take away my right to pursue what I think is right for me. There are no moral absolutes anymore. Everything is relative. One of the dangers for the church is the pressure to become like the culture we live in just so that we can attract them. Surely, we are to reach out to people where they are at and connect with them in the lifestyles that they are currently leading but we are, as Paul chides, to stand firm in the faith. We cannot play God and decide what the gospel is to say. We must let God’s Word stand, unaltered, unchanged.

Paul instructs the church to be courageous and strong. Admittedly, after anyone reads 1 Corinthians, you say to yourself, “Man, that was a screwed up church they had in Corinth!” False teachers, rampant unrepentant practice of sin, concern over which preacher to give their allegiance, not observing the Lord’s Supper with the right frame of mind, just to name a few things that Paul admonished this church about. Yes, it was a messed up church in need of correction. But, hey, it ain’t like we have perfect churches today either! Many of the divisive issues in Corinth could and do happen in our churches today. Just as in Corinth, we must have the courage and strength through the Holy Spirit to discern false teachings and to confront those who teach a cheap gospel. We must have the courage and strength to confront one another in love when our unrepentant practice of sinful behaviors causes division in our churches. We must have the courage and strength to solve the problems of our churches and move them back in line with the gospel and with the purpose of church which to make disciples of Jesus Christ who make disciples of Jesus Christ. We must operate from a place of total submission to the power of the Holy Spirit such that we are pointed into doing God’s will and in keeping God’s Word in our hearts and living lives that are progressively more holy.

Finally, Paul give them the most important instruction of all. Do everything with love. We are no more than prideful noisemakers if we do not have love in our hearts. It is the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ that should motivate us to love. We are to love God with all that we have in us. We can be the most benevolent church in town but if we do not do what we do with love then we are just a glorified helps agency. We must love God, each other, and the world around us with the sacrificial love that Jesus has for us. The world expects and experiences love with strings, conditions, expectations of payback. That is not the love that Jesus showed the world. He sacrificed Himself on the cross just so you and I could be reconciled with God. He loved you and me so that much even though we were not born yet that He died for you and me. He died even though we might reject what He did. He loved you and me that much. We are to love in this same manner with one another and with the world around us. How many of us love as in investment to get some return on it rather than loving just because they need to be loved. There is an old vacation Bible school song that kids used to sing called, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” We are to imitate Jesus in everything we do. Jesus loved sacrificially. He cared. He wanted people to lift themselves out of that which was not pleasing to God. He showed them the way. He died on the cross for love. Like a father laying over the top of his wife and kids when bullets are flying, Jesus loved us that way. If we do not have this kind of love in our hearts, we are wasting time calling ourselves Christians.

Father, help us to do what Paul says here. Help us to be your people. Help us to be on guard against the devil’s attempts to destroy us through pride, arrogance, division, blinding us to our own sins. Help us to stand firm in the faith and know why we believe what we believe so that we are not led astray by false teaching, and to allow us to confront sin in our midst through loving use of Scripture. Help us to allow the Holy Spirit to have free reign over our souls so that we can be strong in the faith and withstand any challenges to it. Help us to love you with all our heart and with no reservations or holdbacks. Help us to love others in the same way. Help us to imitate Jesus’ sacrificial kind of love when dealing with each other and the world around us. May the world know and be attracted to us because we love like Jesus. May they know we are Christians by our love. Amen.

1 Corinthians 16:5-18 — I have a friend, named Junior Taylor. As fine a man as you will ever meet is he. The reason that I mention his name here is that he is one of those few people in the world that has a catch-phrase that is closely associated with him. You know, there are those people that when you think of them, you think of that phrase. Robin Williams, “nanu! nanu!”. Porky Pig, “bedee bedee, that’s all folks!” Bugs Bunny, “what’s up, doc?”. Junior’s catch-phrase is, “We’re all in this together.” I mention it here as I think it has a lot to do with this passage that we are moving into today and lot to do with 1 Corinthians as a whole. So, let’s see how Junior’s catch-phrase applies…

It is time to wrap this letter up. There are several final instructions here to the church at Corinth of which we must take notice. First, there is the point about when Paul would visit again. Second, there is the instruction about Timothy. Third, there is the instruction about Apollos. And, finally, there are Paul’s final instructions to the Corinthians themselves. Today, we will look at these instructions to our about individuals and tomorrow we will look at the instructions to the church at Corinth as a whole. These instructions point us toward the fact we are all in this together serving the Lord.

Paul instructs the church at Corinth that he would not be able to visit as soon as he would like because of God’s calling for him to take advantage of gospel opportunities at Ephesus. He says that he will come visit after he has capitalized on the opportunities that the Lord has laid out before him. It is a reminder to us that often when we are called to serve the Lord, we may have to put off doing what we want to do. Sometimes it is easier to do the things that give us personal pleasure rather than step up and serve the Lord. Sometimes it’s easier to take a vacation to Florida than it is to take a mission trip to Togo, or to Haiti, or to Mexico, or Japan. We make choices sometimes to serve ourselves rather than serve others. Buy season tickets to Byrnes football, Clemson football, Carolina football, etc. or use that money to assist people in need. Buy a bigger house with a bigger mortgage or keep your current home and begin to tithe. These are all choices that we make to serve ourselves or serve the Lord. Paul says to the church at Corinth, “Man, I would love to come hang out with you my old friends, but there is a wide-open opportunity here in Ephesus to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. I must choose the harder path of spreading the gospel rather than seeing friends that I already know.” Do you serve yourself first and the Lord when you have time or do you make serving Him a priority whether it be in church-wide events or in serving your fellow man when no one is looking?

The next instruction is about Timothy. Paul was sending Timothy to Corinth ahead of Paul’s next visit since Paul could not come right away. He instructed the church at Corinth not to try to intimidate Timothy. The thing that we know from Acts and the epistles to Timothy was that Timothy was a young guy but at the same time he had become a trusted fellow soldier of Christ to Paul. This instruction reminds us that anyone who serves the Lord demands our respect regardless of how old they are. We have several teenagers and early 20 somethings in our church that are on fire for the Lord and are pursuing avenues that we will allow them to serve the Lord currently and as their future professions. We must measure those who serve the Lord by their passion for Christ rather than by their age. We must measure fellow foot soldiers of Christ by how hard they work to spread the gospel rather than whether they have their drivers license yet or not. We all can serve the Lord no matter what age we are. I know of a little girl in our church that is 5 or 6 years old that tells her classmates at school about Jesus Christ. Ruthie witnesses to her fellow classmates where as some who are 50 years her elder fail to witness to co-workers because it is uncomfortable. Who is the more effective tool for Christ – the 5 year old or the 55 year old. It is not our age or our pedigree that matters when it comes to the gospel. It boils down to how in love with the Lord are you? Are you willing to serve Him daily? Are you passionate about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ? Age doesn’t matter. It is the heart and the passion that matters.

The next instruction is about Apollos. Paul says that Apollos will not be visiting right away. Paul says that Apollos was spreading the gospel in Greece at present. Apollos didn’t go to Corinth right away. As we know from other texts in the epistles to the Corinthian church that there are those that had aligned themselves with Paul and those that had aligned themselves with Apollos. We know from Paul that Apollos was a very polished and charismatic speaker whereas Paul was not. Because of the extreme differences in style, the Corinthians let their preferences for one preacher over another cause division. Maybe, this is why Apollos did not come visit Corinth again right away. He did not want to further divide the church by his presence. That is pretty smart on Apollos’ part, don’t you think? He cared more about allowing the church to heal itself that cause further divisions. There is a lesson there for each of us as church members. The search for unity in the body of Christ is kind of the whole point of 1 Corinthians. The lesson for us is that we must make the health of our local body of Christ stand above our personal desires always. What is best for the church as a whole is what we should all seek rather than trying to prove a point. Some in church would rather prove a point and destroy a church than seek unity and see the church survive. We must never compromise on the gospel to achieve unity but when we are all seeking after the Lord and seeking to spread his gospel unity will follow. It is only when we are self-serving and self-seeking in the body that division comes. Let us remember that we are all in this together to do one thing – to make disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us never get caught up in our differences over preferences that we lose sight of what we are here for. Apollos knew that. That’s why he was staying away from Corinth for a while.

Father, help us to recognize your call when it comes and to act on it rather than doing what is safe and what is comfortable and what is predictable. Help us to move out of our comfort zone. Father, help us to be recognizable for our passion for you regardless of our age. Help us stay young in the faith meaning that we are measured by our passion for you rather than our age. Help us to be so passionate about Christ that the message comes across with great conviction whether I am a 53 year old talking to teenagers or a teenager talking to 50 year olds. Help me have the passion to spread the gospel whether I am 5 years old or 55 years old. Help me Father also to know when I am seeking to promote myself rather than what is in the best interest of the body of Christ. Help to keep myself grounded in the gospel and always make it the most important thing. Help to measure my actions by whether it promotes the name of Jesus Christ or my own name. Help me to choose those actions that promote Jesus. All in all, Lord, help me to remember that we are all in this together working for You! Amen.

1 Corinthians 16:1-4 — Have you ever been sitting around talking with friends or family and you suddenly wonder how you got to be talking about this particular subject? It happens alot as conversations can ramble in all directions when you are just hanging out. It is often funny in and of itself to do what I call a conversation audit. You audit the trail of the conversation. You work your way backwards from subject that you are talking about now and figure out what made the subject matter turn at each point. It can be hilarious to see how a conversation that started out about say Clemson football ended being a conversation about something totally different like say the state of politics in Venezuela. These two thoughts sound disconnected but there was a trail of turning points in the conversation.

Sometimes, too, when talking to our wives, we men may think that they just randomly change the subject of a conversation at times. But as we know with women that they are wired differently than we are. In a woman’s brain, everything is connected. Whereas we men have compartmentalized brains where we have to purposefully change gears in our heads from one thought to another. With my wife, Elena, we call it “following the trail” in her mind. When she explains the trail, the abrupt change in direction of a conversation makes perfect sense. When she explains how the connection between the two thoughts was made in her brain, it all comes into focus. That kind of trail of seemingly disjointed thoughts brings us to 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

Paul seems to abruptly change gears here. He goes from talking about our resurrected bodies at the second coming of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 to now talking about the collection of a special offering in the first four verses of Chapter 16, the final chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians. This seems as if Paul finished his previous thought and went to dinner and came back and began dictating his letter again without checking with his scribe to see where he left off. However, that’s really not the case here. We need to audit the conversation. We need to follow the trail. Paul was writing about the resurrection and now he’s talking about giving. There is a connection there. We must see it.

In the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in our own resurrections, we find great hope and joy. We have been saved from what we deserve through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and it is through His resurrection that we know that death is not the end. We know that there is a wondrous heaven that awaits us after death. Jesus confirms this through his resurrection. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ symbolizes, too, for us that we have died to our sins through Jesus and He carries our sins to the depths of the grave. Through Jesus Christ, we arise from the grave a new person, a new creation. We are made whole again. We are made pure through Jesus Christ. The resurrection is symbolic of our new life in Christ. It is the joy of the resurrection physically of Jesus that gives us great joy in knowing that we believe in the Son of God who has authority over all things. It is the joy of our salvation that resurrects us into new life. It is this joy that should mark our giving.

It is the joy of the resurrection of our Savior that let’s us know that He is in control and that there is a heaven and it is the joy of our salvation in Him that should lead us to give generously. How joyous are you in your salvation? Do you gladly give of your resources to your local church? For most of us, the giving of our resources to the church looks like we are not very joyous over what Christ has done for them. Only 2% of all churchgoers actually tithe. Most give the leftover $20 that they may happen to have in their wallet when they go to church. We should be giving our first fruits. We should be giving the top layer of our cash to the local church. That should be the first check we write and not the last. It should be because we are so overjoyed in our salvation that we gladly give the first 10%, at least, of our personal harvest to the Lord. We should be starting from the point of what can we do for the Lord rather than ending with well this is what I have leftover to give to the Lord.

In this passage, Paul is speaking of a special offering for the down and out Christians in Jerusalem. The Christ followers in Jerusalem often suffered great poverty because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They were ostracized from their family. Often, they were prevented for getting jobs because of their faith stance. Add to that, Palestine was suffering through a drought at the time so the whole Palestinian economy was suffering. Paul instructs the church to set aside a portion of the money that each one had earned during the previous week. He said do it systematically each week and not wait til the last minute before He arrives to take up the collection. This is true for this special collection but is true for us for our own giving to the church. We should budget for our giving. We should be arranging our lives financially in such a way that we can live off of 90% or less of what we make so that we can be obedient to the Lord’s commands when it comes to the tithe and our offerings above the tithe. Our giving to the church should be a part of our budget and not something we scrounge through our wallet for right before the usher passes by or right before we bring our offering down to the altar.

Could you imagine the blessings that our churches could be to the communities in which we are each located if all Christians tithed and gave generously above that as well? Could you imagine the impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ that we could have if we all gave our first fruits to our local churches instead of our left over cash in our wallet? Could you imagine how far we could spread the gospel? Could you imagine the real impact that we could have on the lives of people in need? Could you imagine the social injustices that we could address head on if all believers took obedience to the Lord in their finances seriously and with joy? We have been saved my friends! We have been taken from the clutches of the evil one. We have been set on a high place. We have resurrected life in Jesus Christ. Remember, what He saved us from! Our sins have condemned us to hell. When we ask Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, He saves us from that! What greater joy is for a prisoner to have his sentence lifted and be set free! Remember the joy of our salvation. Be generous to your local body of the church of Jesus Christ. Give it your best! Give it your first fruits! We have resurrection in Jesus Christ! We should be the most joyous and generous people on the planet because are actually aware of the pit that we have avoided through our salvation in Jesus Christ! Let us be that joyous and generous church that just blows people away with our generosity both personally and corporately! Let us quit looking like the world that lives off of 110% of what it makes and be the people that lives off of 90% or less of what they make. Let us be known as the generous people. Let us be known by the love that we have in our hearts and is expressed through our generous giving.

1 Corinthians 15:35-58 — This question of what happens to our bodies and souls after death is one has plagued believers over time. I think that we all agree that at the death of a believer in Jesus Christ our souls leave our bodies and are whisked away to heaven. What about our bodies that are left behind. From what we know of death now, our bodies decay very quickly leaving only our skeletons when over millenia eventually become dust. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. How then can Paul make this claim about resurrected bodies when Christ returns? It all seems very confusing and almost disconcerting. But it is this passage that gives us hope of the glorious future that awaits all believers. This is the message that we must carry to the world and not get caught up in matters that divide us. It is this glorious future that should unite us as believers.

Christ followers, in general, buy off on the whole “you go to heaven when you die” concept. They all accept that your spirit in some form of ourselves goes to heaven but we do not talk about the resurrection of all believers’ physical bodies from their graves at the end of time. We tend to theologize that when we go to heaven at our death we do have our earthly bodies. You often hear, and I have eulogized others, saying that in heaven their bodies are now perfect, the lame walking, the sickly healed, young and beautiful again. But is this truly theologically sound? If we are not carrying our physical bodies with us (and we will not see our earthly bodies again until the end of time), what do we look like in heaven in the meantime. Man, that one can blow your mind. We do not know exactly because Scripture is not totally explanatory on the subject because of the limitations of human knowledge and lack of vocabulary to describe it.

What then happens between our death now and the future Second Coming of Christ? We will go to heaven when we die if we have called on the name of Jesus Christ and asked Him to be our Savior and Lord. This I know. We are assured by Scripture that we will be intimately known and know intimately by God. I do know from Scripture that there will actually be no more suffering and no more sorrow and no more pain. I do know from Scripture that we will be released from the limitations of our human knowledge, human existence, and our sin tainted and decaying earthly bodies. Will I look like me in Heaven if I die before the Second Coming? This I do not know because Scripture is not clear. I think though that we are made uniquely by God. From Scripture we know that each one of us is made unique and are wonderfully made by God. The essence of who we are is unique, one of a kind of life force that will only exist in us. That we know. Thus, I think God does not erase that at our pre-Second Coming separation from our earthly bodies at our death. He went to all that trouble to make us unique. Thus, I believe with all my heart that He preserves our identity, our uniqueness, at our separation from our earthly bodies at our pre-Second Coming death. I think that uniqueness lives on and is recognizable to the ones that we love who are in heaven with us. But do I know exactly how that will look and feel in heaven. I have no idea. But I do know that I cannot wait to find out because I know that is where I am going at my death.

What then happens at the Second Coming? Paul says were are reunited with our earthly bodies. Our earthly bodies must be left behind until the Second Coming because our earthly bodies are descended from Adam and thus imperfect and tainted by sin. The earthly bodies we know now had to be left behind for that very reason. It is only at the second coming that we saints will be rejoined with our earthly grave-bound bodies as all things will be resolved and our earthly bodies redeemed. In heaven we are perfected, thus, at the Second Coming we will redeem our earthly bodies. Jesus is example, the first fruit of the resurrected. Paul says that Jesus is the first fruits of those who have died. According to gotquestions.com, We get a glimpse of what our resurrection bodies will be like when we recall Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He still had visible wounds, and His disciples could physically touch Him, yet He was able to travel effortlessly and appear and disappear at will. He could go through walls and doors yet could also eat and drink and sit and talk. Scripture informs us that our “lowly bodies” will be just “like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Indeed, the physical limitations imposed by sin that hinder our ability to fully serve Him on earth will be forever gone, freeing us to praise and serve and glorify Him for eternity.

This is the Good News. Heaven is real. It is our place of destination when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is the important stuff. We will be in heaven communing with God daily and living an existence of complete and total joy where there is no sickness, sorrow or pain. We access this immediately at our death. All the cares of this world, all the limitations of this world are gone. We will understand what heaven is like then. We will understand what our pre-Second Coming existences will be like. And in the end of time, when Jesus returns, we will be reunited with our earthly bodies and they will be perfected and built for eternity then. This is the important stuff. We should not get caught up in the color of the carpet at church, or who is serving in what capacity. We should be only united in spreading the message of the eternal home that we have in Christ for those who call on His name to be their Savior and Lord. This is the point of the entirety of 1 Corinthians and this should be our point today as the church. Heaven awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. That’s the message we should focus on. That the message we must send. That is the message we must carry.

1 Corinthians 15:12-34 — Do you remember being a teenager and your parents would go out of town? It was party time. While the parents were away, we lived life as if they would never return. We had freedom to do what we pleased and would only begin the clean up action right before the came home. We lived in the moment those weekends as if there were no consequences. There was no accountability those weekends because we felt like our parents would never find out. It was almost if they did not exist during those weekends. Even though they did exist and there were always consequences to our wild weekends, we did not care about the future and any consequences in the moment of the “parents are away” weekends. Those weekends were kind of like how many of us live our lives today in this era in which we live. In this final look at 1 Corinthians 15:12-34, we will look at Paul’s comments about how the resurrection validates the whole purpose of everything we do. We do carry the gospel to the world in vain. There is an eternity out there and it matters where you spend it. The resurrection gives us proof that there is life beyond this moment, beyond this side of eternity.

Living for the moment. Not planning for the future. Give me what I want and I want it now. More debt than you can afford. Sex outside of marriage. Get rich quick schemes. Lottery tickets. Impulse buying. Get it now before it’s too late advertising. All of these things point toward the fact that we live in a society that lives only in the current moment. Everything is now, now, now. It is almost as if we do not believe in eternity anymore. We do not think that there are eternal consequences for the actions that we take now. We act as if this life is all there is.

If death is the end of it all, enjoying the moment is all that matters. We have strayed so far from God that many of us no longer believe He exists. When that belief becomes the mindset, it follows that we no longer believe in heaven or hell. If there is no God, there can be no heaven and hell, right? It follows then that the Bible is a fiction created by man to keep him under control. It follows then that Jesus was the central character in this fiction. It was, to those that believe this way, all a lie. When you eliminate God, you eliminate all the accountability of mankind. He is then free to pursue whatever we feel like. We are free to live out all the things that the Bible says are wrong. In the absence of God, everything is fair game. Adultery. Pornography, Homosexual practices, Lying, Stealing. You name it. It’s all OK when there is no God, no heaven, no hell. Sin is no longer a thing if there is no God and no consequences. I can free myself from accountability when I do not believe that God exists. I decide. I choose. I am my own god. As long as I don’t hurt anybody with my actions, I should be able to do whatever I please. Everything becomes relative. My truth can be different from your truth. Life becomes about what makes me feel good and the right that I have to pursue it. It is the ultimate spoiled brat syndrome where I can gourge myself on ice cream because there are no consequences. Living for the moment is the order of the day for there is no tomorrow. It permeates not only our personal behaviors. Just look at our government, spending is out control. Budget deficits are the examples of living for the moment without regard for consequences down the line. Cities burn down because we live for the moment and its OK for me to destroy now because I am angry right now. We have no regard for the future. We live only for the now. We act as if there is no tomorrow and we must grab whatever we can before the sale ends at Wal-Mart.

The true Christ follower knows however that life continues beyond the grave and that life here is only preparation for our lives in eternity. What we do today matters in eternity. In light of eternity, what I do here matters. We believe that God created all of this. We believe that sin entered the world through Adam through the temptations of Satan. Ever since then, sin has ravaged the world and separated us from God and creates an ever increasing spiral list of consequences of evil that feed off one another such that we are destroying ourselves. Man needed help to rescue him from himself. God, in His love for us, sent His Son into human history to live the perfect life so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because God said that this was the purpose of His Son’s death, we must only believe that His Son was God in the flesh and that He did indeed die for our sins and that God, in his infinite power, raised His Son from the dead, we will have eternal life with God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the confirmation to us that there is a hereafter. The resurrection gives us evidence that there is a God and there is an eternity out there. The resurrection proves that there is something beyond. Thus, the resurrection helps us understand that what the Bible says about heaven and hell are true. There are consequences to what we do here on earth.

There is a point to our existence. We are accountable to God. The resurrection proves to us that there is life beyond the moment. The resurrection then should affect how we live our lives on a daily basis here and now on this side of eternity. It should change our perspective toward the future. The future is no longer something I should mortgage away. The future is no longer so enigmatic concept that I can ignore because I can see, feel, and touch the here and now. Living for today and saying screw it to the future should no longer be the way we live. We should be living our lives preparing for the eternity that awaits us. We should be honoring God in what we do because there is an eternity. We should be devouring and internalizing His Word and living our lives according to its standards because we know there is an eternity. How do with know this? Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The resurrection not only gives us hope for eternity but it also validates that there really is an eternity. What we do today does matter in eternity. There is an eternity so what we do today matters. This life matters. The resurrection is evidence of the new life that awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Are you living in the here and now? Living for this moment only? Are you living a life that you are going for the gusto now and acting as if there is no tomorrow? Are you finding what you are looking for? How’s all that working out for you? Ultimately, it comes up empty. Maybe not know and maybe you can’t believe that living for the now only is empty because it is still working for you. But one day you will see that living life as if there are no consequences, no future, no eternity, leads us to empty lives with no value. We are wired by God, our creator, to have relationship with Him but He gives us the free will to choose to reject Him. You are free to believe there is no eternity, no consequences. You are free to believe that God does not exist and there is no heaven or hell. Our free will to choose to reject God does not make Him not exist. It does not make hell any less exist. It does not make heaven any less exist. The resurrection validates that there is a point to all this existence. It is validation of the fact that eternity does exist and what we do here matters. It validates that God exists and that His Word matters. It validates that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. Call it all a fiction if you will but that does not make it any less true. God has made a way for you whether you believe it or not. His name is Jesus. Call on Him now. Because there is a future. There is an eternity. It matters more than today.