Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

1 Corinthians (Background) — There are cities today that are known for their wide-open lifestyles, Las Vegas and Amsterdam come immediately to mind. Las Vegas makes it part of their advertising campaigns by saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If the city of Corinth back the 50’s (no, not the 1950’s, the original 50s, when our years only had two digits, had an advertising agency to draw in tourists, they may have used this phrase to describe their city.

Las Vegas and Corinth have some things in common. As you know, Las Vegas was a created city. It originally was simply a railroad crossing where two railroads met. It was not until the 1930s with the building of the Hoover Dam that it became a real city. With all that influx of unattached men, the city became ripe for raucous entertainment and increasingly degraded morality. Anything went in Vegas in those days. If you wanted to find immorality there, you did not have to look far. Although Vegas may have cleaned up its image a great deal in the last 20-30 years but Vegas is Vegas and if you are looking for immorality there, you can still find it with maybe just a little more effort than back in the wild days of the 1930’s-1970s.

Corinth was similar in that it was a created city. It had been destroyed by Rome in 146 BC and lied in ruins for around a century with virtually no inhabitants. However, in 46 BC, Julius Caesar saw its strategic importance as a seaport and how it could enrich the empire so he began to rebuild it. It quickly grew into a very cosmopolitan city and by the time Paul was there in 50 AD or so, it was a large thriving city. Because it was a seaport and was located on an isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, people from all over the Roman Empire and other non-Roman quadrants would on occasion pass through Corinth. It was kind of like the Atlanta airport – people from all over the place would be there at any given time. Add to that, it was home to a Temple to Aprhodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Part of the worship at that temple included the ability to have sex with one of the thousands of temple prostitutes who worked at and often lived close around the temple. Additionally, sex of all kinds was easy to find in Corinth. Homosexuality was equally easy to find.

Needless to say, Corinth was a wide-open city with loose sense of morality. Things were so morally degraded there, to live a life of debauchery and sexual immorality was often referred to in the Roman Empire as “corinthianizing”. People from all over could come to Corinth and have a weekend like what was depicted in the movie, The Hangover. Las Vegas may even seem tame compared to Corinth. In Corinth sex was on full display. Amsterdam of today is very similar in the way that it advertizes sex in certain quarters of the city. It was the most unlikely of places to start a church plant. It was not the easiest place to start a church much less maintain one. With this backdrop, we find this canonical first letter to the church at Corinth. There were believed to have been four letters Paul wrote to this church during his Christian ministry but only the second and fourth ones are in the Bible as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. No wonder there were four letters to this church, it was in the sin city of all sin cities. Young Chrisitians in a city that glorified immorality and physical pleasures. It was a tough place to be a new Christian, especially those who had Roman or Greek backgrounds and did not grow up in the Jewish tradition.

Tomorrow, we will get into the first passage, but today I wanted us to understand a little bit about why this letter was written and in that fact we find something that we can identify with. Many of those who do not know Christ as their Savior and even sometimes those who are followers of Jesus often see the Bible as not speaking to issues that we deal with today. But the downright truth of it all is that man has not changed a whole lot between those days and now. Oh sure, the technology has changed. But the basic nature of man has not changed. When you read about the background of Corinth, you go, wow! Man, that’s not a whole lot different from the way things are now.

Corinth was not too different from the society in which we live today. We now live in a culture that glorifies sex outside of marriage. We now live in a society that glorifies homosexuality. We now live in a society that glorifies premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex. Anything went in Corinth. Anything goes now. Whatever felt good in Corinth, you did it. Whatever make you feel good today, you are beckoned to do it. Physical pleasures are glorified. The world tells us today that whatever makes us feel good we have an inalienable right to do it. In Corinth, those who saw sex as sacred between a husband and a wife were considered square and were most likely ridiculed. It was really hard being a new Christian in that environment and it raised many questions for them as to what being a Christian really means in a world that seems to be opposite of what Paul had taught them. Sound familiar?

That is the beauty of God’s Word. It is ageless and timeless. It is God’s Word after all. It spoke to man in the original 50s and it will speak to man in 2050. It is the inspired truth of our Creator. His Word will never change and that is something we can count on. That is something that we can count on in a world where the bar of morality is lowered with each generation. God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Man is the one who changes morality to fit his current needs and desires. So, let us dive into 1 Corinthians tomorrow and look the guidance of Paul to a church full of new Christians living in a world seeking self-pleasure. We will find that this letter to the church at Corinth could have easily been written to churches in 2015. See you back here tomorrow. And as Paul would often open his letters, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give your grace and peace!” See you manana!

Romans 8:31-39 — Nothing can separate us from God’s love. No matter what we go through.

This is the good news. This words were written to a church in Rome that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years from the time that Romans was written by Paul, his hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for His people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be separated from God’s love. Suffering should not drive us away from God but help us identify with Him and allow His love to heal us.

These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardship in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment and death. Although here we may not be imprisoned or killed for what we believe but we can suffer painful losses such as death of loved ones, betrayal, divorce, the results of other’s actions such as greed, jealousy, and people that are just downright evil to us. Sometimes we suffer because stupid choices that we have made that have short-term or even long-term negative consequences for our lives. Sometimes, when we go through trials, in whatever form they may take, we may fear that Christ has abandoned us. Paul, however, exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death on the cross, and His willingness to do so, are proof of His unconquerable love for us. Paul says that Jesus is pleading our case before the Father. We are acquitted of the penalty for our sin before the Father through Jesus so the Father listens to the Son. Jesus is our advocated sits at the Father’s right hand to present our case. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will have comfort and not be afraid.

Sure, going through hard times when you feel all alone is tough. As a believer there is that faint hope even in the worst of times that things will get better. That feeling comes from God. Those who have Christ as their Savior know that current hardships are temporary. We know that God will walk us through our trials and tribulations. He will set us on the mountaintop when the time is right, when the purpose of the valley is complete. Recently, in the book, Radical, I have been reading it challenges you with the question of basically, “How far are you willing to take your ‘yes’? Are you willing to go where God sends are you so married to the American dream that you will not spread the gospel in the place and in the way that God leads.

The combination of this passage and the book that I am reading leads to the question now of how much do you believe in the reward of heaven? Are you a good-time Christian only? When times get tough do you run from God? The Bible promises us suffering in this life, particularly when we are following Christ. Satan will attack. Bad things will happen to us. Are we capable of weathering the storms of life with our faith intact here in America where our problems pale in comparison to the minister in Nigeria who watches his village be destroyed and people killed for not denying Christ. How deep is your faith? How deeply do you believe that your reward is heaven? Our suffering here has an end game. It is heaven. We will be rewarded for our endurance and perseverance. When will we as Christians really believe in our reward so much that we can put it all on the line. Leave our comfort zone. What’s the worst that can happen? We die….and go to heaven. We talk about how wondrous it is. Do we really believe it.

Paul says it here. No matter what we go through. We have Jesus on our side. He will deliver us one way or another through what we go through. In this life, our suffering has a purpose when it occurs. It helps us to see and experience our dependence on Him. It helps us to demonstrate to others that there is something far greater than our suffering. Our suffering and the way we handle it can lead people to Christ. Our suffering and the way we handle it can give glory to God. Because we knew for a fact that we have hope. Even if our suffering doesn’t end before we die, we still have hope. We have heaven awaiting. We have Jesus waiting there. We have glory unmeasurable awaiting. Even if our suffering does end before we die, God is preparing us for what’s next. Our suffering gets us ready for what God has planned for us next. That is the hope we have. When we see God’s guiding hand in it all, we see hope. We see a plan. Let us not lose hope. He is preparing us for what He has prepared for us. Live with abandon in this assurance. Follow where He leads. Do His Work. Spread the Good News where it needs spreading. Do not let fear of suffering hold you back. What is the worst that could happen? We die and go to heaven. Believe it. Live life like you believe that heaven awaits!

“All too often, we view heaven as the default eternal state for humankind. We assume that our race simply deserves heaven, that God owes heaven to us unless we do something really bad to warrant otherwise. But as [the Apostle Paul tells us] in Romans, this theology is just not true. All people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.” — p. 147, Radical, by David Platt.

To dissolve ourselves of the need to share the gospel, we have made it easier for the hard truth of the Bible to swallow by saying that all religions are the same and that they all lead to God. This absolves us of the urgency that the Bible calls us to. We are comfortable. Don’t give us something hard. As David Platt goes on to say, “Many professing Christians have come to the conclusion that if certain people around the world (and I add, here at home) don’t have the opportunity to heart about Jesus, then this automatically excuses them from God’s condemnation.” There is no biblical evidence to support this idea. We all stand condemned for rejecting God whether we have heard of Jesus or not. This is the hard truth of the Bible. But, God did give us Jesus as the one and only way out of the condemnation, the default state of hell, that we deserve.

In deluding ourselves that all roads lead to heaven it has made evangelism the job of some specially trained on-fire go-getters. It is not someone else’s job. It is ours. There is a whole world outside our door, outside our country that have never heard of Jesus. Why does this not break our hearts? Why does this not energize you? Why does this not energize me? We should be aching for the lost here and around the world. If we believe the Bible as perfect and true (and it is), people will not go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. No alternate gospel of it’s OK whatever you believe. No exceptions for those have not heard of Him. We all reject God. We stand condemned, all of us, in the absence of Jesus. This should be our desperate passion. It should make us hurt and ache.

Father, help me to not blow this off. Help me to want it. Help me to be so moved by this that I never forget. Help me to care about the destiny of souls who have not heard the gospel. Help me to care about it. Help me to be so stunned that someone might go to hell without having heard of Jesus that it moves me to action instead of sitting on the sidelines. Amen.

Romans 8:1-17 — There is an old saying that says, “there are two kinds of people in the world, the haves and the have-nots!”

This saying usually is talking about material wealth. Those who have it and those who do not. In the context of today’s passage, Paul talks about the haves and the have-nots, too. However, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit rather than the material wealth. Paul divides people into two categories. We are either those who are dominated by our sinful nature or those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit – the have-nots and the haves. All of us would be in the have-not, sinful nature-controlled category, if Jesus had not been sent by the Father to offer us a way out of the first category. Once we have said yes to Jesus, accepting Him as the Savior of our souls, we will want to follow Him because His ways bring life and peace. Daily, we must consciously choose to center our life around God. We use the Bible to discover God’s guidelines and then follow them. The popular bracelets of recent years that say “What would Jesus do?” remind us that we must choose to follow the ways of the Lord because it is our nature not to do so. We must consciously decide to ask this question daily, “What would Jesus do?” Through the Holy Spirit living in us we will know the answer to the question and we consciously and eagerly must do what the Spirit leads us to do.

Have you ever wondered if you were a “have”, one who has the the Holy Spirit living in them. This question goes to the very core of our faith and what it means to be a Christian. A Christ-follower is anyone who has the Spirit of God living in them. If you have sincerely trusted Christ for your salvation and acknowledged Him as Lord, then, the Holy Spirit lives inside you and as a result your are a Christ-follower. You can be assured that you have the Holy Spirit living inside you because of one thing. Jesus promised it to us. Since you now believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that eternal life comes through Him, you will begin as Christ directs through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Our old ways of luxuriating in our sin nature no longer appeals to us. When we commit sins now, it is not because we did not know. Sinning causes us inner struggle now where it did not before. The Holy Spirit has much work to do when He comes to live in us. He spends our lifetime perfecting us. Helping us to see sin for what it is. Sin separates us from God. Sin is destructive. We have the Holy Spirit living in us to be our Advisor, to point us to do the right thing, to be more Christ-like. He directs us to make choices to serve the Lord and to do His will. The Holy Spirit guides to pray and deepen our relationship with the Father. This is how we know we are a “have” – one who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Father, in Heaven, in your great wisdom as the Creator and Sustainer of all life, You send us the Holy Spirit at salvation to help us to make choices that please you. You send us the Holy Spirit to begin perfecting us and to help us repent of our sins. You send Him to clean us up and perfect us so that we may join you in Heaven at the end of our days. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, Father. The Spirit is how we know your presence in our lives. Help us to feel His presence in us. Help us to listen to Him. Help us to consciously choose the Holy Spirit’s ways over our base nature of sin. Help us to know you better through the Spirit. Help us to bring you glory through the Spirit living in us that guides us to be more like your Son progressively each day. To you, Father, is all the honor and the glory for loving us in this way by sending us the Spirit. Amen.