Daily Challenges For Spiritual Maturity
A daily devotional through the book of 1st Corinthians.
Day 1 — God’s Grace To A Troubled Church
He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 1:8)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
A mother worked on her embroidery while her little boy sat on the floor by her feet. He curiously watched her work, and wondered what picture she was making. All he could see were the tangled, ugly, messy threads on the back side of the embroidery. Yet she still worked on, perfecting and beautifying the front side, which he could not yet see.
God is like that mother. He’s still working on us, perfecting us even though we “mess up.” Even true Christians backslide. Some of us struggle with alcohol, some fall to temptation and hypocrisy. Some of us suffer great pain and hardship. But God never gives up on us, even when we sometimes feel like giving up on Him. He continues to transform us in ways we cannot always see. No wonder the Bible says elsewhere, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
That’s why the apostle Paul began his letter to the Corinthian church on an upbeat note. The Christians of the church at Corinth fell into sins such as incest, prostitution, fighting, pride, strange philosophies, and confusion over doctrine. Yet Paul says God’s grace was upon them. He kept giving gifts to them such as the supernatural ability to perform powerful works, prophetic revelations, and words of wisdom, even when they didn’t deserve these gifts. We often worry about God letting bad things happen to us good people, while we forget how God lets good things happen to us bad people.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, you no longer need to think, “God has forgotten me, for I have committed a horrible sin.” Christ already paid the penalty for our wrongs through His death on the cross. So that if you are a believer, even though you fall, you can still be sure that God’s grace is upon you. He’s still working on you, though all you may see at times is the back side of His embroidery.
Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins and for giving me salvation. Forgive me for doubting Your grace. You have given so much to me that I now give my life to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 2 — Quarreling Among Christians
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Cor. 1:10)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
What do you get when you mix a little cream and lemon with your tea? The cream reacts against the tart lemon, and separates into lots of little white clumps of floating goo. Yuck!
People do that too, even Christians – they separate into clumps. Christians form groups and call themselves such names as Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Fundamentalists, traditional, or contemporary. Forming groups becomes bad when they fight and call each other “those Baptists, those Catholics, those complainers, those rich snobs, those lazy beggars, those Blacks, those Asians, those, those, those…” The church at Corinth did the same. They pointed fingers at each other and in a way said, “Those followers of Paul. Those followers of Apollos!”
Simple toleration is not the solution. You could put a hundred marbles in a jar, but they’ll never become one big marble, even though they lie peacefully on top of one another. The fusing together of one Christian to another must come through divine power.
This is where the cross comes in. When Christians together discover the meaning of Christ’s cross, they become “united in mind and thought” (v. 10), they become one. For example, as my congregation enthusiastically studies the Bible, the result is a church where I am Chinese, my assistant pastor is a Czechoslovakian from Texas, and my deacon is an Afro-American from Los Angeles. Praise God! In other words, godly unity starts with a group’s knowledge about Christ, not their musical style, age, race, or temperament.
Is your church united? How about your family? Your marriage? Your Christian friendships? Look to the cross of Christ together. A little 4 year old girl accidentally said it well: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have INTERNAL life.” The pastor did not correct her, for Christ died to give us not only eternal life, but also internal life.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us for our fighting. Sometimes, we don’t act like brothers and sisters in Christ. So help us all to diligently search the Scriptures, and reveal unto us the depths of Your truth, so that we may be better united in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 3 — The Power Of The Cross
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5
There is a story of an amazing doctor during the Korean war. As he drove down a dangerous road in his jeep, a land mine exploded. His passenger fell unconscious, and he couldn’t breath. The only way to save the man’s life was for the doctor to operate with what he had – a pocket knife and hoses from the jeep’s engine. The doctor slit the man’s throat and inserted a hose so the man could breath. The man was saved. The doctor received a medal.
In the church at Corinth, God used crude tools too – those “weak” Corinthian Christians. Paul says, “Not many of you were wise… not many were influential; not many were of noble birth” (v. 26). The result was that when the world saw hundreds and perhaps thousands of people being dramatically converted, the pat on the back went to Jesus Christ, not the crude tools.
Today, God still uses ordinary people. Few of us are celebrities. Instead, we struggle to pay bills at the end of the month, we work hard, we eat at fast-food restaurants, we laugh, we cry, we do everything ordinary people do. So when the atheist comes to a miraculous conversion to Christ, we know it wasn’t our marketing savvy, nor our careful planning, nor our creative thinking, nor our expensive buildings, nor a charismatic leader, but simply the power of Christ’s death on the cross. The glory of God shines all the more brightly when He uses crude instruments such as us.
The message of the cross is simply this: that God loved us so much, that even though we were sinners, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, that whoever repents and believes will be saved. This message is incredible to some, childish to others, and boring to the rest. But to those who understand it, it unleashes great power. It has the power to turn atheists into believers, the greedy into givers, and the hateful into brothers.
Lord Jesus, thank you for purchasing my salvation through Your death on the cross. Now, help me to always look to you and not my own hands for strength in my life and in my work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 4 — Understanding God
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Cor. 2:12)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-15
There are many places in the United States that receive only three TV channels. A man once lived in such an area, and bought a $3,000 big-screen TV, top-of-the-line. He pushed every button, and checked the manual, but still the reception was bad. He realized that without cable, his reception would always be bad, no matter how expensive his television was.
The philosophers at Corinth were like expensive TV sets. In spite of their intellectual prowess, they could not get a clear picture of Jesus. That is why in Acts 17:18, Luke wrote, “A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’” These scholarly giants could not understand Jesus.
We cannot understand the things of God on our own. Though we may be able to recite John 3:16 by heart, it does not mean we truly understand the gospel. For example, it’s hard to understand exactly how grand is God’s plan, how evil is our sin, how total our depravity, how perfect God’s love, how humiliating was Jesus’ death, how scandalous was the cross, how powerful was His resurrection, how complete is His forgiveness, how amazing is His grace, how rich is His Spirit, and how great is our salvation. We need God’s help to understand these things.
But when we do acquire this kind of understanding, our lives change. For example, I had been attending church since high school. But one evening, at the age of 19, as I was reading the Scriptures for the first time, it finally dawned on me who Jesus Christ was and why He came. That understanding marked a turning point in my life. My sister said to me, “Randy, why don’t you fight with me anymore?” And a lady at church said, “There’s something different about you.” That difference was the Holy Spirit. He helped me truly understand Jesus Christ, which in turn brought about my life-change. That is why Paul urged the Corinthians to seek understanding. He knew it would have solved their problem of quarreling.
We need the Holy Spirit to understand Jesus. Like cable to a television set, the Holy Spirit helps us to see Jesus clearly when we read the Scriptures. Only then will there ever be life-change.
Lord Jesus, help me to understand You better. Help me to better understand how complete was Your atoning work on the cross, and how deep is Your love. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, and renew my mind, so that I could better understand the things of God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 5 — More Truths To Stop Quarreling Among Christians
Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
The world loves a good fight. Sleazy television talk shows promote on-camera guests to scream at each other, sometimes three at a time, shaking their heads, and pointing their fingers at one another.
The Corinthian Christians may have fought like those talk show guests. They sued each other (chap. 6), fought with their spouses (chap. 7), wouldn’t wait for each other incommunion (chap. 10), and looked down on those who couldn’t speak in tongues (chap. 14). They appeared polished through their study of pagan philosophies, but their bickering made their spiritual infancy plain and clear.
Paul says that quarreling Christians, such as the Corinthians, need to listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ again. He called them infants who needed another dose of spiritual “milk.” Whenever I think of getting even, I’m rarely thinking of Jesus and His cross at the moment. But when I do remember the story of Christ, the cross, and my salvation, I cannot help but to be so thankful for my salvation that I want to become more like Jesus.
When the gospel shines bright in one’s life, all other matters look dim. The driver who cut you off on the highway, for example, becomes only a microscopic speck on God’s map of the world from space. It’s not a big enough reason to fight over anymore. Christians fight over many things, but when they fix their eyes on God’s love, His power shown through the cross, and His world-wide work today, they see their problems from on high – and they look very small.
Another helpful truth is that we Christians have a great inheritance coming. It’s like a 16 year old running his fingers over the new Toyota that his father has promised to give him in a few months, and then not taking the trouble to fight with his sisters and brothers over the family’s VW Bug. Christians have an eternal inheritance coming. The things of this world are too small to fight about compared to what lies for us ahead.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for being too concerned with the things of this world and fighting about them. Help me to fix my eyes on you more and more, and show me from the Scriptures what is most important. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 6 — Profile Of Humility
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:5)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 4
There was once a sincere church-going man. But he felt he was not as humble as he should be. So one of the church elders said, “Make a big board, with Scripture passages written on it. Then wear it around your chest, and walk through the shopping mall for a whole day.” So the church-going man did so. People stared. Some laughed. At the end of the day, he said to himself, “How humbling. Nobody else in all of California would ever do what I just did!” Then he halted, stopped for a moment, and thought about what he just said. He hung his head low and whispered, “Oh Lord, I am not yet humble.”
Being humble doesn’t come naturally to us. That was the problem of the Corinthian Christians. They prided themselves in their ability to speak in tongues, make prophecies, and work miracles. Yet they acted as if they worked their way up to God all by themselves. Thus Paul’s sarcastic remark, “You have become kings-and that without us!” Rather than acting like humble servants, they acted like pompous kings.
Humility is grown by God. It is not simply an act of your own will-power. For once you think you’ve attained humility, you’re no longer humble! Humility, rather, comes when God opens our eyes to (1) the gravity of our sin, and (2) the enormous power and love of God. The first comes when the law and commandments of God (e.g. “He who lusts after a woman has committed adultery in his heart“) exposes our inborn wickedness. The second comes when we understand Christ’s torture on the cross to take away our sins and give us salvation. Having our eyes opened to these truths is the start of becoming humble.
God then leads us to true humility. Andrew Murray describes it this way:
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.
Lord Jesus, help me to be humble like You are. Strengthen me to be calm and content, especially when I am ridiculed and looked down upon by others. Deepen my faith, so that I may always find joy in You, no matter what my circumstances. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 7 — Taking Sin Seriously
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Cor. 5:12)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 5
All it takes is one mold spore to ruin a loaf of bread. Seven days later, it forms a tiny black speck. You pick it off. A couple of days later, five black specks. After that, the specks become the size of quarters. Then, like a horror show, it creeps over the whole loaf – black, green, white, and fuzzy. The loaf of bread becomes useless. Can’t even feed the ducks with it.
A kind of mold started to spread among Corinthian Christians too. There was a brother who indulged himself in incest. The other Christians simply patted him on the back, nearly congratulating him. So Paul made it clear in verses 5 and 9 what he wanted the church to do about this: expel the man from the church.
At first this might sound self-righteous, maybe even heartless and cruel. We simply don’t like other people to point out our sin. We’re adults. We feel we’re too old to be corrected anymore. Besides, it’s embarrassing. Some churches call it discipline. Other churches call it excommunication. Even that “E” word alone conjures up images of a Nazi-like church. It raises red flags. We’d rather leave.
Yet the church must do something about sinful behavior, says Paul. If we don’t, and we simply ignore sinful behavior, then the church is no better than marijuana – it makes you feel good, but never making a real difference in your life. Dealing with sin is perhaps the Christian’s least pleasurable task. But God says we must do something.
And that’s why Jesus calls us to correct one another. If you had body odor, and didn’t know it, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you? Jesus wants us to do the same for each other in regards to sinful behavior too. It’s God’s final plan to lovingly restore the believer in his/her walk with Christ.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your undying love for me even when I go astray. Your lessons are sometimes hard to accept, even painful at times. Break down my pride, O Lord, and form in me the character of Christ my Savior. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 8 — Rediscovering Christ’s Power To Resolve Conflict
If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? (1 Cor. 6:1)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
A gorilla is gentle, but will roar and beat his breast when injured. Christians, too, are gentle, until we’re injured by another Christian. When we’re hurt, we want to roar, and say “I’ve got to stand up for my rights. I’m not letting him push me around. I’m going to think of myself first. I’d beat the tar out of him the next chance I have.”
In today’s Bible passage, one Christian cheated another Christian out of money or property. The victim immediately sued the offender in a Roman court of law. Paul objects, and explains that Christians have more of an ability, given by God, to settle these conflicts than non-Christians do. It is such a remarkable ability, says Paul, that Christians will even use this ability to someday judge angels and unbelievers. If only Christians would use this ability now and talk it out, they wouldn’t need the court.
There is a story about a couple who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They began by first sitting quietly with a cup of tea and bread. The husband then opened a new loaf and gave her the heel. She right away exploded and exclaimed, “This is the last straw. For the past fifty years you’ve dumped the heel of the bread on me. You always think of yourself first. You take the best for yourself, and leave the rest to me. You never think of what I like. Well, I won’t take it anymore!” And just as she was about to get up and leave, he said, “Honey, but it’s my favorite piece!”
Talk it out. Give it a chance. At first it’s unpleasant, but don’t let that trouble you. Some people make enemies instead of friends because it’s less trouble.
Lord, fill me with your Spirit so that I would have the love as well as the courage to talk with my brothers and sisters whom I have conflict with. Just as You, Lord Jesus, have reconciled us to God through your death on a cross, now reconcile me to my brothers and sisters. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 9 — More Than A Hunk Of Meat
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
On his 85th birthday, the great 18th century evangelist John Wesley, the father of the Methodist churches, wrote in his diary the reasons (besides the power of God) why he still had the energy to travel and preach:
- My constant exercise and change of air;
- My never having lost a night’s sleep, sick or well, on land or at sea;
- My having slept at command, whether day or night;
- My having risen constantly at 4:00 AM for about 60 years;
- My constant preaching at 5:00 AM for above 50 years; and
- My [trusting God], thus having so little pain, sorrow, or anxious care in life.
The Corinthians, on the other hand, destroyed their fitness with prostitutes. Paul had discovered that they misunderstood the grace of Christ, and gave reasons why all believers must be physically fit for the Lord.
God looks not at how fit your body looks, but how fit it is serve. For example, after his serious heart attack at the age of 40, a pastor made a commitment to exercise and lose 60 pounds so that he could more vigorously preach, teach, organize, counsel, pray, raise and provide for his family. In other words, this pastor trained hard not so that his new body could be admired by others, but that he could better serve the Lord. This is one of God’s purposes for our bodies. This is why Paul wrote, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (Phil. 1:22).
God is concerned for your body. He speaks out against the “harsh treatment of the body” (Col. 2:23), and warns us, “do not worry… about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
There are also mysteries about our physical bodies which are reasons to care for it. It becomes a part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15). It can be destroyed by sexual immorality (v. 18). And it houses God’s Holy Spirit (v. 19).
For these reasons, God calls us to commit our physical bodies to Him. Paul said it plainly: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).
Lord Jesus, thank You for the body You gave me, which you purchased with Your blood. I may not be glamorous or handsome in the world’s eyes, but now I understand your purpose for designing me this way. This body is Yours. Shape it and build it up so I could better serve You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 10 — Sex For Christians
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. (1 Cor. 7:3)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:1-7
Sex is like a fire. In a fireplace, the blaze warms the whole house. Outside the fireplace, it burns the house down. In ancient Corinth, sex blazed outside of the fireplace – it was destroying the church because of prostitution and incest.
In this passage, God battles sexual immorality not by suppressing it, but by actually promoting it within the marriage bounds. While one early church father named Origen castrated himself in the 3rd century to rid himself of sexual desire, God on the other hand, declares sexual relations, by design, as good, not evil (Gen. 2:24-25). And in the Song of Songs, God blesses Solomon with romantic and sexual relations with his wife. God even warns married couples not to forsake sexual relations (1 Cor. 7:5).
God urges Christians to pursue “servant sex” – seeking sexual relations to fulfill the spouse’s desires. It is where each partner says, “It’s your body, what can I do to satisfy you?” This idea originates from the godly philosophy that sexual fulfillment is possible by becoming the right person, not simply seeking the right person. Therefore, believing couples talk about sex openly. They may even pray together about it, asking for God’s blessing and guidance before the sexual act. Each marriage partner does what he/she is able to please the other, whether by becoming more romantic, losing weight, or working out. The result is mutual fulfillment.
The world, however, pursues “selfish sex” – seeking sexual relations to simply fulfill one’s own desires. “It’s my body, I’ll do whatever I want,” the world says. The world believes that sexual fulfillment is possible only by finding the right person. The result is marital breakdown, the neglect of sexual relations, frustration, pornography, and the pursuit of extra-marital affairs.
If you have fallen from God’s design for sexual relations, accept Christ’s forgiveness now, by accepting his death on the cross and His provision to erase your sins. Then, give your body to Christ. If you are married, commit yourself to meeting your spouse’s physical needs.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the gift of sex. Forgive me for my lustful desires. Guide me so that I may enjoy your gift of sexual relations and honor You through it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 11 — The Secret Of Marital Contentment
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. (1 Cor. 7:17)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:8-24
Marriage, say some couples, is an ideal, then it becomes an ordeal, then they want a new deal! We live in a world where marriage is like card playing – each partner wants to trade up to a better hand.
So when we read this passage about God’s commands concerning singleness and marriage, we feel burdened and frustrated, because it seems God won’t let us do what we want. We might say, “No divorce? How can I ever be happy living with that man (or woman)?” Or, “Stay single? How can I be happy being lonely for the rest of my life?” God’s command to stay in our marital situation seems so unreasonable.
Yet you can be content whatever the circumstances. You can be content whether remaining single (v. 8), marrying (v. 9), refusing divorce (v. 10), or refusing remarriage (v. 11).
The key to contentment is knowing that God is always taking care of you such that your marital situation is by no accident but by His purposeful hand. Are you single? Then enjoy your freedom to travel anywhere in the world to do the Lord’s work. Are you married? Then enjoy your companionship and your little children. Are you a slave (or feel like one)? Then enjoy the freedom you have in Christ (v. 22). Are you free? Then enjoy your servitude to Christ (v. 22). You see, the Christian’s joy has nothing to do with our outside circumstances. Rather, our joy rests in the assurance that our hand is in our Father’s hand, and our head is resting on His bosom. That is why Paul wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil. 4:12).
I know a Christian lady who trusted in Christ so much (she would sometimes fast and pray for 72 hours) that she remained content with singleness until she married at 65. She knew that just as our Father took care of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross, He would certainly take care of her no matter how disappointing her marital circumstances were.
Lord Jesus, help me to be patient and content with my marital situation. Help me to endure my hardships while I try to obey Your will. Thank you for your never-ending care for me even through these tough times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 12 — The Blessings Of The Simple Life
I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor. 7:35)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:25-40
Many Christians try to live the Christian life like a juggler, that is, a juggler who is riding a bike across a tightrope while juggling a chain saw, a flaming torch, and an axe. We frequently find ourselves juggling too many activities and responsibilities to be fully devoted to the work of the Lord. It is common to try juggling two houses, investment property, a job, a side business, three cars, two hobbies, a boat, keeping a house clean, caring for three children, attending their ball games, finding them piano lessons, while also trying to volunteer at church and pray with our spouse. Sometimes it’s too much.
God wants us to pursue the simple life. And for some, whose calling in life might put too much hardship on a family, staying simple might mean staying single (vv. 32-35). The simpler the lifestyle, the better you can endure an expected crisis (vv. 25-28). The simpler the lifestyle, the more freedom you have from worldly burdens (vv. 29-31). The simpler the lifestyle, the fewer the distractions. In short, a simple lifestyle lets you give more attention to the Lord.
My best times of prayer happen when I pack several rolls of bread, a water jug, a sleeping bag and a Bible, and drive out to the desert. I find a spot in the shade, and pray. For 24 hours, there is no phone, no TV, no magazines, no bills, no traffic, no paperwork, no motel to pay for, no money to count, and no food to prepare. It is as if I have come down from the tightrope, and stopped my juggling, to give God my full attention. I am finally at rest.
Are you juggling too much? Are you over-stressed? Not spending time with the Lord? Consider the simple life.
Heavenly Father, you are worthy of all honor and glory and praise. Help me to give you the attention You deserve from me, by freeing me from the snares and worries of the world. Help me to follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ more closely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 13 — Disciplines Of The Effective Witness – Part 1
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Cor. 8:13)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 8
When I was three, I watched my mother refinishing a dresser in the garage. She held a sheet of sandpaper with her hands and rubbed the surface back and forth for almost an hour. I wanted to help too. So I grabbed a sheet a sandpaper, ran to the living room, and starting sanding an Oriental antique coffee table. She rushed into the room screaming, “Oh, Randy, no!”
Just as children stumble while trying to copy their parents, the young-in-faith will stumble while copying their spiritual role models. In the Corinthian church, new Christians fell into idolatry while trying to emulate their role models. While the older Christians insisted on their right to eat perfectly good meat formerly offered in pagan sacrifice, the new Christians actually went so far as to practice the pagan rituals. These new Christians thought, “If my leader eats this meat sacrificed to idols, then it must be all right for me to practice this pagan religion too.” Because these new Christians fell into idolatry in this manner, Paul told the older Christians to stop the practice of eating the meat.
Today, many Christians claim their right to questionable activities. For example, some Christians recognize their right to drink alcoholic beverages. But if their drinking causes a young Christian to emulate them and get drunk, then the practice must stop.
I know a missionary who enjoyed making and drinking his own wine. But because he worked among a Native American community that was prone to alcoholism, he voluntarily stopped drinking wine. His brother in Christ was much more important to him than drinking.
This describes the “stumbling block” principle that governs a Christian’s freedom. God’s law allows much freedom in the Christian life, but we must curb that freedom if what we do causes another to sin. Just as Christ, out of His love for us, set aside his divine privilege to call down angels to rescue Him from the cross, we too must sometimes set aside our rights out of love for one another.
Dear heavenly Father, help me to be an example of godliness to others, especially the younger ones. Let me not cause anyone to stumble, but instead use me as your instrument that builds up others in their faith and love for Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 14 — Disciplines Of The Effective Witness – Part 2
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. (1 Cor. 9:12)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:1-18
The waitress at the restaurant offered a nearly endless list of choices for breakfast. “How do you want your eggs – scrambled, sunny side up, or over easy? Hash browns or home fries? Toast, muffin, or biscuits and gravy? Toast – white, sourdough, or wheat? Bacon or sausage? Butter or margarine? Milk, coffee, or juice? Juice – orange, tomato, or grape?”
We live in a world of choices. Mega-churches offer a choice of programs, multiplex theaters offer a choice of movies, cable TV offers 50 channels, and video dating services offers thousands of eligible mates. With so many choices, we can have exactly what we want.
But sometimes the work of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to turn down the conveniences of life. In this passage, for example, Paul chose to turn down a salary as a preacher so that people could hear the gospel free of charge. The minister of God is so driven to tell others about Christ, that if anything prevented him from speaking, it would be as a “burning fire shut up in his bones” (Jer. 20:9). Christian servants like Paul do everything they can, even limit their freedom, in order to avoid erecting barriers that keep people from hearing the message that brings salvation to them. Some turn down lucrative job offers in order spend more time with their family and church. Some avoid good-paying careers in North America in order to use their skills in missionary work overseas. Some ministers turn down comfortable positions in large established churches in order to plant a new church in a foreign country with little or no money. In short, to be an effective servant sometimes means turning down the attractive offers close to home.
Lord Jesus, help me to be wise and discerning in my many choices. Let me not be guided by materialistic rewards but by what would bring most glory to Your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 15 — Disciplines Of The Effective Witness – Part 3
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Cor. 9:19)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
A three year old tries to feed the pigeons by running after them and throwing bread crumbs as hard as he can. The pigeons fly away. But his mother has a gentler approach. She approaches them slowly, drops a few crumbs on the ground, they approach her, and she drops more crumbs. Soon she has them eating out of her hand.
Like the child who chased the pigeons away, there are things we do while trying to reach others for Christ that chase them away. There is a story of a Christian who enthusiastically tried to win his neighbor to Christ. He asked his neighbor, “Are you a member of the Christian family?”
The neighbor said, “Oh no, they live two miles down the road.”
“Let me try again. Are you lost?” said the Christian.
“No, I’ve lived here for thirty years. I know exactly where I am.”
“Let me put it this way. Are you ready for the Judgment Day?”
The neighbor replied, “When will that be?”
The Christian said, “Could be today, could be tomorrow.”
“Well, when you know exactly, let me know. I might want to go on both days.” Then the neighbor shut the door.
We Christians must be careful to understand the people we’re trying to reach. We must learn speak their language, perhaps wear their blue jeans, and attend their ball games. It means eating sushi if we’re called to reach the Japanese, or working out at the gym to reach athletes. Perhaps God has called you to win church teens, office workers, Nigerian neighbors, the homeless, or even your own children, for Jesus Christ. We must then listen to their music, play their sports, wear what they wear, speak their language, and learn their humor. In short, the gospel is so wonderful that we must use our freedom to relate well to the world, while yet being careful not to sin, so that they could listen to our message.
Dear Jesus, thank You for Your gospel message of salvation. It is so wonderful that I ask You for insight about my neighbors who need to hear that message. Help me understand them such that I communicate the gospel most clearly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 16 — Disciplines Of The Effective Witness – Part 4
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Cor. 9:25)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Last year, a young girl competed in gymnastics for an Olympic gold medal. For five years, she trained for six hours a day when she could have gone out for pizza with her friends. She stuck to a gritty and tasteless diet when she could have had a burger. Whenever she fell, she got right up and tried again, though she felt like crying. Then, at the Olympic competition, she hurt her ankle. She bit down hard, endured the pain, squeezed the tears out of her eyes, stepped up to the platform, then ran towards the pummel-horse, flipped twice in the air with complete control, and landed solidly on her feet. The audience roared. Then she hopped on one leg in great pain, and fell. But it was okay now. She had just won her team a gold medal. That’s all that mattered.
The apostle Paul compares the Christian life to the Olympic athletic games. Believers dream about doing something big for God, out of their gratitude for Christ’s salvation. Many Christians dream big. But only those, like Paul, who stick to a training plan, cut out all that hinders, and endure the pain, will ever make a lasting impact on their world to the glory of Jesus Christ. A Christian stays mediocre if he/she attends a couple of Bible studies here, a few services there, a Christian TV program here, and attend a couple of classes there. In other words, if there is no consistent, strict program of training, the Christian remains weak as a servant of God.
Did you know that if you help a butterfly out of its cocoon, it will fall to the ground and never fly? The butterfly must struggle so that life-giving juices flow into its wings. It is the same with Christian ministry. If you want to become a faithful teacher, preacher, usher, evangelist, father, or mother, you must get with a strict, disciplined training program. Do you regularly participate in a Bible study group? Are you have a daily program of Bible reading and prayer? Are you still memorizing Bible verses? Are you taking classes to develop your gifts and abilities? Can others count on you when you say you’ll serve?
Dear Lord Jesus, train me to be a faithful servant. Help me endure the hardship, give me the strength to work diligently, and discipline me to master your Word, so that I might give glory to Your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 17 — The Chastisement Of God
Now these things occurred as examples, to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. (1 Cor. 10:6)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
The spoiled child throws a tantrum in the toy store, wanting every toy in sight. The parents try to hold and comfort the child, but since he knows his parents won’t punish him, he spits on his parents. Onlookers watch in amazement, and the parents pretend to laugh it off. They smile and say, “He’s just a sensitive boy.”
Likewise, when we think God won’t do anything about sin, we spit on His face too. Sometimes, we might indulge in a sinful habit – lust, pornography, adultery, alcohol, drugs, even anger, gossip, and lying – expecting God won’t do anything about it. In other words, we sometimes fall to Satan’s most dangerous words of temptation, the kind that is 90% true: “God is kind, He will forgive you. Don’t you believe Christ died for your sins? Therefore, go ahead. Do it.” Satan makes us think a gracious God means a doting father.
This is what happened to the Corinthian Christians. They fell into ritual pagan idolatry and sexual immorality. They knew about God’s grace and the freedom from legalism that God grants to those who believe. But they took advantage of this kindness from God, and fell into danger.
So God chastises. Although believers will never lose their salvation nor suffer wrath (1 Thes.5:9), God cares about our behavior so much that He disciplines those who believe (Heb. 12:4-13). Sometimes this divine chastisement comes through governing authorities – they send us to jail if we steal a car. Other times it is through the church and parents. Sometimes God works through natural consequences – a man may contract venereal disease if he continues in sexual promiscuity. Sometimes God chastises supernaturally – Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11).
Is God chastising you? Although not all suffering is chastisement for sin (see John 9:1-3), could you be experiencing a painful consequence of sin right now? Then recognize it as a blessing from God. It is one of God’s ways of whacking us back to godliness.
O Lord, your discipline is sometimes unpleasant, even painful. Teach me, so that I might become more godly in Your sight. Help me to overcome my sinful habits. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 18 — Dark Forces Behind Masks Of Light
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:14)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Do you remember playing with a magnet? If you were to sprinkle iron filings on a sheet of paper, then pass a magnet below the paper, the filings will move. You could move the magnet in circles, and its invisible forces move the filings to dance on the surface of the sheet.
So the world, too, is heavily influenced by invisible dark forces lying underneath. The Bible says Jesus expelled a multitude of such demons from two men and transferred them to pigs (Matt. 8:28-34). He resisted Satan in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11). The devil schemes against us (Eph. 6:11). Even though the modern scientific world claims to have never seen these dark forces, it is unreasonable to assume that reality consists only of what we can see and touch. Therefore, the Bible is our only reliable source of knowledge about the invisible things that can’t be detected by our electronic instruments.
The good news is that Jesus Christ has bound Satan. Jesus saw him “fall like lightning” (Luke 10:18). The demons begged Jesus for mercy (Matt. 8:31). Satan had to ask Jesus for permission to “sift” Peter (Luke 22:31). So Satan and his demons are like lions roaring in a cage. They are bound, yet we shouldn’t get too close.
That was the Corinthian Christians’ problem – they got too close. They participated in pagan temple rituals and thought, “I don’t believe in idols. Therefore, the rituals are meaningless to me.” But Paul warned in this Bible passage that such rituals bond the Christian too closely to the pagan, and that the ritual puts the Christian in contact with demonic forces.
We also get too close when we “participate with demons,” that is, any participation with supernatural, non-godly, non-Biblical powers. We must not involve ourselves, for example, with Ouija boards, tarot cards, horoscopes, spiritists, palm readings, New Age crystals, or play with psychic hot-lines, join secret societies, or avoid walking under ladders. These activities arouse the anger of God. We must put our undivided trust only in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank You, dear Lord Jesus, for rescuing me from the tyranny of the devil through your shed blood on the cross. Forgive me for clinging to any remnant of my superstitious past. Protect me from Satan’s darts by Your powerful hand. Deliver me from his temptations. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 19 — The Goal Of The Christian Life
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:14 – 11:1
There was a Christian man who had such long hair it ran down to his waist. It was oily and dirty, because he had not washed it for months. He explained to his fellow Christians that he had not yet received a command from God to get a haircut.
We too desire explicit commands from God for our daily lives. The godly life, we think, would be much easier to pursue if God were to explicitly tell us what He wants us to do every moment of our lives. Wouldn’t it be easy to follow God’s will if there were a Bible verse telling us whether to major in engineering or sociology, marry Fred or wait for a better man, donate $200 or $250, spank my five year old or give him a time-out? Life’s decisions are tough. That’s why seminars on topics such as 12 steps to a happy marriage, 10 steps of child-rearing, and 14 steps of Christian financial management become popular among Christians today. We would just love it if God were to write a detailed life recipe for each of us, for every day, for every decision.
So Paul revealed to them, and all Christians, of the believer’s primary directive – to do all to the glory of God. There may not be a Bible verse for deciding whether to drink root beer or orange soda, but there is a verse that orchestrates all the decisions that make up the symphony of the Christian life. It’s this one.
To do all to the glory of God means to do all things in a way that makes God shine all the more brightly. That’s what glory means – the bright luminance of God. We should act in a way that causes the world to notice God and say, “Wow, praise God!”
The glory of God – it is our “star in the east.” It does not post a sign for every decision in life, but it keeps us moving precisely in the right direction.
Dear Father in heaven, glorify Your name. Make my life a living testimony of Your mighty deeds and awesome power. Shape my life, and guide my decisions, so that the world around me will know of You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 20 — Accepting God’s Design For Men And Women
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and head of Christ is God. (1 Cor. 11:3)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
An author blasted a television news report for researching the differences between men and women. When the news interviewer cited the differences in behavior, hormone levels, and reaction to stimuli, the author said, “I detest your research. You have no business looking into these differences. They destroy the cause of women.”
The world challenges the line that parts men from women. While God promotes the use of all of one’s abilities for service to God, whether male or female, He still maintains different roles for each gender. And this is hard to accept today.
In the Corinthian church, some male Christians were wearing hair styles similar to that of a woman’s, and women may have worn hair styles similar to a man’s. We don’t know exactly what those hair styles were like, nor do we know how long was “long” and how short was “short.” But other Biblical points stand out more clearly: that God created men and women to have different roles, different places of authority, and different looks, and that what the Corinthians were doing was wrong.
Christians disagree as to what exactly those differences are. But that is not the point. The point is that God has a specific design for the place of men, and a specific but different design for women. And these designs are for all Christians, not just the Corinthians: “…we have no other practice – nor do the churches of God” (v. 16). Are you willing to accept God’s design for you? How readily are we to accept our station in life? If you were to further your study of the Scriptures on the issue of gender roles, how readily would you accept what you read?
Thank you, dear Father, for making me who I am. I rejoice in the gender You gave me. Help me to use my gifts to serve You with, and help me to be content with the station in life You have assigned to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 21 — A Mark Of True Worship
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:27)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
In my wallet, I keep a picture of my five-year old niece. When I look at her picture, it brings me joy. But when I show the picture to a stranger, he sees just another little girl. It does not bring joy in him because he does not recognize the girl.
Jesus Christ also gave us a picture to remember Him by. It is called the Lord’s Supper. Each time we celebrate it as we worship, we remember the gospel of Jesus Christ through the bread and wine. It gives us joy. We believers recognize Who’s in the picture.
But to some, the bread and wine is just, well, bread and wine. To the Corinthian Christians, the Lord’s Supper was just another chance for free food. It was a smorgasbord, where each man gorged himself before the food was gone.
Some see the other elements of a worship service in that earthy way too. To some, a sermon is just another speech to be critiqued. The singing of songs is just another chance to try out one’s singing technique. A favorite hymn is just another catchy tune. This is not worship.
True worship is when a believer’s attention is fully on the Lord. When Christians are truly worshiping, we no longer notice how dry the bread is, or how little wine the church gives us, or how skilled the preacher is, or who chose that last song we sung. Also, we are no longer thinking about our brother’s offense, or the fight with our spouse last night, or even the Sunday School lesson we have to teach after the service. In fact, we are no longer trying to worship. Instead, we are like the concert pianist who plays with his eyes closed. Our focus is on God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and no one else.
O Lord, You are worthy of praise and honor. Through Your Holy Spirit, help me to give you the attention you deserve. May Your name be exalted, and may we be humbled. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 22 — The Surprise Of Spiritual Gifts
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
There was once a fish named Finney. Finney was different – his fins were too big. They were like those Chinese fans people hang on their walls. They were so big, that once his fins got tangled in the seaweed. He tried to jerk himself free, but the seaweed stuck onto his two long fins like long tangled hair sticks to a comb. His friends said, “Oh no, here we go again. That Finney is always slowing the rest of us down. What if there’s a shark? We’ll get eaten alive if we have to wait for him!” So they untangled the seaweed for him for the last time. Then they all swam away very fast, so fast that Finney couldn’t keep up with those floppy fins and all. “Wait for me, guys! I can’t swim that fast!” shouted Finney. He wiggled his tail as fast as he could, but his two fins on his sides made it like trying to ride a bike with the brakes on. The other fish swam farther away, until Finney couldn’t see them anymore. His tail stopped wiggling and just hung down like a wet towel.
Just then, he heard the rumble of a big boat, then lots of splashing. All his friends were caught in a big net! Hundreds of fish, like a bathtub full of shiny nickels, were splashing water into the air, as the fishermen pulled up the net. “I must save my friends!” he said. So he swam harder than ever. This time he wiggled not just his tail, but all his fins, especially his big side fins. As he wiggled harder, he floated closer to the ocean surface. He went faster. Then, like a jet fighter, he blasted into the air. He rocketed towards the boat, and the mouths of the other fish were wide open in amazement as they watched Finney fly. He flew around and through the boat several times very fast, and all the fishermen picked up brooms and sticks to swat Finney in the air. But he was too fast. Instead, they ended up hitting windows, soda cans, and each other. Then one of them hit a lever. Down fell the net, and all the fish spilled back into the ocean.
The fish all cheered, and vowed never to leave Finney behind again. They realized that God gave Finney a gift that no one knew about before. They now know that God gives many varieties of gifts, even those that we’ve never seen before or read from an accepted list. Perhaps you may have a gift that has gone unnoticed because it doesn’t fit into the typical profile of Christian ministry. You must discover that gift and use it to build up the body of Christ.
Dear Lord God, work Your Holy Spirit in me, nurturing the gifts You gave me, so that I may be better prepared to serve You. Give me greater insight into what my gifts are. Open up opportunities for me to serve You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 23 — How Spiritual Gifts Work Together
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (1 Cor. 12:12)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Your head keeps your five fingers from competing for first place. Your thumb could boast, “I am the most important, for babies put me in their mouths whenever they are afraid.” Your index finger could brag saying, “No, I am the most important, for people use me to point in all directions.” The middle finger might respond, “No, I am the most important, for when people put their hands together to pray, I reach the highest towards heaven.” The third finger might say, “I am the most important, for when you marry, you put the ring on me.” The last finger might say, “I am the most important, for when people have an itch in their ear, I’m the only finger small enough to scratch it.” But when one needs to dig in his garden, his head directs all the fingers together as one unit, each finger depending on the other to firmly grasp the tool for the task.
The same is with the church, the body of Christ. God has made all kinds of churches. There are mega-churches and small churches, contemporary and traditional, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking ones. God has also made all kinds of Christians. There are pastors, Sunday School teachers, ushers, trash collectors, attendance takers, offering counters, deacons, and elders. Sometimes, the elder may think he is more important than the trash collector, and the mega-church more important than the small church. But according to this Bible passage, nothing in the church happens by accident, but by design. We must therefore respect God’s design, and thank the Lord for every member and every local church in the body of Christ. Praise God now for all the churches and Christians you know, for being young or old, Afro-American or European, contemporary or traditional, large or small, rich or poor, expressive or reserved, educated or simple.
Thank you for the great variety of people and congregations in Your one Church. Help me to appreciate the variety of gifts that you shower upon your flock, and forgive me for looking down on those who don’t possess the gifts that You gave me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 24 — Love
And now I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Cor. 12:31)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
What a deal. These athletic shoes looked just like the real brand name ones – same logo, same color, same style. Not even I could tell the difference. But after wearing them for three days, the rubber was separating from the material, and the shoelace eyelets popped off.
Such is the Christian without love. Like a cheap, mechanically produced copy, he resembles his master only in the features that are easy to simulate. It’s easy, for example, to point out the sins of others, pray in public, conduct meetings, and with the right preparation, teach a Bible lesson with the precision of a scholarly book. Jesus did all that. But a Christian who tries to copy Jesus without love is far from the original. Even the world can tell the difference.
Just as a man, blind since birth, cannot conceive of color until his eyes are miraculously opened, so the natural man cannot conceive of perfect love until his eyes of faith are miraculously opened. Without an understanding of Jesus Christ, we cannot truly love, because we have never seen it before. We see only the world’s love, which is only like the crayon scribbles of a child who thinks he’s writing.
That is why the cross of Christ remains to be the only seed where true love blossoms. God may have provided us a wonderful spouse, children, and a home, but that doesn’t demonstrate the full depth of His love. It is only when we understand how enormous His sacrifice was, and how glorious was His throne, and how vile our sin, our how miserable we were without Christ, how wonderful was His gift of salvation, and how vast was His plan – only then do we clearly see the love of God. We have tasted God’s love only when we can almost hear Jesus say as He hung in agony on that cross, “[your name], my child, this is for you, which I had planned from all eternity.” Then, when we see God’s love in this way, we are so impressed, because there is no love like it, that we cannot help but want to love in the same way.
Lord, teach me to love. Make me more compassionate and merciful so that I might be more like Jesus. Whatever I do, whether I teach or whether I eat, let love of Jesus shine in all that I do and speak. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 25 — One Danger Of Mountain-Top Experiences
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. (1 Cor. 14:1)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:1-25
A pastor asked a group this question: “If you knew Jesus were coming back tomorrow, what would you do?” One member replied, “I would mount a bullhorn on top of a truck, and announce His arrival.” Another said, “I would take out an ad in the newspaper.” Still another said, “I would contact the 6 o’clock news.” But the last member remarked, “I would wait for Him on top of a mountain.”
Sometimes, it is a temptation to turn all our energies inward, like the man who waits on top of a mountain. It is good to have a personal quiet time with the Lord, but that is not all there is to the Christian life. Even six of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship to our neighbor. If we put on the kind of love explained in the previous chapter, our energies become directed outward. We want to reach out to others and build them up. No longer are we concerned only with our own individual spiritual enrichment, but we are also concerned with the enrichment of others.
This is the secret of Christians who make the greatest impact on the world for Christ. The most effective spiritual leaders and evangelists reach millions for Christ, not because of their tight administration or slick advertisements, but because they love those who are lost in Christ. Also, the most effective pastor loves his congregation. The most effective teacher loves her students. The most effective greeter loves visitors.
Love, in other words, is the Christian’s radar. It makes us aware of others in the room. The Christian who so loves, says Paul, halts his speaking in an unknown tongue, then opts to speak in an intelligible language for everyone else’s benefit. Likewise, the Christian might also curb his use of “thee’s” and “thou’s,” the use of scholarly theological terminology in the presence of children, and the high pressure for donations in the presence of unbelievers. With this loving awareness of others, Christ’s church is built up.
Dear Lord, open my eyes so that I may see the world as Jesus does. Forgive me for being selfish about my own spirituality, and help me to be concerned about others in my midst, so that I might edify them. In Jesus name, Amen.
Day 26 — Corporate Worship
All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Cor. 14:26)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40
In this passage, Paul applies the principle of love, as explained in chapter 13, to worship. Some may say, “Isn’t worship something that happens just between me and God? If my attention is on God, why must I care what the other members think?” Yes, it is true that in worship, our attention should be fully on God. But for corporate worship, the gathering of Christians for worship, Paul identifies an additional purpose: “All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” Paul was calling for people-sensitive worship services, which is an outgrowth of love.
A “free for all” worship service is attractive to some, but not edifying to all. Among the ancient Corinthian Christians, they would all speak at once, like a hundred car horns in a traffic jam. Especially in today’s 50-channel cable TV society, we would love a worship service where we could pray when we want, sing what we want, sit where we want, and listen to what we want. But the Bible says there must a “traffic controller,” who regulates the worshiper’s participation, without quenching the Spirit, so that the whole church benefits. Biblical worship certainly allows for some degree of freedom and spontaneity. But there must be some kind of bridle too. This way, the church is edified, and God is glorified.
When you gather for worship, do you come only to “get something out of it”? Or do you come to also “strengthen the church”? Do you approach the worship service like you would a concert, where you could anonymously slip in and out? Or do you take the time to greet visitors, encourage the downcast, lift a burdened soul with Scripture, help set up chairs, and pray for the sister in need? Though your worship service may be well-structured and provide little room for spontaneity, there are many ways you could build up one another.
Lord Jesus, direct me by Your Holy Spirit in the way that I could edify my brothers and sisters as I worship with them. Forgive me for thinking selfishly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 27 — The Call Of God
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (1 Cor. 15:1)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Weight-loss ads feature before and after pictures to demonstrate the power of their diet. The most power ad I’ve seen is where the “before” picture showed a 600-pound man, and the “after” picture showed the same man at a slim 180 pounds. Readers take notice, and read on about the diet.
Likewise, God chose the least likely candidate, Paul of Tarsus, to communicate the gospel to the world. Who would have ever imagined that this cruel persecutor of Christians would someday promote the Christian faith? By the irresistible grace of God, He in a sense “dragged” Paul into becoming one of the most effective communicators of the gospel. So that as Paul spoke about the faith, people could not help but notice the “before” and “after” picture in Paul, which compelled them to listen to his words. Through Paul’s writings and his dramatic conversion, God impressed upon the world the most important tenets of the Christian faith.
One of those tenets, which Paul called “of first importance” (v. 3), is the resurrection. Although it was Christ’s death that atoned (i.e. took away) our sins and earned salvation for us, it was Christ’s resurrection that authenticated all that Jesus claimed and promised. Without the resurrection, in other words, the belief that Christ’s death takes away sins would be no more than a fable. The resurrection is like the one hook upon which a beautiful plant hangs. All the threads of that hanging plant are supported by that hook. If that hook breaks, the whole plant falls. The same with the Christian faith. All the beliefs that give us hope, peace, and joy in life depend on the truth of that miraculous event.
If you are sure of the resurrection, you can be sure of the Christian faith. A difficult question such as “Why does a good God allow evil in this world?” need not injure our faith, because we have the resurrection as proof of God’s benevolence to us. Put aside all the hypocrites, the Christians who injured us, the stories of greedy televangelists, and the many things that Christians do that tempt us to doubt Christ. Instead, remember the resurrection upon which the promises of Christ to you stand firm.
Dear God, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. Now strengthen my faith, so that I might not doubt the riches of Your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 28 — Lasting Hope
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Cor. 15:19)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-34
I listened to a pastor as he told his story of his imprisonment in China. About 20 years ago, he led a church of about 300. But because the church was not sanctioned by the communist government, he was arrested and put in prison for 17 years. They took all his books, including his Bible, and sentenced him to hard labor. Every day, they tortured him by forcing him to stand neck-high in a pool of human feces. But the pastor clung to his hope. Daily, he sang songs, prayed aloud, and recited Scriptures he had memorized, while he was alone in the sickening pool. Then he was released. He looked for his church and found that God had grown it to 5,000!
Only the Christian possesses the hope that outlasts the ultimate hardships in life – our future resurrection. While many of us strive for earthly blessings such as a happy marriage, healthy children, or a house in a safe neighborhood, what about the Christian who seems to have lost everything? When the hope of the “good life” is gone – the two cars, a family, a successful career, a healthy body – what does the Christian still have to look forward to? To this, the Bible answers, “so in Christ all will be made alive” (v. 22). In other words, when the winds of adversity come, and all other houses have blown down, our future resurrection is the only house that will be left standing. As surely as Christ was raised in glory, so we who believe will also be raised in glory (cf. Rom. 8:18-25).
Dear Lord, give me patience as I wait for that glorious day, when all things will be made new. Remind me daily of that future hope, so that I may not be too discouraged with the hardships of life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 29 — The Final Drama
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58
On a television program, a young boy asked his father, “Dad, what do you do?” His father replied, “Well, I get up, eat, fight traffic, work, fight traffic, eat, and go to bed.” The boy looked puzzled and said, “Then what?” The father said, “Well, I get up, eat, fight traffic, work, fight traffic, eat, and go to bed.”
Some Christians face hardship, while other Christians face constant drudgery. Like the steady but hypnotic tone and television test pattern after the words, “This is only a test,” life, too, is numbing if there is no change to look forward to. To the prisoner and the slave, change obviously seems hard to come by. But even homemakers, engineers, and secretaries can feel they are stuck on a never-ending treadmill.
Christ’s hope to us is that we will be drastically changed when He comes back. It is almost unimaginable. No, we will not be ghost-like angels playing harps on clouds after we die. That would be drudgery again. Rather, our souls will be reunited with newly raised bodies. These bodies will never die (v. 54), they will not experience pain (Rev. 21:4), they will be like Christ’s glorified body (Rom. 8:17-18, 1 Cor. 15:49), they can still enjoy food (John 21:12), and they can pass through walls (John 20:26). We will be so different from the way we are now, that Paul compares the change to the difference between a little seed and a full-grown plant (v. 37).
Therefore, the Christian need not fear death. There is so much to look forward to after death that the Christian need not worry about that future day, but instead live for Christ today.
Dear Lord, sometimes life seems hopeless. Help me to wait patiently for the day when Christ returns, and I be transformed. As I wait, strengthen me to live each day for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 30 — Intimate Fellowship
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (1 Cor. 16:19-20)
Reading: 1 Corinthians 16
In modern society, we like to draw boundary lines and say “mine.” We protect our privacy to the extent that we erect fences between homes, place those rubber dividers on the grocery store check out stand, and hang “no soliciting” signs outside our doors. Some non-Western peoples cannot understand our obsession with privacy. Of course, it is not necessarily wrong to protect one’s privacy, yet it can become a hindrance to intimate fellowship among God’s people.
In the churches of Paul’s day, the privacy lines for God’s people got fuzzy on purpose. They took up collections for poorer Christians in Jerusalem (v. 1-4). Some of them even shared all their possessions (Acts 2:44). They opened up their homes (v. 19). And they greeted each other with a kiss (v. 20). They confessed sins to one another (James 5:16). They were like family, God’s family.
Modern relationships are like billiard balls all colliding with each other on a pool table. We each have a hard, impenetrable shell where we’d rather not get too personally involved in another Christian’s affairs. We’d like church to be a cocktail party. We’d rather put on our Sunday best, keep our problems to ourselves, and say “it’s none of their business.”
But God calls us to be more like clay balls. We are to bond to each other, molding and reshaping ourselves around one another, such that when one ball is ripped away, bits of us are torn away and cling to that ball. That is why the elders at Ephesus cried and kissed Paul when he left (Acts 20:37). That is why we call each other brothers and sisters.
When we become believers, we become radically divorced from the world, and we become part of a new family, which God calls the “family of believers” (Gal. 6:10). Do you have a band of believers whom you can trust, confide in, and open up to? How many believers do you personally know by name? Do you have a group of Christians whom you would sacrificially give your money and time to?
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen the bond of fellowship between all brothers and sisters in Your family. You have adopted us as Your own children. Now, create kinship between us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.