But You Were Washed

“And such were some of you. 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” (1 Corinthians 6:11) 

When it comes to some things, our culture desires to have its way. We think that as society changes, God’s standards change with it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul dealt with many issues causing division in the church, issues that at their core were rooted in a theological misunderstanding of God’s grace. Many in the church had been saved from their sin but were falling back into their old habits of the past. And Paul, as he did throughout his ministry, found it necessary to warn against this when it happened.

The word antinomianism comes from two Greek words, anti, meaning “against” and nomos, meaning “law”. It’s the idea that Christians are freed from the moral law by virtue of grace as set forth in the gospel. Many mistook Paul’s teaching of grace to mean they could live however they pleased. Paul never taught that because God never intended that. Grace received always shows itself with a heart that desires to conform to God’s will.

After addressing several issues causing division in the church, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul’s point in this verse is that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. He’s calling them to repentance. It’s also worth noting that Paul doesn’t make a distinction between specific sins? We sometimes do. God never does. As Christians, we sin, but we hate it and in our struggle against it we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us resist and overcome it.

There are things of this world that are incompatible with God’s standards, things that if we persist in indicate a lack of belief, testifying to the lack of our having a personal relationship with Christ. But as direct as God’s Word is about what perpetual sin testifies to and where it leads, God’s Word is really a story of grace, the grace of a Father who not only gave His Son for our sin, but who also stands ready to restore us to fellowship when we fail. Restoration always follows repentance. Paul reminds those in the church of their need to repent, but as he concludes the thought of this passage, he also reminds them of who they were before Christ and who they are now in Him. The gospel offers great hope!

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” You see, before Christ we were spiritually dead. The people in the Corinthian church had been brought from death to life (regeneration). They had been set apart to God for His use (sanctification). They had been declared not guilty before God (justified). They had been saved from all of the sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9. God’s power over sin isn’t limited to only certain sins. He has power over all of them. There’s great hope in that truth. God is also the definer of what is and is not sin. He has spoken clearly. So, as our culture moves, God doesn’t, therefore, we shouldn’t move either. Let us never celebrate sin. Instead, with the Holy Spirit’s help, let us fight against our flesh to bring glory to God.

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As Iron Sharpens Iron

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)

I first met Chuck Solomon about ten years ago. He was this guy that would always greet me during the welcome time at church on Wednesday nights. Like me, when the season was right, he would wear shorts and sandals to this service. We joked about it sometimes. Not too long after I met Chuck, I took a class he taught through the book of Job. One night after class, he asked me about discipleship and our meeting together each week to study. I took him up on it. I’ll admit, Chuck’s commitment and his boldness about his faith and his call to discipleship sometimes made me a little uncomfortable. When we would meet at Panera Bread, I can remember sometimes wanting to talk a little softer and not have it be so obvious we were praying. I did, however, enjoy this time and it clearly was a period of growth for me as a believer. As believers, we are all walking the same path in our lives of faith; it’s just that we’re often at different places on that path as it relates to the outward expression of it. I wasn’t where Chuck was at that time and I’m not sure I am now. We met one on one for time before joining with some other guys he had been leading in discipleship. In these nine years, I’ve taken time away from our Wednesday morning group to do other things, but my contact and communication with Chuck has always been constant.

The primary purpose of the book of Proverbs is to instill wisdom in God’s people that will serve them in their day to day lives. This wisdom is rooted in the “fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 1:1-7). Proverbs 27:17 deals specifically with the issue of influence and the need for, and benefit of, interaction among believers. Just as two iron blades rubbed together become sharper and more efficient at cutting and slicing, constant fellowship among believers has a positive influence on one’s character, sharpening them to live out their faith.

There have been many people who have poured themselves into my life. I am thankful for all of them. I know their investment of time in me is a deep well that I will draw upon forever. I know Chuck Solomon came along in God’s timing, and for the last nine years he has always been there for me. He has taught me, challenged me, encouraged me and prayed for me. In other words, he has loved me. I appreciate his heart and his commitment to doing what God has called him to do. Although our salvation is individual, it is never meant to be lived out in isolation, but in fellowship with others. This is the means in which, by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit builds up the body of Christ. I am personally grateful that Chuck Solomon takes this biblical truth to heart. Thank you brother, I love you!

Renewing Your Mind

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2)

In his letters, Paul always combined theological teaching with application for life. As he concluded what are the first eleven chapters of Romans, he began chapter twelve with a call for those in the church to respond in thankfulness to God’s redeeming work. He said this would be their “spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). He then exhorted them to have a mind-set shaped by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit rather than the world. It was a call to discern the will of God. That call is the same for us today.

Paul is not the only one who emphasized the need to be cautious of the world’s influence. James wrote that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). The apostle John warns us not to love the world or the things in the world, and that if we do the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15). As Christians, we must have a proper perspective when it comes to our relationship with the world.

It’s no surprise that in large part, the world in which we live operates in opposition to God. Our culture desires to shape our thinking, and it will unless we allow God’s Word to. Spiritual nourishment, feeding on God’s Word daily cannot be an option if we are to stand strong against the world’s influence. However, its value to us is much greater than that. Consistent fellowship with our Lord helps us to live out the joy God intends for us, the joy that a relationship with Christ brings. As much as we were saved from an eternal hell, we were also saved to an abundant life in Christ. God desires intimate fellowship with us. Paul knew that to be true in his day. And it’s just as true today. Don’t let the anxiety of the world and its influence rob you of what God has promised. Seek God and His truth each day, be transformed by the renewal of your mind so you may live out that truth in a world that largely stands in opposition to His will. After all, this world is not really your home.

To Your Name Alone

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1)

God’s greatest desire is to be glorified. It was also Jesus’ greatest passion. G. Campbell Morgan once wrote, “The deepest passion of the heart of Jesus was not the saving of men, but the glory of God; and then the saving of men, because that is for the glory of God”. In church, we talk a lot about God’s glory, but the truth is it’s hard to define. The most common word for glory in the Old Testament is the Hebrew kabod, which means “heavy in weight”. In the New Testament it is the Greek word doxazo, which means “to magnify, praise or hold in honor”.

As humans, we are incapable of adding to or taking away from God’s inherent glory. However, we are called to respond to it. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” God has done amazing things for us in Christ. By His grace, He has saved us. If we are to be about God’s glory, we must have as our central goal to make Him look as glorious as He is. We don’t do this privately, but in full view of the world. We also don’t do this in our own strength, but in the strength supplied by the Holy Spirit as we seek God in His Word.

Our God has done great things! Let us live and speak in such a way that honors the reality of who He is and what He has done. He deserves nothing less. Seek Him each day and let His light shine in you, never for your glory or mine, but always and only for His.

Being Christian

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are not like your Christ”. When I first heard this quote, I was intrigued as to why Ghandi might have said this. What is it he doesn’t understand? The point the Apostle Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is that non-Christians will never understand the message of the cross because it’s only the Holy Spirit that allows humans to comprehend its message.

Though Ghandi’s quote clearly lacks of a true understanding of what it is to be Christian, it does give pause for us as Christians to consider our witness to an unbelieving world. I think perhaps what he meant by his quote was that he sees no distinction between those who call themselves Christian and those who aren’t. Unfortunately, many have bought into the cultural definition of Christianity; a definition that has no expectation that a changed life follows a changed heart, a definition that fails to recognize that Jesus’ dealing with sin on the cross wasn’t so we would remain in it, a definition that expects God’s standards to conform to ours instead of ours to His. This definition not only falls short of the biblical one, it’s not even Christian.

On the other hand, it shouldn’t surprise us when non-Christians fail to understand or accept what it is to be Christian. They can’t. They may have their own misperceptions of what it means. They might even call it religion. Christianity has never been about the perfect Christian, but instead about trusting in the perfect Savior who made a perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus. It’s about His faithfulness, not ours.

There will always be a disconnect between Christians and non-Christians. So don’t be shocked when you find the non-Christians comments to be antagonistic and their criticism great. We must minister as Paul urged Timothy when he wrote telling him to “not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting opponents with gentleness that God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). This may be a hard course, but it’s the right course. It doesn’t mean you deny biblical authority, compromise your beliefs or tolerate ungodliness. It simply means that you live out who God calls you to be, share the good news of Jesus Christ and rely on the Holy Spirit for the rest.

A Message like No Other

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”     (John 14:6)

Jesus made some pretty exclusive claims, none more so than His words in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Such an exclusive claim angered many in Jesus’ day. It angers some today. Given the changing culture and the pressure to conform, it sometimes even makes the faithful uncomfortable proclaiming the message of Christ. Christianity is unique among religions in that the promise of salvation is based on God’s word and Christ’s work as opposed to man’s performance. This message is unlike any other. It’s the most important message there is and no matter our cultures appetite, it must be shared.

We may never know how God will work in the heart of those we encounter, but we do know if our lives are a reflection of Christ in us, and if we were faithful to proclaim the gospel of grace. That’s all we are called to do. The Holy Spirit does the rest. Let us be faithful to heed the words of Scripture and share with others the saving message of Christ. He truly is the only way. There is no other substitute! We cannot for the sake of eternity believe otherwise.