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Warning Against Idolatry
10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 10:1–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Failures
We all fail from time to time. Every one of us. All our families have their issues. All of our churches have their problems. Failure is not our biggest problem though. How we handle it is.
Paul reminds the Christians that the first generation of God’s people set free from Egypt witnessed more miracles firsthand than any of us. Even so, they turned away from God and He was so displeased with that entire generation that only two of them made it into the Promised Land (and one of them, Joshua was probably young enough to almost be from the next generation). Experiencing God does not guarantee your place in the Promised Land, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t fail every bit as much as the next person.
What families usually do with failure is find someone to be the scapegoat. It’s easier to pick on person to lay all the anxiety and shame upon so that we don’t have to own up to our own. The people who are those scapegoats often start believing that all the shame is their own fault and often end up in self-destructive lifestyles.
If we want our families to move out of places of failure, we have to first own up to it, and everyone has to take their own part in the responsibility. Whether you were the person who did the deed, said the words, stood back and let it all happen, failed to bring help when it was needed, or were so caught up in your own life that you didn’t even know anything happened - we are all part of the problem.
That means it takes us all to be part of the solution. The hero of the family cannot make the shame go away. The strong willed person cannot keep us from falling into temptation again. Only Jesus Himself can do those things, and for that to happen, we have to invite Jesus into our families. Paul tells us though, that if we are willing to own up to our own failure and part in the failure of our families, Jesus will lead us out and heal us from the hurt and shame so we do not have to take it ourselves and we do not need to put it on others.
Reflection: What failures do you try to avoid thinking about? What are the unspoken problems you deal with in your family? How can you invite Jesus into those situations?
16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 9:16–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Purpose
Most people think of chapter 13, the “love chapter” as the greatest and most memorable part of 1 Corinthians. I think chapter 9, particularly verses 19-23 are a close contender. There are few places in Paul’s writing where his mission as an apostle of Jesus and our mission as Christians is written down so plainly and completely.
I believe this was the way he saw every day of his life. He did not live it for himself or for any other purpose lower than saving the souls of every person he met. There was no challenge too great because there was no depth too low that he was unwilling to stoop to it. He was an exemplary Christian and he calls us to follow his example because this mission - Paul’s mission, was also Jesus’ mission as well. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that through Him we might know the righteousness of God. Jesus, who stopped for anyone: Jew, Gentile, man, woman, slave, free, healthy, sick, alive, dead, sinner, saint… Jesus made himself available to show the love of God, not by keeping himself above the crowd of sinners, but by showing them there were no depths He was unwilling to go to pursue them with God’s love.
Reflection: We are saved to serve. That goes for individuals, churches, and our families as well. When people see our families, do they see the Jesus that washes dirty feet? If your neighbors were asked what it means to be part of your family… what your family stands for and how they make a difference in the community, what would they say?
Paul Surrenders His Rights
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 9:1–15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Rights
Individual rights are a huge value in our country and they work their way into our families and church communities as well. That is one way we, as the church in America, bow down to the worldly culture almost every time. I do it more than I realize. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians about his own rights as an apostle precisely because it was and is such a difficult issue. The difficulty is not because individual rights are bad, but because they are good.
The right to receive pay for work is the main right Paul addressed in this passage and it is a good value to have. Paul points out that Moses wrote that commanded it, not just for people, but even for farm animals. Work is valuable and deserves pay. That is not being questioned.
The question comes from the occasional conflict between individual rights and mission. Paul weighed the value of winning the lost people of Corinth for God’s Kingdom and getting paid for serving them and decided that if it would serve God’s mission in Corinth better, he would not exercise his right to be paid. That doesn’t mean he lost that right, it simply means he didn’t use it for his own sake.
We face those kind of situations on smaller levels every day. When you wait in line, have you ever let someone go ahead of you in order to show them the love of Christ? That is waiving your right to your turn in line for the sake of a greater mission. Have you ever paid for someone else’s meal without them asking? That is waiving your right to being financially responsible for only yourself. Have you ever volunteered to serve others in a way probably deserved pay? That is exactly what Paul did in Corinth.
When we waive those rights, we give witness to the greater mission that we work towards. We show the world that there is more to live for than ourselves and that we are not satisfied by just being content ourselves… we won’t quit until we see the world changed.
Reflection: What are the three most important things in your life? What things would you struggle giving up if God asked you to in order to help share His love with the world?
Food Offered to Idols
8 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 8:1–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Knowledge
Is there someone in your family that always has the last word? Someone with a need to be right? Knowledge carries a certain amount of power and authority with it and we use it to get things done our way. Even more, we use it to distinguish ourselves above others. I find it is so much easier to avoid those ‘agree to disagree’ kind of awkward conversation endings if I can simply convince others to see things my way.
Paul calls that the kind of knowledge that “puffs up”. It is a pretentious, hollow kind of knowledge that may help others as a side effect, but whose main purpose is to inflate the ego and presence of the one who has it. It is the stock and trade of the know-it-all… who can be identified by their vast collection of information - often scattered across random subjects and their inability to utter the phrase: “I don’t know.” I’m speaking from experience here because it takes one to know one. It feels good to have my ego inflated by fixing other people and their problems. Even if I don’t get or want the public recognition of it, it feels great just knowing that the world is a better place because of what I have done or taught others to do.
This is not the kind of knowledge that God wants us to have. God does not desire for us to have all the answers to all the mysteries of the world, big and small. God only wants us to know one thing: that we are loved. God wants us to know that He knows us better than we know ourselves and that He loves us more than we love ourselves.
That kind of knowledge does not ‘puff up’ it builds up. It shows us that we matter and that there is hope ahead. The knowledge of God’s love for us frees us from the need to be in control and allows us to actually have and show faith and trust in God. Most importantly, it allows us to love selflessly. If you do not know you are loved, you will spend your entire life trying to find assurance of that love, probably from all the wrong people, places, and things. If you know the love of your creator, your Heavenly Father, there is nothing more you will ever need and you can use the blessings you have to build up into the lives of others around you instead of criticizing and pulling them down. Even when you know the answers to the trivial things of life, you will not be bound by them, but will be free to love others whether they know or follow the right answers or not - because that is exactly the way God loves us.
Reflection: Do you know that God loves you? How do you experience that love? How do you express it to others? How does your knowledge of God build you up? How do you take God’s love and build up others around you?
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 7:32–40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Ties
Marriage has been around a long, long time. Long before Christianity. It is even older than the Jewish religion. There is nothing uniquely Christian about getting married. There is however a unique calling of Christian marriage and I think it is actually more difficult than either being single or being married but not living for Christ.
Being married requires multi-tasking. You have to be able to please both God and your spouse, which will leave nothing for yourself. If you add children into the mix, you will probably sink into a deficit of time and energy. So, being a married, Christian, parent means you have to somehow come up with more than 24 hours a day to serve everyone in your life but yourself. It’s impossible, and I think that’s how most in that boat feel all the time.
However, I am reminded about the time the disciples made the same comment about the commitment Jesus was asking from them. He said, with people, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) That was in reference to the rich young man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life. What was so impossible about that? Jesus asked the man to sell all his possessions and come and follow Him.
That is not a far cry from the call to Christian marriage. If you cannot sell all your possessions and come and follow Jesus, you will not find the faith to live day to day in the time and energy deficit of leading a Christian family. It does not take organizational skills, leadership, or common sense… it takes faith to trust that God will take care of you, and your relationships that you will never have enough time or energy for. In that sense it is easier being single.
Reflection: Relationships change us, for better or worse. What relationships encourage you to be closer to God? What relationships distract you from God? Do you trust God enough to make time for Him so that He can provide the time and energy you need for your family relationships? How are you putting Him first in your life?
The Unmarried and the Widowed
25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 7:25–31). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Devotion
What do Martha and Mary have to do with marriage and singleness and family life? Everything.
I’m turning 34 this year, celebrating 6 years of marriage, and I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. I can still remember the anxiety of being a teenager and then the pain of loneliness as a young adult trying to figure out if I was even marriage material and who in the world would be able to spend their life with me. Honestly, that thought probably consumed more of my thoughts and energy than anything else for well over a decade of my life. I know I’m not alone.
Paul’s word of divine wisdom to the Corinthians really boils down to this: focus on what God is doing here and now and let him worry about where you will be and what you will be doing tomorrow. He points out the problem is not the relationship status… it is the worrying. Yes, worrying about relationships counts as worrying too, not just worrying about money, work, or school. It is all the same.
Jesus taught against worrying in Matthew 6, but we have an excellent example in the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10). Martha worried about everything. Being a single woman trying to care for a sister and sick brother, I’m sure she worried about her relationship status too at times. The beautiful example here is Mary. Mary is not better than Martha. Mary has the same challenges, lives in the same household, knows the same worry, fear, pain, and shame that can accompany singleness in adulthood. This day was different though.
This particular day, Jesus was there in her house. He had arrived in power and glory and gentleness and love… and all those worries just blew away in the fresh wind that had entered her life. Martha tried to get her to help her catch all those worries, but Mary relished in the moment. Certainly tomorrow would arrive, Jesus would not be in her home anymore, and some of those worries might return, but today she was going to turn her eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face - and the things of earth would grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Reflection: These relationship questions come at all of us in different forms and for different reasons. How are you enjoying the presence of Jesus through the relationships (spouses, friends, family, etc.) that you have now? What relationships are, like Martha, trying to pull you from Jesus and bring you back into the world of worry?
Click below for a borrowed sermon from C.H. Spurgeon
10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Live as You Are Called
17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 7:10–24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Life
Live as you are called. Those five words help us discern many of our decisions we may have about family life. Do I stay or do I go? Is this the right family for me? Is this the right job for me? Is this where we should live? Is this where we should go to church? Is this where we should serve? Is this the lifestyle we should have?
We all have to own the temptation of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Everyone wonders if the grass is greener somewhere else. That’s one of the first traps of sin. Wondering is not a sin. Wandering is. We wonder what life would be like if things were different, and if we let it go on long enough, our feet soon follow our thoughts. Those stories often end with the comment, “It seemed like a good idea at the time…”
Don’t get caught up in the hype so much that you lose sight of the fact that God led you to the place you are right this very minute. That doesn’t automatically mean you should stay there, but it does mean that maybe you ought to ask Him for directions if you are planning on moving. And even if you aren’t, maybe it’s time to ask Him for directions again for what you are doing while you are there.
Reflection: Are you following God or are you just wandering from place to place in your life? We may not always know the destination details, but do you at least know Who you are traveling with and Who is leading?
Principles for Marriage
7 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 7:1–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Church Family: Family Sharing
Marriage is about sharing. It is about giving up control and trusting another to care with you. When two people can share a mission and vision it can be a wonderful and powerful example that can transform lives around them. It can be a witness to the kind of relationship Christ has with the church.
But when selfishness enters into a marriage it can become life-taking instead of life-making. It can become a witness of everything wrong with the world instead of everything right. Worse yet, it becomes contagious and begins to affect the relationships around them.
Paul understood that marriage is not a right, it is a calling. He explains this a little later in the chapter, but he wanted the Corinthian Christians to know that, whether they were married or not, their first and most important relationship was to God. If you are fulfilling your calling to serve God by being married, then you should be married… but if you serve him better not being married, than you should do that. Far too many of us skip down to verse 9 about it being better to be married than to burn with passion. Paul does not say this as a law from God, but rather as a “concession” - much in the same way that Jesus said that divorce was not part of God’s plan, but because of the hardness of people’s hearts (concession) he allowed it under a small number of circumstances. Using marriage as a means to slake your own struggles with lust or loneliness will lead to a selfish marriage that will eventually become a prison for both people involved. Marriage should not be entered into lightly.
Reflection: How is God calling you to exercise self-control to maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships? What is God calling you to share?
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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