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Sunday, May 22, 2022

On Track for Success

Success and goals go hand in hand. You can be doing a lot of things, you can be very busy, you can have no time to even sit down and hear yourself think but it’s hard to know what success looks like if you don’t have an idea in your mind of the goal you are striving towards. When we have a goal in mind, the business of life can be reshaped, and the things we need to get done are slowly modified and replaced with new tasks, new ideas, and new work as we progress towards our new goal.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes some of the things that were important to people in their former lives. He will talk about the things that kept them busy, the things they used to think were important, and the things they used to let take priority over what really mattered. He says, “You yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters” (1 Cor. 6:8) and he calls them “thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers” (1 Cor. 6:10) mostly in reference to their past.

But for some in Corinth, they were having a hard time letting go of the old ways. Some liked things the way they were before Jesus. Some liked who they were before Paul. Some liked what they did before they became a Christian, and so, as immature followers of Christ, they followed after self and Christ. This is what Paul wanted to correct in what he saw in them.

Paul speaks plainly to them. He is clear and he is specific. There are things that have to change. The people, their behavior, their choices, their hearts all need to continue to change. After highlighting the issues, Paul then points to the goal. The Christians in Corinth weren’t finding much success because they had a different goal in mind. They wanted to have it both ways.

They wanted to live for Christ without dying to self.

Paul reminds them what Christ has done for them, and reminds them of their goal in Christ: sanctification, salvation, transformation – “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11b).

Pointing back to his prior admonitions just a few verses up, Paul reminds them of their goal, to put off the old self and put on Christ: “And this is what some of you used to be” (1 Cor. 6:11a).

If I am to be successful in Christ, I need to keep my goals in front of me and I need to ensure my daily routine, my tasks, my thoughts, my heart, and my actions are leading me towards that goal. Or, as Paul puts it a few chapters later: “do not run like someone running aimlessly,” instead, “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:26,24).

Monday, May 16, 2022

Reality Check

A famous person once said, “Reality can be whatever I want.” For too many people, this is true, for them. The ideas of perception, reality, personal truth, and fiction for many people are indistinguishable. We try to write our own histories and tell our own version of events, sometimes without much concern for what really happened. Perhaps if we can convince enough of our friends or family to believe what we want them to about us, we can even start to believe the lie ourselves. With enough work and commitment, reality can be whatever we want.

The problem is, this isn’t how reality works. This isn’t how truth works. This isn’t the kind of life that Christ has set before us to live up to. Instead, He calls us to live up to our own mistakes (Philippians 4:6-7), to confess and repent of our own sins (1 John 1:9-2:1), and to be committed to the truth that is God’s Word (John 17:17).

One reason this way of life is so appealing is because it can help us hide from accountability. If we can convince those in power around us and those who have authority over us what we want the truth to be, we can avoid the consequences of our actions. This may work for the people in our life, but people are not the only ones we are accountable to. We are accountable before God to “give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12) and we deceiving ourselves if we think we can make a mockery of God’s wisdom: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 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.” (Galatians 6:7-8).

On the other hand, God’s love and the work that He has done for us in Christ does reshape our reality. It’s just that we have to allow that new reality to also shape our hearts and minds. Paul speaks about this transformation in the book of Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2).

If we are not conformed, but transformed, then the reality we should pursue should be one of peace, love, compassion, respect, and self-control. Peter calls this transformation “participating in the divine nature” (2 Pt. 1:4) and tells us our next steps should be to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Pt. 1:5b-7).

Therefore, reality & truth go hand in hand with the Word and the Spirit. Why do we want to cling to the darkness of lies and the webs of deceit when God has graciously given us everything we need in Christ.

If we say we have Christ, then it is the light that we pursue: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12).

If we say we have Christ, then it is the truth that we pursue: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31-32).

If we say we have Christ, but do “not do what he commands” we have become “a liar, and the truth is not in” us.  (1 John 2:4). It is by the truth of Jesus, who He is, what He has done, what He is doing, that we have hope, we have a future, and we have the promises of God. That’s the reality I want.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Resurrection Sunday

Today we gather to remember and celebrate the most important event in human history: the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. It is the singular reason to have hope. It is the one cause that makes the future something we look forward to. It is the only thing that matters. It is the "because" and the "why" and the "what for" behind anything we could ever do that has any importance, meaning, or purpose. (1 Cor 15:3-4).

We gather today, as we do every week, to be reminded of the glory, honor, and power of our God who has so graciously gifted us with redemption, salvation, and sanctification. We were once a people lost, wandering, and ashamed. We were once a people without a God, without a Heavenly Father, and sheep without Shepherd (Mat. 9:36.)

In Christ, we can be more than we were. We can be more kind, show more compassion, and show others what it means to love and to be loved. In Him, we know more than ever the kind of person our God desires for us to be. Without Christ, without His gift of grace and His sacrificial offering, we remain separated from God and lost in our sins. (Heb 10:10).

It is by His blood our debts are paid, and it is by His new life, we have life eternal.

Some said, in the days of the early church, that life of Christ was only a specter. Some thought, He only appeared human. Some believed, the early church had been fooled by none other than God Himself. Others couldn’t imagine that God would defile Himself to take human form and likeness, to fully be human. Still others thought that Christ wouldn’t die, and He certainly would die on the cross, in a public spectacle full of shame.

But that is just what the “Word of God become flesh” means. (John 1:1-3, 14).

But that is just what “His body of flesh” means (Col 1:22).

But that is just what “He emptied himself” of the Divine means (Phil. 2:7).

But that is just what “Christ has been raised from the dead” means (1 Cor 15:12).

Sadly, many people had the wrong idea, and some to this day still do. But, if that is the case, and Christ is not the divine Son of God, if Christ is not human, if Christ did not lay down His life, if Christ was not raised again, then all this is just a waste of time. We have no future to look forward to. We have no hope. We have only sin, only death, only destruction. Paul says in his letter to the church in Corinth that if we are wrong about Jesus, if we are the fools, then how foolish it is to believe. He says, “we are the most to be pitied” if “only for this life we have hope in Christ” and not the next life. (1 Cor. 15:19).

Yes, to many these ideas sound quite strange. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:27-29).

Therefore, we come together today, not to boast in our triumph or in our greatness or in our wisdom or in our righteousness or in our glory, but we come together today to boast in the Lord. He has done all these things out of His great love for us. Let us remember each day and every day, to follow His example: to love.