Think McFly, think.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

Think McFly, think.
Paul’s not to amused by the Corinthians today.  He actually seems a little peeved.  When you open up a section calling people a bunch of babies, the rest probably isn’t going to go that well.  And while the verse I choose today has some profound meaning, the tone of this entire section is what really gets me.  Paul’s got to be frustrated at the lack of these people “getting it.”  It reminds me of an interaction between Biff and Marty McFly in Back to the Future.  Watch this:

Hello? Hello?  Think Corinthians, think. So Paul is giving some correction and instruction to these guys and hoping that they will get the hint he wants them to make some changes. The one that jumped out of me was verse 16: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? Don’t you guys know that? Isn’t this what I have been teaching, that Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to live in you?

Yet somehow we think that God is fills a building. We think we have to go somewhere to find Him. If we could just get ourselves inside the temple, God will be there. Well Paul has got news for you – you are the temple. God choose to dwell in man, not in a building. Don’t get me wrong, God can and is present in the church – at least we hope so. After all, it is a good place to grow, learn, laugh, cry, and share life. But the presence of God is also in you. Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to dwell IN us and Jesus is no liar. He did it.

I really think the Corinthians already knew this, which leads to Paul’s frustration. Because if you know that the Holy Spirit lives in you, why does your life look like He doesn’t? That’s what Paul wants to know. It’s the heart of this chapter really. Paul’s not just some cranky apostle with unrealistic expectations. He simply wants to know how you can understand you are the temple of God, the dwelling place of God, and live a life that appears to be devoid of Him.

I wonder what Paul would say to us. We know that we are the temple of God. We know that the Holy Spirit lives in us. I just hope Paul wouldn’t have to call us a bunch of babies… ’cause I might just have to sit down and cry about that.

I did that on purpose

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

I did that on purpose

I think it’s funny when someone trips and then tries to make it seem like they did it on purpose.  You have probably seen it too.  It happens very fast so you have to watch closely.  First the shoe catches on something causing it’s victim to stagger and almost fall.  But the too-cool-for-words dude tries to play it off like it was part of some funky limp walk.  It goes like this: trip, catch balance, dip, walk, sway, dip, walk.  It’s a cool new strut!  And just in case anyone was looking – I did that on purpose!

Unfortunately, I think I have done that.  Paul might have done it too, except in the more spiritual sense.  When I was reading this today, I had to wonder – did Paul really preach a weak, fearful, unpersuasive and pretty much lame sermon on purpose?  Would he really have dumbed down a message so much that people thought he was really dumb?  Did he trip and say, “I did that on purpose?”  I don’t think I will ever know.  Maybe it was that when he came to them the first time he just wasn’t that great at teaching yet.  Maybe he has learned alot since then.  By the time he wrote this letter, he had figured some things out.  Who knows?  But he claims he did it on purpose, so I guess I will just have to believe him.

Don’t get me wrong, the sermon was effective; it worked.  The reason it worked was because Paul was full of the Holy Spirit and God’s power came through (see yesterday’s blog).   Whether Paul totally stunk it up at the pulpit or he dumbed it down on purpose, it worked.  It doesn’t matter really, I guess.  The whole point is that Paul let the Holy Spirit be the one to do the talking.  This man, a man full of intelligent ramblings, a man who has written some of the deepest theological thoughts of all time, tripped on purpose.  And he did it so that people would not believe the man, but believe by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The power of God was present in his conversations and his sermons.  The power of God came through because he got himself out of the way and let God shine through.

Many of us don’t have the liberty of pretending we aren’t that smart in order that the Holy Spirit takes the lead.  No, we don’t have to pretend at all; we just aren’t that smart.  But whether we trip on purpose or not, we have the same ability that Paul had to let the power of God take the lead in our lives.  If we could just get us and our words out of the way and let Him take the lead, we would be more effective leading others to him.  I think Paul had his approach dialed in quite well.  You see, it is not a persuasive intellectual presentation that draws people to God – it is the Spirit and power of God that does that.  If we are willing to be used by Him in such a way that we get out of the way, the results will be staggering.

Foolishness or Power?

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Foolishness or Power?

I have read this verse many times.  It’s application to me has always been about telling the difference between two groups of people: the unsaved and the saved.  However, as I read this today, it struck me in a different way.  It struck me in a more, well, grammatical way.  Bear with me.  The subject of this verse is not the people; it is the message of the cross.  Well, technically “of the cross” is a prepositional phrase so the message would be the subject.  Right now I am cringing at the potential of English instructors reading this and me being wrong, but I think I am mostly correct.  Oh boy, I am quickly losing the point here.

The message.  It is something and it leads to something.  It is either foolishness or power.  It was never intended to be an idea.  It was never intended to be theology.  It was never intended to be spiritualism.  It was intended to be power – that is what should be produced from the message of the cross.  Power.   And it leads to something.  If it is considered foolishness, it leads to death (perishing is a nice way of saying dying).  It if is power, it leads to being saved. And not just a rescue.  Think of this word saved like the word preservative.  A preservative doesn’t just keep food from spoiling today, it is in an ongoing state of keeping the food from being spoiled.

So it’s either one thing or the other.  Either the message of the cross is foolishness to you and you are perishing or it is power to you and you are being saved.  There isn’t much middle ground.  In fact, this is a theme throughout scripture that following Christ is pretty much an “all in” kind of decision.  And when you make that decision, there should be a power of God accompanying it.  It’s a hard pill to swallow really.  So there are questions to be asked:  Am I on the fence?  Do I think some of what God expects is just foolish?  Do I see the power of God present in my life?   They are good questions to ask though because they will bring us to a place where Christ becomes real in us and the power of God will be ever present in our lives!

You need this

Romans 16:17-18 17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

You need this

Many of us have had it happen to us.  We have fallen prey to the smooth talker.  Whether we got talked into attending an event or purchasing something we didn’t really need, it happens.  They flatter you and tell you how perfect this product is for someone as amazing as you.  You need it and it needs you.  Behind all that flattery is an agenda, and that agenda usually serves the one whose mouth it is spewing from.

Believe it or not, it happens in the church.  Although the sales pitch is probably a bit different.  It usually starts with dissatisfaction and results in division.  Paul writes here that those who are causing divisions aren’t out for the benefit of all, but for their own appetites.  They are hungry for something, whether it is control or just making church the way they like it.  It could even be wanting to see something happen that God has put on their heart.  But when it is fleshed out in the form of division, it’s no good.

In this passage, Paul is essentially calling those people out who are intentionally messing things up for their own selfish gain.  But I think that division doesn’t always have to come out of evil intentions.  Sometimes, we just have a different style or approach to a situation.  Sometimes we so desperately want God to do this or that and we rally others around our cause.  The next thing you know, people are divided.  People start talking and ain’t nobody happy.  The cry of your heart may have simply been for God to move in a certain way and it resulted in division.

No matter which way you slice it, Paul says there isn’t room for division in the church.  His focus in the last couple chapters has been on unity in spirit.  He wants the Body of Christ to be built up.  And I think it is perfectly normal for the foot and the hand to see things differently.  But they can still figure out how to work together.  God can lay things on our heart that we can see walked out without causing division.  Even if our intentions may be good, the root probably has something to do with our own appetite.  So what do we do then?  I think we check our heart.  We walk out what God has called us to with grace.  We don’t pit people against each other.  We cease from murmuring and complaining.  We let God figure out how to put all the pieces together and we trust that He will in His timing.

I Tolerate You

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

I Tolerate You

There are words that every woman longs to hear.  They are the words that melt her heart and give her a sense of security and belonging.  They are the words: “I Tolerate You”.  (Insert record scratch here)  Wait a minute, I mean “I Love You.”  Those words are the bedrock of a marriage relationship.  They are the foundation of a parent-child relationship.  These words communicate the special place that you have in my heart.  But what if those words aren’t lived out in action? What happens if what you truly communicate is, “I Tolerate You?”

There was so much to write about today in Romans 15,  but when I saw verse 7, it begged to be written on as a follow up to yesterday’s blog.  Yesterday was all about the need to focus on our relationship with God rather than judging someone else.  And while that is important, I don’t think it goes far enough to just “not judge.”  We are called to more than “not sinning,” we are called to “walk in righteousness.”  Being a Christian should be less about what we shouldn’t do and more about what we should do.  In other words, let’s focus more on activating the positive than suppressing the negative.

Not judging someone is simply a first step.  Paul writes in Romans 15:7 that we should Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. This word “accept” is the greek word, well… it’s a really long greek word. And it means a lot more than accept.  When I think of the word “accept” I think of tolerate.  When I say that I choose to accept those people who I disagree with, aren’t I really saying that I will tolerate them?  But this word “accept” in the context here would be more accurately translated as receive or welcome.  It is taking someone in as a friend or a companion.  It means to lead them by the hand and to take them into your home.  It means to let them into your heart.  This is starting to sound a lot like love!

Accepting one another goes several steps beyond not judging.  It takes you to the place of embracing the person.  Let me  be clear: I didn’t say embrace beliefs or lifestyle; embrace the person.  Embrace them for who they are.  Embrace them where they are at.   Get God’s heart for them and embrace them for how God sees them.  Embrace them for all that He wants them to become.  This is true acceptance.  It is more than an invitation to a social club.  It is more than toleration.  It is love – and that love is the love of Christ.

You’re Fired!

Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

You’re Fired!

Once common words that every employee dreaded to hear, these words have now been made famous by Donald Trump.  Playing the boss man in the reality TV show “The Apprentice” (I can’t believe this show is still on the air), Donald fires a contestant each week.  The plot goes like this: young business candidates, well now it is celebrities, compete in challenges each week to ultimately earn an internship position in one of Trump’s companies.  At the end of each week, one contestant loses his or her chance to land the job.   The bottom three contestants sit at a boardroom table, Trump points to one and boldly declares, “YOU’RE FIRED!”

Oh the power to hold someone’s future in your hands.  Well, technically he only holds the power to their future in his company.  Donald Trump doesn’t have the authority to fire someone else’s employee – just his own.  Imagine if he did.  He is out with his trophy wife (yeah I said it) eating dinner and the waiter brings him the wrong order.  “You’re fired” he exclaims.  He is at Nordstroms buying new shoes.  He doesn’t like how they fit so he tells the salesperson, “you’re fired.”  It’s a Trump firing rampage – look out!   This is a ridiculous notion, isn’t it – firing someone else’s employee?  I don’t think that would ever fly.  I don’t think anyone should have that kind of power.  Wait, didn’t our president fire the CEO of General Motors.  How in the world… okay, I digress.

Getting to the point of today’s devotional.  We are all servants of God.  We work for Him.  That’s what Paul is saying here.  So who are we to go around judging someone else’s servant?  How do we get to tell God how to run His organization and how to treat His employees?  Quite simply, we don’t.  God doesn’t ask us to go around pointing fingers and demanding that he deals with someone a certain way.  It is not up to us to determine how someone gets treated; it is up to God.  If He wants to rough them up, that’s His decision.  If He wants to give them a hundred billion chances, that’s His decision too. (The latter is probably much more likely with God)

Our focus then, should not be how we think God ought to be dealing with others.  Our focus ought not to be on putting someone else’s employees in their place.  Our focus should be on our service; it should be on our employment status with God.  How are we measuring up against His standard?  It’s a “me and He” relationship.  That’s the focus.  That’s where all of our energy should lie.  If we spend all our time trying to figure out what God should do with so and so, we will just waste our time.   Because if I take all my time to evaluate others, I don’t have any time left to give of myself.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Romans 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

In 1837, author Hans Christian Andersen wrote a short story about an emperor who was way too into his clothes.  As the story goes, two con artists create a new special suit for the emperor.  This suit is a beautiful, colorful piece. However, it is invisible to everyone who is incompetent or ignorant.  When the suit is finished, they put it on the emperor, who can’t see it.  The problem is he doesn’t want to be exposed as incompetent so he pretends to see the suit.  As the story goes, it turns out that there is really no suit at all.  And to make matters worse, the emperor just went out in front of the entire city in his undies.  Oops!

Going out in public without clothes on isn’t something that is widely accepted  here in America.  Getting dressed is one of those things that we are expected to do.  You are supposed to show up to work in a suit, not a birthday suit.  I think we all know that, so we wouldn’t ever consider leaving the house without clothes on.  Our common sense would likely prevent us from making the same mistake that the emperor made.  No, we wouldn’t go out naked.

But we would go out naked spiritually.  We rush through our mornings and never bother getting dressed.  We don’t think about getting covered.  And we are left exposed to the elements of the world.  We are left exposed to just about anything that comes our way.  Here in Romans 13:14, Paul instructs us to get dressed.  He says to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. (The NIV is actually quite accurate in this translation of the greek word for “clothe”.)   We are to put Him on each day, not wait until crisis and realize we need Him.  So I would suggest that each morning when you are getting dressed, that you also get dressed.  Find out what  a difference it will make in your day!