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Gospel

1 2 3 44
Think outside the box

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, expecting different results.”

Two versions of the deadliest seven words in advancing a cause: “We’ve never done it that way before.” and “We’ve always done it this way before.”

Such were the common sayings of the Customer Service Training I used to conduct.

Paul gives a mandate by way of example in today’s Bible reading. After discussing the fact that he has not lorded his apostleship over anyone, Paul tells us about his methodology for reaching people with the Gospel Message.

Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19–23 (CSB)

Paul was willing to think outside the box to reach out to people with the Gospel. Oftentimes, this meant he was criticized, such as taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. It seems that everywhere Paul goes in the Book of Acts, a mob forms to oppose him. Sometimes, thinking outside the box almost cost him his life.

Paul knew the importance of changing his methods without changing his message. We should be willing to do that, too!

Application

It’s so easy to do what’s comfortable. It’s so easy to not think outside the box. And in doing what’s comfortable, we can easily waste time and other valuable resources and find ourselves frustrated that those great methods of fifty years ago aren’t working.

But any business person can tell you, you have to be willing to change your methods if you want to continue getting out your message. Don’t believe me? When was the last time a Fuller Brush salesperson knocked on your front door? When was the last time the Avon Lady rang your doorbell?

The Gospel Message is no different from any other message in this respect. We must be willing to think outside the box and do things differently — or not do them any longer — than we have always done it in the past.

Lost people are dying without Jesus.
We must be willing to change our methods in order to get out our message!

This devotional was originally published August 10, 2019.

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transformation of a butterfly

Paul offers hope for perpetual sinners in today’s Bible reading.

Some will tell you that your sin defines you, that once you discover your “true self“, that’s who you truly are and you should celebrate your true self.

But what if your “true self” is opposed to the revealed Word of God? How do you handle this epic conflict?

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (CSB)

Paul names several sins and says that those who commit those sins will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That’s a pretty strong statement, Paul. You’re being very judgmental, Paul. Paul, you’re lacking grace. You need to be more loving, Paul. You need to be more inclusive, Paul. You need to be more tolerant, Paul.

You could write off the Bible as an old, outdated book written by closed-minded men. Or you could say that their statements were culturally-conditioned and therefore don’t apply today. Or you could say that what the biblical writers referred to (eg, homosexuality) wasn’t what is referred to by that word today. Or you could say that the biblical writers didn’t have access to modern-day science that dismisses their theories. Or you could dismiss the authority of the Bible completely, rejecting its claims to be God’s revealed Word.

Or you could repent and turn to God.

Application

Paul gives sinners hope! Paul says that your sin doesn’t define you! Paul says you can change!

Notice that right after Paul lists the sins, he says, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 (CSB)

The clear implication is that you don’t have to continue to do what you used to do! You don’t have to live the way you used to live!

You used to be a drunkard, but you don’t have to be now! You used to be greedy, but you don’t have to be now! You used to be sexually immoral, but you don’t have to be now! You used to be verbally abusive, but you don’t have to be now!

The Gospel Message is one of hope! Grace isn’t limited to getting you into heaven. Grace includes the power of getting heaven into you, to change you from the inside out. (Galatians 5:16, Romans 1:5)

This isn’t about behavior change. This is about life transformation from a life of sin to a life of obedience to God.

Are you being washed? Are you being sanctified? Is your life being renewed by God’s Holy Spirit?

This devotional was originally published August 7, 2019.

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chalkboard, books, and chalk

In today’s Bible reading in 1 Corinthians 4, Paul tells the church at Corinth that he wants to be a good manager of the mysteries of God. As I read that in the CSB, I thought, that really sounds strange. The ESV translates the word as steward, a word that sounds more applicable. The Greek word here means, “one who has the authority and responsibility for something—‘one who is in charge of, one who is responsible for, administrator, manager”[1]

The bottom line is, Paul says that everyone, including the Apostles, are accountable. One might think that the Apostles are at the “top of the food chain” so to speak in authority. But Paul says that he only wants to be seen as a good administrator of God’s mysteries. He doesn’t really care what the Corinthians — or anyone else for that matter — think of him; he is only accountable to God.

I shared a meme on Facebook a few days ago that took on a life of its own as a “Facebook Friend” took it completely out of context, making it appear to say something it clearly didn’t say. It showed a young lady gleefully saying that only God could judge her. Just below her picture was a picture of Charles Spurgeon saying, “That should scare you.”

Narcissists think that “Nobody can judge me.” So this meme takes it one step further and says that God is the only one who can judge me. Indeed! But they don’t realize the gravity of standing before a holy God to account for their life.

I remember taking a few classes in college on a pass/fail basis. It meant that at the end of the semester, my grade average could be anything from a 100 to a 70 (or whatever the bell-curve worked out to be) and still pass the course. Guess what! I didn’t push myself very hard in those classes. Why? Because there was very little incentive to put in the extra effort. In hindsight, those classes didn’t leave enough of an impression on my mind to be able to remember which classes I took as pass/fail.

In our attempts at self-justification, we must realize that — as Paul did — God doesn’t grade on a curve. A sliding scale doesn’t appear in God’s grade book. It’s either pass or fail. And for all eternity past and future, Jesus blew the curve! So you either score 100% or you fail. It doesn’t matter if you score in the top 10% or even in the top 1%, you still fail! God doesn’t compare us to Hitler. If He did, most of us would be in pretty good shape. God compares us to Jesus! Ouch! So yes, only God can judge us. And that should scare us!

But the Good News of the gospel is that I can have Jesus’ 100% score put in the place of my score. I can score 2% and Jesus turns that into 100% because of what He’s done. Now, I can tell you that this unfair crediting my grade with Jesus’ grade makes me work so much harder than I ever dreamed of in my pass/fail college classes. And my motivation to work hard isn’t in order to receive the 100%. My motivation to work is because I already have the perfect score and I want to please the One Who gave me the perfect credit.

Because Jesus’ perfect obedience has been applied to my account, my motivation to obey God has been turned on its head! I want to spend time in God’s Word. I want to pray. I want to worship. I want to be a good steward of my finances so that I can give more to help further the work of the Gospel in my church, in my city and in the world. I want to tell other people about Jesus. And I want to spend time helping other people to grow in their relationship with God.

Application

Have you ever realized your inability to please God? Have you ever really given up your attempts to make God happy with you? Have you ever asked God to apply Jesus’ perfect score to your score?

Jesus’ perfect score is available for the asking! God isn’t stingy with His grace and His mercy! He lavishes them on us as the Perfect Father would!

If you haven’t turned your life over to God, today’s a good day to do it! And once you’ve done that, watch how He empowers you to please Him. Watch how He gives you new desires to please Him.

This devotional was originally published August 3, 2019.

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 476. Print.

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watering can

In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues his discussion about the factions that exist in the Corinthian church. He drives home the point that yes, he planted and Apollos watered, (1 Corinthians 3:6) but only God produced the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

If we could summarize chapter three in just one word, it would be growth. We should all work on growing in our faith. Of course, God gives the growth, but we must actively participate in the process. Paul lists a major hindrance to growth is envy and strife. (1 Corinthians 3:3)

In fact, because of the division in the church, Paul says he was unable to address them as mature believers. Rather, he had to address them as babies in Christ — even as unbelievers — because that’s how they were acting.

Paul concluded Chapter Two discussing the two categories of people: Lost and Saved. You’re either one or the other. However, in the past hundred years or so a harmful doctrine has been preached (yes, I’ve preached it, too) in many evangelical churches, adding a third category: the Carnal Christian, defined as a believer who has backslidden. They base the doctrine on the first few verses of Chapter Three. But that isn’t what Paul says! Paul says the Carnal Christian is a Saved person who never grew in his/her faith, not one who lapsed into sin. In fact, lapsing into sin — aka “backsliding” may be a sign that you were never saved in the first place!

Application

For Paul, the Christian life should be on an upward trajectory of growth. Instead, (to mix metaphors) it’s as if the Corinthians walked through the door of salvation and stood at the threshold, never taking steps into the foyer, much less exploring the household of faith. For a Christian to stagnate should be almost unthinkable.

Rick Warren correctly observed that everything that is healthy grows. If a Christian isn’t growing, he/she isn’t healthy. Perhaps, like me, no one said that you need to grow, much less tell you how to grow. For ten years after I was saved I attended church, had some spiritual experiences, occasionally read my Bible (only a couple of favorite books and “inspired finger” verses), and I thought that was all there was until I got to heaven. Perhaps you can relate to my experience.

I pray that these devotionals are encouraging you to pursue a growing relationship with God Who is your Creator and your Father. These devotionals should serve as a springboard to read the Bible for yourself, to dig deep in the Word, and to consider how it applies to your life. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines to grow in your faith. Use these devotionals to spur on your personal Bible reading, not to substitute for it. Feed on God’s Word. Drink its intoxicating truths. Taste and see that the Lord is good and find your refuge in Him. (Psalm 34:8) As you do, watch God give you spiritual growth.

Let me know how I can help you to stay close and stay clean in your growing walk.

This devotional was originally published August 2, 2019.

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Divine Wisdom

Picking up from yesterday, in today’s Bible reading, I don’t think Paul was taking a jab at Apollos, but he highlights his goal in preaching the gospel to the Corinthians. He didn’t want to come in his own strength and wisdom. He didn’t want to come with flowery speech. He said he would rather come in humility in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what he did.

In our study on the Kingdom of God in church, we saw that God’s Kingdom doesn’t look like one would expect it to look like. God’s wisdom is similar.

we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7–8 (CSB)

Paul says that unless God had revealed this hidden wisdom, no one would ever know it. (1 Corinthians 2:10) And reading through this section (1 Corinthians 2:6-16), it sounds like something you’d see in the Book of Hebrews where the author demonstrates how everything now is so much better than it was under the Old Covenant.

Paul says, as great as worldly wisdom is, God’s wisdom is far superior because God has hidden it until now. God has revealed — and has freely given to His kids — spiritual wisdom from the very mind of God. And not only that, but we have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Application

I think the more I know of God, the more I need to know — and the more I feel that I don’t know Him. That’s the way it is when you’re trying to comprehend the Infinite when you’re so finite. But the good thing is, God welcomes our questions. In fact, He’s glorified in our searching out His hidden wisdom. (Proverbs 25:2)

I once heard wisdom defined as applied knowledge. Not knowledge itself, but applied knowledge. We know that the fear of God is the beginning of both wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).

You might want to try this:
There are thirty-one days in most months and there are thirty-one Proverbs, one for each day. Today is August 1. Read through Proverbs 1. What does that chapter tell you about wisdom? Ask God what He wants you to do about what you read. In other words, how can you apply the knowledge you gain from Proverbs 1?

Each day this month, read that date’s Proverb and ask God to show you something new, something that He wants you to apply for that day.

This devotional was originally published August 1, 2019.

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1 2 3 44

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