Relationship with God vital to Christians

6/20/2006

By John Hugh Tate

 

July 2

Living in Relationships

Purpose: To emphasize that all our relationships are to reflect God’s call on our lives.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 7:1-20, 23-40

Key Verse: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.” — 1 Corinthians 7:7

 

Paul’s overarching message in this passage is complete and utter devotion to the Lord. Based on his personal beliefs, one can only be truly devoted to the Lord if he or she is not married. His advice to Corinthian believers is not to marry. He does not believe marriage is wrong, but that it divides one’s interests and limits one’s focus to the Lord (v. 33-35).

 

However, Paul understands Christian’s desire to seek the covenant of marriage. Thus, he encourages marriage for those believers. He emphasizes marriage as a sacred covenant, a union between the husband and wife. The couple should regard themselves as belonging to one another and strive to fulfill their duties to each other.

 

In today’s world, how do we Christians regard marriage? We should hope and pray that marriage strengthens both individual’s relationship with God. In the holy covenant of marriage, husband and wife should help one another in their Christian walk. Additionally, if we follow Paul’s plea that spouses belong to one another, should not the marriage covenant be above everything else, except one’s relationship with God?             

The main point Paul makes in this passage is, regardless of one’s situation, we need to be content. He impresses to all churches: “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (v. 17). This is wonderful advice for us in our fast-paced, upwardly-mobile, career driven society. We should strive to live contently for the Lord in whatever economic, social and religious station where God has placed us.

 

How can we accomplish this when everyone around us is striving for the better job and the bigger house? By seeking God with all our hearts and using our gifts to serve Him.

 

Paul writes further, “time is short” and “this world in its present form is passing away” (v. 29-30). We should not be overly concerned with affairs of the world or selfish desires. He is encouraging believers at Corinth, and present day Christians to focus solely on the Lord. With such focus and devotion, we discover what we’re all searching for:  true contentment, peace, and purpose for our lives.  

 

July 9

To Eat or Not to Eat

Purpose: To affirm the priority of Christian love over personal privilege.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

Key Verse: “‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ Ware no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” — 1 Corinthians 8:8-9

 

As Christians, our faith rests in what Jesus accomplished in His death and resurrection. Paul writes: “There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (v. 6). Nothing we do or don’t do earns us our salvation or God’s love. It’s been given to us freely. We can choose to either accept or reject God’s gift to us.

 

We know this in our hearts. However, there is an incessant danger of our knowledge leading to false pride. This is a trap many believers fall prey to. We can lose our humility and become self-consumed. Paul warns against this by writing:  “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (v. 1). No one likes a know-it-all. Although we have ultimate truth in Jesus Christ, we should express and articulate that truth with hearts of grace and love.

 

Our freedom is found and bound in Jesus Christ. With our freedom comes great responsibility. We must be aware of brothers and sisters around us and their respective situations. Actions will always speak louder than words. Therefore, let us be ever conscious of our actions. Instead of becoming stumbling blocks to those who could be struggling, we should reflect the light and love of Christ in all we say and do.

 

 

July 16

Called to Win

Purpose: To encourage us to practice spiritual discipline, through which God gives us the strength we need to persevere in the face of trials and temptations.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:13

Key Verse: “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such as way that you may win it.” — 1 Corinthians 9:24.

 

I love running. Whenever I go for a run, I have a goal in sight. That goal is my aim, and I am determined to reach it. The church at Corinth knew about races and running from athletic games held there. Paul wisely uses this metaphor and urges us to view our Christian lives as a race we’re running to win.

 

Our lives need not consist of aimless running. As Christians, we have an eternal destination and a glorious purpose to our lives. All too often though, we get consumed in the busyness of life. Our focus becomes directed towards schedules, tasks, appointments, and all we have to do. We easily end up running ourselves to death, with no finish line in sight. Instead of focusing on ourselves, our goals should be to serve the Lord faithfully. In doing so, we can run with fervor in complete devotion to the Lord. Then our sights will be set on running the race well, and looking forward to our ultimate prize – our eternal destiny with the Lord. Our lives will have greater meaning.

 

Our running becomes full or purpose.

 

Ultimately, such focus requires discipline and training. Just as we train and prepare to ensure our bodies and minds are steeled, we must do the same in our spiritual life. We must constantly seek to strengthen ourselves through meditation on Scripture, prayer and relationships with believers who sharpen us and hold us accountable.

 

In our race, we will encounter obstacles. Actually, one could easily describe our path not as a race, but an obstacle course. We face daily temptations, disappointments, and frustrations. But we need not fear! God has provided for all our needs and He always allows a way around any obstacle. He has given us His Word as a guide to live by. He has given us prayer for direct communication with Him. He has given us The Holy Spirit as a Comforter and Companion. He has given us one another – a body of believers in the church for care, support, and to build one another up in love.  

 

 

July 23

All for One

Purpose: To help us appreciate the fact that each member of the body of Christ has received gifts for ministry from the Spirit for the good of all.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Key Verse: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” — 1 Corinthians 12:7

 

The question could easily be raised to Paul: Of what does our running consist? Paul provides an answer with this passage in writing about spiritual gifts. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of workings, but the same God works all of them in all men” (v. 4-6).

 

God has given each of us spiritual gifts. The One Triune God works through the diversity of these spiritual gifts. Paul lists several:

Wisdom

Knowledge

Ffaith

Healing

Prophecy

 

There are many others:

Encouragement

Exhortation

Administration

Service

Listening

Teaching

Giving

 

Why has God given us these gifts? We are to use them in service to the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to work through them. As Christian believers, every one of us is called by God to use the multitude of gifts to serve Him in this world and help build His Kingdom.

 

Whatever your place or position in life, God has given you gifts to use for His glory. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14-16) Thus, our gifts are to be used by the Holy Spirit to shine the Light of Christ to others, and to bring grace, peace, righteousness, and justice to a world in need.

 

We don’t run the race alone. As individual Christians, we are part of a larger body – the church Universal – the Body of Christ in this world. Encouraging Christians in Corinth to work together towards the same goal, Paul echoes to us today – as Christians we are all in this together. We are all striving for the same destination. Even though there is a diversity of spiritual gifts amongst believers, we have unity as we are all part of one body, the body of Christ.

 

July 30

Love Comes First

Purpose: To assure us that God’s eternal love is the ground of everything good and lasting in the universe.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 13

Key Verse: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13

           

Our spiritual gifts and their expressions mean nothing unless they are motivated by love. We can speak with eloquence in tongues of men and angels, but if we don’t speak in love, it amounts to mere noise.

 

With all our knowledge we may be the brightest star in the sky, but if we don’t have love, all our knowing is a waste. Our faith may be strong enough to move mountains, but it can’t life a dime without love. We may give all we possess to the needy, but if our acts aren’t motivated by selfless love, it means nothing.

 

I John 4:8, 11-12 states: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love….Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” If we are to reflect the light of Christ to the world, we are to do so in love. If we are to use our spiritual gifts, it must be done in a spirit of love.

 

In Paul’s passage to the Corinthians, the Greek word for love is agape. In the ancient Greek language, this word was the highest form of love. It indicated selfless concern for the welfare of others. This type of love is not called forth by any lovable quality in the person, but is the product of one’s will to love others in total obedience to God’s command. This type of love magnifies the love and grace of God, given to us:  completely unwarranted, undeserved, and unmerited. This was the love Christ displayed to the world on the cross.

 

Such love does not come easily, but it is possible. It can only occur with Christ residing within us. If we are to love as Christ loved us, we must have a strong relationship with Him. If we are to show that love to others, we must die to ourselves. This love is the true light of Christ in our world, and it can bring about transformation of individuals, churches, communities, and nations.    

 

Tate is an associate pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.