In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights several solid marks of godly people.
Godly people are known by what they flee from: False doctrine, the love of money, disputes and arguments over words, envy, quarreling, slander, and evil suspicions. Paul argued against these things throughout his letters.
Godly people are also know by what they pursue and fight for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We dont’ have to agree on everything. Actually, it’s helpful if we don’t agree on everything! But the essentials of the faith are worth fighting for. Unfortunately, too often people don’t know what the essentials are. But godly people are careful and pick their battles. They know which hills are worth dying on.
It’s important to note that Paul didn’t give us a list of dos and don’ts as distinguishing marks of godly people. Otherwise — as is our nature — we would use them as checklists to compare ourselves with others. That’s exactly what the Jewish leaders did in the First Century. They thought they were better than others because of the things they did and the things they didn’t do. Many Christians use checklists in the Twenty-First Century, too.
Instead, Paul gives us character qualities, qualities that we find in Jesus Christ, qualities that frankly we can’t manufacture on our own. As we grow to be more like Jesus, our lives manifest His character qualities.
One mark that Paul didn’t bring out here is love. He spends an entire chapter on the mark of love that distinguishes godly people. (1 Corinthians 13) And Jesus pointed out that people would know His disciples by their love for one another. (John 3:35)
This devotional was originally published on September 17, 2019.
I’ve had my share of tests. I’ve done well on many. I’ve done poorly on some. In today’s Bible reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Actually, Paul asks the Corinthians two question: 1) Are you in the faith? and 2) Do you see Christ in you? Paul implies that if the answer is no, then you don’t pass the test.
Paul uses two different Greek verbs when he asks the questions. The first verb means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing.”  The second verb means to “try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use.”
Another way to ask the questions might be, “Examine yourself to see if you’re you a Believer” and “Test yourself as to how genuine your faith is.” In other words, Paul asks the Corinthians quantitative (yes/no?) and qualitative (how well?) elements of the tests. It isn’t enough to say, “Yes I’m a believer.” or “Yes, I adhere to certain religious beliefs.” Paul digs deeper.
Christianity is unlike every religion. Religions are based on believing certain teachings and seeking to appease a deity and/or to rid oneself of deficiencies. Some religions add an element of eternity, others do not.
But Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is completely different when seriously compared to every religion out there.
I believe we need to ask these questions on a regular basis. It keeps us on our toes. It adds a present-day application of our faith test.
I mentioned to our church last Sunday that if you were married several decades ago and you have not had an ongoing and growing relationship with your spouse, something is seriously wrong!” If you claim to have been saved for several decades, but don’t have an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus, something is seriously wrong!
Christians often rattle off that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But let me ask with Paul, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “If so, then how personal is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
This devotional was originally published on September 7, 2019.
What does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians to “come out and be separate” and to not be “unequally yoked” in today’s Bible reading? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17) Does he mean that Believers are supposed to only deal with Christian businesses? In light of recent Social Media posts, maybe this means Believers should eat at Chic fil-A instead of Popeye’s. Maybe Believers should live in communes to avoid contamination from the world. Maybe Believers should make their clothes rather than wearing “tainted” branded clothes made and advertized by companies that support liberal, godless agendas. Maybe Believers should only date and marry believers. Maybe Believers should boycott businesses that are supported by groups that support liberal, godless agendas. I remember a boycott against a cruise line or an entertainment resort because they had a “Gay Pride” week. There are Christians who have taken any or all of these applications from Paul’s instructions.
Let me just say that if Believers spend all their time trying to avoid contact with the world, we won’t be able to establish relationships and win people to Christ and disciple them in the faith… which is one of the things Jesus commanded us to do! Jesus prayed in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17 that God would protect Believers as they lived in the world, but not of it. (John 17:14–18)
If Jesus really wanted us to come out and be separate — completely — He would rapture Believers immediately after becoming Christians. But who would tell the lost people then?
One of my favorite Christian artists, Lauren Daigle came under fire a few months ago for appearing on the Ellen TV show and for not clearly denouncing homosexuality. Thirty-some odd years ago, Christian artist Amy Grant came under fire for singing and shooting a music video “The Next Time I Fall in Love” with Chicago’s Peter Cetera.
Let me just say that not everyone has the same platform and not everyone can reach every audience. I will never be asked to be on the Ellen TV show. Probably no one else who reads this devo will either. What many critics don’t know is that the day she appeared on Ellen, every studio audience member went home with a copy of Lauren Daigle’s CD. Daigle’s music has been featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars. Some secular radio stations have played some of her music. No, Lauren Daigle’s music doesn’t preach the Gospel in the traditional sense, though it is clearly aimed at praising God.
Lauren Daigle is reaching people I never will be able to. And as she reaches out to them, maybe they’ll hear a little about Jesus that they’ll never hear me be able to tell them. We need to pray for people like Lauren Daigle. Pray she stays close to Jesus. And pray that she stays clean in her walk with Him so that when she tells people about Jesus, they will listen to a person of integrity.
There is more to preaching the Gospel than presenting a Four Spiritual Laws message with an invitation. And let me just say that a church doesn’t have to do a gospel presentation complete with an altar call every time it does an outreach event. For several years, our church has hosted a Fall “Trunk-or-Treat” Outreach around October 31. We also host an Egg Hunt Outreach during the Resurrection Day weekend. I clearly present the Gospel at the Egg Hunt, but because of the come-and-go nature of our “Trunk-or-Treat”, I don’t give a presentation for that outreach. Sometimes, we just need to make ourselves available to be friends. Even with people whose lives are very different from ours.
People don’t always need to know what we’re against. Many times — most times — they need to know what we’re for. Though oftentimes, we do the exact opposite of this.
Paul’s point in saying Believers should come out and be separate is that we should be different. But I don’t think Paul was telling us to be weird.
And God hasn’t left us up to our own devices to be different. He gave His Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy lives. Not weird lives.
Perhaps Paul’s emphasis of “come out and be separate” has more to do with what (Who) we are coming out to and being separated for rather than than what we are coming out and being separated from.
This devotional was originally published on August 29, 2019.
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.
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.
Dr. Luke continues his narrative about Jesus’ trial in today’s Bible reading. Pontius Pilate is convinced that Jesus is not guilty of anything worthy of the death penalty. He learns that Jesus is from Herod’s district so he sends Jesus to Herod. Herod can’t find anything worthy of death either, so he sends Jesus back to Pilate.
Pilate is in a quandary. What to do with Jesus?
He offers to have Jesus flogged and the religious leaders aren’t interested. Actually, the only thing they’re interested in is Jesus’ execution at the hands of the Romans. If the Romans kill Jesus, then they can always claim that their hands are clean. To them, it doesn’t matter that Jesus is not guilty of breaking the Roman Law. It doesn’t matter that Jesus is not guilty of breaking the Jewish Law. It doesn’t matter that they have to lie — breaking the Jewish Law — to get rid of Him.
Jesus’ only offense is upsetting these religious leaders’ apple cart. He humbly came on the scene without any fanfare, miraculously healing people from lifelong illnesses, delivering people from spiritual oppression, and feeding crowds of hungry people. And He spoke with authority, not as the religious leaders did. (Luke 4:32, Mark 1:22)
How could it be that so many religious leaders could hate someone so bitterly that they are willing to lie and send an innocent man to His death?
The people loved Jesus and He loved them. And that ticked off the religious leaders. The people were supposed to look up to them. The people were supposed to be impressed with them. The people were to love them.
Anger, rage, and jealousy have driven people to do things they wouldn’t have done on their own. When you add more and more people with more and more anger, rage, and jealousy, you end up with a mob rule of anarchy. The religious leaders wouldn’t listen to reason. They had already moved past that.
So Pilate decided what to do with Jesus. He
One of the criminals crucified with Jesus decided what to do with Jesus. He joined the mocking crowd, “If you’re the Messiah, save yourself!”
The other criminal crucified with Jesus decided what he would do with Jesus. He defended Him and then asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
So what will you do with Jesus? That is the question!
When you cross over to the other side of eternity and face your Judgment Day, the only question that will matter is, “What did you do with Jesus?”
It won’t matter how many times you read your Bible. It won’t matter how many people you told about Jesus. It won’t matter how fluently you pray publicly. It won’t matter if you were baptized. It won’t matter if you went through a confirmation class at church. These things won’t matter.
It won’t matter which religion you claim. It won’t matter how many people you proselytized to your religion. It won’t matter how much money you gave to charitable causes. It won’t matter how many glasses of cool water you offered to thirsty people.
All that will matter is what you did with Jesus.
This devotional was originally published July 27, 2019.