Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Learn and Live

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

BIBLE READING: 1 Corinthians 10

“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10.6)

We learn a great deal from life experience. Through good and bad choices, we learn about consequences and rewards. Conventional wisdom tells us this is just how life goes. “You live and you learn.”

In many ways this was the story of Israel. God told them not to pursue other gods, trust in kings or mix with the nations… but they didn’t like being told what to do. They wanted to be like the other nations; they thought things were better doing it another way. Through life experience they learned some things, and most of it was not good (1 Corinthians 10.5, 9-10).

Personal experience can be a good teacher; but notice the admonition we are given by Paul: don’t be like them (1 Corinthians 10.7). Why? Because we should learn from their poor choices and not repeat them (1 Corinthians 10.6). That seems almost too obvious. If someone has been down this path before, why would we ignore their experience?

And yet, how many times has history repeated itself? How many times have you ignored experience and wisdom to learn it for yourself?This is foolishness, but Paul alludes to why we behave this way: we think we know better (1 Corinthians 10.12), and we think our situation is unique (1 Corinthians 10.13).

I recognize there are times when we will learn things by experience, but biblical wisdom teaches this should not be our paradigm. The attitude that says “I have to learn things on my own” is arrogant and prideful. It not only assumes it knows better, but it rejects the warnings of scripture. God has intentionally preserved examples for us through His Word so that we would not make the same foolish choices as people in the past (Romans 15.4; 1 Corinthians 10.11).

God’s word screams for us to listen (Proverbs 1.20) but naturally, our way seems right to us (Proverbs 14.12). As we mature in faith, we must fight the urge to trust our own experience and fully rely on the wisdom that has been revealed from God. The stories preserved in scripture teach us there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9). And so, we cannot be ignorant or content to simply live and learn (2 Corinthians 2.11). Instead, let’s humbly take instruction from the past so that we learn… and we live.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” (Deuteronomy 30.19-20a)

“Do not be idolaters as some of them were… 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.” (1 Corinthians 10.7, 11)

Accountability

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

BIBLE READING: 1 Corinthians 5

“And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5.2)

The church of Corinth was plagued with problems that needed to be dealt with, and that’s exactly what Paul does. He spoke directly to the specifics of their situation, with clear expectation that something be done by the brethren.

I suspect Paul’s words to these brethren wouldn’t go over well in many churches today. He would surely get hit with the “judge not that you be not judged” hammer. People don’t like to be confronted about their sin, especially not in this way. But Paul didn’t do it to tout his own righteousness; rather it was for the good of the sinner, the purification of the body, and to the honor of God.

Although it can be awkward at times, we need to see how important accountability is to our fellowship. We are people called to be different (1 Peter 2.9-10), and sometimes we can be deceived about our behavior (1 Corinthians 6.9; Galatians 6.1-2). When someone is acting in sin, it has serious consequences that need to be addressed. The function of the body is to ensure the spiritual health of all its members (1 Corinthians 12.21-27).

But more than that, one member’s choices don’t just affect them. As Paul would say later when one member suffers all suffer (1 Corinthians 12.26). This forces us to see that an individual’s sinful behavior doesn’t just affect them. Their choices can damage the influence a local body can have in its community. It most certainly affects the outlook of the members and the overall spiritual nature of the church’s relationship. Without accountability the church lacks cohesion and clarity.

In Paul’s second letter to this church, we will see the positive effects of accountability as this brother is reconciled back to this community of believers and to God through his forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2.1-11). That’s the goal of accountability. Not simply to point fingers and make people feel bad about their choices (although that sometimes happens: 2 Corinthians 7.8-11). Our motivator for accountability should be to encourage repentance, change and reconciliation within the body, and ultimately, with God (2 Corinthians 5.20).

Accountability is necessary and needed because we are held to a different standard than the rest of the world (1 Corinthians 5.9-12). As God’s people we must be committed to God’s ways and expect that from one another. Let us be humble in our efforts to both give and receive accountability, for the glory of God and the sake of our souls.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God… 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 6.9-11)

Loyalty to Jesus

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

BIBLE READING: 1 Corinthians 1

The Corinthian church is notorious for the issues they faced. Prideful rivalries, sexual immorality between members, issues with marriage and divorce… There is a laundry list of issues here that needed attention. And yet Paul addressed them as “the church of God that is in Corinth… Those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together” (1 Corinthians 1.2).

We often skip the introduction so we can get to the nuts and bolts of their issues. But it is the introduction that reminds us what made them a church of God. 

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1.4-9)

Before anything else Paul puts Jesus front and center as the basis for his plea to this church. 9 times in the first 9 verses, Paul invokes the name of Jesus. He recounts the benefits in Christ, the sufficiency of Christ, and the fellowship they share together in Christ. They are lacking in nothing because Christ was preached, and gifts were given to equip them for their new life in Christ (1 Corinthians 1.6-7). While the issues he has to discuss are important, Paul was reminding them that loyalty to Jesus is the fundamental basis for fellowship. 

Now with that comes expectation. He doesn’t tell them to simply avoid or ignore the issues they were facing. On the contrary, this letter emphasizes the critical nature of knowing God’s expectations and practicing faith in a specific way. Allegiance to Christ directs the actions of believers (Titus 2.11-12). It forces us to examine ourselves more closely and hold one another to a higher standard. But it should also create humility as we understand our limitations and see our sinfulness.

Loyalty to Jesus must be the motivating factor in everything we do. We may not always agree at first, but a commitment to obey and follow Jesus will always bring us closer. We must not forget this fundamental truth. The calling of God is through Christ. The forgiveness of sins is because of Christ. The hope we have is in the sufficiency of Christ. We have no grounds to boast of ourselves except for what Christ has done for me, even while I was an enemy of his (Romans 5.6-9).

There is nothing about our faith and fellowship that can exclude the example, teaching and saving power of Jesus Christ for me. Especially when we find ourselves at odds with others, we must recommit ourselves to unity by promoting a sincere commitment to obey and honor King Jesus.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5.21)

God's Desire

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

BIBLE READING: Hosea 6

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6.6)

Sacrifices were an important part of the old covenant. They were explicitly given by God (ex. Leviticus 4.2-3) and we see Israel doing them with regularity (Number 28). But sacrifices were never the end goal. They only existed because sin existed. If sin had not occurred, there would be no need for sacrifice.

That’s the point of Hosea 6.6. It’s not that sacrifice didn’t need to occur or that sin didn’t need to be atoned for; it was that Israel wasn’t doing it for God. Scripture often notes that sacrifices to God are incomplete and even offensive without a changed heart that loves and knows the Lord. “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15.22; See also Isaiah 1.11-17; Amos 5.21-24; Micah 6.6-8 and Matthew 7.21-23)

Jesus would later use Hosea’s teaching against the hypocritical Pharisees, saying, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9.13). Without a loving relationship with God, all the rituals in the world couldn’t help the Pharisees.

The failed relationship between God and Israel was punctuated by their heartless devotion to sacrifice. There were plenty of sacrifices going on in Israel (Hosea 8.11), but God didn’t want any of them (Hosea 8.13) because they did not serve their purpose.

God’s desire is clear to his people: he wanted to be known (Hosea 1.20). He wanted to be their God and for them to be his people (Hosea 1.23). He wants the same from us today. He doesn’t simply want his people going through the motions of what he said to do. As important as it is for us to be obedient (Romans 1.5; 16.26), we must realize that everything he reveals is intended to push us towards a deeper, more intimate relationship with him (John 17.3).

We must not think adherence to a certain lifestyle or abhorrence of bad things is all God is looking for. Practicing spiritual discipline and self-sacrifice will never produce righteousness or serve to balance to sins we have committed; but it will draw us closer to God. Whatever God has revealed to us is for this purpose.

Without this goal, anything we do puts the focus on my actions and gives way to pride and vanity. Many religious people participate in Christian rituals, yet their hearts do not love God and seek to know Him. May we never be like those whom Jesus described: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7.6).

God's Model of Love

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

BIBLE READING: Hosea 3

Divorce runs rampant in our society. It is easier for couples in difficult seasons of marriage to cut ties and move along. Especially when one party has been unfaithful. How can you be married to someone you can’t trust? It defies conventional wisdom and even seems to oppose the covenantal nature of marriage.

We know the bible is not silent on this issue, offering clarity to these messy situations (1 Corinthians 7). However, before suffering the exception we must clearly understand the model of marriage from God’s example. The opening chapters of Hosea are an object lesson of what covenant love ought to look like.

Hosea married Gomer who was unfaithful almost immediately. She made no effort to conceal it and eventually left him completely. Anyone in their “right mind” would justify Hosea in writing her off and moving along. But the story takes a dramatic turn when God told Hosea to take her back (Hosea 3.1). However, he couldn't simply call her up and make amends; he must buy her back because her actions made her the property of someone else (Hosea 3.2). This scene was humiliating for both Hosea and Gomer. But in this moment the nature of love shone through: “You must dwell as mine for many days… so will I also be to you” (Hosea 3.3).

Hosea clearly connects marriage to God’s covenant relationship with his people (Hosea 3.1). His love for Israel has suffered from their unfaithfulness but he continues to act in their best interest, ultimately hoping for reconciliation (Hosea 2.14-15, 20; 14.4-7).

While scripture offers grounds for divorce (Matthew 19.9), every marriage must start with this baseline: while we were still sinners, even enemies to God, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8-10). God even endured the pain of rejection after rejection but refused to give up. The scriptures teach us to see that we are Gomer. We have all failed, rejected, even abandoned God (Romans 3.23; Ephesians 2.1-3). BUT GOD, although spurned and heartbroken, is not deterred. He suffers long in hopes of reconciliation.

We do a horrible disservice to marriage if we are not primarily motivated by God’s model of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3.16). Love is a choice. Love is demonstrated when others are undeserving. Love endures beyond what is easy, comfortable and even beyond what makes sense for the sake of some else’s good. It is an unfailing covenant, not a contract. It is loving as God has loved us through Christ (Romans 5.8; 1 John 4.9-11).

Love is difficult but Divinely demonstrated. I pray we are blessed with the strength to show the same love that has been shown to us.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13.4-8, NIV)

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