Soldier On in Love

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 16.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” This is soldier language. This is battle language. There is an enemy out there; be vigilant. The enemy will attack; stand firm. The attack will be frightening; act like men and be courageous. The attack will be powerful; be strong. I feel like I should make ape-like, grunting noises as I say all of that to show how strong and powerful we should be. But then Paul says something weird as the follow up: “Let all that you do be done in love.” Wait! What? That doesn’t sound like soldier, battle language. A soldier’s marching orders are not to go be loving. And yet, those are our marching orders. Yes, we are in a battle and we will have to stand strong. But the way we fight this battle is by making sure every action we take is based on love. Think of Jesus who was watchful, stood firm, acted like a man, and was strong as He went to the cross out of love for you and me. Soldier on in love. That’s what Jesus did.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 1.

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Our Labor is Useful

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.

We are in the Lord. The Lord is saving us. The Lord is giving us victory. Do you know what that means? That means our labor is useful. That means our work matters. For some reason, some people have the idea that being saved by grace means what we do doesn’t matter. Not true. Being saved by grace is the only thing that makes our work matter. Because the Lord is working, my work matters. If He weren’t working, my work wouldn’t matter at all. If I am not working, then the Lord’s work is vain. But as Paul says, God’s grace was not vain toward him because he worked. And as he also said, because the Lord is giving us victory, our work in Him is not in vain. Today, let’s get to work in the Lord. That will not be in vain.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 16.

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All for Edification

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14.

Let everything be done for edification, Paul says. Why? Because love builds up (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). And what is the most excellent way? Love. What is the greatest principle? Love. Thus, pursuing love doesn’t mean simply having warm emotional feelings about people. It means when I gather with the brothers and sisters, what I’m most concerned about is not proving how awesome, talented, or gifted I am. Rather, I’m most concerned about building up the people around me. Realize what this means. The rules of 1 Corinthians 14 aren’t about the rules, they are merely the practical outworking of loving my brothers and sisters. When we “go to church,” we need to make sure all we do is for edification. We need to make sure all we do is out of love.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.

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Better Off Than Apostles

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13.

The apostles seem like super Christians to my mind. It seems to me like they had every benefit and blessing because they wrote by inspiration and had miraculous gifts. No wonder they were able to excel in Christ’s kingdom. And yet, Paul explains that those gifts were only in part. They were not the whole. His knowledge was partial. His prophesying was partial. It wasn’t complete. But the day was coming when the complete would come. And it has. The complete knowledge has been revealed. God gave it all. Further, He ultimately had it bound up and given to each of us in the form of our Bibles. How amazing is that? The reality is we are better off than the apostles. That is, when we know our Bibles, we know as much and more than the apostles. We have the whole thing. Let’s read it like there is nothing else we need. And let’s be amazed at God’s grace.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14.

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“Jesus is Lord!”

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12.

Okay, wait a minute. Paul says, “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus is accursed!'” And yet, Paul, speaking in the Spirit of God, just said those very words. What’s up with that? His point is not that someone in God’s Spirit can’t even utter those words in any context. His point is people who abide in God and His Spirit know Jesus is Lord. Anyone who truly denies Jesus’s lordship is separate from God. No matter how spiritual they seem, no matter how nice they are, no matter what good works they do, they are not in God and God’s Spirit is not within them. In like manner, his point about those who say, “Jesus is Lord” is not that people separate from God are physically unable to say those words in any situational context or that they are unable to fake it. Neither is he saying that anyone who makes this claim is automatically right with God just by saying these words. His point is everyone who sincerely and truly confesses and surrenders to the lordship of Jesus has the same Holy Spirit we do. They may not have the same gifts, abilities, opportunities, and resources as we do. They may be at a different level of spiritual maturity. They may have a completely different ethnic background, skin color, gender, national history, language, socio-economic class, but they are filled by the same Spirit. Since we have the same Spirit, let us work together in the same Body, remembering we are not only members of that same Body but members of one another.

Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13.

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Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 11.

Worst chapter break ever! “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” comes off in our English translations as if it is just a lone statement about being like Paul. However, this statement doesn’t go with chapter 11. It goes with chapters 8-10. Paul does everything to the glory of God. He does everything so as to avoid offense to Jews, Greeks, and the church of God. He does everything to save others rather than seeking his own advantage. His point is we need to act like that too, imitating him. However, we don’t need to imitate him because he is so awesome, but because when he behaves this way, he is imitating Jesus. In other words, every principle inĀ 1 Corinthians 8-10, comes from living like Jesus. When we imitate Paul in this, we aren’t really imitating Paul; we are imitating Jesus. Today, I want to imitate Jesus. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12.

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Common Temptations

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.

For a long time, I got the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:13 exactly backwards. I have read it for most of my life as saying God let’s everyone get tempted in the same ways as I have, so I am obviously able to overcome the temptations. WRONG! Paul’s point is for me to take a look at what has happened to everyone else who plays around with and lingers in temptation. In the specific context, he is addressing the Corinthian desire to eat in the idols’ temples. He encourages them to look at how everyone else handled the temptations present in eating before idols. The Israelites ate and drank before the idol, then they rose up to play. That is, eating before the idol led to certain sin (Exodus 32). The Israelites started committing immorality with the daughters of Moab, and it led them to idolatry and destruction (Numbers 25). The Israelites put God to the test, and were destroyed by serpents. Interestingly, the very deliverance for them, the bronze serpent, later became a stumbling block of idolatry (Numbers 21, 2 Kings 18). Paul’s point is to notice how people commonly react to these common temptations. They fall. Then they get judged. What makes me arrogantly think I’ll be different from everyone else in the face of these very common temptations. Sadly, for the longest time, due to an unfortunate verse and paragraph break in the printed version of the Bible I use, I’ve missed Paul’s real point. Yes, God has provided a way of escape. But the way of escape is not right up close to the temptation. The way of escape is to flee the temptation. In context, to flee from idolatry. But really, if I would overcome sin, I must flee what tempts me. After all, my temptations are common to men and women of all time. How has everyone reacted when they cozied up to temptation? They have fallen. I will too. It is high time to take God’s path of escape by fleeing. That is my goal today. How about yours?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 11.

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