July 20: The Apocalypse Inside Us All.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

The resurrection, like the whole life of Christ, is an apocalyptic event. That is, God broke through into human history in an unnatural way, a way beyond what would normally happen in creation. At the incarnation God broke into history and became the man Jesus. And at the resurrection the man Jesus, became the cosmic Christ.

In Jewish thinking, the resurrection would not happen until the end of days, just before the judgment and the new creation. Jesus’ resurrection proves that he has already been judged and he has already been re-created. The apocalyptic age has begun. And it has begun inside of us. We who are in Christ are already counted as justified and already considered to be the new creation. Christ is the firstfruits, we are the harvest yet to come. How? Because we are in Christ (v.22). We are no longer in Adam. We have solidarity with Christ and each other. We share all of Jesus’ advantages and none of Adam’s liabilities.

The resurrection also previews an apocalyptic age yet to come. God will break through again and put all things in subjection under Jesus’ feet. Christ will annihilate every rule and every authority and power. Even death, the last enemy, will be destroyed. This is the final judgment. And this is the great enthronement of Christ. Just as Christ was enthroned and lifted up on the cross, he will be enthroned and lifted up in the last days over all of reality, both seen and unseen. All things will be in subjection under his feet. The destiny of humanity will be fulfilled. Christ, the final Adam, will finally rule the earth and have dominion over creation just as man was created to from the beginning (Gen. 1:26-27). This truth was prophesied Psalm 8:6 and 110:1, both of which Paul quotes in our passage above.

Psalm 8:6. You [God] have given him [man/Jesus] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

Psalm 110:1. The LORD [God] says to my Lord [Jesus]: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

We are living in the “already but not yet” of this apocalyptic age. We are living in the process of Christ’s victory. There is still death. There is still evil. There are still authorities and powers, both earthly and supernatural, that oppose the reign of Christ. But the resurrection of Christ proves the final victory of Christ. He will defeat all rulers, authorities, and powers that oppose him, and his love and justice will prevail. The resurrection of Christ proves that God will win, and we will win with him.

“To live is Christ” is our internal proof that Christ has resurrected and God has already won. The apocalypse is inside each of us who trust in Christ for forgiveness and redemption. Christ reigns in our spirits and is enthroned on our hearts. One day, God will turn everything over to Jesus as the judge of all the earth, and then Christ will turn it all back over to God. And we will survive that judgment gloriously and reign with him. How? Because we have already been judged and we have already been made new in Christ. To God be the glory!

How aware are you of the apocalypse inside of you? Do you see Christ as reigning over your life? What might you need to submit to his reign today? How does the resurrection prove the final victory of Christ? How does Christ in you testify to the truth of the resurrection in your heart?

 

July 19: The Resurrection (yes it’s real).

1 Corinthians 15:17-19. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If there is no resurrection, then this is all a sham. Stop reading. Find something better to do right now! But if there is a resurrection then thinking about Christ’s ongoing life and your union with it will never be a waste of time.

We believe that the gospel is not hollow, empty or futile. We believe that we are not still in our sins. The resurrection of Christ has made his atoning death effective for all who believe. It has brought us into new life- the very life of Christ himself. It unites us to Christ, and identifies us with him. The resurrection won for us the blessings of Christ that he already had- the blessings of forgiveness, justification, reconciliation- and passed them on to us through the substitution of his life for ours. Every spiritual blessing we enjoy, we enjoy because of the resurrection of Christ and our co-resurrection with him.

This substitution also grants to us the victory in this life and the next. The victory over sin and death that Jesus won for us, brings with it a new life of holiness and love that we live by grace through faith. The resurrection empowers us right now, today! We will never live a pitiful life again. We are empowered to live confidently, boldly proclaiming Christ as King and declaring his love and grace to all.

Without resurrection there is no hope for this life. The dead aren’t asleep awaiting awakening. They have perished. And that is a pitiful end to this pitiful existence. No eternal glory. No eternal love. No eternal goodness. Just death. How sad.

But in fact resurrection is our story.

1 Corinthians 15:20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

Thank God we don’t have to live in the great sadness. “To live is Christ” means we can live in triumphant joy. We have experienced the reality of the resurrection spiritually; we are alive inside with the life of Christ. And we will also experience the reality of the resurrection of the dead bodily. We will live forever physically, spiritually, soulically (is that a word?), with Jesus and with those we love that have trusted in his imputed righteousness for the forgiveness of their sins. What a glorious story!

Do you believe that this is your reality? That your story begins and continues through the resurrection of Jesus? Do you believe that God is able to raise the dead, starting with Christ? How does union with Christ make the realities of the resurrection yours? How can you begin to live from resurrection power, and stop living from pity?

July 18: The Gospel Story- Our Story

1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

First and foremost, gospel Christianity is an event. It is news. It is not an idea, concept, ethic, or path to spirituality. It is not a moral code, rule for life, or political platform. It can inform all of these things, but it is not these things. It is a story. God’s story of redemption. The story of his kingdom breaking through into human history. That is what Paul is telling us above in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection are a story- the same story told by all of scripture. And we can stand or live in that same story.

“To live is Christ” is not about figuring out how to live like Christ. It is believing that his story is now your story too. That the good news happened and that it happened to you. Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection happened to us. Our union with Christ unites us to this greatest of stories. We stand in it, and we are being saved by it.

The bedrock of this story is the resurrection. Christ was resurrected into a new body and a new reality. This reality is now true for us too. Think back to everything Paul has taught in this letter. The resurrection has been the reason behind all of his admonitions to this church. Because there is a resurrection, we don’t need to pick sides now, or sue each other here on earth, or seek status, or chase sexual pleasure, or grab the best seats in church, or seek our “Christian rights.” Belief in the resurrection empowers our love- all else will cease and fade away, but love will live forever (13:8-13). Why? Because God lives forever, and Christ lives forever, and we live forever.

How is that possible? Because Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

This gospel, that Christ died for our sins and rose for our justification, is the objective reality behind “to live is Christ.” You are positionally, legally, and objectively united to Christ because the penalty for your sins has been taken on by Christ and he has gifted to you his righteousness in it’s place. And we know that this transaction worked because Christ was raised to life by the Father in vindication of his righteous life. And we know that the resurrection is true because of the testimony of many witnesses to this historic fact, and because of the real and true witness of the Spirit in our hearts.

Praise God that our union with Christ and our salvation is not rooted in an ethic to obey, a spiritual path to follow, or a wisdom to attain to. Praise God that our salvation is rooted in a historic fact, a story. Praise God that our story is now God’s own story. The gospel story.

Have you wrongly seen your salvation as something for you to achieve or attain? Can you see that salvation is an objective reality rooted in fact? Do you believe in the resurrection of Christ? How is it, along with Christ’s substitutionary death for our sins, the basis of our union with Christ?

July 17: Whole Worship.

1 Corinthians 14:14-15. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 

We are whole beings- body, soul, and spirit. It’s all connected. One of the most foundational truths for understanding our union with Christ is that the indwelling life of Christ, the Holy Spirit, affects us wholisitically- body, soul, and spirit.

Paul saw us as complex beings. We have a spirit, and we have a soul. We have a heart, and we have a mind. But Paul also saw us as unified beings. Like the Trinity, we are separate parts as one whole. Paul wants us to grow into full and mature human beings. This means growing in spirit and soul, in heart and mind, and body. The spirit is the deepest part of you, the seat of all consciousness and desire. Your spirit is connected to the Spirit, so much so that Paul rarely distinguishes between our spirit and the Spirit in his writing. The mind, however, flows from the spirit. It is the rational, thinking part of you.

In 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, we can see Paul admonishing the Corinthians to not separate their worship of God into spiritual verses rational categories. Why? Because we are spirit and we are mind. So I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. We were never meant to compartmentalize these parts of our humanity. We aren’t meant to live divided lives.

The mind is where the battles of faith are fought, and the mind must be renewed by the Spirit. The rational part of you is meant to be engaged in worship. Mindless babbling, thoughtless tongues, praying, and singing don’t build anyone up. Can you imagine a church service that literally just made no logical sense to anyone? All just “spiritual” expression without rational expression? That would not actually cause any true spiritual growth in love.

We become like what we worship. Our worship of God therefore, should reflect the multi-faceted nature of God as a rational. emotional, and even physical (through Jesus) being. The question becomes, is your worship and spiritual growth only one dimensional? Is it all spirit without mind? Or maybe, more likely in many of us as Christians, is it all mind and no spirit? Or is it all interconnected like it should be?

“To live is Christ” means that our spirit is one with the Spirit. And the Spirit empowers us to worship God and grow into Christ likeness in all aspects of our humanity- body, soul, and spirit.

Have you noticed your worship and spiritual growth becoming one dimensional in any way? How can you worship God both in spirit and in truth (mind)? How does union with Christ help you to see that every part of you is important (remember: Jesus is body, soul, spirit too)?

July 16: Pursue Love.

1 Corinthians 14:1. Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts,

“To live is Christ” is not an “either – or” proposition: either have spiritual gifts or have love (but you can’t have both). No. You can and do have both. But love is supreme. Without it spiritual gifts mean nothing. You can have love without a spiritual gift and your great. But if you have spiritual gifts without love, watch out.

So pursue love, Paul says. Stop pursuing a false spirituality rooted in experiences that puff you up. Instead, pursue true spirituality as love. Love that seeks to build up the whole church. Everything we do and say should promote unity, and working together for the gospel’s sake.
1 Corinthians 8:1. we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

Paul will spend the next several verses of chapter 14 distinguishing between the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy. In the process his argument will always land on doing what is best for the church, and building her up.

1 Corinthians 14:12. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

In chapter 13 we saw that Love is a personified power. It is Christ’s life inside of us. It is something that we receive by faith. But here in 14:1, we are reminded again of the dual nature of faith. Faith is both dependency but also active response. So yes, we must depend on Love as a gift to us, and trust in God’s love for us through the Son and Spirit. But we must also, by faith, respond in an active pursuit of love within the church body. Love now is the law by which we live (the Law of Christ) and, at the same time, the indwelling power by which we live it.

The pursuit of love then becomes our collective aim. We are to desperately chase after it. This is an ongoing, never ending pursuit of an understanding of love and its response within the specific situations of life. This is not the pursuit of someone to love us, but rather, because Jesus already does love us, it is the pursuit of an experience of his same loving way of life.

To pursue Christ is to pursue his life of love. Do we just want to know facts about Christ? Do we just pursue Christ for his gifts? Or do we really want to know Christ as the crucified Savior King whose love changed the world? Do we really want his love to be our new way of life in a world that is desperate for love?

“To live is Christ” is the pursuit of love. When you are living from Christ’s life you are living from love. Life now becomes a faith journey whereby your trust in God’s love for you results in an active pursuit of understanding the way of love in each and every situation you find yourself. How can I be patient? What is the kind thing to do here? What will build up the Body? What will it cost me to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things? How can I pay that cost?

Are you pursuing love? Are you a student of how to love like Christ in the specific situations of life? Is love your new instinct? How can you desire knowledge, gifts, and strength and yet remain loving? How does our union with Christ answer this question for us?

July 15: The Greatest Of These Is Love.

1 Corinthians 13:13. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Hope is our reality. We don’t just hope; we have a hope. Our hope is Christ and our union with him. We are and will be transformed. We are and will be renewed. We have been and will be resurrected. We are and will live forever. Our sins are and will be eternally gone. These are our new realities, our hope.

Faith flows from this hope. We trust this new reality. We live in dependency upon Christ and our union with him. Faith is not something we try to do; it is the expression of hope. Faith is our new habit of the soul. We live by faith (Gal. 2:20) in the hope of Christ.

Love then flows from hope and faith. Faith produces love. If I truly trust and depend on the hope of my union with Christ, that I am in Christ, then faith in the love of Christ in me will produce love out of me.

Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

As Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, love is the person of Christ whose life of love is now a power that is present in us. Love is not a to-do list for us to accomplish. We cannot self generate love. Love is a power and Love is a person whose life we must receive. We must allow ourselves to be loved before we can love. Therefore love comes from faith. What this means is that the Christian life is less about trying to love better, and more about allowing ourselves to be loved, which will then cause us to love better instinctually.

Often as Christians we reverse this important order. We start our Christian life with a feeling of love and we attempt to maintain that feeling. We feel great about our salvation and we feel in love with God and so we work at continuing to feel this way. But this is self-generated love, rather than love generated from faith. Inevitably, somewhere along the way, life takes a hard turn and things get difficult. The feelings of love subside. We start to think, “Where is God?” “Does God love me?”

The problem is that this Christian was not grounded in hope. They never learned to live from faith in that hope, a hope that sees them through the hard turns and dark valleys. Their love was attachment only, not true commitment born from dependency. The love (agape) that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians, is the real, committed, covenant love of God that sustains us in and out of trials. It is the love of the crucified Christ. The love that remains in the midst of the crosses of life.

That is why this kind of agape love is the greatest of the virtues. It is the proof of God. It is the manifestation of faith and hope. Faith and hope without love will never save a life. But faith and hope with love can. Love will change the world. It already has. Christ’s love has changed everything. His love has produced the hope and faith that we need in order to receive love, Love in the form of a person and his life.

Our love has to flow from faith and our faith has to produce love. Both of these are equally true. Love must begin as a received power. Again, it cannot be self generated or something that we “work at” over time. It has to be given to us from outside of us and received and trusted in by faith. But at the same time we must love. We are commanded to love. Our hope, faith, and union with Christ will by its very nature produce loving deeds and service. It will produce kindness, gentleness, and faithfulness. It will be patient and kind, it will not envy or boast. It will bear all things and believe all things and keep no record of wrongs.

If I believe that this power is in me, that this person called Love indwells me, then this same love will flow out of me. Faith will produce love. This is why Paul can say “without love we are nothing.” Because if there is no love, then there is no faith, and if there is no faith, then there is no hope. And without hope your life is meaningless and void. It is nothing.

“To live is Christ” is faith, hope, love. It gives us the hope our hearts need. Faith trusts in this hope through the questions, doubts, and beatings of life. And love flows from this faith even when it makes no sense to love.

Do you believe that you are I indwelt by love? Have you seen your love come from faith or only from feelings? How can faith in your union with Christ produce this love in your life?

So, this song is a bit simplistic view of the text but still fun.

Oh yeah and then there’s this.

July 14: Love Personified.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Paul has been writing this letter to a church that has struggled to love. They simply have not acted in love toward one another in his absence. Divisions, infighting, legal battles, immorality, superiority, drunkenness at communion, arguing in church services- all of this and more was happening in the Corinthian church. The Corinthians wanted to be “super spiritual” and they thought that because they accepted Christ they had received a hidden form of knowledge and power that made them better than everyone else. The truth is, they did receive wisdom and power, but that wisdom and power is the crucified Christ. That wisdom and power is made manifest in sacrificial love. The crucified life is not a “super spirituality” or mystery that only a few achieve. It is the life of everyone who is in Christ. It is the life of love. If I don’t have love I am nothing and, If I don’t have love I gain nothing, Paul said.

Paul’s answer to their misguided spirituality is not to tell them what to do, or even how to love. His answer is to tell them what they are, what they have. He does this by personifying Love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is presented as a power. Paul is not presenting a list for us to do. He is telling us what Love has done to us. Therefore, life is not about figuring out how to love. Life is about experiencing Love. That is what actually changes us. Just giving this church a “how to love” manual would never work, and it wouldn’t work for you either. We change only as our hearts are captured by pure, unconditional Love. “We love him because he first loved us.”

You’ll notice that I have been capitalizing the word Love. This is of course because Paul must be thinking of love as the person of Christ. God is love. Christ is love. The Greeks might see love as a disembodied idea, or force. But we see Love as a person. Someone that came to seek and save us. This is no mere concept. This is our reality- we are loved by the person of Christ.

Some have pointed out that Paul’s descriptors of love in verses 4-7 are the opposites of all the ways the Corinthians were behaving. They were not patient and kind. They did envy and boast. They did insist on their own way, etc. This is of course true. Pastor Tim Keller also points out that the descriptions of love in these verses reflect Christ on the cross, the greatest display of love in history.

  • Love is patient or love suffers long – “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
  • it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful – “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
  • Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This kind of love is what can actually change us. We often try to produce character change through fear and pride. Fear of being punished when we are bad, and gaining pride by being good. “If you steal, you’ll get caught.” Or, “If you don’t steal, you will be a good person.” But all of this is selfish. This is life change from an outside “law,” not from an inner love. This is life change brought about only by restraining sin, not by a heart changed by love and the release of the Spirit of love.

“To live is Christ” is that Love. Love has pursued me and found me. Love has purchased me with his own blood. Love has made me his temple. Love has given to me freely of his cruciform wisdom and power. I am loved. You are loved. The more this most amazing of realities sinks into your heart, the more you will then be released from a life of fear and pride. Love will humble you beyond your pride, and empower you beyond your fear. Now you are ready to love as he loved.

Do you believe you are loved by God? Is the cross only your example of love or is it your power for love? Do you think of Love as the person of Christ that indwells you, or only as something you are supposed to do? Is your behavior motivated by fear and pride or from love? How does your union with Christ prove his unconditional love for you?

*Several of today’s thoughts come from Tim Keller’s Gospel Christianity.