I want to continue a discussion that we had in our Wednesday Bible study recently from 1 Corinthians chapter 9. Paul uses himself as a personal example of self-denial by stating he could have been paid by the church for service in ministry. However, he chose to give up his personal liberty by not accepting compensation and decided to work so that he wouldn’t be a stumbling block to others (He mentions this same concept in 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9). As he discusses with the Corinthian Christians whether it is ok to eat meat that had previously been offered to idols (8:9-13) he employs a radical idea and that is to give up a personal liberty for the LOVE OF UNITY.
This liberty that Paul could have enjoyed (being paid for ministry) could potentially cause a brother to sin. He didn’t want to be a stumbling block to others by eating meat offered to idols (a liberty the Corinthians could have enjoyed) but would be placing a stumbling block in a brothers path. A freedom that Paul ultimately says is not worth participating in because the stakes are too high. He never wanted to lose a brother or sister or cause them to stumble! The stronger response spiritually is to forfeit a personal liberty for the LOVE of UNITY.
There is a much bigger picture here to consider than eating meat offered to idols. Paul was very concerned over the church dividing (1:10-11). The concern in chapter 8:9-13 was one of many issues confronting the church at Corinth and a reason for causing division. Quick question...Do we really desire to “win” souls or arguments? Is it about getting what “I” want with no “HIGHER way” option only my way? Do we only desire the ultimatums we establish and the lines we draw in the sand? Remember Paul’s ultimatum? GIVE UP your liberty, freedoms, and personal agenda for a greater cause….UNITY!
Think about the direction the church at Corinthian was heading in by being selfish over opinions and issues and it wasn’t a good one. They were going to split the fellowship, sever friendships, and divide the church which would have created more skeptics. The church would have an ugly cloud covering their influence in the community which wouldn’t have been beneficial to the Lord! The beautiful blessing for the Corinthians is they took Paul’s advice and the church was blessed as a result (read 2 Corinthians). It takes a stronger person spiritually to submit, be humble, and penitent in the presence of brethren and before God.
Paul had one thing on his mind and that was to NEVER be a hindrance to the Gospel of Christ by letting his personal preferences keep the weaker brethren from running the race of faith and winning the ultimate prize which is eternal life with God. Let’s be determined to do the same for the LOVE of UNITY.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” — 1 Corinthians 15:58
“And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them.” Matthew 5:1-2
For years during the summer, I visited my first cousin in Taos, New Mexico. We would fish in the mountain rivers. Some areas would still have snow. We would hike the trails to find the best fishing spots, but we would also look for a place to sit and take in the wonderful spender, tranquil peace, and talk about God.
When you think of the Sermon on the Mount, do we see Jesus (as Hollywood has coached us) perched on a high rock up in the hills, teaching the multitudes, or do we see Him walking through tall grass on the mountainsides, reciting the Beatitudes as He maneuvers among masses congregated there? Hmmm…?
Scripture says our Lord walked away from the crowd, headed into the hills, and found a place to sit. When His closest followers came to Him, Jesus taught them. This is a picture of intimate impartation to those seeking him, not a scene with stage lights, microphones, and megachurch-like multitudes.
Men too often long for the soapbox and the spotlight. They want to hear the applause and the “Amen.” But Jesus looks for faithfulness in little things. (Luke 16:10) He calls us to feed our own households and teach our own children first and foremost (Matt 24:45; Ephesians 6:4; 1Tim 5:8). Whether or not we’re called to speak to the many, we must often step away from the crowds and find a place to sit with the few in our lives that are right in front of us.
Have you ever been told God’s ways are not our ways? I was told this a lot by my grandparents and parents and they expressed this with compassion and conviction. I remember listening to my grandmother who lived next door us read this scripture to me all the time:
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name” Psa. 86:11
God’s ways are not our ways, and a brief overview of the gospel offers a powerful case and point.
The Almighty‘s only Son left His throne and took on flesh. He came to serve - and He did so in a miraculous, meek, and humble way. Our Lord healed people of their infirmities: when HE spoke the word or touched the broken body, the lame walked, the blind saw, and the deaf heard. He forgave sin and taught us the fulfilled law of God. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” Matt. 5:38-39. Sometimes this is very hard to do but, our Lord submitted to death on the cross after a completely illegal and unfair trial by both Romans and Jews. He modeled sacrificial love in the ultimate way as He died to atone for our sins.
God’s ways are not our ways, are they? Who would have imagined such a gift, such an act of amazing grace on our behalf? Our God is not a sinful, self-centered human being. We don’t think like He does. We must allow God to open our hearts to receive His truth, and then He must teach us His ways if we are to live by them.
May the psalmist’s prayers be ours: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord: teach me your paths. Teach me Your way, Unite my heart to fear Your name”.
Would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been?
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in or would you rush about?
And I wonder... if the Savior spent a day or two with you
Would you go right on doing the things you always do?
Would you go right on saying the things you always say?
Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?
Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you go?
Or would you maybe change your plans for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him meet your closest friends?
Or would you hope they stay away until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on?
Or would you sign with great relief when He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you.
~ Author Unknown
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deu. 6:5)
Have any of you ever asked God “What do you want of me?” Let’s take a look at this question together. What is it that God really wants from us? We have a Bible filled with the Lords commands, kingdom principles, and specific instructions for godly living. These descriptions can be daunting at times and challenging! It’s a good thing that God has summarized His law in a single verse: each of us is to love God with all our hearts, all our soul, and all our might. Amen!
God wants far more that external conformity to His laws. Our Father and God seeks enthusiastic obedience as a response of love for Him, not obedience stemming from a sense of duty or obligation. So, as God’s children, flee from anything that draws us away from loving our heavenly father. Beware if your heart is comfortable living in sin and remember that the closer you are to God; the more detestable evil will be. Put yourself in places where you can know God better, because to know Him is to love Him.
When we know God, we realize that a love relationship with God truly is His desire for our life. Obedience to His law is a simple a gauge of our love. However, obedience is not God’s only goal for us. He wants our heart, not some sense of obligatory submission. Our Lord wants us to enjoy our time with Him. He wants us to love Him.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1John 5:3)