My Way Out

1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”


Years ago, Isuzu ran an ad where a man, sitting in the lotus position meditating, looked at the camera as if to speak wisdom and said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” I think that could be said of all of us. We often resolve to commit ourselves to the Lord, and make steps toward following Christ more closely, only to be derailed by falling again into one of those easily besetting sins. This is a very common experience.

Paul reminds us of three characteristics about temptation. First, temptation is common to all men. No matter who you are, or how long you have walked with the Lord, you will be tempted to do things that are not pleasing to the Lord, and are costly to your relationship with Him. This is not written to justify sin, but rather to encourage us to guard against failure. Leading up to this verse, Paul reminds us of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. He states, while all passed through the Red Sea, ate the Manna, and drank from the Rock, only a few entered the Promised Land. We are all given the same resources to equip us for success. Only those who take advantage of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God, will overcome the temptations of the flesh.

Second, Paul reminds us that every temptation has a way of escape. There are a few rare cases when we are hit by a surprise attack, but most of the time, we see temptations coming, and are given multiple ways out. Many of the sins that we commit, we do so because we are alone. If someone else were nearby, we would not do them. I think, a very common way of escape, is to simply pick up the phone or go outside. In those rare cases when we are blindsided with temptation, we must follow the example of Joseph, who fled from temptation, even when it meant having his garment ripped off his back.

Finally, Paul reminds us that God is faithful. We would all admit that the reason we fail is that we are too weak. We attempted to resist, but found that our strength was insufficient, and we gave in. Fortunately, we are not left to fight the battle on our own. Our weakness will always be met with His strength. Often, we fail because we keep our attention fixed on the temptation and on our weakness. We will find victory, when we get our eyes back upon the Lord. When David faced Goliath, his eyes were on Jehovah; when he faced Bathsheba, his eyes on the temptation. Victory will be ours when we keep our attention on the Lord. Paul reminded the Ephesians to “Be strong in the Lord in the power of His might.”

Pastor Jim

 

For The Gospel’s Sake 

1 Corinthians 9:23
Now this I do for the gospel’s sake…”

When writing to the Romans, Paul explained, the message of the Gospel has the power to save the sinner. It is when a person humbles himself and accepts that Jesus Christ died to do away with his sin, that he is saved. In order for a person to come to saving faith, he must hear the message and see the reality of it worked out in the life of the believer. Paul, understanding the importance of the Gospel, explains to the Corinthians the things he was willing to forgo, so others would hear about Christ and believe in Him.

First, he speaks of personal freedoms he was willing to lay aside. In his case, he chose to support himself rather than being supported by the church. Others had misrepresented the Lord by making Christian service look like a means of making a buck. To combat this, Paul made certain, while he was in Corinth, money was not the focus of the ministry.

Second, he speaks of becoming “all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” Paul is in no way suggesting that he is compromising the message of the Gospel, or his Christian witness. Instead, he is speaking of being relevant to those whom he is seeking to reach. One way Paul did this was by speaking to be understood. His goal, as a pastor, was not to use such eloquence as to show the world how brilliant he was, but to speak with such simplicity as to be sure the message was clearly understood. He was also careful not to do things that would turn others unnecessarily away from Christ. He saw the big picture. He understood that many of the views, and lifestyle choices people were involved in, were as a result of not knowing Jesus. Instead of making it his aim to change the behavior of the unbeliever, he sought to introduce them to Christ, who would transform their thinking and their living.

Third, Paul spoke of disciplining himself. He realized, one way to undo all his efforts in Corinth, was to personally get involved in sin, thus “blowing his witness.” To guard against this, he treated his Christian life the way an Olympian treats his body. Knowing that success only comes with training, diet and discipline, Paul was sure to have a healthy diet of time with Jesus, study of the Word, and Christian fellowship, while at the same time keeping unnecessary temptation out of his life.

Finally, Paul writes, “When I have preached to others…” The Gospel is seen when we live like Christ. However, it is primarily, hearing and not seeing the gospel, that leads others to faith in Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” ( Romans 10:17) To ensure that others came to Christ, Paul opened his mouth and declared the simple message of salvation by grace through faith.

Paul wrote, all this was done for the sake of the Gospel. It would do us all good to ask, “What am I doing for the sake of the Gospel?”

Pastor Jim

 

Liberty

1 Corinthians 8:13
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

One of the controversies the Church in Corinth faced had to do with diet. Animals were offered to pagan gods, then the meat was sold at the local butcher shops. This created a real problem for many Christians. For some, their conscience bothered them knowing that the animal was offered to false gods, while for others the issue was much more tangible. Since the butcher shops were often located close to the temples, and the temples were places of sinful activity, some knew that visiting that area would lead them right back into sin. For others, the idol issue was something of their past, and they had no problem eating the meat with thanksgiving. To them, it mattered very little what the farmer did with the animal, since they received it with thanksgiving as from the Lord.

Paul points out that the issue was much bigger than what a person has for lunch, or where they choose to go to dinner. The bigger picture was the conflict between Christian liberties and the law of love. Webster defines liberty as, “the power to do as one pleases.” As Christians, we are free to practice anything that is not forbidden by the Word of God. While there are some movies whose content certainly puts them in the category of forbidden, Christians do have the liberty to attend movies. The same could be said of television, music, and the Internet. However, there are some who, because of their past experience, or recent decision for the Lord, would stumble if they practiced the same liberties. It is here that Paul introduces a principle bigger than liberty, the principle of love.

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

As much as Paul might have enjoyed a juicy steak, or French dip sandwich, he was willing to lay those aside for the sake of others. Rather than touting about his rights, or how ridiculous it was for them to make an issue over food, Paul saw everything as a means to minister to others. Every Christian has been called to invest in the lives of others, in order to make disciples. For that to happen, we have to be willing to set our freedoms aside for the sake of their growth. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Within the spiritual realm, we might better choose death over liberties for the sake of the Gospel. My freedom to do what I want with my time, could be laid aside, and I could choose to meet with a struggling believer for coffee and the study of the Word. My freedom to sit alone in service and reflect upon the message, could be set aside to sit with a visitor, or someone I know might be struggling or lonely. My freedom to watch the service online from the comfort of my couch, might be set aside to show up early and help get the church ready for others, or to teach a child’s class.

When we set the law of love above the law of liberty, we will see others impacted for the kingdom of God.

Time is short, eternity is forever…

Pastor Jim

 

Relationships 

1 Corinthians 7:2
“A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

The Corinthian Christians wrote a letter to Paul asking him some basic questions about how to live out their Christianity. One of those questions had to do with relationships between men and women. Since they lived in a pagan culture, they grew up with pagan examples of how to be single and how to be married. After coming to Christ, they realized God had different standards, and they wanted to learn His ideal for Christian relationships. This chapter is Paul’s response to their question. It is worth noting that Paul writes concerning three groups of people: the single, the married and the separated.

To the single Christian, Paul explains that physical relationships, while designed by God, are restricted to the marriage relationship. In order to remove all doubt about the danger of getting involved physically before marriage, he writes, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Obviously, he is not speaking about an accidental bump or a handshake, but is referring to the physical acts that arouse and lead to sexual activity. Although it is common, encouraged, and expected for single people today to be sexually active, Paul tells the Christian to wait for marriage.

When it comes to the married Christian, Paul has an entirely different message. He explains that when we are wed, we give ourselves to our spouse. We are no longer two individuals living to fulfill our own wishes, but we have become one. Our lives are now wrapped up inseparably with our spouse.This is particularly true as it relates to our physical relationship. Instead of using sex as a weapon to win our way with our spouse, Paul writes, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” Clearly, the affection a wife desires is different from what a husband wants. In order to have a healthy marriage, we must take our eyes off our own desires and place them upon our spouse. Sometimes, the most affectionate thing a man can do for his wife is to clean the kitchen, do the laundry or help the kids with their homework.

Finally, Paul has a message for those whose marriages are falling apart. They have encountered such storms within their relationship, the only course of action seems to be to dissolve the marriage before anyone else gets hurt. Within the culture of the ancient world, divorce was common. When things get difficult, people always seem to look for a way out. Paul’s message might be summed up by saying, difficulty is not a reason to dissolve a marriage, but to work on the marriage. He writes,

“A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

The situation he describes is a difficult one. The couple has faced such challenges that one or both, have decided to scrap the marriage and move on. To which Paul explains, we should separate only far enough to work toward reconciliation. If you are facing tough times in your marriage, do not look for a trap door that will release you from the covenant you made before God. Instead, look to how your relationship can be restored. It may be, the only solution is for you to daily sit at the feet of Jesus, and plead for Him to change you and your spouse, and restore your marriage. Obviously, two people are involved, and at times, a spouse may refuse to reconcile, but we must always seek the Lord’s best; not what is culturally common.

If you are married, take some time today to read through 1 Corinthians 7 with your spouse and apply the marriage principles to your relationship. It is not too late for God to make your marriage what He intended it to be.

Pastor Jim

 

Filters 

1 Corinthians 6:12
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

There are certain things that God’s Word clearly encourages, and other things that are clearly condemned. Earlier in the chapter, Paul gave a list of actions that, if a person is practicing, they “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Among the forbidden acts are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, and extortion. Clearly, Paul is not saying that unlawful things are lawful for him. Instead, he is saying, he is free to practice all things that are not forbidden, but is careful to add that he will not be controlled by them. Paul is giving us a principle by which he lived his life, a principle we would all do well to follow. Hebrews 12:1 warns us to,

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…”

“Easily ensnaring sins” are sins we are more prone to fall into. For some it is lust, others covetousness, jealousy or envy, while others may struggle with pride or discouragement. We all know what our “easily besetting sins” are. While we all have the same freedoms in Christ, we know if we practice these freedoms, we will fall into sin again.

In order to guard against personal failure, Paul set up a system for success. That system included looking at the grey areas, the things Scripture is silent about, and putting them through a filter. He would ask, “although this is lawful, is it helpful?” When I was a young Christian, I began a practice of asking myself a simple question, “Will doing this help me get to heaven?” I understand we do not earn our way to heaven, but I also understand, there are many things that can trip us up along the way. So, I would examine what I was doing in light of where I was going. Before indulging in the activities so common to our culture, ask yourself if it will help your walk with God, or hinder it.

Some things are so dirty, they must be filtered more than once; so Paul added a second question, “Will practicing this put me under its control?” Jesus died to set us free from the power of sin. One of the great experiences, when a person receives Christ, is the realization that their sin is forgiven, and they no longer have to live under its dominion. That being said, there are many things which will lead us right back under sin’s control.

I once knew a man who had a drug problem, prior to coming to Christ. After months of freedom, he fell again into sin. I asked him what happened, to which he explained, he chose to take a shortcut home that led him by an area where he used to purchase drugs. Before he knew it, he was using again. As a Christian, he was free to drive down whatever road he wanted, but because of his ensnaring sins, if he wanted to succeed, he had to forever avoid that part of town. We all have things which will draw us back into sin. We all must honestly evaluate our lives, if we want to ensure we are not brought back under sin’s power.

What things do you need to remove from your life in order to ensure victory in Christ? Is it time to set aside certain music, TV shows, computer time, or even relationships? Keep in mind, although they may be lawful, they might not be helpful.

Pastor Jim

 

Leaven 

1 Corinthians 5:1
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!”

God designed sexual intimacy as part of the marriage relationship. It is the most intimate of all acts and plays an important role in the love relationship between man and wife. In the book of Hebrews we are told, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” (Hebrews 13:4)

However, like so much of what God designed, men have distorted sex into sin. Today, a person that waits until marriage to be sexually active is ridiculed, women are treated as something to be conquered, and men revel in their vast number of sexual partners. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and with the advances in technology, is available at the touch of a button.

While we should expect the world to distort the ways of God, Paul is shocked to hear that the same sexual sins are happening within the church. We find the same problem today, the sexual misconduct that is rampant in the world is also running rampant within the church. Dating couples are involved sexually, married men are developing relationships with other women, rather than investing in their wives, a high percentage of people registered in singles dating sites are actually married, and pornographic sites are one of the most common searches on smart phones and other hand-held devices. Again, we should expect this behavior out of those who don’t know Christ, but tragically, it is almost as common among professing Christians as it is among the unbeliever. What has happened to us? Paul explains, a little leaven has leavened the whole lump.

Leaven is a form of yeast used to cause bread to rise. A small piece of old dough was set aside and used on the next loaf, this rotting dough, when mixed with the new, would corrupt the whole lump causing it to rise. Sin is like that. When we let a little into our lives, it will not remain dormant, it will grow, until it affects every area of our lives. While this is true of all sin, it is particularly true of sexual sin. Once the line is crossed, sin seems to almost have a power of its own, which drives us. If you have started investing in a relationship with someone who is not your spouse, or begun looking at things that you shouldn’t, or become physical with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancé; it is time to STOP! Paul gave a radical remedy to the sin problem that the Corinthians were having, he told them to remove this man from fellowship until he repents. Radical sin must lead to radical repentance. It is time to confess what you are doing, both to God, and to someone who will hold you accountable. It is also time to put walls around your life, making it difficult to fail. Your life, marriage, and Christian witness are at stake.

One of the most encouraging things to me is that Paul writes again to the Corinthians regarding this man, who was involved in such grievous sin. After confronting him and removing him from the fellowship, he realized the folly of his ways and turned his life back to the Lord. No matter how strong a grip sin may have on your life, if you will confess, and take steps towards repentance, God will give you victory. Don’t run this race alone, and don’t wait another minute to alter the path that has led you to failure.

Pastor Jim

 

Puffed Up 

1 Corinthians 4:6-7
“. . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Paul warns of the danger of pride. He refers to it as being puffed up; a term that has withstood the test of time, and is still used today. When we see someone who is filled with pride, we might say they are filled with self, puffed up, or even that they have a big head. Paul reminds us of the folly of elevating ourselves above one another, by exhorting us that what we have, we received from the Lord.

This passage reminds me of the story of Absalom, the son of King David, whose life was marked with pride and whose death was fitting. We are told, in the heat of battle, while fleeing from Joab, he rode under a low hanging tree branch and his head was stuck. Moments later, Joab arrived and slew Absalom. He literally died because his head was too big. Absalom was a man born into privilege. He was the son of the king, raised in the palace, given the best education and upbringing available at the time. His palace life would afford him connections with the most prominent people of the day, and provide him with a life of influence. In addition, the Bible describes him as an extremely good-looking man. He was praised throughout the nation for his looks. No doubt women were wooed by him, and men envious of him. But rather than looking at these as gifts from the Lord, and opportunities to be useful for the kingdom of heaven, Absalom was filled with pride. We are told, he was so in love with himself, that at the end of every year he would get a haircut, weigh his hair and publish the results. Of all the things we take pride in, that has to be one of the most ridiculous.

What have you done to determine the amount of hair that you have? The answer is nothing, it is hereditary. If you are bald or if you have a flowing mane, it is not because of something you accomplished, it is like being proud that you are tall. Paul reminds us, “what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Everything we have is an evidence of the grace of God. Rather than thinking of ourselves as better than another, we should use the gifts, privileges and opportunities we have been given, to serve one another, and to further the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim