Honor God With Your Body – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 CSB

In the extended passage that these verses are a part of Paul has been addressing sexual immorality. But his concluding argument against sexual immorality has much broader application for believers. Think about your activities over the past week. Consider your plans for the week ahead. If Jesus was hanging out with you in person, how much of last weeks activities might have changed. And how much might your plans for the coming week change?

That is really the heart of Paul’s argument here. The Holy Spirit is in us. Everywhere I go, he goes. Everything I say, he hears. I do not just take him to church with me. I also take him along with me to work and to social outings. He is with me when I am curled up watching TV and eating ice cream. He is an ever present companion. You might argue that the Holy Spirit is different than Jesus, because I could see Jesus and talk with him if he were hanging out with me. And while that is true, it should not make any difference in how I live my life. In either case, God is present with me.

I have been bought by the blood of Jesus. I am not longer my own person. I belong to God and his Spirit indwells me. So I should seek to honor and glorify God in everything I do. Not out of obligation, but out of gratitude. Honor God with your body.

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Church Discipline – 1 Corinthians 5:11

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. – 1 Corinthians 5:11 NIV

We live in a culture today where, more and more, a morality at least somewhat compatible with the Bible is being replaced with an anything goes form of morality. So long as I am not causing measurable harm to another person, I can do pretty much anything I want. And that attitude is not restricted to just the culture around us. It is creeping into the church as well. While some churches are more accepting of the culture than others, it is a danger that we all face. The church should be a light shining in our world. But if we find ourselves no different than the world around us, what good are we?

In this verse Paul tells the church not to associate with a person who claims to be a believer, but who is living in sin. But why? Paul gives us a couple of reasons in this chapter. The first is that this action on the part of the church will hopefully be a wakeup call to the offending party (1 Cor. 5:5). When we collectively take action, it should be with the hope that the one we are acting against will realize the seriousness of the issue and repent.

The second reason is that sin in the church is like yeast in a lump of dough. It will slowly work its way through the whole body until it has affected everyone (1 Cor. 5:6-8). We are called to be holy, both as individuals and as the church. And that requires that we eliminate anything that would hinder holiness. We need to strive for holiness, as individuals, and as churches. Church discipline is hard, but consider the alternative!

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Cutting Off Your Hand – Matthew 18:8

And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. – Matthew 18:8 ESV

If a body part causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away! While there have been some who have taken this literally, I do not believe that was Jesus’ intent here. After all, my physical hand cannot really cause me to sin, it has no mind of its own or ability to tempt me. Instead, I am tempted by my own desires (James 1:14), and when I succumb to those desires, sin is the result. So, if Jesus is not being literal here, what does he mean?

I believe that what Jesus is teaching us in this passage is not self-mutualization. Rather he is telling us to cut out of our lives anything that could easily lead us to sin, whether it be people, places, or events. If being in a certain place, or doing a specific thing, or hanging out with certain people, challenges your ability to be holy, then remove it, or them, from your life. Don’t let the temporary pleasure than may come from them cause you to face destruction. I don’t believe that occasional sin will cause you to lose your salvation. But I do think we would do well to heed Jesus warning here, and cleanse ourselves from those things that cause us to sin.

The Mouth Reflects the Heart – Matthew 15:18

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. – Matthew 15:18-20a ESV

I know it is true of me, and I would guess it is true of many of you as well. I keep who I really am hidden from most people, and share with the world the person that I want them to see. It’s almost like I am two different persons.

Jesus has been talking with his disciples about what defiles a person, telling them it is not the food they eat, but the words they speak. In his response to their question about this, he talks about a person’s mouth, representing their outer person, and their heart, representing the inner person. What comes out of the mouth does not originate there; it comes from the heart. If my heart, or inner person, is defiled it will generally be reflected in what I say and do. But if the inner person is clean, that also will be reflected in what I say and do.

All too often as Christians we focus on cleaning up the outer person, what other people see. But unless we attend to the inner person, seeking holiness of the heart, all the external cleanup in the world will not really change who we are. In Matthew 23:25-26, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of cleaning up on the outside, while the inside is corrupt. He tells them instead to clean the inside and then the outside would be clean as well. That is just as true of me today. If I am holy inside, it will be reflected on the outside.

Being Like Christ – 1 John 3:2

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:2-3 ESV

I really like this passage. If, like me, you have ever wondered what we will be like in heaven, this passage has the answer for you; we don’t know, it hasn’t been revealed to us. That answer may be disappointing to you, but John goes on to say that we will be like Christ, because we will see him as he actually is. We should avoid the mistake of thinking that we will becomes gods, but in some real way we will become like him. While I don’t know what that will be, I do eagerly look forward to it. John goes on to say that those who have this hope should even now be preparing ourselves by removing the impurities of our lives, striving for holiness. After all, what does this life have that is worth comparing with being like Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18)?

Waging War on Desire – 1 Peter 2:11

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11 NIV

In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul talks about the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in, urging us to put on the armor God has provided. In this passage Peter looks at one of the primary weapons of our adversary; our own sinful desires. In my own experience there is no bigger weapon in the enemy’s arsenal than my own desires.

Not all desire is sinful; some desire is actually very desirable: the desire for God, for my wife, and for my family. Other desire can go either way. The desire for food is good, but it can lead to unhealthy habits that are not good. And some desire, if surrendered to, will inevitably lead me into sin.

I don’t know how to kill desire in my life, but I do know all too well that if I feed it, it will become stronger. In contrast, when I abstain from fulfilling that sinful desire, focusing on something more beneficial instead, the desire will slowly grow weaker, or at least be more under control. It is important to recognize which desires are beneficial for me and which are destructive, and fight against, or abstain from, those that would destroy me, or at the very least hinder my walk with God.

A Call to Holiness – 1 Peter 1:15

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV

Peter calls on all believers to be holy in all we do. But how many of us strive for holiness in our daily lives, or even know what it means to be holy?

So what is holiness; what does it mean to be holy, like God is holy? To be holy means to be set apart. In many households there are two distinct sets of dinnerware. There is the stuff you use all the time, the common stuff. And then there is the nicer stuff, what you bring out for company or special occasions. That nicer stuff is set apart, or is holy. When we are called to be holy, it is a call to be set apart for God’s use; not to be like everyone else around us. Being holy doesn’t mean we are perfect, it means we are dedicated for God’s use; for him to use as he sees fit. And that is the challenge for us. We want to fit in with the world, we don’t generally like being different. But we are different. So don’t be afraid to act that way. Holiness is not just for the super-Christians; it is for all of us. It is what we should strive for.

Thyatira: The Tolerant Church – Revelation 2:18-29

In the second and third chapters of Revelation are letters from Jesus to seven of the first century churches in what is today Turkey.  While I believe these letters were addressed to real churches of that day, I also believe they have great application to our churches today.  The fourth of these was to the church of Thyatira.

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.  I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.  I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.  So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father.  I will also give that one the morning star.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 2:18-29 NIV

Thyatira seems like the kind of church that many of us would want to be a part of.  Jesus commends them for their deeds, their love and faith, their service and perseverance, and their growth in all of these areas.  They are a growing and committed church that Jesus appears to be satisfied with, except for one thing.  They tolerated the self proclaimed prophetess Jezebel.  It is unclear to me if Jezebel was an active member of this body, or was on the outside and attracting a following from within the body.

Jezebel was the queen of Ahab, one of the kings of Israel, and was largely responsible for the promotion of Baal and Asherah worship in Israel.  These ‘fertility’ gods were popular, I suspect at least in part because of the sexuality immorality involved in their worship.  And someone, or some group, in Thyatira had adopted Jezebel as their hero; promoting sexuality immorality and participation in sacrifices to pagan gods.

The problem here is that Jezebel was having an influence, not just on the people of the city,but on God’s people in Thyatira as well, leading many of them into immorality and pagan worship.  And the church took no stand against her, likely leading some within the body to see her teachings as being OK.

I am not an advocate for legislating morality; I think it has little real impact on the world.  But I do believe that the church needs to avoid the mistake that Thyatira made and hold each other accountable to live holy lives, committed to honoring Christ.  Ignoring the impact that Hollywood, a version of Jezebel for today’s world, has on believers today is much the same as what Thyatira did with Jezebel nearly 2000 years ago.  Let’s be willing, within the body of Christ, to hold each other to a higher standard than what is often found out in the world.  Don’t be tolerant of Jezebel’s influence in our midst.  Don’t let Jesus hold our tolerance of sin in our midst against us!

What Does God Require? – Micah 6:8

What does God expect of me as a believer?  It is common, and tempting, to believe that God ‘s expectations for me are to live a life as free as possible from sin; avoiding doing any of the things that fall on your particular list of sins.  The focus too often times seems to be on what we don’t do.  But should it be?

Now I will not dispute that as a believer, I should avoid doing things that will bring discredit to the name of Christ, that cause harm to others, or that are self centered.  But I have also come to realize that were I to actually be able to live a life that was guiltless before the law, either man’s or God’s, that I would still fall short.  In fact, I believe that what I do is more important than what I don’t do.  Even in the Old Testament, where the Law reigns supreme, we find this remarkable passage.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 NIV

What does God require of me?  Not to obey the law.  Not to offer sacrifices.  Not to be sinless.  Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before him.  That is not a license to sin freely.  But it is a challenge to make a difference in the world around me as a child of God.

 

The Rich Young Man

In Luke 18:18-23 we see a young man of wealth approach Jesus.  “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life”, he asks Jesus.  The response is to obey the commandments, which he affirms he has done.  Then Jesus tells him something unexpected.  Obeying the commandments is not enough: there is something else you need to do.  “Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and then follow me”.  And like many of us, it was too much for him.  He was comfortable with his life.  Surrendering all he had in order to follow Jesus around the country was just too much to ask.  Walking humbly with Christ (God) is not as easy as just following a set of rules.  But how can I claim to be his disciple if I don’t follow him?

Parable of the Talents

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells us a parable of three servants whose master left them with a sum of money and then went on a journey.  At his return he calls each of them in to give an account of their service.  Interestingly, he did not ask them if they had been good servants and obeyed the rules.  Instead he wanted to know what they had done with what he had entrusted them with.  Two had made good use of the resources given them and were rewarded.  The third had done nothing with them, and was cast out.  What is it that makes the master (Jesus) happy?  Using what he has entrusted us with in his kingdoms work.

Parable of the Sheep and Goats

Following this, Jesus tells another parable, this time about Christ dividing people, like a shepherd divides the goats from the sheep.   One one hand are the sheep, those who have seen a need and acted to meet that need.  They are invited to partake of their inheritance in the Kingdom.  On the other hand are the goats, those who chose not to respond when they saw others in need.  And they are cast out into eternal punishment.  In neither case are they judged by adherence to a set of rules.  The judgement is not based on sin avoidance.  Rather it is based on acting justly and loving mercy.

John & James

John reinforces the message of the above parable in his first epistle.  If I see a brother in need, and I have the ability to meet that need, but do not, then God’s love does not dwell in me.  Again, it is my actions here that are important; what I do, rather than what I don’t do.

James gives us the same message as John.  If I see a brother with a physical need, and only offer encouraging words instead of meeting the need, then my faith is dead and useless.  Faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead and useless.

What does God Require?

So what does God require of me?  He does expect that I will live a holy life.  A life that is set apart for him.  That does indeed mean that I put to death, or let go of, anything that would get in the way of being able to serve him; especially surrendering to my own selfish desires.  But holiness is much more than that.  It means that I am dedicated to his service.  I become an instrument that he can use in accomplishing his purpose here.  It means that I walk humbly before my Lord, responding to his purpose in my life, making a difference in the world around me.

Don’t be satisfied with obeying the commandments, like the rich young man, and miss out on hearing “well done, good and faithful servant”.  Instead, use the resources the master has given you to honor him, and then “enter into the master’s happiness”.

New Year Resolutions – Colossians 3:9-10

New Years is a traditional time to evaluate the year just coming to an end and to make resolutions for the coming year, typically things that I am wanting to start, or stop, doing.  But I have generally given up the habit of establishing resolutions for the new year; it just seems to be of little value in actually making any improvements in who I am, although there is definitely much room for improvement.

But I do find value in one of the traditional images of New Years.  Although it comes in a variety of forms, the image of the old man and young child, representing the outgoing and incoming years does paint a good picture for me.

The old man represents a year that is worn out with all of the struggles of life while the young child is new and fresh and ready to face all that the new year will bring.  I find this image fits well with Paul’s admonition to believers in Colossians 3:5-14.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. – Colossians 3:9-10 NIV

Here Paul instructs us, like changing clothes, to put off the old self and put on the new self.  The old set of clothes, like the old man in the image, is stained with the world and its association with it.  The clothes we are to remove include: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.  All of these attributes of the ‘old man’, need to be removed because they have no place in the person God has called me to become.

Instead, I am to put on a new set of clothes, including: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with each other, forgiveness and love.  This ‘new self’ is one that will honor God in holiness, and should be my goal.  It is a choice that I am called to make; out with the old and in with the new.

How about it?  Will you put off the ‘old man’ in this new year and choose to be made anew?  To put the ways of this world behind you and be transformed by the renewing of your mind?

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