Saturday, March 15, 2014

"The practical things of life as a believer ..."

Day #78:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - March 16th

Scripture Reading:  I Corinthians 7 - 8 ...

God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was written to those who are living life in this world.  There are some parts that are prophetic concerning the future; there are other parts that are deeply theological, containing teaching that we need to know about God and His plan of salvation, about ourselves and about our world; and there are parts that are filled with practical application for those who believe in Christ.  Our chapters today are the latter - practical application of the truth that Jesus is the Christ, that He died and rose again and poured out His Spirit to call us to Himself, and that we who believe are called to live in obedience to God's commands, not to earn our salvation, but as a testimony to the power of God at work within us.

In Chapter 7 Paul speaks about one of the most popular topics of our present-day culture:  Marriage and the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.  Some might think that Paul could not possibly understand these things because he wasn't married and he hadn't read any of the latest books on marriage.  But Paul knew Christ and he knew that God's desire is that His children live in peace and harmony and love.  His instructions to those who are single and those who are married reflect the heart of God.  God's goal for us is "that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord" (7:35).

David wrote in Psalm 86:  "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (vs. 11).  Some claim to be more committed to Christ than others and try to show it in outward religious rituals and traditions which in themselves may not be wrong or sinful ... BUT, Paul writes, "Keeping God's commands is what counts" (7:19).  God reveals His will for us in His Word.  He TELLS us that love for Him comes first, and then our commitments to our husbands and wives and our children, and then our commitment to Christ's body, the Church.  Living as a disciple of Jesus in obedience to God's Word is not optional for those who are in Christ.  "You were bought at a price!" (7:23).

That reminds me of I Peter 1:18-19:  "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."  Chapter 7 gives very specific instructions and reminds us that "God has called us to live in peace" (7:15) ... with HIM and with each other.  His Spirit gives us wisdom and strength to be and do all that He desires us to be and do.  We have a BOND, a oneness, with Christ and with each other that needs to be respected, cherished, built up, protected, nourished and strengthened, so it will grow and be strong.

Chapter 8 deals with another topic for the same reason:  building others up in love.  "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (8:1).  "There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live" (8:6).  Paul tells believers not to destroy a brother for the sake of food or other disputable matters.  The body of Christ is too important to split it apart over things that are not direct commands of God.  Again, we need wisdom to know the difference.

Set your mind and heart on Christ every day as one of His disciples.  In your relationships with others, put Christ first and others before yourself.  Trust God to work in you and through you for His glory and you will have peace in your heart and in your relationships, and through your love others will be built up and encouraged.  God's Word is true.  Listen to His voice, for as followers of Christ, "Keeping God's commands is what counts!!" (7:19).

"Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom You have given us Your Word and Spirit to guide us through this life.  You know our weakness and call us to live to exalt Your name.  Help us, Father, to have an undivided devotion to You in all our relationships with others, that our lives may testify that Jesus is our Savior and our Lord!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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