June 5: Less Talk More Power.

1 Corinthians 4:19-20. I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 

The Kingdom of God is not talk, it’s power.

“To live is Christ” is not just a catchy slogan or blog title. It is power. The transforming power of the Spirit. The power of the cross.

There were those in Corinth trying to convince the church that there is a higher wisdom or a higher power beyond the cross, and our union with the crucified Christ. But they were all talk and no true power. They could talk about the gospel and the things of “wisdom”, but they also got drunk at communion, allowed a member to commit incest with his mother, were suing each other, and every worship service was out of control.

That’s all talk, but not the power of the gospel. They were missing the real power of the cross. The power of the crucified, humble life. The power to truly love each other sacrificially. The power to live holy lives that glorify God. This is the power that Paul is looking for in the Corinthians. And it is the power that we should be looking for in our own lives too.

There is an application here for our personal salvation. You are not a Christian simply because you say you are a Christian. There has to be a new birth, a new power source for your life. A power source beyond your own strength, wisdom, and righteousness. This new power is gifted to you by the Spirit. It is the power of Christ’s life in you, which gives you a new desire, dependency, and destination. A new trust alone in the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Savior.

The church will never find it’s power in songs, speeches, books, movies, surveys, discussions, or even preaching. Yes there is no shortage of words in the church today. But the Kingdom does not rest in talk. It rests in power. And this power is Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24. we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

The gospel is the power of God. And this power WILL change your life. “To live is Christ” is a power that will make you different than you were before. You will see your sinfulness deeply, and the pointlessness of your own righteousness. You will see grace as your greatest need, and the shared sufferings of Christ as your greatest good. You will trust in Christ alone each and every day to be your Savior. And you will find a deep seeded joy in your soul that comes from the power of peace which Christ provides.

Are you all talk when it comes to the gospel? Or is it a real life changing power in your soul? Can you see the power of Christ at work in your life? In the work of other believers? Have you relied on power from songs and sermons over the power of your union with Christ? How does union with Christ empower us?

 

 

June 4: A Spiritual Family.

1 Corinthians 4:14-17. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

One of the greatest truths about us being in Christ and Christ being in us is that now we are family. Christ is our DNA. He is our family tree. We are God’s children and Christ’s siblings.

This spiritual family is what Paul brings to light for the Corinthians:

to admonish you as my beloved children

I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel

Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord

Paul sees himself as the Corinthian’s spiritual father. Therefore his goal is not to shame them, but rather to instruct them as a dad would his children. His motivation is paternal love.

You see church isn’t just an organization, or a social club, or an assembly. It’s a family. This is what “to live is Christ” means- you get a family! You get love and acceptance. You get dozens of spiritual dads and moms. You get brothers and sisters. And you get to be a dad and a mom for others.

Isn’t this what Jesus told his disciples was coming?

Mark 10: 29-30. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Jesus is describing the church. The church of Jesus is the new eternal and ultimate family. God’s family. Now, under the New Covenant, the biological family is no longer the highest goal. Marriage is no longer necessary, in fact singleness may be preferred. “Be fruitful and multiply” is no longer about procreation, but instead it’s about “go and make disciples of every nation.”

Maybe what scares us about really adopting this familial way of thinking is what Paul says in verse 16- be imitators of me. This is something that every mom and dad has said to their child. “Watch me.” “Let me show you how.” “Follow me.” “Let me tell you something.”

But when we think about saying this to another Christian for some reason we freeze. But why should our spiritual parenting be any different from natural parenting? How else will any Christian ever grow up? Can a child grow up without a parent? Not very well. Can a Christian grow up without a parent? Not very well.

“To live is Christ” gives us the grace and power we need to be spiritual fathers and mothers. Through the church it gives us the fathers and mothers we need for our spiritual growth. And in Christ we have access to the ultimate spiritual family- Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

How does it encourage you to know that you are part of a spiritual family? Do you have a spiritual father or mother? Are you a spiritual father/mother? Does the thought of that scare you? How does union with Christ give you the grace and power you need to embrace your spiritual family?

June 3: Everything’s A Gift.

1 Corinthians 4:6-7. I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

What do you have that you did not receive?

Herein lies the humility of “to live is Christ” – because Christ is in me and I am in Christ, everything I have I received from Christ.

Result: no more boasting, except in Christ and his cross.

Everything is a gift. Everything. Those of us who want to live from Christ’s life must embrace the reality of this grace. How do you know that you haven’t embraced this reality? Look at your divisions. Look at your boasting. Look at the sides you’ve chosen. Look at how you compare yourself to others in your own mind.

Who sees anything different in you?

Or in other words “what makes you so special?” Was not your salvation by grace through faith alone like everyone else’s? And didn’t you receive the Spirit by grace alone? What about Christ’s indwelling life? Isn’t it by sheer grace also? The resurrection? You didn’t raise yourself, it is the gift of God.
If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Paul is challenging our idols. He hears and sees their boasting from afar, and he knows that they are not boasting in Christ, but in themselves and their “super-spirituality.” They boast in knowledge as if they obtained it. They boast in gifts as if their piety earned them. They boast in their freedom as it it were license.

You see our biggest problem is not low self esteem. I know the world wants us to think this, that we all have a self esteem problem. Solution- build up everyone’s self esteem. But this is not how Paul sees the problem in Corinth. They are far from having a low self esteem, they are flat out proud… and boasting. And if we are honest we will see that this is our problem too. Not thinking too low of ourselves, but often thinking too highly of ourselves.

“To live is Christ” removes all boasting in anything but Christ, because all is from Christ. Everything you have, Christian, is from Christ. From your very breath to your spiritual intuition, it is all of Christ. Your home and your faith. Your ministry and your love for those you minister to. It’s all of grace. You’ve earned nothing, and you never will. Whatever it is that you are boasting in each day- it’s a gift. Get on your knees and be thankful.

What are you boasting in these days? Is it Christ alone? Are you able to see everything in your life as a gift, connected to your union with Christ? Are you a thankful person or a bragging person? How can the cross change your boasting today?

June 2: I Don’t Care Anymore.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

We’ve talked about freedom quite a bit in this blog over the year. Freedom is what “to live is Christ” is all about. We are free in Christ. Free from the bondage to sin. And free to love from a new heart’s desire.

Part of this freedom from sin and freedom to love that we no enjoy is the freedom from caring what others think about us. How often are we just obsessed with our own ratings? How often do we check for “likes” on our pictures on social media? How often do we worry about our reputation? How much time do we spend trying to win the approval of others?

But union with Christ frees us from this bondage. Look at how Paul now sees himself in Christ:

I don’t care what you think about me– it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you. Paul is not held in bondage by the court of human opinion. This is not audacious pride, but rather actual humility. Self forgetfulness. By moving in self forgetfulness he has also moved beyond self promotion. His identity is no longer wrapped up in what other people think of him. 

I don’t even care what I think about me– In fact, I do not even judge myself. Paul is not overcoming an obsession with other people’s opinions of him with a high self esteem. No, he’s saying “I don’t care what you think of me, and I don’t even care what I think of me.” He is not telling us to live by our own standards instead of the standards of others- that would be a trap. Why? Because we can’t live up to our own standards either (Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness). 

I can’t even trust my own opinion of myself– I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. Paul explains that even though he feels good about himself, this is not the basis for his freedom. A clear conscience doesn’t prove innocence. Feeling good about yourself doesn’t make you good, just like feeling bad about yourself doesn’t make you bad. 

So if my identity isn’t found in how others feel about me, and it isn’t found in how I feel about me, then where is it found?

I care about what Christ thinks of me– It is the Lord who judges me. Paul doesn’t leave us simply not caring. No, he cares about the opinion of the One who created, ransomed, and possesses him. The one who judges him, but who judges him as justified freely forever. The One who gives him his true identity.

“To live is Christ” offers this immense freedom. Freedom from pride. Freedom from the judgment of others and the judgment of self. Freedom from self hate each time we sin, and self congratulations each time we succeed. This is the joy of not being self obsessed. This is now our ability to love.

Do you find yourself obsessing over what others think of you? Or what you think of you? How often do you think through what Christ thinks of you? God judges you according to your union with Christ- do you believe this?

 

 

June 1: Belonging and Dependency.

1 Corinthians 3:23. you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

In eternity past God the Father and God the Son stood perfectly equal. Equal in glory. Equal in position. Equal in holiness. Equal in all things. But in the incarnation, Jesus the Son emptied himself, not of his divinity but of his glory, and he took on humanity. He took upon himself the role of Christ- Messiah. In so doing he placed himself under God the Father. He became submissive to God and the redemptive plan of God. Christ’s ultimate mission was to guide humanity back to God our Father. In this mission Christ is God’s.

In scripture we see that all of Christ’s ministry on earth was submissive to God.

John 5:23-26. that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

But we also see that Christ’s ministry is still submissive to God and will always be submissive to God. The Father is still the end goal of all of Christ’s mission of redemption.

1 Corinthians 15:28. 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.

So what does this have to do with us? And what does it have to do with our union with Christ? Everything. If we are united to Christ, and he has submitted himself to God, then it would make sense that we too must be submitted to God through Christ. This is, of course, what Paul said – you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

“To live is Christ” means that we live our lives as Christ did and still does, in submission to God. With God as the end goal. All glory goes to him. This is the beauty of belonging to Christ, in this submission we find true joy and happiness. Dependency actually frees us from having to figure out life for ourselves through self identifying, and self expressing. Both of which will ultimately destroy you by either the despair of failure, or the pride of success.

This belonging to Christ also allows us to experience unity as the church, for we are all purchased by the blood of Christ into his possession. No one greater than the other. No one worse. Each now free to submit to the other within the body of Christ.

Along with this, by belonging to Christ, we experience the paradoxical freedom of bondage to Christ. Belonging to Christ gives us all things in the universe to enjoy. As we saw yesterday, we are free to experience it all within the bounds of Christ’s love.

Finally, by belonging to Christ, we also belong to God. And that is the goal of our entire life: to know God, to image him, to reflect his life, his goodness, his holiness, and love. To enjoy him forever. To dwell in his presence of glory with pleasure forevermore.

Do you think of your life as belonging to Christ and thus to God? What areas of your life are you still not submitting to Christ? If the submissive Christ lives in you, how might that affect how you live toward God and others today?

May 31: It’s All Yours.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23. So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

All things are yours. Yes, all things-  Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), the world, life, death, the present, and the future. Yep, that pretty much covers everything.

But why does Paul make such a big, bold statement at this point in the letter?

Remember, the Corinthians are very “spiritual” and they were boasting about which bible teacher they followed, and then division and jealousy ensued. It was a mess. But “to live is Christ” means that you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (v. 23). God has everything, so Christ has everything. And since you are in Christ, now you also have everything.

So why on earth would you choose a “team” to be on? Why pick Paul or Apollos over Cephas as your approved bible teacher when God has given you everything and everyone to learn from and enjoy? And for that matter, why cause division at all? Why do we feel like we have to constantly choose a side on every issue? All things are ours! The cosmos is ours. All the universe is for us to learn from, and this includes all of its people. We pick sides so we can feel justified and gain worth. But why not learn from everyone? The cosmos is yours! So enjoy everyone in it!

Let’s stop and consider what else we might be missing out on as Christians when we fail to see that all things are ours! When we go around dividing the things of life into secular and spiritual categories, and then shunning the “secular” things, aren’t we missing out on all that God intended for us? The things of the universe are still the good gifts of God. True, we must resist putting these things above God- creation over Creator is idolatry. But it is also true that we are given everything in the universe for our benefit and for the benefit of the Church. When you are in Christ things become just things, rather than gods. The things of life no longer have to rule me or destroy me, nor do I have to destroy them. Rather I can learn to use them for the glory of God.

Take sex for example. Sex is part of the cosmos (the world v. 22). It is ours. It is for the good of the church. But it must be bounded by the law of love (think 1 Corinthians 13). This is why Christ bounded it by the marriage covenant. Sex without covenant is harmful to our hearts, minds, and bodies. Sex without marriage is unloving. So sex is from God and it pictures Christ’s love for us. His covenant. Therefore sex within marriage is one of the all things for the church.

Or think about the word death in verse 22. If anything is bad and evil in this life it must be death, right? But death also belongs to you now. Just as it belongs to Christ as your head who conquered death. Everything serves to exalt you and bring you to glory. Including death. Death is no longer just our punishment or the wage of sin. It is now our doorway to Christ in his fullness! Death is for the church.

“To live is Christ” gives you the universe. It gives you the past and the future. It gives you life and death. It gives you everything in this life to experience, learn from, and enjoy when bounded by the law of love.

Do you spend most of your time as a Christian thinking about the things you have to avoid, give up, or refuse? Are you willing to think through how everything and everyone is a gift from God and can glorify God when we are living by the law of love? How does being Christ’s make everything in the universe ours? How would your life change tomorrow if you really believed this?

May 30: We the Temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul reviews the growth of the church. He compares it to crops growing in a field. Crops that he planted but some one else (Apollos) watered. Then he compares the church to a building. A building that he laid the foundation of and then others have added to that foundation. But at the end of the day we, the church corporately, are that building. And not just any building, the temple of God.

How is such a huge statement possible? It’s possible by our union with Christ. “To live is Christ” means that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. The Spirit is in us. The Presence of God is in us. We are his dwelling place. We are the Garden. We are the Tabernacle. We are the Temple. God’s desire to be our God and live among his people is realized in the church.

“To live is Christ” means that you can never lose the presence of God. You are never far. You are never dirty. You are holy. God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (v.17). The presence of God is your identity. Paul may have in mind here the pagan temples. At the center of these would be a statue of the god or goddess, the temple of Apollo or the temple of Aphrodite for example. This statue gave the temple it’s identity. Christ is now at our center. He is our identity. His cross gives our life its meaning.

Sometimes as Christians we get so wrapped up in our feelings of guilt that we stop going to church because we feel like we are far from God or too dirty on the inside to be in God’s presence. But we say with our brother Paul “do you not know that you ARE God’s temple?” Are you trying to avoid God at church while God is living inside of your very spirit? Can you see how you can’t hide from God if Christ lives in you?

Do you see yourself as the dwelling place of the presence of God? Is Christ your identity? Have you believed the lie that you can be far from God or too dirty for God, rather than the truth that you are holy and God’s house? What would it look like if you started seeing all other Christians as God’s temple too?