May 21: The Undivided Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:11-13. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided?

Is Christ divided?

What an amazing question rooted in an even more amazing truth. The Corinthian church has a lot of problems, not the least of which is gross division. Our union with Christ means that when we cause division in the church it is as if we are trying to tear Christ apart. Because Christ is in us and we are all collectively in Christ, then to divide the church is to divide Christ.

But is Christ actually divided? Of course he’s not. Therefore we cannot divide the church, not really. The church is the body of Christ and since he cannot be divided, it cannot be divided.

The question also teaches us by implication that each Christian has all of Christ equally. Christ cannot be divided, therefore he is not divided up with a little tiny bit of him in each believer. No, each believer has all of Christ.

You see when we really grab hold of “To live is Christ,” and our union with Christ, we begin to realize that it defines and impacts everything we do in every sphere of life. For Paul this union with Christ was now the motivation for all ethical behavior, not the law. Paul does not appeal to the law to gain unity in the church. He appeals to their union with Christ.

“To live is Christ” means that Jesus is the source of our life, not just individually but corporately. Therefore unity must be the core characteristic of the church. As we contemplate our union with Christ and his life of love and mercy in us, we can live from this love and mercy. Together we can find unity of purpose and we can make unity our purpose as the church. Why? Because our unity displays Christ to the world.

Do you believe that you have all of Christ, and not just a little bit of him? Are you striving from your union with Christ for unity in your church? Or are you divisive?

May 20: Koinonia With Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wow, what a glorious thanksgiving and prayer for the church! Paul is acknowledging the great grace that the Corinthians have received. A grace that has resulted in speech and knowledge. Grace that has resulted in every type of gift being present in this church. Grace that will sustain them until the return of Christ. Grace that makes them guiltless. Grace that has brought them into fellowship (koinonia) with Jesus Christ.

“To live is Christ” is this koinonia with Christ. The English word fellowship probably doesn’t do koinonia justice. When we Christians think of fellowship we think of a potluck after church or a cook-out at the Sunday School teacher’s house on the weekend. But koinonia is a much richer word. It is a participation. It is two parties in business together. It is two people on the same journey with the same goals. We participate in the sonship of Christ. We are shareholders in all that is Christ’s. “Our sonship is defined as Christ’s sonship” (Anthony Thiselton, 1 Corinthians).

All the blessings listed in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 are ours because of our koinonia with Christ. His grace is ours. His words are ours. His knowledge is ours. His gifts are ours. His revealing is ours. His sustenance is ours. His innocence is ours. How? Because we are in fellowship with Christ. Fellowship with Christ is something you can never lose. You are never out of fellowship with Christ, Christian. Because koinonia is much deeper than what you feel on any given day.

This is all by God’s grace (charis). Not in any way our self achievement. Paul gives thanks [charis] to God for his grace [charis]. He speaks of them being enriched in Christ. And he tells them that they have every type of (spiritual) gift [charismata]. It is this grace that ensures that we will make it guiltless until the end- the revealing of Christ.

This is all God’s grace through CHRIST. The word Christ appears ten times in the first ten verses of 1 Corinthians. Our faith is not in concepts, ideas, principles, or systems. It is in Christ. Now the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you (v.6). That is, the truth about Christ is lived out in us. We are transformed into Christ by living out the cruciform life of Christ. This too, is part of our koinonia with Christ. This is something the Corinthians will need to learn. Most likely it is something we need to learn as well. Hopefully we can learn it together as we journey through 1 Corinthians in our search for the meaning of our union with Christ. 

Are you living in the flood of God’s grace through union with Christ? Are you thankful for grace (that’s a good first step)? Is your faith focused on Christ, or on some sort of religious system or knowledge? Do you feel enriched in Christ? Why or why not?

Did you know there was a band called “Koinonia?” Me either, but this is pretty amazing!

May 19: Sanctified.

1 Corinthians 1:1-3. Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our strategy has been to move through Paul’s writings chronologically and trace the growth of his theology of our union with Christ. Galatians was one of Paul’s first letters, and today we will begin to look at another early letter of Paul’s, I Corinthians.

“To live is Christ” is to be sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. To be sanctified is to be set apart, or holy (it’s the same word). To have a new purpose for life. You see we aren’t just saved FROM sin, and death, and hell. We are saved TO holiness. We are made holy so that we can be holy. We are sanctified in Christ (Position) so that we could live our lives as saints (Condition). Our ongoing sanctification, or growth by Christ in us, is always rooted in our accomplished sanctification or fullness of growth because we are in Christ.

This address to the Christians in Corinth is actually pretty stunning. As you read the letter it doesn’t take long to see that this is a pretty messed up church. Sexual sin, fighting, division, boasting, gluttony, legal disputes, and even super spirituality plague this church. And yet Paul calls them sanctified saints.

And so there is hope in life. No matter how messed up we are or become, we can rest in knowing that we are also sanctified saints. God’s possession. God’s instrument set aside for his use. We are able to enter the holy place- right now, every day for eternity.

And there is meaning in life. We have a purpose- be holy. Why is that such a big deal? Because God is made known and glorified by our lives. If our lives look like God, then God is made famous. If our lives don’t look like God, or dishonor God, then God will be dismissed as irrelevant at best, and straight up blasphemed at worst.

It’s important to note that the Corinthians have the exact opposite problem as the Galatians. The Galatians substituted the Spirit of Christ for the law of Moses. But the Corinthians don’t have an Old Testament Law problem. They have a spirituality problem. They have gone too far in the other direction. All “Spirit” without the love of Christ. Their attitude would be “we’re so spiritual we can do whatever we want.” But our spirituality must always, always, always be bounded by the law of love, the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

Do you see yourself as sanctified? Are you able to see how your ongoing sanctification is rooted in your full sanctification through Christ? Do you see holiness as your purpose in life- to make God known by your life?

As you think through your personal holiness, watch this video about God’s holiness to start.

May 18: Our Only Boast.

Galatians 6:14-15. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 

There’s all kinds of boasting that we do everyday. We boast in everything from our accomplishments to our failures. From our righteousness to our “authentic lives.” From our religiosity to our spirituality. And especially (like the Galatians) our law keeping.

Think about the shocking paradox of Paul’s statement- boast in the cross. This may be the biggest irony ever. Death by crucifixion was never, ever, ever something to boast in. In fact the whole purpose of crucifixion was to affix so much shame and disgrace to the victim so as to literally remove them from history, to wipe them from the world’s collective memory. Families whose relative was crucified would remove the person from their genealogy. Victims were buried in unmarked mass graves. They were viewed as less than human.

How strange that as Christians we are making our boast, our glory, our joy the most shameful thing ever invented- the cross. Why? How? What is it about the cross that makes it the thing we boast in?

First, it is the very proof that we have nothing else to boast in. We all need the cross for our salvation. No one could be good enough, smart enough, legal enough, or innocent enough to obtain eternal life without it. The cross makes us all criminals. All are equal at its foot.

Second, we boast in the cross because by it the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. The cross destroyed the power of the old world and created a whole new one. The cross was apocalyptic. All of the old powers, systems, laws, divisions, and hierarchies are being destroyed. In their place is a brand new creation. A new world of love, equality, freedom, grace, and peace awaits us. There is nothing left in this world’s system in which I place my hope. It is dead to me. It has no power over me. Which actually means not that I avoid the world, but the opposite. Because the world is crucified to me I am now free to enjoy the world simply for what it is. As Tim Keller says, we no longer have to fear or worship the world (Galatians For You).

Finally, we boast in the cross because the crucified life is the new creation. Anything that I accomplish, any act of loving service, any deed of heroism, any courageous walk, any truth spoken, any grace given, or act of faith is all from Christ alone. He is the new creation that lives in me making me the new creation. Now I can live in sacrifice for others too.

“To live is Christ” means my only boast, my only joy, my only life is the cross of Christ. I have done nothing to save myself. I have no ability to produce righteousness in myself. I have no hope apart from my co-crucifixion with Christ. All other boasting is eliminated.

What do you find yourself boasting in? Do you see yourself being freed from boasting in things other than Christ? Do you enjoy the world without fearing or worshipping it? Do you see yourself as helpless without the cross of Christ?

May 17: Sowing and Reaping (it’s not as simple as it sounds).

Galatians 6:8. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 

One of the problems with law is that it causes us to think we can live by a strict cause-effect system. This of course goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when we chose a religious system of good and evil to guide us, rather than the very life of God himself. And so we were left trying to manage our lives by knowing good and evil. IF we do good, THEN we will be blessed. And IF we do evil, THEN we will be cursed. If-Then. Cause-Effect.

The Mosaic law was no different. God used this same system of life management through good and evil to reveal both his holiness, and our need for grace. What the Old Testament law taught us is that no one can live within this kind of a system. We all fail at managing our own life. We all deserve the curse, because we all do evil early and often. A strict cause-effect system, devoid of grace, will destroy us all.

There’s another really big problem with trying to live by this kind of cause-effect system- it never holds up. Those that do good suffer curses. And those who do evil get blessings. You’ve probably witnessed or experienced this in your own life.

Asaph wrestles with the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73:3 – For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

And Job wrestles with the cursing of the righteous in, well the whole book. Also look at David in the wilderness, Ruth, Paul, and of course Jesus. These were all people who suffered despite being “good.” The cause – effect system did not always work in their life.

When we talk about the Bible and God’s big story we can break it up into three “Acts:” Act 1) Creation, Act 2) Fall, Act 3) Redemption. This is the story line of God. Of scripture. Of your life.

Act 1) Creation tells us that the cause-effect pattern works. You reap what you sow. Good principles bring good results. Think: the book of Proverbs.

Act 2) The Fall tells us that the cause-effect pattern is terribly broken. Sometimes you reap what you didn’t sow, or you don’t reap what you did sow. Life seems meaningless. Think: Ecclesiastes.

Act 3) Redemption tells us that one day every pattern will be restored. You will once again reap what you sow because there will be no sin, or chaos, or evil to stop it. Christ’s love will win and restore everything to its proper system: good rewarded and evil destroyed. Think: Song of Songs.

OK, what does this have to do with Galatians 6:8?

Galatians 6:8 is redemption. It is pattern restored. It is cause-effect back in place inside of us.

Here’s why Galatians 6:8 is so important to understand. When everything in the natural world is falling apart and the cause-effect system is failing left and right, we can know that in the spiritual world the pattern still holds because of the redemptive life of Christ inside of us. We have a new life system that replaces the law. The cause-effect pattern of the law will either destroy you or it will fail you because of the Fall. But the life of the Spirit will never destroy you and it will never fail you. IF YOU SOW TO THE SPIRIT, YOU WILL REAP FROM THE SPIRIT ETERNAL LIFE, EVERY TIME! If you sow love, you will reap love. If you sow joy, you will reap joy. If you sow peace, you will reap peace. Faith is rewarded. Receiving grace does bring growth. Beholding Christ does transform us. Always! Every time this spiritual pattern holds.

Oh, and if you sow to the flesh…corruption. Every time.

Now the pattern is restored in us spiritually, but it has not yet been restored physically. If you are counting on your good behavior or adherence to Christian principles to change your situation, status, experiences, health, spouse, kids, friends, boss, well there are no guarantees that those things will change. But what is guaranteed is that this kind of “sowing to the flesh” might just actually destroy you on the inside, like all law keeping does.

Here’s the paradox. “To live is Christ” is to give up control. The cause- effect system is all about gaining and keeping control of your own life. That’s why we run back to the law. It’s why we choose principles over the person of Jesus. But giving up control is “sowing to the Spirit,” and this sowing will reap eternal life – which IS Jesus! You will be like him. You will gain control by losing control. You will gain life by losing it. Now that’s a pattern that we can all live with.

Where do you see yourself trying to live from a fleshly sowing and reaping (control)? Where can you see spiritual sowing and reaping in your life? Are you sowing Christ into your life? Other’s lives? What might that look like?

Bonus song: a little Tears for Fears on sowing and reaping.

May 16: Our New Law- The Law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

The law of Christ?

Um, haven’t we just spent almost two months showing how we are no longer under the law but under the Spirit? That the law stirs up the flesh? That law keeping can never make us righteous or good?

Yep.

But the law of Christ is not that same law as the law of Moses- that law that exists outside of us and condemns us. The law of Christ IS the life of Christ that lives inside of us and frees us, declaring us not guilty.

The law of Christ is love. Not just a command to love, but a command to love that flows from the indwelling love that lives in you through Christ. This is the love that we appropriate by faith in the One who loves us and gave himself for us (Gal. 2:20). This is a law that we can finally obey, because it has already been obeyed for us, and it is growing inside of us as fruit of the Spirit.

When we live from the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit, we have already fulfilled the Mosaic Law. But that Law is no longer our imperative- Christ is. He is our ethic. Our standard. And his standard is even greater than Moses’ standard. It is a standard that requires us to love as Christ does. But it is also a standard that is empowered by a perfect love for us. So now living out Galatians 6:1-2 (the law of Christ) is just simple love. It is the opposite of 5:26- the empty provoking or envying that comes when we forget we are freely loved in Christ. So the law of Christ is never to be seen as a checklist. It is not a set of rules. It is a way of life. It is faith. It is waking up every morning and rather than asking “what do I do first to please God?” we ask “how can I trust God’s love and love others today?”

Paul tells us that now that we are in Christ and Christ is in us, the love that flows from these truths is that we will restore anyone caught in a transgression and bear one another’s burdens. Both of these describe a dire situation. A brother or sister being dominated by sin. We aren’t to go around nitpicking each other’s sins. But we are to look for those that are trapped and crushed by it.

Restoration and burden bearing is Christ. It is what he did on the cross for us. He carried the weight of sin that we could never carry. He restored our souls, freeing us from the bear trap of sin. And now we are being asked to fulfill this ministry in lives of each other. Galatians 6:1-2 is truly Jesus’ life being lived out by us, together, as a community.

It is only in community that we can live out the life of Christ. We are commanded to live in community in such a deep way so as to know the burdens of each other and know how to best bear those burdens for each other. It is in these acts of mutual serving that we will keep in step with the Spirit, and crucify the flesh. Not by trying hard to crucify the flesh, but by striving side by side with those who are carrying a weight that alone they could never bear.

“To live is Christ” is to bear burdens. To carry loads. To restore the one caught in an ongoing sin. It is only possible from the life of Christ. If you try to fulfill this ministry apart from grace, you will do it from pride or you will never do it at all because you won’t feel “spiritual enough.” Christ’s indwelling life allows you to love your brother or sister that is trapped and crushed, and to do it from love and humility- keep watch on yourself, lest you to be tempted.

Do you see the law of Christ (the law to love) as an inner dynamic in your life, or as an outside standard to live up to? How can the gospel’s truth make it an inner dynamic for you today? Are you living in community in a deep enough way so as to be bearing burdens and restoring others gently?

May 15: Look At Me. Don’t Look At Me.

Galatians 5:25-26. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

When we live from Christ’s indwelling life we are remembering that we are constantly full and constantly connected. So when Paul tells us to not become conceited, we can hear him telling us to not lose sight of Christ life in us, and the fullness it offers. In others words he is saying what he just said- keep in step with the Spirit.

To be conceited is to be paradoxically full of empty glory. How true it is that we are constantly seeking glory from things that can never really fill us up. Those things that fade too quickly like our beauty, physicality, or stuff. Or those things that can never quite give us enough glory like the job success, or our knowledge, or our behavior. These things all eventually come to and end in one way or another. Your glorious kids grow up. Your sweet spiritual growth hits a wall. Your cool friends move away. Your productive business struggles.

We are all made by God for glory. But we are made for the glory that can only come from something or someone larger than us. More glorious than us. And that of course is only God. Only God is bigger than humanity. So only God can satisfy the desire for glory that we all feel every day. When we try to fill our desire for glory with these things that fade, we will become conceited or “full of emptiness.”

Then what Paul teaches us next is extremely important: WE WILL TREAT OTHERS BASED ON HOW WE FEEL ABOUT OURSELVES. And so the progression in Galatians 5:26 looks like this:

Step 1: Failure to stay in step with the Spirit. That is, to receive the grace of Christ and his never ending love into my heart and mind moment by moment.

Step 2: Rather than filling up my need for glory (meaning, value, purpose) with Christ, I fill it up with things that fail me and leave me empty.

Step 3: I feel good at first about my attempts to find glory. So, I begin to provoke others. I believe that I am better than them. I feel superior. I lord it over people. “Look at me!”

Step 4: The things I sought glory from crash. So, I feel terrible again and begin to envy others. I feel inferior. I don’t matter. “Don’t look at me!”

“To live is Christ” prevents this progression of emptiness. Christ in me means I am always full, always satisfied. Not by my own self esteem, or self worth. The truth is we feel like we are worthless because we are. That is, apart from Christ. Without him we can do nothing. This is why we must embrace our new reality in the Spirit, by whom we are never worthless. The Spirit displays his glory through our worthlessness. Our emptiness reveals his fullness. Our weakness demonstrates his strength.

Do you feel empty of glory? Are you a provoker? Do you envy others? How does the gospel prove that you are full and not empty?