I Corinthians 9 Part 2–Being Adaptable and Disciplined

Being a minister of the Gospel was no easy task.  It required adaptability and discipline.  Paul broke the mold.  He was not simply preaching to the Jews in the local synagogue, He crossed Europe and Asia preaching to any and everyone that would listen. He preached to people in a way that met their culture and welcomed into the family of God as they were.  He never was paid for his efforts nor did he expect to be.  He was called by God to become everything he was not to advance the Gospel across the world. So, Paul told the Corinthians that they also needed to be adaptable as they shared the Gospel.  They needed to quit worrying so much on whether people fit the mold for Christianity and start to focus on getting this message out to those the Holy Spirit could touch and redeem.
 
In our day and culture, we also need to be disciplined and adaptable.  The older I become, the more real the idea that I need to adapt to be effective becomes.  My kids are adults and their kids will not respond to the things that drew me over 50 years ago.  We need to keep the message real, relevant and in front of people.  We need to sense the urgency of the Gospel as Paul did.  We cannot be offended or afraid as we tell others about Christ.  He will do the leading and saving– we simply need to be disciplined and adaptable as we spread the message.  Help me, Lord to continue to speak the truth without fear or prejudgement.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I Corinthians 9 Part 1–Giving to Ministry Opportunities

In a world of bi-vocational ministry, Paul speaks out and calls the Corinthians to task.  It was important to Paul not to let anything take away from the message. He did not mind working as a tentmaker to support himself if that meant the word would be spread.  But, Paul made it clear–Ministry is a job, a career a life pursuit.  Those that go after that life pursuit, should be compensated.  It is not wrong as a pastor to expect the folks that you pastor to support the ministry. It was not wrong then and it is not wrong now.
 
In modern ministry, there are so many places to serve. Churches, missions, para-church organizations, foundations and a host of ways to serve. People are bombarded with requests to give and to serve and people become weary and skeptical about giving to causes.  The truth is, however, God calls these men and women to serve and to minister.  In 1st Thessalonians 5:24 it says, “He who calls you is faithful and He will do it!” Those in ministry cling to the hope and truth of that verse. We who are not in professional ministry have to be ready to accept God’s call to give and allow God to use what we give to advance the Gospel. Do not allow the enemy to rob you of the blessing of giving by making you skeptical of the ministry.  Be sensitive to God’s lead and allow Him to bless your gift and you as the giver.
 
God Bless You

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned?10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

I Corinthians 8–Preferences and Selflessness

Paul was dealing with an issue that really had little bearing on salvation. Dietary laws.  Many Corinthians were purchasing and eating meat after it had been sacrificed to an idol. It was kind of the Aldi’s of Corinth.  For Paul, it was no big deal, but to some it was idolatry.  They brought their concern to Paul and h made it clear–Meat is meat and idols mean nothing…EXCEPT, if ones partaking of such meat causes another to fall away from the Lord.  That was significant–that changed the conversation from the meat to an attitude of selflessness.  If they participated in the practice knowing it was hurting others, then they were not honoring God and His grace; they were simply being selfish.  Paul drew the line at that point.
 
In our culture, we face these type questions daily. What movies are acceptable, what music is acceptable, how do couples behave during courtship. Smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing, and fashion all have their places in church discourse and division. Like the meat, Most of these issues are issues of preference.  Christians should not judge. When, however, the preference causes another to stumble or reject the gospel; then it is no longer about the preference, it is about the attitude of selflessness. There is no meal or movie that is more important than the eternal destiny of a friend.  We need to have Christ’s attitude of selflessness and sacrifice as it relates to our treatment of preference. If we will, God will honor it and bless us for following his lead. Help me, Lord to seek you first and foremost and allow my preferences to honor you.
 
God Bless You

 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

I Corinthians 7 Part 2–Thrive Where You Are Planted

Paul continues to discuss the importance of thriving where you are planted.  In marriage, in career, simple life status–it is critical to allow Christ to be the Lord of your life.  In most peoples daily lives there are things that they love and things that are not ideal.  Often we look to God to take away the “not ideal” parts of our lives and leave only the things that are great!  Paul told the Corinthians, and therefore us, we have to continue to thrive where God has us. 
 
If one is in a difficult marriage, allow Christ to make the most of it. If one is in a difficult job allow God to lead and direct you to be the best you can be.  if we are sick, allow God to strengthen us through it and heal us if He is willing. We simply have to be focused upon him no matter what the circumstance.  If we will, he will lead us through the trial, desert, or void that occupies our lives.  We live to trust and follow him and as we do the Lord makes our lives beautiful and purposeful.  Help me, Lord to be content in my circumstance and follow You closely by faith!!!
 
God Bless You

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.And a husband must not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Concerning Change of Status

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

1 Corinthians 6 Part 2–Sexual Sin and the Church

Paul was a rigid and rule following fellow as a Pharisee.  After his conversion, God, in a great moment of Irony, made him the apostle of the gentiles and the guru of living in God’s Grace.  So as he dealt with the people of Corinth, he made a great number of allowances for the cultural differences and did not judge on things that did not really count as sin.  But, in this scripture, Paul made clear the deadly nature of sexual sin.  Paul said to these folks–sexual sin not only destroys you, but it also destroys many others that you do life with.  Whenever you become one person with another, it impacts all the folks in your lives and theirs.  That is why sexual purity is something God has made critical in the lives of the church, whether Jew or Gentile.
 
In our culture, we have taken the beauty and mystery out of the marital relationship and devalued it by having no parameters around sex, marriage or family in our culture.  It has become chaotic. The picture of the family, of marriage and of the marital relationship has been skewed to a point that many would call it unrecognizable.  As the church, we have to stand firm on what is acceptable as marriage, family, and intimacy. We cannot turn a blind eye to a culture run amok. We need to continue to pray for our nation, its leaders, its educators and parents that they restore the picture of marriage, family and intimacy for the generations to come. We must live pure and holy lives as it relates to marriage and intimacy. If we do not the chaos will destroy our nation.
 
God Bless You

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”[b] 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.[c]

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Corinthians 6 Part 1–How the Church Should Settle Its Disputes

Unity among believers is and has always been a vital part of the health of a church family.  Paul had been apprised of the Corinthians tendency to drag each other into court whenever there was an issue.  Paul knew that this church was growing and thriving and that the divisions and disputes were a major issue for them. What was worse was that they were parading their problems in front of heathen courts, judges, and spectators making the church a joke to the public.  Paul spelled it out well; “How are you going to judge the world if you can’t even settle your personal stuff?!!?”
 
In our culture, we have made civil and criminal disputes a spectator sport–Judge Judy, Judge Faith, Judge Wapner, 24-hour news cycles all play into the idea that airing the problems and disputes we have are a great way to entertain ourselves.  Sadly, such behavior among Christians also makes a spectacle of the Church and the cause of Christ.  We, as a family, need to act selflessly and deal with our disputes in a way that preserves what is right, without making us and the church a joke in a world that hates our faith anyway.  We must act honorably, but also with the same grace, we have been shown. If we will, then the church will be a light in the most litigious society on earth, and Christ will be glorified in both the good and the bad.
 
God Bless You

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. 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.

I Corinthians 4 Part 1–The Meaning of Serving Christ

Paul is trying to help the Corinthians to understand the true value of following Christ.  They were in the midst of a full-on church division. The basis of the division was which apostle they considered their leader…Was it to be Paul, Peter, Apollos or someone else altogether? Paul simply put it into perspective.  The apostles were not some sort of rock stars to be followed by groupies. They were instead servants of the Lord that were being persecuted, rejected, martyred and destroyed. Meanwhile, these people were simply living their lives and paying lip service to follow God and some apostle.
 
Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus upon Christ. He was the reason for the apostles’ persecution. Their lives were singly focused on teaching the truth in love.  They simply wanted to spread the gospel of Christ across the world. They were not seeking fame nor were they building a fan club.  Their sole intent was to provide the message that would truly change lives and change the world.  
 
In our lives, we follow Christ for the same reason. We have no desire to use our faith as a marketing tool.  We are not seeking facebook friends or twitter followers.  We are striving to become like Christ and to share His good news with anyone that will listen. That has never been and will never be a way to build one’s personal popularity.  It is, however, the way to live a truly meaningful and purposeful life. It will provide peace and a true legacy.  That is why we should honor our Lord’s great commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
 
God Bless You

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour, we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.