1 Corinthians 12

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Variety is the spice of life–or so they say. And according to the apostle Paul, variety is also the beauty and strength of the church. To paraphrase Paul, the church is a gathering of different people from a multitude of backgrounds. If that weren’t diverse enough, the Holy Spirit spices things up by bestowing a variety of gifts upon an already diverse community.

Different folks with different experiences and different stories, equipped with different gifts to accomplish distinct purposes. On the surface, it sounds like a recipe for division, dissension, and dysfunction.

Instead, in God’s infinite wisdom, it’s the diversity that actually highlights the unity of the church. There are numerous gifts, yet they are given by the same Spirit (v. 4). There are countless ways to serve, but it’s all in service to the same Lord (v. 5). The activities of the church vary, “but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (v. 6). There are many individual members, but they are interdependent as members of one body (v. 12).

So what does this mean for you, practically? It means that whatever your story, whatever your abilities and gifts, you have an important, indispensable role to play in the church of Jesus Christ. Your story and your gifting might be very different from the brother or sister sitting next to you on a Sunday morning. But take heart: variety is the spice of life strength of the church!

1 Corinthians 7

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Marriage–marriage is what brings us together today. (IYKYK)

Anyways, here’s my best attempt at a one-sentence summary of Paul’s teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7: marriage is a gift from God, but marriage is not a god.

Marriage Is A Gift

After admonishing the Corinthians for tolerating the kind of grotesque sexual immorality “that is not tolerated even among the pagans” (1 Cor. 5:1), Paul commands the Corinthians to flee from such sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:12-20). 

But God offers gifts to help his people flee such immorality and live in greater holiness–and one of those gifts is marriage (vv. 1-5). 

Marriage Is Not A God

Marriage is a good gift from a gracious God, but marriage is not a god–that is to say, marriage is not ultimate. Or, said another way, singleness is not second-class citizenry. Paul was single. Jesus was single. When you read your Bible, do you find yourself thinking Paul and Jesus would’ve been better off if they were married? Neither do I.

Glorify God In Your Marriage/Singleness

Which brings us to the application–whether you are married or single, your objective remains the same: to bring God the glory and honor due his name. Consider today how you might better leverage your marriage or singleness to bring God the glory he deserves.

1 Corinthians 2

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For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

Paul’s message to the Corinthians was not marked by eloquence. Nor did he proclaim the testimony of God with an extensive vocabulary that was sure to impress and persuade his hearers. 

It wasn’t because Paul lacked eloquence. It wasn’t because Paul was an incapable wordsmith. Quite the contrary–Paul was actually one of the most articulate and educated men of his day.

So why the stripped-down presentation of the gospel? So that the faith of the Corinthians “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (v. 5). Paul knew–and believed–that the gospel message was sufficient to transform lives. It did not need to be dressed up, marketed, and repackaged according to man’s wisdom.

You do not need certificates and degrees to effectively share the good news of Jesus Christ. You do not need an extensive vocabulary. When it comes to proclaiming the gospel, the power is not in your presentation but in the presence of the Spirit (v. 13).

2 Thessalonians 1

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“Christianity is like a nail–the harder you strike it, the deeper it goes.”

The aforementioned quote is attributed to Yemelyan Yaroslavsky (try saying that with a mouthful of mashed potatoes at your Thanksgiving meal). Yaroslavsky was a devout Russian atheist–but he was closer to biblical truth than he probably wanted to be.

Paul opens his second letter to the Thessalonians by giving thanks for their faith, which was “growing abundantly” along with their increasing love for one another (v. 3). But this growth wasn’t the result of cultural favor. Actually, it seems to have been quite the opposite. Evidently, their growth came while simultaneously enduring persecutions and afflictions and worthily suffering for the kingdom of God (vv. 4-5). 

The conditions that seemed unfavorable at a surface level actually proved to be fertile ground for gospel depth and the advancement of the kingdom of God. The harder they were struck, the deeper they went.

May the same be said of us.

1 Thessalonians 1

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Have you ever wondered what others think when they think of you? That can be a tricky thing. It’s certainly possible to care too much about what others think, which is rooted in an unhealthy fear of man. It’s also possible to care too little, which leads to an unhealthy aloofness or arrogance in our relationships with others (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, if we can manage to stay between those two extremes, it’s a question worth pondering.

In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul expresses the thoughts that come to mind when he thinks about the saints in Thessalonica. He is thankful for them. He prays for them constantly. He remembers their faith, their labor of love, and their unwavering hope in Christ. He remembers their joy in receiving and responding to the gospel, even in their affliction. It’s clear that when Paul thinks of the Thessalonians, he thinks highly of them.

Can the same be said for you? When others think of you–both those inside and outside of the family of faith–what do you think comes to mind? Or perhaps a better question is this: what do you hope comes to mind? Starting with that question and working backwards is one way to help ensure that others “give thanks to God always” for you (v. 2).

Galatians 4

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The Christian life is one that often gets a bad rap from those on the outside looking in. The misperception is that there are too many rules and regulations, no margin for anything fun or remotely enjoyable, and an overall lack of freedom that seems suffocating.

Galatians 4 is a counterargument to that line of thinking. According to Paul, it’s apart from faith in Jesus Christ that we’re actually “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (v. 4). Through the sending of his Son, God has actually redeemed–or bought back–his people from enslavement to the law and sin, bestowing on them the status of sons and daughters.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Paul has some great news for you: “You are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (v. 7). Brothers and sisters, you are a child of God–with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto. Oppression has given way to freedom. Condemnation has surrendered to love. Guilt has been conquered by grace. Live like the son or daughter that you are!

Acts 15

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The early church was booming. Both Jews and Gentiles were responding to the gospel. The bride of Christ was still enjoying the excitement of the honeymoon phase, if you will.

And then Acts 15 happened.

First, there arose in the early church “no small dissension and debate” regarding the requirements for the newly converted Gentile Christians (v. 2). Later in Acts 15, “a sharp disagreement” arose between two prominent ministry partners, Paul and Barnabas, and their differing opinions of John Mark (v. 39). Fissures were forming in the first-century family of faith.

But the early church leaders refused to allow dissensions, debates, and disagreements to slow the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church. The Jerusalem Council quickly convened to denounce any unnecessary obstacles that might hinder “the Gentiles who turn[ed] to God” (v. 19). Paul and Barnabas opted to carry on their respective ministries in different directions rather than dwell on their disagreement (though I’m inclined to believe they eventually reconciled based on Paul’s later affirmation of John Mark in 2 Tim. 4:11).

It’s probably no secret to you that dissensions, debates, and disagreements still arise in the church some 2,000 years later. May we learn from our first-century family of faith and be equally determined to acknowledge and address our disagreements in ways that do not distract from the mission to make disciples.

James 1

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Car manufacturers like to highlight how safe their vehicles are, and rightly so. Safety first! But it’s also ironic that the way they make their cars safer is by running them into concrete walls at various angles and speeds in an effort to put every joint, weld, and system of the car to the test. A vehicle that can’t pass the safety tests in a controlled environment can’t be trusted on the highway.

According to James, faith is kind of like that: “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (v. 3-4). It’s under the duress of testing and trials that our faith often proves to be genuine – or as one of my former pastors used to say, “Faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted” (see 1 Peter 1:6-7).

So when – not if, but when – you find your faith being tested, may God grant you the wisdom (v. 5) to see and actually believe that he is shaping and strengthening your faith, both for your good and for his glory.

Acts 10

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When does “everyone” really mean everyone? Certainly not when a teenager has been refused permission to attend a particular event and responds in a whining tone: “But mom/dad, everyone is going to be there!”

But at least one instance in which everyone really does mean everyone is when we say that the gospel is good news for everyone.

As early as Genesis, the seed was planted in God’s call of Abram: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). It was reaffirmed in the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk. 2:10). 

And here in Acts 10, the reality that the good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone comes to fruition as God uses a series of visions to announce and orchestrate the spreading of the gospel beyond the Jewish people as “the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45).

The gospel is good news for everyone, because “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). And because everyone really does mean everyone, the gospel is not only good news for you but also for people that aren’t like you – people with different backgrounds, stories, and struggles. People from different socioeconomic classes and denominations and political parties (gasp!). People from every tribe, tongue, and nation. As I try to occasionally remind you in my preaching, if you’ve placed your faith in Christ, you’re going to spend eternity with a lot of people that aren’t like you.

So what does this mean at a practical level? It means that because the gospel is good news for everyone, no one is beyond the reach of God’s redemption. May we be a people desperate to see the good news of Jesus Christ extended to everyone–in Elizabethtown and Cecilia and Glendale and Radcliff and Rineyville and Vine Grove and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8, kind of).

Acts 5

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In last Thursday’s devotional I wrote about how Luke gave ample objective evidence of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. So how about some more evidence this Thursday?

After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to their knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples hid in fear of what might happen to them because of their close association with Jesus. But post-resurrection–as is the case here in Acts 5–we find the disciples performing signs and wonders and publicly proclaiming the good news of Jesus to any and all who would listen. 

What could convince Jesus’ followers to go from cowardice to courage? I don’t know–maybe Jesus, who was murdered on a cross and buried in a tomb, standing before them alive and well and telling them to go tell everyone else about what they’d seen? I’m convinced that the disciples’ transformation is some of the most compelling evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But there’s more! Acts 5 contains another little nugget for confidence in the resurrection of Christ. As the Jewish teacher Gamaliel said, “If this plan or this undertaking [of the disciples] is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them” (vv. 38-39). The fact that I’m still writing about it and you’re still reading about it some 2,000 years later on the other side of the world is a pretty good indication it was “of God.”

So what does that mean for you? Well, like I wrote last Thursday, the resurrection demands a response. That response might be fresh boldness and intentionality to proclaim the good news of Jesus. It might be a heightened sense of gratitude because you know that your sin is forgiven. It might be a renewed hope knowing that resurrection and eternal life awaits you, too. How will you live differently today because Jesus is alive?