May 14, 2016
May 14, 2016
. .. keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 1 Corinthians 7:19b
The Early Church was birthed in a Gentile, pagan world. Many new Christians suddenly found themselves in unique situations: slaves and slaveholders became Christians; new Christians found themselves married to a non-Christian spouse. Besides those personal situations, the culture itself was stressful, dominated by the heavy hand of Rome. Finally, the Church lived with the expectation of Christ’s Second Coming. What were new Christians to do?
Paul said, “Nothing—stay where you are.” There is no command in Scripture to be married or single, to be a slave or to be free. So remaining single, as Paul himself was (1 Corinthians 7:7), was completely acceptable. In light of a troubled world (1 Corinthians 7:26) and the hope of the returning Christ (1 Corinthians 7:29), Paul gave no new commands except this: Keep the commandments of God; live a holy and righteous life; be content in the place to which God has called you.
Whether you are single or married, as you serve Christ in anticipation of His return, is not as important as serving Him faithfully—being a witness to Him in this world.
The essence of chastity is not the suppression of lust, but the total orientation of one’s life towards a goal. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yesterday I shared with you about the time when God reminded me that I am not the vine—He is. For years I had tried to accomplish by myself what Jesus Christ wanted to achieve through me. In other words, I attempted to produce fruit by doing good works. My desire was to impress God and earn His approval. His goal, on the other hand, was for me to act like the branch that I am and just abide.
The Holy Spirit’s job is to live the life of Christ through each believer. This process is known by a variety of names, including the exchanged life, the Spirit-filled life, and the abiding life. All of these monikers describe the joyful existence Paul spoke of in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” The apostle meant those words literally.
Seen from the outside, a branch does not appear to be doing anything. But don’t get the idea that the abiding life is passive. Jesus was the perfect example of a Spirit-filled life, and He certainly didn’t sit around! He worked hard out of a reservoir of divine energy (John 14:10). All of Christ’s wisdom, knowledge, and courage were drawn from God through the Holy Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit does not pop out of believers through effort; Christians bear fruit through surrender. We “take root” in the heavenly Father by meditating on His Word, praying, and serving. We reserve nothing for ourselves to control but fully rely upon Him. That’s not passive living; it’s an abiding life.
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
A host of biochemists and other scientists have tried for over a century to determine how life evolved from non-life. Such a quest is absurdly impossible, for the simplest imaginary self-replicating system would be infinitely more complex than the most elaborate machine ever designed by man. Life can come only from life. The first human life, indeed the first living system of any kind, could only have come by special creation from the living God. “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Thus, “in him we live, and move, and have our being,” and He is “not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:28, 27). The Lord Jesus Christ is the one “by whom also he made the worlds” and who now is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:2-3). The beating of our hearts, the breathing of our lungs, the very atoms of our bodies are continually sustained by Him. Were He to withdraw His power for a moment, life would cease and all light would become darkness. Even those who reject Him and blaspheme His name owe their very existence to His power and grace.
“As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Life is “in him”; He alone can conquer death and raise the dead. “As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (v. 21), for as “the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Thus, “he that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). Through faith in His sacrificial death and resurrection life, “ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Henceforth is Christ Himself “our life” (Colossians 3:3-4). HMM
We will now return to Psalm 18:30-50. and read from verse thirty to the end.
the experience of all his people bears witness to this. Perfect wisdom, perfect truth, and perfect love, are to be seen in all that he does. Blessed be his name.
tried, proved and tested, it has been, but it has never failed. This our soul knoweth right well
And to us among them, feeble though our faith has been.
Believers have a complete armour provided for them, of which the girdle of truth is a principal part.
A believer’s feet are shod by a divine hand, the preparation of the gospel of peace makes him tread safely where others fall.
In conflict, the believer’s hands are made mighty to break the enemy’s weapons by the force of truth.
Above all, we are to take the shield of faith, which is of celestial workmanship, and quenches all the enemy’s fiery darts.
Never let us forget that unless the Lord upheld us, we should fall as others have done, to our shame and ruin.
David ascribes all his victories to his God. Note how often he repeats the word “Thou.” Thou, O Lord, hast done it all.
The neighbouring nations submitted to David’s sway. When God is with us our enemies are at peace, or else they are powerless to harm us.
As we read all this we should try to appropriate the expressions to ourselves, and personally bless the Lord for all the benefits which our own lives have witnessed. Has not the Lord done great things for us also? Shall we not also give thanks unto his name? Yes, verily, we will.
His be the “victor’s name,”
Who fought our fight alone;
Triumphant saints no honour claim;
His conquest was His own.
Sin, Satan, Death appear,
To harass and appal;
Yet since the gracious Lord is near,
Backward they go, and fall.
We meet them face to face,
Through Jesus’ conquest blest;
March in the triumph of His grace,
Right onward to our rest.
Charity [agape love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth….
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
In today’s Sparkling Gem, we come to the end of our study of First Corinthians 13:4-8, where Paul describes the behavior of the love of God. As Paul comes to the conclusion of his fabulous text about the agape love of God, he concludes powerfully in verse 8 by affirming that love “… never faileth….”
The word “faileth” is the Greek word pipto, a word that dates back to classical Greece and generally means to fall from a high position. It was also used on rare occasions to depict a warrior who fell in battle. In many places the word pipto is used to depict falling into ruin, into destruction, into some kind of misfortune, or into disappointment. In First Corinthians 13:8, Paul uses this word to affirm the eternal truth that love never disappoints or fails.
It is simply the truth that human beings often fail each other. I’m sure you have felt let down by someone else at some point along the way. And if you’re honest about your own dealings with others, you’ll have to admit that you have been guilty of letting others down as well. But agape love—God’s love—never disappoints, never fails, and never lets anyone down. It is a love that can always be depended on and is always reliable.
People you know and respect may occasionally fall from the high position they hold in life—and that can be an emotionally difficult experience for you when you see it happen. Other times, fellow warriors may fall in battle or stumble into some kind of misfortune that disappoints you, and that is painful as well.
But you can be sure that the agape love of God will never fail you or let you down. This love is constant, unchanging, and unbendable. It is a love you will always find to be reliable and true—a love on which you can depend.
God wants you to learn to function in His high-level agape love, which is why the Holy Spirit so carefully inspired the apostle Paul to write these famous words in First Corinthians 13:4-8. This passage of Scripture is God’s mirror, designed for us to look into so we can see how well we fare at walking in the agape love of God.
I have compiled all the words, phrases, and translations we have been studying and placed them here as one complete text for you to read. Take a few minutes to read this text slowly; then ask yourself, Do I pass the love test? Or does this reveal that I need to mature more in this part of my life?
The following is an expanded interpretive translation of First Corinthians 13:4-8:
“Love patiently and passionately bears with others for as long as patience is needed; Love doesn’t demand others to be like itself; rather, it is so focused on the needs of others that it bends over backwards to become what others need it to be;
Love is not ambitious, self centered, or so consumed with itself that it never thinks of the needs or desires that others possess;
Love doesn’t go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others; Love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner;
Love is not rude and discourteous—it is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others;
Love does not manipulate situations or scheme and devise methods that will twist situations to its own advantage;
Love does not deliberately engage in actions or speak words that are so sharp, they cause an ugly or violent response;
Love does not deliberately keep records of wrongs or past mistakes;
Love does not feel overjoyed when it sees an injustice done to someone else but is elated, thrilled, ecstatic, and overjoyed with the truth;
Love protects, shields, guards, covers, conceals, and safeguards people from exposure; Love strains forward with all its might to believe the very best in every situation; Love always expects and anticipates the best in others and the best for others; Love never quits, never surrenders, and never gives up; Love never disappoints, never fails, and never lets anyone down.”
So after pondering these verses, what is your answer? Are you walking in this kind of love? Have you achieved the level of love that God wants you to have in your life? Do you manifest this type of love to others who are around you? Or do you now see that you still have areas in your life where you need to grow, develop, and change in regard to walking in love?
I plead with you to spend time in prayer about this issue of God’s love in your life. How you relate to others, love others, and impact others is the most important question in your life. Since this is such a vital issue, don’t you think it’s worth your time to get into the Presence of the Lord and ask Him to reveal those areas in your love walk that need to be improved?
Lord, I want to be the embodiment of Your love. I know that I fall very short of the agape love that You desire to see operating in my life. Therefore, I am asking You to help me move upward to the highest level of love so I can be a channel through which this love can be poured out to others whom I know and meet. Just as You have loved me, help me become a life-changing source of divine love to other people.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that God’s love dwells in me. It flows from my heart to all those around me. People who are close to me are changed and transformed by this love that operates so mightily in me. When others see me, they think of the love of God, for it is demonstrated continually in my life.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Today, are you on the brink of sinking into defeat? Then consider Paul’s plight:
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
And what was Paul’s response to life’s would be “defeats”? “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Defeat? Not even an option!
Abraham Lincoln ignored “defeat” on his road to becoming America’s most beloved and greatest President:
Failed in business in 1831
Defeated for Legislature in 1832
Second failure in business in 1833
Suffered nervous breakdown in 1836
Defeated for Speaker in 1838
Defeated for election in 1840
Defeated for Congress in 1848
Defeated for Senate in 1855
Defeated for Vice President in 1856
Defeated for Senate in 1858
Elected for President in 1860
Defeat? Not even an option!
Perhaps the birds have it best figured out: “Said the Robin to the Sparrow: ‘I should really like to know why these anxious humans rush about and worry so.‘ Said the Sparrow to the Robin, ‘Friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.‘” (Elizabeth Cheney)
So today, choose to rest your hand in His as He grants you victory out of the jaws of defeat. “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again… A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” (Proverbs 24:16a; Psalm 34:19)
Defeat? Not even an option!