CALLED OUT

1 Cor. 1:1,2 – Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

These first two verses in 1 Corinthians are aimed at one of the challenges the church in Corinth was dealing with that we can understand in our secular world today. Corinth was a very worldly city overrun with drunkenness, idolatry and sexual immorality. Sound familiar? Living in a dark world either effects us or we become lights in the midst of darkness. I want to touch on some key words in this verse that may help us make a clean break from worldly behavior. The first word is called – kletos in the greek. Here is how Thayer defines this word –

“called, invited (to a banquet); in the N.T. a. invited (by God in the proclamation of the gospel) to obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God through Christ”

Paul is saying that we are called, as christians, out of the world’s party into the banquet feast of the Lord. The next word is the word church. The greek word is ekklesia. Here is how Thayer defines that.

“properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly;”

The word church literally means the called out ones. We are called from the community of the world into the community of Jesus. The next word is a beautiful Bible word, sanctified. It is hagiazo in the original text. Mounce describes this word like this:

“to separate, consecrate; cleanse, purify, sanctify; regard or reverence as holy”

The implication is obvious, we are set apart for the Lord. The last word is the word saints; it comes from the greek word hagios. This is how Mounce defines this word.

“separate from common condition and use; dedicated –

character of the God who has thus set them apart. Thus holiness forms part of God’s intention in saving his people. Paul’s concept of holiness regularly entails observable behavior.”

So this is what Paul is getting at; we are God’s called out people. We are called to a better life and we are called into a relationship with an amazing and holy God. We are no longer part of the community we used to live in, we are called into the church of God.

CALLED INTO LOVE

1 Cor.1:8,9 – He will keep you steady and strong to the very end, making your character mature so that you will be found innocent on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is forever faithful and can be trusted to do this in you, for he has invited you to co-share the life of his Son, Jesus, the Anointed One, our King!

At the end of the day all we all really want is to be loved. That’s what makes the gospel and all its promises so attractive and ultimately rewarding. The whole point of the message of Christ is His calling out to us. He is calling us out of the world’s darkness and rejection and right into His world of love. We are the church, the called out ones, called into a life of intimacy with God and a partnership with fellow believers sealed by His love. This love is communicated to us by the Holy Spirit. Look at today’s verse in the Passion Translation, we are called to co-share the life of His Son. There could be no greater honor or no greater joy. I am loved by God and am called to enjoy Him forever beginning right now. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes.

“Or “a life of communion with his Son.” That is, a co-participation (communion, fellowship) of the Son. The Aramaic can be translated “You have been called to the (wedding) feast of his Son.” We see a clear picture here that believers are called to share in the sonship of Jesus. By God’s grace, we will share in the Son’s standing and position before the Father. We are not only blameless but made holy by the co-sharing of the life of God’s Son.”

Throughout the earthly ministry of Christ we see Him calling individuals to follow Him. He was calling these chosen ones to be with Him in His day to day fellowship. He is still doing that today. Adam Clarke say He is calling us into a participation with Christ

“Into the communion or participation of Christ, in the graces of his Spirit and the glories of his future kingdom.”

Wow! Wow! Wow! We are called to enjoy the graces of His Spirit and actually begin to participate into the glories of His future kingdom. What are you waiting for? Let the enjoyment of His love begin today.

THE BEAUTY OF REDEMPTION

1 Cor.1:28, 29 – God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Redemption is the display of the beauty of God. Many people can’t see this display of God’s beauty, it is only seen by those who have redeemed eyes. What exactly is this thing called redemption? It’s the whole purpose of the word of God. Mankind is locked up in misery resulting from our separation from the Lord. Our sins have robbed us, blinded us, and destroyed our ability to live and enjoy living. Redemption is the working of the sacrificial blood of Jesus on our souls. The power of redemption starts with forgiveness but doesn’t stop there, far from it. The power of God transforms us into different kinds of people. What is the outcome, we are able to actually enjoy life and God is glorified by the transformation. We see our world through different eyes, we also see the Lord and His church through different eyes. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the beauty of redemption.

“Tis of God that we actually do receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased. ’Tis God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell, and ’tis his favor that the redeemed are received into, and are made the objects of, when they are justified. So it is God that delivers from the dominion of sin, and cleanses us from our filthiness, and changes us from our deformity. ’Tis of God that the redeemed do receive all their true excellency, wisdom and holiness; and that two ways as the Holy Ghost by whom these things are immediately wrought is from God, proceeds from him, and is sent by him; and also as the Holy Ghost himself is God, by whose operation and indwelling, the knowledge of God and divine things, and a holy disposition, and all all grace are conferred and upheld.”

This is what the ministry of Paul was all about. He called himself the worst of all sinners because he had attacked the church. It was the beauty of redemption that changed Paul from being a murderer to becoming a wonderful man of God. This was the power of his message. He was preaching his testimony, the beauty of redemption. Next time you go to church have a look around. Former adulterers, liars, thieves, braggarts, drug users, alcoholics, homosexuals, and prostitutes; now they are the people of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus.

LOSER OR WINNER

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The things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not.
1 Corinthians 1:28
What an unusual God we have. He chooses the least likely to be His tools, exactly what we would never do. I can remember as a young Christian thinking how great it would be if this rock star or that celebrity would become a Christian. I used to think that would be the greatest thing ever and surely many people would be converted. It took a while for me to learn that that was not the Lord’s way of operating. I remember being so excited back in the seventies when Bob Dylan confessed to being a born again Christian. He even wrote and recorded a couple of Christian albums. That didn’t last long. His fans hated him, the media slammed him, and the church exploited him; what a fiasco. No wonder the Lord chooses nobodies; that way He gets the glory, not the celebrity and his great talent and influence. Here is how Watchman Nee describes this characteristic of God.

“The cross is the greatest leveler in the universe. It brings every one of us to zero…. The difference between a Christian who progresses fast and one who progresses slowly is in the faithfulness and obedience of the former, never in anything he possesses by nature. There are many things too strong and too imposing for God to use. Instead, He not only chooses the weak things and the despised: He goes further. The apostle seems almost at a loss to know how to define the things, so weak and despicable in men’s eyes, that God elects to use. In a telling phrase he sums them up as the “things which are not.” Do you fall into that category? Do not despair. Far from being at a disadvantage as compared with others, you may in fact have the edge over them. For at least you are already at zero and have not a long way still to go to reach God’s starting point!”

That brings us back to us; we not may have much celebrity stature or a whole lot of talent, that is exactly the qualifications the Lord is looking for. Here is how Paul says it in 1Cor. 1:26-28 – The Message, “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’?”

THE ECCLESIA

1Cor. 1:2 ¶ To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours

The New Testament word for church is ECCLESIA. It is full of shades of meaning describing the life we have been called to enjoy. This word for church describes a little bit of who we are, the called out ones. We have been called out of one culture into another, we are set apart by God to display His glory. There are several vivid pictures of the church in the scriptures that describe different aspects of who we are. First we are called the body of Christ. Paul describes how each one of us are one part of the unique body of Christ. None of us are self sufficient, we need each other. Just as the hand needs the arm and the foot needs the leg, every member of the body of Christ is vital for us to be useful in the work of God.

Secondly, we are called the bride of Christ. This communicates several beautiful truths. Just as the marriage relationship represents the most intimate of human relationships, being called the bride of Christ speaks of our intimate relationship with the Lord. We are one flesh with Him just as a bride and a groom, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. This relationship also implies righteousness displayed by the wedding garment. We must be clothed with the righteousness of God that comes by grace through faith, there is no other way for us to enter into this life of intimacy with the Lord.

The third picture of the church is the temple of God. Peter says it like this, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Each one of us are living stones in the temple of God. Why do we exist? We exist to be a habitation of the glory of God. The world needs to experience this supernatural life. We are in the world but not of it. We are here to present another alternative community to this world so others can also join the ECCLESIA, the called out ones.

THE BEAUTY OF THANKFULNESS

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched in him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” I Cor. 1:4
We have survived the election by just barely. It was said that some 700 million Facebook comments were made just on the day of the election alone about the presidency. If you didn’t read, see or hear of someone being negative or nasty then you probably aren’t on social media, radio or the internet or read any newspapers. The neat thing about my life is every weekend SUNDAY COMETH and thank God I can go get my spiritual bath and adjustments to my horrible self IN CHURCH! Worshipping with political diversity and ethnic groups of all kinds puts me back in the presence of God. Thanksgiving pours out upon us and within us and that is where the breakthrough happens. Thankfulness becomes a kingdom reality and the presence of Christ comes alive in our hearts. We learn to push through the outer trappings of this world and see there is a greater force working, we become enriched in all wisdom and knowledge.

The mandate from God hasn’t changed. We are to be the light of the world and they will know us by our love. When we stay in thankfulness, the light will shine through, when we have compassion toward others, our joy will overflow.

One of my favorite Psalms is 84 in the Message Bible.

“And how blessed all those in whom you live,

whose lives become roads you travel;

They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,

discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!

God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and

at the last turn—Zion! God in full view”

“Not only does their faith bring forth water out of the sand and rocks of the desert, but God also on his part lovingly anticipates their love, and rewardingly anticipates their faithfulness: a gentle rain, like that which refreshes the sown fields in the autumn, descends from above and enwraps the valley of Baca in a fulness of blessing: the arid steppe becomes resplendent with a flowery festive garment.” (Isaiah 35:1-10) Treasury of David

Maybe you find yourself running on empty but when you refocus and let your eyes dwell on the eternal, the “Valley of Baca” will become a spring of refreshing. You will go from strength to strength. Again in

Psalm 46:10 in the Message (MSG)

“Attention, all! See the marvels of God!

He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,

Bans war from pole to pole,

breaks all the weapons across his knee.

Step out of the traffic! Take a long,

loving look at me, your High God,

above politics, above everything.”

Be thankful and step into His beauty!

FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT

Sanctified by God the Father.
Jude 1:1
Sanctified in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:2
Through sanctification of the Spirit.

1 Peter 1:2
I love to read those old books. Jonathan Edwards uses a phrase that describes today’s verses, he speaks about the economy of the Godhead. What he is describing is the amazing way that these three-in-one work in harmony. Jesus said that He and the Father were one and He also said that He only does the things He sees the Father doing. They are inseparable and always work together. Today’s scripture describes their “economy” in the work of sanctification. This reminds us how important He sees holiness as in our lives. He is not content with our forgiveness alone, He is looking for change. The Father loves us and sent His Son so that we could be set apart (sanctified) for Himself. Jesus died for us to make this separation a possibility, the Holy Spirit works in us to accomplish this work. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.
“How unwisely do those believers talk who make preferences in the Persons of the Trinity; who think of Jesus as if he were the embodiment of everything lovely and gracious, while the Father they regard as severely just, but destitute of kindness. Equally wrong are those who magnify the decree of the Father, and the atonement of the Son, so as to depreciate the work of the Spirit. In deeds of grace none of the Persons of the Trinity act apart from the rest. They are as united in their deeds as in their essence. In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in the actions which flow from that great central source they are still undivided. Specially notice this in the matter of sanctification….And you, believer, as the follower of Christ, must also set a high value on holiness-upon purity of life and godliness of conversation. Value the blood of Christ as the foundation of your hope, but never speak disparagingly of the work of the Spirit which is your meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Let’s face it, our God loves us and wants to separate us from this world. He loves us with a jealous love and is working on our hearts to separate us from the world for Himself. What is our part? All we need to do is yield to His love.

NOT MANY MIGHTY

1Cor. 1:26,27 ¶ For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

Christianity is impossible to compare to other religions or other philosophies, it is the work of God in restoring fallen, helpless human beings. In the religions of the world, you have a set of moral practices and certain religious ceremonies and observations. The ability to adhere to these laws and practices are totally dependent on human effort and will. Christianity starts with an entirely different premise; man is hopelessly lost in an ocean or quagmire of sin without the ability to drag ourselves out of it. The very heart of our problem is the bondage of our will to the power of sin. It is the grace of God that opens our eyes to our condition, it is grace that draws us to Christ, and it is the grace of God that saves us and transforms us into different people. This is why it is even harder for the ‘better people’ to come to Christ. They are just fine, thank you very much, and of course they have their faith; the problem is that often ‘good folks’ have never recognized the need for a savior. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on today’s verses.
“The import of all these things, if we may trust to scripture representations, is, that God has contrived to exclude our glorying; that we should be wholly and every way dependent on God, for the moral and natural good that belongs to salvation; and that we have all from the hand of God, by his power and grace. And certainly this is wholly inconsistent with the idea that our holiness is wholly from ourselves; and that we are interested in the benefits of Christ rather than others, is wholly of our own decision. And that such a universal dependence is what takes away occasion of taking glory to ourselves, and is a proper ground of an ascription of all the glory of the things belonging to man’s salvation to God, is manifest from Rom. xi. 35, 36. “Or who hath first given unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and to him, and through him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever and ever.”
For me, this is the greatest of news. The Lord chooses to work through imperfect and not so talented people. After all, salvation is about the glory of God’s grace, not the works of good people. Maybe there is hope for all of us.

GOD’S FOOLISH THINGS

GOD’S FOOLISH THINGS

1Cor. 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;

Did you know that God’s ways are not your ways. We think that The Lord would want to save important people, smart people, or talented people to use for His purposes. More often than not, as Paul says, God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Kathryn Kuhlman often spoke about herself as someone born without talent. She always said that The Lord was not after “golden vessels or silver vessels”‘ she said He was only looking for “yielded vessels.” That puts a whole new spin on things. When The Lord uses anyone for His purposes, He receives more glory depending on the weakness of the vessel. As far as He is concerned, the weaker the better. Here is how George Whitefield saw it.

“And now, where are the scoffers of these last days, who count the lives of Christians to be madness, and their end to be without honor? Unhappy men! You know not what you do. Were your eyes open, and had you senses to discern spiritual things, you would not speak all manner of evil against the children of God, but you would esteem them as the excellent ones of the earth, and envy their happiness: your souls would hunger and thirst after it: you also would become fools for Christ’s sake. You boast of wisdom; so did the philosophers of Corinth: but your wisdom is the foolishness of folly in the sight of God. What will your wisdom avail you, if it does not make you wise unto salvation? Can you, with all your wisdom, propose a more consistent scheme to build you hopes of salvation on, than what has been now laid before you? Can you, with all the strength of natural reason, find out a better way of acceptance with God, than by the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it right to think your own works can in any measure deserve or procure it? If not, why will you not believe in him? Why will you not submit to his righteousness? Can you deny that you are fallen creatures? Do not you find that you are full of disorders, and that these disorders make you unhappy? Do not you find that you cannot change your own hearts?”

As Whitefield points out, natural wisdom or natural good works have no benefit in the kingdom of God. The only wisdom or righteousness that is acceptable before God is the wisdom of God and the righteousness of Christ which can only be received by faith. Think of some of the people God used in the Bible; Moses the stutterer, Amos the farmer, Peter the fisherman, Rahab the harlot, and Paul the persecutor of Christians. These don’t sound like the most promising candidates for success in life, but they were chosen of God. Maybe there is hope for us after all.

THE GREATEST OF ALL GLORIES

THE GREATEST OF ALL GLORIES

1Cor. 1:30-31 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

Recently, I have been having some unusual impressions of the nearness of God’s kingdom. Sometimes I feel like the powers of the world to come were breaking in on me.
During our recent class on the theology of Jonathan Edwards, we read his sermon on God Glorified in Redemption. Edwards spoke of being redeemed or delivered from the misery brought about because of our sins. It was quite a striking message, God is glorified by taking the most miserable sinners and transforming them into men and women of God. That is why He wanted us despite all of our baggage. To Him, the more baggage the better. The deeper in sin we were mired, the greater glory God receives through our deliverance. George Whitefield spoke about being overcome by the message of redemption. Check out this powerful excerpt from Whitefield’s sermon.

“But I must stop, the glories of the upper world crowd in so fast upon my soul, that I am lost in the contemplation of them. Brethren, the redemption spoken of is unutterable; we cannot here find it out; eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the hearts of the most holy men living to conceive, how great it is. Were I to entertain you whole ages with an account of it, when you come to heaven, you must say, with the Queen of Sheba, ‘Not half, no, not one thousandth part was told us! All we can do here, is to go upon Mount Pisgah, and, by the eye of faith, take a distant view of the Promised Land; we may see it, as Abraham did Christ, afar off, and rejoice in it; but here we only know in part. Blessed be God, there is a time coming, when we shall know God, even as we are known, and God be all in all. Lord Jesus, accomplish the number of thine elect! Lord Jesus, hasten thy kingdom!”

We can see God’s glory everywhere we look. After all, David said the heavens were declaring the Glory of our God. That is actually the first purpose of creation, it points us to the greatness of our God. But here is the shocking truth of redemption. The Lord has reserved the greatest display of His glory in the redemption of fallen man. We were all without hope, slaves of our own passions and lusts when Christ came to us. He not only forgave us from our sins, He also delivered us from the power of sin that controlled us. It was not enough that He declared us righteous by faith in His blood, He also imparted a new nature into us so that we could actually become righteous. We have changed, I mean really changed. Now all of your acquaintances that know who you used to be can be amazed by the power of redemption in your life.