Archive for November, 2008

November 30th, 2008 – Equipped to Serve

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Equipped to Serve

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and make some notes about any words or phrases of interest and write down some questions and possible application points.

You have probably read this passage and heard it preached many times about your gift/s and what to do as a result. Always notice the context around a passage of study. The early church most likely would have been listening to this being read as a letter so the audience would have had heard it in light of their situation. Paul is reminding them about some practical application points of being the church in their community of Corinth.

When you think of spiritual gifts what do you think of first:

Why do we have them?
Every believer has at least one?
They are for the good of the whole church?
They are only for the 1st century church?
They should only be used by the more mature Christ follower?
They are so confusing so they must not be necessary?
Other thoughts?

This early church was beginning to hit some road blocks about being the church. Paul writes about dissension and differences in the preceding verses and how that affects unity and personal motives during worship and the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, this same theme is carried over to the spiritual gifts, specifically how to they fit in the body life of a church community.

“Ignorance” as it is used by Paul could refer to their pride as they used their gifts or, the misuse of the gifts in worship setting. He reminds the Corinthians the gifts should magnify God and not focus on the individual. The gifts are for the common good moving the kingdom forward and how each person has a role or job.

Think about the number of jobs you have held in your lifetime? What was the best one, toughest one, most rewarding?

Paul also wants to clear up any misunderstanding about what may have been perceived as similarities between idol worship and Christianity. In verses 2-3 mute idols and pagan worship practices are mentioned. Some in the church may have brought those influences to Christianity when they trusted Christ. We need to be clear and careful that we don’t take the world’s practices and blindly accept them within the Church body. There was a lot of spiritual babbling but no one appears to be sure of the source. So Paul reminds them to test the origin or source. Ultimately it boils down to, “Can they confess Christ?”

Read Romans 10:9-10 what does this confession declare?

The Greek word for gifts charismata, means a favor or gift that is given not based on the Giver’s goodness not on the receiver’s merit or even personality.

Make a special note of the used of the titles related to the Trinity in verses 4-6.

There is One Spirit but many gifts. This variety of gifts creates a way for dissension if used to promote the individual but there is also great potential for wholeness and unity like you find in the Triune Godhead.

Notice the overall purpose according to Paul in 12:7 is to benefit or be profitable for common good of the church not individual. The church should have impact within and then out in the community. But if it is divided in worship, the Lord’s Supper or spiritual gifts that power is lost.

The gift of “wisdom” in v. 8 is not man’s wisdom but God’s wisdom to make plans within circumstances in light of eternity.

Mentioned in v. 9 “faith” is not saving faith but miraculous faith as in “throw the mountain into the sea” type of faith.

Lastly in v.10 the type of powerful miracles would most likely not be healing since that has been mentioned but likely signs and wonders that reveal God’s power.

Take a look at how each gift is followed by a preposition and the Spirit. Reliance on God’s Spirit remains essential in the use of the gifts and growth of the church!

What was the best gift you remember from a Christmas or birthday? Why do you remember it or what made it special? What if we remembered our spiritual gifts with such clarity and used them with the Spirit’s efficiency?

For further study read Exodus 31:6; 35:34; 36:1-2; 38:23- what do you notice about the skills and abilities of Bezalel and Oholiab?

What are the differences or similarities between the gifts, fruits and qualities of the divine life? 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Galatians 5:22-25; 2 Peter1:3-8

November 23rd, 2008 – Called to Serve

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Called to Serve

Matthew 16:24-25; 20:24-28

Read Matthew 16:24-25

Matthew 16 contains some critical concepts about the purpose of Jesus and the life of a disciple and the church. Peter has just declared that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God and then Jesus reveals God’s plan of his death and resurrection. The disciples are shocked to say the least. You can almost hear them say,

“Everything has been going so well.” We’re comfortable.
“The public was just beginning to notice our little movement.” We’re popular.
“The religious establishment was listening a little more closely.” We’re finally taken seriously.
“Now, you’re going to die and ruin our plans?”

If we aren’t careful we can have that same kind of perspective when we become a Christ follower. You may believe that the fact that we have faith should make life easier and better. In a way it does but often it is not in the way we think. It happens according to God’s way. Jesus reminds all of his disciples, including those in the 21st century, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Recall your personal encounter with Jesus and remind yourself of the ways in which he has called you.

Jesus invites “anyone” and clarifies the conditions of discipleship when he says “if.” “Following” meant a new way of life not just a keeping track of Jesus’ whereabouts. Jesus knew what he was asking his disciples when he called them to follow him. He knew it would be difficult. He knew it would be demanding. And, he knew it would be worth it.

To “come after/follow” meant to learn to live his way of life. They would watch his interaction with different groups of people, listen to his prayers, witness his actions in different situations then they would get to practice on their own until eventually Jesus’ way of life became their second nature.

The three fold aspects of discipleship are then laid out. The disciple must “deny himself.” The spiritual life must be lived in submission to God’s will not our own. His plans have eternal significance to them. We tend to look through selfish “me glasses.” Jesus is not saying think less of yourself but less about yourself. Self denial is not lack of self esteem since we are God’s children and his love should be unquestioned and his grace changes everything.

Read and meditate on 1 Peter 1:18-19 about your value and a new way of life.

Next, the Christ follower must “take up his cross.” The disciple must realize that this maybe a metaphor but it should be accompanied by visible consequences. The cross always meant death. Jesus would have been calling his disciples to die through this graphic word picture. One preacher commented that dead people have little struggle with lust or envy, gossip or lying, cheating or idolatry… This needs to be taken personally indicated by the use of the personal pronoun “his.” You are to take up your own cross not another’s cross in fact it is not good or helpful to compare. Since Jesus is describing a death discipleship also depends on faith that life goes on beyond the grave.

Read and apply Galatians 2:20 about being crucified and then living.

Then, Jesus adds that disciples must “follow him.” The tense of that verb means to “keep on following.” The Christ follower doesn’t enter into a relationship that is to be lived out inside a building. It is a life long journey.

Read and pray Romans 12:1as you are becoming a living sacrifice

Jesus describes a disciple’s paradox in verse 25 that in trying to save his life it will be lost. Often we work so hard for rewards and recognition but at the end we have very little to show for our life but empty titles. Jesus challenges his followers to lose their life for him and in living that way we find eternal life.

Read Matthew 6 and focus on the results of those who give, pray and fast to be seen…

So now that we have been CALLED, know that we are called to SERVE…

Read Matthew 20:24-28
Isn’t it good to know the disciples had little disagreements, too? The context of these verses centers around the kingdom and which of them will be the greatest. I imagine that the 10 were frustrated with themselves that they didn’t ask before James and John’s mom. The simple fact that they are “indignant” hints at this indirectly.
Jesus quickly quells the question with a reminder about true greatness. The rulers of the Gentiles at that point in history would be the Romans. Their rule, though peaceable as a whole, was maintained by coercion, entitlement and fear. Such government may work but it is not the best motivator of the people. Jesus states it is “not to be so with you,” v. 26.

Jesus is not squelching the desire or ambition to be “great” among the disciples but instead he is outlining how to do it, through serving. This is such a contradiction to most thought processes. Greatness is normally seen through wielded power and the enforced status of titles. However, Jesus the great among you must be your servant. The Greek word here is diakonos from which we get our English word deacon. Gary Thomas writes, “To be a Christian is to be a self-volunteering servant. It is not sufficient to merely voice our assent to a few choice doctrines. We are called to act in such a way that we put others above ourselves.”

Notice Jesus’ descent to greatness described in Philippians 2:1-11. Write down each step and some application points for your life.

Moreover, Jesus says if you want to be “first” you must be a slave. Here the Greek word is doulos which also means bondservant. A bondservant was a servant by choice. The idea of being first and self exaltation is firmly contradicted by Jesus in this principle and his way of life. Choosing to follow Jesus meant serving and no task was too little. In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig Blomberg writes, “Few models are more desperately needed in an age of celebrity Christianity, high-tech evangelism and worship, and widespread abuses of ecclesiastical power…”

Notice how Jesus modeled servanthood in John 13:1-17. (Don’t miss that Judas would have been included in this act!)

Jesus led by example. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” he modeled it for his disciples. Jesus’ model of giving sacrificially remains the ultimate picture of serving. Giving his life as a “ransom” would be understood in the 1st century as the price to be paid for the freedom for a slave. Clearly in serving Jesus had you and me in mind.

So, what will you do?

“…In God’s eyes nothing is more significant than servanthood. The path to genuine greatness lies in serving.” Gary and Betsy Ricucci

‘Equipped to Serve’ – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 – November 30
‘Results of Serving’ – Ephesians 4:11-16 – December 7