Can I? Could I? Should I?

Studies in First Corinthians – XVI

In a world of increasing darkness and an ever widening gulf between the holiness of God and the wickedness of mankind, it can be difficult for the Christian to know where to draw the line. Of course, the line should not move further from God as the world does. Certainly there must be some principles that we can follow as we make decisions. In the second part of chapter ten, Paul gives us three guidelines for making these decisions motivated by our love for God and others.

1. Live Sacrificially for Others

“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (10:24).

Paul wasn’t suggesting we steal each other’s money. He was teaching that we should all live sacrificially for other people. Because of love, the child of God will be careful to do nothing that would hinder another. His first concern is the spiritual wealth of that person. In every setting: at home, at church, on the job, in school, he is seeking the spiritual benefit of others.

2. Live in Separation Unto God

“What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (10:19-21).

Paul makes here an important distinction: our fellowship is at Calvary, but our contact must be with the world. Our fellowship is with Jesus, but our friendship is for those who do not know the Savior. In other words, Paul distinguishes between our associations and our fellowship. We associate with unsaved people as we move throughout this world, but we fellowship with the LORD and the body of Christ at Calvary.

It is impossible to belong to Christ and live in the enemy’s camp. Absolute separation unto God is demanded, but remember that separation is not isolation. Separation is contact without contamination. We are to move among the lost, talk with them, work with them, play with them – but always maintain the standard of Christian living.

3. The Glory of God is Our Purpose in Everything

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).

Paul was not suggesting we can make up our mind about the righteousness of an action and, whatever we decide, do it for the glory of God. He was teaching that we should ONLY do that which we CAN do to the glory of God. If an action or decision goes against the Word of God or the Spirit of God, it cannot be for His glory.

Ask yourself these three questions when you need to make a decision:

1. Will it be a stumbling block to others? If the answer is yes, your love for others should stop you.

2. Can God bless this action? If you can’t expect Him to bless it, then don’t do it.

3. Can I do this for the glory of God? In not, then have no part of it.

That The Spirit Might Be Saved

Studies in First Corinthians – IX

In chapter five of First Corinthians, we come to a major sin issue that was infecting the Corinthian church. The church was tolerating the sin of a brother and it was destroying their testimony in the world. Not only that, but their tolerance exposed their pride in worldly wisdom and human philosophy. Rather than mourning the sin of their brother, they were patting themselves on the back for being “open minded.”

This was not simply a breakdown in the life of one individual, but the wide influence that sin was having on the life of the church that tolerated it. The purpose for which they existed, to reach the lost, was in danger of total collapse because of the sin they had allowed to remain in their midst.

Alan Redpath paraphrases Paul:

“And ye are puffed up,” Paul accuses them, “you are haughty and proud, so occupied with your discussions and theological arguments that you are closing your eyes to this terrible thing that is going on right in the very center of your church life.”

Paul makes it clear that the church should judge the sin of the offending Christian (5:3-5). We do not judge the world; God will take care of that judgement in the future. We do however judge the conduct (not motives or ministry) of those who are inside the church.

His words may seem harsh: “taken away from among you” (5:2), “deliver such an one unto Satan” (5:5), “purge out” (5:7), and “put away” (5:13). This was the action to be taken regarding the guilty party, however, he was not left to be abandoned. He was, after all, a sinner for whom Jesus had died. The remainder of verse five gives the goal: “To deliver such an one…for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

Church discipline is never easy but it is necessary to maintain our testimony in the world and to achieve its ultimate purpose — the salvation of the erring believer. According to 2 Corinthians 2, that is exactly what happened in this case.

If the church allows sin to remain, it paralyzes its witness, takes away the power, and removes the power of the Holy Spirit. An unholy church is a defeated church. The extent to which sin is permitted is the measure in which appetite for the Word of God will depart.

The Christian who is pure is powerful, but the man who is compromising is spiritually impotent. – Redpath

Love and Holiness

I recently read an article highlighting the letters of Francis Schaeffer. The post called attention to Shaeffer’s emphasis on the Christian’s responsibilty to reflect both the love and the holiness of God. It was Schaeffer’s conviction, and I believe he was correct, that these two characteristics could coinside in an individual only by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Photo by leicadog1

Here is the quote from an undated letter:

Increasingly I believe that after we are saved we have only one calling, and that is to show forth the existence and the character of God. Since God is love and God is holy, it is our calling to act in such a way as to demonstrate the existence of God–in other words to be and to act in such a way as to show forth His love and His holiness simultaneously. Further, I believe that the failure to show forth either of these is equally a perversion.

Of course, in one’s own strength it is only possible to show forth either love or holiness. But to show forth the holiness and love of God simultaneously requires much more. It requires a moment by moment work of the Holy Spirit in a very practical way.

In the flesh we can exhibit a pharisitical vengance against sin or we can exhibit a benevolance that dismisses sin. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit do these characteristics come into balance.

“All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalms 25:10

A Picture, A Mirror, and A Window

Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah’s great vision by which he receives his calling can be discovered and applied in three parts.

  1. A vision of the Holiness of God – an UPward vision.
  2. A vision of the Sinfulness of self – an INward vision.
  3. A vision of the Need to be filled – an OUTward vision.

Every person who comes to know the LORD will go through this same process. In fact, as we walk with the LORD, we will find that we tend to rotate through these three stages. I’m not sure what stage you are at today, but let me offer you a picture, a mirror, and a window.

Photo by whimsicality

A Picture of God’s Holiness

Pictures are never as good as the real thing. Words are pitiful when employed with the task of describing God. I am curious to know if Isaiah read his words describing the scene he portrays in the sixth chapter of his book and felt as if the words were inadequate. His words give us a glimpse of the majesty of our LORD. God is so many things; He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. But perhaps the greatest difference between God and man is that God is holy and man is not; man is sinful and God is not. When you have a clear picture of His holiness, you will be looking into a mirror which reveals your true self.

A Mirror to See Yourself

When Isaiah saw the holiness of God, he could clearly see the sinfulness of himself. Being in God’s presence is like looking into a mirror that reveals all of your sin and weaknesses. That is why Isaiah said, “All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But notice what happens when you continue to look into the mirror. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass (mirror) the glory of the LORD, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

A Window to See the Need

Certainly you have notice the immediate excitement in one who has recently been changed and forgiven by God. They want to tell everyone what the LORD has done for them. Isaiah’s immediate response to having his sins forgiven is availability. “Here am I, send me!”

Luke 16 tells us of a certain rich man and a certain poor man named Lazarus. The rich man had everything he needed for a comfortable life. Lazarus laid at the rich man’s gate, full of sores and desiring the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. The rich man needed a window to see the need that was just outside his gate. If we have been saved by the power of God, then we need a window to see those who are dying just outside of our gates, hungry for just a little taste of the presences of God that we enjoy on a daily basis.

A picture, a mirror, and a window; which one do you need today?