Questions to consider:
- Are you idolizing a particular pastor, leader, or worship singer?
- Do you consider yourself to be worldly in thought or action?
- Do you consider yourself to be maturing in the faith?
- Are you currently planting seeds (or watering them) in someone else?
- Do you test what is said in sermons you hear or articles you read to make sure you're not believing lies from someone possibly laying another foundation that isn't Christ?
History repeats itself. We can see it in the news headlines, and the state of our world. Our own homes may reflect a state of compromise we have become so accustomed to, we fail to notice. Should we expect a free pass when judgment day comes, simply because the times change, and we don't want to be misjudged for being uptight, or legalistic? God forbid. God never changes His ways, His holiness, or His just nature.
However, we can take heart, and be encouraged knowing that we have everything we need, including strength that comes from God Himself, to live holy lives (1 Corinthians 1:8), until He returns to set up His Kingdom, and we receive our eternal bodies.
Being partners with Christ, His servants, ambassadors, and co-heirs, it is essential that we take on His character, and live as He did. Although God offers us His strength, it is up to us to surrender to Him, and use what He has made available to us. We have choices to make. We must choose wisely. Godly wisdom and truth must come before our opinions, and culture.
In our pursuit of Godly wisdom, and spiritual growth, we cannot replace personal Bible study time. Devotionals, and sermons are helpful, but we must be diligent in our own personal study. When following a particular leader's teachings, we must be careful not to allow them to replace God's Word in our hearts and minds. We must guard our hearts against idolatry. Ministry leaders, and teachers are also servants of God, in their own race and journey. Let's not get caught up in clever speeches that leave us dependent upon pep talks, a watered down version of the Word, or false "encounters" with God, based on physical or emotional sensations, which some charlatans will attempt to manipulate us with.
Our prayer life, and our walk with God must be deeper than that. They must be based on the Truth, and the assurance of what He will do. Human wisdom won't bring us to that deeper level.
"...Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God." -1 Corinthians 1:24
We are all called to some form of ministry in life. If you are feeling inadequate in yours, you are not alone (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
It serves as a reminder that God is with us when we accomplish something for His Kingdom, which we know was His own doing, recognizing our own shortcomings, and weaknesses. Him, working through us, can be a humbling, yet life changing experience, compelling us to do more, making ourselves more available to Him.
The world won't understand why we do, or not do, certain things. Don't shy away; stand firm. We are not here to make peace with their way of justifying sin. We are here to guide those in our circle of influence, and present them with the Good News about Christ, and the available redemption, helping them know their Creator through His Word, and established truths.
Our foundation is our Messiah; the Word made flesh. His followers are still being mocked, seen as foolish, and ignorant. It was no different for our Christ; we shouldn't expect it to be for us.
We are presented with many ways to serve in God's Kingdom. We are also presented with many ways not to. Many of us have struggled with feelings of inadequacy, or unfulfillment. We might have also been caught up in ungodly competition, comparison, or jealousy with other people's ministries. While God does give us different ways of serving throughout our lifetimes, and although one particular service might be done with good intentions, we can still be outside of God's will for us.
Take Paul as an example. In 1 Corinthians 1:16-17, he explains that although he did baptize a few believers, he wasn't sent to baptize, but to preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus. He wasn't wrong to baptize, but he knew what his purpose was, and did not allow himself to be distracted.
Let's make it our goal to grow in our faith; to grow to spiritual maturity. If we are still controlled by our sinful nature, we will not grow. The more we learn, the more of God's Word we take in, the less we will want to participate in the sins of the world. We will move from spiritual milk, to solid food, maturing, and knowing our Creator in a deeper level.
Here are a few examples of feelings and behaviors that point to someone still being controlled by their sinful nature:
These behaviors don't always look the way we would expect them to.
Idolatry doesn't have to look like a golden calf, being formed from all of our gold, and used to worship God (Exodus 32). Adultery is not always physical (Matthew 5:27-28).
We must be on guard at all times.
Remember, if we are not controlled by God's Spirit, we are more likely to continue in these behaviors that separate us from Him even further.
A choice must be made on a moment by moment basis: are we part of the family of God, or are we part of the world, imitating its customs and thinking like worldly people?
Do we, even as followers of our Messiah, find that we agree with much of what the world considers acceptable in society?
Do we then judge those in the family of God with opposing views as being judgmental, legalistic, and too conservative?
If so, it would benefit us greatly to examine our own motives and lives. What are we basing our opinions on- the ever changing world, or the unchanging, unadulterated Word of God?
If we base our opinions on the former, it will reflect on our daily choices. Whatever is socially acceptable will become permissible to us in our own minds, if we are not studying God's Word, and realize that He never changes with the times. He is Ancient of Days, from everlasting to everlasting, He is God. Our bodies, as His temples, ought to be cared for as such. Our minds, if surrendered to Christ, will align with His Word.
As we can see, we are powerless against the world and its influences without our Creator. Our purpose would be lost to popular opinion, and immature faith.
What we can do:
- Study diligently to know our Creator.
- Make no excuses for sinful behavior.
- Get to the root of sin in our own lives.
- Make necessary changes to stop sinning.
- Make sure we make time for godly fellowship.
- Test everything we hear with Scripture.
- Be willing to lovingly confront a friend (in private) if concerned with their sinful behavior.
- Memorize Scripture.
- Encourage others to grow in their faith.
- Don't neglect prayer time.
Paul preached truth, and carried out his ministry- not because he wanted to be idolized or placed on a pedestal- but because he had to. He simply had to. For him, there was no other way, no other option. He confronted the believers in Corinth when he heard they were conforming to the world, and dividing themselves based on whom they followed. He asked, "Was I, Paul, crucified for you?"
When we can reject that kind of flattery in our ministry, we are not only letting God reign over our ministry, but we are also protecting ourselves against foolish pride. It is good to be respected, admired for our faith, or even given honor, to some degree. But does the heart crave it? Are we lacking something internally, that we look for that acceptance from others in our ministries? Do we need validation from others to prove to ourselves we are doing something worthwhile?
Don't allow your insecurities to take God's place in your heart. Help others depend on God, not on you.
We can all too quickly fall into the trap of fancy, clever talk. Coming up with ways to draw people to us becomes more about a staged show than the Gospel of our Messiah. The message of the cross, therefore, loses power. We have the potential to create false converts. Converts that will find it easy to remain in the world; to look like it, think like it, and act like it.
Don't think too much.
Be clear. Be honest. Let the personality God gave you shine through. Let the Holy Spirit speak through you. Don't stifle it with cleverly thought out speeches. Our human wisdom can only get the Gospel so far. We must get on our faces before our God, continue repenting of our sin, ask for His wisdom, and be willing to be used by Him.
Let's be honest with ourselves; we will continue to fail God. But it should be a struggle, not deliberate sin. We should be fighting our flesh with the Word of God, and be willing to make drastic changes in order to obey. He can see through to our deceitful hearts. He knows whether our ministries are for Him or for ourselves. Yet He is merciful, and will forgive us, if we fail, yet repent.
We believers should not seek to be popular with the masses. If we are, we ought to examine ourselves and our ministries, and wonder, "Why are so many in agreement with me?" or "Why am I in agreement with so many in the world?"
Evil will not agree with you. Worldly people won't fully understand the mysteries of God when you share them; His plans, His message of salvation, and call to holiness that challenges their beliefs.
If they had understood them over 2.000 years ago, our Messiah would not have been crucified (1 Corinthians 2:8).
We understand the message of the cross because of God's Spirit, which is within us. Our finite minds cannot conceive it on their own. We have no reason to boast. When we make a difference in someone's life, all praise is due to God alone for giving us the will, the strength, and the way.
As we grow in our faith, we will grow more and more tired of the world. We will be torn between longing to be with the Lord, and staying here to advance His Kingdom. We will grieve for the lost, and the fallen world. We will grieve when we sin against God, and seek more of His presence. And yet, through all this, we will still experience the joy of the Lord. Praise God for that.
Father, we are grateful that you know the end from the beginning. You are Ancient of Days, and you know our faults, struggles, and desires. We ask you to not give up on us, continue the fight against our flesh, and anything we allow in our lives that does not align with your Word. Forgive us, Lord, because we often don't know what we do. Enlighten us as we read your Word. Make it clear to us as we take it in. Thank you that we don't have to depend on our own strength to do things. Thank you that you do not reject a broken spirit when we come to you in repentance. For any unrepentant heart, I pray conviction. For any fearful thoughts, I pray peace for the mind. For any doubting minds, I pray the blessed assurance of eternal life, and your Holy Spirit to continue guiding. For your church, I pray for unity, strength, and truth. May you be glorified with our choices. In Christ Jesus' name- Amen.
Call to Action:
Arm yourself with the Sword of the Spirit. If you still haven't been sticking with a Bible study commitment, plan it now. Decide on a time of day you are alert, and will commit to focus on Scripture, and prayer with no distractions.
Finding an accountability partner or group might be something to consider to help you stay on track with your Bible study! Decide, and take action!
Thank you for joining us for Bible study! I hope you can join us for our study of 1 Corinthians, Chapters 4-6! See you there, and don't forget your journal!
Serving our King,