Wrap it Up

2 Corinthians 4:3-4
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

A few years ago we purchased a pool table for the kids as a Christmas gift. Because of the size of the table it was not practical to wrap, so we set it up in the middle of the living room, threw a table-cloth over it and set our breakfast on it. Our disguise worked. The kids went about the morning without even noticing there was a huge gift right under their noses.

Paul writes, God has given us the precious gift of eternal life. A gift received by recognizing we are sinners, and placing faith in Christ. A gift that results in having our sins forgiven, being made right with a Holy God, and having our lives transformed from the inside out. This precious gift, that is so easily received, is sitting right in front of everyone, yet many fail to see it. The reason they fail to see it is because the Gospel has been veiled to them by the devil.

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe…

The word veiled, also translated hidden or covered, comes from a word meaning to hide. Webster defines the word veiled as “disguised or obscured by a covering.” God, because of His love for us, sent His Son to make a way for our sins to be forgiven, and to give us eternal life. He placed this message in the hands of His followers, who continue to herald it around the world, in their homes, schools, and places of work or leisure. Even though the death and resurrection of Jesus were public events, the Bible is the greatest selling book of all time, Christians are in every corner of the world, and the Gospel is preached on the airways and internet, still, many fail to see their need for Christ. Paul explains it is because the god of this world (Satan) is blinding their eyes and obscuring the message of Christ.

Just as the ministry of the Christian is to declare the good news of salvation, the ministry of Satan is to obscure it. He desires to cover up the Gospel message, and make it look like something it is not. He has used many different coverings to hide the Gospel. Some have been blinded with pleasure. They think coming to Christ will mean missing out on the real “fun in life.” For others, he uses fear. They are afraid of what will happen to them if they release control of their lives, and put it into the hands of Christ. Still others are blinded with hurt. They have had difficult experiences in life, causing them to question if there really is a God who loves them.

When we look at our friends, loved ones, or our circle of influence, and see those who have yet to receive or surrender to Christ, we must understand it is because their minds have been blinded and the Gospel veiled. Rather than being discouraged or repelled, we ought to pray. Our prayers ought to be specifically for God to remove the blinders from their eyes, so the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ could shine on them.

As you seek to invite your friends to Christ, church, or an outreach event, pray that God would remove the veil, that they might see Christ as He really is, and invite Him to reign in their hearts and lives.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 2 Corinthians 4

  1. Serving others in the name of Jesus is something that is not always easy. The enemy, the world, and our own flesh often oppose us. We can easily be discouraged. According to verse 1 and verses 16-18, what things kept Paul from becoming discouraged?
  • In verse 2 Paul speaks about living a wide open life for Christ: renouncing sin, turning away from scheming, plainly speaking the word of God, and shining with truth. He was not a “secret” Christian. Why does hiding your Christianity never work?
  1. In verses 3-4 Paul speaks about Satan as the “god of this world” (see also 1 John 5:19). Even though Paul was living such a vibrant life for Jesus, and even though the gospel was clearly presented, Satan was still in opposition (read John 8:44). In this verse what does he do to stop people from seeing Jesus? Read verse 6 to see how God overcomes this.
  2. Read verses 5-6.   As we seek to communicate the gospel to those who are lost, who the enemy is coming against, we must keep Jesus central. What do we preach and what do we not preach? As we do this, who breaks through the darkness and blindness of those we are trying to reach?
  3. We are clay pots, easily broken and made of dust. Yet we contain a valuable treasure: the gospel and the Spirit of God. How does knowing this affect how we minister to others? How does it affect how they see God?
  4. Verses 8-12 speak of a principle in the Christian life: God uses a person who dies to himself and lets God live through him (see Luke 9:23-25). Do you daily lay down your wants and desires at Jesus’ feet and say “not my will but your will, Lord”? According to these verses, how does living this way affect others?
  5. Read verses 13-15. Paul preached, trusting that God would work. It was risky for him to preach the gospel, and it often cost him. But others were important to him; to him Christianity wasn’t just about getting himself saved, but seeing others saved as well. How much of a priority is it to you to see “grace spread to the many”? If it is not ask God to change your heart today.

Old Testament:
05Job 25- How To
Job 26- The Edge

Being Transformed

2 Corinthians 3:18
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Have you ever looked around at the circumstances you are facing and wondered what God is doing in your life? Why it is that you are facing these particular trials, while someone else seems to be immune to them. The answer to that question is tucked away in this verse. Paul writes,

“We… Are being transformed into the SAME image…”

All who have trusted Christ for salvation, have been born again and are in the midst of a process that began at conversion, and will continue until we reach heaven. It is the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus. Paul instructed the Romans that God uses all things to reach that end (Romans 8:28). Every difficulty, every blessing, every person, every trial, is a tool in the hand of the Master to make us more like Jesus. Earlier Paul wrote,

“. . . who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant . . . ” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

One of the ways we are made effective ministers, is that we are being made more like Jesus. The longer we walk with Him, the more we should become like Him. If we are struggling to understand what God is doing with a particular trial, we must look into the pages of His Word, at the person of Jesus, and determine what is lacking in us. I am often frustrated by the way others treat me, but then I am reminded of the way Jesus was treated. I realize God desires for me to love those who don’t love me, to be merciful and gracious to those who are unkind or even hostile. The work of Jesus is being done in me.

Notice, Paul not only tells us what God is doing, but how He does it. He writes, we are being transformed, “by the Spirit of the Lord.” This work of becoming more like Jesus is a work of the Spirit. It is not something that can be accomplished apart from the work of God, or by sheer resolve of heart. It is a work done by allowing the Spirit of God to work within us. A number of years ago, I was sitting on the floor of a church listening to Pastor Chuck teach through John 15. As he explained what it meant to abide in Christ, he said, “God does not want to walk through the factory and see all the work you are doing, He wants to walk through the garden and enjoy the fruit.” I remember being particularly struck by that example, realizing that the secret to my growing in Christ, becoming like Christ, and bearing the fruit of Christ, was spending time with Christ.

It is God’s desire for each of us to become more like Jesus. The more like Him we become, the richer life becomes and the more effective we are in reaching others for the Kingdom. However, it is a work of the Spirit; we must allow the Spirit free reign to speak to us, lead us, and correct us through the Word of God. As we subject ourselves to the work of the Spirit, we will also find that the power of the Spirit is available to us. We will truly become “able ministers of the New Covenant.”

Pastor Jim

Questions for 2 Corinthians 3 

  1. Because his apostleship has been called into question by some within the church, Paul has found the need to respond to those criticisms. He will do this several times in this letter, but he does not want to do so with just talk.   Read verses 1-3. What is this first part of his “resume” as he re-establishes his ministry to the Corinthians? Read Matt 11:16-19, and Matt 7:16-20. As you seek to be a witness for Christ, make sure that you are more than just talk.
  2. Consider verse 3. God changes us from the inside out, changing our hearts by His Spirit. How has God changed who you are on the inside? In verse 4, Paul states that they have a great trust toward God because of Jesus. How does knowing Jesus help us to trust God? What in His life and character has proved that God is trustworthy?
  3. In verses 5-6, Paul puts the things he is talking about in perspective: his confidence is not in his self. How has Paul been made sufficient for the ministry to which God has called him? How are we made sufficient?
  4. Read verses 6-11. The Old covenant, the law, was a relationship based on our performance. Although there were certain glorious things about this covenant (one of which was that God’s holy character was revealed), it is doomed because of our inability to perform to God’s standard. However, the new covenant, Grace through faith, has a greater glory, because this relationship is based on trusting in Jesus’ ability to work through His Spirit. What are some ways that this new relationship with God is better than the old? Note verse 17.
  5. Paul found a great boldness and confidence in knowing the power of God’s Spirit at work in Him. Do you know this power? Ask God to fill you with His Spirit afresh, that you may walk in His power. What does God want to do with you? Although you are not sufficient for His calling on your life, is He?
  6. In the same way that the Moses veiled his face, Israel has a veil over their face, and cannot see how the OT scriptures prophesy of Jesus. Read 1Cor 2:12-16. When you read your bible do you ask for understanding from God? Make a habit of it!
  7. Look at verse 18. As we spend time looking upon, studying, and getting to know Jesus, what happens to us?

Old Testament:
Job 23- Where Are You?
Job 24- Still Thirsty?

Fragrance Of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:15-16
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

As a child I spent a great deal of time, perhaps a little too much, watching cartoons. I remember seeing, on more than one occasion, a scene where a character smelled the fragrance of a home-baked pie. The smell would lift him in the air and carry him to the window sill of the farmer’s house where the delicacy sat. Regardless of the danger posed by the farmer, he would attempt to steal the pie. While I am quite certain Paul did not see the same cartoon, he is reminding the Corinthians of the effect their lives can have of drawing others to Christ. He refers to our lives as being like a fragrant aroma that will lead other people to Jesus. Notice he refers to us as being two different aromas, to two different groups of people. If we follow his word order, he seems to be suggesting, to the Christian, the one who is being saved, we are the smell of death, while to the unsaved, we are the smell of life.

Jesus spoke of abundant life being a byproduct of a relationship with Him. He spoke of torrents of living water, and of bearing the fruit of the Spirit. All of this flows from the life of the Christian who is abiding in Christ. Not only providing the Christian with abundant life, but it is also designed to lure others to Jesus. The more time you spend growing in your relationship with Jesus, the greater effect you will have in leading others to Christ.

Paul also spoke of the fragrance of death. Death has at least two smells. One is the rotting smell of decay, a horrendous smell. The other is the fragrant smell that comes off the grill. In Old Testament times, the children of Israel were required to offer multiple sacrifices to the Lord. Part of the purpose, was to offer a sweet aroma to the Lord. The smell of burning flesh is a sweet aroma in heaven and a wonderful smell on earth. Have you ever been driving home, smelled someone grilling, and hoped that the smell was coming from your house?

Paul mentioned being led in triumph by the Lord. The idea is not only that of God leading him into victory, but Christ having victory over Paul. In ancient times, when a general was conquered, he would be laid at the feet of his conqueror, who would put his foot on his neck. We will have the greatest effect on others when Christ has conquered us. When we choose, like Paul, to lay our lives down and pick up Christ, a sweet aroma will fill the air and lead others to do the same. How often have you heard the testimony of another Christian, who speaks of putting aside sin and self, to live for Christ and others, and you were encouraged to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus? That is the fragrance of death leading to death.

Paul wrote that he dies daily, and always carries about in his body, the dying of Christ. He said he was crucified with Christ, and now lives for Christ. If we want to have an increased impact on others for the kingdom of heaven, it is time that we surrender all to Christ, and abide in Him.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 2 Corinthians 2

  1. In verses 1-3 Paul gives some great principles on relationship and conflict. The Corinthian church was plagued by problems. They were a very “fleshy” church; they often didn’t act like Jesus. Because Paul loved them, at times he had to correct them, both by letter and face to face. It’s almost never a comfortable thing to correct someone.
    A. In verse 1 Paul says that he has made up his mind not to come to them “in sorrow”. In other words, having said his peace to them, he gave them space and time to change. Do you have any broken relationships? Have you said what the Lord would have you say to that person? If you have, ask God for patience with those people, and give God room and space to work.
    B. In verse 2, Paul indicates that although he loves them very much and would be very happy to see them; at this time they would not be happy to see him. Sometimes in our relationships we have such affection for a person that we push things too much. We care more about how they make us feel, than about the person. Take some time to assess your most important relationships. Ask God to help you to want what is best for them, and not simply what you get from them or want for them.
    C. Verse 3 sums up the reason for these things. Relationships are about joy! Read Matthew 22:36-39. When you put the welfare of others first, how does that affect your relationship with them? Ask God to fill you with His Spirit when you spend time with loved ones. As He does you can be a joy and a blessing to be around, and God can use you to heal those broken relationships.
  2. Read verse 4. Paul had to speak some very hard words to the Corinthians in his last letter to them. What was his motivation for speaking this way to them? What was not his motivation? When you deliver difficult counsel to someone, do you make sure to communicate that you love them?
  3. As we look at broken relationships, it is valuable for us to take time to thank God for all that He has done and continues to do to heal the brokenness in our relationship with Him. What has God done to keep our relationship with Him joyous?
  4. In verses 5-8 Paul speaks to them of the man who needed to be corrected in his first letter (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-7). Note verses 7 and 8. What should we consider after we have rebuked or corrected someone?
  5. Look at verses 10-11. Forgiveness is central to the Christian life. We are a forgiven people, because of a forgiving God, and so we should be forgiving. Read Matthew 18:21-35. When we are not forgiving, how does that leave an open door for Satan to do damage in our lives?
  6. Paul had no rest in his spirit in the ministry in Troas, despite an open door from the Lord. Something was missing, and he moved on to Macedonia. This looked like a failure, but notice Paul’s comments in verse 14. Does Paul sound defeated? What caused him to have the attitude that he had?
  7. We have a fragrance that comes off of our lives. As Christians, we want people to sense Jesus in us. However, although He is beautiful to us, to the unrepentant He is not. Are people clear about who Jesus is when they spend time with you? Do they know more about Him when they are around you?

Old Testament:
Job 21- What’s In It For Me?
Job 22- Participate

You’re Not Alone

2 Corinthians 1:8
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”

Sometimes, it is comforting to know we are not the only ones to face difficulty. Paul was a godly man involved in the business of the Kingdom, yet he found himself face to face with trials that caused him to despair. Fortunately, Paul walked through those trials and came out the other side with insight to help each of us. He points out three things which should guide us through our difficult days.

First, he speaks of the comfort that comes from the Lord. One of my favorite titles for God is found in this chapter. He is called, “The Father of mercy and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Paul went on to describe the mercy of God, explaining it is both sufficient and abundant. He declared, no matter what we might be facing, God has comfort available for us, and this comfort is so great we will be able to pass it on to others who are in the midst of their own trying times.

Second, Paul speaks of the confidence he had in the midst of his trials. He speaks of trusting the Lord, because He is the one who raises the dead. This reminds me of Abraham who was willing to offer Isaac, because he believed God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19), No matter what we are facing, if we face it with confidence in God and His word, we are trusting the One who can do the impossible.

Third, Paul explains, he did not walk this road alone, but was accompanied by the prayers of the saints. Often, when a friend is facing difficulty, we feel like there is something we should do, but we don’t know what it is. We do not have the financial resources to fix their problems, or the strength to lift them from their despair. Instead of feeling helpless, we should come alongside them in prayer. When Paul was released from his Roman imprisonment, he attributed it to the prayers of the saints coming alongside the work of the Spirit.

Finally, Paul speaks of having conducted himself with godly sincerity. In other words, he lived righteously through his trials. Instead of using the difficulty as an opportunity to compromise his walk with God, he chose to set a standard for others to follow. Too often, we allow difficult circumstances to give us excuse to sin. We complain, backbite, murmur, wander, or even indulge in vice, thinking our hardship gives us license. Paul chose to trust in and walk with Christ through his trial, and come out the other end as a shining example.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 2 Corinthians 1

  1. In verse 3, Paul refers to God as the “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort”. The Greek word translated “mercies” indicates compassion from deep in His heart. The word translated as “comfort” could also be translated as consolation, solace, encouragement, or refreshment. God comforts us because of his compassion. What are some of the ways that God has comforted you? Take time to thank Him for His compassion towards you.
  2. Read verses 4-7. In addition to comforting us simply to help us, God comforts us that we can be a comfort to others. As you think about the ways that God has worked in your life, ask God to help you see how He might want to use you to minister to others in the same way.
  3. Paul tells in verses 8-10 of a tremendously difficult time that he and his companions went through while in Asia. They were “burdened”, “despaired of life”, and had the “sentence of death” upon them. But notice the reason for this in the middle of verse 9, “that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead”. When we face seemingly impossible situations, God designs these as opportunities to trust Him in a greater way. What difficulties is God bringing you through now? Are you taking advantage of the opportunity to trust Him in it?
  4. Paul speaks of his “boast”: that he lived in “simplicity and godly sincerity”, not according to his own power and resource but by the grace of God. Essentially, this means that Paul lifted a life that was an open book and had no hypocrisy. His only agenda was Jesus.   Have you ever lived this way? If not, what is holding you back? If you once did, but are not now, what have you allowed to creep in to get in the way? No matter where you’re at, ask Jesus for help to live like Paul!
  5. Read verses 15-18. The Corinthians are accusing Paul of not being a man of his word. However, Paul wasn’t saying yes and then changing it to a no. He was just noncommittal until he was sure it was the Lord. Read Matt 5:33-37. Do you keep your promises? Do you stick to your yes’s and no’s? Do you count the cost before you make commitments?
  6. The reason it is important for us to be trustworthy when we say we do something is found in verses 19-20. What is God’s character when He makes promises?
  7. We are told that the Holy Spirit is in our hearts as a guarantee. The word for guarantee means “money which in purchases is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid”. In other words, the fact that the Spirit lives in us, is a proof that Jesus will finish the work in us and take us home. Read Phil 1:6. How does this truth minister to you?
  8. In verse 24 Paul speaks of not having dominion over (being the boss of) the Corinthians. Rather he says that he is a “fellow worker”, a Greek word that we get our word “synergy” from. Synergy means multiple forces working as one. What part do you play in the work of the kingdom of heaven? Do you have your eyes on the prize: seeing people come to know God and to grow in their relationship with Him?

Old Testament:
Job 19- Hope
Job 20- Repeat

Come In

1 Corinthians 16:9
“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

As Paul comes to the conclusion of this letter, he writes to his friends in Corinth about his future plans. Notice, his plans all centered around serving the Lord and bringing the Gospel to others. He mentions a number of places that he will be traveling, including Ephesus, where he has “an open door.” This is a common phrase, both in our vernacular, and in the New Testament writings. We understand it to mean a way in, and use it with a wide variety of applications. We may refer to an open door for a new job, new house, or even a new relationship. When the term is used in the New Testament, it is restricted to speaking of opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul explained this clearly when writing to the Colossians,

“. . . meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3-4

The term “open” is used throughout the New Testament to refer to things that were closed until the Lord opened them. We read of eyes, ears, and graves being opened. We also read of the heavens being opened, and even the sealed scroll in Revelation was opened by the Lord. When Paul speaks of an open door in Ephesus, he is referring to an opportunity to minister where there was none before. Ministry is like that. There are people in your life who you have attempted to reach out to, and been rejected, but as you continue to walk with Jesus and pray for them, the Lord will open up a future opportunity to reach out to them.

One of the difficulties we face, is how to recognize when we have an open door. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas began their missionary campaigns. As we read the accounts, it was clear they had a wide open door to bring the Gospel to their world. Thousands of people were won to Christ, and dozens of churches were planted throughout Asia Minor and Europe.

But, how did they know it was the Lord who was sending them out? Two key elements in determining the will of God are revealed in their story. First, we are told, while they prayed and fasted, the Lord spoke to them. If we want to see doors open to minister to others, we need to seek the Lord. Jesus told us to ask, seek and knock. Perhaps now would be a good time to revisit your prayer list and add praying for an open door to share Christ with family and friends.

Second, Luke records, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went” (Acts 13:4). Once they heard from the Lord, once they recognized they might have an open door, they began to walk through it. The only way to be sure we have an open door into someone’s life to bring them to Jesus, is to take steps in that direction. Make a call, text, email, tweet, IM or meet them face-to-face and simply invite them to come with you to church. Or meet for coffee and share the great things that the Lord has done for you.

Keep in mind that with an open door comes adversity, but the difficulties are more than worth the treasure of seeing our friends come to Christ.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 16

  1. Verse 13 states….Watch! After studying 1 Corinthians, what are you watching for?
  2. Stand fast in the faith! An old wise man once said: “If you stand for nothing, you will probably fall for anything.” Do you know what you are standing for?
  3. Be brave, be strong! Knowing how much God loves you is the best foundation for your strength and confidence. Read Acts 28:30-31
  4. Verse 14, review 1 Corinthians 13. Let all that you do………………be done with love!

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

Old Testament:
Job 17- Broken
Job 18- A Trap

What Happened Next?

1 Corinthians 15:20
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

When I was sixteen years old, driving to my first part-time job, a wild thought entered my mind. I thought, “I wonder what happens after we die?” I realized later I was grappling with one of the deepest philosophical questions man has ever attempted to answer, but at that time I had never considered anything like it before. As quickly as the question entered my mind, I came up with an answer, “When we die we go to heaven.” This was followed by the question, “What is heaven?” To which I answered, “Heaven is getting to do whatever you want for all of time.” I then asked a third question, “Who goes to heaven?” To which I replied,”Those who are good.” This of course brought me to a final question, “Who is good?” My final answer was a little more difficult to develop, but there on the way to work, I determined that I was good and anyone who lived up to my standard was also good and would be allowed into my heaven. In the few minutes that it took, I had asked and answered the most important questions that a person will ever be asked. I had also completely satisfied myself with my answers. Had anyone asked me what happens after we die, I would have spoken with authority, explaining the way to heaven and the purpose of life. As you can see, there was one obvious problem; it was all a product of my own imagination! My way of living, my heaven, even my god, were the product of my own imagination.

Philosophers have been grappling with these same questions since the beginning of time. Some have come up with very elaborate systems to explain what they think happens after death. The problem with all of these systems is the same, they are the product of the imagination of man. No one has died, gone to heaven, and come back to explain who God is, what heaven is like, and how to live in preparation for that time. No one, that is, except Jesus Christ. When speaking to a man named Nicodemus, Jesus explained that “no one has ascended to heaven except He who came down from heaven.” In other words, the only way to answer these questions is to listen to the One who came from heaven to prepare man for life after death.

According to the Word of God, the person who believes they are a sinner and Christ is the Savior, is prepared for life after death. That person will take a final breath in their earthly body and awake in the presence of the Lord, in a body prepared for eternity. Scripture refers to this as “the Resurrection”. The basis for our confidence in our future resurrection is the fact that Christ rose from the dead. How can we be certain that Christ rose from the dead? There are many avenues we could venture down to answer this question, not the least of which is to look at the lives of those who have trusted Christ and see how they have been transformed by Him.

Rather than imagining what we think life is about, or what happens after death, perhaps it would be better to listen to the One who knows. Take a few minutes to read through 1 Corinthians 15 in your Bible, paying special attention to the first few verse where Paul explains how we prepare for life after death.

If you have any questions contact me, I would love to help any way I can.
jg@ccvb.net
Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 15

  1. After all the discussion of gifts, Paul comes back to the foundation: the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the message that was declared to the Corinthians, and it is the message that they believed in. Two main parts to the gospel message: 1) Jesus died for our sin. 2) Jesus rose again. Read Isa 53:11. What does Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin mean for your life? Read Romans 6:4 and 6:13. What does his resurrection mean for your life?
  2. In verse 3 and 4 we are told that the things that happened to Jesus happened according to the Scriptures. That is to say that they were prophesied long before Jesus was born in the Old Testament. How does knowing that Jesus death and resurrection were accurately foretold hundreds of years before he was born help to validate the truth and reliability of the gospel message? The Bible is prophetically accurate.
  3. Paul also states in verses 5-8 the many witnesses that confirmed the resurrection of Christ. How does the historical confirmation of many eyewitnesses increase your confidence in the message? The Bible is historically accurate.
  4. In verse 8-10 we get a glimpse of Paul’s sense of unworthiness of being used by God. However he did not let this stop him from being used. What was Paul’s qualification for ministry?
  5. Some in the church were saying that there was no resurrection, despite being taught that there was. The resurrection is, not an afterthought or a side issue. It is one of the central points of the Gospel of Jesus. Look at verses 12-19. Especially consider verse 19. What if there is no such thing as resurrection?
  6. Read verses 20-28, we are reminded that there is a future after this life, and that it is much bigger than us. Is this future a regular part of your day to day thinking?
  7. How do verses 31-34 speak to you?
  8. In verses 35-53 we learn some truths about the new or glorified bodies that we will have when we are resurrected and go to heaven. Just as we took on the nature of Adam (sin, corruption and death), so we will take on the nature of Jesus (holiness, incorruptible, immortal). Take time to thank God for this; imagine what it will be like to live that way!
  9. In verses 54-58, Paul sums up the reality of the resurrection for us. Look at verse 58. In light of the resurrection, how should we live? Is God speaking to you about any particular way He wants to change how you live?

Old Testament:
Job 15- Self Examination
Job 16- He Loves Me

The Church’s Got Talent

1 Corinthians 14:29
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”

Confusion broke out in the Corinthian church. Instead of meeting for the worship of God and the study of His word, the church had become a place for people to show off their spiritual gifts. Those with the gift of tongues saw the meetings as a time to speak or even sing in tongues. They thought the church existed to hear them sing. Others had the gift of prophecy, or at least they thought they did. To them the church existed as a place to share the things they thought were most relevant for the people to hear. I can imagine what the scene must have been like as the church gathered, opened in prayer, and then one by one, each louder than the last, the people began to share their thoughts and sing their songs. To the onlooker, it must have appeared to be a Christian version of “America’s Got Talent.”

Paul writes to correct their behavior and bring the fellowship back to something that honors God and impacts the community. In order to accomplish this, he reminds them of a responsibility that each Christian bears. He writes, “… let the others judge.” The standard of judgment that must lead the Christian, and shape the church, is the written Word of God. Paul is exhorting them not to accept everything done in the name of Jesus, as being from Jesus. This is a critical principle with much application, not the least of which has to do with the daily function of the local church. Scripture informs us, the purpose of the church is to glorify God, preach the Gospel, make disciples, and train up the next generation of leaders. To that end, the church is to teach the Word of God and provide an atmosphere where people can worship, pray, and develop godly relationships. Paul put it like this,

Ephesians 4:12-13 “. . . for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

We should view the church as a place where we are fed, instructed, built up, and equipped, in order that we might go out into the world, impacting our circle of influence for the Kingdom of Heaven. Sadly, today, many see the church as the Corinthians did. They think the church exists solely as a place where they can exercise their gifts, and when they are not allowed to, they become frustrated with the leadership and complain to others. In many cases, they leave their church and go to another one that will let them perform. While gifts are necessary for the church to function properly, the gifts are not given so we can showcase our talents. If you are not getting to do what you want at your church, don’t behave Corinthian. Instead, look at the fact that God may want to use you in a totally different way than He has in the past. Come to the fellowship looking to be built up and equipped for service, then ask God to set before you an open door to impact others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Who knows, God may even want to use you in the children’s ministry…

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 14

  1. After teaching on love in chapter 13, Paul exhorts us to pursue it, “to seek after eagerly”. Are you pursuing a love for God and others? Is it a driving priority for you to see love worked out in your life?
  2. We are also told to desire spiritual gifts. Do you feel this way about spiritual gifts in your life? Do you have a desire to see God work through your life and to equip you for that work with all the gifting He would give?
  3. As Paul exhorts us to desire spiritual gifts, he then goes on to teach that not all gifts are equal. Prophesying (biblically speaking), means to speak for God. This can be predictive (the sense that we often think of prophecy in our culture), or prescriptive, a word from God (instruction, encouragement, exhortation, see verse 3). He clearly puts this at the top of the list of spiritual gifts. Read verses 4-5. Why is prophecy so important?
  4. Read verses 2, 4. Speaking in tongues is a prayer language to God, and is personally edifying to the one who is using the gift. Speaking in tongues is one of the more dramatic, sensational, and unusual gifts. Yet its value is extremely limited. Read 6-11. List some of the limitations of this gift.
  5. Look at verse 12. What is the guiding principle here concerning the use of spiritual gifts?
  6. Read verses 13-20. Paul establishes that understanding is to take priority over ignorance. Did Paul speak in tongues? How often do his letters draw attention to this? When he ministered to others what was his priority
  7. The rest of the chapter is summed up by the idea in verses 39-40. Let all things be done decently and in order. All things are to be done, but not all in a public setting, and none in a way that is disorderly, chaotic, or that draws attention away from Jesus.
    1. Verses 21-25 speak of how gifts are a “sign” that points to God. Is this your focus when you seek to use your gifts?
    2. Verses 26-35 establish some guidelines for the church to function in a way that is orderly and not confusing. Have you ever been in a church service and been distracted by something out of order? How did that affect you receiving from God during that bible study?
  8. There are some pretty plain guidelines in this chapter concerning spiritual gifts and their use. But if a person will not receive the instruction, what is Paul’s position concerning them in verse 38?

Old Testament:
Job 13- Check Your Sources 
Job 14- YOLO?

Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love suffers long and is kind

Love does not envy

Love does not parade itself

Love is not puffed up

Love does not behave rudely

Love does not seek its own

Love is not provoked

Love thinks no evil

Love does not rejoice in iniquity

Love rejoices in the truth

Love bears all things

Love believes all things

Love hopes all things

Love endures all things

Love never fails.”

Rather than looking for others to love us like that, let’s express the love of Jesus by showing this love to our family, our friends, and our world.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 13

  1. At the end of chapter 12 (which was all about the gifts of the Spirit), Paul tells the Corinthians that he is going to show them a better way to live than being focused on the gifts God gives (as awesome as they may be). As you quickly read through this chapter, what is that “more excellent way”?
  2. In verses 1-3, Paul shows how limited the gifts are when there is no love behind them. Speaking in tongues is a major concern in some churches (and Paul will address this more in chapter 14), but according to verse 1, what does this good gift resemble when there is no love behind it?
    1. People, even unbelievers, tend to put a great emphasis on knowledge.   Among believers, having great faith is also admired (Matt 21:21).   If I have both of these good gifts in my life but I don’t have a love for God and others, what am I?
    2. The most dramatic and impressive acts of selflessness, are giving of our material possessions and even our material body. Yet Paul says that our motives for doing so are not always love. What are some of the other motivations that we can have for doing things like this? What profit do we gain from doing these things when love for God and others is not our motive?
  3. Take a look at verses 4-7.
    1. Make a list of all the ways that love acts.
    2. 1John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Read these verses again, but substitute the word “love” with “God”. Aren’t you glad that He is this way!
    3. Now substitute your own name. Where do you feel you are falling short in living a life that demonstrates God’s love and character? How would living this way transform your personal relationships? Read Rom 5:5 and ask God to do this for you.
  4. In verses 8-10, we see some of the limitations of the gifts. What are they? Why is love superior to the gifts?
  5. Read verse 10-13. There is a time coming when we will see God face to face. He will not be impressed by our gifts; after all, He is the one who gave them! He will however respond to a heart that loves Him and loves others. This is all that matters. Spend some time this morning, and ask God to make love the top priority in your life.

 

Old Testament:
Job 11- More Or Less
Job 12- In His Hands

Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

Natural gifts, while given by God, are quite different from Spiritual gifts. If you have been given athletic, scholastic, or artistic gifts, you should use those for the glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom. However, spiritual gifts are an entirely different subject. Paul writes concerning the supernatural enabling God gives to the believer, for the furtherance of the Gospel, and the growth of the church. There is a great variety of these gifts, but they all serve the purpose of equipping the church to more effectively reach the world for the Christ. Before listing these gifts, Paul gives a few principles for how they work.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

The word ‘diversity’ speaks of variety and reminds us that many different gifts are required for the church to function properly. Like setting up the Tabernacle in Old Testament times, the church functions properly when many gifts are in operation at the same time. Those with the gift of helps serve quietly behind the scenes, preparing the church for the people to arrive. They often stand in the back providing sound, video, worship screens, live streaming, etc. At the same time, those with the gift of hospitality greet people as they arrive, helping visitors find their place, and providing an element where fellowship is most conducive. The times of fellowship provide a way for Christians to exercise spiritual gifts and minister to each other. In those brief encounters over coffee and a snack, God often gives a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge that will help a Christian outgrow a particular sin, or be encouraged through a trying time. From the stage, spiritual gifts are essential. The worship team needs the gift of prophecy, so the heart of God is revealed to the people as they bring high praises to God and prepare themselves for the teaching of the Word. The pastor is perhaps the most dependent upon the gifts. If he is to effectively communicate God’s Word, he will need both the gift of teaching and evangelism. Fortunately, Paul reminds us, while there is much ministry, there are also many gifts.

“There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.”

Just as there are many gifts, so there are a variety of places to exercise those gifts. At our church, while the worship band is playing in the sanctuary, the youth band is leading worship, and the children’s ministers are leading in song. Three different ministries all in need of similar spiritual gifts. In the same way, as the pastor presents the Gospel on Sunday morning, the people are sharing it throughout the week. Just as he needs the gift of evangelism to preach on Sunday, the people need the gift in the break room, at the park, or on the phone with a friend or relative. The same gift is provided in a variety of ministry opportunities, all of which are of equal importance. Rather than complaining that we don’t get to do something we want at the church, let’s look for ways to be used by God throughout the week. Reading through the book of Acts, you will notice most of the Spiritual gifts were in operation out in the world, not behind the closed doors of the church building.

And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

The term ‘activities’ comes from a word that means energy. Paul explains, the same gift may be given to two different people at two different levels. Certainly, every pastor must have the gift of teaching, but not all have the same teaching gift. The same is true of all the gifts. None would question that Billy Graham has the gift of evangelism, nor would any who know Ron Keenan (one of the two men who led me to the Lord), question he has the same gift. But it is also clear, they have the gift at different levels. Ron, gifted for the ministry he has been called to, living within his community and within his circle of influence, and Billy Graham for his ministry of bringing the Gospel message to millions.

I think the right response to Paul’s instruction is to pray. We should pray for more gifts, more ministry, and a greater energy of those gifts, in order to more effectively minister to others, and further the Kingdom of God. As a pastor, I would certainly appreciate others joining me in praying that prayer for myself, and for all those who attend our fellowship.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 12

  1. Verses 4-6 state that there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit, different ministries but the same Lord, diversities of activities but the same God who works all in all. Do you find yourself trying to be like or do something in the same way as someone else? Ask God today, to show you what He wants to do in your life.
  2. Verse 12 tells us that we are one body with many members. What member of the body has God called you to be?
  3. Verse 13 says for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. Read Acts 10:34-35. How can this truth affect how we treat others?
  4. Verses 24-26 give us instruction of how we are to treat others in the body of Christ. The next time you are with the body of believers look and find your place to minister to one another. God made each of us unique and placed us in His body. Remember, God put us there for His purpose. Read Psalm 139:16. God does have a plan and purpose for your life! Are you embracing it? Allow the joy of God’s gifting and peace to have its place in your heart today! Verse 31….”and yet I show you a more excellent way!”

Old Testament:
Job 9- In Between
Job 10- Complaints

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:22
“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…”

Paul is addressing one of the most important practices of the church and the individual. He will instruct them regarding partaking in communion. Rather than seeing this ordinance as a necessary, and even holy part of their church life, the Corinthian Christians had turned it into a way to honor the wealthy, thus neglecting the poor. It was a common practice in the early church to feast together before communion. In Corinth, they invited the wealthy to eat first and only after they had their fill did the poor get in line. In some cases, the food was gone and the rich were drunk. Suffice it to say, this was not an acceptable practice. Paul is writing to correct their behavior and to instill within them a proper understanding of communion.

“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…”

First, Paul points out that coming to the communion table is different from coming to the dinner table. We must come looking for and expecting something different from when we gather to eat. The expectation is we are meeting with Jesus. Communion was not designed as a religious ritual, but as a means of experiencing fellowship with Christ. The last supper, when this ordinance was established, was a very intimate time. The disciples gathered around the table with Jesus as He spoke with them, and it was at that time, John laid his head in Jesus’ lap. Communion is primarily a time to draw near to Christ. It is through the cross we have access to the Throne of Grace, where we meet with God.

“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Second, communion is a time of reflection. Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” The word remember carries the idea of bringing thoughts together or recollecting. Throughout the day we have scattered thoughts about Jesus. Our time with Him is interrupted by responsibility or distraction, but at the communion table we bring our thoughts into the captivity of Christ, and we focus upon what he has done for us. There are five points that we are encouraged to focus upon. First, we should look in. Paul encourages us to examine ourselves. There, with the cross in view, we look at our life to see if our practices are acceptable to God. It is important that this be done in the shadow of the cross, so we do not leave condemned, but forgiven. Are there practices in your life that need to be set aside in light of Christ? Second, we should look back. Communion affords us the opportunity to examine the cross and reflect upon Christ’s great sacrifice. When we see the brutality of the cross, we can then begin to understand the depths of His love. Each time the whip strikes His back, or the nails are driven, it is a reflection of Heaven’s love. Third, we must look up. The cross is not the end, but rather the doorway to heaven’s throne. It is through the cross, we have access to God. We are encouraged to come boldly to the Throne of Grace, where, in daily fellowship, we can receive pardon for sin, and grace to continue on in Christ. We have not only been saved from sin, we are also saved to Christ. We should be experiencing His life flowing into ours. This happens as we access the Throne of Grace. Fourth, we must look forward. Paul spoke of us “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes.” The great hope of the believer is that Jesus rose from the dead and will return one day for His church. He calls us His bride, and the marriage supper of the Lamb awaits the child of God. Communion should ever remind us, and prepare us, for the return of Jesus. Finally, we should look out. Again, Paul wrote that with communion we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Communion is the Gospel. Jesus bled and died to save sinners, any and all who receive Him will be forgiven. While communion is a practice for the Christian, it is done in a way to illustrate our need for a savior and to draw men to Christ. The broken bread reminds us of what our sin did to Christ, the cup reminds us of what His blood does for us.

Whenever your church partakes of communion, you should make it a habit to be there, and to bring your unsaved friends.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Corinthians 11

  1. Paul says to imitate him just as he imitates Christ. There are other places that we are told to imitate Christ directly, but the reality remains that the witness of our lives can be a powerful help to showing others what Jesus is like, and how to live for Him. Whose lives are you influencing? Are you living your life in a way that you can say the same thing Paul said here?
  2. In verse 2 and 3 Paul deals with the issue of God’s order, and the authority within that order. In the same way that the Father and the Son were equal but the son was under the authority of the Father, so husbands and wives. What are the benefits of having a clear head of house? What happens when the flesh affects how a person leads? Read Matt 20:20-28 to see how Jesus told us leadership should work.
  3. In verses 4-10, Paul talks about “head coverings”, which were a cultural symbol of being under authority. In essence Paul was saying to live their lives in a way outwardly that showed that inwardly you agreed with and were in line with God’s established order and authority. Are you living in a way that shows people within your culture that you agree with God’s ways?
  4. Although there are differences between men women, we are still equal. Consider verse 11 and 12. In what ways do these verses put us on equal footing?
  5. Verse 13-16 essentially makes a plea to the believer to consider our culture and our witness to it; and to live honoring God in a way that our culture can understand (acknowledging that in some ways we can never please them). Look at verse 16. Does God have a rule that women must wear a head covering? Is it worth fighting over?
  6. In verse 17-19, what is happening when the Corinthians meet together? What bad motivations are driving this? Read Phil 2:1-11 for an antidote to this.
  7. What is happening when the Corinthians take communion together (20-22)? According to Jesus how should we take communion? (He repeats this in verse 24 and 25) Why is this so important (verse 26)?
  8. Paul tells us that we should never take communion in an unworthy manner. This does not mean that we have to be living perfect lives to take communion (Read 1John 1:8-2:1). The rest of the chapter tells us how to take communion in a worthy manner. What things should we do?

 

Old Testament:
Job 7- What Are Words For?
Job 8- Look Back